BEST THEME PARKS JUST FOR TODDLERS
We are big kids at heart, so we love going to theme parks, but it can be challenging with a toddler. Given the cost of the tickets, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to go to a theme park with a toddler.
Now that our son is 2-years-old, we are on the search for the best theme parks for toddlers. In this section, we list the theme parks designed just for toddlers.
Adventure City – Anaheim, California
Adventure City is overshadowed by its iconic neighbor Disneyland, but this is one of the best theme parks for toddlers. Everything in this park is for kids under the age of six.
Kids as young as one can enjoy a ride on the express train, go around on the carousel, join the dance party, see animals at the petting zoo, and build with Thomas the Train. Keep in mind there are some height or age restrictions in place for certain rides for safety reasons.
The best thing about this park is how affordable it is. Tickets are $22, which is a bargain considering the cost of other theme parks.
Santa’s Village – Jefferson, NH
One of the best theme parks for toddlers in the USA is Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire! Just as the name suggests, this is a family theme park themed all-around Christmas.
Open several months of the year, including on weekends up to Christmas, this jolly place reminiscent of the North Pole brings all of the magic of Christmas to life.
My twin toddlers and school-aged son loved this special place that not only offers rides, attractions, and entertainment, but also a water park and thematic dining!
With the more than 20 rides Christmas themed, including The Great Humbug Adventure, Little Elf Flying School, and The Little Drummer Boy, there are also special attractions toddlers will love!
Our kids’ favorite, including Elf University, the park-wide scavenger hunt, collecting stamps from all of the letters in the Elfabet. And, meeting and feeding Santa’s reindeer!
Of course, the shining star on top was getting to see and meet the big man himself, Santa Clause. It’s never too early to get on the list before he checks it twice. Santa’s Village is a jolly good time for kids and those who are kids at heart.
Sesame Place – Langhorne, PA
Melissa from Navigation Junkie
Sesame Place, located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, just a short 30-minute drive from the fun in Philadelphia, and is the perfect theme park for any Sesame lover! The park brings to life your toddler’s favorite Sesame Street characters while also offering plenty of laughs, thrills, and tasty treats!
Sesame Place is a combination of a theme park with classic, although character themed, amusement rides and a water park to meet all your cooling needs on a hot day.
The rides range from a classic wooden roller coaster that features Oscar the Grouch to the Sunny Day carousel to many circular spinning rides that feature Elmo and cookie jars. The toddler play area is another great attraction perfect for the youngest traveler in your group!
The water park is home to plenty of toddler-sized water attractions, including the teeny tiny tidal wave pool, the Count’s Splash Castle, and plenty of water slides. Most of the rides can be enjoyed by the whole family, but small children will need a companion.
Aside from the rides, you will want to check out the many shows and parades. The Show choices include Elmo the Musical Live!, The Magic of Art, and Let’s Play Together. The parade is always a big hit with characters, floats, and bubbles!
There are plenty of food and snack options throughout the park. Be sure to try the fried Oreos or funnel cakes at Cool Creations or grab a soft-serve ice cream cone at Snuffy’s Sweets and Treats. For a buffet-style meal that completely kid-friendly, visit Elmo’s Eatery. To top off your visit, be sure to stop at one of the many gift shops for a Sesame character souvenir!
Diggerland – West Berlin, New Jersey
Chelsea from Pack More Into Life
If you are looking for a unique theme park with not only rides but the ability to play with real machinery, then look no further than Diggerland in NJ. Diggerland is a theme park, construction site, climbing zone, and waterpark. What more could you ask for? If that doesn’t make for one of the best theme parks for toddlers, I don’t know what does.
Younger family members can enjoy rides on various construction equipment including tractors, backhoes, ATVs, and diggers. Older children will enjoy unique construction themed rides, driving a backhoe, skidding around the dirt track on skid steers, and more.
Our family favorites include knocking over bowling pins and digging in the stones with a backhoe. Even adults can get in on the action at the adult-sized theme park where you can smash cars, drive life-sized construction vehicles, and celebrate a special event in Diggerland XL style.
When you need a break from all the fun, you can check out their newly constructed waterpark, climb high on the ropes course and take a ride on the Soaring Eagle zipline. If you want to plan a day at Diggerland USA, be ready to have some fun.
