Since 1963, Dutch Wonderland has been the kingdom for kids with rides and fun for all ages of children. We have driven past the giant castle entrance time and time again in Lancaster, PA, and each time we desperately wanted to go in and explore this magical theme park. You can imagine then our pure delight when we were given the opportunity to check out their Dutch Winter Wonderland event going on during select dates through December 30th. We were sure what was behind the castle walls must pretty cool, but seeing it all lit up and decorated for the holidays made our first visit even better.
We were greeted at the gate by the park's fun and friendly royal friends, Duke the Dragon, Princess Brooke, the Knight of Safety, and Merlin. They were very sweet and patient posing for pictures over and over while greeting little visitors and giving high-fives and hugs. Everyone seemed to have a favorite Dutch Wonderland friend as they squealed over Princess Brooke or the Knight. Our particular favorite was Duke, and we couldn't wait to purchase a plush version of the delightful purple dragon in the gift shop to help us remember our special visit.
Once through the gate it was just a matter of where to go first. Most people headed right to the Wonderland Special Train (which is a good way to get a feel for the park and pick out what rides most interest your party). Make sure, however, that you take a trip on the train at night during Winter Wonderland, so you can get a fantastic view of the beautiful lights and decorated tunnels around the tracks. Another popular spot was the old fashioned Merry-Go-Round - a definite must during the visit. Some of our other favorites also included the Fun Slide, Leapin' Frogs, Space Shuttle, and the Sunoco Turnpike - all worth waiting in line for.
We were thrilled that Exploration Island was still open with Dutch Wonderland's fairly new Prehistoric Path filled with roaring dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes. Even with cheery twinkling lights, animatronic dinos in the dark is a potentially scary idea for little ones, so we were delighted (as were kids and their parents) to discover that they had been adorably decorated giving even the most timid the giggles. Little changes and additions to the park for Winter Wonderland could be found all over from the Polar Bear Playground and Miniature Trains to meet and greets with Santa and special shows and storytimes.
There are lots of great places to eat and snack around Dutch Wonderland, but we decided to opt for a warm, sit down meal at Merlin's Buffet. To be honest, going in we didn't expect much from an all-you-can-eat buffet at a kid's theme park, but we were absolutely blown away. The food was DELICIOUS and the varied menu hit the spot! The waitstaff was super friendly and helpful, and we liked how they offered a gluten free option and made it special with tasty chicken tenders and cute star-shaped tatter tots. Though we'd want to try more of the park's dining options in the future (especially the new "Bean Sprouts" with their adorable and healthy menu), it will be hard not to head back to Merlin's after such a wonderful experience.
An obvious choice for a family holiday tradition, we highly recommend a visit to Dutch Wonderland during their Winter Wonderland event. A delightful kids kingdom decorated for the holidays with loads of rides, attractions, and extra festive fun make it the perfect place to bring the little ones for some awesome memories!
Dutch Wonderland reopens 2017 with the return of their water play area, Duke's Lagoon, the Old Mill Stream Campground, and the debut of their first ever suspended roller coaster, Merlin's Mayhem.
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