** Exclusive Offer for Central PA Residents ** Click for More Details
Planning the Perfect Day at Dutch Wonderland

What to Know About Lancaster's Top Theme Park

What to Know About Lancaster's Top Theme Park

Whether your idea of the perfect Lancaster adventure centers around thrills, whimsy, or simple family togetherness, you'll find it at Dutch Wonderland. This iconic attraction has a long history as Pennsylvania's Kingdom for Kids.

It should come as no surprise that Dutch Wonderland regularly receives all kinds of distinctions, such as the Golden Ticket Award from Amusement Today. Its former hidden-gem status is beginning to give way, as visitors from all around the world flock there for lighthearted fun.

This park is an absolute must for your Lancaster itinerary if you're traveling with little kids. Despite its family-friendly vibes, however, it's also a worthy destination for kids at heart who want to recapture the magic of their younger years. Keep reading to learn what makes Dutch Wonderland so special and how you can plan the perfect theme park adventure.

Generations of Family Fun

Dutch Wonderland has thrilled kids (and kids at heart) for decades. Originally built by a potato farmer, the park opened in 1963. Founder Earl Clark had absolutely no experience with amusement parks, but he didn't let that stop him from creating a magical place for families with young children.

To begin, the original version of Dutch Wonderland spanned just 14 acres and included a mere four rides:

  • Lady Gay Riverboat

  • Whale Boats

  • The Turnpike

  • The Wonderland Express Train

These all exist in some form to this day, making for an extra meaningful experience for history buffs.

The park has changed considerably, of course, reaching the milestone of sixty years of operation in 2023. These days, the park boasts over 30 rides on 43 acres. The focus remains on the smallest visitors, although there are a few more exciting rides that should appeal to older children or even teens.

Planning the Perfect Day at Dutch Wonderland

Planning the Perfect Day at Dutch Wonderland

Dutch Wonderland offers plenty to keep families occupied for the entire day. Many locals invest in season passes, which allow them to enjoy a more leisurely experience. If you're visiting from out of town, however, you'll probably limit your theme park adventures to a single day, so you can dedicate more time to Lancaster's many other attractions.

Pay attention to the park's operating hours, which can differ dramatically from one day to the next. The dates themselves must also be considered, as the park's official season begins in June.

It's easy to pack your day with rides, but the last thing you want is to feel overwhelmed, especially if you're accompanied by youngsters. A little planning can prevent you and your kids from constantly trekking across the park — and it can help you avoid rides that will either frighten or bore your young companions. To expedite the planning process, we've highlighted the park's best rides, restaurants, and activities below:

Top Rides

Simply wandering around Dutch Wonderland can be a delight, but the experience is ultimately all about the rides. While the park was originally built with the youngest tykes in mind, it's since added a few rides that appeal to preteens, teens, and adults. Still, the focus remains firmly on the littlest visitors, who should have no trouble finding rides they adore.

Gentle

Tiny tots are often afraid to try theme park rides, but even the biggest scaredy-cats can conquer their fears at Dutch Wonderland. The gentlest rides should also be appealing to those with queasy stomachs. Perennial favorites include:

  • Wonderland Special. This charming little train is truly a delight to ride. Early in the day, this functions as an excellent preview of the other attractions.

  • Monorail. More than just a means of conveyance, Dutch Wonderland's Monorail provides a wonderful view of the theme park.

  • Gondola Cruise. View Exploration Island from a new perspective during a pleasant canal cruise that the whole family can enjoy together.

  • Duke's Dozers. Vehicle-obsessed kids will fall in love with this construction-themed ride, which moves slowly enough to keep tots from getting frightened.

  • Dragon's Lair. This log boat ride will have you searching for iguanas, turtles, and all kinds of other creatures. The most notable, of course, is the friendly purple dragon — Duke.

Moderate

As kids make the transition from toddler-friendly rides to more intense options, they'll appreciate these moderate attractions:

  • Flying Trapeze. This classic swing ride is sure to please, particularly for kids who are ready to level up to "older" attractions with greater speeds and heights.