BEST THEME PARKS WITH DEDICATED TODDLER AREAS
For parents with toddlers, it’s great to be able to take them to a theme park just for them. You get your money’s worth because they can participate in most of the activities and rides. Of course, this isn’t realistic for all theme parks, so the larger companies have a dedicated area for toddlers.
These play areas are usually designated for kids under 6-years-old, so your toddler can play; while the older kids have fun in the park.
Seuss Landing (Universal’s Islands of Adventure) – Orlando, FL
Adriane from Put on Your Party Pants
Universal Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort usually appeals to older kids. Toddlers cannot ride most of the rides in other sections of the park, but fortunately, the Seuss Landing section is a toddler’s paradise. The area is heavily themed, with tons of bright colors and fun things to see. Kids can roll around at their own pace without fear of being trampled by the teenagers occupying the rest of the park.
Every ride in Seuss Landing is for young children. These include:
- The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride – A slow-moving train ride over Seuss Landing to give you a nice view of the area. A Dr. Seuss alphabet book is read over the loudspeaker during the ride. Anyone 36” and up can enjoy this ride.
- Caro-Seuss-el – A merry go round with no height requirement and lots of fun animals from which to choose.
- One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – This is a ride in a circle in cute ride vehicles with no height requirement. You control whether the cars go up or down. A song plays during the ride instructing you where to direct your vehicle to avoid getting squirted with water.
- The Cat in the Hat – A slow-moving dark ride through the story of the Cat in the Hat. There are tons of intricate animatronics and fun things to see. Anyone 36” and over can ride.
In addition to the rides, you can see a live show, Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear! with a very excited woman with an odd fashion sense who reads a story while Dr. Seuss characters, including the Grinch and the Lorax, act it out. You can also meet the characters after the show to get your photo fix.
The area also contains a play area, If I Ran the Zoo, that caters entirely to small children.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park – Gilroy, California
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in Gilroy, California, is one of the most popular San Francisco Bay Area attractions and a perfect amusement park for toddlers. The theme of the park is “the garden,” so most of the rides have very distinct “garden” feel and “garden” names: Apple and Worm, Garlic Twirl, Artichoke Dip, and the like.
Of the 15 rides in the park, 11 of them are suitable for toddlers; not only are there rides, but there are also two water play areas that are perfect for the youngest of visitors.
To expand on the garden theme Gilroy Gardens has 6 distinct garden areas, including a conservatory, some of which you can see on the rides, and some of them you can visit just strolling through the park. This feature makes Gilroy Garden unique: there is lots of greenery and hence, lots of shade compared to other theme parks.
There are also a couple of great educational exhibits for kids suitable for all ages: monarch butterflies, California Redwoods, and an exploration lab. Gilroy Gardens also organizes several special events throughout the year, which are fun for the entire family.
The main themes are for younger kids in mind. Events such as Not so scary Halloween and Winter Holidays Celebration, which includes an ice rink, and holiday lights bonanza is perfect for toddlers.
You can spend the whole day in Gilroy Gardens and don’t feel stressed or tired because it does not have huge grounds like many other parks. This toddler theme park is very well laid out and has lots of areas to sit down and rest.
Hershey Park – Hershey, PA
Amanda from Toddling Traveler
Hersheypark is by far, one of the best theme parks for toddlers. Hersheypark has dozens of rides for toddlers and uniquely groups the different rides based on candy bar type. (Hershey’s miniatures are under 36” and Hershey’s Kisses are 36- 42”.)
There are several kiddie rides available for toddlers under 36”, including toddler favorites like the Ferris wheel, carousel, train ride, and the infamous kissing tower. Older toddlers will love more adventurous rides, swings, and roller coasters designed for all ages.
Hersheypark also has a great waterpark called The Boardwalk, which has slides, a wave pool, and splash areas for young kids. In addition to The Boardwalk, ZooAmerica is included with the price of admission to Hersheypark.
As if that weren’t enough there is a zoo that primarily includes North American animals. For families with toddlers and babies, it’s easy to get around the park.
In addition to the rides and attractions, the chocolate focus makes Hersheypark especially appealing to young kids. Chocolate themed rides, games, and characters are throughout the park. Of course, there are tons of Hershey’s chocolate candy and specialty food items available.
