122 Hours, 1100 Miles, Almost 7 Parks (Canada, Western NY)

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Lord Gonchar's avatar
This isn't going to be a superdetailed report (I don't think), more like a not-so-brief synopsis of our big "end of summer" trip.

Day 1 - Pittsburgh to Toronto

We got off to a late start and didn't hit the road until 8pm. We also stopped along the way for dinner which killed about an hour. It made things quicker for crossing the border into Canada (we were the only car in sight on the Queenston-Lewiston bridge) We ended up getting to the hotel in Toronto (Vaughan, actually) around 2am. The hotel was only 5 miles from Canada's Wonderland and we planned on getting to the park fairly early, so immediately to bed for everyone.

Day 2 - Canada's Wonderland

We got up and got going and were in the parking lot by 11:30am. The park opened at 10am and already the parking lot was jam packed full of cars. The crowds were just brutal and on top of this the weather gods teased rain on and off all day long.

In general we weren't too impressed with the park. I'm sure the crowds/weather didn't help the situation (between the sporadic weather messing with ride operations and long lines we rode two coasters and a handful of kiddie rides in 6+ hours), but the park seemed awfully dirty - especially the sit down eating areas - and operations (when not stopped by the rain) weren't exactly efficient. The park does have a good variety in their line-up of rides, but nothing outstanding in the way of coasters. I didn't even feel too miffed that I only hit Wild Beast (#198) and Taxi Jam (#199) out of their 13 coaster offerings. Lines spilled out of queues and onto the midways. With rides up and down all day due to the on again, off again rain and line being so long we kind of found ourselves circling the park not wanting to commit the time in line to the less than original coasters. Add to that being there with a 6 and 2 year old and what they can and cannot ride and we found ourselves in the kiddie areas and even there lines were as long as 30 minutes for simple kiddie flats.

A little frustrated, we decided to cut our losses and skipped out of the park and back to the hotel around 6pm. I'm sure PCW is a nice enough park, but under the circumstances we encountered it didn't exactly shine. I didn't even get pics of every coaster there over the course of the day :(

On an interesting note, we enthusiasts relentlessly bash the Zamperla flyer, but TR:TR had a line that extended out of the queue, down the midway and almost reached Top Gun for most of the day. There were tons of onlookers "oohing and ahhing" and people got off very excited about the ride. Just an eye opening experience of how the GP differs from more seasoned riders. I was surprised and intrigued, but wasn't waiting 70 minutes for a ride on the neckbanger.

We blew the evening with dinner, swimming with the kids in the hotel pool and a movie in our room.

Day 3 - Wild Water & Wheels and Niagara Falls

Were were up and ready to go by about noon the next day. We had two potential scenarios. Drive 90 miles north to Peterborough and check out one of only 2 remaining Bailey Auto Sled's in the world then backtrack all the way to the Falls or just head straight to the Falls and spend the day there. I was still a tad discouraged after yesterday's fiasco and wanted to be a big baby and skip the credit, but my wife's cooler head prevailed. We called ahead and asked in the coaster would be running and they told us (and I quote) - "Unless it pours down rain, which it is supposed to." I still pouted, but my wife got behind the wheel and deeper into Canada we drove. We stopped for lunch along the way and ended up pulling into WW&W a little after 2pm. WW&W is a low budget F.E.C. - they have two water slides way in the back, a large go-kart track, bumper boats, a cheesy mini-golf course, batting cages and the reason we were here - Pipeline Express.

We took our time waiting for someone to ride but no-one did. Finally we made our way to the ticket booth and found out the ride was open and it was $6 for 3 rides. Perfect! $6 would get myself, my wife and our daughter the unique ride. I wasn't sure what to expect. You had to climb a tall tower of stairs to the top of the lift like a water slide. There were three sleds on the lift. It looked to me like you got on at the top, took the ride and got off on the bottom. The sled would then be lifted to the top of the next rider. I turned out to be exactly right. I climbed the stairs and met a ride op at the top. The step up onto the sled was a simple cinder block. I climbed up and the ride op held the sled in places as I sat and fastened the seat belt. With a mighty push from the op, I was off. The ride was really unique. It was more than unnerving being up that high sitting on a sled. The ride lost speed quickly and really wasn't that thrilling beyong the fear of the sled, but it made for giggling, silly fun. My wife and daughter, still apprehensive after my ride, finally decided to ride. Speed really seemed determined by two things, the push the op gives and your weight. As we rode others decided to as well. I took pics and video and we watched people ride. In general, the bigger you are, the faster the ride. Pipeline Express now has the distinction of being my 200th coaster.

