Windy at Waldameer: May 9, 2009

Associated parks:
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Sunday, May 10, 2009 10:32 AM

Originally, Julie and I were going to take Ava to the Erie, PA park's opening day on Saturday. However, as the constantly flipping and bouncing quantum state of the weather forecast began to settle into something approaching certainty, it became clear it was going to be a very windy day. Wind is especially hard on Julie's disability (to her the slightest breeze sparks deep, burning pain), so the trip was downsized to a father/daughter jaunt.

After the standard two-hour drive from Akron, we got to Waldameer our usual half-hour late. We feared a mob scene in the parking lot, but found to our delight that the mostly grass parking lot on Peninsula Drive was virtually empty. In fact, we counted 23 cars in the lot, including our own. It was to be that kind of day.

We were greeted by a brief duck shower, but by the time we got to the ticket booths it had already passed. Ava and I received our paper ride-all-day tickets, and we were off. First up was Ravine Flyer II (natch!). The more I see this coaster, the more I love how it fits into the setting so splendidly. The way the lift hill perfectly nestles among the sky ride and Sea Dragon, without overly dominating the other attractions. It somehow reminds me of the lift hill for Beast.

The ride was only running one train -- and would for the entire day, but was a walk-on nevertheless. Station entry for RFII was strictly kept to one train-load of riders at a time, with an exception of one additional set of riders on the platform for the front and back seats.

Ava and I took front seat, fourth car. She had already been on this coaster last year. Of course, she's only seven, and one single off-season is an enternity at that age. So we had spent some time the day before watching POVs of the coaster.

We were greeted with the same fast, smooth, intensely transitioned ride that RFII is known for. From the crest of the lift to the final brake run, there simply is no let-up for this Gravity Group delight. I didn't notice any raw spots on the run, and the banked laterals remain shuffle-free. Clearly, the park is taking care of its treasure.

In its opening season last year, I had only gotten the chance to ride RFII once, so yesterday would provide the cornucopia of riding that I had wanted since that first, teasing ride. Ava and I picked up twelve rides during the day, including multiple front seat rides and trips in every car.

You simply can't say enough about this ride. It is deceptively non-threatening from the outside. The amount of perfectly engineered air is exquisite. The bridge crossovers present l-o-n-g moments of floater air, as does the last hill before the bridge. RFII is also one of the more schizophrenic coasters I've been on, in that the ride experience from the front to the back offers the greatest difference of almost any coaster I've been on. Front seat is smooth and at times almost sedate. Back seat is a ride on a rampaging bull.

I won't give a play-by-play on the entire day. Waldameer is a relatively small park, and we criss-crossed it countless times. We rode almost everything at the park, except for Whacky Shack (too scary!), Pirates Cove (see Whacky Shack), and Thunder Run (too wet.) Almost every attraction was a walk-on, for the entire day. Most rides got multiple re-rides, including the aging queen of the park, the wooden Schmeck classic, Comet. I love coasters that incorporate trees and foliage as intimately into the layout as Comet does.

The new Mega Disko is a welcome addition to the park. If you've never had a chance to try one of these out, it's a nice, though low-intensity, diversion. In building theirs, Waldameer opened a new, small extension at the end of the midway, nicely landscaped. They also invested in a number of additional 'children playing' statues to accent the area, and a large, pedestal clock to match the one at the other end of the park.

The only drawback during the day was Steel Dragon. The spinning mouse was down early in the day, and when it opened in mid-afternoon it was only running two cars. Consequently, it was the only ride with lines to speak of -- we waited about twenty minutes for our single lap. Later on, when we went back for another go, SD was down again and would remain so the rest of the night.

The wind was fierce during the day. That, and the threat of rain, were the main culprits for keeping people away, I suspect. What was interesting was that the sky ride remained open, even when the breeze had to be gusting over 30 mph at times. Undaunted, Ava and I rode twice and enjoyed an unusually swinging gondola experience. Later on, after a 45-minute spitting rain drove us to the car for heat and dryness, the sky ride was closed, which was odd in that by that point, the wind was actually much calmer.

