Canada's Wonderland - A Trip Review

During a mini vacation we went to Canada's Wonderland, it was my first trip in about 20 years, and I will give you my thoughts on the amusement park in this article. Canada's Wonderland is located in Vaughan (just north of Toronto), Ontario. I picked the day because the weather was mild, especially since we were just coming off of a heatwave. I decided that going during a weekday was better than going on a weekend, but I don't think that mattered. Despite it being a weekday, the park was very full; it never occurred to me that this was the last week the park was open from Monday to Friday until summer 2022. I had hoped that the park would not be too busy and thus the lines for the rides would not be very long. I could not have been more wrong, but despite how busy it was, we both had a great time and are looking forward to our next visit. In the days leading up to the visit, I had been browsing the site looking for information on the rides, food and shows. We learned several lessons that will allow us to make better use of our time on our next visit, which I will explain in more detail below. 

Canada's Wonderland opened up in 1981 as a 330-acre amusement park, and ownership of the park has changed hands several times in the forty years. The park was originally partnering with Hanna-Barbera for the part of the park aimed at children, which has since become known as Planet Snoopy. Hanna-Barbera was the animation studio behind such shows as The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear. I still have a fuzzy memory of watching a show with wooden logs as seats with characters like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. When I think of my experience in Hanna-Barbera land to what I saw in Planet Snoopy I feel disappointed for it no longer having the ties to Hanna-Barbera. Paramount took over the park in 1993 and rides became tied to Paramount films. They had a motion seat theatre ride called Days of Thunder which was named after the Tom Cruise film of the same name. The roller coaster now known as Flight Deck was called Top Gun, the Backlot Stunt Coaster was called the Italian Job and Time Warp was originally called Tomb Raider. That was a weird era for the park, but also one that gave the park some of it's great rides. I even remember being able to buy Paramount films in the gift shops, I know I got a few of my VHS movies from there. In 2006 Paramount sold Canada's Wonderland to Cedar Fair which already own several amusement parks in America. The Paramount branding of rides changed, but the park has remained very similar to the park that existed during the Paramount era. Besides changing the food options available (it got more expensive but also more choices), the rides changing names and the products the gift stores sell, there has been very few changes. 

THE SHOWS

There were three shows/entertainment that I thought might be interesting; the Victoria falls cliff divers, Snoopy's Symphony of Water and a stunt show. We never made it to see the stunt show, the times it was going on we were waiting in lines, but we did see the other two shows. Snoopy's Symphony of Water is Snoopy coming out in a conductor's uniform and he conducts the water fountains which was set to music. The Victoria falls cliff divers show features two divers who jump off the cliff of Wonder Mountain into the water below the waterfall. The show is short as it is just the two divers each making one jump into the water, but they are doing Olympic-level dives. It is a great moment to get some cool pictures and video, it is also visually impressive because of the mountain and waterfall. I wish we had an opportunity to see the stunt spectacular, in the same place where the stunt show was it used to be a pirate ship. I remember watching the stunt show when it was a pirate-themed show, I am not sure how different the new show is, but the pirate ship is gone. I am sure the stunt show would be fun to watch, and I hope we will get to see it next year. There was another show involving dogs that we missed, I did not see it online, so I did not it existed until we saw the sign in front of the venue. Now with the seasons changing there are new shows themed towards Halloween Haunt which starts on September 24th. The shows are just a fun little thing to do, they will not take a lot of time and will give tired parents a chance to sit or stay still for a few minutes. The shows all seemed to be something more aimed at kids, but the parents won't find the shows too boring either. There are a bunch of shows specifically for kids in Planet Snoopy (the part of the park designed for children), we walked through Planet Snoopy just to look and I think that is where most parents will spend a majority of the day. Planet Snoopy seemed to have a few shows and lots of characters walking around for kids to take a picture with. Overall, I think the park offers a lot of great show options, I know covid has forced the closure of the indoor theatre in the Medieval Fair part of the park. Hopefully, in 2022 the park will be able to bring back all the shows and add some more if the indoor theatre is allowed to open. 

THE FOOD

The food options available in the park are massive, I will not go so far as to say there is something for everyone, but there are a lot of choices. There are food options located throughout the entire park, and had we not been so hungry we might have made a smarter choice by walking around more and trying to find a place that was less busy. We ended up going to the King's Feast which was located in the Medieval Faire part of the park. The King's Feast was busy, and we needed to wait almost an hour just to get food (most of that hour was spent waiting in line to order). I am not sure if the park has options (I didn't see any) where you can order online and go and pick up your food so there is no need to wait in line. That would be a great addition to add to their mobile application for next year, we learned our lesson. Hopefully next year we can order food on the app and go and pick it up when it is ready, that would reduce a lot of the lines throughout the park. All we ordered for lunch was cheeseburgers and fries, for the two meals and a pop it was very expensive, which makes the wait worse that we paid so much and had to wait so long for just a cheeseburger and fries. The food was just okay; at that moment because of how hungry we were it was amazing, but on reflection, it was just okay nothing spectacular. 