  • Joust Family Coaster. Kids who aren't quite ready for the real wooden coaster will appreciate this alternate option, which is simple, yet fun.

  • Dutch Wonder House. While officially classified by Dutch Wonderland as mild, this experience is disorienting enough to get a spot in the moderate category. It's an intriguing option, however, and a must-try for history buffs in search of a classic theme park experience.

High Intensity

Keep the older kids in your group happy with thrilling coasters. No, these aren't as exciting as your typical Six Flags rides, but they offer just enough surprises to keep even the most discerning thrill-seekers happy. Lines can be long, so hit these Dutch Wonderland rides early if possible:

  • Kingdom Coaster. As an excellent introduction to wooden coasters, this ride has plenty of twists and turns but no extreme drops. Its bunny hills will have you yelling in delight, not fear.

  • Merlin's Mayhem. This popular coaster definitely packs a punch. It features a compelling story: the quest to find Merlin's dragon buddy. If you're typically reluctant to try inverted coasters, give this one a chance. Its transitions are smooth and its restraints are comfy, so you can focus on this ride's unique swinging sensation.

Precious Gems

Height requirements are notoriously confusing at most parks — and getting a wiggly kid to take measurements is basically impossible when you're about to step into line.

To address this common complaint, Dutch Wonderland has created a Precious Gems measurement system that allows you to determine your child's height near the park's entrance. From there, your child will be placed into one of several categories, such as ruby or sapphire. You can easily check for these gems near the ride entrances or even on the map to determine which rides are best for your family.

Entertainment & Activities

Not everybody can handle rides — and even the biggest thrill seekers need to take the occasional break. It's never difficult to keep occupied at Dutch Wonderland, as there are all kinds of things to do.

  • Bubba Bear & the Badland Band. This country music spectacle will have you tapping your toes and laughing out loud. Performances are scheduled regularly throughout the day, so you can take a break from rides when you need it most.

  • Exploration Island. Sometimes, simply going for a stroll can be the most enjoyable theme park activity. Therein lies the appeal of Exploration Island, where dinosaurs come to life on the Prehistoric Path. For kids, the best part is definitely the Dino Dig, where they can become mini archaeologists.

  • Dive Show. During the summer, incredibly talented divers get audiences oohing and ahhing as they make all kinds of daring maneuvers. Shows such as A Dragon's Tale and The Adventures of the Frog Prince are as engaging as they are exciting.

Dining Options

From convenient food kiosks to family-friendly restaurants, there are plenty of dining options that will have your mouth watering. Keeping the kids still can be a struggle, but if you can get them to cooperate long enough for a sit-down meal, you'll fall in love with the park's best establishments. Favorites include:

  • That Panini Place. Perfect for parents who are desperate to take a break from the usual hot dogs and chicken tenders, That Panini Place has an appealing menu that visitors of all ages can appreciate.

  • Merlin's Pizza & Pasta Buffet. If your stomach can handle lots of food before or after theme park rides, you'll definitely want to stop at Merlin's. This all-you-can-eat location is a lot less intimidating than its namesake ride. Stop in for a break from the usual battle with picky eaters.

  • Dragon's Fire BBQ. Smoked meats make this little stall a worthy stop when you need a bit of fuel to carry you through a long day. Sides such as baked beans and dill macaroni salad are just as delicious as the meat.

As you plan your meal, keep in mind that Dutch Wonderland is a cashless park. If you prefer to bring your own food, beware: while water bottles and light snacks are allowed, picnicking is limited to a designated pavilion outside the park.

Helpful Services

Accessibility is a priority at Dutch Wonderland. Be mindful of the following resources as you plan your visit:

  • Stroller rentals. While visitors are encouraged to bring their own strollers, rentals are also offered. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, these can be found near the Wonderland Special train station.

  • Comfort rooms. Nursing mothers are welcome to use a dedicated room near the Wonderland Special train station. This space includes a rocking chair and a changing table.

