My husband and I have always loved theme parks, so we were thrilled to find a great one just for kids!
Last summer, we discovered a great theme park for kids ages 2-8 called Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA. When we went last year, I came home and raved about it to everyone I knew with young kids.
It's a smaller scale park than most amusement parks, with plenty of rides for younger kids and a few thrillers like a wooden roller coaster that rivals those at other parks.
In general, though, I really like how low-key the feel is: they're not throwing commercialism in your face, and the size/pace is so different than the bigger-name parks, which was so much more comfortable with three small children.
When Family Magazine asked me to attend Media Day this past weekend, I was thrilled. We were already planning to go back this June with friends, but this way we got to see what's new for 2010 right away.
My son was excited that we got FREE Mini-Golf with our tickets this year. Since there's FREE parking at Dutch Wonderland, we just made it a day trip.
Last year, we spent the night at a hotel across the street, and there are plenty of family-friendly hotels and restaurants right there in walking distance. We found Kids Eat Free coupons for Applebee's on the back of our tickets, so we had dinner there before heading home.
My 4-year-old twins really liked the singing shows, the Thomas the Tank Engine show, and hearing the Princess read at Storybook Theatre.
It's also nice to sit down in the shade for a while! My son, age 6, is more a fan of the diving shows in the Aqua Stadium, and he loves sitting in the Splash Zone.
Speaking of splashing, did I mention the water park? There's actually an entire Duke's Lagoon section of the park, and I like that it's visually separated so the kids don't know it's there–unless you want them to. We'll do that part of the park on our next trip.
If you live in the Lancaster or Philadelphia areas, you can find coupons for Dutch Wonderland at places like CVS, but you might be better off buying a Season Pass if you live close enough to go often. If you're a day-tripper or want to spend the night, here is what I recommend:
- Buy Group Passes: What I love about their group sales is how flexible they are. While you need to purchase the tickets all at once–you don't all have to go on the same day! The tickets are good any day of the year, so you're not coordinating schedules or stressing about potentially bad weather. For each 10 tickets you buy (minimum of 20), you get a FREE ticket, so that reduces your price even more. I'm going to buy 20 tickets with a few other families, and we'll end up paying $22.68/ticket for each of the 22 tickets. Ask a few families in your MOMS Club, preschool class, or neighborhood and buy your tickets that way.
- Buy a Preview Plan Ticket: This is what we did last year–you buy a full-day ticket at regular price ($31.95) for the following day and can go in 3 hours before closing. We drove up on a Saturday, spent 5:30-8:30pm at the park, slept in at the hotel and even went swimming before heading back over at 10:00am on Sunday. You can purchase this type of ticket at the front gate, no need to order ahead.
My kids are already thinking about the next trip since they've never tried the water park. We're looking forward to another day at a clean, comfortable theme park without the harried pace of the larger parks.
Disclosure: We were invited by Family Magazine to attend Media Day at Dutch Wonderland but I received no compensation. My experience and opinions are my own.