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Trip Report: Canada's Wonderland

A trip report from my home park, which I haven't visited since Cedar Fair acquired it.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted June 21, 2010 at 2:36 PM
Travel and Accommodations

I currently live in Kingston, Ontario, which is only a three-hour drive from Toronto. We have a friend who is currently undergoing corporate training in downtown Toronto. He has a job with the provincial government so, naturally, his condo was luxurious, spacious, and ideally located. We drove west to surprise him for his birthday and crashed at his condo, so travel expenses were low.

Tickets

Gate tickets prices at Wonderland go for about $56 CAD, but what kind of Insider would I be if I paid at the gate? Sadly, Theme Park Insider’s page for Wonderland did not list any sites for discount tickets. I recently changed that by adding information from Red Flag Deals, a Canadian bargain website that listed several discount codes for Wonderland’s corporate partners and specialty days. Happily, June 19 happened to have the best discount of the year, a promotional code created by a local television station to promote attendance of a concert at Wonderland for Chinese-Canadians. Using this discount and ignoring its intended audience, I was able to purchase five tickets at $28 CAD a piece. Not bad.

Arrival

From Theme Park Insider

We had a long night partying the night before we visited the park. As the clock rolled past 10:00a, several of my buddies were still sleeping. I was showered, packed, and ready to go. We had missed park opening. No biggie, I thought. The forecast had called for rain and the sky was dark. Most of my friends were saddened by this, though I was ecstatic, knowing that a chance of rain would cause people to delay or cancel their plans, thinning the crowd at the park. By the time everyone had gotten up, showered, and eaten, it was well past 11:00a. In addition, several of my buddies are soccer fans, so we ended up watching a portion of Saturday’s Ghana-Australia match. By 12:00p, the theme park nerd in me wanted to scream and dropkick through the television. WHAT ARE WE DOING??!! WHY ARE WE STILL HERE??!! THE PARK HAS BEEN OPEN FOR TWO HOURS!!!!

Finally, we departed at 12:30p and arrived in Vaughan, Ontario, at 1:00p. I was very impressed by the friendliness of the parking and front entrance attendants. The ever-irritating photographers were still present, but by pretending we didn’t speak English we were on our way to Behemoth.

Park Impressions

I was very impressed with the overall quality of Wonderland. I haven’t been to the park since the Northeast blackout of 2003 (as a side note, we were camping in the Adirondacks during the entire blackout, so we were unaware it was occurring). The park was still under Paramount at that time. I recalled it was mostly enjoyable, though I almost got into a scuffle with some street hoods who wanted my money. On this trip, there was a noticeable lack of teens and tweens and the park was mostly filled with families. Security guards were omnipresent, though unintimidating and friendly. Nearly every employee was very friendly, including the fast food counter service employees, who thanked us, ensured our meal orders were correct, and told us to enjoy the rest of our day at Wonderland. We only had one incident with a drink stand employee who refused to give my friend a cup of complimentary tap water. After my positive experiences with Disney, Universal, and Busch Gardens all providing the tap water for free, I figured Wonderland would do the same.

The park was very clean and tidy. Most attractions seemed to have fresh coats of paint, though the color schemes were the same as they were in the ‘90s, giving the park a dated look. Litter was nearly absent, with only a few straggled bottles on the mini-putt course that some inconsiderate guests had left at one of the holes. The mini-putt course also required better upkeep. The greens were tinted with leaves and seeds from overhanging trees, which significantly impeded several of my shots. One noticeable difference in the park was the heavy presence of recycling bins, though few guests took advantage of them. I am assuming the trash is sorted before it is dumped. Overall, the park seemed to be in good shape. Hopefully, Cedar Fair keeps it that way.

Dining Impressions

Food was unsurprisingly disappointing, though the friendly service almost made up for it. We ate at Coasters, which Wonderland advertises as a ‘50s style diner. The music certainly fit the theme; the prices did not. My meal, which included a fish sandwich, fries, and Coke, was just under $15 CAD. I opted to upgrade the drink size for $0.20, though not the food. My drink was about 50% larger for only a 20-cent increase, which truly shows how much your food is actually worth. Even without the upgrade in food quantity, I was uncomfortably full and groggy for the remainder of the day. Considering Toronto’s abundance of culture and fine dining, acquiring better dining establishments should not be too painstaking of a task. Wonderland, like most theme parks, really needs to analyze their dining situation.

