There aren't too many days in August where the weather is just absolutely perfect. Blue skies scattered with big puffy clouds, a mild breeze, and cool temperatures made for a day that I couldn't pass up to make a park visit. Somehow, I managed to have a rare day at work as well. No meetings, no project deadlines... just an off-day with nothing to worry about. So instead of sitting in front of the computer surfing the web all afternoon, I took off at 11 and headed to Erie, PA and Waldameer Park.
This year marks the 12th consecutive summer I have visited Waldameer Park and for the 12th year in a row, I had a fantastic time. This small park has everything a family park needs and is one of the most well-kept parks I have had the pleasure of visiting. When we arrived in the Main Parking Lot off Peninsula Drive, we noticed that there really weren't a lot of cars there... which was surprising considering how nice it was outside. We headed in, purchased 20 tickets (I went with my Dad who can't ride coasters anymore due to a heart attack last year), and headed to the back of the park to take a "spin" on the new-for-2004 Steel Dragon.
If anyone from Maurer-Sohne reads these boards, let me take this opportunity to personally thank you for creating one of the greatest compact coasters of all time. Very rarely does a ride get me like the MS Spinning Coaster has. Waldameer's Steel Dragon features red track and blue supports with yellow cars- each with a dragon emblazoned on them. I was kind of puzzled by the two lion statues at the entrance to this ride. What exactly do they have to do with Dragons? Anyhow, the line wasn't very long so I was aboard in approximately 5 minutes. I climbed into the backwards-facing part of the seat, pulled down my lap bar and after a car cleared the second block, I was sent off. Waldameer doesn't run their MS Spinner as efficiently as Seabreeze does (seemed like there were 3 cars out on the course at a time with 3 in the station if I recall), but that is definitely a minor complaint. The chain lift carries the 4-passenger car to the top of the hill VERY quickly, where riders catch a brief view of Lake Erie (Between Seabreeze and Waldameer, I give Seabreeze the edge in the lake view department!) The car is then sent diving down the curving first drop. I still say that this is one of the best drops on any mid-sized ride as it is SO smooth, and riding it backwards is truly awesome. After climbing back up and after a brief turn, the spinning begins and from the "tophat-style" element through the end of the ride, the car is just whirling around randomly as it traverses the course. You really can't help but laugh and giggle on this ride... it is that much fun. A block brake placed before the rides' unusual s-shaped section of track grabs the car pretty hard, but it actually seems to help with the spinning of the car. I was whirling out of control through the final turns and loved every second of it. This ride is just an absolute blast and I sincerely hope other parks pick up on this unique concept. Waldameer has a big hit on their hands with Steel Dragon. And just like when I visited Seabreeze, I didn't see a single person come off of the ride and say anything bad about it.
Next, we got in line for what today appeared to be the park's most popular ride- the Whacky Shack. It was kind of strange seeing more people in line for the Shack than for the Steel Dragon... and we waited for nearly 20 minutes to ride this classic Bill Tracey dark ride. For those unfamiliar, the Whacky Shack is a 2-level dark ride that features several tripped-out scenes. There really aren't too many surprise scares, but the scenes that are here are effective. One room is slanted, which is kind of cool when you go flying through it in your little electric-powered car (so you can't call this one a coaster!) Every stunt was working properly, there's a new severed head in the paw of the giant rat near the end of the ride, and in all the Shack delivered a fun and cheesy trip into the past for me and my Dad. My Dad did wonder why I like the Shack so much. He said "that one at Knoebels was SO much better than this". Nice to see my trip to Knoebels with my parents 2 summers ago is still being talked about!
Next stop was the Chance Giant Gondola Wheel. At $3 per ride, it's kind of a pricey experience, but on a day like today, it was well worth it. I've said it before and I'll say it again- Waldameer may very well have the best Ferris Wheel ride in the amusement industry. The view of the Presque Isle area, Lake Erie, and the park itself is simply stunning. And the nice breeze felt absolutely wonderful while we were at the top during the loading/unloading cycle. Roughly 8 full revolutions made me and my Dad some very happy park guests!
After stopping to enjoy a chocolate chip cookie (my Dad loves Waldameer's cookies!), I rode Steel Dragon once again. The line had grown considerably since my first ride... roughly about a 20-minute wait. This time through, my car hardly spun during the first half, but the second half of the ride was almost as wild as a Reverchon mouse.
Disclaimer- The following statement is my opinion and my opinion only. I know I am going to take some serious heat on these boards for saying it, but I personally find Maurer-Sohne Spinning Coasters to be more fun than Top Thrill Dragster. The whole ride experience is just so much fun, the ride is different every time, and you don't have to worry about metal slivers flying in your face ;) Feel free to flame away, but I'll stand by my opinion. There's just something about twirling around while flying up and down hills that make this a fantastic little ride.
I took a quick spin on the Comet since there was no line. Comet, a Herb Schmeck junior woodie, seemed to be running a little rough this season. It was running very fast by Comet standards, but there was definitely some noticeable shake to the cars. A rid on the Comet is greatly enhanced by the ride's beautifully wooded surroundings as there are trees everywhere. The people of Erie still love their Comet, though, even if the Steel Dragon was grabbing more attention.
After purchasing 2 pounds of the greatest chocolate fudge known to man, Dad and I concluded our afternoon with a trip aboard the L. Ruth Express. My dad LOVES train rides since his dad worked for Penn Central Railroad and we can't go to a park without riding their train. While Waldameer's is a cheap Chance-made ride powered by a lawnmower engine, he still enjoys the relatively long trip along the outer edge of the park and back through the picnic groves. He said that this would be the perfect job for him now that he's retired. For some reason, I have a feeling my dad would be a great train driver! :-) The relaxing ride was a great way to end a very fun afternoon at Waldameer.
Waldameer was in great shape this year. The landscaping was beautiful, the park was very clean, and the employees were friendly... albeit not very sharp-eyed. My dad and I easily could have rode every ride for free since none of the ops were checking for wristbands and hand-stamps. But because I respect this park and want to see them succeed (especially in their battle against the freakin' Candella Campground), I made sure to present our tickets to each ride op. Waldameer truly is a great family park. With Steel Dragon joining the impressive line up of rides that already includes several Chance products (Wipeout, Sea Dragon, Carousel, CP Huntington Train), an ARM Ali Baba, a very wet Hopkins flume, the Bill Tracey combo of the Whacky Shack and Pirate's Cove walk-through, and several others, I have a feeling this park will be around for quite some time. If you are ever in the area and are passing the Presque Isle exit off I-90 in your travels, I can't recommend Waldameer enough. A good time will be had by all at a place that can give many other parks a run for their money in the "Fun" department. Thanks for reading...
I have not been to Waldameer in years, but I'm sure I'll be by again some day!
P.S. Every ticket park I hit on my recent trip did not look for tickets/wrist bands! I think it is a chronic problem. *** Edited 8/6/2004 3:05:09 PM UTC by Jeffrey R Smith***
I agree that the MS spinning coaster is incredibly fun. They seem to fit in perfectly with a park loaded with atmosphere like Waldameer and Seabreeze. I've often said that I wouldn't care if Knoebels never added another ride, but this would be absolutely perfect there.
Can you imagine Knoebels with two great woodies and a steel coaster that is more fun than Top Thrill Dragster? LOL
Jeffrey R Smith said:
Every ticket park I hit on my recent trip did not look for tickets/wrist bands! I think it is a chronic problem.
I'm seeing the same thing this year. In fact in three separate parks, we opted for quick visits with tickets and had at least one ride-op tell us not to worry about it when we offered our tickets when entering the ride.
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