Ava got to be the first face-paint customer of the season, and I got to walk around with a butterfly for the day. :) And although she turned her nose up at most of the kiddie flats, she did opt for spins on both the Big Rigs and the hand-operated cars. She's still at that age where her interest ranges from the very big to the very small.

Prices on food at the park remain very attractive, though again I was disappointed with the quality of our meals. I did notice that I was freer with my wallet than I am these days at certain, other parks -- you know, the ones that like to turn you upside down and shake all the money out of your pockets when you walk through the gate.

All in all, we probably got more than 60 rides through the day, although we rode so many that they started to blur together. Waldameer continues to take loving care of its park, and it shows. One of the best opening day trips ever.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009 1:18 PM

Ensign great trip report, i was thinking of going in the near future there. Its good to see they really know the importance of the Ravine Flyer II. Riding it last year has really made me a fan of that ride, as far as getting multiple rides on it, it really is one of the true wooden coaster experiences out there.

Its good to see you and your daughter have a great connection, and she is willing to take the excitement of something you love and do it with you therse days. Reminds me of my mom and myself. Hope your buttefly doenst wash off so you can show all your coworkers what a great time you had with your daughter when you go to work, cause thats truly awesome dude.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009 2:29 PM

Yeah, hard to believe how fast she's growing. Didn't you get to meet her a few years back, when she was four or five? I can't remember.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009 2:40 PM

Disk-O was just about the perfect choice to add to this park. They've really got a solid collection of rides at this point, in most of the major varieties.

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Monday, May 11, 2009 7:48 AM

I was there on the 9th as well. I'll echo Ensign Smith's comments - very light crowds, iffy weather all day, Ravine Flyer II picking up where it left off last year. Probably got 15-20 rides on it for the 4 hrs we were there, plus spins on Comet, Steel Dragon, etc.

I also took a ride on their Disk-O. Good looking ride and fun for a few moments. I personally thought the ride cycle was too long, but maybe I'm just getting too old and spinners like this are starting to get to me more than they did before. I'm sure the young whippersnappers will love this thing. :)

This was my second visit to Waldameer, my first being closing weekend last year. I just love the traditional layout of the place...no real entrance/exit gates so you can come and go as you feel. Pay-per-ride or POP wristbands. Reasonable prices. Overall a good way to spend an afternoon without going broke. I foresee several more visits over the summer.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009 1:40 PM

The Disk-O has officially been named:

http://www.waldameer.blogspot.com/

It's...wait for it...

Mega Vortex.

Whaaa? Come again? You heard it right. Mega Vortex.

Oddly, it's smaller than all the other, non-Mega, just regular, Vortexes (Vortices?) I've ridden.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 1:33 PM

Ensign Smith said:
Prices on food at the park remain very attractive, though again I was disappointed with the quality of our meals. I did notice that I was freer with my wallet than I am these days at certain, other parks -- you know, the ones that like to turn you upside down and shake all the money out of your pockets when you walk through the gate.

Low quality, low prices?

That's not value, that's cutting corners to get people to spend.

I remember thinking Waldameer's prices were pretty high for a 'small' park setting.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 2:02 PM

I can tell you I bought a 3" x 2" wedge of fudge for $3.00 -- not too bad, IMO. A 20 oz. lemonade was $2.45. Our entire lunch (two generous orders of chicken tenders, large servings of curly fries, and two drinks) came to $13 something. That last really isn't much worse than going to lunch at a Wendy's.

Now, maybe these aren't exactly Holiday World prices. But I would submit that they are closer to HW prices than to CF or SIX.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 2:44 PM

I remember a Cheeseburger meal being $7.50 and getting a sickly little grey meat patty, a handful of heat-lamp fries and a drink.

Large soda was $3.00, Jumbo pretzel $3.50. Just prices that were dangerously close to the "shakedown" prices that the big parks get so much crap for. Really, is there any real-world difference between a $3 or $4 drink in an amusement park setting?

Agreed on the Wendy's comparison in terms of price and that's exactly how I like to put in-park pricing into perspective.

