Dutch Wonderland theme park in Lancaster, Penna., stayed open for family fun Saturdays and Sundays through October 7th this year. The park featured more than 35 rides, attractions and live shows, and offers weekend discounts on tickets on the park’s website. Attendees could save up to $5 on a Saturday or Sunday visit, from September 8th through October 7 online.
According to marketing manager Hannah Shephard, Happy Hauntings is the family-focused Halloween event that ran through the end of October. The event featured themed rides, treats, and live entertainment as well as a Trick or Treat Trail along Exploration Island, with 20 large-scale dinosaurs. The attraction, which opened in 2014, is made up of dinosaurs up to 80 feet tall that move, breathe and roar. Guests visit by following a tree-lined Prehistoric Path which makes a perfect spot for trick or treating. Kids can pause to enjoy the Dino Dig, a future-paleontologists dream of unearthing the remains of a triceratops and stegosaurus, and see T-Rex footprints in this archaeological dig.
Happy Hauntings ran on Saturday and Sundays, October 13 through 28th, from 2 to 9 pm on Saturdays, and until 8 pm on Sundays. The event is interactive for the kids.
A first this year, Shephard says, is keeping the park’s popular family roller coaster – the park’s first suspended coaster – open during Happy Hauntings when weather permits. Merlin’s Mayhem takes riders along with magician Merlin on a quest to find his dragon pal Mayhem. The ride opened at the end of April in 2018, and has proven to be one of the most popular attractions at the park, according to Shepard.
Merlin’s Mayhem might just be the star attraction at the Hauntings this year, Shepard notes, but with park mascot Duke the Dragon specially costumed for Halloween and fun spooky names for each of the rides, the new ride is hardly the only one. Kids love riding on the Monster Monorail, the Bat Swing, and the Scary Go Round, among others. While the rides themselves remain unchanged, the riders add to the Halloween theme – kids and parents alike are allowed and encouraged to wear costumes in the park. No masks are permitted for patrons over the age of 13, however.
“Happy Hauntings is a family-friendly, safe and non-scary experience,” Shepard asserts. “It’s a spook-tacular event with something for everyone in the family to enjoy.” Among its pleasures are festive autumn-themed treats such as pumpkin flavored soft-serve ice cream, and hot chocolate.
Decorations are cheerful but Halloweeny- with a giant spider climbing the Dutch Wonderland castle, fall seasonal flowers such as mums, and large Halloween wreathes, hay bales, and pumpkins. As dusk falls, a pumpkin light show set to lighthearted but nicely spooky Halloween music takes place with glowing pumpkins lighting up to the beat of the music.
All the rides are planned to be operating, and there are plenty of autumn-themed spots that make for good photo opportunities. The Trick or Treat trail on Exploration Island may be the ultimate photo op. There are ten stops for treats, and the park provides trick or treaters with their own bags to collect the goodies. The cast members handing out the treats are in costume; even some of the dinosaurs are dressed up for the occasion.
Kids activities include pumpkin painting and “ghoulish games,” making the park experience even more interactive.
After Halloween, the park continues to offer family entertainment for the winter holidays, Shepard reports.
Dutch Winter Wonderland runs weekends and select weekdays November 17 through December 30th. This holiday evening event features plenty of sparkling lights, many in holiday patterns, as well as holiday treats, costumed carolers, and the Wonderland castle bedecked with seasonal lights. Kids and adults alike will find enchantment in the Celebration Theater watching the Royal Light Show, where thousands of Christmas lights are animated to the rhythm of holiday tunes. Santa will also be available for photographs, Shepard notes. The Dutch Wonderland special train allows visitors to be transported around the park for a full look at all the holiday lights; and there are sweets from hot chocolate to gingerbread add to the fun. With weather often chilly, the park places heaters throughout to give little ones spots to warm up.
The park, which opened in 1963, focuses on fun family attractions, with rides just for kids such as the Leapin’ Frogs small frog-themed vehicle, and a family gondola cruise.
Pricing for 2018 offered single day admission for $39.99 and a two-day flex pass for $64, good through October 7th. 2018-2019 Premium Plus Passes are on sale for $159.99, allowing guests to visit Happy Hauntings next year, and Dutch Winter Wonderland both years, as well as during regular spring/summer through fall operating hours in 2019. Premium Season passes for 2019 are also now on sale,but do not allow admission to the remaining 2018 events; those passes are $104.99.
The park works to promote the holiday events on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, and reaches out to guests through its website.