Attraction Impressions

Behemoth was the standout attraction of the day, earning a 9-Outstanding on the TPI scale. At 230 feet and 77 mph, it is the tallest and fastest coaster in Canada. With a throughput of approximately 1,545 guests/hour, it’s also one of the most efficient. We rode twice in a 40-minute interval. Behemoth is a B&M hypercoaster, similar to Diamondback and Goliath, though I cannot compare them as I haven’t ridden the latter two. It provides plenty of airtime and each seat has an unobstructed view. Unfortunately, Behemoth is miles ahead of any of the other coasters at Wonderland, making the remainder of the park seem unexciting by comparison.

From Theme Park Insider

Of the park’s remaining 14 roller coasters, we experienced Mighty Canadian Minebuster, Vortex, Thunder Run, Dragon Fire, and Wild Beast (twice). We attempted to ride Flight Deck, though a light evening rain delayed ride operations and we left the park. We also experienced Riptide (Splashover), Drop Tower: Scream Zone, Krachenwagen (bumper cars, not yet listed on TPI), and the mini-putt course. Certain attractions, such as Minebuster, Thunder Run, Dragon Fire, and Wild Beast, had very small, uncomfortable seats with awkward restraints. Minebuster and Wild Beast opened with the park, and it shows. By the end of both rides, my upper chest felt like it had been used as Mike Tyson’s speed bag. The bumper cars were the worst I’ve experienced. There were far too many cars for an attraction that small, and guests were told they would be booted if they traveled clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. Overall, most of the attractions were fun, though underwhelming when compared to Behemoth.

One problem suffered by every attraction was the loading efficiency. Although the park only had a moderate crowd and we never waited longer than 30 minutes, every attraction had empty seats on every vehicle. Cedar Fair had the right idea with opening a single riders line for Behemoth, though it is not a separate line and, thus, single riders must awkwardly squeeze their way through the entire line to get to the front. Although there were attendants on every attraction who casually waved guests into the seats, they were not assigning seats, nor were they trying to fill empty ones. These employees essentially stood in one spot all day, nonchalantly rotating their wrists in a vague, gesturing motion, barely, if at all, deserving their minimum wage pay. Lines were not very long, though they could have been much shorter. Plus, I imagine it would make the employees’ days more interesting if they had to keep track of numbers and seat assignments. Several of the attractions bolstered signs that read, “Loading crew of the year: 200_”. I don’t think anyone there deserved that title.

From Theme Park Insider

Riptide was the only attraction we experienced that contained zip pouches to store loose items. Considering the attraction drenches riders with fountains, nobody wants to keep valuable items in the pouches. The remaining attractions had cubbies on the sides of the loading platforms for item storage, though anyone could walk up and snag your valuables. Locker rentals were only available at the park and water park entrances. We were lucky we didn’t lose any of our belongings. Wonderland should place more pouches on rides and/or lockers nearby to allow guests to store belongings.

One guest we encountered went to Splash Works, Wonderland’s water park. Splash Works closed at 6p, as noted on the website. I’m unsure if it’s noted on the park maps since we couldn’t find a portable park map all day. Although admission to Splash Works is included with a Wonderland pass, the employees didn’t inform the guest while he was renting a locker that Splash Works closed at 6p. He arrived late in the day and was only able to spend a few minutes in the water park before it closed up. He did not receive a refund on his locker rental and was very upset.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention any live shows. The only live entertainment available at the park was Rock Band Live, where guests compete at the video game Rock Band in front of a live audience. Lame. Several live shows open on and after June 26, but until then guests are limited to watching teenagers butcher the solo from Enter the Sandman.

At one point in the day, I caught a glimpse of Charlie Brown through the trees. Besides that, I never saw any characters in the park. Wonderland needs to capitalize on its use of Charles Schulz’s characters, which it gained when Cedar Fair bought the company (in the process, they lost their Hanna-Barbera characters).

Conclusions

Wonderland has improved since I last saw it in 2003. The park is cleaner and friendlier with a higher abundance of attractions. Unfortunately, only one of those attractions truly stands out. There are several steps that Wonderland needs to take before becoming a park worth revisiting annually, including building higher calibre attractions, implementing better live entertainment, training efficient loading platform employees, serving better food, providing complimentary tap water at drink stands, and installing lockers and/or storage units on attractions for guests’ belongings. Overall, I recommend Canada’s Wonderland to any travelers in the Toronto area and will hopefully be back in a year.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted June 21, 2010 at 5:51 PM
Joshua, Thanks for posting this. I'll be visiting...if all goes right..CW for the first time a week from tomorrow. This helps me out a lot, because I haven't found too many actual trip reports from CW, here or on other sites. I'll be there two days, driving from St. Catharines Tuesday, staying in Brampton Tuesday night, and the park again Wednesday, then back to St. Catharines. I haven't been out of the country in 40 years, and I'm pretty excited to go. I leave Wednesday for Ohio..Kings Island then Cedar Point..then on to the Great White North.