There are Pizza Pizzas, and Subways located throughout the park, there is a Tim Hortons and Manchu Wok located near Wonder Mountain. There are also multiple locations to get the famous and amazing funnel cakes, I will warn you as much as having a funnel at the end of your day may be the ideal end to the day you are better off getting it earlier in the day. When we went to get a funnel when we were leaving, we found that there were massive lines at all of the funnel cake shops, we ended up waiting an hour to get one which we had to eat while walking out of the park. The many options for food they give throughout the park are very convenient, especially if you are not a picky eater. The food is expensive, but that is to be expected so I cannot take issue with the price, but I will take issue with the wait to get food. With the pandemic still not quite over, they should have taken steps to make it faster and easier to get food. You should be able to order food through the app and go and pick it up when you are ready. This would reduce the lines and allow guests to make the best use of their time while in the park. There are so many options throughout the park to get a meal, a drink or a snack, I was impressed by the selection and options. On our next visit, we will try something different for both a snack and a meal. 

THE RIDES

The most important part of the park is the rides; if you are going for the food or shows then I think you have better and cheaper options that are not Canada's Wonderland. For me what got me most excited was the rides, I was checking out the rides and looking on the map where they were. Also on YouTube, they have uploaded videos of the rides so you can get an idea of what to expect. On Canada's Wonderland site they give ratings for the level of the thrill the ride gives; it is a useful indicator for those who might not be sure what they might like or can take. I was hoping to go on everything while I was there, I am now ashamed of how naive I was to think that. My last experience in the park was 20 years prior and I remember there were long lines for the rides, it has not gotten better 20 years later. It might have gotten worse, I thought going on a weekday would mean there were fewer people in the park. I was wrong, the weather was great, and it was one of the last weekdays the park would be open. Canada's Wonderland has added a feature that all theme parks seem to have installed, a Fast Lane that allows you to skip the line. You do not move to the front of the queue, but it will save you time during your visit. The Fast Lane does cost extra, it is $95 for a day for most of the rides, but if you want the Fast Lane to include Leviathan, Behemoth and Yukon Striker it is $105 for the day. The additional charge is on top of your entrance fee to the park, they also sell a limited number of Fast Lanes per day. You can also get a season's pass of Fast Lane Plus it is $499 for the year. That is a steep price to pay, I would say it is not worth it if you have a season's pass. If you are only planning on visiting once per year, then it might make sense to get the Fast Lane if you want to go on a lot of rides. 

Over the entire day, I only went on four rides which were a lot less than I planned, but since I had not been in so long, we also explored the entire park. We went on Wilde Beast, WindSeeker, White Water Canyon and I went on Yukon Striker by myself. I enjoyed all of the rides, I had been on Wilde Beast and White Water Canyon before when I was a kid. Yukon Striker was the newest roller coaster added (2019), WindSeeker was added in 2011, Wilde Beast was added in 1981 and White Water Canyon was added in 1984. The park has kept a lot of the attractions I remember from childhood while also adding many more, I had hoped to go on all of the roller coasters which are my favourite type of rides. The first ride we went on was WindSeeker, upon entering the park we walked around and explored before looking at rides. WindSeeker stands out because of the heights the ride gets to, it is located in the Action Zone and can be seen from a distance. WindSeeker is a 301-foot-tall ride where you sit on swing type of seat and the ride ascends you start spinning around. The ride is neither fast nor crazy, but at 301feet tall it is thrilling looking around at everything around you. At the top it is very windy, and even though you are not going very fast it is scary to look down and know if you fall you will not be okay. It was the perfect ride to start the day; it was exhilarating, but not thrilling enough to make you sick. The ride is fun and is great for people that don't want a very thrilling and scary ride, but it is still enjoyable for those who want something more adventurous. 

After we had lunch, we decided that a good ride to go on with a full stomach was White Water Canyon, it is a ride we have both been on before, so we knew what to expect. White Water Canyon was always a fun ride, it is not fast, nor crazy, and you likely won't get very wet. The ride features guests boarding a six-person circular raft that makes it way around a river, there are mini man-made rapids. There used to geysers that would shoot water into the air, but there wasn't any when we were on the ride. The line to the ride takes you through a small, wooded area and the staging area for the ride features a giant turntable deck that keeps rotating. It is a unique experience to get in and out of the raft since the platform is rotating and the raft never comes to a stop. Since I have been going on the ride since I was a kid, I have an attachment to it that makes it fun for me. I'm not saying that this the ride for thrill seekers, but it is a different experience and if you don't mind getting a little wet then I think you will enjoy the ride. 

