Inside: These 3 DC Area Amusement Parks for Young Kids are fantastic ideas for family fun day trips!
Did you go to amusement parks when you were a kid? If so, I imagine you have fond memories that serve as a highlight reel for your childhood.
The anticipation of climbing up a roller coaster and then letting out a blood piercing scream when you plummeted down the other side.
Your parents saying yes. Yes to bright pink cotton candy. Yes to that game where you win a purple stuffed owl made of saw dust. Yes when you wanted to sit in the front row of the high dive show (can you say, SOAKED?!!!).
So, when your kids started getting old enough that a trip to the amusement park sounded like fun, you started reliving your childhood memories all over again. However, you wanted it to be perfect.
Because we all know that for every great memory, there are at least as many war stories:
- No shade and few places to sit and rest.
- Waiting in line 45 minutes only to sit in the middle of a 2-minute ride.
- A 10-mile hike back to your car at the end of a long, tiring day.
In the DC-Baltimore area, there are tons of amusement parks within road trip distance. However, which parks would be best for families with young kids? Which parks would keep little children happy and not overwhelm everyone?
These three parks definitely fit that criteria and choosing to spend the day at any one of them will ensure that your child looks back on their first amusement park experience with fond nostalgia, instead of horror.
Dutch Wonderland- The Perfect First Amusement Park for Young Kids
If you are looking for the perfect park for your toddler or preschooler, Dutch Wonderland is absolutely amazing. We started bringing our daughter to Dutch Wonderland before she was even 2 years old and she has loved it every single time. Here area few reasons you should definitely consider a day trip to Dutch Wonderland:
- The entire park is designed for families with young kids. That doesn’t mean older kids won’t have fun, but kids ages 7 and under will likely have the most fun. Dutch Wonderland it like a park full of kiddie rides.
- There are more rides for young kids at this park than pretty much any other park in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Dutch Wonderland features 34 rides and even your youngest kids will be able to ride on a lot of rides. There are height restrictions on a few rides, but that is more than offset by the fact that there are at least 7 rides specifically geared for super young kids (like 1-3 year olds).
- Dutch Wonderland is relatively small so little legs typically don’t have a problem walking. That being said, there are tons of families with strollers and the park accommodates strollers very well. Also the park is mostly flat and there is a lot of shade.
- We have visited Dutch Wonderland probably four or five times and it has never been ‘too crowded.’ Sure, it gets crowded, but for the most part waiting in line was a breeze. This is great if you have an impatient 2 year old.
- The shows at Dutch Wonderland are fabulous. My daughter fell in love with princesses when she met Princess Brooke and we were both completely thrilled by the high dive show at Aqua Stadium. The best part is the shows weren’t too scary or too loud. Perfect for little kids.
- Don’t forget to check out Dinosaur Island, where kids can interact with animatronic dinosaurs and dig for dinosaur bones.
- Duke’s Lagoon is a very fun (and still geared for younger kids) splash area. There is one splash ride, but mostly this area is full of water buckets, sprouting flower fountains, and even a few little kid friendly water slides. Perfect for a hot summer day.
- Dutch Wonderland is located about 90 minutes from the Baltimore Area. If you live on the Maryland side of the DC Beltway, it is definitely the closest young kid-friendly amusement park in the region.
Know Before You Go:
- Cost of admission: Basic one-day admission is $41.99/person (3 and up. Ages 2 and under are free). There are season passes and other package deals available (including a package deal with Hersheypark).
- Hours: During the summer months, Dutch Wonderland is open every day from 10AM-830PM.
- Address: 2249 Lincoln Hwy E, Lancaster, PA 17602
- Website: https://www.dutchwonderland.com
King’s Dominion and Planet Snoopy- Awesome Fun for Young and Older Kids!
We checked out Planet Snoopy and King’s Dominion for the first time this spring (hosted event) and I was so impressed. You could really spend all day just at Planet Snoopy. However, there are so many more fun reasons to head south and spend the day at this Richmond, VA area amusement park.
- Planet Snoopy is beautifully themed. There are Peanuts themed bushes and other photo ops throughout the Planet Snoopy part of the park. Plus, Snoopy, Woodstock, Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang is on site for photo ops or just a high five!
- Planet Snoopy is big enough that you could pretty much spend most of the day just in this, young kid-friendly part of the park. Planet Snoopy boasts 19 kiddie rides, all of them affiliated somehow with Peanuts. If your younger kids are closer to preschool than diapers, they might even be brave enough to try to a real rollercoaster (as in it thrills adults too). My 4-year old braved it and we both were thrilled!
- The shows at Planet Snoopy are super fun too. We loved the Peanuts Dance Party a lot.
