Monday, May 27, 2013

Canada's Wonderland

Kids having fun at Canada's Wonderland.  Who'd a thunk it?

UPDATE: We tried out the new ride, Skyhawks, and it is not very good.  Definitely not worth waiting in a long line.  In theory, the ride allows you to spin yourself around but no kid under the age of 12 will be able to do it.  My 8 year old can't even reach the handles.  My 10 year old could reach but wasn't strong enough to actually do much.  She isn't particularly spindly armed or anything. 

Canada's Wonderland is fun for kids.  Duh, right?  I know you didn't need to be told that you if you take kids to an amusement park they will have a good time but I thought I would give some tips for how to make it more fun for everyone, including the parents/chaperones and some ways to save money.

Canada's Wonderland consts a fortune to go.    Currenly, a single day admission costs $58.99 plus tax (ouch!) if you buy it at the gate.  There are a few ways to save some money on the price of admission. 

My kids are sad that you paid full price.
  1. If you buy your ticket 3 days in advance online it is $39.99 per person.  Still ouchy, but not quite as ouchy.  The downside of doing it that way is that you have to be sure you are going on a certain date which with unpredictable southern Ontario weather can be a bit tricky. 
  2. Costco offers tickets that are also $39.99 per person and can be redeemed anytime. 
  3. You can get reduced price tickets at Mac's convience stores of all places, though not as reduced as Costco.
  4. Some big companies in Ontario offer discounted rates to their employees, including University of Waterloo and University of Toronto.  If you have a friend who works there ask them if you can order tickets through them. 
  5. Some big companies, like RBC have days early or late in the season open only to their employees (and friends and family) at very reduced prices (in the neighbourhood of $25 per person).  The upside of this is the price obviously, but also because it is early in the year and only open to that company's guests the lineups tend not to be quite as long as they are at the height of the season.  The downside is the pass is only good on a specific day and if the weather is horrible you may be up a creek. Still, this is the option we go for.  So far, we have been lucky with the weather and it has worked out great.
  6. They have half price admission after 5:00.  If you know your kids will only last a few hours anyway, may as well only pay half the price.
  7. If you live in the area and your kids are the right age for it, you might want to consider season's passes. If you go more than twice it will work out cheaper per visit. Sometimes Canada's Wonderland offers a deal where you can but the season's pass for the next year in September and use it for the remainder of that year.  So, for instance if you bought it in September of 2013 you could use it in September and October of 2013 and then for all of 2014. 
My daughter thought this was a grave yard in the middle of Canada's Wonderland.  It is actually a mini golf course.
If you must pay at the gate for some reason, here are some ways to save a bit of money.
  1. Show your airmiles card.  They offer discounts to airmiles collectors.
  2. They offer a military discount and it is available for an entire family (up to 6 people) not just the military member.  You must show proper id though. 
See?  Just as happy with a picnic.

Another way to save money is to bring your own food.  You can't bring anything other than water into the park (unless you or a family member has serious allergies and then they will usually make an exception) but you can pack a cooler and leave it in the car and then have a picnic at lunch time by the front gates.  That is what we always do and then let the kids pick one treat each later in the day.

Treat o' the day - Slushee.  

We also tell the kids upfront that we won't spend any money on games.  If they want to play them they have to bring their own money.  Most kids find the rides more exciting than the games and the rides are already paid for so this won't be an issue for most kids if it is explained to them in advance.  Same with souvenirs.  I will pay for a postcard each and if they want anything else they have to pay for it themselves. 

Now that we have covered saving money, how do you get the most fun out of your trip to Wonderland?  Well, it is not hard to have fun there so you don't need to overthink this but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

You'll notice there is no line up behind them.  First thing in the morning! Also, my daughter is clearly saying  "See, a graveyard in the middle of Canada's Wonderland isn't so weird after all!"

Hit the very popular or slow to load rides first thing before the line ups get too long.  For little kids that means beelining it to the Ghoster Coaster.  If you go first thing you can ride it a couple of times without even having to get off if you are lucky.  Wait until later in the day and you will be in line for an hour.  Same with the Boo Blaster. 

See?  No one in line to get on, so they just stayed on and rode it again!

For bigger rides, Thunder Run and The Bat are two that take forever to load up which means long lines so get to them first.  Leviathan is the new popular ride but it is so big that it scares off some riders and it allows lots of people to ride at once so the line moves quicker than you might expect. 

Some rides don't usually have long lines or the lines move quickly so save those ones for the peak times.  Windrunner, The Rage (the pirate ship), Swing of the Century, Spinovator (the Barrels), and the Mighty Canadian Minebuster all fall into this category.
The pirate ship!  We went on this one at least 6 times, mainly because the lines are short.

Another way to minimize crowds is to eat at peak times and then ride when other people are eating.  So, have lunch at 2:00 instead of 12:00 for instance. 

Other important tips:
  • Bring sunscreen, lots of it, more than one bottle in case your party splits up. 
  • Ditto water
  • and bandaids for blisters!
  • I am not advocating that you do this as it is officially against the rules,  but you can actually sneak in a fair amount of food.  Not whole meals by any means, but things like fruit leather, packs of nuts, granola bars, anything that can fit in a pocket and won't melt can easily be brought in.  This will at least keep kids from melting down from low blood sugar!
  • Hats.  There is 0 shade in the park or at least it feels that way when you are standing in line for an hour. 

Ok and my totally subjective rundown of the best rides:

For little kids:

On Lucy's Tugboat
Lucy's Tugboat - pretty fun but not too scary
Zipping around the turns on Peanuts 500.
Peanuts 500 - surprisingly fast

The merry go round in the kid's area is actually better than the one in the adult section.  Don't ask me why, but it goes faster and has nicer looking animals.
Ghoster Coaster - still exactly the same as when I was a kid and still fun but actually pretty fast and scary for very little ones.

The Silver Streak.

For Bigger kids:
Silver Streak - it looks like a big scary rollercoaster but it is actually pretty tame so if you have a kid who thinks they are ready for the big rides but you are not so sure, this might be the one to try out.
The Rage - the pirate ship that has been there since the day it opened.  I love it!
Klockworks - Like Swing of the Century but faster and not as high.  Also, for some reason kids can ride this one before they can ride Swing of the Century height wise. 

For Teenagers and up:
In line for the dreaded Flight Deck.

There are a few I haven't tried (Stunt Coaster and Leviathan for instance) so I can't speak to those but for the others,  they are all good except (in my opinion) Flight Deck which slams your head around.  I will never ride that one again!

Death defying!  And old-timey.
I like the Mighty Canadian Minebuster; it is the most terrifying ride at Wonderland if you ask me. It is fast, steep and rickety as hell. You really feel like you are taking your life in your hands. Compared to some of the newer roller coasters it looks rinky dinky, hence the lack of line ups but it is really good.

Some General Information for Visiting the Park

Parking costs $15 a vehicle.  RVs and trailers cost $25
Height Requirements for the rides.


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