While we have ventured over the border since 2009, we've not stepped foot again into what was once known as Paramount's Canada's Wonderland. Now well in the Cedar Fair era, the park grabbed headlines among park geeks during the 2011/2012 off season with the installation of B&M's first "giga-coaster", the 300+ foot tall Leviathan. That was more than enough justification for us to hustle back over to Toronto and visit.
After a long drive complicated by traffic and a long (but delicious) sit down meal back at Italia Gardens outside Flint, we arrived Friday evening for check in at our hotel, the Aloft Vaughan Mills. The hotel is located just across the parking lot from the very expansive Vaughan Mills shopping complex, and is absolutely brand spanking new, having just opened this past April. The rooms and hotel layout are absolutely identical to the other two Aloft's we've stayed at, though this one reached 6 floors, significantly taller than the ones in Bolingbrook, IL or Ballantyne, NC. We were put on the 2nd floor above the bar, which meant we found ourselves contending with some serious noise from below, something we didn't much appreciate. Lesson learned about that.
Vaughan Mills itself deserves mention here also. It is a huge mall with a substantive number of meal choices. We ate there twice to save cash over eating in the park. But forget the food or the tons of specialty retailers. Coming next year is a Legoland Discovery Center, complete with rides and 4D attractions. Basically, Vaughan gets a second amu***t park to go with the giant one down the road. The mall itself was packed full of people who seemed to be doing alright in life, and the various wings of the mall were themed to a number of different things, including seasons, the circus, the Ontario coast, and more. When we stopped in Saturday, we ended up seeing people on stilts and a silk act performed in the food court, which itself is themed with enormous postcard images of Canadian sights and booths made out 1960s-70s era automobiles. For disposable mass culture that is probably eating away at all good in the world and damning western civilization, the Vaughan Mills shopping mall is a good time.
(a version with pictures can be seen at http://SportToday.org/)
Canada's Wonderland is merely a 5 minute drive (traffic allowing) from the hotel. We found the parking lot not entirely full, but definitely "healthy" when arriving around 7PM or so on Friday evening. Inside, we found significant lines for pretty much every attraction. We weren't looking forward to waiting awhile for anything, and as it turned out, the one ride we did go on was Wild Beast. Much of our time spent was just walking around the park, noting things that during our rain filled day in 2009 had been ignored or overlooked as a result of the torrential downpours that occasionally hit the place. There were also significant changes to note as well.
The first thing we noticed about Canada's Wonderland that clearly differentiates itself from Kings Island or the other 60s-70s era themers in the US is the sheer number of trees. There's a lot of them at CW, creating tons of shade and a generally more attractive park. The next thing I realized were that large grassy areas in the park were available to trod on. Usually if you see a big grass hill in the US at a Carowinds or Kings Island, there's fencing preventing people from walking around along with tons of signage. Not so at Canada's Wonderland, where the area down by water's/Vortex's edge is completely available to anyone who wants to set out a blanket or towel and rest. Same with the grassy hills over by Behemoth. It is all very much something you'd expect to see in Europe, not stateside.
Adding to the shade provided by the trees is a park that is almost entirely paved in concrete pavers. Back at ACE's post CoasterCon event at Six Flags over Georgia, a question about using pavers in the park across all the pathways was asked. Simply put, sayeth the Operations Manager, there's better things to draw people in with when you spend $6 million dollars. Canada's Wonderland must have started with pavers and just kept going over the years then. Its a nice and very up-scaling sort of touch. Of course, there is truth to what was said at SFOG. This is the fourth time I've been to the park, and it never occurred to me how it was paved before.
The last thing that seemed mighty different to us were the restaurants. Food at the park seems to have improved greatly. Outside the venues there's new bright signage, and the food itself seemed to have changed along with the signage. There was chicken shawarma, "artisan" pizzas, a prime rib burger, fresh cut fries (used for poutine as well), Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, yakisoba, crepes, gelato, and more. Really, the stops were all pulled out by management to change that aspect of the business for them, and I think it went splendidly. For me as an American, the only really familiar item were the Subway locations in the park. Otherwise, everything there was just as foreign to me as any park in Europe.
