Pa. amusement parks: Dutch Wonderland celebrates 50 years

A view of the castle at Dutch Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Ducth Wonderland.

In May 1963, Earl Clark opened Dutch Wonderland along Lincoln Highway East with just 14 acres and four rides. Clark dreamed of creating a place where families and children could have a good time. Now, the amusement park in Lancaster County boasts more than 30 rides on 43 acres, with those original four — the Wonderland Express Train, Lady Gay Riverboat, the Turnpike with antique cars and the Whale Boats — still operating as the park marks its 50th anniversary.

“We are very proud to be celebrating our 50th anniversary this year and look forward to welcoming generations of guests back to Dutch Wonderland,” general manager Rick Stammel said in a news release. The park is set to celebrate this milestone all season long, but the park set aside June 1 as a special day that will include surprises and a fireworks display at the end of the night.

“We are grateful to have impacted the lives of so many families over these five decades,” said Ashlee Hurley, marketing and sales manager at Dutch Wonderland.

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Dutch Wonderland is just one of many amusement parks that are a day trip away from the region. These family-fun locations are offering new rides, entertainment shows and delicious eats for the 2013 season. Dutch Wonderland, 2249 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster

Main attractions: More than 30 kid-friendly rides, live shows, Duke’s Lagoon water-play zone and miniature golf

New for 2013: Celebrate 50 years of family fun at Dutch Wonderland with two new shows, “Decades of Dutch Wonderland” and “Really Royal: The Story of Princess Brooke.”

Hours: Open daily at 10 a.m. through Labor Day, and weekends through Oct. 13. Check the park’s website for specific times.

Admission: $36.75 for ages 3 to 59; $31.75 for seniors ages 60 to 69; $23.75 for seniors 70 and older; free admission for children under 2.

Check the park’s website for discounts and admission packages.

Parking: The majority of parking is free. Preferred parking is available for $10.

For details and directions: 866-386-2839; dutchwonderland.com

Sesame Place, 100 Sesame Road, Langhorne

Main attractions: Sesame Neighborhood, a full-size, outdoor re-creation of the classic Sesame Street television stage show set, where children can interact with some of their favorite Sesame Street friends. The park also has water rides and attractions such as the Count’s Splash Castle, dry rides, live shows, and the Neighborhood Street Party Parade.

New for 2013: A new star-studded talent line-up including Laurie Berkner and Imagination Movers; new quick-dining options including Elmo’s Box Lunch program and a food truck; new character dining experiences; and a recently enhanced fireworks display.

Hours: Open daily at 10 a.m. through Labor Day, and on weekends through Oct. 27. Also open limited days and times from Nov. 23 through Dec. 31. Check the website for specific times.

Admission: General admission is $59.99 for those 2 and older and $54.99 for seniors 55 and older. Tickets allow re-entry to the park any other day in the summer.

Parking: $15; preferred parking is $18 and $30.

For details and directions: (866) GO-4-ELMO; sesameplace.com

Hersheypark, 100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey

Main attractions: More than 65 rides and attractions, including The Boardwalk at Hersheypark with nine unique water rides, and ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park, an 11-acre walk-through zoo

New for 2013: Shoreline Sprayground, two new water slides and more seating and shade coming to The Boardwalk at Hersheypark

Hours: The park and Boardwalk are open daily at 10 a.m. Closing times vary. Check the park’s website for hours.

Admission: $57.95 for regular admission, $36.95 for juniors (ages 3 to 8) and seniors (ages 55 to 69), $23.95 for senior-plus (ages 70 and older), and free admission for ages 2 and younger.

Parking: $12

For details and directions: (717) 534-3900; hersheypark.com

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, 3830 Dorney Park Road, Allentown

Main attractions: The park is home to more than 100 rides and attractions including eight roller coasters and Planet Snoopy, a theme park just for kids. The two-parks-for-one-price deal includes access to all the water slides in Wildwater Kingdom. Explore what the world was like when giants roamed the earth in Dinosaurs Alive! The attraction features more than 30 animatronic dinosaurs in an educational experience for kids and parents alike.

New for 2013: All Wheel Sports, a high-energy BMX-style bike show with bikers and skaters that were semifinalists from Season 7 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” take the stage and perform stunts that defy gravity.

Hours: The park is open daily at 10 a.m. through Labor Day, and limited weekend hours through Oct. 27. Wildwater Kingdom is open daily through Labor Day. See the website for specific times.

Admission: Adult admission is $49.99 at the gate and $39.99 online. Admission for juniors 48 inches or shorter in shoes and seniors ages 62 and older is $29.99 at the gate and $27.99 online.

