Posted Jun 01, 2019
Dutch Wonderland is a 48-acre amusement park nestled in the heart of Amish Country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This "Kingdom for Kids" is geared mainly to families with smaller children and is full of castles, games, and over 35 rides, attractions and shows the whole family will love.
One of our CertifiKID team members and her family recently visited Dutch Wonderland. She shares an honest review of her experience below, as well as some sweet memories she created with her family over Mother's Day weekend.
I feel like Dutch Wonderland doesn't need much of an explanation, as it's such a well-known destination. They market themselves as "A Kingdom for Kids" and that's exactly what it is. Yes, technically it's an amusement park, but I don't think that description does it justice, as it's so much more.
It's designed for younger kids (I'd say the sweet spot is ages 1-10), so it's the perfect "starter park" for a family that doesn't need the mega-thrills and extreme coasters that the larger parks have. The park itself is just the right size, and was so manageable that even our young 3-year-old didn't need a stroller, and didn't complain about walking too much.
Since the park caters to the younger crowd, the rides and attractions are a mix of kiddie carnival/festival-type rides (carousel, tilt-a-whirl, flying balloons, ride-on cars/trucks, bouncing animals, burlap sack slides, etc) and major attractions such as roller coasters, the log ride (my personal favorite), the over-the-park gondola ride, train ride, antique cars, and shows. There's also a kid-sized water park, Duke's Lagoon, which opens Memorial Day Weekend (we went Mother's Day weekend, so unfortunately, didn't get a chance to experience it on this trip).
Our first stop was the Wonder Whip, and man, that ride never gets old. Adults are too large to ride, but I could honestly sit there all day to watch the smiles and hear the shrieks of glee coming from all of the kids riding it. I might have to look into what it would cost to have one of these installed in our backyard, as I think every sibling fight or toddler meltdown could instantly be resolved in one spin around the Wonder Whip.
The kids ran through the line again and again and after about 4 full rides, we were able to pull them away to go on the Frog Hopper, which was almost as equally entertaining to watch the kids on. On the Frog Hopper, however, there's one seat in the middle big enough (barely) for an adult to ride, so I jumped on with the kids and might have enjoyed it a little more than even they did :).
After a few other smaller "warm-up" rides, we headed for the crown jewel of Dutch Wonderland, Merlin's Mayhem, the new suspended family roller coaster that opened last year. With a minimum height requirement of only 39", even the youngest thrill-seekers can ride. Our 3-year-old son went on once and it was a little much for him, but our 5-year-old daughter LOVED it so much that she dragged me on it six more times with her!
There's another large roller coaster, a wooden one called the Kingdom Coaster, intended more for the adults and older kids, and my daughter was just tall enough to get through to ride with me. I rode it once solo prior to her joining me, and it was FAST, with some steep drops and hard turns. I thought for sure she'd be scared out of her mind, but she's definitely her mother's daughter and loved it as much as I did, even putting her arms up a few different times throughout the ride.
I was amazed at how short the lines and wait times were for all the rides, especially the major attractions. Other than about 10 minutes for the Sunoco Turnpike (antique cars) and Double Splash Flume (log ride), there was really no wait at all for anything. When we went last summer on a prime Saturday in June, we maybe waited 30 minutes tops for a few of the major attractions, and never more than 5 minutes or so for the smaller kiddie rides.
We all really enjoyed the Aqua Theater, where they put on multiple shows each day incorporating a huge pool set below a castle. There are diving boards and INCREDIBLY high platforms atop the castle that the performers jump from into the pool below - very entertaining.
There's also the "Exploration Island" section of the park that has an extensive trail to walk through full of animatronic dinosaurs - super cool.
Just about everywhere you go, the park celebrates its Amish surroundings, and you'll see different interactive displays or photo backdrops featuring the Amish culture.
We were there from around 10:15 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and while we had a FANTASTIC day, by no means did we get to do everything we wanted, so we'll definitely be back at least one more time this season. There's a really cute train ride that takes you on a loop around the whole park, and a similar boat ride that looked like it would be very relaxing and a nice break/rest. There's also a carousel, pony rides, face painting, character story times, additional shows, and more - all things we want to do but didn't have time for.
