Wednesday, August 12, 2015

10 Favorite Dutch Wonderland Attractions

Just the other day, Fox News posted their list of 10 Best Attractions at Dutch Wonderland. It seems like an odd choice for an article by a national website and just like the Fox News we're all come to love and admire on television, the story has more than one factual inaccuracy. Either way, the article made me think, "Well, I should do a list of favorite DW attractions!" Just about every attraction at the park is hit with one member of my family or another, but this is a sampling of the things I enjoy most at the Lancaster park...

Astroliner  Long before every theme park had a motion simulator ride and even before Disney perfected the art by taking us on a Star Tour into the Star Wars universe, the Astroliner would provide similar thrills by rocking back and forth while a movie showed an out of control space mission on the cockpit screen. This ride would pop up at carnivals and beach-side amusement areas and I loved it. Whenever I saw one of these set up, I would beg my parents to let me ride it. I even have fond memories of riding it at Dutch Wonderland when I was little.  Dutch Wonderland installed the ride in the 70's and tried to sell it shortly before 2000. When they couldn't find a buyer, DW decided to spruce up the ride and present it as a piece of amusement park history. Now the ride serves as one of the parks more unique attractions.  The 8mm rear projection film has been replaced with a wide screen TV and a DVD of the original film, but the experience is still good old fashioned fun. (There's a more modern version of the ride, the VR Voyager, housed right across from this amusement park antique.)

Decades of Dutch Wonderland Dutch Wonderland offers quite a bit of live entertainment for a park of it's size. As season pass holders for three years I've probably seen at least a dozen different shows in the park. To celebrate the park's 50th Anniversary in 2013 they added Decades of Dutch Wonderland which offers a brief history of the park but a pretty darn good soundtrack of hits from the 60's through today. Most of the musical show offerings at DW consist of a two person cast, Decades benefits from four live actors as well as Duke The Dragon (who doesn't sing, but he can dance!) The show basically plays like a mini-concert and if you look around in the middle of the show, you'll see more than one parent tapping their feet or bobbing their head to this great collection of songs.

Double Splash Flume This is a fairly standard Log Flume style ride but it is a nice one, where the track sits in the ground instead of above like most others. The ride has two drops, the first one is small but produces a surprising splash. The ride out to the main lift is enjoyable. There used to be statues of animals and a mist tunnel along the way but the animals have retired and the mist shut off. You still get a nice scenic trip with great views of the roller coaster and a nice way to cool off without getting drenched. It's also nice that there is no height restriction so the whole family can ride together.

Dragon's Lair This is one of the park's earliest attractions, even though it has been altered greatly since opening day. Little log boats, similar to the ones on the log flume ride, take you on a nice relaxing ride around a small lake in the front of the park. There's not much action here, just an experience similar to renting a boat for an afternoon and peacefully cruising the local lake. The boat is guided by an underwater rail, but steering wheels on each log boat give kids the opportunity to drive. There are a few animated and non-animated pretend animals along the way before entering the dragon's lair itself. The dragon in question, is Duke, the park's lovable mascot represented by a huge audio animatronic that pops up out of his mountain home every so often to laugh and sing. Once you are greeted by Duke, you boat takes a quick tour of inside his mountain for a brief glimpse and a look at Dutch Wonderland's own "back side of water."

Exploration Island Last year, Dutch Wonderland took a neglected portion of their park (a large island along the back end of the park) and spruced it up into one of the most modern and heavily themed areas of the entire park. Exploration Island is now the home to 20 audio-animatronic dinosaurs that you can visit along Prehistoric Path, a short walking trail with great views of the various dinosaurs. Some of them are animated, some of them make noise, some you can ever control. None of the dinos are too tall or frightening keeping the parks target audience in mind. A nice touch is that similar attractions at other area parks have an additional entrance fee - but at DW, the dinosaurs are included with every admission ticket. The dinosaurs are also visible from the islands two other rides; the Gondola Cruise and the newly renovated Sunoco Turnpike - which was moved from the middle of the park to the island and expanded to triple in length. Exploration Island is also where you will find Dino Dig, three large sandbox areas where kids can use excavation tools to uncover dinosaur fossils. The entire island experience is enhanced with terrific atmospheric music and sound effects as well as it's own dino-filled gift shop.