We left WW&W and headed for the Falls. We arrived before 7pm and checked into our room and immediately walked down to the Clifton Hill attractions. The whole strip screams tacky tourist trap, but taken for what it's worth could be silly fun with lots of pocket emptying "oddity" style attractions and themed stores and restaraunts. We made out way to the falls and stared at the water falling over the cliff for a few moments. Maybe we're just not sentimental enough about such things, but the allure of the falls remains a mystery to me. It's water falling over a big hill. Great! Now what? We stared at the water for a few minutes, I snagged a pic or two and off to eat we went. We chose the Rainforest Cafe, due to positive experiences at other locations in the past. This one was packed and the wait for a table was a little over 20 minutes. Service and the food sucked hard and it was clear that this place got by solely on location. Not reccommended. On top of that, I've never seen so many people amused by marginally animated jungle creatures. People lined up left and right to take photos (multiple photos even) of different combinations of family members in front of an elephant or gorilla who's eyes blinked in sync to prerecorded sound effects. Really weird. The to make it even better, we saw kids who were way to old not to know better climbing up on the figures and pulling at them and such. Just a really 'trashy' vibe in the place. We walked back to our room, peeking into various shops and attractions along the way.

I really hate the negative tone of the TR so far, but the Falls did nothing for me and with all due respect to people who've done it - I can't imagine for the life of me why anyone would make it a honeymoon destination. It was subpar as a family getaway as well. The only way I could see having real, serious fun there would be as a silly "big people" drunken party weekend trip. Whatever.

We were back to the hotel by 10pm-ish and while everyone slept, I enjoyed the endless barrage of exteneded commercials for "adult" party line numbers. Scantily clad babes showing off their assets while canned music played and phone numbers ran across the bottom of the screen amused me well into the night. What can I say? After 31 years on this planet I've totally accepted the fact that I'm an "ass man" :)

Day 4 - Marineland & Martin's Fantasy Island

We wanted to be at Marineland for thier 9am opening, but arrived a hair after 10am. The parking lot was empty as the sky was threatening rain yet again. We entered one of the most eerily empty parks I've ever been to and made our way to Dragon Mountain. Things were just getting going and we were glad we didn't arrive earlier. We walked-on to a solo front seat ride on Dragon Mountain (#201) - again we found not a world class ride, but a unique and "silly fun" one. Kind of slow and meandering with a mid-course brake that almost completely stops you before the dive into the tunnel. I'd bet this ride 'wowed' a few people back in it's day and had they completed the planned theme, this could've been one that people would have talked about. But time and budget makes this little more than an interesting look into our coaster history. Still worth a couple of rides, just for the "uniquely fun" factor.

From there we just explored the park as people kept coming and the park slowly filled. The setup was odd. Tons of space with things spread WAY apart. We literally did every ride (kiddie and adult), I credit whored with the kids on their Tivoli coaster scoring credit 202 for me, #111 for my 6 year old daughter and #7 for my two year old son. We saw all the aquariums and even saw the main show and were out of there by 10 after 3 - right on schedule.

We crossed back to the US and the skies almost immediately cleared (not by coincidence, I'm convinced) and grabbed a quick bite at McDonald's to blow time before Martin's 5pm special kicked in.

At Martin's we got the best spot in the parking lot right in front of the gate (yay us!) and headed in. Martin's was a pleasant surprise falling somewhere between a Conneaut or Waldameer and Kennywood in size and line-up. A 'classic' feeling park in every sense, not a half-day park like Conneaut or Waldameer but not a full day park like Kennywood or Knoebels. We were able to do everything we wanted (and more) on an uncrowded 3 1/2 hour evening, but I can see how you could stay longer and no feel bored. A nice "inbetween" park.

It was here that we ran into the surprise coaster of the trip - Silver Comet (#203). This thing rocked. Solid speed, smooth as silk, nice pops of air, strong laterals, well maintained. Exactly what a 5 year old CCI should be. You guys in Buffalo are lucky to have a really good woodie in your backyard. We also took the easy credit on Wildcat (#204) and did a bunch of kiddie rides and got multiple laps on Silver Comet, of course. We left with a smile, drove to our hotel in Buffalo and settled in crashing early content in our first really good day of the trip.

Day 5 - Six Flags Darien Lake

We drove the 20 miles from our room to SFDL stopping at Wegman's briefly along the way to score tickets at more than $10 off the gate price and again the skies threatened rain all day with multiple teasings of sprinkles, but never a real downpour. I'm guessing the crowd was moderate for this park. The lot certainly would have held many more cars, but there were plenty of people inside. Overall SFDL didn't disappoint, but there wasn't anything outstanding about the park (maybe S:ROS, maybe). Predator was closed for the day, but employees were friendly, ops adequate and rides running 2 trains in most cases.

