Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2013. Please visit the Donley’s Wild West Town website for current hours and admission fees.
If you are in the mood for some fun…head out west! Well, west of Lake County that is, and drive on over to Donley’s Wild West Town! Located in Union, Illinois, this little amusement park has a lot of bang for its buck. There are many attractions, rides, games, and a show, for one, affordable admission price. Are you wondering if it is worth the trip? My kids will heartily say yes, but if you need some convincing, I can help.
With prices for kids entertainment sometimes reaching exorbitant heights, the $16 admission fee here seemed very reasonable. The admission price seemed even better because it covered most everything at the park. Rides, games, the show and play places were all covered under that price. Most of the rides were unlimited, and some you had to use a punch card, as you could only ride them twice. We still felt as if that was enough since there were so many things to do there. They do also offer group rates and family season passes as well, and children two and under are free.
Wild West Town is open daily from 10-6 during their season which runs from May 18th to August 23rd. After that, they are open only on weekends from August 24th until October 27th from 10-6 as well.
In my opinion, nothing makes an experience better than the way you are treated by the employees of a venue. We were so impressed with the staff here. Not only were they friendly, always smiling and polite, but they were constantly in character as if they were really living in the wild west! My kids enjoyed that most of all. They cracked corny jokes that the kids thought were hysterical, gave lessons on why they needed to learn a special skill (sling shot) to survive in the wild west, and even threw my kids in jail, allowing them a narrow escape when the sheriff decided to take a nap. This was all just in the park while we were walking around. The show (which I will cover in more detail later) was made up of about five actors who kindly posed for pictures afterwards and chatted up the kids. They all spoke with a western “twang” in their voice which really added to the experience of the park.
This family amusement park is great for children 3-11 years of age and the rides are perfectly suited for them.
Runaway Mine Cars Roller Coaster is tame enough for a three year old, but really provides enough excitement for the older kids too. All of my kids (aged 3-8) loved it and wanted to go on again and again!
The Kid Powered Hand Cars are little cars that the kids move by pedaling with their hands around a track. My kids enjoyed them and even though the three year old couldn’t quite do it himself, they handed me a prod to help him around the track. He felt like he was doing it all by himself!
A ride on the Vintage Carousel was fun all and a great way to start our day! After paying admission inside, it is the first ride you see when you enter. The kids flocked to it immediately, and wanted it again, and again, and again!
Venture Canoeing is a really slow, but cute ride. Kids sit in a canoe and are pushed around a small water track by the flow of the water. Older kids might find it a little boring, but once again, my three enjoyed it just fine. It is a really tame ride, perfect for the little ones. Grown ups cannot go on this one though, so if you have a really little one, you may want to put them in a canoe with an older brother or sister, or skip it all together.
Pony Rides are always a hit with my horse loving children! They had three ponies take the kids around a small gravel track in a lovely shady area. When we arrived in the morning, the lines were not long at all, but when my kids wanted another pony ride at around 3pm, we waited a really long time for a really short pony ride. Overall, lots of fun and the staff running this ride were attentive, understanding of nervous children, and very patient and kind.
The Train Ride was a nice ride around the park in a train complete with a whistle! My little guy who loves trains was in heaven riding this and the girls enjoyed relaxing and seeing the park from the train as well.
Gold Panning is always fun for the kids and there is a big and little area for different sized kids!
The Cowboy Roping Lessons were a lot of fun and the instructor was so nice and patient with my little kids who did not have a clue as to what they should be doing.
Huck Finn’s Slingshot, Bow and Arrow Archery Range, Tomahawk Throw, and the Pop Gun Gallery were some games that my kids really wanted to play, but really only my oldest was coordinated to figure it out. It was still fun to watch though for the little ones.
The Petting Zoo was fun for the kids, but beware if you are holding a feed cup ($1). These goats are hungry. Although sweet and kind, they will jump on you for food. The woman working in there was nice, but didn’t seem to realize that goats jumping on children might frighten them. My children love animals so they weren’t scared or bothered by this, but if your little one tends to get nervous around animals , you may want to skip the petting zoo. If they do venture in, hand sanitizer is located nearby for your convenience on your way out!
Enjoy some free play time at the Kids Korral Playground. This little playground was a wonderful outlet for my three year old as he went happily running through each fun thing to the next. The playground is set up like an old fashioned wild west town complete with slides. The big kids found this to be a lot of fun too.
The Live Action Show was enjoyed by my whole family. Even my three year old sat there the entire time, completely attentive the whole time. The show is under 30 minutes and plays at noon, 2:00 and 4:30. If you are deciding whether or not to attend, you should know that it is based around an old west feud and gunfight, and the gunshots are very loud. My little guy didn’t even flinch, but a few babies started crying after the first one rang out. It is a very kid friendly show, with some adult humor that goes over the kids’ heads. I am not sure if every show is different, but the one that we saw was entertaining and fun for all.
