Summer Fun 2013: Day Trip it to Dutch Wonderland

I am going to do a few things this summer. First, I’m going to blog less, unwind more and enjoy outings with the kids. I am vowing to this one. I trust that if you only hear from me once a week, it doesn’t mean everyone will go away, it just means you, too, are enjoying your summer. Yes?

Second, I am going to sporadically bring your summer outings ideas. In fact, I had intended to write about my summer bucket list by now after a friend texted me hers but I’m still finalizing that list. It’s been really fun to think about.

With that, I bring you one day trip idea: a day trip to Dutch Wonderland, nestled in the heart of Lancaster, PA. If you haven’t been yet, and you have young kids, then I suggest you add it to the top of your list….and for those of you who are wondering if you can make it a day trip my answer is…absolutely…positively..without a doubt..YES.

Last summer, right around this exact same weekend, on a Sunday morning, we loaded up the kids into the car, I shoved a big breakfast down their throats and made innumerable threats that I was not providing them with snacks for the entire duration of our drive to DW…so don’t ask…..and we pulled out of our driveway around 8:20AM. DW opens at 10AM and it was promising to be sunny and scorching hot all day, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Also, as a general rule of thumb, as much as I love my own sweet oppressors children, I pretty much loathe other people’s complaining children and annoying adults in large public spaces…so normally I would attempt a DW trip in the middle of the week – assuming I would be facing less crowds than on a lovely weekend when school is out for summer. Obviously I packed my own patience along with snacks for the kiddos.

Happy park-goers at Dutch Wonderland. Photo Credit: WM

Just under two hours later (and plenty of complains for snacks and “are we there yet?” pleas), we rounded the corner and saw the shining gates of the castle and Duke the smiling purple dragon…and cries of jubilee erupted from the back seat of the vehicle. All prior trauma from .02 seconds ago was forgotten. Suddenly no one was hungry. Suddenly no one’s tummy’s hurt…and miraculously…..suddenly no one was crying. Thank you, Duke the Dragon, where have you been all my life?

Check one for Dutch Wonderland, Mr. WM elatedly noted as we pulled into the parking lot because…parking is FREE unless you want priority parking right next to the gates and that will run you $10. As any avid fans of Mr. WM know, and there are millions of you, he’s not paying for priority parking when free is a few feet further from the gate (note: if I were alone without him, you better believe I would have paid the extra $10 for priority parking. #princess).

We mapped out our strategy in advance – we being moi and Mr. WM. We knew that we were not letting the tykes know of the water park option until we exhausted the rides, our logic being we didn’t want to deal with them complaining about being wet, plus by later in the day, it was likely to be too hot to be standing in line for rides. Mr. WM actually wore his swim trunks all day, I packed mine in the backpack with the girls’ – as much as I considered parading around in my string bikini all day long. Also important to note – on this sort of outing – I forgo fashion for practicality. I am not likely to be seen sporting a backpack much any other time of the year, typically preferring a more stylish messenger bag to tote all the crap for the kids – but for an outing like this one – a backpack stuffed to the brim  -with towels, extra plastic bags for wet clothes, extra underpants, sunscreen and water bottles – is the only option. Just as Mr WM carrying said backpack was really the only option for moi. #princess

DW’s brilliance in making you enter and exit the park through the gift shop overflowing with happy, smiling, soft cute stuffed animals is genius on their part but another hassle for the parents. We handled it by continuing my series of morning threats….this time reminding them multiple times as we approached the gates “Coming here is your present today. You are not BUYING ANYTHING. DO NOT ASK.”

No one has ever accused me of being sweet. #BitchyPrincess

Their eyes filled with longing and tear water tears as we paraded them through the gift shop with tunnel vision for the main entrance. There were no lines to speak of to enter the park and we immediately veered left to ride the Sky Ride to the back of the park, soaking in the aerial view of the other rides.  We started off with the kids enjoying the Bear Ride – my then 6-year-old claiming she’s too old and sophisticated for such a ride and then barely able to contain her smiles during the ride. Then off to the bike maze and the bumper cars, which all four of us rode, with the singular goal of ramming into the other two as much as humanly possible for the duration of the ride.

Check two for DW – so far – the lines were nothing to speak of – as in – we would walk up to a ride and get on it right away. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. Also, we’d made a pit stop to the restroom and they are in impeccable shape, very clean with the added perk of a step stool under the sinks for the little ones to stand on to wash their hands. I also noted an ongoing stream of stroller traffic and parents parking the strollers with ease around rides, along with many many very pregnant women, who easily found shaded seating on benches throughout the park. Again, this place is really geared for families with young kids and even the smallest detail wasn’t overlooked, in my opinion.

