If you’re looking to sneak in one last day trip before the kids start yeshiva, then the obvious place to look is Pennsylvania, filled with numerous kid-friendly theme parks. Two great ones for all children under the teenage years are Sesame Place in Langhorne, and Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster.
Sesame Place is built around Sesame Street, and therefore built for kids. The park is filled with sections that cater to all age groups from 1 till, say, 12-14. The Elmo’s World section is a delight and a definite destiny for parents who (after a morning of running around in the more active parts of the park, or, simply, after life) are ready to sit and watch their toddlers and even pre-toddlers play by themselves and with other similar-aged tykes. The cargo netting, also in Elmo’s World, offer a particularly fun romp for the bit older set (about 5 and up).
Sesame Place is full of mechanical rides – and these too offer something for every age group, from the carousel for the youngest to Blast Off (just as it sounds) for the older group. The theatre-like shows are age variable, as well.
Elmo with visitors in Sesame Place
While there are plenty of dry rides, Sesame Place tends to emphasize the wet; On the Count’s Splash Castle, which just opened this year, and on Sky Splash, a water raft ride that takes place in an enormous rubber duckie, and on Bert & Ernie’s Slip & Slide, you can expect to get wet. There are also large pools and fountains in several locations. While most kids love to get wet on hot, sticky days, readers should bear in mind that many visitors come dressed like they are having a day at the beach, and stay that way for the duration of their trip, and decide accordingly which members of the household should come along.
The great thing about Sesame Place is that everyone can enjoy it, even if they’ve never seen the show. But if your family does enjoy Sesame Street, then they’ll appreciate many added benefits, such as the model set of Sesame Street and the many Sesame Street character mascots walking around the park, plus the twice-daily parade. As you drive to Langhorne, put “C Is for Cookie” in the DVD player and rev yourselves up.
Dutch Wonderland has a theme, too – just not one you’d recognize from any PBS viewing. Knights and princesses rule the day here, but they are really an afterthought to the multitude of activities, shows and events spread out over 48 acres that you have to occupy your time.
Dutch Wonderland is brimming with rides for all ages: Yes, also a carousel, plus a rollercoaster billed as appropriate for kids, and everything in between (bumber cars and the sky ride (think ski lift) and the fun slide, and much more). Children can race motorized speedcars or sailboats, and enjoy a dozen or so other carnival-like attractions (such as trying to knock the blocks off the table) replete with large stuffed dolls for the victors. A cute and tacky protrait area allows families to dress up as knights and princesses for a souvenier snapshot.
The rollercoaster in Dutch Wonderland
There is a large water attractions area, but because it is a smaller part of the overall park than at Sesame Place, the problem of underdressed visitors is much much smaller.
Children were clearly thought of in all aspects at the park, which has a quaint and quiet story area for kids who can sit cross-legged while listening to tales of – what else – kinghts and princesses, or join the narrator while they shake and dance to “get the wiggles out.” Don’t miss another show, “The Adventures of the Frog Prince,” featuring some very impressive high-dive theatrics. Stay beyond the fifth row if you want to not get wet.
A great component of Dutch Wonderland is the Kosher Mart which serves up delicious fleishig meals to the throngs of kosher-keeping visitors, who create regular mincha minyanim around dinnertime.
From the kinds of rides to the variety of things to do, Dutch Wonderland is like a mini-version of Disneyland, only more compact, which is good, allowing families to get to more of the fun stuff in a single day.
If you and your children are off on Labor Day, Sesame Place or Dutch Wonderland will offer an enjoyable way to end the summer.