But I still think that it's possible for a few bucks more to get a higher quality meal at the average CF or SF park and that, to me, translates to better value overall. To stick with our comparisons, the cost at the bigger parks is closer to the sit-down chain restaurants (TGIF, Max & Erma, etc), so all you have to do is find food of similar quality and it's the same wash as your Wendy's comparison.

But I digress, the real point that stuck with me was the way you mentioned two things:

1. I spend more because it's cheaper
2. It's cheaper, but the quality is lower.

That's the eternal struggle for me. I just don't get it. So many people say the same thing when we talk park pricing.

I could sell you horse crap as food and do it pretty cheaply. Are you going to buy a whole lot of it just because it's cheap? There's still has to be some sense of value involved, doesn't there?

That's not to say the big parks aren't selling crap at high prices. On the same note, I just don't buy that lower prices are a guaranteed better value. And when we're talking a buck or two difference in a crap-to-crap comparison, it's downright irrelevant.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 3:15 PM

sickly little grey meat patty

Isn't that a Primus song :-)

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 3:19 PM

Ha! If it isn't, it should be.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 4:39 PM

My recollection has nothing to do with Waldy's food prices, but everything to do with the poor food quality. I clearly remember thinking "such a nice park should have better food."

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:00 PM

Lord Gonchar said:
I remember a Cheeseburger meal being $7.50 and getting a sickly little grey meat patty, a handful of heat-lamp fries and a drink.

That sounds about right.


Large soda was $3.00, Jumbo pretzel $3.50. Just prices that were dangerously close to the "shakedown" prices that the big parks get so much crap for. Really, is there any real-world difference between a $3 or $4 drink in an amusement park setting?


There is, and it's precisely one dollar. On the other hand, I think that a lot of people are like me. I have a sort of thermostat in my head, that takes prices and expected quality and does some unconscious sort of processing and pops out with an answer all on its own. "Too much" or "Acceptable", with shades of gray in between. $2.50 for a medium drink at a park comes in with the latter answer, while anything $4.00 and above rings up the former. That's not to say that I won't pony up the $4 if I really need that drink, but I'll drink as little pop as I can, and what I do will be through gritted teeth (works better with a straw). Whereas, at the $2.50 pricing, I might buy 4 or 5 drinks in a day and stay a happy camper. All because of that little, semi-rational processor in my head.


But I still think that it's possible for a few bucks more to get a higher quality meal at the average CF or SF park and that, to me, translates to better value overall. To stick with our comparisons, the cost at the bigger parks is closer to the sit-down chain restaurants (TGIF, Max & Erma, etc), so all you have to do is find food of similar quality and it's the same wash as your Wendy's comparison.

But it's only a wash if you go to an amusement park with the expectation and comfort of spending that kind of money on a meal.


But I digress, the real point that stuck with me was the way you mentioned two things:

1. I spend more because it's cheaper
2. It's cheaper, but the quality is lower.

That's the eternal struggle for me. I just don't get it. So many people say the same thing when we talk park pricing.

I suspect there are a variety of reasons going on for this mentality. One may be -- and this goes back to what I was talking about before -- that a lot of enthusiasts (or GP, for that matter) simply aren't prepared to pay premium prices for food after paying (at times) a fairly stiff entrance fee and parking. And crappy food at cheap prices is at least better than crappy food at highway robbery prices.


I could sell you horse crap as food and do it pretty cheaply. Are you going to buy a whole lot of it just because it's cheap? There's still has to be some sense of value involved, doesn't there?


Obviously there's a limit. We're not exactly Mel Gibson cracking open that found tin of dog food.


That's not to say the big parks aren't selling crap at high prices. On the same note, I just don't buy that lower prices are a guaranteed better value. And when we're talking a buck or two difference in a crap-to-crap comparison, it's downright irrelevant.

It depends what your particular set of values are. And a buck or two difference in a crap-to-crap comparison isn't irrelevant. Again, it's a buck or two.