Kingdom Coaster  You wouldn't expect a real, honest-to-goodness roller coaster at such a little kiddie oriented park, but Dutch Wonderland's wooden coaster is the real deal. A family coaster that provides every bit of fun as a bigger coaster, just minus the first drop. Kingdom Coaster was the first project of Custom Coasters International back in 1991. Since then, CCI has gone on to be the largest manufacturer of wooden coasters in the world. The coaster hits speeds of 40 MPH and features plenty of air time, sharp curves and a pretty intense helix near the end of the ride.  In the evening hours of the park, it's not uncommon to be able to stay on the ride and go multiple trips without getting off the train. Sometimes they don't even slow the train down through the station - and that's a unique experience you'll never get at a bigger park.  On more than one occasion, the kids and I rode 5 times without stopping - nowadays one trip around at a time is enough for me!

Monorail Not many parks have a monorail, in fact Dutch Wonderland was one of the first to have one after Disneyland.  Dutch Wonderland's monorail leaves a very vintage looking station in the middle of the park and travels a loop around most of the grounds. You'll get a bird's eye view of the adjoining Mill Stream Campground as well as some of the behind the scenes areas of the park. The monorail also travels through the park's wooden roller coasters at a couple different points. The ride also takes you out of the castle walls and into the parking lot through an old abandoned monorail station and out along Rt. 30 in front of the park. Kids often have a fun time finding the family car in the parking lot. This is another of the park's great relaxing rides and I'm happy to announce that as of mid-2015, there is a new (updated) recording that plays in each monorail car to accompany your ride.



Tug Boat Sadly, the Tug Boat (and it's sister vessel the Lady Gay) has been out of commission for the entire 2015 season. The park's website listed the attraction as temporarily closed until recently when it stated the ride would be shut down for the entire season. The Tug Boat was just another boat ride, that actually traveled the same path as the Gondola Cruise, just along the outside of the island. What set the Tug Boat apart from all the other boat rides at Dutch Wonderland is that it was a free floating boat that did not ride on a track or rail, and required a real boat captain to pilot the ship alone the Mill Stream Creek. It was a great ride though, that allowed you to take in more of the surrounding nature than the other boats allow. This ride was a favorite of my kids as well, and we hope it makes a comeback before our season passes expire.

The Wonderers Music plays such a key role in the theme park/amusement park experience and few things can top a live band strolling the grounds. The Wonderers are a 4-5 piece band that stroll throughout the park playing classic kiddie tunes, a few hits you might recognize from the radio and they have more than one Disney song up their sleeves. The best place to catch the guys is in front of the One Room School House, next to the Off-Road Rally. There they often stop a play a few numbers before continuing a loop around the park. We've also seen them stop in front of the Celebration Theater. One of our favorite bits is a TV theme song medley they do, where guests shout out the names of the shows to each theme. The Wonderers also make an appearance at the daily 5:30 Funsation Celebration show and every night at the exit of the park at closing time. This is a group of talented guys you won't want to miss.


Wonderland Special   Man, I loves me some amusement park trains! Dutch Wonderland has an especially nice miniature train ride. The excursion starts off with a trip through an abandoned diamond mine before making it's way out into the park and zig-zaging through the grounds showing off most of the park's offerings. The train even goes over an old fashioned authentic Amish covered bridge. The station for the train is the very first thing you see upon entering the park, so the lines can get quite long at the beginning of the day. On days where the lines are long, DW is able to run two trains at a time to cut down on the wait.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Christmas In July

Today check out my guest post over at  Christmas TV History where I answer some questions about one of my favorite subjects - Christmas Specials! And if you're joining via hopping over from Christmas TV Party, then Welcome! Here's a few Christmas related links from years past you may enjoy...

My Top 50 Christmas Viewing List

8 Christmas Songs I Never Need To Hear Again

Crabs For Christmas

Greatest Christmas Movie Ever!

He-Man + She-Ra + Christmas = Awesome

More Posts tagged Christmas Specials







Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hey, Remember Treasure Planet Was A Movie People Paid To See Once

The other night the kids and I popped in Treasure Planet, Disney's 2002 animated futuristic adaption of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island. It's one of the last few Disney animated classics that my kids haven't seen yet, and I myself only saw it once upon it's theatrical release. At the time, it was a rare misstep for Disney Animation but having had another odd flop a few years earlier with Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) it was to signal the end of Disney's decade long reign of producing classic animated fare year after year. Now, Treasure Planet sits on a growing list of titles like Chicken Little, Bolt and Home on the Range as lesser loved and lesser known Disney Animated Films.

So it is with some trepidation that I started up the movie. For me, Disney films are best when they are about princesses and magic and funny animals. They are at their least inviting when they are trying to do something outside of the "Disney Box." Treasure Planet is not a bad film but it's one main flaw runs throughout the entire film. The character design of almost the entire cast is unpleasant and perhaps uninspired.

