I recently took my six-year-old, adventure loving boy to Dorney Park. It is a less than a two-hour drive from most parts of Westchester and well worth it. Tickets are made more affordable if bought in bulk and/or with coupons available at many local Subway chains. But, even if you pay full price, a memorable day here is less expensive than many other parks and it’s a great time.
We went during the first Monday of the summer and arrived a little after they were opening. The crowds were minimal and the staff was friendly. As with all things I do, I had meticulously planned everything beforehand. The popular thrill rides as soon as we arrived so there would be no lines; hit the water park around noon because we would be hot and other people would be breaking for lunch; then spend the late afternoon in Planet Snoopy – the Peanuts-themed kids’ area – seeing some of the shows and taking it easy.
Now, if you’ve ever been to a theme park with a young child I am sure you know what’s coming next. That plan went out the window as soon as we stepped foot in the park. He wanted to ride the swings (multiple times) and then follow a kid his own age wherever that kid went (anyone else become okay with stalking after being a parent?). So I followed my son’s lead and really enjoyed myself. If you can have your child help make the plan, do so. I made it for us with time and convenience in mind but now realize I should have saved my time.
The thing I liked the most about Dorney Park was the variety of rides. They had extreme rollercoasters, more suitable for teenage kids and adults, but also some thrilling rides that my son and I could go on and both enjoy. I recommend Meteor and Thunder Creek Mountain. Ride the last one before or after the water park, when you are dressed in your suit and swim shoes. My son loved all of the rides in Planet Snoopy, especially Linus Launcher and Snoopy’s Rocket Express. Wildwater Kingdom, an attached water park that’s included in your admission, had fewer rides suitable for a beginner swimmer who was a bit intimidated even though there were complimentary life jackets. But, he loved the Wave Pool and Lazy River.
The two things I didn’t love about the park were the arcade games and the food. In general, arcade games are just an excuse to spend more money, but here it seemed like there were rarely winners. This was evident because of the rather dusty prizes offered and lack of Dads carrying trophy stuffed animals place to place. The food was limited and not great. There weren’t healthy options and you weren’t allowed to bring in outside food (although bags weren’t checked meticulously so I’m sure you could if you’re a risk taker). Despite this, I would absolutely go back. I even priced out yearly passes wondering how often we might go this summer.