My wife and I took the kids to Canada’s Wonderland last weekend to kickstart the summer vacation season. I was a little worried about how this was going to turn out. Wonderland is located just a few minutes north of Toronto, where G20 protesters had been busy the night before torching police cars, disrupting the downtown, generally misbehaving and getting themselves arrested by the hundreds. My guess was that the park was either going be slow as Toronto residents hunkered down or left town altogether, or really busy if they wanted to escape the summit nonsense for a day.
Fortunately, it wasn’t overly busy. The day was overcast, which may have helped, but line-ups for most rides were quite reasonable with most maxing out at twenty minutes for much of the day and most kid’s rides being only five or ten minutes. Military helicopters were constantly circling overhead the park in pairs (and sometimes in a formation of four), but that was the only reminder I saw of what was taking place only a few miles away.
For Canadians, particularly those living in Southern Ontario, Canada’s Wonderland is it in terms of major theme parks -we have no Disneys here. Admission prices are high enough that Wonderland isn’t what I’d call a “cheap” outing (I received a handful of media passes, but paid for one child over 48″ in height, which was $54.99 Cdn plus tax at the gate) and there was also $10 for parking and we boarded our two dogs on-site for $6 each (which is a great option for those of us who live a few hours away). However, tickets can be re-used for a second admission during the season, which makes it a much more reasonable proposition for return visitors and there are always retailers and web specials where discounted tickets can be picked up. So long as you stay all day and make the most of the 200+ rides, it’s worthwhile.
I don’t do rides at all thanks to a combination of motions sickness and a morbid fascination with roller coaster failure stats, but every family needs someone to act as the packhorse and slug around a backpack, water bottles and wallets, as well as acting as the official photographer. Actually, speaking of backpacks and water, my wife picked up a pair of spray bottle/ misting fan contraptions that actually work pretty well for cooling you off on the go, but one had been pre-filled with water prior to leaving and the bottom wasn’t screwed on properly, so it soaked my backpack. I spent the first few hours of the day feeling as though I’d run through the water park, which was special. I also packed my eBook reader to make the most of waiting while everyone else was in line and once again, the water resistant jacket I tested last year proved its worth.
The classic feature of the park, visible from quite some distance, is Wonder Mountain, a large artificial structure that’s home to water divers (in season) and the Mighty Canadian Minebuster (at 4,000 feet it’s Canada’s longest wooden coaster) -a ride that my wife and all the kids went on. The Peanuts are the latest theme in the park (last time we were there it was Scooby Doo and Nick Toons) and I was looking forward to spending some relaxing time wandering around in Planet Snoopy. We did go there, but even my 7 year olds are starting to outgrow those rides. Where has the time gone? The Ghoster Coaster was very popular, but the bigger coasters were the real draw. Wonderland claims to have North America’s largest variety of roller coasters, including 65 so-called thrill rides, so there was lots to choose from.
If you’re in the Toronto area and jonesing for some coaster time, Canada’s Wonderland is a pretty good bet. Young kids are covered for the day as well, with Planet Snoopy and KidZville. While food is typically amusement park expensive and usually fried and/or cheese covered, parents will be happy to know that they can pack a picnic lunch for the pavilion outside the gates if they want healthier and/or cheaper choices, there are plenty of shady treed spots for cover from the sun, smoking is allowed only in designated areas and drinking fountains are plentiful.