Wooden roller coasters rock.
This was the verdict from my crew of four after a visit to Lake Compounce Family Theme Park in Bristol, Connecticut.
My kids are no strangers to amusement parks. In the last three years, they’ve been to Hershey Park and Walt Disney World. But despite the fact that Lake Compounce is far smaller than either of those places, my kids dubbed its famous wooden roller coaster, Boulder Dash, quite possibly the best ride among the three parks.
“I feel like I’ve been spun around in a washing machine,” my youngest daughter said.
I could tell what she meant. I was literally vibrating after getting off the ride.
We’re not the only ones who love it. Boulder Dash was named the world’s number one wooden roller coaster in 2001 and 2004 by the National Amusement Park Historic Association. It has 4,672 feet of track, features an initial drop of 115 feet, and goes over 60 miles an hour.
I’d thought the wooden coasters at Hershey Park were fast and fun but Boulder Dash exceeded all of them.
Boulder Dash is one of three roller coasters at Lake Compounce, which has been in operation since 1846. The name comes from Chief Compound, who transferred the deed from “Compound’s Lake” to white settlers in 1684. Legend has it that he’s buried in the lake.
Aside from the three coasters, Lake Compounce also features the Splash Harbor water park, a large selection of kiddies rides, some old-style rides like the Rotor, and a bungee cord thing called the Sky Coaster that I avoided because even the kids agreed it looked “too scary.”
They did get me on the Down Time drop ride, however. Despite the 185 foot drop, that turned out to be pretty tame. Well, it helped that I closed my eyes.
The park, which is 407 acres, including the 23 acre lake, is just the right size for a day trip but we could easily have gone two days in a row and not have been bored.
We didn’t hit every ride–a water rapid ride and a flume ride were both skipped to preserve dry clothes–and we missed most of the scheduled shows.
When we arrived, my ten-year-old twins insisted on the water park first. They’re the age where they wanted to head straight for the water slides and were incredibly patient as we waited for a few minutes to get keys to a locker.
My teenagers headed straight for the roller coasters. Aside from Boulder Dash, there are two more: Wildcat, a wooden coaster which first opened in 1927 but underwent extension renovation in 1985 and safety upgrades in 2007 and Zoomerang, a modern loop coaster.
The Wildcat is a shorter, less intense ride than Boulder Dash but still well worth the trip. Zoomerang is sixty seconds of upside down and backwards. Also a thrill, but my son and I both had headaches after. I think all the flipping over probably does something to the sinuses.
I loved the ambiance of the old-style rides. The carousel was built for the park in 1911 and now resides on the National Register of Historic Places. The Lake Railroad takes visitors on a tour around the waterline, while a genuine 1911 Trolley carries visitors to the other side of the lake.
When my kids were younger, they insisted on riding both the railroad and the trolley. Now, they’re more interested in the thrills but I love the fact that a relatively small park can satisfy all ages.
Another great feature: short lines.
We went on a weekday and didn’t wait more than ten minutes for Boulder Dash and stepped right onto the Wildcat. A couple of lines developed in the afternoon on the water slides but we’d done those by then. I’m not sure what it’s like on weekends but the weekdays are quite tolerable.
The food at the park is typical park fare but decent. You have to eat there as no outside food is allowed.
Soda and water are available free of charge from a number of drink stations throughout the park. This is great, unless you have a teenage boy like mine who decided to see how much soda he could drink at once. Conclusion: seven cups will upset the stomach.
We all agreed that the fried Oreos, despite being an odd idea, were delicious.
Best part: they were all exhausted when we got home and the twins went straight to bed.