Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Dutch Wonderland bills itself as a “kingdom for kids,” 43-acres of rides, shows, and attractions geared toward families with small children.
“We have over 35 rides, Duke’s Lagoon water play area, live entertainment, games and food. The Park is home to Princess Brooke, Duke the Dragon, the Knight of Safety -- Sir Brandon, and Merlin,” marketing manager Hannah Shepherd attests.
The park began in 1963, and was the creation of Earl Clark, a former farmer with a mission to create a spot especially for kids. “The park originally offered just four rides on 14 acres,” Shepherd says. “Throughout the years, the Clark family added more rides and attractions. Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, which also owns Hersheypark, purchased the property in 2001. In November 2010, Palace Entertainment, a California based company, purchased Wonderland Amusement Management, which includes Dutch Wonderland, Old Mill Stream Campground and other related properties,” she adds. But through it all, the park has remained, Shepherd asserts, “keeping the unique charm and family focus established by the Clarks.”
This year marks the debut of the park’s first suspended roller coaster, Merlin’s Mayhem, manufactured by S & S Worldwide. Shepherd calls the debut this year “exciting. Merlin’s Mayhem features an enchanted journey with Dutch Wonderland’s friendly magician, Merlin, in search of his runaway dragon friend, Mayhem. Merlin’s Mayhem is the tallest ride located at the Park, featuring a 60- foot rise to the top. At a minimum height requirement of 39 inches, this roller coaster will be enjoyed by young and old alike,” she enthuses.
But don’t discount the thrills of the still-popular Kingdom Coaster, a wooden roller coaster through which the park’s monorail runs, or Joust, a steel, “Big Dipper-like” roller coaster. A classic Lusse bumper car ride, the Dragon’s Lair boat ride, and cute kiddie rides such as Duke’s Dozers and the child-powered Choo Choo Charlie train are also big wins with the toddler set. There’s a fossil dig area, a classic merry-go-round, and an entirely unique ride known as the Dutch Wonder House, in which an entire house revolves around riders, in a fun but disorienting effect. The Dutch Wonderland Special, a 2-foot narrow gauge railroad is another classic.
In the summer months, Duke’s Lagoon provides the ultimate in tropical-island-themed splash fun, a water park that offers comfortable seating for those who don’t want to get wet, and plenty of water attractions for those who do, including water-spilling coconuts, geysers, and a bubbler. The Pipeline Plunge for riders over 48” is an exciting flume ride that brings thrills along with the splashing.
Other attractive rides include a station to station Sky Ride, the swinging Space Shuttle, and kiddie whip ride, Wonder Whip, and a classic Tilt a Whirl with a turtle theme. A gondola cruise takes visitors around the edge of the park’s Exploration Island; 20 some dinosaurs inhabit a self-guided Prehistoric Path. Exploration Island, which includes the dinosaurs, a fossil dig replete with skeletons of a Stegosaurus and T-Rex footprints, and the Turnpike Ride, was new to the park in 2014, and offers a tropical island theme.
There are a wide variety of stage shows that draw crowds, too. There are two theatrical high dive shows bringing thrills, A Dragon’s Tail and The Frog Prince; an interactive show features the adventures of Princess Brooke’s loyal assistants as they try to throw a royal ball with no experience to guide them in the joke-filled A Royal Fiasco! The Wonderer’s and Bubba Bear and the Badland Band offer musical entertainment, too. A sweet Storytime Corner gathers children for reading time with the Princess of Dutch Wonderland and the Dutch Wonderland Knight. And, a Kingdom Celebration offers a party-themed celebration for attendees. Two annual seasonal events are a part of the mix: Happy Hauntings brings guests in search of lighthearted Halloween fun, while A Winter Wonderland accentuates the holiday season. Both events thematically transform rides and decorate the park; Happy Hauntings includes such attractions as giant inflatable spider web and rides altering their look to become the Scaree Go Round, and the Roller Ghoster.
From pizza to the healthy-options Bean Sprouts - where a kids cute but veggie-centric sandwiches are sometimes cut into whimsical shapes, there are plenty of dining choices, too. The Potato Patch serves fresh cut fries with a variety of gooey cheese, gravy, or bacon toppings.
Shepherd draws visitors to the park through a variety of passes and promotions: the all-season dining pass is an add on that allows every season pass-holder to receive 2 combo meals at every visit on any regular operating day; the park’s season passes are renewable annually at a discount, a single day Royalty Pass is just $43.99 with early bird pre-season purchase reducing that to $34.99 through the end of April. Season passes are $126.99; a two-park combo with Hershey Park runs just $233 for unlimited admission. Kids under 2 years are free and there are senior discounts; while the park is definitely geared toward the under-12 set in terms of rides, multiple generations hang out in cabanas by the water attractions or simply stroll the park enjoying introducing the newest family members to rides they may have enjoyed as children.
Drawing both locals and tourists, along with reasonable admission prices, there are plenty of special promotions going on too, such as character breakfasts held Fridays and Saturdays June to August, and even a special Mother’s Day Character Breakfast.
Visitors looking to extend their stay on the property can spend a night or two at the charmingly appointed Old Mill Stream Campground at Dutch Wonderland, just steps from the castle door. There are both family cabins and tent sites, and campground guests get discounted admission to the park.