Other than being a little dated and not having the bells and whistles you might find at one of the mega-parks, there's really nothing negative to say about Dutch Wonderland. There's a mix of everything, it's not overwhelming, everything (including the bathrooms) caters to the toddler/pre-schooler/early elementary age group, and it's just a magical place to make family memories and see pure delight on your kids' faces, over and over again.
Within an hour of entering the park, I feel like you know your way around, and with little to no wait times on most of the rides, you don't have to worry about kids melting down waiting too long in line, or wandering around aimlessly trying to figure out where you are.
The kids loved just about every ride that we went on and us, parents, loved not having to wait in long lines and never having to walk too far at any point. It is SO manageable and about as stress-free as you can get in visiting a major attraction/theme park.
Getting There and Getting In
We came in from Baltimore/Columbia for the weekend and were staying at the Bird-in-Hand Family Inn, which I highly recommend (see full review HERE), and is located only a few miles away. You can easily get to Lancaster/Dutch Wonderland in 1.5 - 2 hours from most parts of the Baltimore/DC area.
Dutch Wonderland is super-easy to find, as it's one of the biggest attractions in Lancaster County, and you can't miss it from the main road (Route 30 - Lincoln Highway).
Parking is paid and readily available. General parking is $5 and Preferred/VIP parking is $15. Depending on what time you arrive, and how full the lots are, it might be worth paying the $15 for better parking, as the lot is literally right in front of the entrance. Otherwise, it can be a bit of a walk. If you're there right when they open and there aren't many cars yet, the closest $5 General Parking spots are just as close as the Preferred ones, so don't waste your money.
If you're bringing bags in, you have to go through a quick bag search/security line before entering. There aren't any metal detectors or anything like that, just a bag search, and the staff is quick and efficient and doesn't take much time at all.
With the CertifiKID vouchers, the barcode printed on them is your ticket for entry at the gate, so you can just go straight to the gates to have it scanned from your phone or printed voucher.
Time Recommended to Enjoy Experience
I'd plan to stay as long as your kids can physically handle it, depending on how old they are. We stayed from about 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. There were still a few things we wanted to do but didn't get a chance to because we felt if we stayed any later the kids would completely melt down.
Recommended Age Range
Our kids are 3 and 5, the PERFECT ages for Dutch Wonderland. I think 1-10 is the ideal age range.
Tips for Families
Take advantage of the night before "preview" for 3 extra hours of park time. The great thing about visiting Dutch Wonderland is that ALL tickets (CertifIKID vouchers, too) include a 3-hour "preview" that you can use FOR FREE the night before your scheduled visit. So, if you show your unused ticket (or PRINTED CertifiKID voucher) at the gate the night before you intend to spend the day at the park, you can get in for free for the final 3 hours the park is open that day. We didn't utilize this, as we had gone to the Magic & Wonder: IMAGINE show at the nearby Bird-in-Hand Stage the night before (see full review HERE), but I'm sure we would've gotten those extra few attractions in if we had gone for the preview.
There are tons of concessions stands all over the park, serving pretty standard amusement park fare (chicken tenders, fries, pizza, pretzels, hot dogs, ice cream, etc). You can pack your own lunch if you want to save some money on food (although make sure you pack it in a cooler and leave it in the car; you can't bring the full meal inside the park, but can easily get out to your car to get it and sit in the picnic area). There's a picnic area outside the main gate, and you can enter/exit the park as much as you like during the day, so very easy to run to the car, grab your lunch and eat. Also, I highly recommend getting a Dole Whip from the stand right next to the Wonder Whip.
There are so many great places nearby to visit and eat: Bird-in-Hand Bakery & Cafe, Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market, Good & Plenty Restaurant, Magic & Wonder: IMAGINE show at the nearby Bird-in-Hand Stage, Amish Experience at Plain & Fancy Farm, Abe's Buggy Rides, Strasburg Railroad, Cherry Crest Farm, and Turkey Hill Experience.
Would Your Family Visit Again?
Yes! We're already planning at least one more trip this summer, and I'm sure will be back every season until the kids "outgrow" the rides.
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