We took some time this weekend to go back to Dutch Wonderland. We went last year around this time to celebrate Sam’s birthday. This year, we just went because it’s fun.
Last year, we stayed at the Amish Country Motel in Bird-In-Hand. It wasn’t fancy, but it had two rooms, which was key to me. This year, we tried a different property and stayed at the Hershey Farm Inn.
Hershey Farm Inn
240 Hartman Bridge Road, Ronks, PA 17572
This is a cute little motel with nice amenities. They have a pool, farm animals, playground, a small pond, and lots of property to walk around and enjoy. The pool is not as nice as the one at the Bird-In-Hand Family Inn, but it got the job done. They also serve a hot buffet breakfast on weekends that is included in the room rate.
I chose this place for the free breakfast and the fact that they had a two room suite (a must, in my mind when traveling with little kids). When we arrived and checked in, the woman at the desk told me she had upgraded us to the newly renovated Farmhouse Suite.
Our accommodations were a serious upgrade from where we stayed last year. The rooms were beautifully appointed, had the Amish Country character without being too rustic and best of all, had doors to close to let the kids sleep while Mike & I stayed up and watched TV or did whatever we wanted.
The Hershey Family Inn photos:
We arrived Saturday afternoon, spent some time at the motel pool, then headed out for an early dinner with plans to hit Dutch Wonderland afterwards.
In an effort to be thrifty, I had planned for us to bring and cook our own dinner. We packed hotdogs, steaks, potato salad, baked beans and charcoal. All we needed was a grill grate to cook on. Our motel did not have one but I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find a nearby park with one. How wrong I was! We drove all around the Bird-In-Hand/Ronks/Lancaster area without any luck. I had a few marked on the map, but they were further away from DW than I wanted to drive. I was so mad at myself for not planning to bring our campstove. In the end we ditched our frugal plans and had dinner at Sonic.
DW is such a great park for young kids. It’s way cheaper than bigger parks (tho not cheap, at $33.99/ea). We saved a little by taking advantage of a group ticket purchase that someone organized. But the best way to maximize the value of your ticket is to arrive early the day *before* you want to go. Your ticket allows a “preview admission”, where you get to enter the park 3 hours before closing on the day before your full day.
We got to the park around 6:30 (it closed at 8:30) and found the park virtually empty. The kids could ride whatever they wanted as much as they wanted.
Wendy & Sam immediately headed for the space area, and I took Adam over to the Wonder Whip.
Last year, we dragged Adam around to all the rides Wendy & Sam were into and somewhat traumatized him. He is definitely not as fearless as they (yet) and got scared by some of the rides he wasn’t expecting to move/jolt him around.
This year, he strode confidently towards rides and I waited to see what would happen when it got started.
Low and behold, he loved it!
Then he spied the Turtle Whirl and declared, “Oh look at the turtles! I love that ride!”
I have a different recollection. Last year, when I dragged him on this spinning ride, he cried and freaked and hated it. But this year he was enthusiastic about trying it. Until he actually got on. Wendy wanted to ride without me so she got in one turtle and Adam wanted to ride with her. Sam & I got in the turtle car next to them. This meant, as we were spinning around, I would only get a quick glimpse when our two cars field of vision intersected. I could see that he was NOT loving it. Wendy tried to comfort him as best she could but he was miserable and declared afterwards that it was “too scawy”.
The Turtle Whirl experience left Adam a little wary after that and he was much more tentative about the rides. However, there was plenty there for him and the big kids to enjoy. The kids rode just about every ride they wanted in the two hours we had there. We pretty much shut the park down and walked back to our car in near darkness.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast at the motel, we headed out for another day of fun.
Again, the kids had a blast and we were blessed with great weather and hardly any crowds. Adam was a little braver on Sunday and tried a few more rides. He especially loved the new frog ride — Huck Finn’s Leaping Frogs.
I love how Adam was having a blast and Wendy was studying the map in her lap to plot out her next ride.
I couldn’t get a good shot of Sam because he was always looking away from the camera.
I finally realized it was because he was staring intently at the machinery, trying to figure out how the ride worked. I will be amazed if this kid doesn’t grow up to become an engineer.
When we go to bigger parks, like Kings Dominion, I always feel a need to push on as hard and fast as we can because there is so much ground to cover and it’s hard to get all the rides in in the time that you have. At DW, the footprint is so small and the lines were so short, we had no trouble riding everything. This meant we could take a more leisurely pace and enjoy some of the shows.
If you go to DW, you must make time for one of the dive shows. They have two different stories that are acted out — the storyline is hokey and silly, but the diving skills are truly impressive. We loved it last year and this year as well.
By mid-afternoon, we had enough fun on the rides and decided to hit the water area before heading home. When we went into the bathhouse to change, it was bright and sunny. When we came out 5 minutes later, it was cloudy and overcast.
We barely got situated in the pool area — Mike and the kids were in line for the giant slides — when the whistles blew and the pool area was closed due to lightening or thunder. We decided to make our exit and left just as the storm rolled in.
The kids were a little disappointed to miss out on the water fun, but we had so much fun with everything else, we could hardly complain.
It was truly a “Dutch Wonderful” time and I’m sure we’ll be back again. Here’s the rest of the pics from our adventure.