From Rhys Evans
Posted June 21, 2010 at 7:07 PM
Joshua and others: Though I agree with many points in this report (and I absolutely agree that Behemoth is the headliner...it's awesome), on my recent (and only) visit to Wonderland, my experience was much better. Mind you, two days prior, I had visited La Ronde in Montreal, and found THAT park to be filthy, staffed by incompetent, rude and inattentive (text-messaging while on duty) employees, with most coasters running only one train -- overall, one of my worst amusement park experiences, ever! That said, I appreciated Wonderland's ride capacity; every ride I wanted to go on was running efficiently, worthy of a short wait -- umm, I was there on a Wednesday; it WAS very clean. Yeah, food was disappointing, but when isn't it? The staff was friendly. Besides Behemoth, I thought Whitewater Canyon was noteworthy in how they integrated it into a nice forest. We rode 12 or 13 coasters in maybe 5 hours. A few disappointments (total of 10-15% of my relative disgust with La Ronde) included lack of effects on "stunt coaster," an unecessarily rough "dragon fire" and a rather boring "thunder run." But overall, I enjoyed it, I think the staff was fine, I think Cedar Fair is doing a good job, and I hope they keep it up. I echo Joshua's conclusion that he recommends a visit if you're in the area; maybe not worth a 1000 mile trip, but can't hurt to stop there if you're in Toronto.

From James Rao
Posted June 21, 2010 at 7:54 PM
Great report, Josh. I love reading your stuff because you always have at least one humorous gem that cracks me up. This time it was the following comment: "These employees essentially stood in one spot all day, nonchalantly rotating their wrists in a vague, gesturing motion, barely, if at all, deserving their minimum wage pay." Priceless.

And thanks for working on cleaning up the Canada's Wonderland TPI page. I tried to do it myself, but I just don't know enough about the park...

From Joshua Counsil
Posted June 21, 2010 at 8:18 PM
Mike -
You're very welcome. Keep in mind that I have seen the park many times and we were all exhausted from partying all night. There were many worthwhile attractions we didn't experience on this trip, including Flight Deck. I recommend getting there early, leaving in the mid-afternoon to nap, shower, and do whatever else you need to do to relax, then returning in the mid-evening. Don't forget to check out the discounted tickets I posted.

Rhys -
My day at Wonderland was very enjoyable overall, but I feel it is my job as an Insider to critique everything that came to my mind. La Ronde never was and still isn't nearly as good as Wonderland. To say your experience was much better is to take everything I said for face value. We are theme park lovers, and I always try to compare what I am experiencing with what is the best. I agree that Cedar Fair is fine, but rather than keeping up the fine work, I want them to improve. Most of the employees were friendly and welcoming. The employees manning the rides, however, were not. They were slow and apathetic. At one point, they told a woman she was too big to ride Dragon Fire, but they did it so indifferently that she left in tears. It almost ruined my afternoon. A professional employee would have consoled her to some extent, perhaps offering a front-of-the-line pass to another attraction or, at the very least, would have walked with her and apologized for the situation. The woman wasn't even that large, especially not by Orlando standards. As for your comment on the mediocre food, I can name several theme parks that serve good food. I had an excellent day, but there is still room for improvement.

James -
Thanks, as always. Normally, I'm a little more cynical than I was when writing this report. I just didn't have anything funny to say this time. It was a great day, though I was so out of it that I was less observant than I normally am at theme parks.

From Ryan B
Posted June 22, 2010 at 6:35 PM
Vortex is the best arrow suspended coaster! Agreed, Canada's Wonderland is pretty awesome.

From Bill Lohr
Posted June 23, 2010 at 5:03 AM
I so feel the whole chain needs to put back quality entertainment. If they had it we would work our way back up there every few years like we did back in the day that they did. We love coasters but alone that is not what is going to make us make the trip. Thanks so much for taking the time to share the information. The Old Kings Entertainment Company ran the parks so much better back in the 80's. Coasters were also ran so much better. Lines moved so much better then with Cedar Fair

From Joshua Counsil
Posted June 23, 2010 at 10:40 AM
It's tough to say if Cedar Fair is running the company better. The employees were much nicer than they've ever been, so that's a plus, but the loading employees were neither nice, nor efficient. This is something that hasn't changed between management. The park was clean and tidy, but the park has always been that way. The guests were well behaved and security was noticeably stronger.

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