Wednesday, August 12, 2015

10 Favorite Dutch Wonderland Attractions

Just the other day, Fox News posted their list of 10 Best Attractions at Dutch Wonderland. It seems like an odd choice for an article by a national website and just like the Fox News we're all come to love and admire on television, the story has more than one factual inaccuracy. Either way, the article made me think, "Well, I should do a list of favorite DW attractions!" Just about every attraction at the park is hit with one member of my family or another, but this is a sampling of the things I enjoy most at the Lancaster park...

Astroliner  Long before every theme park had a motion simulator ride and even before Disney perfected the art by taking us on a Star Tour into the Star Wars universe, the Astroliner would provide similar thrills by rocking back and forth while a movie showed an out of control space mission on the cockpit screen. This ride would pop up at carnivals and beach-side amusement areas and I loved it. Whenever I saw one of these set up, I would beg my parents to let me ride it. I even have fond memories of riding it at Dutch Wonderland when I was little.  Dutch Wonderland installed the ride in the 70's and tried to sell it shortly before 2000. When they couldn't find a buyer, DW decided to spruce up the ride and present it as a piece of amusement park history. Now the ride serves as one of the parks more unique attractions.  The 8mm rear projection film has been replaced with a wide screen TV and a DVD of the original film, but the experience is still good old fashioned fun. (There's a more modern version of the ride, the VR Voyager, housed right across from this amusement park antique.)

Decades of Dutch Wonderland Dutch Wonderland offers quite a bit of live entertainment for a park of it's size. As season pass holders for three years I've probably seen at least a dozen different shows in the park. To celebrate the park's 50th Anniversary in 2013 they added Decades of Dutch Wonderland which offers a brief history of the park but a pretty darn good soundtrack of hits from the 60's through today. Most of the musical show offerings at DW consist of a two person cast, Decades benefits from four live actors as well as Duke The Dragon (who doesn't sing, but he can dance!) The show basically plays like a mini-concert and if you look around in the middle of the show, you'll see more than one parent tapping their feet or bobbing their head to this great collection of songs.

Double Splash Flume This is a fairly standard Log Flume style ride but it is a nice one, where the track sits in the ground instead of above like most others. The ride has two drops, the first one is small but produces a surprising splash. The ride out to the main lift is enjoyable. There used to be statues of animals and a mist tunnel along the way but the animals have retired and the mist shut off. You still get a nice scenic trip with great views of the roller coaster and a nice way to cool off without getting drenched. It's also nice that there is no height restriction so the whole family can ride together.

Dragon's Lair This is one of the park's earliest attractions, even though it has been altered greatly since opening day. Little log boats, similar to the ones on the log flume ride, take you on a nice relaxing ride around a small lake in the front of the park. There's not much action here, just an experience similar to renting a boat for an afternoon and peacefully cruising the local lake. The boat is guided by an underwater rail, but steering wheels on each log boat give kids the opportunity to drive. There are a few animated and non-animated pretend animals along the way before entering the dragon's lair itself. The dragon in question, is Duke, the park's lovable mascot represented by a huge audio animatronic that pops up out of his mountain home every so often to laugh and sing. Once you are greeted by Duke, you boat takes a quick tour of inside his mountain for a brief glimpse and a look at Dutch Wonderland's own "back side of water."

Exploration Island Last year, Dutch Wonderland took a neglected portion of their park (a large island along the back end of the park) and spruced it up into one of the most modern and heavily themed areas of the entire park. Exploration Island is now the home to 20 audio-animatronic dinosaurs that you can visit along Prehistoric Path, a short walking trail with great views of the various dinosaurs. Some of them are animated, some of them make noise, some you can ever control. None of the dinos are too tall or frightening keeping the parks target audience in mind. A nice touch is that similar attractions at other area parks have an additional entrance fee - but at DW, the dinosaurs are included with every admission ticket. The dinosaurs are also visible from the islands two other rides; the Gondola Cruise and the newly renovated Sunoco Turnpike - which was moved from the middle of the park to the island and expanded to triple in length. Exploration Island is also where you will find Dino Dig, three large sandbox areas where kids can use excavation tools to uncover dinosaur fossils. The entire island experience is enhanced with terrific atmospheric music and sound effects as well as it's own dino-filled gift shop.


Kingdom Coaster  You wouldn't expect a real, honest-to-goodness roller coaster at such a little kiddie oriented park, but Dutch Wonderland's wooden coaster is the real deal. A family coaster that provides every bit of fun as a bigger coaster, just minus the first drop. Kingdom Coaster was the first project of Custom Coasters International back in 1991. Since then, CCI has gone on to be the largest manufacturer of wooden coasters in the world. The coaster hits speeds of 40 MPH and features plenty of air time, sharp curves and a pretty intense helix near the end of the ride.  In the evening hours of the park, it's not uncommon to be able to stay on the ride and go multiple trips without getting off the train. Sometimes they don't even slow the train down through the station - and that's a unique experience you'll never get at a bigger park.  On more than one occasion, the kids and I rode 5 times without stopping - nowadays one trip around at a time is enough for me!

Monorail Not many parks have a monorail, in fact Dutch Wonderland was one of the first to have one after Disneyland.  Dutch Wonderland's monorail leaves a very vintage looking station in the middle of the park and travels a loop around most of the grounds. You'll get a bird's eye view of the adjoining Mill Stream Campground as well as some of the behind the scenes areas of the park. The monorail also travels through the park's wooden roller coasters at a couple different points. The ride also takes you out of the castle walls and into the parking lot through an old abandoned monorail station and out along Rt. 30 in front of the park. Kids often have a fun time finding the family car in the parking lot. This is another of the park's great relaxing rides and I'm happy to announce that as of mid-2015, there is a new (updated) recording that plays in each monorail car to accompany your ride.



Tug Boat Sadly, the Tug Boat (and it's sister vessel the Lady Gay) has been out of commission for the entire 2015 season. The park's website listed the attraction as temporarily closed until recently when it stated the ride would be shut down for the entire season. The Tug Boat was just another boat ride, that actually traveled the same path as the Gondola Cruise, just along the outside of the island. What set the Tug Boat apart from all the other boat rides at Dutch Wonderland is that it was a free floating boat that did not ride on a track or rail, and required a real boat captain to pilot the ship alone the Mill Stream Creek. It was a great ride though, that allowed you to take in more of the surrounding nature than the other boats allow. This ride was a favorite of my kids as well, and we hope it makes a comeback before our season passes expire.

The Wonderers Music plays such a key role in the theme park/amusement park experience and few things can top a live band strolling the grounds. The Wonderers are a 4-5 piece band that stroll throughout the park playing classic kiddie tunes, a few hits you might recognize from the radio and they have more than one Disney song up their sleeves. The best place to catch the guys is in front of the One Room School House, next to the Off-Road Rally. There they often stop a play a few numbers before continuing a loop around the park. We've also seen them stop in front of the Celebration Theater. One of our favorite bits is a TV theme song medley they do, where guests shout out the names of the shows to each theme. The Wonderers also make an appearance at the daily 5:30 Funsation Celebration show and every night at the exit of the park at closing time. This is a group of talented guys you won't want to miss.


Wonderland Special   Man, I loves me some amusement park trains! Dutch Wonderland has an especially nice miniature train ride. The excursion starts off with a trip through an abandoned diamond mine before making it's way out into the park and zig-zaging through the grounds showing off most of the park's offerings. The train even goes over an old fashioned authentic Amish covered bridge. The station for the train is the very first thing you see upon entering the park, so the lines can get quite long at the beginning of the day. On days where the lines are long, DW is able to run two trains at a time to cut down on the wait.

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