I love amusement parks. Well, duh, you might say, but hear me out. My affinity goes past what we find and enjoy in roller coasters. My foremost interest is in the park itself- the atmosphere, the decor, and all the different rides. I dare say I’d be happy visiting an amusement park even if they didn’t have a roller coaster.
And a subset that I particularly enjoy is what’s known as the “traditional” park. I mean, theme parks are dandy but traditional parks hold a certain attraction for me. Perhaps it’s my age and the fact that when I first started that’s all we had to visit. And the best parks are full of charm- pretty to look at but with a certain quirkiness in the types of attractions and architecture. A good one will keep things modern but leave a careful eye towards it’s and the industry’s history.
So a few years ago, in taking stock of my lifelong hobby, I made a list of parks that I’ve yet to visit. A bucket list. And in the meantime I’ve managed to visit a few of those but Utah’s Lagoon kept rising to the top of the list of unanswered calls. And maybe rightly so- I’ve never had a reason on earth to visit Salt Lake City. I’m not Mormon and I don’t ski. It seems so remote. Other travel hobbies that we have, those that have led me to visit parks along the way, don’t exist there. So in light of the fact that I made it through the pandemic relatively unscathed I decided to count my blessings, seize the opportunity, and schedule a trip to what many have called the definitive traditional park.
I chose the last week of their daily operating schedule thinking school would be heading back and crowds might be lessened. I’ve heard it can be busy there and they haven’t implemented a pay to cut option. I also chose to visit on two consecutive days, mainly in case something should go wrong but mostly because I knew I’d be grooving and would welcome as much time as I could get there. After all, when will I ever go back?
So I flew to SLC on Tuesday August 17 to fly back Friday the 20th. Visibility in Salt Lake was terrible and there was an acrid smell in the air. I was reminded that there were fires out west in the midst of a terrible drought and there was one threatening the metro area, somewhere in the mountains. I was sure Salt Lake’s skyline and surrounding scenery were beautiful but I couldn’t see them. Ugh. But I called my hotel in Farmington (across the street from Lagoon) and my room would not be ready til late in the day so into the city I went.
After a driving tour of their awesome downtown city center, including the state capitol and Temple Square, I started to feel hungry. “Wait”, I thought. “I’m out west. Do you suppose Utah is an In-n-Out state?” It is. I followed Waze to a nice suburban mall where the famed smash burger resides in a brand new out building. I was so excited to lose my In-n-Out virginity. A double double monster style, a pile of fries, and a chocolate shake seemed in order and I wasn’t disappointed. I bought the shirt. And I realized for the first (not the last) time how nice the people of Salt Lake are.
Finally it was late afternoon and I was exhausted. (Travel and time change don’t agree with me) so I drove the 30-40 minute drive north to Farmington and crashed. Only after watching from the hotel the Cannibal coaster take 40 or so dives to the ground then flip through its course. I got very excited for the next two days.
The next morning I awoke to a sound outside my window. When I parted the curtains I was met with a view of a torrential downpour and no view whatsoever of Lagoon. I checked the weather and it seemed I was in for an all day rain, at least a 60% chance. Next day too. It was also 55 degrees. I had breakfast and commiserated with the desk staff who were happy to finally see some rain after a summer without- they really needed it. But f my luck, right? To choose the only two days of rain all summer.
I was armed only with shorts and t shirts so I drove over to the mall across the freeway and bought a hideous jacket at Ross. It was all I could find in any store. It was still raining. I went back to my room, bundled up, and went down for a shuttle ride in the rain.
I walked into the park around 11a, a full hour after they opened. But it was ok- there was scarcely a car in the lot and I felt like an idiot. Rain was lighter and looked like it would stop so I went straight for one of my must-haves.
I’ll start by saying I’ve been on my fair share of 4-across, three row steel coasters. And some are better than others, but most strike me as a medium-high thrill, economical option for smaller parks to install. Cannibal looked taller and more involved than most, especially with it’s 208 foot tall elevator lift and 116 degree past-vertical drop. Oh Lordt. After stopping to snap picks of utterly charming park scenes and some confusement as to where the ride’s entrance was, I found myself walking onto a front row seat. A single lap bar left me feeling especially unnerved and my heart was pounding. The elevator lift is straight up, quite swift, and is pitch dark. After an abrupt airtime stop and a curtain door, the slow roll out to the hang-time drop had me gripping on for dear life. And the beyond vertical drop was soooo long I thought my butt would never return to the seat. The rest of then ride was smooth as velvet. Another outstanding feature was a slow roll. Two, actually, as it reversed directions after *almost* completing the first one. Which was only slightly excruciating….
When we returned to the station I breathed a genuine sigh of relief. As we stacked for unload I took a good look at the trains. They are so sturdy and heavy looking. Much more so that anything I’ve encountered. Then it occurred to me. Cannibal was an in-house project. Designed and built by the park themselves. Then I remembered they took their good old sweet time completing it. 3 or 4 seasons went by and the ride was shrouded in mystery.
