Monday, August 29, 2016

Woodstock Ontario - Canada's Wonderland

One of the ideas I had for grandchild bonding adventures was Canada's Wonderland, just north of Toronto. We went when it first opened in the early 80's and went back several times with Heather and Kim as they were growing up. It's been a long time since we have been there but we have seen new rides added regularly as we passed by over the years. It is now owned by the Cedar Fair consortium which also owns Cedar Point, King's Island, Knott's Berry Farm and many others.

Yesterday, Kim and I ordered tickets on line. We purchased two general admissions for Mike and Robyn. Mike doesn't like the thrill rides and Robyn was too short to ride them. Then we ordered three general admissions with Fast Lane Plus. This is something similar to Disney's Fast Pass, which allows people to skip most of the lines for specified rides. Unlike Disney, the Fast Lane is not limited as to the number of rides. It cost as much again as the admission and we were going to see if it was worth it. To add icing to the cake, we had prepaid for preferred parking.

Sandy has never been a fan of large amusement parks. She decided that she would hang out with Heather, Jasper and Fiona in Woodstock while I enjoyed Wonderland with the other half of the family. I dropped her off at Heather's just before 8:00 AM, and then stopped back at the hotel because I had forgotten to take my morning pills. Getting older is a combination of more pills and less remembering. Then I drove to Cambridge where I found Mike, Kim and the girls ready to leave.

We left for Toronto in their Dodge Caravan at 8:30. Morning traffic was less intense than I had imagined, but we avoided the worst by taking the ETR 407 toll road to just south of Wonderland. The parking lot was starting to fill up, but the preferred parking put us right in front of the entrance. At the parking lot gate, I just showed my phone to the attendant, who scanned the QR code and gave us a receipt. Magic. The same thing happened at the main gate and at the desk where Kim, Jolene and I got our Fast Lane Plus armbands. The park had free WiFi and an app with maps and information, including wait times for most of the rides.

Preferred parking wasn't crowded - yet

That is Leviathan in the background

Current Wonderland Map

Things weren't too crowded as we made our way to the Swing of the Century and Grandpa looked for a bathroom. I returned to find Mike and Robyn watching because she was a tad undertall to ride this classic swing ride. Then the two of them set out for Kidzville and Planet Snoopy while Kim, Jolene and I looked for some thrills. There are many more choices now than there were ten years ago.

Windseeker was a benign ride. It merely went in circles, but the circles were 301 feet in the air. I took deep breaths. Then we convinced Jolene to go on the Vortex, a suspended coaster, with us. She wasn't sure but went along. I had forgotten how much your head gates rattles around against the protectors on each side of your ears. Jolene wasn't thrilled. The Fast Lane was a major benefit, though, since most folks appeared not to have purchased the option (the quantities available are limited), and we walked right past some long lines.

To recover from Jolene's first large coaster, we stopped by the good old Klock werks, a roundy round up and down ride that has been there since day one. That one was a winner with our girl. That put us near the falls on the mountain just as the high diver show was beginning. Jolene git up close and managed to high five the divers when they got out of the water.

Victoria Falls

Waiting for the divers

From there, we went on to Medieval Faire and rode Dragon Fire, one of the original coasters and the first steel looping coaster in Canada. It seemed so big then but was now dwarfed by Leviathan, currently the fastest coaster in the world. Once again, Jolene's ears took a beating in the wrap-around headrest.

We rode Rage, the classic swinging pirate ship, which Jolene enjoyed. Then we met Mike and Robyn in the main area and, after giving up on a Chinese food place that couldn't seem to serve people very quickly, settled for hot dogs. We were back to the lagoon just in time for the pirate show, a mix of divers and trampoline artists. While Mike and Robyn watched, Jolene and I rode Rage again and Kim tried Leviathan. At 306 feet high, 100 MPH and over a mile long, Kim said this was the best.

We separated one more time. I took Jolene on another spinning ride they call Orbiter (I used to know it as Sol Loco). It goes around and then the circle rises and becomes vertical so the riders are swung upside down on every pass. There are no belts, the people are held in place by Newton's Laws. Jolene rode with me the first time, in her own car the second time and then all by herself the third. Kim, meanwhile, rode two bigger rides called Sledge Hammer and Behemoth (the biggest coaster before they built Leviathan). We finished off with the Time Warp, a coaster where you ride four abreast lying on your stomachs. I remembered this as a very benign ride. I remembered wrong (from a seven year old point of view). It spiraled us to the top and looped twice on the way down. Jolene got bounced around again and was not impressed.

We met the other two for ice cream and then the family went to upgrade their day passes to 2017 season memberships for a very modest fee. They got a discount for today's tickets plus one more 2016 visit in addition to all of 2017. Then we were out of there. It was just after 5:00, so we fit the profile which said the average visit was seven hours.

Halloween is coming

My take on Wonderland is this. It is known for its coasters and its flat (non coaster) rides. An example of a flat we didn't do is Rip Tide. They keep building new attractions while keeping the old, adding fresh new flavours to a familiar experience. There is also a good selection of attractions to keep the younger set amused as well. The grounds are well kept and maintained. Fast Lane Plus is much better than the Disney Fast Pass because it doesn't have any of the restrictions and I wouldn't consider attending to ride the major rides without it. Shows are short but entertaining. Food is varied but expensive. I don't remember the steel coasters being that rough. We should have taken Jolene on at least one wooden coaster. One value item was the refillable bottle. I spent $15 for one and got free drinks for the rest of the day, which we shared. We made out like bandits on this, considering the price of a single soft drink is about $4.00. Would I go again? You bet. Maybe I will ride the scary rides next time.

To avoid the evening rush hour, I had considered directing Mike north to King Road and across to Highway 27. Unfortunately, 400 North was dead stopped. 400 South was jammed as well, so we went back to the Express Toll Road. Traffic was slow once we reached the 401 but we made it back to Cambridge without incident.

We had supper at Lone Star in Cambridge where I watched an almost eight-year-old eat an adult order of calamari and an almost six-year-old make fajitas. I have to say that after a whole day traipsing around Wonderland with two children that age, things could have been so much worse and not much better. They were great and it was fun.

I made my way back to Woodstock and picked Sandy up at Heather's. She had been sick all day, to the extent that she had been throwing up, so we stopped at WalMart on the way back to the hotel and picked up some of the clear cherry flavoured Gatorade that she likes.

I checked voicemail at home and found a message from someone representing the President's Office at Eastlink. They saw the guide problem and were looking into it. Ten days and they still hadn't made any progress. Maybe they aren't the provider for me?

We had another big day planned for tomorrow, so it was lights out at 10:00 PM. I always get way more sleep when I'm on the road.

Today's Route (191 miles):

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