If you’re planning a weekend trip to Hershey, PA there are so many things to do in addition to the park. Chocolate World includes the free Chocolate Tour, shows, and the ability to create your own chocolate bar from start to finish. Other attractions like Hershey Gardens and Hershey Story include fun things to do for the whole family.
Sesame Street Bay of Play (SeaWorld) – San Diego, CA
Lisa from Planning Away
Sesame Street Bay of Play is one of the best things to do on your SeaWorld San Diego vacation with your toddler. This Sesame Street themed area is sure to excite your little one.
There are three rides: Abby’s Sea Star Swim, Elmo’s Flying Fish, and Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel. After they finish with the rides, they can play inside the huge rope climbing play area!
Our four year old spent 2 hours there and didn’t want to leave. SeaWorld San Diego is a lot of fun for toddlers and big kids, so older kids won’t be bored. The Sesame Street area is primarily for kids under 8, and the other section is an ocean-themed play section designed for kids under 12.
So get ready to have a blast with your little ones at SeaWorld San Diego!
LEGOLAND Flordia Resort
Planet Snoopy (World of Fun) – Kansas City, MO
Tiffany from Mommy And Me Travels
Traveling around the Midwest with a toddler is a ton of fun when you know where to go. With a visit to Kansas City and a stop at World of Fun, your toddler will be in hog heaven.
Inside the amusement park at World of fun, you need to make your way to the center to the Planet Snoopy area. This is one of the largest toddler areas around the midwest. You will find swings, flying carts, mini go-carts, spinning cylinders, and so much more.
The best part about visiting the World Of Fun is that it is 2 amusement parks in 1. In addition to all of the fun rides at Planet Snoopy, your toddler will love the visit to the World of Oceans.
World of Oceans is a fun-filled waterpark. They can ride the waves at the large pool area, slide down the mini slides, and there are even thriller water slides for them to slide down.
Make sure you add World of Fun to your bucket list of places to stop during your Midwest adventures. . If you need even more fun ideas of what to do with your little one during your visit, check out this fantastic list from Mommy And Me Travels about places to visit with your kids in Kansas City.
Nickelodeon Universe – Bloomington, MN
Karen from KMF Is Writing
One of the best theme parks in the U.S. is Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. – a suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The star attraction at the Mall of America is the seven-acre Nickelodeon Universe, which features 27 rides and attractions. The best family-friendly rides and attractions* at Nickelodeon Universe are:
- Back at the Barnyard Hayride – a mini rollercoaster
- Big Rigs – kid-sized semi-truck
- Blue’s Skidoo – fly through the air with Blue and Magenta
- Carousel – the classic merry-go-round
- Crazy Cars – bumper cars
- Diego’s Rescue Rider – A wild animal rescue adventure on a bus that goes up and down.
- El Circulo del Cielo – Dora the Explorer Ferris wheel
- Ghost Blasters – laser blast ride
- La Aventura de Azul – train ride
- Meet Nickelodeon Universe characters
- Moose Mountain Golf – miniature golf
- Paw Patrol Adventure Bay – play area
- Pineapple Poppers – bounce house
- Rock of Ages Blacklight Minigolf
- Rugrats Reptarmobiles – mini bumper cars
- Swiper’s Sweeper – gently whips around
- Wonder Pet’s Flyboat – mini power tower
Height requirements for these rides are generally 36″ or 42″ and may require a chaperone.
Looking for more ideas on the best things to do in Minnesota with kids? Stop in at Sea Life at Mall of America (aquarium) as well as the interactive LEGO Store at MOA. Also, check out this local guide’s recommendations on the top family attractions in Minnesota.
*Note: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America is currently open with social distancing and safety protocols in place. Please check their website for the latest updates regarding reduced operating hours, limited capacity, ride availability, and schedule (some rides are currently closed), how to purchase tickets, and how to enter the park.
Busch Gardens – Williamsburg VA
Planning to take your toddler to a theme park? Visit the 45 years old Busch Gardens in Williamsburg for a fun-filled day out.
