Canada’s Wonderland

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National Rollercoaster Day may be the best day of the year. Easter and Christmas are fine, but nothing is more perfect than a holiday which is dedicated to rollercoasters, right? National Rollercoaster Day is celebrated on 16th August and it’s preferable to spend this day at an amusement park. In the very best case, that park should have lots of rollercoasters and I think that I’ve found the perfect destination in 2017: Canada’s Wonderland. This park offers no less than 16 (I repeat… sixteen!) coasters. You could remark that Canada’s Wonderland isn’t exactly close to my hometown and that’s correct: 6.000 kilometres is quite a distance. But if you’re willing to wake up at 3.30 AM and spend a few hours on an airplane, then you’re able to arrive in the early afternoon. And that’s exactly what Steven and I do on this Wednesday 16th August. You’ve got to make an effort to celebrate National Rollercoaster Day in a proper way…

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From Antwerp to Brussels, from Brussels to Frankfurt, from Frankfurt to Toronto and from Toronto to Vaughan. It took approximately 14 hours of travelling, but we’ve just arrived at the gates of Canada’s largest amusement park. I smell candy, I hear modern pop music, I feel the force of a B&M coaster train while it passes by and I see Canadians in their natural environment for the first time. Thousands of Canadians, actually. It seems like the entire population of Toronto chose this Rollercoaster Day for their visit to Canada’s Wonderland. The parking lot is nearly full and we encounter long lines at the admission gates. That’s why we immediately walk to the Fast Lane office after entering the park. A Fast Lane Plus bracelet isn’t cheap, but it will save us many hours of queueing today.

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This picture was made the next morning, so please don’t be fooled by these low crowds.

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This picture was made the next morning, so please don’t be fooled by these low crowds.

First of all: Canada’s Wonderland isn’t a highly themed park. It’s a typical Cedar Fair park which is focused on rides and thrills. Despite the fact that decoration isn’t that important, the atmosphere in the park’s main street is suprisingly good. International Street includes cute facades, brightly coloured flower beds and a huge number of fountains. The most impressive features of this area are the so called Wonder Mountain and the enormous waterfall falling off its edges. This mountain is the centerpiece of Canada’s Wonderland and it contains several rides, which I’ll discuss later during this report. Overall, I’m pretty impressed by the quality of this main avenue, but we don’t stick around for too long. Believe me: you would probably do the same thing if there are so many rollercoasters waiting to be ridden.

 

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Leviathan for example. Let’s start with the most iconic coaster this Canadian park has to offer. We already admired the beauty of its clear blue tracks while standing on the parking lot, but we’re at the coaster’s station right now. Despite a cool name sign at the entrance, the ride’s platform and the queue are very poorly themed. We are so happy that we’re able to skip Leviathan’s two-hour wait in the burning sun. Thanks to our golden bracelet, it only takes 15 minutes to get to the back seats. Leviathan then lifts us to a height of 93 metres and throws us back down with an impressive speed of 150 km/h. Those incredible numbers create a fantastic ride experience for sure. Leviathan isn’t just extremely tall and fast, but it’s incredibly smooth as well. The only thing I miss, is a decent track length. Leviathan measures nearly 1.700 metres and that’s everything but short, but it really feels like they throw away a ton of power at the end. Trains reach the final break section at full speed and those breaks are installed about 30 metres above ground level. Why oh why didn’t they add an extra airtime hill and/or a helix here? Considering this disappointing final part, I liked Fury 325 so much better. That sibling in Carowinds offers a more balanced ride experience with a nicer ending.

 

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We discover some other coasters right next to Leviathan, but these are considerably less interesting than their famous neighbour. Dragon Fire, a classic Arrow inversion coaster, is one of them. It’s nearly impossible to see the ride while standing inside the park, but that problem can be solved by riding Leviathan. Dragon Fire is somewhat dwarfed by this B&M megacoaster, as its highest point lies beneath Leviathan’s final break run. That doesn’t mean that it’s a kiddie coaster: Dragon Fire is 25 metres tall and it features four inversions. The lay-out is a mirrored version of Heide-Park’s Big Loop, including those two unnecessary horizontal parts. It’s clearly an old coaster: the station looks worn and the ride is bumpy. Just another credit for our Coaster-Counter…

 

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I hate Boomerangs and that’s why Steven has to conquer The Bat on his own. However, I do join him for a ride on the nearby Wild Beast. It’s a quite pleasant surprise to ride this wooden coaster: it’s a lot less rough than most classic American woodies and there’s a fair amount of airtime along the way. Don’t expect it to be the best rollercoaster you’ll ever ride (the lay-out is very simple), but Wild Beast is nothing less than an nice family attraction.