We did a lot at SFDL - coasters, flats, kiddies, games, the whole shebang.

S:ROS (#205) - the least thrilling of the three S:ROS coasters to me and while a mirrored clone of SFA's, it didn't seem to be delivering like SFA's did. Still a wonderful ride that any park would benefit from having and probably a 'top 20' experience, but not up to snuff with it's near twin in D.C. The best part was 2 or 3 train waits all day despite decent attendance in the park.

Viper (#206) - My daughter and I tend to enjoy old arrow multi-loopers. Again, taken in context (20 year old looks into the cutting edge of coaster history) these are solid rides. I rarely get the rough ride or banging that many complain about (maybe it's a side benfit of my Togo tolerance gene in play?) - this one seemed unusually smooth for an Arrow of its age and it's layout was (I hate to keep using this word, but...) unique. I can really see how this drew large crowds in the early 80's and even now it's a solid ride. We walked onto this one twice.

Boomerang (#207) - I like boomerangs too. Same as above, I don't find them very rough at all and they can be quite intense. The bonus here was that it would be my daughter's first boomerang. The ride went down just as we got near it and we decided to wait a few moments while empty test trains ran. We moved over the water and I snapped a few pics of Predator's layout. Finally I said, lets walk back by it (boomerang) and if it doesn't reopen by the time we get away from it, we'll come back. Right as we got near the queue entrance, a ride op came down and removed the chain blocking entry - we were the third people in and walked right on. I opted for the back seat for the inital drop and knowing it's illict a screm from my little princess. I wasn't disappointed on any count. She's still giving me hell for choosing a back seat :)

My daughter scored an extra credit here with Brain Teaser (no adults) and it's funny watching kids ride. She paired up with another little girl riding solo anfd as the train circled multiple times I caught them having casual conversation and pointing to Viper. When I was 6, Jr. Gemini almost made me cry and here she and another little girl are riding Brain Teaser and blowing it off like nothing. Amazing!

I skipped Mind Eraser. I tend to only get the SLC credits when I don't have to stand in line alone. With two kids unable to ride and my wife needing to stay with them (and vice versa) we just passed on that one.

We left the park around 7pm and made our way to the hotel in Rochester. We decided to stay in and order chinese, lounge around the TV, and take advantage of the free high speed to do some things.

Day 6 - Seabreeze & Midway Park (almost)

The plan for today was get to Seabreeze for noon opening, spend 3 hours than head home hitting Midway Park along the way, just because it was only 13 miles off of our route.

We made it to Seabreeze right on time and found yet another wonderful little park with an outstanding setting. Amazing lake views. We went in and immediately split up with my wife and son doing kiddie rides and my daughter and I coaster whoring.

Jack Rabbit (#208) - An old, tame woodie. Nothing about this one really came off better than average. Not bad. What can I say? No real pops of air, speed or laterals. Just an average ride.

I let my daughter hop on Bear Trax while I skipped the kidie credit in lieu of some photo taking. Bear Trax did have a great little layout and she procalimed it one of the best kiddie's she's ever been on.

We cut across the park and got in the excruciatingly slow moving line for Bobsleds (#209). Here comes that word again - unique. Nothing special here beyond the "this is silly" giggling, but I could pass up a ride.

Whirlwind (#210) - All I'm going to say is if you've made the trip to Waldameer to ride a Maurer Sohne Xtended SC 2000, then you still have no idea what this ride is about. Waldameer's is a mere shell of the craziness Seabreeze delivers with theirs. How is that possible? My theory is that (not unlike wild mouse coasters) some can be overbraked taking the very fun out of the ride. I thought Waldameer's was fun, but not worth the drive from Pittsburgh. Now in hindsight, the brakes hit hard - very hard - compared to how Seabreeze ran theirs. Is this possble? Whirlwind was faster, spun more (and faster) and was in general a much more intnse ride than Steel Dragon even hinted was possible. On top of this Seabreeze ran more trains and pumped them out like madmen - a full queue was little more than a 5 minute wait. This ride impressed me. Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I see why I left Waldameer feeling so "eh" about the spinning coaster. I think just like Wild Mouse coasters, the way these are run can make or break the ride. (think Dorney's mouse vs Hershey's then multiply by 2)

We met back with my wife and son, did a few other ride, grabbed some eats and were out of the park a little later than planned - 3:30. No biggie except that the stop at Midway (open until 7pm "weather and attendance permitting") was tight as planned and this half hour just might make or break that stop.

