We’ve been passing Kings Dominion on the highway for a number of months now, it’s about two hours south of Washington DC right outside of Richmond. The sign for the amusement peeks out above trees and has looked mighty inviting when compared to driving. I realized that it would make for a good halfway point for my mom, Ooey and I to have a girls weekend. My mom’s schedule changed and she now gets every other Friday off, so we’ve decided to take full advantage of both of our weekday flexibility and meet up for some quick adventures.
Kings Dominion is close enough for a day trip but I wanted to maximize the time with my mom so we reached out to the KOA campground associated with King’s Dominion and they were kind enough to host one of our evenings in their cabins. (I booked a second night on my own dime because the campground looked like a lot of fun). The following is a review of King’s Dominion and KOA Camp Wilderness, our stay was hosted (thanks!) but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
I met my mom at 8:30am on a Friday morning in the parking lot of the Camp Wilderness KOA, she’d already been there for hours, I was grateful I’d made it within 15 minutes of when I said I would. We checked into our cabin and dropped off our luggage before catching the shuttle to King’s Dominion. Because I’m a city person I’d thought walking from the KOA to the amusement park was a reasonable way to avoid the fees for parking but, the highway to get there is not pedestrian friendly and I was pleased to learn that there was a shuttle than ran every 15 minutes for guests of nearby hotels (KOA included) to get them to and from the park.
We were dropped off at the park and I was really excited, I am that parent that wants to show my child EVERYTHING. As you walk through the gates there is this instrumental music playing that can only be described as epic, fountains are going and kids are jumping up and down with joy. Dodging photographers and group photos we made our way into the park. I’d gotten some pretty good advice about the park by crowdsourcing from Instagram and Facebook and one of the many tips was to get a wrist band for height as soon as you entered the park. Rides at King’s Dominion have height requirements and getting a wrist band will save time in lines for more popular rides. Ooey was in the smallest height category which is fine considering we weren’t eyeballing any of the popular roller coasters anyway- we were headed to Planet Snoopy.
A doggy, a doggy!
Planet Snoopy is the children’s section at King’s Dominion and it has rides like Lucy’s Tugboat, Joe Cool’s Driving School, and the Linus Launcher. As it turns out my totally fearless child was pretty freaked out by the rides. The innocuously named Sally’s Sea Plane was surprisingly fast and as it flew up and down Ooey’s entire body clenched up and she began to shake. She didn’t scream and she was more than happy to wave goodbye to the plane but, I think I’d overestimated how ready she might be for thrill rides. We tried again with Snoopy’s Junction, a train ride, in which she shrieked the entire time and out final attempt was in Charlie Browns Windup, an elevated swing, where she again clenched up and began to shake. I was feeling pretty bummed at this point, the entire trip was about pleasing my toddler who was not amused.
The family room in Planet Snoopy which included amenities like; private bathrooms, microwaves, bottle warmers, nursing rooms and a room full of rocking chairs.
It was then that I remembered another tip, the family room in Planet Snoopy was a great place to decompress. And so it was, the building had a play area, bathrooms, changing areas, bottle warming stations a room full of rocking chairs and even two private nursing spaces. We spent about 45 minutes playing with every puzzle, block set and toy in the family room and pulled my unwilling toddler away to go find lunch before checking out Dinosaur Land.
The family care room at Planet Snoopy which probably saved the day for us, Ooey was in need of a quiet space after all the thrill rides.
It was in Dinosaurs Alive where I got the reaction I was looking for, pure joy and amazement. Ooey was delighted by the large scale animatronic dinosaurs. As we walked past they would roar, chirp and wave their tails and tiny arms and some of them could even be controlled with buttons. We’d found her happy place and she was content to shuffle down the path and every so often be surprised all over again by the movement of these pre-historic replicas. Halfway through the walk was an excavation area where kids of all ages were digging with shovels and sifting through the sand of this make believe archeology site. This wasn’t how I imagined our day at King’s Dominion would go but my goal was to really entertain the heck out of my kid, and we were doing a better job of that in this section of the park.
Our fearless navigator consults a map in Dinosaurs Alive.
My mom taking a closer look at the T-Rex group.
The archeology site, a big hit with Ooey.
I did have it in mind to ride at least one of the “big” roller coasters but after indulging in some dole whip the prospect seemed less appealing. Besides, it was hot the lines were getting longer and Ooey was taking a nap, which is no longer routine for her. So, instead my mom and I drank frozen margaritas and sat on a patio while Ooey slept- it only takes an amusement park to wear her out. On our way to get drinks we walked by the stage at Planet Snoopy where a live show was happening, a performer was dancing on the stage with kids, totally the type of thing Ooey loves, when she’s awake.
Let’s not forget about adult fun!
Dole whip, If you’ve not had this you need to make trying it a priority, it’s fruity, refreshing and oh so delicious.
Frozen margaritas on a patio & a sleeping baby! King’s Dominion for the win!
We boarded the bus back to Camp Wilderness with intentions of coming back to the park for an evening session. But once we’d arrived back at the cabin, it was way to cozy to want to go back out. We ordered pizza and then walked down to the camp store to eat ice cream while Ooey ran around the playground.
The playground area at the Camp Wilderness KOA was a great spot to play and make new friends.
I’d done a lot of camping in college and had stayed in a few KOA’s while traveling but at that point I wasn’t evaluating them for family friendliness. But, I think this is the way to go. There’s a definite summer camp vibe and kids roam around in packs while their parents poke at campfires and drink beer- way more chill than a hotel. This campground is predominantly RV’s, some of which look nicer than our apartment, but there are also cabins to rent and tent sites.
We were not exactly roughing it, both of us were too tired to make a meal over an open fire so we ordered pizza.
My mom is not a sleep outside type so we booked a cabin, and I gotta say the perk of having your own bathroom and shower is well worth it, especially with a toddler. The cabin we stayed in had a master bedroom and a futon on the first floor and two beds in the loft, which we took to calling kid’s dominion. And we were not exactly roughing it, we had a mini fridge, microwave and four TV’s. This is the perfect setup for family camping with kids in diapers, campy but convenient.
This is what a happy child looks like 😛
The plan for the following day was to hang out by the pool. When I booked my cabin I added an extra night because I’d noticed that they had a pool and a playground, also the idea of having an unplanned day to spend with my mom was pretty appealing. It was Memorial Day Weekend and there was a craft in the camp store next to the pool and families were mingling and having fun. People were coming and going from the park, and I have to say I’m glad I booked that extra day. An afternoon of downtime is well worth it.
A video tour of our cabin
The cabin at the Camp Wilderness KOA was a great place to stay for this trip. Ours slept up to 8 people and had a private bathroom and shower. You can take the video tour below.
In short we really enjoyed our trip to King’s Dominion even if my toddler was not quite ready to get her thrill on. I suspect next year she’ll be way more excited about the rides, and it’s close enough that I’d consider a season pass. If you’re on the fence I’d say go check it out- it’s close, kids under 2 are free and parents can alternate with each other watching the kiddo and going on rides. If I were to do it over I would come Friday night and hang out at the campground pool and then hit the amusement park in the morning, after a good night’s sleep.
There is a free shuttle from Camp Wilderness (for registered guests of the campground) to Kings Dominion that comes and goes every 15 minutes
The cabins sleep 8-10 people, perfect for a large family or for multiple families
Bring water, snacks and sunscreen
The price of a season pass to King’s Dominion may be cheaper if you are a registered guest at the Camp Wilderness KOA and purchase the pass at their camp store
Children 2 and under gave free admission at King’s Dominion
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