A dog/man scientist, a cat/person captain, a rock thing is a suit, a lobster, a spider...none of these really played for laughs. The human characters are all bland, and the Long John Silver character is supposed to be half machine half something else...I'm not sure what.

The story is tight, the action is good, there's plenty of humor...although a Star Wars reject character that only speaks through rear-end noises seems a little low brow by Disney standards. I just can't get by how ugly and unappealing the characters look.

Two characters stand out as having a traditional Disney look; a little floating shape shifting blob called Morph and a crazy robot named B.E.N who is voiced by Martin Short. These are the only two characters that could even support any merchandise from this movie. And that's kind of the strange thing about this movie, because even though it's only 12 years old - I don't think the suits at Disney would even finance a movie nowadays that wasn't chockfull of characters that would easily translate into plush toys, action figures, T shirts or the 100 Million other things they need to make a movie a real cash cow nowadays.

In the end, Treasure Planet is not as bad as it's legacy would lead you to believe. It's based on a time tested story retold by master storytellers who chose to step a little too far out of the magical world of Disney for their visual inspiration.

Monday, July 13, 2015

This Is The Best Ice Cream I Have Ever Had


Imagine you've only ever seen your favorite movie on a 20 inch television screen. Now imagine seeing that movie on a 70 ft. Imax screen. That lame analogy is my way of describing the depth of flavor you'll feel when you take your first taste of Mr. G's Old Fashioned Hand Made Ice Cream. It is hands down, the best ice cream I have ever tasted!

Mr. G serves up his outrageous ice cream from a century old building in Gettysburg's tourist area. In fact, Mr. G has such a great location - Abraham Lincoln walked by the place on his way to give the Gettysburg Address. If you don't believe me, check out the trees on either side of the building. They both have plaques confirming Mr. Lincoln's passing by! I'm sure the building was used for something less exciting than ice cream back then, but it's still a cool distinction.


Mr. G's is a quint little shop that is pretty big on fun. The inside is not too big and it can get pretty tight in there on nights when the line stretches out the door. Each day Mr. G offers up only a handful of flavors. You won't find crazy designer flavors like Ben & Jerry make. You'll find a pretty typical collection of ice cream flavors. But the homemade work that goes into each batch of ice cream can be detected the second you take your first lick. I'm sure it has to do with the amount of butterfat or whole cream or some science mumbo jumbo like that...I don't know, all I know it is easily the best tasting ice cream I have ever had!

The shop offers a few other selections like Root Beer Floats, Milkshakes, Sundaes and even soft serve, but it's the homemade hand dip scoops that have people buzzing about this Summer sweet spot! My personal ultimate indulgence at Mr. G's is a waffle cone with a scoop of Birthday Cake Batter and a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter. I always ask for the latter scoop on top so I have easy access to the huge chunks of thick peanut butter floating in the chocolate goodness. My wife like the fruit based flavors like their super fresh tasting Peach or the yummy Dreamsicle, The boys did Mint Oreo while my younger daughter is just happy with anything you put in a cone and then hand her!
 
There is a little bit of seating inside the historic building and plenty of seating outside all around the place. Another big attraction at Mr. G's is the number of Ring and Hook games they have set up on their property. This is the simple game of trying to swing a small ring attached to a string onto a hook on a pole in front of you. If you've never played this game it might sound easy, but it takes a certain skill to get the hang of it. The best part is, it keeps kids mesmerized for hours. My kids have literally spend half an afternoon standing there playing it, while I lounged at a nearby picnic table eating my daily caloric intake and scrolling Facebook. The game has become so popular at Mr. G's that have even organized some tournaments help periodically throughout the season.
 
When you're done with your ice cream you can stroll through the rather large Mr. G's Gift Shop located in a separate building directly behind the ice cream shop. Back there, Mr. G sells Gettysburg souvenirs as well as a few keepsakes of his own place. They also carry a full line of Life Is Good apparel as well.
 
Mr. G's Old Fashioned Home Made & Soft Serve Ice Cream is a great way to cool off in the middle of a hot summer day. It's located right in the middle of all the tourist fun of historic Gettysburg at 404 Baltimore St.
 



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chalk It Up!

Our town hosts an event every year called Chalk It Up where everybody is invited to the downtown area and given a square of sidewalk and some sidewalk chalk and create a temporary work of art. Everybody from little kids to professional artists come out and make all kinds of cool creations on the walkways in front of the downtown businesses. We've been wanting to take part in it for years, this year we finally made it down. The kids had a blast. Here's a look at our process and our finished product (which we were all pretty proud of!)


Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Amusements For You in 2015

Spring is in the air and all the theme parks and amusement parks are rolling out new attractions for the upcoming Summer season. Here's a rundown of what's new behind the admission gates of some of the parks in the region...

Kings Dominion updates it's water park and gives it the new name Soak City. Besides the name change and facility upgrades the new park will feature several new attractions. "Hurricane Heights, the 65-foot tall slide complex features three thrilling new attractions. On Paradise Plunge, thrill-seekers will step into one of three chambers and wait anxiously for the floor to drop out from underneath their feet, sending them in a high-speed, almost vertical free fall through a series of loops and s-curves in a translucent flume. Aqua Blast will send riders twisting and spiraling through an enclosed chute featuring four intense 360-degree loops across 449 feet of slide before they’re dropped out into a pool of water. A wet and wild adventure will await guests on Thunder Falls as they climb into a single or double raft before being launched down a series of intense drops and turns." There will also be a new kids area.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg debuts a new roller coaster: "In the rich tradition of the classic Italian daredevils, no single man wowed the crowds like Tempesto. Busch Gardens’ daring new roller coaster, Tempesto, lets riders take center stage and recreate his signature stunt. Guests daring enough to take on Tempesto will race into unbelievably tight turns at 63 miles per hour and defy gravity as they roll through a complete inversion 154 feet in the air. Busch Gardens® newest thrill coaster features three launch experiences and Tempesto’s signature loop-the-loop."

Hersheypark in Pennsylvania also has a unique new roller coaster. "Laff Trakk is the first indoor, spinning, glow-coaster in the United States. This family friendly house of laughs spins riders through an exciting adventure of sights and sounds complete with glimpses of colorful characters, a dizzying hall of mirrors, and more!"

 Impulse is the largest construction project in Knoebel's history. The traditional amusement park in Elysburg, PA has added a major new coaster to their lineup. "This steel tower coaster will consist of over 2,000 feet of track throughout which the ride will reach speeds of over 55 miles per hour. To begin the ride, the cars will be pulled via a chain lift up a 98-foot vertical hill, creating anticipation for what’s to come. Following the ascent to the peak of what is called a top hat hill, is a 90-degree free fall drop."

Dorney Park in Allentown, PA offers a new swing ride, Cedar Creek Flyers, to it's guests in 2015.  Riders will sit in one of eight “eagles” suspended from arms 28 feet in the air. As the ride spins, the eagles will swing outward – and riders have the unique opportunity to control their flight experience from mild to wild!"

Another variation on the swing ride with debut at Dutch Wonderland. “Bon Voyage Balloon Chase will take guests on a magical ride in one of eight flying hot air balloons where every seat has a view. The ride soars to lofty heights of 20 feet while rotating clockwise. Your balloon will ascend and descend as it spins; while the wheel at the center of your gondola basket lets you control the direction and speed of your spin."

For Six Flags fans, Six Flags America presents a shiny new version of a carnival classic, "Bourbon Street Fireball, a wild looping coaster. Our new coaster will seat riders in a forward and backward, face-to-face position for a pendulum style take off with multiple 360° revolutions. Just when you think you can’t take any more, the train will suspend upside down and reverse course for additional loops!" A similar ride will also debut at sister park Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, with the name El Diablo.

Quoted information from park's press releases.





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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Treasures From The Bottom of the Dresser

I've had this button since before I can remember...
I'm pretty sure my parents bought this on a very early visit to the park when I was maybe just an infant. I can remember this hanging on a cork board outside our basement playroom when I was very little. I haven't seen the pin in years and then just this week it turned up in an envelope of stuff from my childhood home. Pretty cool button, no doubt, but the back of the button gives us s little piece of Amusement Park Obscura that I love...
Check out the original price tag sticker from a very early 70's Kings Dominion gift shop. Super cool! 

I also unearthed this sweet pressed penny...
In case you're not a connoisseur of fine tourist attraction souvenirs such as myself, a pressed penny 
Is created by dropping two quarters and a penny into a machine, turning a crank and smashing and imprinting a picture onto your authentic U.S. one cent piece.

  Now, the mystery here is figuring out which park this came from. The design of Fred is from a mid-90's make over of Fred, with the bigger nose and playful pose. Most of the Hanna-Barbera elements were removed from Kings Dominion during the 90's which leaves that the coin could also be from Universal Studios Florida. Universal hosted their own Hanna-Barbera attraction in the 90's, so it's possible it could be from there. I don't remember getting it anywhere...so who knows where it came from. It's cool and looks great buried under my socks in my dresser. 

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