In*** out and not doing much of anything, we ended up just*** out and waiting for the park's Starlight Spectacular. I knew nothing about it going in, and discovered that it was in fact a very similar sort of thing to what Disney has been doing at Disney Paris and at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando with projections on the castle. Really, really cool. Obviously Kings Island or Carowinds are limited in what either can do because they lack a big solid structure to bounce images off of, but that doesn't mean I can't compare contrast their Starlight Spectaculars (which are anemic) to the one at CW (which is legitimately very good by any standard). Again, this is a big plus for the park.
After a night of rest at the hotel, we returned for opening at the park and made a b-line for the most important thing to hit on a Saturday in prime season. Yes, it was time for a Fast Lane band. Without it, we were looking at a nightmare-ish day due to the overwhelming crowds. Turned out to be a fantastic purchase, as the sun brought people in and the temps in the low 70s kept them from the water park. If there was a queue line, it was likely full.
-COASTERS (didn't ride everything, you can see more opinions about stuff we skipped in the 09 trip report-
Leviathan (A#634/M#323): This is why we were really here - B&M's first shot over 300 feet. It seems to me that each 300+ foot ride seems to key in on one thing and does it. Millennium Force goes for sensation of speed. Intimidator 305 goes for positive g-force. Leviathan clearly has lots of speed in it, but is ultimately more of an airtime machine than either of those rides. The large hill on its first outbound section is immense and produces an ungodly amount of strong float. The ride itself is butter smooth and features the great B&M restraints. I like the speed, love the first drop, love really everything about the ride sans the length. Intimidator seems to be so incredibly intense, no one goes about demanding more of the same with its 5100 feet of track. Leviathan has 300 more feet of track, but seems "short". After all, it ends very high off the ground and isn't so outwardly insane that it causes greyouts everywhere. The layout is different and...oh, I don't know. It is a really good ride, OK?
Behemoth: Meanwhile, the park's other B&M hyper is still the better ride. The negative g-s on this ride are as strong as any B&M ever managed to put out there, the layout is great, and it doesn't feel "short". It accomplishes a lot of what Leviathan does, but at no point do I sit there disliking the fact that a really good 300 foot roller coaster has been installed into Canada's Wonderland. We rode both the same number of times, and I honestly can't think of a one-two combination at any park that I like more than this one. Its two of my favorite kind of steel ride; am I supposed to be upset about getting more of a good thing? Next I'll hear that 3 scoop sundaes suck because originality ends at 2.
Wild Beast: Good layout with some decent airtime overshadowed by being rougher than hell. Not a fine wood coaster.
Great Canadian Minebuster: Used to have a good layout, ruined, and the track work is abysmal. The helix is tragic.
Vortex: Love this ride. It dives off a mountain, goes through trees, and hits the brakes hard. Like discussing Batman clones, I can't tell which is stronger or better between this and Flight Deck at Kings Island. Someone put POV of each up along side one another. I think Vortex might win because the location looks so much better.
Backlot Stunt Coaster: None of the stuff like the fireball or helicopter were working, so the Weird F'n Coaster as it should be known as now is just...weird. I hate to harp on theming, but it is a mess. What is this ride even supposed to be now?
Sledge Hammer: Was e***d to see this running so that Meredith could ride the one and only Jump2. We got so far as to have restraints locked and the cycle about to begin when the ride went down. It would run again, but without a Fast Lane entrance, there was no way we'd queue for something this unreliable. I can't imagine it is long for this world, and honestly, no one would miss it. As a side question, what the hell happened to Huss where they spent the 2000s building horrible rides and providing bad service?
Orbiter: Speaking of rare flat rides, the last Skylab (aka Giant Enterprise) in North America. This did run and we rode it. Pretty fun. Not unlike an Enterprise but just bigger. Bigger is a good thing, I suppose.
Windseeker: Another one of these in the books, and our least favorite by some degree. LED light package but no sound. Thought that sucked.
We also considered the Huss UFO (think Giant Roundup) but skipped it. That isn't quite as rare and seems a little safer. We did line up for Psyclone, ...
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