 

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If you have any experience with Coaster-Count, you might recognize this: that awkward moment you walk into a children’s area to ride some kiddie coasters. I guess no one will ever ride a miniature Zamperla coaster or a Vekoma rollerskater just for fun, right? One thing is certain: if you’d ever like to get the Coaster-Bingo at Canada’s Wonderland, you will need to bring a toddler. That’s because the employees just won’t let you ride Taxi Jam without the company of a very young guest. Luckily, this rule doesn’t apply for the nearby Silver Streak and Ghoster Coaster, a Vekoma inverted coaster and a small wooden coaster respectively. Silver Streak turns out to be pretty ordinary and somewhat shaky, but the woodie is surprisingly fun. Its lay-out reminds me of Pegasus which used to operate at Efteling, but it’s smoother and faster. The only downside at Ghoster Coaster is the queue: Fast Lanes aren’t accepted and staff operate this ride in a terribly slow way. The result is a 45 minute queue, which is the longest during our entire stay at Canada’s Wonderland.

 

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Planet Snoopy and KidZville are everything but interesting for the two of us, but it’s a true paradise for younger visitors. These areas make one enormous children’s playground with colorful decorations and many cute rides. One of the main draws is Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, an interactive darkride. We glide past scary scenery and we try to extinguish all those creepy looking monsters. It’s not the greatest ride of all time, but at least it’s better than the park’s other darkride: Wonder Mountain’s Guardian. Honestly… I’m not sure whether this should be defined as a darkride or as a rollercoaster, but it’s not that special anyway. This ride (which has been built in the park’s eye-catching Wonder Mountain) is slow, decorations are too simple and most 3D-graphics are poor. The worst part is that you are obligated to rent a locker near the ride entrance, since backpacks aren’t allowed. The only good thing about Wonder Mountain’s Guardian however is the ride’s finale, which features a surprising special effect. If you’d like to experience it for yourself, make sure you arrive early. This low-capacity ride will get quite lengthy queues during the afternoon.

 

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The gigantic Wonder Mountain is the park’s icon and two rides have been built into the rockwork. The first one is Wonder Mountain’s Guardian, the second one is a Mack powered coaster called Thunder Run. A powered coaster racing through a cave… it reminds me of the very decent Alpenexpress at Europa-Park. Unfortunately there are absolutely no similarities between both coasters, except for the ride system of course. The indoor part of Thunder Run has been decorated with some Christmas lights, giving it a very cheap look. Right opposite this family coaster, there’s another Mack credit: The Fly. This is a standard wild mouse with minimal decoration, but I’m delighted to notice that the ride experience is superior to most similar coasters. Unlike lots of other theme parks, Canada’s Wonderland didn’t turn on most of the brakes. And a higher speed creates a better coaster!

 

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Canada’s Wonderland is extremely busy today. At Vortex for example, the line is well beyond the actual queue area and there’s even a considerable wait for Fast Lane guests. It may seem odd that a 26 year old coaster gets such a long queue, but Vortex is actually one of the best rides Canada’s Wonderland has to offer. This suspended coaster’s first drop generates high speeds, which are maintained throughout the entire ride. Add some very tight turns and those typical swinging gondolas and you get a quite intense ride experience. There are some minor bumps along the way, but it’s not annoying in my opinion. I didn’t expect it, but I actually liked Vortex very much.

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Quantity is important at Canada’s Wonderland. The park doesn’t just offer lots of rollercoaster, but there’s a huge amount of flat rides as well. There are classics (such as an Enterprise, a Frisbee and a Freefall Tower) as well as more unique types of rides. Skyhawk is such a less common ride: you board a single-seater plane, in which you can try to make inversions by flipping the wings. You could consider this as Wonderland’s cardio workout, because it takes a serious effort to turn upside down. Another uncommon flatride is Sledge Hammer. This impressive ride consists of six gigantic robot arms which launch upwards with an ear-splitting sound. It looks extremely intense, but the level of thrill is actually pretty mediocre. Sledge Hammer offers some good airtime and a butterfly-in-the-stomach kind of feeling, but it’s much less nauseating than you’d expect it to be.

 

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Just like most North-American theme parks, Canada’s Wonderland offers its own water park. The so called Splash Works is included in park admission and this area is incredibly crowded during this sunny summer day. We skip Splash Works, but we catch a glimpse of the slides and the Canadian beach boys during our ride on The Mighty Canadian Minebuster. Don’t ask me why, but this wooden coaster takes us right between the slides and pathways of the water park. That makes it a pretty special experience and although it’s a little rough, I really enjoyed The Minebuster. It’s fast and the rides’ classic out and back lay-out is filled with airtime.

