Thursday, July 17, 2014

Park Review- Waldameer Park

Park Review- Waldameer Park

Over the last year or so we've been working on a project, one which will bring the smaller and more local amusement parks into the limelight. Often these small parks surpass the service of the larger ones, leaving them a true hidden gem.

As part of this project, we've been touring smaller parks and giving them the attention they so rightfully deserve.

We've heard about Waldameer, we knew it was up in Erie and that they had a world-class coaster.. but that was it. What we walked into was a happy surprise!

Day: Sunday
Date: July 6th, 2014
Weather: Warm and Windy
Overall Rating: Very Good
Rides Rating: Very Good
Overall Opinion:  Totally Worth It!
Review Team: Carrie, Kitsune and Alex

**NOTE: We where invited by Waldameer to do a park review, this has in no way altered or changed our opinions of the park. All opinions are our own.**

Like many small parks, Waldameer started life as a picnic and scenic spot at the end of a trolly line. The name is German and means "wood by the sea" and needless to say, the park still follows that with plenty of shade and lots of beauty from the lake.

Over the years, the park grew and added attractions to keep guests coming long after the trolleys had ended service.

Along with the amusement park and rides, they also boast a large water park called "Water World" and are currently adding in the largest wave pool in the tri-state area for 2015.

Today, it's what I'd consider a 'hidden gem' park. Meaning it's known but not widely outside of the Western Pennsylvania, North-East Ohio and Western New York areas. While small, it's enchanting and has it's own kind of life. That isn't to say you won't find some classic rides as well as plenty of thrills to keep yourself busy... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our visit to Waldameer was packed into an already over-full week of driving and park reviewing. Since it was small we figured we would likely only need a few hours, WRONG.  We arrived around 4pm and easily spent the rest of the night, right up till 10pm in the park and wished for more time. We're also already making plans to go back and visit again, easily spending an entire day or possibly two between the amusement park and the water park.

I suspect most of the world, or at least coaster fans, first heard of Waldameer when they opened "Ravine Flyer II" which was the first wooden coasters to have a 90 degree banked turn. Built by Gravity Group and opened in 2008, it took the reins and ran. We got lucky and met with Steve Gorman, the parks president, who was nice enough to give us quick entry onto Ravine Flyer II. He also decided to ride with us since we where there, always fun to enjoy a ride with someone who likely sees it daily. Needless to say, we all enjoyed it!

It hasn't stopped. While I confess I love of wooden coaster, I didn't expect such an amazing ride to be hidden just hours north of my current location. It's fast, it's smooth with just enough bounce to remind you that your dealing with wood rather then steel. The speed it gets it amazing, which leads to some epic air-time. Seriously, you spend less time in your seat and more time 'flying' then you'd expect. Toss in crossing the highway twice (which out of your seat) and that 90 degree turn, it's a winner.

Give it a medal, many shiny trophies then paint my name on it because I want one! Folks, it takes a LOT to impress us these days and this ride alone is fully worth the drive and your time.

Since Waldameer would also see our minion's 100th coaster, we figured what better than a proper trolley park on a proper PTC coaster?

This is where Comet came in, a small Philadelphia Toboggan Company Coaster (#117) which has been operating in the park since 1951. While it might not look like much and while many would consider it a 'kiddie coaster' it packs some much. Easily some great air-time, some good drops and smooth rides can be found lurking here.

It's a neat little coaster that's still operating when may have been lost, the care they take with this ride is great. It's well kept and cared for, which isn't easy considering the park is right beside Lake Erie!

Next came the topic of food, we where hungry. Before Steve left, we inquired what was good for lunch. The suggestion was both the pizza and the meatball subs, not feeling like pizza we opted for the meatball sub sandwich and pepperoni balls (with ranch dressing).

 Wow. Food Good.

Everything tasted great, the prices where very good and it was fresh. Very fresh, we had to wait a few moments while our sub sandwich was made then and cooked then, none of this 'pre-made' business.

