Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
I know that with all of the larger parks that are covered on here, that some of us still have families and this will help with those who have little ones running around to know that there is a park for them, to get them up to speed.
We spent all day at Dutch Wonderland with a 21-month old and a 5-week old. I've talked about the 21-month old who has been on rides at Hersheypark, Water Country USA, and Kings Dominion (including his first solo ride). Earlier this year, he got to ride some of the old rides from the Myrtle Beach Pavilion and at the other amusement park in Myrtle Beach in which he was turned aside of rides that he rode nine months earlier. He got to ride pretty much every ride in Dutch Wonderland and did so multiple times, including some rides he was shut out of in Myrtle Beach. Gotta love seeing his face when he's on some of these rides.
His favorite was the Wonder Whip. I really wish there were more rides like these and I was greatly concerned on how he would take to the first whip but he LOVED it. Huge smile on his face on every turn with loud squeals of glee, even if someone else wasn't enjoying the ride. He also knew how to pull the safety pin in and out of the bar while the ride was stopped. Not bad motor skills for a 21-month old!
We rode many rides and figured he did somewhere between 15 and 20 different rides throughout the park. That's more than he's ridden at all the other parks combined and some were some pretty serious rides, but his favorites--aside from the Wonder Whip--were the interactive rides in which he could press a button or pull a level.
Now, for the parents. Mom and I loved that the park wasn't grossly huge like Busch Gardens. We walked maybe two minutes MAX throughout the day before finding another ride he could do. In many areas, we could ride several rides without having to move the stroller. We weren't as tired at this park as we could go back to rides in a couple of minutes and then jump back to other rides.
Both of us rode Joust and Kingdom Coaster which I believe used to be called the Sky Princess. It's got a blue/dark blue color scheme now under the new ownership and was a nice little woodie. The only problem seemed to be the end-run brakes as the train sat on them for some time before coming into the station as I walked up. There was also several instances of the train stopping on the brakes and only inching forward. I had this happen on one of my rides and had to sign to my wife what was going on.
That--and the Thomas the Tank Show's technical difficulties--were the only problems all day. I felt bad for the actors in the show when their mics didn't work at all and hope that they were able to correct it. Doing sound for a living, I almost went back to assist them but didn't want to seem like some weirdo running back stage to mess with stuff. They recovered well and projected well, but still felt bad for them.
The only other thing about this park, bring a cooler with food and eat lunch in the parking lot. The food inside the park wasn't that good for the price and the hot dogs (which were supposed to be Nathan's) were a cheap Ballpark knockoff. I'm a huge fan of Nathan's Original, but these were neither original, nor Nathan's.
A quick note about the 5-week old, she got to ride the train, monorail (whose driver was awesome and talked to us the entire time because we rode in the front car), gondola ride, riverboat ride, Crazy Plane and Duke's Lagoon. That's more than a ride per week old and more than her brother rode in his first visit to an amusement park.
I have many happy years of memories with my son at DW! Unfortunately, what used to be an affordable afternoon trip is now an overpriced hassle that we just can't afford anymore. DW's prices have steadily gone up and up and up, and it's NOT a major theme park, and really can't justify the constant price hikes. It's a charming, pretty little park that's lots of fun, but for a few dollars more, you can hit Hershey or Dorney, so if you've got older kids, I'd say skip it. I really do miss all the trips I used to take there, it was a favorite destination for me and my son for many years.
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