That being said, I would much prefer to eat at 3 or 4 star restaurants, if such existed in the amusement park world outside of Disney and Universal. That is, if my wallet wasn't lighter than it used to be. I might settle for mundane food (though not horse crap or dog food), if it means I can spend an extra day doing the thing I most want to be doing -- visiting parks, riding rides, and relaxing.

Last edited by Ensign Smith, Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:02 PM
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 5:57 PM

Ensign Smith said:
And a buck or two difference in a crap-to-crap comparison isn't irrelevant. Again, it's a buck or two.

Perhaps that's our difference then. In the overall cost of visiting an amusement park a dollar or two is statistically irrelevant to me.

There is, and it's precisely one dollar. On the other hand, I think that a lot of people are like me. I have a sort of thermostat in my head, that takes prices and expected quality and does some unconscious sort of processing and pops out with an answer all on its own. "Too much" or "Acceptable", with shades of gray in between. $2.50 for a medium drink at a park comes in with the latter answer, while anything $4.00 and above rings up the former. That's not to say that I won't pony up the $4 if I really need that drink, but I'll drink as little pop as I can, and what I do will be through gritted teeth (works better with a straw). Whereas, at the $2.50 pricing, I might buy 4 or 5 drinks in a day and stay a happy camper. All because of that little, semi-rational processor in my head.

My overly-rational processor says that $3 a for a large drink at Waldameer is statistically irrelevant to me when compared to the $4 drink at CF or SF because if I do buy three or four drinks during the day, that it's a total of $4 or $5 difference in the overall cost of visiting the park. (which does vary for each individual situation, mind you)

If you want to over-rationalize, I can buy a 12-pack of coke for $3 around here. That 12 ounces for 25 cents.

$2.50 for 20oz is already being butt-raped on the price. $2.50 is only reasonable in the over-priced world of captive entertainment. And if you're buying the medium at $2.50 instead of the large at $3, you're already buying based on price, not value offered. I'd just like to point out that 20 ounces for $2.50 is 12.5 cents per ounce and that the big parks pricing of $4 for 32 ounces is also 12.5 cents per ounce.

At that point I suppose the argument goes to actual need and perhaps you're 'overbuying' when you're forced into 32 ounces - and that'd be a valid argument.

And to focus on something more specific and the real part of it that gets me:

That's not to say that I won't pony up the $4 if I really need that drink, but I'll drink as little pop as I can, and what I do will be through gritted teeth (works better with a straw). Whereas, at the $2.50 pricing, I might buy 4 or 5 drinks in a day and stay a happy camper. All because of that little, semi-rational processor in my head.

Regardless of need, you'll only spend $4 if that's the price of one drink, but will spend as much as $10 or $12 if the price is $2.50?

So the overall cost isn't the issue either?

You're able to spend upwards of $12 on soda at the park...but at $4 per drink you'll go without...and a dollar or two over the course of a day at the park makes a difference to you....but you're willing to spend 3 times as much on soda that is priced the same per unit if the unit is downsized and thus the sale price reduced...and this makes sense to people...

You begrudgingly buy 32 ounces of soda for $4 (12.5 cents per oz) and resent the big park for making you do it, but spend $12.50 for 100 ounces of soda (12.5 cents per oz) because they sell it in smaller portions at the smaller park.

Isn't that the very definition of being led into believing something is a deal because of the smaller pricetag?

I dunno, every situation is different. We all have our own things to consider. Even with 'the economy' I still have a hard time understanding spending the money it costs to visit a park and then being concerned about and extra couple of bucks inside.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009 8:16 AM

Sheesh. How about if I pay you the difference to stop analyzing my irrational drink-purchasing behavior? ;)

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Thursday, May 14, 2009 9:54 AM

That was the most ridiculous analysis of per-ounce soda purchasing I've ever read. Seriously.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009 12:59 PM

Screw you guys. I'm outta here. :)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 12:24 AM

I spend very little to nothing in the park. I buy my neccessity Yuengling on the way out of Pennsylvania, at the beer and pop place outside of Waldameer.

I bought a case for around thirty bucks now talk about money well spent on beverages.

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