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Kings Dad-minion

Aug 09, 2023 08:46AM ● By Matthew Jones

The other Friday, I took the family on an outing to Kings Dominion. We have season passes (a little pricey but worth it after only two visits). If you don’t have a season pass, the best bang for your buck is to spend a whole day there. But with unlimited visits, we’ve discovered that Friday evenings are a great time to go. It’s not too crowded, and the park is open until 10 during summer. Thanks to that late closing time, we can get a good several hours in even when we roll in around dinner time.

We were planning on going with the whole family—my wife and I, our 3- and 6-year-olds, and our 14-year-old nephew. But at the last minute, my wife was really feeling under the weather. Going alone to an amusement park with a preschooler, first-grader and teenager? Hah! This dad laughs at such challenges. Then cries. But we promised them we would go. And I had a plan—let teenager Jayden get in his roller-coaster time while I spend some one-on-two time with the kids, then all meetup and do some family rides together. I loaded up the snacks, water, and double stroller and set out.

Water You Waiting For?

The kids wanted to go to the water park. By the time we got there, it was only an hour ’til the water park closed. I did my best to set expectations—we were not going to make it to the big splash area that’s a 10-minute walk from the water park’s entrance (which itself is a 10-minute walk from the main park entrance). We could do the lazy river and the smaller splash pads, which were both near the entrance. I think setting the expectations was really helpful- the kids were more comfortable knowing what to expect, and they were much better behaved when they knew what was coming up next.

The 14-year-old didn’t want to go to the water park and instead ran off to ride rollercoasters. I set expectations with him as well; I told him to meet us after the waterpark closed and come with us to do some rides together. This was part of my master plan: Since I was the only adult, I would use the teenager to be the extra “grownup.” Several rides allow the little ones but need a grownup to accompany them. Letting Jayden get some rollercoaster time to himself would, I hoped, make him more amenable to helping with the littles. 

The water park was actually a cinch for dealing with multiple ages of kids. We did the lazy river, which everyone could go on as long as the kids wore park-provided life jackets. The kids loved it! The water park has lots more to offer, including food and drink, a wave pool and several splash areas. But since we didn’t have much time, we stuck to the splash pads close to the entrance. There was plenty to do there, and the kids were well entertained for the remaining time until the water park closed and they shut off the water.

It was tricky getting the kids changed back out of their swimsuits. Benny had to go No. 2 and, of course, needed help wiping, but his sister and I were still only halfway changed. It wound up being several minutes of yelling across a crowded, noisy changing room to reassure him that I was not in fact abandoning him.

Jayden's Time to Shine

We met up with Jayden, who to his credit was patiently waiting outside the water park entrance. As planned, we went on the log flume. We also took a pit stop at the flying eagles ride ... which none of us had ridden before. It wound up being a hit! Both of these rides allowed kids on (36 inches and taller if I recall correctly) but only with a grown co-rider. My plan worked. Jayden rode with one of the kids and I rode with the other. 

We went looking for more big rides to do together. We walked across the park to out the bumper cars and big swings, but both had a hard minimum height of 48 inches, so neither of the kids could ride. To temper the disappointment, I bought some Auntie Anne’s pretzels from right next to the bumper cars. We headed to the nearby Peanuts-themed kids' area to find some things the kids could in fact ride. Once again, Jayden saved the day. He went with Benny on the Snoopy roller coaster that Lily was too small to go on. Meanwhile, I accompanied Lily on the rides for little ones like the flying balloons and bouncing moon buggies. 

We stayed until they started shutting down the kids’ rides, then made our tired way back to the front of the park. As usual, we stopped by the candy shop. I let the kids get some bags of mediocre choose-your-own candy, and I got some tastier chocolate confections from behind the counter. Jayden grabbed a 4-pack of jumbo gummy bears. But his observation skills left something to be desired, and they turned out to be spicy gummy bears. The "medium" and "mild" ones were tolerable for him, but he deemed the red "ghost pepper" ones unfit for human consumption. Luckily he didn’t take a big bite of the red one first when he didn't realize they were spicy!

We loaded up in the car and drove the 40 minutes back to Fredericksburg. As usual after an active evening at Kings Dominion, my luck was with me and the kids fell asleep on the way home. All in all, it was a successful trip!

So What?

My big point of learning was that it’s important to know beforehand which rides make sense for your family. Keep an eye on what the height requirements are. I believe there’s a Kings Dominion app that has all that info at your fingertips. But beyond that, I’m also proud to add another example of proving to myself that I’m a thoroughly capable dad.

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