  • Lockers. Running to your car can be a pain, but lockers are offered for a reasonable price. Available near the front of the park and at Duke's Lagoon, these are first-come, first-served.

Choose Your Dutch Wonderland Hotel Carefully

The suggestions outlined above are important, of course, but they'll make little difference if you choose the wrong accommodations. The best Dutch Wonderland hotels offer both proximity and a place of respite. You'll need somewhere that provides both excitement for the kids and a sense of calm for parents. It also should be an excellent home base not only for your visit to Dutch Wonderland, but also, for all the other exciting activities and attractions you add to your Lancaster itinerary. The Eden Resort & Suites, less than 7 miles from Dutch Wonderland, fits the bill perfectly with its central location to many Lancaster attractions and its numerous pools and amenities.

Proximity can be a game-changer if you need to take advantage of Dutch Wonderland's exceptional rain guarantee. This helpful policy allows you to secure additional tickets when continuous rain prevents you from enjoying your favorite rides. If you stay nearby, you can return for a full day when the weather cooperates.

As with the theme park itself, Dutch Wonderland hotels should please both kids and adults. Sophisticated digs encourage grown-up visitors to relax, even when accompanied by energetic youngsters. Meanwhile, youth-oriented amenities (such as pools) can feel just as exciting as a full-blown theme park. If you stay at the Eden Resort & Suites, your kids will be in awe of the outdoor recreation area and the Kids Water Zone, where they can splash to their heart's delight, and you will enjoy the many heated pools, whirlpool, and cabanas.

Don't forget dining. Yes, options abound at Dutch Wonderland — but what if you're still hungry when you return to your home base? An abundance of dining options should also keep you well-fed throughout the remainder of your Lancaster vacation. Whether you're enjoying tasty treats by the pool, in your room, or at onsite restaurants, you'll appreciate when Dutch Wonderland hotels such as the Eden Resort allow you to plan your meals based on your family's unique needs.

Be Mindful of Annual Events

Like Lancaster itself, Dutch Wonderland follows seasonal patterns. In the summer, it looks like what you've come to expect from a theme park: chock full of rides, plus a water park and cabanas to help you cool off. This is replaced by Halloween festivities in the fall, when themed rides add plenty of spooky appeal.

At Dutch Wonderland, Lancaster's weather can feel like both an opportunity and a hindrance. Chilly weather may prevent holiday visitors from enjoying some of the rides that are most popular during the summer months, but the snow and cold make this destination feel like a true winter wonderland.

There is no best time to visit Dutch Wonderland. Ultimately, you'll choose according to your schedule and the other activities you hope to enjoy while staying in Lancaster. If you dream of skiing or snowboarding, stop by in December to take in the holiday spectacle. If hiking or open-air museums are more your speed, the traditional summer theme park experience is for you.

Book Your Adventure

You've found the perfect hotel and added Dutch Wonderland to your itinerary. Now, it's time to purchase tickets for your big theme park adventure and to book your hotel for the perfect stay.

When in doubt, it's best to buy Dutch Wonderland tickets online. This is nearly always more convenient and cost-effective than waiting to get tickets at the gate. Parking vouchers can also be purchased in advance to deliver even greater savings.

While it's easy to complete the Dutch Wonderland experience in a single day, locals and even some vacationers find themselves returning on numerous occasions. Therein lies the appeal of the Gold and Platinum programs, which provide season passes and a variety of special perks.

If you're unable to make a return trip, you'll still be glad you spent the day at this magical place. Enjoy the theme park experience through fresh eyes as you embrace a joyful spirit that's true to Lancaster.

Once you've booked your theme park visit, don't forget about hotels near Dutch Wonderland. Booking at the Eden Resort & Suites is easy–check availability online or by calling 866.801.6430 and choose among its many upscale rooms, suites, and residential-style villas, with many options that are appealing to families, including villas with bunk beds. With this key step complete, you'll be ready to embark on the ultimate Lancaster adventure.

Book your stay with us.