When we started looking into visiting Lancaster, Pennsylvania last year, it kind of seemed like a dream destination for our kids. There’s plenty of open fields to run in, a slower pace of life, family-oriented restaurants, farm animals everywhere, Amish communities to learn about, AND of course…Dutch Wonderland, a 43-acre amusement park charmingly referred to as “a Kingdom for Kids”.
Now, I totally hear you grumbling…”Who wants to go to a theme park with four tiny kids? That sounds like a nightmare!” But I’m here to tell you that out of all of the theme parks we have EVER been to (and y’all know we travel often), this one might have been the most fun for the ages that our kids are right now. Every little detail was thought out to make it an awesome experience for toddlers and young kids, and that made us have the best day ever. Here’s some things to know before you go:
The parking lots are divided into General Parking and a Preferred Parking lot. The General lot only cost $5 during our visit, and it honestly was not far from the entrance AT ALL. There were plenty of parking spots, and the walk was very easy to get to the main gates, even with our triple stroller. When we left the park, we were soaking wet from the water slides and all tired, and it was still a pleasant walk back.
One of my least favorite things about the large theme parks are the lines for security and the general “airport-ish” feel of the whole process of entering a park. BUT at Dutch Wonderland, despite being there on a busy weekend right at 10 AM, the line only took two minutes to get through. The man who searched our bags was so pleasant and friendly, and then we were on our way through the main gates. We opted to bring our triple stroller on this trip, but wagons are also allowed and there are no size restrictions on strollers, which is awesome. No outside food is allowed, but you are able to bring your own water, which they will even refill for you at the concession stands, if you ask.
I found tickets to be extremely reasonable in price. If you’d like to save even more, though, you can use my code ‘summerblog19’ here! Ages two and under were free, which is awesome considering how much there is to do there for small toddlers! They do stamp you for re-entry, if you want to leave the park and come back that same day. AND you’re allowed into the park the day before your tickets are technically valid, just to preview things 3 hours before the park closes. Everything is VERY doable in one day, though, and we did not feel rushed by time at all.
Within minutes of being there, Tom commented on the fact that a lot of the rides were SO unique, unlike the standard ones we normally see at theme parks. There were so many that Lennox, Lela, and Luna could ride without us, and there were a lot that we could ride together as a family. I did find that there was a shortage of rides where you can hold infants (the height requirements are on the rides, and the majority of them say “No Handheld Infants”). So, Tom and I would take turns being the one to wait with the baby and the one to ride the rides with the older three. The good news is that there are basically NO lines for anything. We only had to wait in one line for maybe 10 minutes, but the rest of the rides we could all just walk up and ride…even though the park was very busy on Memorial Day weekend! Everything was open, in perfect working order, and SO much fun. There were definitely a few rides that Lennox wasn’t tall enough for, but I think that’s awesome that there are things for “older kids” to enjoy there, too! I would say the park is best-suited for ages 12 and under, and there are plenty of things to do for each different age group within that.
There were several restaurants located inside of DW, and I found that there were a LOT of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, which really surprised me. The cost of food is about a 200% markup to what you would find at a normal restaurant, but that’s pretty standard with theme park food. We mostly drank water during our visit, but the kids also bought and shared a souvenir cup that they could refill with fruit punch for 99 cents. There were a few little food trucks parked throughout the park that sold pretzels, ice cream, and other little snacks. There are places to eat indoors and outdoors, but because we were there on a very busy weekend and our kids got hungry right at peak lunch time, we couldn’t find a single table to eat at…so we made a little picnic under a tree near the restaurant. The kids absolutely loved it, though!
The water park area called “Duke’s Lagoon” opens up Memorial Day weekend for the summer, and it was definitely Lennox’s favorite part of the park! There are water slides, splash pads, and just tons of awesome spots for the kids to play. I absolutely LOVED that there was NO big pool for swimming, because it helped us feel safer to let the kids run around without worrying so much. There were plenty of tables and chairs available to sit next to the splash pad area, and even though it was busy, we had a huge table to ourselves underneath an umbrella. You can also rent a cabana for the day, which I thought was a neat option! I was really surprised by the size of the water park area because it definitely looks smaller when you see it online, but we spent hours just letting the kids run around and play in the water. There are facilities to change in and out of bathing suits here too, and if you forget your bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, etc… there is a little store that sells them right in Duke’s Lagoon. You can’t wear your suits in other parts of the park; so don’t forget to bring appropriate theme park clothes, too!
So, one of the biggest problems that I think a lot of parents have with theme parks is that it is entirely too overstimulating for a tiny child who needs a nap…which leads to CHAOS. This was one of my favorite things about Dutch Wonderland–it was the perfect mix of fun, while still having some quiet areas for us to get room to breathe and space for naptime. There is a trail called the “Greenway” that circles around the park and overlooks a very peaceful cow pasture next to a tiny little river. There are ducks, plants, and very few people. We pushed the younger three kids in the stroller through the Greenway until they fell asleep, and it was an amazing little moment of peace.
This probably seems weird that I’m writing about their bathrooms, but I have two toddlers in pull-ups…so bathrooms are a BIG DEAL for us. I was really impressed by how many bathrooms are nearby at any given moment, and I loved how they had some stalls with toddler potties in them! There were no lines in the bathroom either, and everything was so well-maintained.
I heard a few locals grumbling that it was “way too busy” when we were there, but compared to other theme parks that we have been to recently, I was AMAZED at all of the room we had on walkways and the lack of lines for rides. I thought it was the perfect amount of people. On the day that we were there, it was fairly hot (I think around 85), but the park is so well-shaded and uncrowded so it felt perfect. Remember to drink water, though!
Overall, we had an absolutely amazing time, and I would recommend Dutch Wonderland in a heartbeat if you are anywhere near Lancaster or planning a trip to the area. Most of our recent trips to theme parks have just been so stressful and busy and chaotic that it didn’t feel like a vacation, but this was such a relaxing day full of fun and smiles. It did end up raining on the day that we were there, so we left a little earlier than we originally planned. Because of that, we were unable to watch any of the shows that I’ve heard so many amazing reviews about, and I wish we would’ve been able to squeeze that in. Maybe next summer! 🙂