Thursday, June 3, 2010

Theme Park vs. Amusement Park

Over Memorial Day we took a quick jaunt to the southwestern region of Michigan. We like this area because of the wineries in the area and the cool little lake towns. Our kids like it because of the Saugatauk Dune Rides and Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park. We did a little of all of these things on this trip.

But the idea behind this post was to compare two parks that are in this area. I'd guess there are probably more, but I wanted to highlight the two we've visited. First is the Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park, near Muskegon, MI. It is a park with modest thrill rides like a suspended coaster called the Iron Hawk, a couple of big wooden roller coasters, one of which is billed as one of the longest wooden coasters in the country, and a coaster that turns you over a couple of times called the Corkscrew. There is a water park that is included with your park admission, and there are a couple of water rides, one called Grand Rapids which is a white water ride that soaks some of its riders, and one called Adventure Falls, that is just a plunge down a big drop ending in a huge splash.

It was opening weekend at Michigan's Adventure, and it was a great weekend to go there - lines were non-existent and the crowds were sparse throughout the day. Food choices are limited around the park though they do have one counter service restaurant as you enter the park. There's plenty of activities for kids of all ages.

The theme park in this area is called Nelis' Dutch Village, and it pretty much is what it sounds like. It sits off of Rt 31 as you go through the town of Holland, Michigan. You feel like you're walking into a small rural town in the Netherlands, where they still make their sweets and their cheeses by hand, and where other exhibitions show the making of Dutch wooden shoes, brooms, candles, and woodworking pieces.

The "cast members" (to use a Disney term, not necessarily the one used there) are all dressed in period costumes, and they put on a clog dancing show among other things. There are exactly two rides: a swing ride and a carousel. They are operated by the same guy; he closes one and opens the other, and the kids interested in riding move from attraction to attraction. There is also a petting area and a bunch of animals for the kids to check out.

It's a cute little place, takes at most two or three hours to go through and see most of the things there. There are shops where you can buy Delftware and other merchandise from the Netherlands and from local artisans. And of course there are the shoes. My boys each have a pair of wooden shoes, bought here, with their names burned into them. Of course, by now, they're too small for them to actually wear, but they're a neat thing to have, I think.

One place is a non-stop quest for thrills, moderate though they might be to the extreme amusement park fan. The other is a relaxing immersion in Dutch culture. I have some pictures (not from this trip because this time we actually skipped the Dutch Village) of the theme park, and will post them at some future time. You can find my pictures of Michigan's Adventure here.


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