So I’m about to count Cannibal as one of the most thrilling steel rides I’ve ever taken. It was just right in the surprise thrill department and I wish every park had something as good. Which maybe they would if it wasn’t totally homemade. So my soaked hat was off to Lagoon for the experience. I rode it again right away and 4 maybe 5 times throughout the day. It was that good.
By this time the rain had all but stopped (momentarily) so I took in a few of the flats that were open at that end of the park.) They have a decent S&S tower called Rocket (Blast Off tower and Re-entry tower if I recall) and I rode the only choice that day, the blast up side. They have a large Zamperla Air Race ride that I was anxious to try so I did that. And as I walked I passed several closed coasters. It was raining again.
Lagoon is known as a sanctuary for old, forgotten Schwarzkopf roller coasters. They still operate a Jet Star 2 and a portable Double Looping (think Dorney’s Lazer) both of which may be the last of their kind anywhere. In talking with the head maintenance man there I was glad to find out that the park knows what they have and will do their best to maintain those rides for many years to come. The looper was described to me as a work horse and ran 2 trains all day even in downpours. The other ride is it’s frail little sister, however, and he said if someone drops a bottle of water on the midway the ride closes. An exaggeration, but I was told under no circumstances would the ride operate that day. It was too wet and takes a day to dry out, it’s that delicate. So it looked like I was going to miss at least one of the coasters there, and the one that’s the rarest. Dammit. I rode Colossus (the looper) and felt like it was the 70’a again. I had forgotten about the extreme forces those rides can carry, I had a blast in that straight upright chair protected by a single lap bar. What a great ride.
As the day droned on I dodged more rain, some heavy, and logged 20,000 steps. Not that Lagoon is all that large, but because I went from ride to ride checking and re-checking for availability.
Another ride of note at Lagoon is Roller Coaster, their only wooden coaster that happens to be celebrating its 100th birthday this season. It’s a rare John Miller ride that opened in 1921. It was remodeled after a fire in the 50’s and then refurbished again recently- stripped of it's white paint (For years it went by the name White Roller Coaster, lol) and redone with a natural wood sealer. It also traded its 1955 PTC trains for Millenium Flyers which I was kind of mad at. (I think the PTCs were bench with lap bars). Anyway, the ride was fun, just rough and tumble enough, and has a double out and back oval course. I rode it several times and enjoyed it. Nothing to blow you away, but historic for sure. And kids seem to love it.
Other coasters I snagged for my list was Spider, a Maurer spinner, and Wild Mouse, also by Maurer Rides. Wild Mouse waited for a dry spell and after much testing finally opened. It was ultra fast, had little to no trims, and about killed my fat ass. Just excruciating, and everyone I talked to said so. Never again.
An addition for 2007 (has it really been that long?), it’s a custom Zierer launch/looper. It felt a little rough throughout but had a great initial launch, including the vertical top hat element. Vertical lifts give me the heebie jeebies as it is, this one was unnerving. I’ll also note that Wicked is only one of two rides that offers booster seats so small children can ride. Um… what? I saw them in action, they bring it over and it locks to the regular seat and they strap the kid in. This, mind you, is not what I’d consider to be a family ride, but there ya go. (Maintenance Man: “Well, we wanted to be able to include the little ones…”) Lagoon is so freaking quirky.
To round out the list let’s add The Bat, a typical family suspended Intamin, and Bombora, a delightful surf themed family coaster also an in-house project. ART Engineering of Germany is listed on RCDB in association with Bombora and Cannibal. Also with the new project which is a large coaster that will travel through a mountain. It sits in a parking lot but will be connected to the park by a new midway. And it will be finished in a year, maybe two. Maybe three. Because Lagoon takes it’s sweet old time and doesn’t care.
I think that’s it. Lagoon has a wide variety of flats, but only the majors were operating on that rainy day. They are all exquisitely maintained, old and new, and the art direction they’ve taken throughout the park is nothing short of fantastic. Everything a traditional, family-owned park should be with cute and sometimes beautiful touches everywhere. Lots of trees and flowers, and ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Oh, two more things- they have two traditional dark rides. One is Dracula’s Castle (“It’ll Scare the YELL Out of You!”) and Terroride, the better of the two (by far). I rode that ride over and over, mainly to get out of the rain but out of enjoyment too.
We’ve already talked about the Sky Ride…
I recommend Lagoon without hesitation. Clean, beautiful, fun.
So that’s all I can think of for now.
Are you wondering what RCMAC did on his second day in SLC? Did it pour rain? Did he go back to the park?
Tune in tomorrow for more bucket list goodness.
Thanks for reading this lengthy report. I’ll be taking questions and conments, lol.
I don’t go to parks like I used to…but Lagoon remains one of my favorites. I’ve been there twice in the last 3 years due to work related trips.
Colossus is the unsung hero in their lineup in my opinion…
If they ever decide to put a midsize twisting woodie back there by the water rides…I dare say it would be the perfect park…
Thank You for the review.
“Typical family suspended Intamin”?
Excuse me, Shane, I meant Vekoma. It’s one of those.
I won’t correct it, but instead let my error remain for the keenest eyes to find.
