Lancaster, PA is about 90 minutes away from where we live in Baltimore, MD. The drive was actually really nice and the area around Dutch Wonderland is very rural and peaceful. We spent most of the drive looking at the scenery as Waze took us through some back roads and Amish country. Upon reaching the park, we chose to pay the extra amount for the parking lot closest to the entrance and made our way into the park to pick up our tickets. The park was pretty calm and not very crowded as of 10:30am on a Friday when we arrived. We decided to check out Exploration Island first to let me son get his bearings before trying some of the rides. Exploration Island is an area of the park that has mechanical dinosaurs and some neat dino digging areas (with sand) that allow kids to search for dino bones. Jack went on his first ride here - the Sunoco Turnpike and had a blast "driving" the car. From here we took a family boat ride on the Gondola Cruise and then made our way to some of the more active rides.
The rides at Dutch Wonderland have a number of heights that are allowed (seen above). Most of the tamer rides allow all sizes, but as you go into the more active rides you need to be at the 36" mark. Before we left for our trip, we measured Jack and he was exactly 36", so while he could make it on the rides, we didn't know if he would enjoy them. We decided to throw caution to the wind and let him get on his first ride by himself, the Panda Party. Judging by his reaction in the video below, I think he enjoyed himself.
The one thing you'll notice about the rides at Dutch Wonderland is that they can be enjoyed by a pretty wide range of heights. If your child is too small to ride on the ride alone, chances are they will be allowed to ride with an adult companion. This was true for a lot of the rides that Jack wanted to get on, but all paled in comparison to his enjoyment of the Log Flume ride. If any ride would freak a child out, I thought the Log Flume, with it's drop and splash would scare a toddler senseless. Apparently, my son didn't get the memo and he had an absolute blast with it. His laughs could probably be heard halfway across the park as he giggled with glee at the drop and subsequent water that hit him on his cheek. This was true for a number of rides at Dutch Wonderland, since they all take into account the younger crowd and tailor them to suit a range of ages. Another ride I thought he wouldn't be able to handle was the Wonder Whip that seemed to be for slightly bigger kids. Once again, I was wrong, and Jack loved it as you can see in the video below.
Dutch Wonderland isn't only rides though. There are shows to watch at various times throughout the day and carnival style games to play as well. We made it a few hours into our day before Jack needed to take a break and get some food, and the options were pretty good for a park of this size. You have your typical vendors on the roads leading to and from rides, and then you also have Merlin's. Merlin's is a grab your food and pay style place and they offer the usual items (pizza, burgers, fries) and even some healthier items via a deli style window. The games you can play are sporadically placed around the park and much like the rides, are designed with the kids in mind. My son was able to participate in most of the games and even when he threw a ball that didn't make it into the play area, the staff fetched it for him and gave him another try. This was really great to see and just furthers the notion how family friendly this place is.
The park itself isn't incredibly large, so you don't have to worry about not seeing everything. By taking a leisurely stroll in any direction, you're sure to find something your family will enjoy. If you want something specific, the map will direct you or you can use any number of signs throughout the park. Something that wasn't present when I was younger is a water park style area called Duke's Lagoon. The previously mentioned Exploration Island is also new, but a lot of the park will be familiar, albeit slightly modified/revamped, compared to when we visited as children. The smaller size of the park makes a much more cohesive visit and caters to the small legs of some of their younger guests. A stroller is a must though if you're going to be here all day, but your little ones will enjoy being able to run from ride to ride.
Dutch Wonderland, after one visit, instantly became a family favorite. We are already thinking about when we can go back because of all of the fun we had. Between the way my son loved the rides, to the friendly staff, and the calm and laid back nature of the park's guests - Dutch Wonderland truly is family fun at it's finest. Be sure to check out some of the videos and pictures below of our visit and if you are planning a trip to the park, you can use the following link to save some money (about $7 per ticket) on your advanced ticket sales: Buy Tickets Online with Promo Code FatherNerdsBestBlog16. Based on our day at Dutch Wonderland, it's a safe bet to say that other families with small kids will have an absolute blast checking out all the park has to offer families.