Located on the shores of the Long Island Sound, Rye Playland in Rye, NY, has been an area staple since 1927. The historic Playland Park is even on the National Register of Historic Places. Also referred to as just Playland or Playland Park, this unique Art-Deco style amusement park sits on 280 acres and features:
Ice skating rinks
An Olympic-size pool
Various restaurants and concession stands
And, of course, thrilling rides – seven of which pre-date 1930!
The historic Playland Park is one of the best things to do in Rye, New York, and is just a 15-minute drive from our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast. Here, you can enjoy live entertainment, scenic waterfront views, and the wonderful nostalgia of childhood at Playland Park.
History of Playland in Rye, NY
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Long Island Sound shoreline competed with each other for beachgoers from New York City. Towns at the time did everything they could to entice riders on the MetroNorth train line to get off at their stop. In the case of nearby Old Greenwich, CT, they changed their borough name to “Sound Beach”. In the case of Rye, New York, developers built hotels, resorts, and amusement parks to become the best of the train trips from NYC.
Local residents’ complains about what crowds described as, “unsavory” led the government of Westchester County to purchase two existing theme parks, Rye Beach and Paradise Park. They consolidated to create one government-owned amusement park instead.
The Start of Playland Park
Westchester County commissioned Frank Darling, a veteran park manager who previously worked at Coney Island and the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, to design and manage the new Playland park. He hired Walker & Gillette, a well-known NYC architectural firm, and landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke to create a comprehensive design of both buildings and grounds. Playland was the country’s first planned amusement park.
Construction began in September 1927 and took six months to complete. On May 26, 1928, the park opened for business. The Grand Carousel, Derby Racers, and the Dragon Coaster were among the rides open on Playland’s first day. The Airplane Coaster debuted in 1928, and the Ice Casino debuted in 1929.
Playland’s long history has witnessed some mismanagement, and some rough tumbles. Hurricanes are unkind to waterfront parks, even ones that Long Island largely protects.
But locals and celebrities alike still love this place. This iconic park has become part of American pop culture, making appearances in films such as the Michael Douglas-Glenn Close 1987 thriller “Fatal Attraction” and 1988’s “Big,” starring Tom Hanks. In 1995, Mariah Carey filmed the music video for her smash-hit song “Fantasy” at the park.
But Westchester County finally gave-up on managing the property on its own, bringing in a private company to manage it. They also began a $135 million 5-year revitalization project in 2022. Some of the new rides that Playland unveiled are the Rye Motorbike Factory,
What You’ll See at Playland Park in Rye, NY
Walker and Gillette’s asymmetrical beaux arts plan divided Playland into three major sections. The first is a swimming park that includes a semi-elliptical beach, boardwalk, and arcade, as well as a Spanish Revival bathhouse and pool. The second element is an amusement park with an axial landscaped mall anchored by a casino and ice rink structure. Colonnades flank the mall, visually organizing rides, games, and restaurants. The main axis comes to an end with a 100-foot-tall Music Tower with a performance stage. All of the original park structures are in the Art Deco style. Beyond the tower is a boating lake with a boathouse made up of two pavilions flanking a central colonnade and facing a terrace, boat dock, and lake.
1. World-Famous Rides
Playland’s most iconic attraction is The Dragon Coaster, a wooden roller coaster that opened in 1929. The coaster has approximately 3,400 feet of track, with a tunnel that looks like the body of a dragon and an opening that resembles a dragon’s mouth. The dragon has eyes that light up, and it blows steam from its nostrils. Today, The Dragon Coaster is one of only 100 wooden roller coasters still in operation in the United States.
Another must-see attraction is the Grand Carousel, a 1915 Mangels-Carmel carousel that has a rare band organ inside of it. It was originally located in New Haven, Connecticut, and was moved to Playland when the park opened in 1927. The carousel’s horses feature beautifully painted, hand-carved designs. More unique traits of the Derby Racer include inlaid gemstones.
2. Awesome Fireworks
If you’re visiting Rye Playland this summer, be sure to check the fireworks schedule and watch the beautiful display of colors and sound! Every Friday at 9:15 PM beginning July 1st, the park offers spectacular fireworks shows that are choreographed to music. There is also a special holiday display on July 3rd & 4th, and the final show of the season takes place on September 2nd.
3. Exciting Entertainment
Playland Park also features entertainment performances on its main stage, located on the north side of the park. Guests can enjoy everything from circus acts and magicians to dance shows and musicals. Strolling entertainment like kids dance and singing shows, costumed characters, and drum acts occur several times a day. Every summer, music lovers can enjoy a free concert series with performances that are usually on Thursday and Friday nights in July and August.
4. Playland Beach
Aside from all the other attractions, Rye Playland still has plenty of what originally attracted people: a sandy beach.
Those merely looking to access the beach will pay $9.99, or $14.99 for beach and pool access. It is, without question, the cheapest public beaches near Greenwich, CT.
How to get to Playland Park in Rye, NY
Come Home to the Stanton House Inn!
When planning your visit to Playland Park in Rye, NY, be sure to download a park map, then book your stay at our Greenwich bed and breakfast! Our inn is centrally located between Rye and Stamford, CT, and offers convenience, comfort, and some much-needed peace and quiet. After a wonderful day at the park, you can come home to one of our beautiful rooms or suites and rest up, then enjoy a hearty and delicious breakfast the next morning that will get you fueled up for another day of fun. We can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!
Updated and republished: September 1, 2023