La Ronde, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
So once again we find ourselves on the annual trip to our club's country and western dance convention, and this year's host city is beautiful Montreal, Canada. I'm not much of a dancer anymore, my age seems to be a factor as well as a general lack of interest, but I enjoy traveling with a group of great friends and reuniting with those that come from far and wide across North America and parts of Europe.
These trips over the years (decades?) have given me the wonderful opportunity to visit cities I might not have otherwise, and of utmost importance, seek out the amusement park(s) nearby. Only once did I come up empty-handed, and that was a post-Katrina visit to New Orleans. The skeletal remains of Six Flags were visible from the freeway, which made me sad, but fortunately NOLA had enough going on otherwise that I was quite able to 'drown' my sorrows. (We're a drinking club with a dancing problem...)
So this year's excursion led me to LaRonde, Six Flag's only Canadian park. This was not my first visit to the park, as Montreal is hosting us for the second time, but it's been since 2003. So I only had a few things in mind for this visit. One was to see what improvements and additions had been made, another was to see what I might be able to bust out ride-wise in the limited time I had, and the last was to add Goliath to my list. I wasn't as concerned over the other new-since-2003 ride, Ednör- l'Attaque, as I had ridden it when it was at Houston's Astroworld. So this report will not be the blow by blow, ride by ride including wait-times report, but my general impressions and finally an admonition for you all.
Montreal has a good public transportation system so the trip to the park was easy. From Le Centre Sheraton it was only a 6 or 7 stop Metro ride then a free shuttle bus from the station to the park. The park itself is situated on the northern tip of St. Helen's Island, was originally the amusement zone for Expo67 Montreal, and continued on as a city-owned amusement park until May 4th 2001 when it was purchased by Six Flags. To this day the park is known as LaRonde: un parc Six Flags. The usual characters and branding don't appear like most of the Six Flags we know in the states.
Alighting from the bus my heart sank a little. I was there probably 45 to 1/2 hr before the park's 11A opening and there was already a huge crowd at the gate, which continued to grow with each new bus load. (public transportation seems like the most popular way to LaRonde, and their parking lot isn't huge) The good news was that they had set up an outdoor queue area for us to get in to wait, and once the gates opened the crowd filed their way in quickly and orderly. There were lots of turnstiles and the bag checks and ticket scanning was fast and efficient.
The park's layout is a crescent shape, surrounding a medium sized lake. I think the ideal situation simply for navigation's sake would be for them to connect all the way around, but that would mean having to move a road and their fireworks stage. Each June and July LaRonde hosts an international fireworks competition on Wednesdays and Saturdays and its wildly popular. Fireworks are set off from the distant side of the lake and on the park side is a huge grandstand for spectators. I had every intention of heading straight back to Goliath, but stopped first instead at Toboggan Nordique, a small but extremely fun Wild Mouse. I wanted to catch that low-throughput ride before the line got long. I also wanted to catch Monstre with it's PTC trains,(they ran with Morgans for years), but after a quick stop to observe their new-ish Aqua Twist, went there to find the fraternal twin coasters down with no sign of it opening. So then and there I decided to quit stressing over trying to get as many rides as possible on things I'd already tried, and just relax and enjoy myself. Or try.
Sadly, and a lot like last time, LaRonde was a very disappointing park. Some of the structures seem left over from the Expo, and that would be fine if it they were well maintained and put to good use. In fact, a lot of it was interesting and kind of quirky, but was left to rot some time ago. Some of the newer coasters and flats were pretty, but some were rusty and overgrown with weeds as well. The one-station monorail that encircles the park must've been an original from the 60's. The supports were wooden and surrounded by weeds. The rail was rusty and the little trains were wrapped in old advertisements and had plastic canvas roofs. Laying behind Goliath's queue was an abandoned train. Just awful, and such an easy fix. The absolute worst thing was their old Von Roll sky tower, which I'm assuming is an original as well. It's orange, which I guess has something to do with the enormous Pizza Pizza sponsorship ad painted on the side of it. But the spiral entrance/exit ramp was in need of repair, was rusty as hell, and the paint literally chipped off in huge chunks when I touched it. Abandoned buildings that looked like they used to be theaters or pavilions dotted that area of the park as well.
