Friday, July 11, 2014

Tons of fun at Dutch Wonderland!

Every year since Toddler O was born he and I have made the 10 hour journey to my hometown to visit my parents and sister. Because the drive is so long I am constantly trying to figure out ways to break up the trip or, even better, find a driving companion. The first year, Toddler O was a wee babe and just slept and nursed alternately for the entire trip. We stopped in my parents' hometown, where some relatives still lived, and then my parents drove to the Virginia boarder to see us the final three hours.

The second summer was even more awesome. We drove to Philadelphia with Husband who was there for work. Then we drove three hours alone before again meeting my parents at the Virginia boarder. Then my whole family drove with us to New Jersey for a wedding where we met Husband who drove with us the final few hours the following day.

This year we specifically planned the trip at a time when Husband had to be in D.C. and North Carolina for work. We drove to the Virginia boarder to meet my parents, but then Husband drove from D.C. to my parents' house to spend a few days. Then we all drove home together.

It's nice having company on the road and completely awesome when I don't have to drive. Toddler O was a rough driving companion this year because he talks constantly and doesn't stop talking until you figure out what he's saying and acknowledge it.

This is a typical conversation with Toddler O right now:

Toddler O: "Horses! I see horses."

Me: Looking around for horses and seeing none.

Toddler O: "Do you see horses, mommy?"

Me: "Where?"

Toddler O: "In the barn. Horses in the barn: do you see it?"

Me: "Ah yes. I see them." (realizing that in his mind barn = horse)

Toddler O: "Good."

And so on with each and every thing he laid eyes on for the entire trip. Oi!

Husband initially suggested breaking up the trip home by stopping at Sesame Place outside Philadelphia. I did a little research and decided that (1) it was ridiculously expensive: for the three of us to just walk in the gate it would have been $150+! and (2) it wasn't really something Toddler O would be into since it's mostly waterpark. I thought he might be a bit young. I poked around online a little more and came across Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Randomly a girlfriend from high school lives in the Lancaster area so I emailed her to ask if she'd been to Dutch Wonderland and if her two year old liked it there. She emailed back right away that they love this particular park so that was enough for me. We decided right then and there to drive five hours to Lancaster, visit Dutch Wonderland and then drive the remaining five hours home the following day.

Dutch Wonderland was, in a word, adorable. I'd read online that it wasn't your typical amusement park: for example, there's a big ole cornfield at the edge of the park! And most of the rides are geared toward the 8 and under crowd. Perfect!

Outside the castle gates on Friday evening.
One comment that Husband made as we were driving down the main road toward Dutch Wonderland is that he understands now why Disney purchased every acre of land they could get their hands on outside of Disney World. It was very weird to be driving past restaurants, outlet malls, and Amish touristy stops and then *boom* amusement park. One of the first rides we went on was a little boat that basically rode along side the road for a bit!

Anyway, one of the super cool things about Dutch Wonderland is the cost. We paid about $70 for two daily tickets (you can get them for cheaper if you buy in advance on their website): Toddler O was free, but then they offer a "free preview evening!" So for the three hours before the park closes, you can use your daily admission ticket to get into the park and then use your admission ticket again for a full day of park fun! So basically you are buying a 1.5 day ticket, which is awesome!

We got to the park at 5pm on a Friday evening and it was pretty dead. Any ride Toddler O saw, we got right on. In fact, some rides he had to sit for 5 minutes in the airplane (or whatever) while other kids wandered over to get on. No line waiting at all!

As I said, the rides are all relatively tame, but there are still some minimal height and parental supervision requirements. Toddler O ended up being an "Emerald" which meant that he could go on most rides, but needed an adult with him on most. The ride workers all had these cute little color coded measuring sticks that they'd swing around to quickly categorize a kid. Another cool thing is that some rides actually had height maximums so Toddler O had to ride alone. He felt like a pretty cool dude on those rides!

Toddler O turned out to be a bit of a daredevil like Husband. His favorite two rides would have given me fits at age 3 (or even at age 33!). The first was called the Frog Hopper. This was had spots for six kids and then one adult could fit in the middle. The dad in front of us in line decided to go and I didn't want to risk Toddler O freaking out by having to wait any longer
so I just put him on by himself. He shrieked with delight the entire time and then wanted to go on again when we passed it later! I think it helped that there was an announcement that they kids should "ribbit" like frogs so he was screaming "ribbit" the whole time too! Very cute!

The other ride Toddler O loved I had spotted while we rode the Sky Ride across the park on the first evening: the Kite Flight. I knew I had no intention of going near it but I thought Husband and Toddler O might have fun. We visited it first thing the next morning and I was right: Toddler O screamed the whole time, "I'm flying!"

This year there is a whole new section at Dutch Wonderland called Exploration Island. It had animatronic dinosaurs and Toddler O's favorite, a sandbox. He was a bit nervous about the dinosaurs on the first night but the next day he specifically asked to see them again. He still didn't want to stand alone near them though which is how I ended up in this picture with his favorite dinosaur species: triceratops (which he calls "tops").

Dutch Wonderland also has a whole water park area called Duke's Lagoon but it was randomly 60 degrees the day we visited so it was a bit too chilly to try the water park. We did decide to be brave and went on the Double Splash Fume which got us more than enough wet for the day!

One thing that I wasn't crazy about at Dutch Wonderland is that there is a decidedly carnival feel once you get through the gates. In my mind, I paid my admission so once I'm in I should get to enjoy everything for free. Not so. They had pony rides for $6/ride (luckily I was more into Toddler O riding a pony than he actually was so we skipped it); face painting for $10 and up (!!!?!?), and lots of carnival games. As we passed one game, Toddler O saw a little girl choosing a rubber duck out of a pond. He started screaming: he wanted to choose a duck too. He didn't even care about the prize or know it was a game: he just wanted to pick up a stupid duck. $2 later he had chosen a duck and won this stupid little stuffed animal (it was one of those "everybody wins" games) that promptly went into my diaper bag and he hasn't mentioned since. Ugh - at least it was only $2!

As we left, I just had to hit up the gift shop. I'm such a sucker for gift shops, especially when Toddler O is at his current age of actually starting to remember things. I figure having a souvenir or two to jog his memory is a good thing. I found him a cute Duke the Dragon shirt, a magnet (which we always get when we visit someone), and this adorable Dutch Wonderland board game modeled after Candy Land. All told, I spent about $35 which I didn't think was too pricey.

We also splurged on one last treat before we went home: Dole Whips!

"What?" you might say, "I thought Dole Whips were only at Disney World!"

Apparently Disney World and Dutch Wonderland both appreciate the glory of a Dole Whip. Although I goofed again while ordering and got the orange swirl flavor instead of the pineapple swirl flavor (you may recall that while at Disney I first ordered the Dole Whip sans swirl which, while delicious, is not as glorious as the Dole Whip swirl). The orange flavor was still tasty though and Toddler O was just happy to have a big ole cone of ice cream. We've decided that from now on Dutch Wonderland will be a midpoint stop in our trip to Virginia so maybe by our 7th or 8th visit, I'll finally order the Dole Whip that I actually want to eat!

So if you ever find yourself passing through the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area and you have kids, definitely stop by Dutch Wonderland. It's a really sweet place and Toddler O is still talking about it!

1 comment:

  1. Aww so cute. I'm glad you all had such a good time! Those rides all look too scary for me. Lol. He's a brave one! Suzanne