I got a very nice compliment yesterday from a first-time reader, which served not only to stroke my ego, but also to remind me how much I love writing these. So here is one of the several entries I've been composing in my head of late without getting around to posting. I've often admired the photo logs I've seen posted in the blogs of friends and family. I don't compare my photography skills to theirs--mine still need plenty of work--but this is one story that is really told best in the photos.
So we decided this summer that we weren't up to another long road trip like those of last Christmas and the summer before Spot was born. We've spent most of our time off this year hitting local parks, hanging around the neighborhood, and rearranging furniture in our house (which kind of freaked the kids out, but even that was fun in its way). But last week, for a change of scene, we dusted off an idea we'd gotten from some friends with kids about the same ages as ours. They had spent a spring break exploring Pennsylvania Dutch country, which is only a few hours' drive from us, and found a little family amusement park called Dutch Wonderland that they said had something for any size visitor. So we booked a hotel room just a few minutes away from the park, piled everybody in the car, and headed off down the rabbit hole.
Trip Tip #1: If Google Maps tells you to get to Pennsylvania by taking the DC and Baltimore Beltways on a Wednesday afternoon after 2:00, ignore it. We got around DC with only moderate difficulty, but forgot to figure in Baltimore's rush hour, and spent way too much time sitting in traffic. Thank heavens for portable DVD players. We took a more westerly route home in half the time.
By the time we got to the hotel, although there was still plenty of time to send the kids to the pool as we had planned, the thunderstorm had caught up with us. Fortunately, the kids found plenty to do in exploring the room, especially when we let them play with the camera.
Almost everyone got a turn.
They were very impressed with the big screen TV.
But the biggest hit was probably the makeup mirror, which had both Aslan and Buzz spellbound.
They took great delight in posing for each other...
and in snapping shots of everyone who would sit still...
So the evening passed quickly, and the next morning we got up and headed to the park. Now for those of you who haven't been there, Dutch Wonderland is a great place for people like me who don't have the time or crowd tolerance to handle Disneyworld, at least not with a stroller-dweller who has to wait outside all the rides. Plus, I can handle roller coasters just fine, but just can't stomach paying six dollars for a hot dog. Dutch Wonderland is small enough that a day is plenty of time, especially given that we never had to wait more than five minutes for a ride. The rides are sized so that all the girls except Spot could ride virtually anything, at least with a parent or big sister along. The restrooms had toddler-sized stalls and sinks right next to the regular ones, and are also among the few places in the world I've ever found a changing station actually stocked with the paper pads. And the chief mascot of the place is a princess in a marvelously floofy pink dress, whom we had the luck to encounter minutes after crossing the castle threshold.
Then on to the rides...
Even Dad liked the Sky Ride enough to get talked into three trips. This one was Bookworm's favorite--she liked the view--though he's shown here with Buzz.
Buzz and Aslan made Mom proud by choosing as their favorite the biggest, fastest coaster in the place--the Kingdom Coaster. OK, it's pretty tame compared with anything you'd find at Six Flags or Busch Gardens. But it packed enough of a thrill that I was a little concerned about how Aslan was taking it...until we got to the end, and she immediately begged to go again. Sorry, no pictures of that one...no way I could get the camera out of the bag at that speed!
Bookworm was kind enough to stand in as the "responsible rider" a few times when Aslan wasn't big enough to ride alone. Big sisters are the best.
Spot wasn't able to ride much, and had to settle for merely being the most admired by passers-by. She was quite good natured about the whole thing. Actually, it worked out well, as she got some real quality time with Dad while the rest of us rode. (Aslan later asked, "Daddy, why are you allergic to roller coasters?")
We finished off the day by letting each of the kids play to win a stuffed animal. Here is Bookworm with her prize, won by beating Mom at a game of Whack-a-Mole:
By the time we got to the car, she was affectionately calling it "Direct." I asked why, and was told, "It says so on the tag." (Note: we have quite a few Beanie Babies at home.)
All in all, it was a fabulous outing. We took the kids to Applebee's with the coupons on the back on our tickets, then plugged back into the car for the three-hour trip home, arriving a little after nine that evening. My one complaint: by the time we got home, Dad and I were more than ready to head to bed. After eight hours at an amusement park and three in the car, all four kids were still awake. It's just not right. Maybe we'll have to take them to Disneyworld sometime after all.