Power hungry older sister proudly noting her higher status at the ride height chart. Note – she did this each time we passed one.

After some negotiation, my older one agreed to ride Huck Finn’s Leapin’ Frogs with her younger sister (I think she became power-hungry from the color coded chart dictating the height requirements for the rides…being that she was in the second to tallest category, this filled her with pride and a false sense of worldly sophistication. Truth is, she enjoyed the toddler geared rides just as much, if not more, than her then 3-year-old sister).

Next we hit the Double splash flume in logs ride…which quickly became the WM top favorite ride of the day. Mr. WM and the eldest WM sat in the front of the log, me and WM’ette rode in the back…and my youngest in particular has a need for speed – so they laughed and squealed as we rushed down the slope with water rushing into the log. On that ride, we actually waited the longest amount of all the rides that day – which was a grand total of about 5 minutes. I think our youngest would have ridden that ride until darkness fell and they kicked us out, if we’d let her.  We rode a few more rides, played a few games, admired the cute little chicks in the cages and then hit the Frog Prince water show. We were conned into spending $8 on lemonade and popcorn but both were delicious and the water show was excellent entertainment and a nice break from the increasingly hot sun.

Before we knew it, it was 1pm and the kids were hungry for lunch and it was time for the big reveal – water park time. If your kids are like mine, then you are familiar with having a sand kid and a water kid. My oldest has always been the water kid – doesn’t matter if the ocean is 40 degrees, she’s in it until she turns blue and has no interest in the sand. My youngest has always been extremely sensitive to temperature and would much rather build a sand castle. As such, the water park was a thrill for our oldest. There are three sections of the water park and even the section for the youngest, smallest kids, with some water gently spraying around little mini-slides, held little appeal for her. Meanwhile, the oldest was tearing through all the options and rode each of the three water slides multiple times over. This is the part of the day that presents a challenge if you are planning a day trip to DW without your partner or spouse….I’d recommend you go with another set of friends then because it is extremely difficult to keep an eye on more than one child -unless they both want to do the exact same thing at the exact same time – and when does that ever happen except in the movies?

One side of the DW water park

Divide and conquer was the approach that worked best for us, along with scoring a seat in the shade, which still was quite easy despite how crowded the water park side of the park was by early afternoon. I noticed they have cabana rentals and we totally enjoyed the Beach Boys blaring through the speakers – it just added to the fun, summer atmosphere of the entire afternoon.

We probably lasted about 45 minutes in the water park because of our younger one…and lunch time hunger. DW has many options for lunch but because of the convenience, we opted for lunch by the water park, and dropped $23 on two orders of chicken strips, a hot dog and a bottle of water. One order of chicken strips would have been sufficient because the portion size was so large.

After lunch and slurpees, the girls were starting to drag, so we soaked in another one of the multiple shows DW offers throughout the day (options include Curious George, story time with a Princess and a Knight, and a Dragon water show, among others), the Badland Bears music show. Again, these animated moving bears sing country songs, the Beaver was mine and Mr. WM’s favorite, while our oldest liked Foxy on the keyboards, and more than anything, it was a 20 minute rest under a shady tree.

We wrapped up the day with a few more rides and headed home around 4pm. The park remains open until 8:30pm but the heat was zapping everyone’s energy and we figured, we should just leave while we’re ahead, no sense in waiting for an epic breakdown to taint our otherwise happy, relaxing and fun day trip. We barely left the gates of DW and my youngest was fast asleep and remained that way for the entire 2 hour ride home.

Overall, we give DW a huge thumbs up. There are outlets across the street and plenty of hotel/motel options if you’re looking to explore Lancaster, PA  but I think it’s an easy day trip for anyone from the DC or Baltimore area. Admission is $35.99 per person ages 3 on up. The park is beautifully maintained and landscaped. The bathrooms are clean and the staff are eager and ready to help. The youngest I would take a kid- to actually ride rides and participate in the fun – is about 2.5 years old and I saw kids as old as 9-12 there having fun. To me, it’s a great way to introduce younger kids to the idea of an amusement park without all the noise and chaos and lines that come with the bigger parks. The variety and frequency of shows throughout the day also offer a great reprieve for tired little feet or short-on-patience parents, so definitely grab a show schedule on your way into the park.

For more on my Summer Fun 2013 series, be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma community page on FB, it will be the most fun you ever did have.

Disclosure: DW granted me free admission to the park last year but my opinions here are all my own.

 

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