Monday, July 2, 2001 7:13 AM
My first visit to this park was sometime between 1970 and 1974 (at least 27 years ago). The funny thing is that, even though it is geared more toward families with small children, I was more impressed with it now than I was when I was a small child. I know this is not a major "thrill park"… more of a small family park… but hey… it's a park… they have coasters… it was a trip… so I am reporting on it.
Anyway… My wife keeps our niece every other Friday. So, this past week we decided to visit Dutch Wonderland (Lancaster PA). We arrive sometime in the afternoon (I had to work in the morning) on one of the hottest days of the summer (thus far). The first thing we did was rent a stroller for $3 which was the wisest $3 we have spent in a long time! Our niece is only 2 ½, but carrying her for a long while can be tiring (especially in the heat) and if she walks, she can start running VERY fast when she see something that catches her eye (twice I had to chase after her and swoop down like a raptor and pick her up as she made a mad dash toward something).
Anyway, first thing we hit was "Rip Cord", a little parachute drop. Nothing very thrilling about this, except I was probably more scared than she was. You see, this ride lifts you 40 feet in the air and then slowly drops you down. I am afraid of heights and that 40ft seemed very high to me.
We then continued on our way and came across the log flume. Being a "kids park" it is not the biggest flume around, no more than 40 feet high at its tallest point, however I will give it points for having 2 drops. A mild but fun ride for families with kids. Our on ride photo showed the three of us with our niece in the front with eyes as wide as saucers!
After this it was on to Joust, The Family Coaster. This is a little Chance portable coaster… its short, but you do get two laps on it. My niece was tall enough to ride with an adult, so we got in line. Almost in the station, she said she didn't want to ride this, so back out we went. My wife then told me "You go ride it… I know you want to." Yeah, I did… I mean, it's a coaster and "it was there." Not very thrilling, but fun for what it is, I also thought it was one of the "jerkiest" coasters I have ever been on. I thought it threw my neck out of joint!
Then we moved next door to Sky Princess. This was my main interest in coming here (aside for our niece of course). Not sure what to call this… a CCI "family" coaster? (2000 feet long makes me want to consider it more than a "Jr"). Anyway, This one surprised me. I sat in the next to last seat and was pleasantly surprised by the speed that this little thing picked up. Even more surprised to find a small helix at the end.
Next it was on to the carrousel. It was a smaller one, so my wife went on with our niece and I took pictures. By this time it was really getting hot and our niece was starting to get really cranky! After a Gondola ride through the botanical gardens, we had lunch. Not bad for park food… chicken nuggets and French fries. The staff was friendly, and, even though there were some fries sitting "under the lights" the girl told us to wait a few minutes, they were getting some new fries. She threw the fries out that had been sitting there for a while and we had some fresh and hot ones. After eating, my wife and niece waited in the food court while I got in two more rides on Sky Princess.
A little bit of walking (and one diaper change later) we came upon the Dutch Wonder House… the spinning house. Unfortunately, it was closed because of the head (they didn't want people passing out inside). Near by there are some "hand cars" shaped like train engines called "Choo Choo Charlie". My niece took off in a mad dash for them. The ops that were there (two kids) were too busy talking about their break and did not notice her run right past them and across the tracks. They also did not notice me walk past them (after taking down the chain that my nice ran under) and pick her up. My wife of course did not like this (neither did I) and in a very "motherly fashion" told the ops that they needed to be more careful with little kids around. This was the only "bad" part of the day (more on this later).
Up the hill we went to the little train that runs around the park. When I was there way back then I remember the little building it ran through was "themed" with PA dutch scenes like a farm and old swimming hole. It has been changed and it surprised me… it is actually a now a dark "mine" shaft. One of the scenes in it is a little waterfall with the skeleton of an old miner laying by it! Not scary, but a little bit "gruesome" for their old standards (not that I am complaining! The little kids on the train had the "Neat!" reaction to it). Next up was their other little kiddie train ride "Old 99"… little train engines on a track (very much like the standard antique cars). I was pleasantly surprised by this… the train engines actually "whipped" you around the bends. Then it was on to the log boats that run I the lagoon. Our niece loved the purple dragon that was perched up on the top of the cliff over looking the lagoon. However her most favorite part of the whole day was the little Ginger Bread house with its automated little elves making candy… we had to pull her away from there a few times. But being hot, she said "I want to go home," so we headed out.
My wife did stop at guest services to "inform" them of the inattentive ride ops on the little the little hand car ride. The girl behind the desk paged the manager and he showed up a few minutes later. My wife explained the situation to him (she is good at stuff like that, so I let her handle it). He was very apologetic, polite, and friendly. We were not sure of the name of the boy who was working there, but we did know the name of the girl. He described the boy to us almost perfectly and just shook his head (like he had problem with him before). We filled out a "form" on his request. Anyway, we were getting ready to leave and our niece said "I want to go on another ride". We had already passed through the exit and did not have a hand stamp. The manager heard her say this and noted the lack of hand stamps. He asked "Would you like to get back in?" and said to follow him. He stepped out the door and told the girl at the exit to let us back in. We thanked him, and went back in. Another ride on "Old 99" and some more time at that Gingerbread House, and our niece was ready to leave again.
After a stop in the gift shop (and a stuffed "Duke the Dragon" for our niece) we got in the car, but first had to make a stop by the Lagoon so our niece could "wave bye bye" to the "monster" that overlooked the dragoon.
Overall, we were impressed with the park. It certainly has come along way from the 1970's. Everything is well kept. The only bad spot were the two ride ops that were not paying attention, however the reaction by the manager and guest services impressed us.
It is a great place for kids, however I think our niece was just a little young to really enjoy it. Give her another year or two and we will probably return.
Again, Sky Princess, while not a "world class" coaster, was certainly a fun ride… fast and fun. Even on a few of the hops before the helix I felt a slight bit of air time… totally unexpected!
All in all it was a good day, even if it was cut short by the heat.
------------- Never judge a book... or park... by its cover