We hit I-90 to find annoyingly typical Saturday drivers who feel that 65 is adequate for riding in the fast lane. Gigantic mile long lines at toll booths put more nails into the coffin for the quick stop.

As we got closer and closer to exit 60 it became more apparent to me that it wasn't viable. Again, my much sunnier wife held hope. We arrived at exit 60 as the clock read 6:05 - I said skip it but she took the exit. The directions seemed simple enough (394 to 430 to the park) and we'd NEVER had a problem finding any park ever in the 4 years we've been doing this coaster trip thing...

...there's a first time for everything.

We got on 394 and drove through what seemed to be a picture perfect town. So perfect that I'm conviced Maple Springs has some sort of "Stepford Wives" / "Children Of The Corn" thing going on. There was tons of road construction reducing the already small roads to one lane in many places. We found the lake and knew we needed to turn left and circle it on 430, but never saw a sign making any raod as route 430. Already rushing with time restraints, we kind of flaked and just kept going straight - the long way around the lake. By the time we reached the other side (does anyone in the area drive faster than 30mph? Are they as annoyed by one lane roads as I?) we had blown a full half hour. I saw no reason to continue as we noticed signs for I-86 and a way out of "Creepily-perfect-ville" - so we took the righ turn and headed away, rather than towards the park giving up in our first amusement park "loss".

We stopped in Erie for a bathroom break/dinner and made it home before 10pm. 122 hours after we left, two countries, six parks and many credits later.

Overall a very odd vibe about the trip. It started off bad, got really good, then ended on one single downer. The surprise of the trip was easily Martin's Silver Comet (with Whirlwind's performance being a distant second) and the biggest disappointment of the trip was PCW in general. Certainly not the greatest coaster trip we've ever done, but still fun overall and I like just geting to new places in the world so that was a plus.

I don't see us heading that way again for a long time unless something major goes up at one of those parks (and IJ:ST doesn't count, PKI has it covered too). However, if I livd in the area I certainly couldn't feel disappointed by my park choices. All had something to offer.

And just for the credit whoring out there, that puts me at 210, my daughter at 120 (at age 6!) and my little man at 7 (not bad for a 2 year old :) ) - and we passed on quite a few along the way...

...maybe I'm not the credit whore I think I am?

*** Edited 8/22/2004 6:13:47 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Ride of Steel's avatar
SFDL's boomerang is one of the best out there, very smooth, very very smooth, its a blast.

Good to hear that seabreeze is doing well with that coaster.

Great TR, since you were ner Toronto, you soulda made the small trip to La Ronde. Glad you enjoyed it tho.
DawgByte II's avatar
SMALL trip to La Ronde? La Ronde is in Montreal... that isn't a small trip man. It's long enough to get to Ottawa, it's like a whooole day trip to get to Montreal.

Anyway, about your TR...

I'm kind of disappointed you had such a crappy Canadian trip. I live in the WNY area, and usually the experience for me is the exact opposite.

Wonderland is usually a really great park. When I went, it was very clean & friendly. All the rides were running with full effencicy except Sledge Hammer, which was still rather new & broke down twice. The park is very crowded because it's the only game in town. They've really got no close competition, and when you're catering a city of 4 million + another city near by of over 1 million... well, you do the math!
When a park leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you're reluctant to return, and that's ashame because Wonderland really is a great park.

Wild Water Wheels... the only other 'Buzzer I know of now, that has visited that Family Entertainment Center!!!!! W00T! I went there a couple times when I camped up at one of the near-by fishing lakes. The Go-Kart track is FAST & long... over a mile long (you pay per lap)... but it's basically the only game in the whole area of Peterburough... and advertised quite a bit... but nothing has been added for YEARS at the FEC. They could use a nice arcade & indoor climbing wall... possibly a Laser Tron!

As for Niagara Falls, Ontario... well... tackiness sells... BIG time. The Clifton Hill area has changed so much over the course of the past 10yrs. The ride, the giant arcade, oversized statues, haunted houses... everything.
But you know what? People like it... no wait... people LOVE it. You want something more gentle & nature-like, then check out the USA side... but you may be a little lonely, because the number of tourists on the USA side are about 1/50th (literally) of the tourists on the Canadian side.
Did you look at the Marvel Superheros indoor arena? There are some nice rides in there that you & your family would like (it was located right next to the Rainforest Cafe). They got a Spiderman dark ride (kinda like the Scooby Doo dark ride at PCW), a Hulk walk-thru, X-Men bumper cars, and some other goofy ride.
If you're ever there on a Friday or Saturday night... you'll learn the new definition of a crowded street!