About Goliath. It was the highlight of this visit, and is an awesome ride. It's the perfect little B&M hyper- not the tallest or the fastest, but hilly, smooth, and fast. It delivers a ton of airtime and has a high, flat turnaround that was unexpectedly thrilling. One curious thing is that it looks like it should be called Superman. The color scheme is the exact red, blue, and yellow and the only thing missing is a large S across the nose of the train. Maybe it was originally intended for someplace else...
The park also has a B:TR clone with appropriate colors, but it's called Le Vampire. The five or six other steel coasters all looked like they were moved to LaRonde from another park and many of them were. Most if not all of them are in dire need of paint. The park used to have a collection of really unusual flats, like Ovni, Seesturmbahn, and Papillon, but since 2003 they've all been removed. There was a dark ride thats gone now. The carousel is old and beautiful but could use a careful touchup.
Ok, sorry. I could go on and on about this crappy park, but I think I'll stop with these last comments. I had a pretty good time, and the staff was friendly and efficient, all bi-lingual. The rides I chose to wait for were good in spite of their appearance. But several locals have told me that the park has gotten quite rundown since it's acquisition into the Six Flags family, and I can see it's true.
Oh, I almost forgot about my promised admonition, and this is directed (in part) to those unhappy CedarFair fanboys. Quit complaining. Seriously, stop. As fortunate as I am to have visited many parks across North America, I find I'm luckiest at home. The good people of cities like Denver, Buffalo, Vancouver, and Montreal are packing into parks that most of us would consider sub-par. Those of us with the nicer Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks near us should quit griping, head over there right now to kiss the pavement, and be grateful for what we have. I can tell you from experience, for the same money things could be a lot worse.
thanks for reading!
It's a shame to hear that Le Monstre was down. We went last season and it was a the highlight of the park for us. It's night and day better with the PTC trains vs the Morgans and is currently one of my favourite woodies.
Unfortunately the piss poor operations were really frustrating and seemed to be the worst at Le Monstre. Trains would come in and unload while staff were chatting with each other or doing something on their phones. Loading gates would eventually open after they were done talking to each other and giggling about something or when they were done with their phones. It was so bad that there was this weird French screaming match between an employee and a guest that was complaining about them not paying attention and being lazy.
We've found that it's a park you really need to get the flash pass for to have a decent time in. Fortunately the admission isn't very expensive. Most of the hotels in downtown Montreal offer discounted tickets through their concierge. We also stayed at the Sheraton and the tickets were around $35 or so through them.
I was more than disappointed the ride was down. I stopped by later in the day and checked with the girl posted at the entrance and she said they were expecting to be open but couldn't say when. (natch) So rather than wait around til never, I did a quick tour of the other side of the park and split. I was about over the crowd anyway.
In 2003 when I rode it was extremely hot and I waited around 40 minutes for each side. It was pretty lonely, too, in that corral of a queue. I make a lot of solo visits to parks and I never mind it as I'm not shy about striking up conversations and love to listen in, at least. But me not knowing a lick of French (even though I've been to French Lick) made that impossible. All I remember is I didn't hate the ride, so I really wanted to go again.
And I was fairly certain everyone in line was talking about me.
Operations at the park have improved quite a bit this year. Every day I went, Ednor (the relocated SLC from Astroworld), Vampire and Goliath opened with two trains. Ride operators are a lot nicer and faster too.
The sad truth is that the Monstre's new PTC are just not appropriate for the ride. Both the trains and the structure require a lot more work than with the Morgan and that is why it is often a delayed opening. Remember this: its one of the few wooden coasters designed with the Morgan specifications in mind. Running a 5 cars PTC train is the only way they could get the weight down to what a 7 cars Morgan is. Same thing happened with the original Rattler in Texas.
The monorail has two stops near both park entrances, but 3-4 days before each firework show, they have to make it a one way from front to back operation. The reason? The monorail track goes right over the main fireworks launch pad and it does not make sense to have guests there.
The great Shapiro flat ride purge did cause a lot of damage at La Ronde, but in the case of the OVNI, it made sense. What was the OVNI? It was that rare Huss Discoround which was a tilting Gravitron with sliding seats. Both La Ronde and Everland (South Korea) had to remove theirs because all the other models... caught fire. The Demon, a modified Mondial Rollover replaced it in 2014.
