This site has a heavy bias toward Hersheypark, but Pennsylvania has so many other great parks to offer. I thought it would be good to place a little attention on a real gem of a park up in the northwest part of the state. Enjoy the read. I did.
Arriving to Waldameer
I ended up arriving at Waldameer a little before 12:30pm, to find an empty parking lot, and a practically empty park. I had an online-purchased ticket in hand and searched for a place to exchange it for a bracelet. As I walked around, I noticed that nothing was running, except the skyride. I thought that was odd, but then I saw a few signs that said “Open 1:00 PM”. Crowds were fairly light all day.
I got my bracelet, accompanied by a thick orange paint hand stamp. That thing would not come off as I scrubbed and scrubbed when I got home. In fact, I still see traces of it on my hand as I type this.
I had a plan coming in for the Waldameer coasters. I typically don’t do this sort of thing, but I was sitting on 247 roller coasters before this trip. I wanted Ravine Flyer II to be #250, and I thought it would be cool if it was wooden coaster #70 too. I was sitting on 69, so it had to be my first wooden coaster of the day.
I thought, to achieve all of this, I would ride the two steel coasters first. Steel Dragon was ok, but I really didn’t want to ride Ravine Flyer 3. I don’t do kiddie coasters. I simply refuse to do it, unless I’m with my daughter. But, I figured that if I really wanted RFII to have those two numbers, I would ride the kiddie ride that day. But I would do it quickly, before too many people arrived at the park.
I wish I would have known that the rides weren’t going to open until 1pm. I would have slept an extra hour. I did find that Whacky Shack and the Comet were open at 12. The 1pm opening totally messed with my plans. With the Comet being open, and with the very light crowds at that point, I couldn’t justify waiting. So the Comet became wooden coaster #70, and I didn’t have to ride the kiddie coaster afterall, maintaining my integrity…
The Park – Waldameer
I LOVED the park. It’s small, but it’s a real gem. The setting is just great. I love free parking, open gate parks. The layout seems random, but it works here. I liked how there are rides installed in front of the “main gate”. There is limited space at Waldameer, and they make good use of it all.
The new North End section of the park is neat, and is a treat for the eyes. It reminds me of a poor-man’s Lost Kennywood. It only consists of three rides. I probably would have tried to squeeze a food stand or game into the area too. But, like I said, space is at a premium.
I liked the little statues scattered throughout the park. I wonder what the thought process behind them was. But I liked it. The park was landscaped pretty well. The only thing I didn’t get was the dirt around the swings. There were muddy footprints all over the ride platform.
I can’t comment on the park’s food. I took sparky’s advice and hit up Sarah’s for a foot long hot dog with curly fries and a hot fudge milkshake. It was great, and I loved the atmosphere of the place. I actually spent an hour of my Erie time outside the park.
I did take the time to drive around Presque Isle State Park. I love the Great Lakes, and I wanted to see Lake Erie up close. The last time I saw Lake Erie was in 2003 from Cedar Point. I stopped at one of the park’s beaches and took some pictures. It was a gorgeous day.
Back at the park, I was disappointed that the flume never opened. It looked like a good one, with two decent sized drops, and a tunnel. They brought in a boom lift later on in the day and maintenance was working on the large lift all day. It’s a shame because, as I’ve said before, I love a good log flume.
Additionally, I was unable to ride the ferris wheel, as it now has a no single riders policy. I didn’t feel like hanging around to try to ride with someone else. I passed.
There are some really good rides at Waldameer too, some of which are unique to the park. Excluding the coasters, my day went something like this:
This was my first ride of the day. I had gone to ride Steel Dragon first (the gameplan) but it was a one o’clocker. So on the way over to Comet, I stopped to ride Whacky Shack, as the line was very short. I’m glad I rode it when I did, because the line later on was very long.
This was a really fun dark ride. There’s nothing real scary in there, but there are a lot of neat stunts. The ride is very “turny” and throws you around a good bit. It’s not Knoebel’s or Rehobeth’s, but it’s one of the better ones I’ve ridden.
After riding the Comet, and after killing time until 1pm getting familiar with the park, I made my way over to Steel Dragon. On the way there, I saw that Pirate’s Cove had opened a few minutes early. The line was empty, so I walked right in. I kept hearing screaming ahead of me, so I thought I was in for a scary treat.