Parking: $15; preferred and oversized parking is $20.

For details and directions: (610) 395-3724; dorneypark.com

Knoebels Amusement Resort, 391 Knoebels Blvd., Elysburg

Main attractions: America’s largest free-admission park featuring 57 rides, a pool, water slides and camping on-site.

New for 2013: StratosFear, a 148-foot-tall drop tower, and Crazy Sub, a submarine-themed family ride.

Hours: Open daily through Labor Day, and weekends through September. View the daily calendar on the website for specific times.

Admission: Admission is free. The park is pay-as-you-go with a pay-one-price option during the week. All-day prices are $34 for basic rides and $41.50 for basic rides and wooden coasters. For those shorter than 48 inches, all-day prices are $22 for basic rides and $27.50 for basic rides and wooden coasters.

Parking: Free

For details and directions: (800) 487-4386; knoebels.com

Six Flags Great Adventure and Safari and Hurricane Harbor, Route 537, Jackson, N.J.

Main attractions: Thirteen roller coasters including three of the world’s Top 10 coasters, as ranked by Mitch Hawker’s Internet Poll and Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards; three children’s areas; Hurricane Harbor, which features 20 high-speed thrill slides, a children’s water playground, 1-million-gallon wave pool and half-mile lazy river.

New for 2013: Safari Off Road Adventure, a one-of-a-kind, VIP-style animal experience that takes guests off-road in rugged, open-air safari vehicles. They’ll drive up close to 1,200 animals while they splash through ponds and climb over hills in true African safari-style. A stop along the journey, Camp Aventura, will allow an up-close encounter to feed and pet smaller exotic animals. Hurricane Harbor will debut its eighth slide complex, Big Wave Racer. After climbing four stories, guests will race to the end, barreling head-first down 1,800 feet of slide, on an aero-dynamically-designed water toboggan before crossing the finish line.

Hours: Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. Open weekends through Oct. 27. Check the park’s website for hours.

Admission: Tickets are $62.99 at the gate. For those shorter than 54 inches, tickets are $34.99. Children younger than 2 years old are admitted free. Passes purchased online cost $37.99.

Parking: $22

For details and directions: (732) 928-2000; sixflags.com/greatadventure

If you want to plan an overnight stay, here are a couple of options:

Six Flags America, 13710 Central Ave., Upper Marlboro, Md.

Main attractions: Maryland’s only theme park featuring more than 100 rides, shows and attractions plus Maryland’s largest water park, Hurricane Harbor. The park also boasts eight fun and furious roller coasters.

New for 2013: Bonzai Pipelines, located in Hurricane Harbor, which will stand more than six stories tall and plunge riders through six individual thrills all in one ride.

Hours: Open daily through Aug. 25 and select weekends through October. Hurricane Harbor is open daily through Aug. 25 and weekends through Labor Day. Check the park’s website for hours.

Admission: Day passes are $59.99 and $37.99 for kids under 48 inches; free admission for children 2 and younger. Passes purchased online start at $39.99.

Parking: $20

For details and directions: (301) 249-1500; visit sixflags.com/america

Kings Dominion, 16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, Va.

Main attractions: 400 acres and more than 60 rides and attractions, along with the largest collection of roller coasters on the East Coast with 15 coasters, including Intimidator 305, Dominator and Virginia’s only active volcano with Volcano: The Blast Coaster. Kings Dominion is also home to the Planet Snoopy children’s area, a large Peanuts-themed children’s area. The 20-acre WaterWorks is included with park admission and features water slides, a rushing river and a 650,000-gallon wave pool. The park also features Dinosaurs Alive!, a six-acre animatronic dinosaur park with 39 life-sized dinos.

New for 2013: A bigger, better Planet Snoopy children’s area featuring eight new rides and nearly 14 acres of family-fun. Each of the new rides are designed specifically for families to ride and experience together. Also new in 2013 is an expanded live entertainment package, with seven new shows, including All Wheel Sports, a high-energy BMX-style bike show with bikers and skaters that were semifinalists from Season 7 of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

Hours: The park and WaterWorks are open daily through Sept. 2. The park has limited weekend hours from Sept. 14 through Oct. 27. See specific times on the website. Admission: Adult day pass is $51.99 online and $61.99 at the gate. Children shorter than 48 inches tall with shoes and adults ages 62 or older can get in for $39.99. Children ages 2 and younger get in free.

Parking: $15

For details and directions: (804) 876-5000 and visit www.kingsdominion.com