Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Waldameer Trip Report: Ravine Flyer II First Turnaround Retracking

Got our first visit of the season in at Waldameer last weekend, along with some beach time at adjacent and beautiful Presque Isle State Park. Erie is our favorite day trip in the summer, especially with our pups. Sitting out on the beaches, dipping into the water. Dogs are allowed on the unguarded beaches, of which there are plenty, along the seven miles of beach that the peninsula into Lake Erie has to offer. We usually wrap up the day with a few rides on Ravine Flyer II. This is also one of the few parks that allows you to bring dogs in, although the dogs are unable to ride anything like they are at Knoebels, which allows dogs to ride on the trains, carousels, and antique car ride. Waldameer does not allow this, though you can bring the dogs in, which is still pretty awesome. 
This is a relatively quiet year in regards to additions to the park this year, at least compared to other years. Each year they have done really ambitious things for more than a decade, such as pretty much tripling the size of the waterpark into a facility with an excellent collection of waterslides, including a water coaster that was added last year. This park has added to its collection pretty much yearly with the addition of new rides, revamped areas of the park, and so much more. This year looked like more of a maintenance year, adding a few more cabanas, and rebuilding the track first turnaround section of Ravine Flyer II.
There is something pleasant about waiting for the train to pass by on the midway.
CeCe chilling on the midway
Waldameer's main midway has so much of the charm I love about these old time amusement parks. Games, a sky ride running over the midway, concessions, and happy and relaxed people. Waldameer is now the sole survivor in this entire corner of the state, and one of only two remaining traditional amusement parks in all of western PA, with Conneaut Lake Park gone, Lakemont Park in limbo, and all of the parks of Northeast Ohio, aside from Memphis Kiddie Park, being gone. Not only has Waldameer survived, but it has flourished, with innovative attractions being constantly added to the park. 
Ravine Flyer is running great! They rebuilt the first turnaround section this past year, so it is super smooth, while still giving you those terrific lateral forces. This coaster has aged so gracefully, and really feels like it tops it self out in quality each year. 

Last year the back half was rebuilt. Now it really hauls through the end, no momentum loss going into that last airtime hill. Endless pops of out of your seat ejector air, to the point of being brought to standing position. All of this in addition to having some of the most scenic views of any coaster, with a view from above of Lake Erie and Presque Isle State Park before you get launched to the moon on the first drop. After all of these years, it remains the best coaster on Lake Erie. 
There is nothing like a well maintained coaster running PTC trains. Nothing comes close to it. The early era Gravity Group coasters and the CCI coasters with PTCs are the pinnacle of wooden coaster construction in my opinion. Between this and CCI's Silver Comet up at Niagara Amusement Park, you have two terrific coasters from this era that are only two hours apart. 
Be sure to check out Waldameer and Ravine Flyer II every chance you get. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Niagara Amusement Park: Silver Comet is a CCI That Cannot Be Missed

Niagara Amusement Park has a seriously great coaster that cannot be missed. I rode Silver Comet last Labor Day weekend and adored it, yet I forgot to make a trip report, so here goes. Silver Comet is a fantastic CCI masterpiece. A zippy layout with terrific laterals and airtime, the kind of experience you should expect to get on a CCI, especially one with PTC trains. It is a perfect ride and there is no reason you should not stop at this park if you are in northern NY. There is a solid chance that you could ride this coaster for a long time, non-stop, if you really wanted to. This coaster would definitely be worth residing for hours. It is a really great coaster. 

The layout is purely airtime, lightly banked turns with terrific laterals, and a really nice and compact layout with a ton of action. It is a great counterpart to Ravine Flyer II, about two hours southeast down the Lake Erie coast. 
The park itself is in flux. It has a nice layout with a small lake, woods, and a rebounding collection of rides. This is a big task for the park, since Apex parks took out most of the rides when the old Martin's Fantasy Island was closed in 2020. Gene Staples, the same guy that purchased and saved Indiana Beach and Clementon Park, purchased the park, got the coaster back up and running, and has brought in some other rides to fill in. An SDC Galaxi is in the midst of construction, a small family coaster is also under construction. 

An old Schwarzkopf shuttle loop, which was Kennywood's Laser Loop, is sitting in pieces in the parking lot. I would be surprised if they are able to get that rebuilt, but it would be great if they could.