Three out of the ten Europe-themed hamlets of the theme park offer over 40 “Kidserate” (kids-appropriate) fun rides & activities mainly in: Sesame Street, Land of Dragons & Forest of Fun. Here, Howl-O-Scream at Halloween & Christmas Town on Christmas is the two major events hosted at its full grandeur every year.
Humanitarian efforts of the park include wildlife conservation & community outreach activities.
Places to Visit:
Sesame Street & Forest of Fun: The dry & wet play areas include famous & exciting rides like Grover’s Alpine Express (rollercoaster), Oscar’s Whirly Whooms (rocking pirate-ship). Stage shows like Sunny Days Celebration & assorted gift shops are also found inside the park.
Land of Dragons: The mascot, Dumphery-the-Dragon, greets the visitors to this Dragon-themed area, having toddler-friendly water rides like Flutter Splutter & Bug-a-Dug. The Dragon-themed treehouse is meant for quick relaxation.
Jack Hanna’s Wildlife Reserve: Here conservation of horses, eagles, gray wolves & snakes are undertaken. Guided-interaction with the animals is also offered to the young & old visitors alike for educational awareness about animal welfare. An entertaining virtual wildlife safari is also open for toddlers.
The park operates from March to January, and prior reservations are mandatory. Different packages of transport, accommodation & food are available to choose from.
They have re-opened post-pandemic lockdown, imbibing all the safety protocols, reducing its capacity to only 5,000-6,000 visitors.
Camp Snoopy (Knott’s Berry Farm) – Buena Park, CA
Marcie from Marcie in Mommyland
If you’re heading to Southern California with little kids, you’ll definitely want to plan a day at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. While this is the oldest theme park in the United States, it’s constantly changing and being updated.
There are tons of kids activities at Knott’s Berry Farm, including an entire section of the park dedicated to toddlers and preschoolers called Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy is where you’ll find tons of non-scary rides, shows, and Peanuts characters for meet and greets.
I highly recommend that you watch the new Peanuts movie with your kids before you go, so they are familiar with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Lucy.
The rest of the park also has some kid-friendly activities for older kids, which is perfect for families with kids in different age groups.
There’s a horse-drawn stagecoach, a theatrical train ride, and the world’s oldest working Dentzel carousels. As for food, there are a ton of tasty options, such as funnel cake, country fried chicken, and Knott’s famous boysenberry products.
If you are going to Knott’s Berry Farm in the summer, be sure to book a day at Knott’s Soak City right across the street. They have a massive play structure that is a blast for toddlers.
I recommend staying at the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel and booking the package where Snoopy himself comes and tucks your kids into bed!
Legoland Discovery Centers (Various Locations)
Jamie from Fly by the Seat of our Pants
Legoland Discovery is a fun option for toddlers. Smaller than a regular theme park, Legoland Discovery offers the perfect amount of fun and entertainment for the younger folk.
There are Legoland Discovery locations around the US, but this article shares the details of the Dallas location.
Splash and play in the water at the outdoor pirate beach! Toddlers will love the pirate boat and water moat to cool off on a hot day. The slides and treasure chests are the perfect sizes for the little ones. You’ll love the changing rooms and food for purchase options.
The animal-themed DUPLO Village is perfect for the hands of tiny tots. In this play area, your toddler can build with big soft bricks.
Watch a LEGO rocket blast into space in the Space Mission area. Build and race your LEGO racing car at the Build and Test zone. Toddlers will love watching the cars race down the track again and again.
Ninjago City Adventure is the perfect place for your toddler to release some energy. Kids can crawl, surf, jump, and slide through obstacle course challenges.
Zap the trolls and skeletons on the Kingdom Quest Ride (kids under 51” must sit with an adult).
When you need a break, head to the LEGO 4D Cinema to watch a movie with the wind, rain, and snow effects. Although this is a lot of fun for toddlers, it is not recommended to bring babies inside.
If you have older children, you will love how close and centrally located everything is. Your toddler can play and climb while your big kids build and create all within your watchful care.
Legoland discovery is perfect for the attention span and capabilities of your toddler.
*Note: There are LEGOs for building in abundance. Please watch toddlers and restrict putting LEGOS in their mouths! Sometimes we catch our 2-year-old putting the smaller LEGOS in his mouth, so I recommend steering them towards the larger building LEGOS.