This ride is not scary at all, but it is a very fun walk-through. There are numerous dark corridors, and each is different and fun. I loved the slanted floor rooms, including the one where you can’t help but hit the walls on every turn. I loved the “Ain’t got no body” guy too. I laughed.
Like the Whacky Shack, this wasn’t the best walk-through I’ve done, but it was one of the better ones.
After Steel Dragon, I stopped to ride the walk-on X-Scream drop tower. It’s very similar to the one I frequently ride at Morey’s. Like Morey’s the view is stunning. I made sure to get a “lake view seat”. I kinda’ just wanted the ride to let us sit at the top for a while to take the view in. That’s not an option, as it drops upon reaching the top. The drop is fast and seems too long for how tall the ride is. It literally brakes at the last second. This is a very effective drop ride.
After two rides on Ravine Flyer II, and after seeing that I wasn’t able to ride the ferris wheel, I went over to the North End section to ride the swings. They are fun, and I liked how you can pair up with someone if you want. All day, I kept thinking that I’d love to bring the family, and this ride was one of those times. I would love to ride a ride like this with my three year-old. However, as the ride was in motion, I found myself watching RFII.
Upon returning from my lunch break and tour of the peninsula, I parked in the east lot and grabbed my camera to take some pictures. As I entered the park, I decided to hop on the carousel. I regretted it as soon as the ride started to move. I noticed that the horses were not wooden and there was a small “Chance” symbol up above. Then I remembered that the park sold its original carousel a few years back, which I think is a terrible shame.
I thought I’d get some good aerial pics from the Skyride, and I was right. I love a good skyride, and I like that this one is a round trip. There are advantages to having two stations, but this was a nice long ride. I thought the return run would have a better view of the lake, but instead you get a great view of RFII.
If I could make a simple addition to Waldameer, it would be some sort of observation tower, whether it’s a ride or an observation deck. They need something that goes up higher than the tree line, so that guests can enjoy the view of the lake.
Conneaut Lake Park
Remember how I said that I’m still steaming? Well, here’s why…
I left Waldameer at about 5:30pm. I arrived at Conneaut Lake Park at about 6:15pm. My intent was to tour the park a bit and give Blue Streak a couple of rides. As I got close to the park, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty the area is, particularly around the lake. It would make a nice vacation spot if there were a few more things to do.
I pulled up to the gate and noticed it was $5 to park. No big deal. I stopped and reached for my wallet. The attendant, a gentleman in his late 60’s, looked at me oddly, and I told him I wanted to pay to park. He told me, “No charge today”.
“Sweet,” I thought.
“But the park’s closed,” he continued.
“You’re sh*tting me, “ slipped out of my mouth. The man laughed. I told him the website says you’re open. He chuckled and said, “I know.”
I was livid. There was so much wrong with this situation. I didn’t get to ride the Blue Streak. The ride and the park are hanging by a thread, and who knows how long they will remain open? Who knows when I’ll be able to make it back?
I kind of had the attitude that I can get to Waldameer any time, but I want to make it to Conneaut and ride the Blue Streak before they’re both gone forever.
The reason I waited until now to go to Waldameer and Conneaut was that the latter was only open Fridays through Sundays in June, Thursdays through Sundays in July and August.
I checked the website the day before. It still said the park was open Thursdays in August at 6pm. As I walked through the park, I checked the website on my phone, and it had changed. That means that the day of the 25th, they decided not to open the park that evening and changed the website to reflect that decision. That is ridiculous. Now it’s only open Saturdays and Sundays.
I gave myself a tour of the park. The place was a ghost town. Despite my anger, I have to say there was something really cool about walking around an old, run down amusement park by myself. It was a little eerie.
There was a single game open along the midway. The carny-type fellow tried to get me to play. There was almost a post-apocalyptic feel about it. There were run-down buildings and a handful of “survivors”. I took a bunch of pictures, and one of these days I’ll reply to this post with some photos.
I even boarded the silent Blue Streak train and just sat there for a second, as the station was unoccupied, and there was no security to speak of. That was neat. I was tempted to look for the “On” button…
I’m rooting for this park, but it needs a lot of work, and I mean a lot. I would estimate that to make it profitable, and a destination that attracts people from the region, they would need at least $20 - $30 million. Buildings, infrastructure, rehabbing rides, new rides, re-do the water park, all of it would need to be done to compete with the likes of Kennywood, Sandcastle, and Waldameer.