The park has a main midway that is western themed, and they have regular western shows, which is strange, but cool at the same time. It was better than expected, though I did not hang around for it since I did not have the time. I have never seen a small park like this have an immersive themed experience like this, and I was pretty impressed. 
Silver Comet was designed by Larry Bill and opened in 1999. It sat from 2020-2022 and was brought back to life. It is a terrifically underrated ride. A real gem. 
It surprises me that Silver Comet is often overlooked. A strong argument could be made that this is the best coaster or at least amongst the best coasters in New York State. The only major park I am missing in the state is Great Escape. This ride is at the same level of quality as the other standouts in the state, including the Coney Island Cyclone, Rye Playland's Dragon Coaster, Seabreeze's Bobs, and Darien Lake's Viper and Ride of Steel. It is great doing this park in conjunction with stunning Niagara Falls, which is only 15 minutes from here. 


Monday, October 9, 2023

Our 2024 Roller Coaster Calendar is Available Now

This year's edition is sold out! Thank you for your support again! Our book on Pennsylvania Amusement Parks is still available though!

Our spiral bound 2024 Roller Coaster Wall Calendar is available now! It is our 11th annual Roller Coaster Calendar and it features roller coasters from many amusement parks, including: 

-Knoebels in Pennsylvania 
-Belmont Park in San Diego 
-Busch Gardens Williamsburg
-Knott's Berry Farm 
-Six Flags Magic Mountain 
-Morey's Piers in New Jersey 
-Indiana Beach 
-Six Flags Great America 
-Casino Pier in NJ
-Six Flags Great Adventure
-Playland's Castaway Cove in Ocean City, NJ
-Niagara Amusement Park

These calendars are custom made by us with photos taken by us. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 per page)

Also available is our book on Pennsylvania's historic amusement parks, Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip. It features Knoebels, Kennywood Park, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Waldameer, DelGrosso's, Lakemont, Dutch Wonderland, Idlewild, and the gone, but not forgotten, Conneaut Lake Park.

Purchases of both items can be made through the PayPal menu at the bottom of this page, and at the top of this page. Thank you for all of your support over the years!

Book Purchase Option

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Waldameer Trip Report: New Water Coaster Update & Continued Epic Ravine Flyer Trackwork

I will start things off by saying that Waldameer is a perfect amusement park. The park is continually adding and improving with every chance that they get, which is rare within the industry, let alone within the tough economic headwinds that this region of the Rust Belt has faced for more than 40 years. They get some kind of addition annually, no matter what. Whether it be a flat ride, park improvement, or a new slide or attraction in their booming waterpark, they are constantly improving and perfecting the park. 

Brand new track through the back portion of the coaster.

They have one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world with Ravine Flyer II, and have maintained it perfectly since it debuted. This Gravity Group creation with PTC trains is pure perfection. Somehow topping itself each year in excellence. They have track work down to a science, utilizing ride timing and data in direct conjunction with the Gravity Group to target areas of the ride to build new track for each offseason. The end result is a perfectly maintained wooden roller coaster that breaks in and shines in perfection every single season. 

There is nothing quite like a wooden roller coaster with PTC trains for a feeling of absolute perfection. I've ridden this almost every season since it was new, and can say that this year the coaster was so twisted and out of control that I did not even know what was coming. Extremely fast, full of airtime and laterals, perfectly placed tunnels, and views of Lake Erie and Presque Isle State Park that are unmatched. 

The other thing that really impresses me as well is that they have retained the classic feel of the park along the main midways. It feels like a step back in time when you walk through the main midway of the park as you head to Ravine Flyer. It is perfectly shaded, there is a sky ride that extends for the length of the midway, and there are old midway games, arcades, and snack stands that remind me of parks that have either completely closed, or other parks that have been gutted to the point of no longer being recognized on older midways, like Dorney Park has. None of that sanitized feel along these midways, and I am glad the park has retained that character. 

The expansion of the waterpark has transformed it from being a really fun regional waterpark into a world class player. No waterslide exists within 5 hours of this park that is remotely like this new waterslide. The growth of this waterpark has also been pretty incredible. Rocket Blast is the yellow slide within this view. The other thing the park has done to maximize space is through utilizing pads on the older slide towers to pack as many slides into the space as possible.

It is hard to believe that most of the things in view here were parking lot about ten years ago. 

The waterpark has about tripled in size, with 32 waterslides, with the bulk of these added in the last ten years, in addition to a wave pool, water play areas, and more. Water World is a bonafide world class waterpark contender now. The clip at which they have expanded is spectacular. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Playland's Castaway Cove in Ocean City, NJ: The Most Thrills Per Acre Anywhere

The building under construction out front will be the platform for yet another coaster in the next few years!

I have no idea how they pack this much awesome in such a small spot. They had more operating full size coasters than Lake Compounce did earlier in our trip, in a space that could be contained within the front entranceway and midway to that park. To top all of that off, they have two signature coasters that cannot be found anywhere else or even remotely close in style. Strange and awesome coasters, and a flat ride collection that most parks should be envious of. All while managing to have wide open midways that do not feel overcrowded and spectacular lighting packages on all of their rides, making it really pop in a beautiful boardwalk setting. 

