Happy Hauntings

My family’s third visit to Dutch Wonderland was for its seasonal Happy Hauntings event. Happy Hauntings takes place three weekends only, this year on October 19 to 20, 26 to 27, and Nov. 2 to 3, 2013, from 3 to 9 p.m. I’m a big fan of this 50-year-old amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for its manageable size and old-timey rides and attractions (see my previous Our Kids review of the park here).

Going in the off season means shorter lines and cooler temperatures, but it also means not all the rides/attractions are open, mainly the water rides and the water play area, Duke’s Lagoon. During Happy Hauntings, the park is decked out in mild Halloween décor, such as a giant black spider crawling up the main castle’s facade. I saw a couple gargoyles and a Headless Horseman statue, but thankfully no zombies stumbling around the park. You can make a game out of spotting the Halloween touches: it took me a few minutes of waiting in a line for a ride before I noticed the big-headed alien in a flying saucer on the lawn nearby.

The 28 rides have been renamed to match the Halloween theme too. The Kingdom Coaster is now the “Roller Ghoster” and the Sky Ride is “The Spy Ride.”

Many kids (and their parents) come in costume, and it was cute to see Harry Potter in a bumper car and Dorothy on the carousel. If you go on a Sunday, kids can enter a costume contest in a variety of categories, with every child who enters receiving a treat. We went on a Saturday and didn’t wear costumes, and we didn’t feel like we hadn’t gotten the memo.

A highlight of Happy Hauntings is the Trick-or-Treat Trail. The trail starts near the Foggy Frog Bog where kids can pick up free plastic trick-or-treat bags if they haven’t brought their own. Adults get one ticket each that they can hand in for one piece of candy. There are ten stations, each manned by someone in costume (a mad scientist in her lab, a farmer in a pumpkin patch) giving out a different treats, from York Peppermint Patties to Twizzlers. It took us less than ten minutes to walk (or, in my 3-year-old son’s case, run) along the trail. I’d suggest doing the trail toward the end of your visit so you don’t have to carry around the bag of candy on the rides.

Another highlight is the Molly’s Wacky Witch’s Brew show, but we never managed to be at the Celebration Theater during show times, which are 3:45, 6, and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and 3:45 and 7 on Sundays. We thought we were in time to catch Storytime with Princess Brooke at 5 p.m. but her story must have been pretty short because when we arrived a little after 5 it was over. My 7-year-old daughter did get a photo op with her though.

Bottom line

Dutch Wonderland is a great first introduction to amusement parks for little kids and going during an off-season event like Happy Hauntings makes for cheaper prices and smaller crowds. Just make sure to bundle up if it’s a cooler day out.

Good to Know

  • Admission is $21.99 for ages 3 and up. (Kids 2 and under are free.)
  • There’s ample free parking near the entrance gate.
  • The Princess, the Knight of Safety, Duke the Dragon, and Merlin hang out near the front gate when the doors open at 3 for meet-and-greets and picture-taking.
  • There are food concessions throughout the park, from kettle corn to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. A sit-down, full-service restaurant called Merlin’s is located in the castle. (We opted for Good N Plenty Restaurant, one of the nearby excellent Amish restaurants, after we’d left the park.)
  • The park is about a two hour drive from the DC area.

Dutch Wonderland is a trademark used with permission. Photos/logos courtesy of Dutch Wonderland.

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OK Editorial Team

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