That being said, we hit the road a little after 8:00 am. According to those catchy new Six Flags commercials, we could purchase tickets at the Queenstown-Lewiston Duty Free Store for $20.00 CDN per person. However, the commercials forgot to mention that this was a limited time offer only, so we had to settle for their regular discount of $25.99 CDN. Still a huge savings over the roughly $36.00 American at the gate.
Unperturbed, crossing the border was a breeze. We arrived at the park about 10 minutes before the 10:30am opening time, coughed up our money for parking, and rolled into the reasonably empty parking lot.
After gliding through security, we decided to resist the Superman urge, and head over to Mind Eraser. After hearing that a nightmarishly slow crew combined with one train operation could result in a long line, we decided to get this ride out of the way first. The ride was actually pretty smooth and enjoyable. It reminded me of the old days when Top Gun at PCW ran 10-car trains. You know, back when the ride was actually rideable. I liked Mind Eraser enough to opt for another lap.
After Mind Eraser, we hopped on Viper for a quick couple of rides. I was about to meet the most ungodly restraints I have ever had the displeasure of coming into contact with. First of all, being just over 6’ tall, the restraint absolutely crushed my shoulders. As I slouched to find a comfortable position, I noticed the padding on the seat ended in an awkward position – leaving only hard plastic to comfort my lower back. I’ve never seen (or felt) Arrow restraints like these before. Usually I don’t have this much of a problem. As for the actually ride, the train tracked beautifully. Except for a lone transition into the boomerang, it was a pretty graceful ride. I think I would have really enjoyed the ride if it weren’t for the Metal Shoulder Crushers of Doom. Of course, being foolish, I tried the ride again. While initially the restraints were in a better position, they snapped down during the ride.
Located near Viper’s exit is a Huss Ranger. Since I have never ridden a Ranger before, I was weary. I have ridden an Intamin Starship before, and those have the second most ungodly restraints I have ever had the displeasure of coming into contact with. However, instead of OTSRs, Ranger has a nice comforting cage. The lap bar is incredibly comfortable. It even allows quite a bit of freedom, which makes the ride that much more fun. I loved this ride and look forward to more Ranger rides in the future.
Next, we decided to jump over to the other side of the park (which really is surprisingly not that far at all.) Predator was on the way, so we decided to hit it. With only a 4 or 5 train wait for the front seat, I decided to give it a try. However, what I didn’t realize was that a ridiculous double restraint check meant I would be waiting for almost 30 minutes. First, the restraints are released for the previous riders. After they have all exited the station, the air gates open. Riders board the train and fasten their seatbelts. The ride-ops slowly make their way down the train, firmly tugging on every seatbelt. With a signal to the booth, the restraints are lowered (individual multi-position buzzbars). Then the ride-ops push and pull on each lap bar. Only then can the train be sent on its way. The whole production meant 3-4 minute dispatch times. I mean, is it really that difficult to check a seatbelt when the restraint is closed? I’m all for safety, but come on! Anyways, I had heard very nasty things about the ride – but actually found it fairly smooth. The back gets a little rougher, bur not unbearable, and definitely not deserving of its reputation.
Then it was off to the real reason for our Darien Lake visit. The star attraction, the longest line, and best ride in the park – Superman: Ride of Steel. Due to one train operation, we would wait an hour for our front seat ride. I don’t mind long waits, but one train operation is the bane of my existence. It’s just something about wasting precious loading time waiting for the ride to complete its course that I find very irritating. Combine that with the same restraint checking procedure as Predator, and an additional belt, and you’ve got one slow moving line. That being said, I find if I just forget about waiting in line, enjoy the company of my friends, the time just seems to fly by. We were boarded before we knew it. As expected, I really enjoyed the ride. It had some nice airtime, strong Gs in the helixes, and was just an overall kick butt ride. While some complain the helixes get a little repetitive, I didn’t find this to be the case. I did think the flat track before the 3rd hill lasted a bit too long, and the ride had a little bit more vibration than say MF, but overall didn’t detract from the ride very much (if at all.)
Next up was Boomerang. I’ve always moderately liked boomerangs, and this one was no exception. I didn’t find that the Vekoma rolling stock tracked any differently than boomerangs that use Arrow trains. In fact, despite there being 11 years between this ride and my oldest Vekoma Boomerang, I didn’t notice any difference in the ride.
After we headed to Twister. I’ve never been on a Top Spin before, and was quite excited about the program that was being run. Upon boarding, the first thing I noticed was the restraints. The OTSRs were nice and comfortable, and the secondary bar (which I’m assuming originates from the fact that Top Spins started on the German fair circuit) really helped with capacity. The ride program was far more impressive watching then it was riding. First, the ride was sent through a rather lame cycle without many flips. Then, the ride-op would tease the riders with the opportunity to go again. After about 30 seconds of interaction with the riders, we “earned” the right to go again (of course, we always got to go again.) However, it wasn’t the same cycle as before. This time, as a final stunt, we would flip 5 times in a row. Pretty impressive considering on the Top Spin substitute (Mondial Cliffhanger) at PCW you get maybe one flip the entire cycle.
Next we decided to watch the Batman Thrill Spectacular, which in my opinion was super lame. It was loud, boring, and overall not very impressive. While the motorcyclists demonstrated an immense amount of talent and control, the rest of the show consisted of little more than punching and kicking. Don’t even get me started on the story line. But, trust me, I wasn’t really that disappointed – I sure as hell was expecting much.
After the show, we needed to let go with a couple games of Fascination. While I had never played before, I had heard so much about it. Lets just say it truly is the crack cocaine of the amusement gaming world – so addictive and fun. Why would you blow 5 bucks on one of those “Guess Your Weight and Age” games when you could get 10 games of Fascination instead? I know I’ll be pricing park games in “Fascination Games” now for quite some time.
From there, it becomes a blur of flat rides – which Darien Lake has quite a collection of. The scrambler ran a nice long cycle, but could have been a little faster. Sleighride was okay, but I was disappointed it didn’t run backwards also. UFO felt like it span quicker than Night Mares at PCW, but it also vibrated quite strongly. Pirate is possibly the most pathetically run swinging ship out there. The boat supports didn’t even begin to approach the horizontal position.
Overall, I liked the park. While some of the ride operations were a little lack luster, the park made up for it with its personality and landscaping. In recent discussions, it has been said that the park desperately needs new rides. However, I disagree. I would rather see the money spent on repaving the midways, which looked a little rough in a couple of areas. Throw a lick of new paint on Superman, and then spend the rest on maintenance to make sure all the rides are running and that all coasters run two trains. Certainly there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of crowds for a park of its size, so if the park can maintain an acceptable level of customer service, I don’t think the park will be going anywhere anytime soon.
You can see pictures from my trip by clicking here.
I agree that operations do need to change, but do you actually think that will happen?
I think a new ride, maybe a 150 ft. drop tower or in the extreme, a B&M Floorless like Batman at SFNE is needed to boost attendance, because there are people from Buffalo and Niagara falls who will come.
By the way, those are some great pics!
The park is nice but they do need a new ride. Just something and it'll boost attendance
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