Ah, the nostalgia. Whether it was part of a school field trip, a summer camp outing, or just a fun impromptu day with friends, a visit to the amusement park was and is always a memorable event. You may be inspired to pass on your experience to your own kids, but theme parks aren’t only for the young! They’re awesome team building excursions for companies, unique bachelor(ette) party locations, and fun family destinations for children and parents. For NYC locals, or travelers visiting the Big Apple, these epic amusement parks are just a bus ride away — some short enough for a day trip, others requiring an overnight stay.
Choose the best charter bus to get to NYC theme parks
First things first: which amusement park are you going to tackle? As you browse our list of New York area parks, pick the one that’s right for you. Your bus selection — and the amenities you’ll want — will depend on your trip distance and group size. If you’re road-tripping practically to Canada, destination Rochester, with a group of 20, you’d be wise to choose a coach bus with plenty of comfortable seating, storage, and Wifi. Heading just down the road to Brooklyn with a family or two? You’ll probably be okay with a no-frills minibus.
If your theme park group is a bit smaller this year, it may be the right time to consider a sprinter van rental. If you have not been acquainted, a sprinter van is a type of passenger van that can fit up to 15 passengers. Bus.com is happy to offer sprinter van rentals in New York.
Coney Island (Brooklyn, NY)
The Drive: 30 minutes from the Empire State Building
Let’s start with an American landmark: Brooklyn’s iconic Coney Island. The centuries-old entertainment area is just 30 minutes by bus from Manhattan, making it a favorite for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Coney Island itself isn’t a theme park — it’s a collection of amusement parks, beaches, and commercial developments where you could easily spend your entire day without ever getting bored. Coney Island is home to the original Nathan’s Famous restaurant, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and the famous Cyclone, Scream Zone, and Thunderbolt attractions. Labelled the birthplace of the amusement park, Coney Island doesn’t rest on its laurels. This summer, a brand new 4,000-capacity concert venue, called Amuse, will open at the Art Walls museum.
Enchanted Forest Water Safari (Old Forge, NY)
The Drive: 4 hours, 51 minutes from the Empire State Building
If you’re willing to leave the Greater New York area, here’s a fantasy for waterpark fanatics: Enchanted Forest Water Safari. It’s a cool five hours from Manhattan, but it’s worth its weight in water. With an impressive collection of tube rides, lazy rivers, and body slides, this Old Forge water park satisfies the young and old, daring and cautious. Looking to stay dry? The Forest has a carousel, ferris wheel, and kiddie rides for youngsters. Plus, the adjacent Calypso Cove park has go-karts, an arcade, zip lines, and rock climbing. The Enchanted Forest resort includes an inn and a campground, and for the VIP experience, you can rent a private cabana for up to eight people for the day.
Rye Playland Park (Rye, NY)
The Drive: 40 minutes from the Empire State Building
Oft-cited in pop culture, Playland Amusement Park in Rye, NY is America’s only Art Deco-style theme park. Registered as a National Historic Landmark, there’s more to Playland than just its rides. Its Kiddyland dance-, sports-, and fairy tale-themed parties, plus an array of kiddie and family-oriented rides make it a destination for young families. Playland’s annual free concert series attracts notable musical talents each year; past acts include Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, and Plain White T’s. Just a 40-minute bus ride from Manhattan, a few miles shy of the Connecticut border, it’s worth making a day of your visit to Rye by pairing it with some nearby activities in town, namely the neighbouring Rye Town Park and Beach, and the next-door Westchester Children’s Museum.
Seabreeze Amusement Park (Rochester, NY)
The Drive: 5 hours, 30 minutes from the Empire State Building
This throwback up the I-81 takes us back to a bygone era. It is one of 13 trolley parks still in operation in the U.S. What’s a trolley park, you ask? It was the 19th-century predecessor to the modern amusement park, a recreation area along a streetcar line in large cities. Seabreeze, opened in 1879, still stands today outside Rochester on the shores of Lake Ontario. Its famed Jack Rabbit roller coaster, an “out and back” wooden model circa 1920, is the fourth-oldest coaster in the world. Modern additions include the Whirlwind steel spinner, and a tower ride called Great Balloon Race. Of course, classics like Twirlin’ Tea Cups and Tilt-a-Whirl are ever-present at Seabreeze.
Adventureland (Farmingdale, NY)
The Drive: 45 minutes from the Empire State Building
A staple for New Yorkers in nearby Farmingdale since 1962, Adventureland lives up to its name. One of your first stops should be Turbulence, a twirling, flipping fun ride that is Long Island’s only spinning roller coaster. Just 45 minutes from Manhattan, the more the merrier at Adventureland, which specializes in group trips. So load up a charter bus for the 35-mile ride — their team can facilitate class field trips (browse our school bus rentals), company team building outings (browse our corporate bus rentals), and summer camp day visits. Side note: While it was the setting of the 2009 Kristen Stewart/Jesse Eisenberg flick Adventureland, the theme park wasn’t actually used for filming. The crew instead used a park called Kennywood near Pittsburgh to portray it. Still, Adventureland is the real deal.
Six Flags Darien Lake (Darien Center, NY)
The Drive: 6 hours from the Empire State Building
When it comes time to plan the Bachelor(ette) Party for your bestie, keep Darien Lake on your radar. The Theme Park Resort has everything you need to throw an epic weekend getaway: a Six Flags-operated amusement park, a wide array of lodging options, and a packed events calendar all summer long. Your rowdy gang could easily spend a few hours or more at the major amusement park, which has a roster of thrilling rides that includes the tallest and fastest roller coaster in New York State, Ride of Steel. At night, plan to catch one of the A-list shows rolling into town this summer, which include Dierks Bentley, Bryan Adams, Billy Idol, KISS, Florida Georgia Line, Beck, Thomas Rhett, Wiz Khalifa, and more. As for accommodations, you could rent a private cabin or guest house, book up a few rooms in the resort hotel, or opt for camping — or even glamping. The party starts as soon as you leave New York City on your charter bus, so check out all your group bus options here.