- There are plenty of yummy food options, including every kid’s favorite; Chick Fil-A.
- Don’t just visit Planet Snoopy. There are a number of other rides and attractions throughout the rest of King’s Dominion that your kids will love too. You can’t miss the Eiffel Tower and yes, you can ride to the top of it! There is also a carousel, old-time cars, and water rides.
- Dinosaurs Alive! will definitely delight younger kids as well. This dino-themed area of the park includes 43 animatronic dinosaurs, along with dino-themed activities like digging for fossils.
- With admission to King’s Dominion and Planet Snoopy, park visitors can also cool off at Soak City. There are great cooling off options for both thrill seeks and younger kids, including a splash area specifically for kids under 54″ tall.
- If you live in the DC area, this park will be closer for you, about 1 1/2-2 hours away.
Other than a love for all things Snoopy, families with kids of different ages would love King’s Dominion and Planet Snoopy because you can divide and conquer. King’s Dominion has all the thrill rides of a major amusement park but Planet Snoopy has enough to keep even the youngest park visitors happy and having fun for the entire day!
Know Before You Go:
- Cost of admission: Basic one-day admission is $67 for adults and kids over age 3 or 48″ tall (not clear if kids over 3 but under 48″ tall get the kid price). Admission for children and seniors is $45. There are discounts for purchasing passes and multiple day tickets.
- Hours: During the summer months, King’s Dominion is open every day 1030AM- either 10PM (July, part of August, weekends) and 8PM, late August. Soak City is open from noon to either 7 or 8PM, depending on how late in the season it it.
- Address: 16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA 23047
- Website: https://www.kingsdominion.com/
Sesame Place- Go to Splash and Sign Up for Amazing Character Experiences!
Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA is THE place to go if you have little kids with a soft spot for Elmo. It is further away from the DC-Baltimore area than the other two parks (tip: plan to spend the night), and in our experience, the most crowded. However, there are a few things Sesame Place does perfectly. Here is why you should check it out with your young kids:
- There are plenty of kid friendly rides at Sesame Place and if your kids love Sesame Street, they will love riding on Oscar’s garbage can or Elmo’s rocket ship. However, at its heart, Sesame Place is a water park. Plan to go for splashing and your young kids will be in heaven.
- There are a few splash areas that are perfect for even really young kids. The Teeny Tiny Tidal Wave Pool has a maximum depth of 1 foot 6 inches and is a very safe, not overwhelming splash area. Ernie’s Waterworks is also an entire splash area geared for young kids.
- Don’t skip the shows! Sesame Place does a great job of putting together really engaging shows. We checked out Let’s Play Together and it was definitely a highlight of the day. There are two parades throughout the day as well, but be warned– the mid-day parade will be very crowded. If you have young kid, you might want to skip that one and ride some rides instead.
- A splurge worth the price– If you make the trek to Sesame Place you will definitely want to sign up for a character dining experience. We reserved a spot for Dining With Elmo and Friends and it was the best experience of the day. Not only did my 2 year old get up close and personal with all the Sesame Street characters, the characters had a dance party and they actually danced with the kids! It was amazing! So much better than waiting in a character spot line. Space for character dining is limited so sign up as soon as you know you will be traveling to Sesame Place.
Know Before You Go:
- Word of caution– A trip to Sesame Place is definitely worth it, however you need a plan. Driving up for the day on the weekend will be a plan for disaster. Why? Because Sesame Place is located close enough to Philadelphia and NYC that there is a huge draw from a wide area. Unless you are prepared to buy line hopper passes (pricey) and potentially wait 30-45 minutes to eat lunch, you need a plan. The good news is there are definitely ways to ensure a smooth experience.
- Plan to spend at least one night in the area so you aren’t stressed by the drive on the day of.
- If you can go during the week, go during the week. Crowds are much lower during the week.
- Bring snacks or plan to leave mid-day for lunch. There are tons of restaurants a very short drive from Sesame Place. If there are lines at the concessions area, just leave mid-day and come back after lunch.
- Wear your swimsuit. There are numerous restroom facilities near various splash areas, but only the restrooms near Count Dracula Splash areas have changing rooms that accommodate families.
- Cost of admission: Basic one-day admission is based on the actual day you go and ranges between $50-$59 (weekends are more expensive). This price is for kids age 2+. Character Dining is about $28 for adults and $9 for kids age 2-9.
- Hours: During the summer months, Sesame Place is open every day from 10AM to either 8 or 9PM.
- Address: 100 Sesame Rd., Langhorne, PA 19047
- Website: https://www.sesameplace.com/philadelphia/
And there you have it. Three amazing amusement parks that are perfect for families with young kids!
Thanks for reading!