By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
When is a good age to take a child to a theme park? Who knows. While some families begin taking their kids when they are very young — toddlers, or even babies — we chose to hold off until a little bit longer. We had already introduced our child to a full-service theme park (we visited Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania, which is great for young children) but had not been to a major park until this spring, when we took him to Walt Disney World.
Of course he loved it, and of course he couldn’t wait to experience the thrills of a big theme park again. Thankfully he doesn’t have to wait until our next trip to Florida: just a couple of hours away from us is Kings Dominion, an easy drive from Fairfax County. Kings Dominion, in Doswell, Virginia (near Richmond) is close enough that you can even make it as a day trip. That’s just what we did last week, and here’s a recap of our fun day!
First, a quick introduction: Kings Dominion is a nice-size park with more than 60 rides, shows, and other attractions, plus more than a dozen roller coasters and a water park with slides, a lazy river, and more. It opened in 1975 and since then it has served as a popular getaway spot for people from all over Virginia and other states.
We began our visit with a ride up to the top of the “Eiffel Tower,” the replica of the famous landmark. Kings Dominion’s Tower is one-third the size of the Paris icon and provides nice views of the fountains at the entrance to the park and of all the rides and attractions. I recommend taking the elevator to the top of the tower as soon as you come in, not only because it will give you a good “lay of the land” but because there can be a line to do this as the park fills up.
We then explored just about all areas of the park, taking advantage of kiddie rides, big roller coasters, shows, and the waterpark. Our son is in first grade, so he’s at a fun age where he can still fit into (and enjoy) the smaller children and family rides in the Planet Snoopy section, but also qualifies for the big coasters. Our favorite rides were:
In Planet Snoopy: Here you’ll find a mix of rides: some are fore the whole family to ride together, and others are for kids to go all by themselves. We especially enjoyed Joe Cool’s Driving School (kids only) Lucy’s Tugboat, the monorail, and the bumper cars.
Big Rides: My son was thrilled that he was big enough to go on some of the attractions rated as “thrill rides!” We had a great time on the classic Rebel Yell and Grizzly wooden coasters, the super-exciting Anaconda, the Drop Tower, Ricochet, Grizzly, the log flume, and the swings, among others
Waterpark: At Water Works, the water park, we stuck with the “mild” stuff such as the lazy river, splash pads, and smaller slides, since it was the end of the day and we really just wanted to cool off. We had hoped to spend more time doing some of the big waterslides, but we’ll just have to make a return visit.
There’s much more to see at the park, including live performances and an animatronic dinosaur show, but since we had seen it before (elsewhere) we skipped it this time. Because we were there until the evening, we did get to see the light show by the fountain, which was a nice way to cap the day.
Price-wise, Kings Dominion has cheaper admission prices than some major theme parks and still offers enough fun to fill up a whole day (and then some) with options for guests of all ages. Food was pricey, but since the park is just two hours away, you still come out ahead considering that your only travel expenses are for gas and maybe an overnight hotel. See below for some pictures from our trip!
Disclosure: We received two free media passes to facilitate our review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed here are my own.
All photos (c) P. Hall