Silverwood, Athol, Idaho, USA
Pardon my ignorance... I expected Silverwood to have terrain similar to other mountain-area parks like Enchanted Village, Lake Compounce, Great Escape, or Magic Mountain. Silverwood was almost as flat as Cedar Point. The land used to be an airfield. The old runway is the employee parking lot. Surprisingly, a lot of Washington and Idaho is prairie-like agricultural land between distant mountains -- not at all like the continuous mountains through southern British Columbia.
Timber Terror is an out-and-back airtime coaster. It would be a very good addition to any park. It is built for single-train operation, which is suitable for the park's attendance.
Tremors is a coaster enthusiasts wet dream. The first drop sends riders into a dark tunnel at 60 mph. There are a couple good airtime hills, tight helixes, and three more tunnels, including one through the exit gift shop (with views familiar to Voyage riders). Despite it's ambitious elements, it is comfortable to ride. Like Timber Terror, it has only one train. However, their attendance does not justify a second train -- on a busy Saturday in July, the longest queue was only 45 minutes.
Corkscrew is pitched as the first double-corkscrew coaster, a historic ride rescued from Knott's Berry Farm. I don't think Knott's misses it. While the ride is mechanically sound, the transitions are jarring. We rode it once and that was enough.
Thunder Canyon is not your typical rapid ride. There are big spaces between each of the eight seats and most of the ride is designed with a continuous rocking motion, causing wave after wave crash into the raft. The waterfall elements were minor -- most of our group kept their heads dry. However, every single rider was drenched from the waist down, thanks to the relentless wave action. We also met the worlds friendliest ride operator at the loading station. She made sure everyone was happy and secure, and seconds after launching the raft, she would signal the folks along the walkway to fire the water-cannons at their friends in the raft. Her timing was perfect and her laughter was contagious. She loved her job.
The Steam Train ride and robbery is another noteworthy attraction. It was part train ride, part history lesson, and part charity fundraiser. The entire ride takes 35 minutes, continuously narrated by the conductor. Half-way through the course, the train stopped at a primitive mine-site, where two dumb-as-rocks mountain men held up the train and took pot-shots at each other with fake guns. Riders knew that the 'robbery' was intended to raise money for Wishing Star (http://www.wishingstar.org/), but if the robbers acted too ambitious (taking cell phones, watches, sunglasses, hats, etc.), the conductor had the loot-bag contents at the end of the ride. Along the rest of the ride, the conductor narrated a brief history of the park and complained bitterly that the train ride was not classified as a roller coaster. The train climbs 120 feet during the first half of the course and coasted down the last half. "That's 20 feet higher than Tremors, our latest coaster." BTW, the steam train's top speed is 6.5 mph.
Other attractions: The waterpark is huge -- the largest in the Northwest. The wave pools seemed shallow to us (deepest you could play is 5'-6'), but everything else appeared typical. As for the rest of the amusement park, there is a Garfield-themed kiddie area, and a collection of carny rides.
Prices and Merchandise: $4 parking, $36 one-day admission, $56 two-day admission. We did not eat a meal in the park, but we were seriously tempted: BBQ beef on a bun, with fries and a large drink was $6.75. (That was the most expensive menu item I noticed.) My wife tried (and loved) the local-made sarsaparilla (root beer). When souvenir shopping, we loaded up on local-made candy and huckleberry jam. We looked closely at the T-shirts and glassware, but left with only a 20th anniversary shot glass.
History: Silverwood was originally intended to be a transportation museum for a local business man, who wanted to show off his collection of antique planes. He purchased an airfield in 1981. In 1986, he outbid Disney and other theme park operators for the 1915 steam train. It was restored and a circuit of track built around the airfield. The Henley Aerodrome Museum and Cafe was renamed to Silverwood before the park opened in 1988. After getting 120,000 guest the first year, attendance dropped off until 1990 when the park began adding carnival attractions. By adding attractions every year, the park has managed to bring in 500,000 guests per year. Ironically, there are no historic planes or museums at Silverwood today.
Comments: This place is a gem, thanks to the generosity of the Norton family. They had the vision and the deep pockets to build this park. It has great attractions, but it is truly in the middle of nowhere. Driving through northern Idaho reminds me of the Wisconsin Dells and Lake George, NY. Obviously, the region is an attractive for camping and vacationing. The local population is less than 50,000 in northern Idaho and another 200,000 around Spokane, Washington. Large population centers are quite distant -- other cities with +100,000 population are 300 to 500 miles away: Seattle, Calgary, Portland, Boise, Idaho Falls, and Vancouver. Of these, only Seattle, Calgary and Vancouver exceed 1,000,000 population. It's so remote, I wouldn't build a park here. But I'm glad someone else did.
I should also mention that my Silverwood trip was part of a bigger vacation. My wife and I also traveled through the Okanogan valley on both the Washington and British Columbia side of the border. There was not much aside from fruit stands in Washington, but as soon as we crossed into Canada, we found gourmet restaurants, boutique hotels, and dozens of estate wineries. That stuff fleeced our wallets: our tourist spending in British Columbia was at least double what we spent in Washington and Idaho combined.
*** Edited 7/10/2007 7:45:10 PM UTC by greatwhitenorth***
It's too bad expanding the waterpark ended up closing their airport. I would have loved to fly into there. :(
I hear Hammersley has got the Silverwoodies back into tip top shape. I'm excited to see what Tremors is capable of now.
Here are a couple of maps:
*** Edited 7/11/2007 5:31:00 AM UTC by GoliathKills***
Vancouver to Silverwood: 7 hours, 9 minutes.
Calgary to Silverwood: 7 hours, 27 minutes.
Seattle to Silverwood: 5 hours, 2 minutes.
Spokane to Silverwood: 55 minutes.
The drive from either Calgary or Vancouver is very long. AV is right about the scenic drive from Seattle to Silverwood, and I must emphasize that this drive is very different (much more flat) than the TransCanada.
Your choice of airport would depend on what else you want to do on your vacation. Silverwood is the only worthy theme park -- I'm might be a snob, but IMO, Calaway Park (near Calgary), PNE Playland (Vancouver) and Wild Waves and Enchanted Village (Seattle / Tacoma) are not destination parks. You can find better where you live. I would encourage you to visit some better non-amusement park attractions in the region along with Silverwood.
From Calgary, driving south, the prairie and mountain views are breathtaking. A visit two Waterton Lakes National Park (Can) and Glacier National Park (US) would be an excellent way to apportion the drive to Silverwood. Driving the Going To The Sun Highway in GNP is more thrilling than any roller coaster I've experienced. 25 mph seems really fast on some of those cliff-edge curves.
From Vancouver, I broke up my drive by visiting the Okanogan valley and tasting at a few of the dozens of wineries and fruit stands. The Lake Okanogan also has excellent waterskiing and wakeboarding.
From Seattle, the drive is a couple hours shorter. I have yet to stop on my way through, but I believe Ginko Petrified Forest State Park would be a worthy detour.
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