The Crafty Cabin is a fun place to wind down and exercise your creative side. The cabin is run by Krafty Kidz and is stocked to the brim with fun, creative crafts perfect for all different ages. The crafts are an extra fee, but can be as little as $4. The cabin also offers glitter tattoos and face painting for an extra fee as well.
The Wild West Museum should definitely be part of your trip! Displays of western memorabilia, gold and silver mining tools, Civil War Memorabilia and an antique phonograph and music box display will get the kids thinking and really interest the adults in the party as well. An old fashioned street adds to the charm, with an old time movie theater showcasing old films all day.
Shops and Eats
After enjoying the rides and games, there are some fun shops that Wild West Town offers that should be part of your trip. You can saunter in to Clayton’s Saloon for a cold root beer or sasparilla soda. The kids will have fun pushing open the saloon doors (over and over again!). The Cowpoke Toy Store, Buffalo Outfitters Western Wear and Gift Shop are two places fun to saunter around in and pick up a fun souvenir. If you are looking for something tasty, the Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor offers soft serve ice cream, popcorn, pretzels, pizza and hot dogs. If you are in the mood to sit down and relax, the Old West Steakhouse offers some heartier fare including wraps and burgers for lunch, and ribs and chicken for dinner. The menu is large, and there is a kids menu. The decor inside is worth poking your head in to see even if you are not staying to eat! After lunch or dinner, head on over to the Fudge and Candy Shop for some delicious treats.
You can remember your visit by heading over to the Old West Photographer, where for $25 you and the family can have a photo taken of you in authentic western wear.
There is plenty to do at Donley’s Wild West Town for all to enjoy, but there are a few hidden gems, you definitely DO NOT want to miss!
When you go into the Museum, there is a fortune teller booth that appears to be a decoration, but if you slip a quarter into the slot, it really works. The crystal ball glows, the hands move, and out slips a card detailing your fortune. The kids absolutely LOVED that.
Nearby the fortune teller is a giant buffalo. Giant. Need I say more? I assure you it is not real, but the kids wanted to touch it and look at it non stop. One of the owners told us that they actually sell a few of the buffalo a year…even with the steep price tag of $5000! (My kids thought the fact that it was $5000 was very cool as well!)
The Museum is really filled with some amazing things. With three young children, we thought the time spent in there would be minimal, but we were very wrong. From displays of very vintage books and toys, to civil war memorabilia, the kids were transfixed by the history of it all. My favorite? The phonograph and music box displays! It was so amazing to see how beautiful they were back then.
The Jail was probably one of the highlights of the trip. The “Sheriff” threw my kids into jail and then told them if they wanted out, they needed to sing a song. They decided on Happy Birthday, but unfortunately that wasn’t good enough. Luckily he decided to take a nap which gave the opportunity for a quick and daring jailbreak by the kids. Saying it was exciting for them, doesn’t even do it justice. It was all they talked about during lunch! Better yet, for $8, you can actually have someone “arrested” in the park, and thrown in the slammer!
The covered wagon was a big hit with my kids too. You can climb on it and sit as if you were driving, or riding in the wagon. It is really big and very impressive to look at. A great place to stop and let the kids climb while the adults are looking at the map and making plans.
We arrived early on a Sunday and the crowds were very thin. Around lunchtime, the crowds started to get heavier. I would suggest, especially with little ones, to get there early to get on a few rides before the lines start.
The admission price is reasonable, as is lunch at the Steakhouse. Add those together though, and you have a little bit of a pricier day. I would suggest either eating before you come, or packing some food and eating in the grass surrounding the parking lot if you want to save some money. No outside food or drink is allowed in the park. The food at the restaurant is good though, and the service was great, so if you don’t mind the splurge, it is worth the extra money.
One thing you MUST know before you arrive is that this is a place true to the Wild West. You will see guns…a lot. The show is primarily centered around a gunfight. The movies playing in the old fashioned theater showcase guns and the museum displays center around guns. Although it is all comedic and kid friendly, the topic of misuse of guns is not taken lightly, as to our surprise, they spoke about gun safety before the show, and even had the kids promise that they would never, ever play with a gun. None of the gun stuff bothered us since it was all in old west fun, but it is something you should be aware of before you arrive.
…to visit Donley’s Wild West town this summer for a fun, different family day out! The park also offers birthday party packages that you can learn more about by calling 815-382-8491. Check out their website here, or “Like” their Facebook Page. You can sign up for special deals and coupons, and even get a newsletter, by checking out this link.
Enjoy your day with the family in the ole’ wild west!