This lunch was shared between Kitsune and I, which was easily enough. Between that and the value on the parks drink cup, we didn't spend more then $21 total for two adults to eat. The same shop will also sell you whole pizzas if your going with a large family, while we didn't get to try the pizza, if the sauce on the meatball sub is any indication it's likely good stuff!

 One other nifty thing about Waldameer, its completely cash-free.

You get a 'Wally Card' which you can pay cash or credit for, then everything in the park is simply scanned and charged to this card. Allowing you to not have to worry about pulling out or loosing cash while visiting. This also works with their ride bands, no tickets to mess with in this park! Everything you want (or unlimited rides) are put onto your wrist band, then you simply scan and go! It's pure convenience for everyone involved, letting you spend as little (or as much) as your budget allows.

Which brings me to another park of Waldameer I liked, it's clean. Very clean, we didn't spot one overflowing trashcan nor dirty bathroom. Everything was well stocked and clean, I can't tell you enough how much this matters. When you don't see it, you don't notice but when you do it brings you day down some. No worries here!

 On top of being clean, everyone was friendly. We chatted with a few park employees and they where well versed in their park.

They knew where things where, could recommend ideas for your visit and would happily point you in the direction you needed to be heading in. Not one of them was unpleasant or unhappy and seemed to really enjoy working for the park. If nothing else, that says a lot about the environment of the park. When the employees love it, your probably going to love it also.

The sun was setting and we began to run out of time, since we heard of several great flat rides at the park we couldn't pass by a chance to enjoy these.

Hustling over we went through "Pirates Cove" which is a classic walk-thru fun house. These types of attractions are rare these days but they lend some fun and a link to the past, a piece of history to explore. While not 'scary' by today's standards this one includes are the 'must haves' of a fun house. Shaking floors, tilted rooms, crazy mirrors, plenty of confusing turns and cheesy effects.

They just don't build these anymore and that's simply a shame. Waldameer has a classic on their hands with Pirates Cove and it's so well kept you'll find yourself enjoying the silly fun it offers.

Never one to pass by a dark ride, we quickly jumped in line for 'Wacky Shack'.

This is the parks classic dark ride, which as you can guess is also some silly and kooky fun. Another ride often disappearing from parks in favor of 'bigger ticket' attractions, Waldameer has one of the best kept rides I've seen in a long time.

As you would expect, you're sent through a maze of crazy rooms with bright lights, strange sights and some loud sounds.

All the past classics are here such as the big rat, tipping barrels, blaring car horns and a load of other goodies. It has so much of it's original work in place, including the gravity drop, you love the crazy factors involved. Needless to say, we stopped and had to ride this one again simply because it was so much fun.

 The park also boasts a beautiful carousel, while not original, it's still got some truly unique 'horses' involved. We spotted this charming gentleman waiting for a rider. While we didn't get to ride him this time, he's on my 'must ride that' list for our next visit!

 Nearly out of time, we hustled over to Ravine Flyer II to finish out our night. Because what's a good roller coaster expect begging for a night-ride? It's even more extreme at night, not seeing where our going outside of shadows and the lights from the road.

It was a crazy experience. One which I'm glad we spent the extra time to enjoy.  With many more flat rides we didn't get to experience, on top of the offerings at the waterpark we will have to make a return visit. We simply didn't plan properly and have every intention of fixing that later this summer!

Check out our "On Ride" Videos from Waldameer Park on our YouTube Page! 

With our day at an end and hours or driving still ahead of us, we reluctantly headed towards the car. However, Alex spotted fudge and we simply don't walk past chocolate easily!

 It was good. Really good. Like, excellent type of good. I'm not sure how but this is easily some of the park amusement park fudge I've gotten my hands on in a long time. Plus, it's right on the way to the parking lot!

Overall, Waldameer is a small but great park that deserves a lot more attention then it gets. Between great rides, friendly staff, great food, good prices and a superior location.. you can't beat what they have to offer. So take the time and make the stop next time your anyplace near Erie, Pennsylvania. You won't be disappointed in what you find!

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