As for why anyone would choose the Falls as the Honeymoon Capital... well, the Falls in & of themselves is memorizing. The sheer amount of water falling is what's facinating. Size? No... but quantity... AND to think that it's only HALF of what really should flow over the water (water flow is controlled to prevent erosion). It's majestic & beauty is what brings newlyweds to the falls... Not to mention the bazillion & 1 things to do which can't be done in 1 day... including:
The casinos, the tacky (but fun fun fun) museums & rides, the gorge which has a spanish aerocar, jetboat tour, biking & the town of Niagara On The Lake + many more things. If you had longer to really spend there, I'm sure your stay would have been more enjoyable.

Glad you liked the New York parks, though... but now you might get why we ***** about how SFDL is just losing attendance. No matter what day you went, whether be sunny, cloudy, rainy, weekday or weekend... that's about the typical crowd you see... and back in 1998 & 1999, the parking lot was almost ALWAYS full where they had to fill most of the overflow parking lot (near where the employees park). Now, it may look like a decent crowd in the park... but if you see the lot half empty, that shows you how much attendance they have dropped in the past 5yrs for not adding any major attractions.

Oh, although I haven't ridden the Superman at Six Flags America... I don't see how you can find the one there more exciting than this one. Theirs wasn't really custom made for the park, so as much as the one for Darien Lake. Our superman was made for the park. It was purposely set to go over the water like it is for a more scenic thrill. Maybe theirs is smoother or redder than ours?

Hope the whole Canadian part of the trip didn't leave a bad taste in your mouth... Canada isn't as bad as you think! Id much rather visit all in Canada than the USA (I just hate customs!)

Lord Gonchar's avatar
No, that sounds more negative than it really was. It was a weird trip. We had fun, but a lot of things were just 'off' like that. Definitely not typical.

We did check out the Marvel Superheros thing while waiting for our table at RC. Looked cool. Still more of a "check it out" on a whole in Niagara Falls than a full fledged stop.

Not sure what the deal with the S:ROS's was. SFDL's is definitely prettier, but it just didn't deliver like SFA's. Specifically the third hill. I still call the third hill on S:ROS at SFA the single greatest airtime hill on any coaster I've ridden. I was expecting a repeat, but it wasn't there. It was the same ride (with left turns instead of right :) ) but everything seemed "less". Again, just weird par for the course.

As far as SFDL, I don't really think they need to add anything. It was my 7th SF park and I'd put it on the higher end of the list in comparison to the others. It's a nice park with a great size for the area. The thing is, while the coasters were short waits, nothing else was. My honest reccommendation for future growth (like I'm a friggin' expert) would be to go all 'Paramount' with the park and focus more on top notch family attractions. I don't think their market is "thrills" as evidenced by the lack of coaster interest. I also think that's why attendance may be down - two nearby parks (Martin's and Seabreeze) have that classic family thing covered pretty well. SFDL needs to do the 'big time' family thing.

And yes, I was surprised by the lack of an Arcade (of any size) at WW&W. The whole experience there was cool though. That's a crazy coaster! I was also taken a bit with how much the 'rural' areas between Toronto and Peterborough look strikingly similar to the rural areas in Western PA and Eastern OH - just nicer ;)

No bad taste on Canada parks, just nothing to really draw me back over other places.

I have a feeling this is going to be a record-breaking attendance year for PCW. After the reported 8% decrease last year, they've been really aggressively advertising the park. Combine that with the lowest ticket and season pass prices in years and a new "fancy" flying coaster, and I think that explains the crowds you saw. Lines that were always in the station have been literally doubling in size this year.

However, capacity wise, the park is just not prepared for the crowds. Installing a Zamperla Volare at a park that gets over 3 million visitors annually is just pure lunacy in my mind. I never thought I would see the day where there was an hour line at PCW. Now, its not uncommon for TR:TR to get a 90 minute wait.

To be perfectly frank, for a park it's size and attendance draw, Wonderland probably has the weakest (all right, crappiest ;)) roller coaster collection out there. While having beautiful landscaping, being meticulously clean (in my experiences) and a couple great flats are nice - it’s really about time for PCW to step up and get at least a Top 50 roller coaster. The woodies used to be great – but even those have been butchered recently.

As for Marineland, well… that’s just one of the most bizarre parks out there. I can’t even begin to justify that zaniness.

Andrew "Yeah - Italian Job!!" Siebert

I was very young when I visited the Falls, but I remember some fun/interesting things about it. The Maid of the Mist boat were you donned raincoats and went under the Falls, the cable car lifts (like in Pittsburgh) that went down the side of the hill, and the museum that featured many of the barrels that people have used to go over the Falls. Would I enjoy it as much in my 30's? Who knows.

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