Rye Playland: A Westchester Family Amusement Park Since the Early 1900s
By Estée Pouleris

Rye Playland: A Westchester Family Amusement Park Since the Early 1900s

July 27, 2016   |   Family Outings  

Finding an amusement park and beach so near New York City drew me to Rye Playland. I made my adventure to Playland on a 95-degree Friday afternoon with another mom friend and our 4-year-old kids, mine a girl and hers a boy. We planned to split the day between the pool, beach, and amusement park, but our plans were immediately altered when we realized the pool and beach were not included in the $20-$30 admission (dependent on height) to Playland. This was a disappointment, but we made the best of it and opted to stay at the amusement park for the full day. There were enough rides to keep us occupied all afternoon and into the early evening.

Kiddyland at Rye Playland

Kiddyland at Rye Playland

We began our day in Kiddyland, which is just to the left as you enter the park. This cute area is filled with more than 20 adorable rides for young children, mostly requiring a 36-inch height minimum. Guardians are allowed to accompany children who don't meet the height requirement on several of the rides. Our kids loved the Flying Dragon and the Antique Cars. The Fun Slide and the Red Baron were also big hits.

Following our adventure in Kiddyland, we were just in time to join an adorable dance party happening under a tent in an area between Kiddyland and the rest of the park. It was led by someone in a dragon costume and a very charismatic ring leader. The kids talked a lot about the dance party on the way home--clearly this scored big points with them.

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Playland Rides, Old and New

The Swings at Rye Playland

We cooled off after the dance party with slurpees, and topped off our sugar break with delicious funnel cakes. Then we headed to the main part of the park for the bigger rides. As we made our way through the park, I really enjoyed the gorgeous Art Deco architecture and several plaques showing the history of the rides and photos from Playland in the1930s. Rye Playland still operates seven original rides that date back to the early 1900s! The Dragon Coaster, built in 1929, is such a part of the park’s identity that it is incorporated into the Playland logo. Unfortunately our kids weren't tall enough to enjoy this ride, so we didn't get to experience it. It did look fun, though.

They were tall enough to enjoy a spin on the Grand Carousel. This ride was built in 1915 and has four rows with 48 jumping horses, 18 still horses, and three chariots, all hand-carved. Although the kids loved it as a ride, I may have enjoyed it more as a spectator and lover of carousels.

Another original ride we experienced was The Whip, which basically does what its name implies: whips you back and forth. This ride had our kids roaring with laughter, but I have to admit, it wasn’t my favorite ride, personally. After the Whip we rode on another classic, this one from 1928, the Kiddie Coaster. Although a little jarring, it was fun, and of course the kids thought it was great.

Our favorite rides of all were probably the more modern ones. We loved the Log Flume, which is a traditional log ride that brings you to the top of a hill then drops you down a 1,150-foot chute filled with water. Another fun water ride is the Playland Plunge: You’re guaranteed to get soaked on this one as you drop 50 feet into a pool and make a massive splash. If you’re still looking to get wet you are welcome to stand on the bridge as you exit and get an extra splash from the next car.

Another favorite was the swings. We rode these several times, which gave us a chance to dry off as well as provided views of the entire park, including the beach. My personal favorite was probably the go-karts. The height requirement is lower than many other places (36" with an adult), so our kids were able to ride with us. We enjoyed being silly moms racing each other, and our kids were our biggest cheerleaders while riding next to us. Since there were no lines we rode these several times.

Historic Playland

Playland was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. It is rich in culture and history. The rides may not be as shiny and new as other theme parks, but it isn’t trying to compete with the more commercial and chain-owned amusement parks. The park’s authenticity stands on its own. The balance of a few newer, modern rides combined with the restoration of some of the classics still keeps it relevant as a choice for a fun family destination.

Playland proudly billed itself as "America's Premier Playground" in the 1930s. While that title may not hold true today, the park’s history certainly has a place in our culture—and it remains great fun for adults and kids alike.

Tips for Visiting Rye Playland

Rides at Rye Playland

  • There are several dark rides not necessarily appropriate for young children: Flying Witch, Starship 2000, Ye Old Mill, and Zombie Castle.
  • The park is very stroller friendly.
  • There are many food options, for meals and snacks.
  • There are many accessible bathrooms.
  • There are classis carnival games available, but we also noticed several closed stalls.
  • We brought in snacks and water, but coolers are not allowed.
  • Parking is $10.
  • There is a $5 admission discount for Westchester residents.
  • There are many promotions, so check their site for their best deals.
  • Every Friday from July 1 to Sept 2, spectacular fireworks displays are choreographed to music at 9:15 p.m.
  • Beyond the amusement park and for additional admission, there is a swimming area that which consists of a crescent-shaped beach along the Long Island Sound, swimming pool, and boardwalk. The new Westchester Children’s Museum is housed in a building on the boardwalk as well. We didn't visit these areas, but it looked busy and like a nice place to cool off.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Rye Playland was the amusement park featured in the movie Big ,starring Tom Hanks? The scene in which the "Zoltar the Magnificent" fortune-telling machine returns Hanks’ character to an adult was filmed on Playland's boardwalk.

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