As part of my ongoing series devoted to summer survival, I offer you below my old review of Dutch Wonderland (you’ll see it’s a bit old with the Jon and Kate reference…remember those days?). Quick summary: if you haven’t been, it’s definitely a great day trip or weekend trip with the young ones.
When first hearing of Dutch Wonderland, I had trouble believing it was a family amusement park instead of an, ahem, adult film. With a name like that, how is a gal not supposed to think it’s not a XXX peep show starring Dutch women? As it turns out, Dutch Wonderland is an amusement park built entirely for young children, including those as young as 1.5 or 2, nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Being an organized and thorough gal (0bviously with a mind in the gutter), in prep for the trip, I quizzed everyone I knew that had already visited DW, thoroughly read the extensive DW web site and finally, I recorded the Jon & Kate episode where they spend the day at the amusement park. This show taped back when they were still feigning marital stability. I needed a visual of the site to make sure it wasn’t a dump.
Located just 2 hours from my house in Silver Spring (without traffic, 3.5 hours with traffic), Dutch Wonderland is a veritable preschooler oasis. Now, let’s be clear, today’s review has two parts: one part review of my kid, one part review of the amusement park. Unfortunately, the place earned the higher grade than my beloved 3 year old.
We spent the day at DW on a Friday in late July. Our rationale for not going on a weekend: it’s tough enough to keep a preschooler’s interest in general – how would we keep her interested while waiting in long lines for rides? Truthfully I have no idea if the lines are long and painful on a summer weekend but given its proximity to DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia – even just a few hours from New York City – it would be hard to imagine the lines aren’t painful on the weekends.
On the particular Friday we visited, the lines were really nothing to speak of. The park itself is beautifully landscaped and very clean. Even the bathrooms were clean and well stocked (and I am a huge bathroom snob). The park has a wide variety of rides depending on what appeals to your precious cherub but all the rides are age appropriate for young ones, including the roller coaster. In addition to a variety of rides, the park offers shows at scheduled times throughout the day, which are all posted on the DW web site. These shows are the perfect time to give your child some down time or escape from the heat or afternoon summer shower. We took in the Country Bears show under a shady tree and the Thomas the Train show under a big tent during a torrential down pour. If we’d had more time, we would have hit even more of the shows.
As it turned out, our daughter woke up on the wrong side of the bed on the day we visited DW and after several hours, rides, great shows, lunch and an ice cream treat, we were still shoving a good time down her throat. One questions every ounce of their being when they are spending $90 for 3 people to have fun, only to realize that it’s really not fun at all because of the unpredictable toddler mood. As a last ditch resort, we hit the water park side of DW, and her foul mood was washed away.
If only water parks instead of ice cream would lift my spirits.
The water park side of DW has several different areas of amusement depending on the age of your child and their comfort level with sprouting water. Don’t think I didn’t catch my husband having a water gun fight with some preteen boy and loving every minute of it. If I’d known this in advance, maybe I should have sent husband and daughter packing off to a water park closer to our home and just taken myself to the mall? Who knows, but the day turned for the better once we spent some time in the water park, and it became the enjoyable day I envisioned in my head prior to our arrival. Even our 8 month old would have had a great time in the DW water park.
Overall I’d highly recommend this as a day trip for families with younger kids. You’ll spend a wad of money as it costs $30 per person to enter the park, you cleverly have to exit through the gift shop, and there are food choices and brightly colored drinks, at every turn, each one a magnetic pull for the 3 year old who loves salt and sweets. That being said, it’s age appropriate, clean, beautifully landscaped, and a manageable distance for a day trip. Also, there are outlet stores conveniently located across the street from the amusement park.
One final note – make sure you read up on the rain policy – they give out free passes for readmission in the summer if it rains for more than an hour during your visit. We benefitted from lazy teens working the customer service area, as it was raining when we were about ready to leave, and they easily gave us the three free return passes though it hadn’t been raining for close to an hour.