Great report! Lagoon is one of the few US parks I haven't got to - and it's near the top of my list (behind Playland in Vancouver). I've never heard anything but stellar things about Lagoon. Like you, the whole experience has gotten more important to me. Flumes, dark rides and sky rides are just as hot as coasters.
I'm overjoyed to hear they know the awesomeness of their Schwarzkopf coasters. Jet Star 2 is similar to Whizzer at my home park (a jumbo and super-extended Jet Star, if you will) and it also doesn't run in the rain. They use tires to drive and brake the trains in the station, so wet tire brakes are a no-no! Luckily, Six Flags Great America is different from other Six Flags parks, and treats Whizzer with kid gloves, down to the perfectly upholstered green padding.
One of my favorite geeky details I've heard in a long time: "I had a blast in that straight upright chair..." Yes! Those trains were designed like that for a reason, including the flat-ish slippy seats to enable the littlest of lateral slide, providing some thrill of a classic no-seat divider woodie. Those days are gone for Mind Bender at Six Flags Over Georgia with it's awkward new "reclined/buckey-y" train shells (same as Revolution at SF Magic Mountain). If you like the classic feel of a Schwarzkopf, ride Shock Wave at SF Over Texas while you can.
Loved your details on Cannibal. To hear that what looks like a standard Gerstlauer flip flap actually runs smooth, so nice! After riding the new one at Knotts, the lift and tip over are good, the rest a shaky-vibration mess. Lagoon sure must know what they are doing.
I love hearing great reviews of parks I have on a bucket-list in the back of my head (is 44 too young to have a bucket list?), and this is that.
"I’m not Mormon and I don’t ski."
Sounds like a great pick-up line...
Promoter of fog.
Having been to both now, I’d definitely switch Lagoon and Playland on that bucket list. Playland was ok, reminiscent more of a state fair midway (which is what it is…)
The Coaster was just ok as well, and I guess I’ll say it left me disappointed- I was so looking forward to it and most of the ride was pretty rough. Those vintage trains almost saved it for me. I enjoyed the one at Puyallup more.
I’m a big fan of Anton as well. On a fan page somewhere last week there was a video of Big Bend, a ride I’d been curious about my whole life. I count myself lucky to have ridden Zinger and Whizzer, but I reckoned Big Bend would have to live as someone else’s memory. I’m glad I got to see a POV- that ride was more involved than I ever dreamed.
I remember back to the 70’s when you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Schwartzkopf ride. Jet Stars seemed plentiful, one summer I worked next door to a Jumbo Jet, and the Looping Star rides and their various configurations were common too. I still count Mindbender and Shockwave as some of my favorite steel rides ever.
So I was just as pleased to have gotten the opportunity to ride at least one of those antiques at Lagoon.
^Indeed! Along with Schwarzkopf coasters everywhere, flumes and skyrides too - now, not many. I'd better cut loose that Six Flags pass and save up for Lagoon!
PS - I was also lucky to ride Zambezi Zinger on a few occasions. I always called it Whizzer's rowdy little brother. Air time in those trains, ahhh...
I was going to give the Zambezi Zinger a shout-out. It lives on in Colombia, you know. I rode Whizzer a few years ago, and my memory of the Zinger is that it was considerably wilder. But that could be nostalgia at work.
Don't forget SooperDooperLooper - I think it's still running original trains.
^Zambezi Zinger was definitely wilder! It still has a lot of Jumbo Jet style steeper drops in it. sooperdooperLooper is on it's 3rd set of trains; this set is built by Gerstlauer. The 2nd set was also built by Gersltlauer, but this new set is slightly different. Still, much better than the cruddy-feeling shells/seats SF has put on Revolution and Mind Bender.
Don't forget SooperDooperLooper - I think it's still running original trains.
Somebody (Gerstlauer? Premier?) manufactured new trains for SDL a while ago. But they are true to the originals, as far as I remember
I think the trains were replaced twice; by Giovanola in 1989 and by Gersltlauer in 2012. But yeah I agree they sure felt like Schwartzkopf trains
But then again, what do I know?
I know SDL is far from the most intense Schwarzkopf out there, I've referred to it as Revolution Lite, and to me it's always been more reminiscent of a mine train with a vertical loop than anything else, especially with the tunnel and final helix. But Hershey has always seemed to take excellent care of it, and even though the trains are no longer original, they have commissioned trains to keep the ride experience virtually unchanged.
Great report. I, too, am a Schwarzkopf fan; I'd rather ride one of his creations than a B&M coaster any day. Yes, you read that right. If SFOT ever puts new trains on Shockwave I will be disgusted. That is my favorite steel coaster partially because of those trains.
The Gerstlauer trains on SDL are really nice and look and feel very similar to the originals. It wouldn't be a travesty if Shockwave got those as replacements.
^That would be great, depsite the slightly more bucketed seat (still much better than what SF put on Mind Bender). Those sdL trains sure are purty! I believe those were built by Gerstlauer, which was in a big legal mess with SF after the Texas Giant death in 2011; not sure they will work together again.
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