There’s a market for this park if someone wants to invest the money. Geauga Lake closed down, and Conneaut Lake Park has something that the parks listed above don’t – a lake at its finger tips. Well, Waldameer has a lake, but it’s a bit intimidating for the casual vacationer. Parks right on the water have a feel to them that other parks do not. And there is certainly something to staying on a lake and strolling over to a park.
I think there is a great opportunity for group business here as well. I don’t see Waldameer as being able to handle real large groups. Kennywood could stand a little competition in that area.
Conneaut Lake Park is very run-down, but I liked what I saw. I see potential there. I just really wish it would have been open on Thursday. I guess if I found out that the park was closing down for good at the end of the year, than I‘d make the trip back this fall.
Again, in countdown order of how I liked them. Not a very long list today.
3) Comet – 2 rides
Comet was my first ride of the day. I love an old wooden roller coaster, no matter the size. I loved the station, and I loved the trains. The ride itself is very sharp looking, with the red-painted trim.
I was expecting this ride to be similar to Schmeck’s other PA small wooden coaster at Idlewild. Comet was much tamer than Rollo Coaster. But it was a fun ride. I think the second drop is larger than the first.
I got two back seat rides, as I was unable to ride up front both times due to my place in line. I couldn’t help but think the front gives a better ride. Comet was a lot of fun.
2) Steel Dragon – 1 ride
I know, it’s almost blasphemy to rate a little steel coaster ahead of a wooden coaster. But, Steel Dragon was really fun, and a nice ride for this park. It is the same model as the Spider, which I rode back in 2003 at Lagoon in Utah. I didn’t feel that that ride spun enough. This one spun perfectly. The first drop is great, and coming around that first hair-pin turn you get released to spin, and you really get going.
It’s a very popular ride at this park, as the line got long quickly. Had it been shorter, I would have ridden it a couple of more times. I’d like to see more of these show up at some smaller parks.
1) Ravine Flyer II – 5 rides
Obviously. This thing is just awesome. It opened late. I got in line at about 1:30, and it had yet to run with passengers. As we waited, people began to leave the line, and I moved up to the station. I was going to wait it out. It didn’t seem like anything was wrong. No Maintenance and a ride op at the controls. After waiting about 10 minutes, the crowd cheered as the gates opened. Only one train operation – the blue train - but that was sufficient for the crowds that day.
I saw the signs that said “Single Riders Load Toward the Center of Train and Pair Up”. As I scanned my bracelet, I asked the attendant if that was a hard and fast rule. She said I could sit wherever I wanted. The front only had a 2 train wait. I headed there.
The view cresting and coming off the lift of this ride is spectacular, and you can really take notice of it in the front seat. It may have nothing to do with the actually ride itself, but it is certainly part of the ride experience. The front seat offers great visuals, great turns, and a ton of speed – complete with pops of air all over the place. I loved that first ride, and I immediately thought of where this ride rated for me. I couldn’t quite place it, to be honest.
Then I rode the back. Wow. The back is relentless from start to finish. That has to be the steepest drop on a wooden roller coaster that I’ve ever experienced. That yank over the top of the lift that you get in the back is very intense. The drop back to the bridge after the turn-around is quite good too. The negative G’s in the back are better than the front too, I think.
An underrated part of this ride is the drop back into the ravine after the 90 degree turn. It’s really good in the back, as well.
After lunch, I returned and rode the back and the front again. Then I opted for one last ride before I left the park. This time I just got on in the middle – the third car to be exact. It was the most “rough” of the rides I took. Overall, RFII is really smooth and well-maintained.
After my first front-seat ride, I was trying to figure out if I liked it more than Shivering Timbers. After the back seat ride, there was no doubt. I’m not good at top 10’s but I guess RFII rates just behind Voyage, but ahead of Shivering Timbers. I’ve updated my profile to reflect the change.
All told, it was a fun day, and RFII was worth the drive by itself. I loved Waldameer as a park, and I hope to return in the not-too-distant future.
Conversely, Blue Streak joins the list of “wooden coasters that got away” for me. It’s a list of coasters that were closed when I got there, or that I was in the vicinity but didn’t make it to the park. Rides like Gwazi, Santa Cruz Giant Dipper, and American Eagle (blue) are on the list. I hope to take Blue Streak off soon – if not this year, then next year.