There’s a lot to be said about hitting the regional theme parks in the summer with small kids over a big trip to Disney.
While there are a myriad of family amusement parks in the U.S. that cater to the 2 to 10 age group, Dutch Wonderland, a 48-acre amusement park just east of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is an excellent choice for a fun-filled day.
With fewer crowds, less scary rides and at prices that won’t break the bank, it’s no wonder that it was voted one of the Top 5 Best Kid’s Park in the World by Amusement Today magazine. And with prices that start at an affordable $32 a day, it can seem quite a bargain compared to Disney’s Magic Kingdom which is $105.
Recently, my family and I ventured off to Dutch Wonderland with my two-year-old daughter. While there was much we like there, here are the attractions that should not be missed.
1. Duke's Lagoon
A great way to beat the heat is Duke's Lagoon, which features a large splash pad for kids to run around on. There are kid-sized slides with a variety of water platforms for climbing, and plenty of seating for tired parents. And with its fun tropical theme, it’s a great way to begin or end any trip.
2. Wonderland Special Train Ride
What kid doesn’t love a train ride! When entering the park, the first ride you see is the Wonderland Special Train Ride, which takes you around the park. It’s a great way to see what the park has to offer before venturing off. We rode it multiple times that day just because my daughter loved it so much. It’s a nice way to relax when you need to take a break from all the excitement.
3. Wonder Whip
This is a classic kiddie whip ride that never gets old, no matter how young you are. The Wonder Whip looks and rides like it’s right out of the encyclopedia of vintage rides, and like the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
4. Open Dive Show
If you didn’t get wet enough at Dukes Lagoon, be prepared to get doused at the Open Dive Show. A fun show for even the parents, divers perform amazing feats off of high platforms. The divers are friendly and funny, as well as extremely talented. Beware if you sit in the red seats because you will get drenched. Click here if you want to see the divers in action.
5. Musical Band
Kids love dancing to the band that walks around the park, playing musical favorites of yesterday and today. This was a fun attraction to watch while eating an ice cream, or having a snack.
6. Dino Dig/Prehistoric Path
Dinosaurs are always a big hit with the little ones, and this attraction was perfect. The attraction lets you walk through a park with animatronic dinosaurs that move and growl. You can even control one yourself, or get a photo of yourself coming out of a dinosaur egg. Right next to the Prehistoric path was the Dino Dig where kids can pretend to be archaeologists and dig up some dinosaur bones. It’s a fun way to keep busy in the sand.
7. Pony Ride
Who doesn't love to ride a pony? Along with the all-inclusive rides, Dutch Wonderland also has a pony ride side attraction where you can do a few laps on a pony of your choice for a small fee. It’s a fun way to break up the day of sitting on just any other ride. Get photos and a hat to remember the ride as well.
8. Panda Party / Dukes Dozers / Sky fighter
These three rides are very similar and old school but also enjoyable in their own special way. Dukes Dozers lets you operate the plow on a construction vehicle, the Panda Party lets you ride in a panda while playing with a button to make your panda car go up and down, and the Sky Fighter lets you fly in a spaceship while shooting at the bad guys. It’s a reminder that little kids don’t need much to make them happy.
9. Balloon Chase
Spin and spin some more. Not only does the Balloon Chase go round and round, but while in the balloon you get to control how much you want to spin some more. If you get motion sickness this ride won’t be for you. But my daughter and I loved every minute of it.
10. Dragon's Lair
One of Dutch Wonderland’s signature rides is the Dragon's Lair -- a log boat ride located on the lake in front of the park. Where else do you get to ride a log boat through a dragon’s lair? (But don’t worry; it’s not scary). This was a great way to end the day. Click here to see more.