The Wilsons made the trip to Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday for our first-ever trip to Adventureland. What is Adventureland? They describe the park like so:
Adventureland Amusement Park contains over 100 rides, shows, and attractions including some of the country's most exciting roller coasters and thrill rides that can challenge the most avid amusement park enthusiasts. There are also plenty of rides for less adventurous guests including great water rides as well as a full compliment of children's rides spread throughout the park. But the entertainment doesn't stop with rides - Adventureland presents a full array of shows in the park - from live music to magic to song and dance - there's always something to suit everyone's taste. Simply the most fun you will have all year! Adventureland Park is a smoke free facility.
That's all well and good, but could it impress a four year-old and his parents?
First you have to get there. Adventureland is located on the east side of Des Moines. From our front door the trip was just over 200 miles, putting the trip at just about three hours in length. That's perfectly acceptable for a day trip, in my opinion.
Then there's the cost. Tickets normally cost $30-35. Ours were $18.75 apiece ($56.25 total), thanks to a special group rate we were a part of. Parking was $5 per vehicle. Food was surprisingly inexpensive, at least relative to my expectations. Most food items were in the $2 to $4 range, with combos available. I consider bottled water to be a good indicator of food costs; a bottle of water at Adventureland cost $2. More expensive than you'd like, of course, but compare that to bottled water prices at Husker games and other "captive audience" situations where these days you'll pay $3-$4 per bottle. We saved a few bucks because The Missus managed to take in a couple bottles of our own to start the day, thanks to a friendly bag inspector at the front gate. (Your mileage may vary!)
Beyond that there are always souvenirs and games that can suck as much cash out of you as you permit. We purchased zero extras, letting our memories be our souvenirs. Add in some ice cream from McDonald's right before we hit the Interstate, plus about $30 worth of gas for the round trip and our total for the day came to: about $115. Not bad at all, in my opinion.
How about the rides? Growing up my family always went to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, so that's what I can compare Adventureland to. Adventureland is smaller and has fewer rides than Worlds of Fun. Yet Adventureland does have variations on many of the same attractions. And frankly, it has plenty to keep kids satisfied. The absolute best thing about Adventureland's rides is that small kids can ride most of them even if they are too short, as long as they are accompanied by somebody responsible. That opened all sorts of rides to us. In fact, my stomach really wasn't prepared for some of the rides Robbie was able to go on. His gut, however, handled every ride just fine.
Fortunately there were also several rides made especially for little kids. That gave The Missus and I time to calm our stomachs and get our heads to stop spinning.
Robbie had several favorite rides. Our first ride was the ferris wheel, which took us a hundred feet into the air. It took him a bit to accommodate to the height, but once he did he loved it. Then there were the tea cups, an old classic that tossed his stomach around a bit. The bumper cars were a hit, as I expected. But the real winner of the day was the log ride. He loved getting soaked!
There was really only one bad ride on the day: the train. Skip it. The train at the Lincoln Zoo is about thirty times more exciting.
Overall I give Adventureland a solid A for the day. The experience was perfect for a young, adventurous kid like Robbie. And it was great for us as parents, too. It was relatively easy on our wallets, and we got to have just as much fun as Robbie did. I should add the caveat that two things worked remarkably well in our favor: lines were short and the weather was excellent. A hot and busy day probably wouldn't be quite as fun. But that's true for any outdoor activity.
I mentioned above that the drive was about three hours. That just happens to be the perfect length of time on the way home for a little wind-down, followed by a nice nap.