Monday, June 13, 2011

Revenge of the Dutch Wonderland Trip Report

Summer Vacation officially started for us this past Thursday afternoon when Elias got home from school. For a stay at home parent, Summer Vacation is like tax season for an accountant or Christmas for Santa Claus - it's the busy season! We decided to start things off with a bang with an all day visit to our new summer home Dutch Wonderland. We had beautiful weather and a very light crowd as most schools are still in session for at least another week or two.

For the first time in Dutch Wonderland's history, they've split their parking lot into two sections are are now charging $10.00 to park in "Preferred Parking" or the lower lot as it's commonly known. These are the handful of parking rows located directly in front of the castle entrance. The parking is still free about six lanes up from the entrance, it's a pretty silly idea to charge for slighlty better parking. Honestly, the furthest spot in DW's parking lot is closer to the entrance than most theme park's best parking spot is to theirs but obviously when you start to charge for something that's been free (for almost 50 years) people are going to get upset. Dutch Wonderland has tried to quiet some of the upset guests by including the preferred parking as a Season Pass privlage. I assume it was an afterthought since this perk was not mentioned in any of the literature when we signed up for our passes.

I don't really care one way or the other. The walk from the lot is not bad, in fact the kids enjoy following Duke the Dragon's footprints across the crosswalk. But since I can park down front for free - I'll take `em up on the offer. The lower lot was not nearly full and the handful of dashboards I examined all had Season Pass parking tickets displayed instead of the $10.00 ticket. For all the ill-will it's buying Dutch Wonderland, I doubt it's worth paying someone to sit at a ticket booth to look at season passes when the average person is not going to pay $10.00 to park a few rows closer to the castle doors. Dutch Wonderland isn't exactly the hangout for big spenders!

But beyond the parking lot, we had another really great day!

Tanner has turned into a real daredevil. He had earmarked a dozen rides that he wasn't going to ride because they were too tall, too fast...or whatever other reason he decided. He's five years old, so you can't hold it against him, right? Well, he's been picking off those rides one by one. This visit he conquered The Twister - a Tilt-A-Whirl/Scrambler variation. It spins round and round in both directions while raising and dropping to the ground. I can't handle spinney rides - I get sick way too easily but the kids loved it and rode it several times. The Twister was moved to Dutch Wonderland a few years ago from Hersheypark where it was named the Rodeo for many years. Tanner also overcame his fear of the Flying Trapeze - a high flying swing ride which he had labeled too high. Even though last year at the beach he cried and cried because he wasn't tall enough to ride the big swing ride with Elias.

Tanner was also ready to ride Kite Flight, one of the park's two new rides this season. This was the first ride for all of us on this new addition. It simulates hang gliding by riding in vehicles laying down on your tummy. The ride spins round and round while ascending and descending. I got a little dizzy near the end...the kids rode it two more times. I didn't get a good picture of the ride, but I'll try next time.

One of the things I really admire at Dutch Wonderland is their appreciation for their own history. They have a small section called Memory Lane where a few old ride vehicles are on display. This train car is from Old 99, a really fun little ride that you could still find at some old parks. It was active at DW until fairly recently, it's footprint was where the current Thomas The Tank Engine theatre is. The ride took the trains on a twisting track around a garden with a couple of hidden gags. Sensors in the track would activate gags such as a stack of barrels falling on the train or a cow popping out of of hiding onto the track. The cow now resides in the back of the park on the Gondola Boat Ride and I'm happy to say they went to the trouble of hooking him up to the boat track so he can still surprise guests.

The park's resident ducks continue to be a popular time consuming attraction for my kids. On this day, we found three baby ducks walking the path near the space rides. I gotta admit the little ducks were pretty darn cute and my kids and others went nuts following the little peeping ducks all over the area.

The antique car ride has been rechristened Sunoco Turnpike with plenty of product placement all over the place. The cars are now sporting not only the company logo on the hood of the car, but are also outfitted with a fake speedometer and gas gage. Nice tough I thought. Almost every park has an antique car ride, and I think Dutch Wonderland's is one of the most scenic although it's a bit brief.

Duke's Lagoon - the water park section of the park - opened on Memorial Day weekend. We had decided to leave the swimsuits home this visit but we ventured across the bridge to the Lagoon to check it out. The boys jaws dropped to the ground when they saw this enormous collection of Slush Puppy machines. The Slush Shack in Duke's Lagoon let's kids mix and match from over 10 different flavors of Slush Puppy. They even have some DW related drink recipes if kids want to make their own cocktail. The nice thing is they let you use your regular refill cup from the park which saves you a couple of bucks. Well played, DW!

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