I got a major case of "dirty lens" on this evening, and I left my equipment behind and did not have an extra battery, but you get the gist of it. Their custom Miler coaster is unique and wild at the same time. with a ride, airtime, and lats that are reminiscent of a wooden roller coaster. The photos in the second half are phone shots, though there is minimal difference in quality, to be honest. 

Pano mode on the phone was pretty weak, but it is what it is. How they manage to fit a log flume in this space is just amazing. This park and Indiana Beach are just masters at packing in the thrills per acre, this park especially though. You could easily fit it within the entry plaza of most 70s era suburban amusement parks. 

Riding the Ferris Wheel and seeing what they have accomplished is really amazing.

They even manage to fit a small train ride within the park.

I get a smile just thinking about this park. It is such a treat to visit this joyful park. GaleForce is just phenomenal. Between the extreme airtime and inversions, this ride has it all. On this trip I had ridden Premier, Intamin, and S&S compact vertical launcher coaster creations, all in the matter of a few days. S&S and the epic design of Joe Draves hit out out of the park. This ride is absolutely bonkers and there is really nothing else quite like it. Then they run it 2-3 times through the cycle and the thing is just wicked. Wild airtime and hang time that leaves you wondering what happened at the end. This ride alone is worth a visit to Jersey, all the other boardwalk parks and Great Adventure are just icing after this. Highly recommend checking out this park and relaxing down at the Jersey Shore. For more info on the park, check out our last trip report from there. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Morey's Piers Trip Report, June 2023

Now we head to the main part of our trip, in Wildwood and the Jersey Shore. Morey's Piers is a pretty awesome place to check out if all of the piers are open, which sadly was not the case when we decided to go visit this year. Great White is a world class ride, especially since it got so much retracking love from GCI. There is nothing quite like a wooden coaster running in peak condition with PTC trains. We arrived in Wildwood on a Sunday night, which was the only night all three piers were open during our visit, so we rushed to get a couple rides in on Great White on Sunday night, then got in a ride on the Ferris Wheel on Mariner's Pier on one of the nights during the week. We took a much more holistic approach to visiting the Wildwood boardwalk and spending our entertainment money in the different arcades and food joints along the boardwalk instead of centrally spending our money at Morey's Piers, since two of the three were not open on June weekdays until the third week of June. The website says the piers will be open daily through Labor Day now, so the rest of you will probably not face that problem this season. 

Mariner's Pier has a Boomerang, an SBF Spinner, and a janky Zyklon, along with some flats and a giant Ferris Wheel. This was the only pier that was open during the week. We only ended up riding the Ferris Wheel on this trip, for the views up there are so spectacular.

Seaside Pier has a Vekoma SLC, and a quirky and fun Zierer family coaster called The Runaway Tram, themed to the venerable Wildwood Tramcar. We did not get over there on this trip.

I am the guy with the hands up in the back seat.

Adventure Pier is where it is at for coaster lovers with the spectacular Great White, a CCI built woodie that has been restored by GCI and runs with PTC trains. The views are great and it has a really out-of-control ride experience. For returning visitors, this is the reason to go to the park once you do sweeps of he other coasters. The Vekomas around the piers are solid and run smooth, but still are not intriguing designs to me. 

A view of the three piers from a Whale Watching Sunset Cruise in Cape May.

Great White is a spectacular coaster that is up there with the best of them since it has gotten track work from GCI. I am glad I was able to snag a few rides on it on Sunday night when we arrived to Wildwood. I would have probably ridden this nightly had the pier been open throughout our trip. For a more thorough trip report from this park, specifically at a time when all of the piers were open check out our last visit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Nickelodeon Universe at the American Dream Mall Trip Report, June 2023

We stopped by the American Dream mall as the next stop on our road trip and got some redemption from the lousy experience we had at Lake Compounce with some quick laps on their new coasters.

As for the park overall, my first thought is expensive, but not bad. Individual ride options are now available. Last time we went through the area we opted to skip the park since the day pass was for somewhere in the ballpark of a hundred bucks. The individual ride tickets are not cheap by any means, but less expensive than that if you are looking to just go and ride the rides. 