 

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Up next: Back Lot Stunt Coaster, a rollercoaster which I’ve admired for many years. That’s because I liked The Italian Job and especially that famous scene with the racing Mini Coopers. The moment I realized that there was a rollercoaster based on that particular movie scene, I got a little ecstatic. Unfortunately, the good times are over. After Paramount withdrew from the theme park business, those cool Italian Job Coasters got rebranded to Back Lot Stunt Coaster and they lost most of their typical charm. Several theming elements are still in place, however, remaining motionless all the time. At some point, I can clearly see the remainings of what used to be an action-packed scene, but nothing happens nowadays. The only spectacular thing about this attraction is its very intense initial helix: it causes a greyout every single time I ride.

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Imagine how strange it would be if Disneyland opened a slightly bigger Space Mountain right next to the existing one. Or wouldn’t it be weird if Phantasialand built an extra B&M inverted coaster in addition to Black Mamba? Cedar Fair however seems to love this method: just like Carowinds, Canada’s Wonderland offers two B&M megacoasters. I really don’t mind. This coaster type is awesome, so I’d rather define this situation as luxury than as overkill. But there’s one logical result: you will automatically start comparing both rides. At Carowinds, Fury 325 easily wins this competition. It’s taller, faster, smoother and better than its counterpart. Here at Canada’s Wonderland however, the opposite is true: I like the older and somewhat smaller Behemoth more than I liked Leviathan. While Leviathan feels a little too short and it lacks a decent ending, Behemoth offers a pretty long lay-out full of power. We get to ride Behemoth twice in the back seat and that’s truly a phenomenal experience. This coaster treats us with tons of airtime and g-forces are quite intense. Behemoth is without a doubt my favourite ride at Canada’s Wonderland and it becomes even better in the dark. A night ride on Behemoth is simply incredible.

 

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Oh… I wish I could describe the next coasters with the same level of joy. That’s unlikely, because I’m talking about a Vekoma suspended looping coaster and a flying coaster manufactured by Zamperla. As a matter of fact, you might want to bring some band aid if you really want to ride these rollercoasters. Flight Deck can easily be described as the world’s most painful SLC and Time Warp feels like pure torture. Flying coasters are meant to be built by B&M or Vekoma, not by some kind of Italian factory which usually designs children’s carousels. It’s just very hard to understand why amusement parks would buy rubbish like Time Warp. Raise your hand if you’d like to be locked up in a cage while riding a painful rollercoaster with tight turns. No one? My thoughts exactly… So please, don’t be fooled by the fancy signs at the ride’s entrances; these coasters deserve nothing less than demolition.

 

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The one and only happy thought about these terrible rides: unlike most other visitors, we don’t need to queue an hour to experience them. Our Fast Lane Plus payed off very well today. Canada’s Wonderland was so extremely crowded that this expensive bracelet seemed the only way to guarantee a pleasant day. Despite quite good operations and the enormous array of rides, wait times for many rollercoasters exceeded 60 minutes. Queue times for the very popular Behemoth and Leviathan were even at two hours. Best spent 50 euros ever.

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Canada’s Wonderland is the largest and most-visited amusement park in the country. At first sight, that seems legit: with 16 rollercoasters, it’s on par with well-known parks like Cedar Point and Six Flags Magic Mountain. However, there is one huge difference: the quality of those coasters. At Canada’s Wonderland, there are only two great coasters and a few good ones. However, a majority of the remaining coasters wouldn’t be missed if they were removed. And that’s exactly Canada’s Wonderland’s weak point: high quantity versus mediocre quality. It seems as if this park was designed by an extremely enthousiastic Rollercoaster Tycoon gamer. This guy is constantly adding new rides and coasters, but he doesn’t like decoration or very unique attractions. Don’t get me wrong: I really don’t hate Canada’s Wonderland. Those B&M coasters are great, the children’s area is beautiful and the park atmosphere is good, but I just expected it to be slightly more memorable.

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I wouldn’t call Canada’s Wonderland a stunning theme park and it’s also quite underwhelming as a thrill destination. It’s rather a credit-park than an experience-park, which is unfortunate. Luckily, there is another great rollercoaster destination within a reasonable distance from Toronto. And after spending three days in this Canadian metropolis, that coaster destination will be our next stop. It only takes a short flight to Cleveland and a one hour drive to reach Sandusky, a.k.a. America’s Roller Coast. And that nickname is well chosen. Just before we reach our hotel around midnight, I can clearly see an island full of coaster tracks, lifthills and inversions. Just a few more hours before we finally get to visit one of the world’s most beloved amusement parks… Cedar Point, here we come!

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