The Yukon Striker is located in the Frontier Canada part of the park, watching the coaster while I was walking around made it a must ride. I waited in line for Yukon Striker for almost 2 hours, it would have been closer to 1.5 hours, but they experienced an issue with the ride and had to run it a bunch of times with no passengers to confirm it was operational. Since I was riding alone, I could have skipped the line, but I did not see the line for single riders until I was almost at the front of the line. The Yukon Striker is an experience for a lot of different reasons. Each coaster carries 24 people, but instead of being in 12 cars with two people per car, it is only three rows with eight people per row. The coaster is very fast, but the real thrill comes from when the coaster hangs over the drop for a few seconds before it plummets. After waiting so long to ride it, I was so irritable, but the excitement and rush I felt outweighed the awful wait I had to endure. If you are a big fan of roller coasters and you are planning on going to Canada's Wonderland once, then getting the fast lane plus might be worth it since it will dramatically reduce your wait time for a lot of the rides including the big three coasters. I enjoyed Yukon Striker a lot, and if I had been able to go on Behemoth and Leviathan, I think I could give you a better idea of Yukon Striker. It was my favourite ride of the day, and I can't wait to go on it again, I would suggest that you go in the single rider line. 

The final ride we went on before going on a long search and then wait to get a funnel cake was The Wilde Beast. The Wilde Beast is located in the Medieval Faire part of the park, the ride has been there since the park opened in 1981. Despite being a 40-year-old ride, I still find it very fun, there are no loops, it does not go very high, but it is fast, and the movement is thrilling. I would think that a wooden style coaster with no loops would be boring when compared to something like Yukon Striker, but it was still so much fun. I had a lot of fun on the ride, and the line was not very long; the wait was even less because they were looking for two riders and got to skip most of the line. The wooden coasters still go fast, and they are bumpier making the ride a lot of fun even though there are no loops. There is something different about going on the wooden coasters, they are old, but they are fun and safe. There are two other wooden coasters at Wonderland, the Might Canadian Minebuster which is a larger and more intense Wilde Beast and the Ghoster Coaster which is located in Planet Snoopy. If you have the time, I will say all the wooden coasters are good and worth a trip, the wait times will vary for them but the Wilde Beast is a bit of a hidden treasure so it might be the value for your time.

LAST THOUGHTS ON CANADA'S WONDERLAND

Since the visit I keep thinking about going back for another visit; I take that as an endorsement of how much I enjoyed my time in the park. It is not that I did not find issues with the park, but overall, I realized how much I enjoy going on rides and just being in the park. I keep debating whether I should go and buy a 2022 season pass, if I do then it will cover Halloween Haunt and WinterFest this year and next year. To me getting a pass makes sense if we plan to go to both Halloween Haunt and WinterFest this year and go once or more to the park next year. The other advantage to having a season's pass is there would be no need to get Fast Lane or Fast Lane Plus, if we go a few times next year we can go on all of the rides we want. Having a pass would make each visit feel like we do not have to cram everything into one visit, each visit will allow us to spend time going on rides and exploring. The fact I have spent this much time arguing why we should get a season pass for 2022 makes me sure it is the right decision. Also, me talking so much about getting a season pass for next year is a ringing endorsement of my experience at the park. 

I did have some issues with the visit, but a few of them are things I expected to be issues and were made worse by my wrong assumption about the park not being as busy as it was. I had an incorrect belief that because it was a weekday, and the park was making people make a reservation that there would be less people in the park then when I last went. I am not sure if the park had more visitors, than my last visit, but there was an awful lot of people in the park on the day we went. My assumption was incorrect, and I have to own that some of my frustrations were caused because of my faulty assumptions. I remember a lot of trips when I was a kid waiting in line for what felt like over an hour, so my Yukon Striker experience is not unusual and was made worse by the issue with the ride that caused a delay. The one area I will take issue with is that you cannot order a meal on the app and skip the line, waiting an hour to get food, which was expensive and just okay made it not worth it. I do believe that they will add that ability at some point, for all I know it is there and I just did not find it. If you go to the park I will say, be prepared for it to be busy and that you will need to prioritize the rides you want to go on. I think if you are a person who enjoys rides then Canada's Wonderland will be a worthwhile trip but be warned that you need to be willing to wait. If you are willing to wait in line and you enjoy amusement park rides, then in Ontario there is no better place to except for Canada's Wonderland.

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