The collection of coasters is fun, but there was some random and unexpected rattling and roughness on both TMNT Shellraiser (Gerstlauer Eurofighter) and Sandy's Blasting Bronco (Intamin LSM Shuttle Launcher with turntable). I have to say that they are pretty loosely themed, with probably even less theming than Six Flags does, since they at least have some plastic board cut outs of superhero figures. Either theme the rides fully or just give them random names. The weak theming does not detract from the ride experiences, but it would probably be way cheaper to not have to buy rights to use IP. The "Green Coaster" or the "Purple Coaster" are how I referred to the rides anyways. 

The Purple Coaster (Shredder? Is that a themed name?) was the first thing I rode. I loved it. More parks should have these modern Gerstlauer spinning coasters. They offer enough thrill to satisfy a thrill seeker, but are light enough that they are a real crowd pleaser. Might have been my favorite ride at the park. Had no rough spots at all unlike the two other European coasters in the park. 

The orange coaster, Nickelodeon Slime Streak, was great. I am glad to see they picked Chance to make another ride. This is definitely a sleeper ride with some light and fun airtime. If it were any bigger and more intense, it would easily be the best coaster at the park. They probably could have fit a Chance Hyper-GXT along the lines of Lightning Run in at the park. They probably still could. We really need to see more Chance creations like this. I love the coasters that Draves has done. I have ridden five of his seven completed coasters, and aside from Steel Curtain, I think they are all brilliant. Steel Curtain would be a fine ride if they could get it to run reliably and quickly in regards to operations. All of the other rides of his are absolutely brilliance.

Sandy's Blasting Bronco and TMNT Shellraiser are strange rides that would be much better if they did not rattle so much or have some random and unpredictable rough spots. Shellraiser specifically would be one of my overall favorite rides for how strange it is, but the rough spots are not good. It has just about every kind of awesome gimmick they could add, from an inversion right out of the station, to a hidden launch into a giant inversion and twisted layout, plus a vertical lift with a holding brake that gives views out the windows onto the NYC skyline, and the world's steepest drop on a coaster. Even with all of that, the ride's rough spots discourage you from going for a second ride. I do not know if it is a maintenance problem with the park, installation issues, or manufacturing imperfections, but the park should work with Gerstlauer to smooth out these problem spots and get the ride running well, because they have a real winner on their hands otherwise. If the problem spots are due to track issues, Gerstlauer should refabricate some track. S&S has done similar refabrication of track for GaleForce to rectify early issues. This is a new ride, it shouldn't have this kind of roughness. 

Samdy’s Blasting Bronco had some strange deep rattling on the edges where it goes vertical that were way beyond normal roughness. Get it together, Intamin. The ride program was disappointing too. I feel like it would be better if it went through the course twice in each direction. GaleForce by S&S at Playland in Ocean City, NJ is far superior with a program that goes through the intense course a few times. Even the Premier Sky Rocket 2 coasters are superior to this. I expected more. 

Actual quote from the store "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for the sweet life, and I will give you IT'S SUGAR." This is absolutely dystopian. Reminds me of something out of Glass Onion. 

The atmosphere of this park is odd too. The whole mall feels like an approximation of what American culture is, if the only thing you did was go on Instagram and look at influencer posts. Almost like a less fancy version of the house in Glass Onion. Do not take that as a negative, it is definitely an experience. It would have been a letdown if it were at the old "all day rate" of a hundred bucks, but for individual ride tickets, which were still pretty steep, it was definitely worth checking out. I feel like if they lowered their price point more, the park would be hopping. Another strange thing about the park was that this was a prime Sunday with huge crowds, yet many stores in the mall were closed, and the ones that were open had no one purchasing anything. Not a good thing for the long term viability of such a giant facility. I feel like the future of this facility as a whole might be more as a daily destination place for activities, and with some restructuring, this could be a booming place. 

Add some craft breweries and beer gardens, epic playgrounds, and more, and you have an excellent place. They had these e-bikes fashioned as animals to ride, and they were swarming all over the place. People were waiting in line to ride them and super excited about them. One of the central points in the mall had this karaoke thing that feels like it is specifically tailored to a North Jersey/New York crowd. I feel that with some fine tuning, this place could be flourishing. The days of shopping malls flourishing are long over in this country, which makes this entire development a head scratcher, since malls have opened and already closed in the span that this mall was announced, built, and completed. I think in the 21st century retail environment, you need to be leaner and meaner with store offerings, specifically with store offerings that offer a unique experience that is worth leaving your home. They will need to lean into that if they want to be viable as a retail destination, but I really think the true future of this place is in expanding the entertainment offerings. With some tweaking, restructuring, additions, and rethinking, this could easily be the premier entertainment facility of the Northeast. With its prime location in the center of North Jersey and the NYC metro area and year round entertainment capabilities, I feel like they could really grow this place into a premier entertainment center for the region, but I also see it being a potential white elephant as well. Only time will tell.