A giant purple-trimmed castle welcomes families to Dutch Wonderland, a fairytale-themed amusement park fronting Wood Creek on the eastern outskirts of Lancaster in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Its 30-some rides are tame compared to larger amusement parks like Six Flags or Cedar Point — its only roller coaster, the Kingdom Coaster, never inverts – and most of its daily shows – like Bubba Bear & the Badland Band or Adventure of the Frog Prince – will only be entertaining for younger children. But for kids ages three to seven, this might be heaven.
To get an overview, take advantage of the park’s Preview Plan entitling all full-day ticket holders to enter the park for free for the three hours prior to closing the day before their adventure begins. Then, it’s a good idea to ride the birds-eye-view monorail or ground-level tram as they wind through parts of the 48-acre property showcasing what’s in store. To the left of the entrance you’ll pass Duke’s Lagoon, a shallow waterpark open only in summer with flume rides, dueling twisting covered waterslides and cabana loungers; space simulators and the flying trapeze. Rounding the the back of the park you’ll find rides and attractions including bumper cars; Storytime Corner; an amphitheater with diving shows; the Kingdom Coaster and a Merry-Go-Round. Out on Exploration Island, farthest from the park entrance and beyond the reach of the monorail or the tram, a dinosaur bone dig gives kids a chance to get dirty and a walking path past dinosaur sculptures provides a shady respite from the shriek-filled rides. Seven eateries offer fast and buffet fare and numerous ice cream, funnel cake and Dole Whip stands dot the premises.
The summer high season (open daily) and the Winter Wonderland low season – when fewer rides open means lower prices – are when this park sees its visitor count surge. To dodge the lines come in Spring or Fall when the park is open weekends only. During summer, many visitors choose to stay at the connected Old Mill Stream Campgrounds with teepees, family cabins, tent sites and discounted park entry. Otherwise, parking is $5 and general admission at the gate is $40.99 for ages 3-59 (senior discounts available; children under 3 are free).