The Mack Seesturmbahn structure was unstable and they had no choice to remove it after trying to stabilize it. Twister (Paratrooper) was sold to a small fairground company in Quebec and is now travelling.
That's a shame to hear about the PTC issues on Monstre. It's really a much better ride with the new trains. Feels more intense but not painful. Exactly what I love about a good woody: The scary and reckless feeling but without too much pain.
Glad to hear that operations have turned around because they were absolutely the worst I've ever seen. We were there on a busy day in August and Endor just had one train running.
My visit to LaRonde a few years ago found it to be one of the worst parks I'd ever visited. I visited solo. I was staying in a hotel downtown, for work, and rented a bike from their city bike-share program. That was a great experience, riding along the river, over bridges and through a park (the nature kind) to get to the park. (the ride kind)
Never have I seen more horrible operations, and never have I seen a public so accepting of said operations. Every single coaster, save the B+M hyper, was running a single train. What should have taken 15 minutes on their B:TR (Vampire) took almost an hour.
Le Monstre's wait was so long that all the teens were sitting down on the concrete, with their backs leaned against the fence. Every 5 minutes or so they would get up and move forward 10 feet or so. And this seemed to be perfectly normal!
I had a limited amount of time, and did not make it on to all of the coasters. In fact, I left before I had to because I could not stomach the idea of waiting another 45 minutes for an Arrow Corkscrew.
The best thing I can say about the park is that they had an amazing food selection. All kinds of, I guess, regional foods were available, including many kinds of Poutine, Donairs, etc. This variety seems to be sorely lacking from other SF parks, where your choices are limited to Chicken strips, Burgers, Chicken Strips, Pizza, Hotdogs, or Chicken Strips.
I no longer go to Montreal for work. If I did, I might consider visiting again, but *only* if I had a SF pass, which I do this year, but normally don't. I would never suggest anyone pay any amount of money to visit that park.
Ya know, one thing I didn't try was any food. I'd had breakfast at the hotel and by the time I was hungry again lines at the stands were long. One spot that interested me was near the back, and it had BBQ stuff and poutine, but I didn't try it. Maybe I should have.
I didn't have any complaints this time concerning operations. Most of the coasters had 2 trains and the ops seemed attentive and on the ball. Polite, too. One thing I'll say about Montrealeans in general is that none of them seem to be in much of a hurry about anything. We particularly noticed it at restaurants, and a local explained to me that there's a cultural difference there that includes the notion that "rushing" someone through an experience like dining might be considered rude. So I guess in comparison my experience at the park was as fast as I expected it to be.
A small soda ran about 5 bucks there, and the girl who waited on me asked if I wanted ice. And that's another thing we noticed about the city- they don't know much about cold drinks on a hot day. Drinks are small and include little (if any) ice. The free refill is not a concept. Iced tea, as we know it, doesn't exist up there, either. I never thought I'd say this, but thank god for Starbucks. Anyway, due to my English (and accent) she might've taken it as a cue that I would like a glass with plenty of ice and I appreciated that.
I'm glad to hear that the experience is improving.
This year being my first visit to SF parks in many years (3 SF parks so far this year) I have noticed a major improvement. Ride ops are very friendly, their announcements are bright and chipper, and I get a kick out of the "Thank you for riding ____ and don't forget to ride _____."
I have been to La Ronde a couple times. I thought it was a very cool park, and I was surprised that it had one of the largest McDonalds inside the park, that I had ever seen. Not sure if it is still there. As for unusual rides, I loved the Ovni ride! It was pretty intense, and they even had buckets near the ride, ready to clean up if anyone hurled. I also loved the Malestrom ride. As for the coasters, as far as I know all of the rides that were there before six flags were built in park. And, the new coasters were also built new, except for the new SLC. Though Cobra may be a transplant. As for the Haunted House, it was just a portable dark ride. Not surprised it's gone.
My impression of the park, was that it was very cool. And, with downtown Montreal looming across the river, and being right by the bridge. It has a very different feel. There were 60,000 people in the park the day i was there, (pride week which draws close to 2 million) and lines weren't bad at all. 45 minutes tops.
I didn't do it! I swear!!
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