Lagoon was never intended to be on the docket of parks in 2018. I’ve always heard very good things about this park, but it’s location makes it a rarely visited park for enthusiasts. However, a work trip routed me through Salt Lake City and it would have been an absolute shame to skip out on Lagoon.
Salt Lake City’s airport has an unbelievable setting. Your descent takes you over the vaunted Great Salt Lake and you are surrounding by mountains. I audibly gasped at the beauty. It looked like something straight out of a fantasy film. Except here, it was real. I knew it was going to be a good day.
I was visiting during Lagoon’s Frightmares event and the forecast called for rain leading up to my visit. I’m not going to lie, with the cooler temperatures, I was a bit worried. However, I found some old videos of Lagoon operating rides in absolute downpours, so that placated my concerns. Plus the weathermen turned out to be dead wrong. The skies were overcast, but I didn’t feel a drop of rain all day.
My original plan was to visit Lagoon for 3 hours, leave to hit the nearby mountain coasters, and return for the final 4 hours. However, that plan was as concrete as Prince Desmond’s plan to save the Big Dipper. Lagoon is unequivocally a full day park. I had 11 hours and that still wasn’t enough time to ride and experience everything. Considering its location and proximity to other amusement parks, Lagoon could easily mail it in. But they don’t. This is one of the best run parks I’ve encountered.
Operations can be a mixed bag at independent parks. It’s not uncommon to find staggered openings and one train operations. Not at Lagoon. I arrived a half hour prior to their posted opening and they were already admitting people into the park and cycling every attraction.
Additionally, Lagoon has some of the fastest moving lines I have ever seen. They had multiple trains running on almost every coaster and I can’t recall a single instance of stacking. For this reason, do not be deterred by something that looks like a long queue. Plus the queue lines themselves are very short. They cannot hold many people. Multiple queue lines were spilling out into the midway; yet the wait wasn’t more than 10-20 minutes.
Without question, my first stop was going to be Cannibal, so I patiently waited in the staging area and struck up a conversation with the security guard who was a fellow coaster enthusiast herself. When the rope dropped, I moseyed my way over to Cannibal. It’s one of the most imposing coasters I’ve seen. That beyond vertical drop looks unreal. I’ve seen my fair share of Eurofighters, but they’re not even half as tall as Cannibal.
Returning to the efficiency of Lagoon, Cannibal was running 4-5 trains with a dual loading platform. For this reason, their star attraction never had a wait exceeding 15-20 minutes. Further, single riders such as myself can utilize the single rider queue and usually board in less than 5 minutes thanks to the 4 across seating. This made Cannibal a very easy coaster to marathon.
I’d also like to note two odd policies that Lagoon has on their coasters. One, Lagoon bans single riders in the front or back row on all their coasters. The only other time I’ve encountered something similar was at Six Flags Over Texas with the back row. Second, the park is very much against riders raising their hands. It’s not uncommon for rides to advise guests to hold onto the lap bar, but at Lagoon, I saw operators explicitly tell riders to put their hands down if they raised them.
Back to Cannibal. Fortunately the 4 across seating allowed me to get multiple front and back row rides. The coaster was exceptional in every seat, but I had a slight preference for the back to get the full effect of the drop. The lap bars were a bit tight, but I’ll take a tight lap bar over an OSTR any day of the week.
I had no clue what would happen as we rolled into the tower. I don’t want to spoil it, but I’ll say there was more theming than I expected. Jumping to the drop, Cannibal has one of the best drops out there. Without fail, beyond vertical drops always give powerful bursts of ejector air and Cannibal was no different. The difference here was the sheer length of the drop. The drop went on forever and after the initial pop, the ejector air morphed into sustained floater. Cannibal clearly was not messing around.
Cannibal then alternated between an Immelmann and dive loop. The Immelmann offered some decent hangtime while the dive loop began with a small pop of air before whipping riders back to the ground. But Cannibal doesn’t dive all the way to the ground in one fell swoop as it’s a surprise double down with another solid pop of air. The following overbank is the lone forgettable element on the ride.
The MCBR saps a majority of Cannibal’s speed, but it’s a rare situation where it works to the coaster’s advantage. The Lagoon roll consists of two very slow barrel rolls giving hangtime rivaling Hydra’s jojo roll. My phone was safely tucked away in a zippered pocket, but I still instinctively reached for my pocket because of how long you’re held upside down. That’s followed by a zippy downwards helix through some beautiful rockwork and one tiny pop of air into the brake run.
Cannibal is one of the most fun and reridable coasters I’ve been on. The coaster is glass smooth, which is especially impressive considering that Cannibal was designed in-house. As for where Cannibal ranks, it’s a borderline top 25 steel coaster for me. I’d go as far to rank it ahead of coasters such as New Texas Giant, Mexico’s Medusa, and Leviathan. 9.5 out of 10
I decided to give a token ride on Flying Aces, their set of flying scooters. As I approached the ride, the only thing that stood out was the fact that you boarded on the inside. I can’t think of another set of flying scooters that does that. Once I sat down, I realized the fins had far more movement than I expected. Maybe these could be snapped? Then the ride started and we reached Knoebels speeds. Oh yes, these babies can be snapped!
With the speed and fin movement, it was a piece of cake to chain together consecutive snaps. The result was a near death experience that caused audible gasps from folks watching the attraction. I was nervous the operate would chide me out or stop the attraction (like the Knoebels operators occasionally do), but neither happened. I got an uninterrupted 2 minutes of violent snapping. These were as good as Flyer albeit with a shorter cycle (the length was fine, it’s just Knoebels gives legendary 5 minute cycles).
A reride was necessary, but I figured I should wait a while. I didn’t want to get blacklisted. As I exited, I tried to avoid eye contact with the operator, but she smiled and remarked, “It looks like somebody had a good time.” Then I realized I was being silly. There was no need to worry since Lagoon is awesome. I got back in line and my tub moved as disjointedly as a poor quality Internet stream.
It was no surprise that Cannibal would be the top ride at Lagoon, but I was not expecting a set of flyers rivaling those of Knoebels. If these were at any other park, I guarantee you would hear Flying Aces mentioned in the same breath as Knoebels’s Flyer. They are that incredible. 10 out of 10
Flying Aces is the reason I didn’t ride the mountain coasters. Flying Aces educated me that Lagoon’s flat rides should not be missed. Because of this, I now had a full day. I followed up with Samurai, a rare top scan. I love top scans, but they’ve relatively uncommon. I had visions of that insane top scan I rode last year at Oktoberfest, but it wasn’t to be.
Don’t get me wrong, even a poorly run top scan is a great flat. It was just a disappointment after Flying Aces got my hopes up. The cycle was ridiculously short and the arms barely rocked, but at least there were some sustained inversions. The one oddity about Samurai was how long it took to reset. It probably took a minute of the arm slowly rotating forwards and backwards until the arm would lower us. 7 out of 10
Up next was the park’s drop tower, the Rocket. Without any hesitation, I selected the re-entry side. For one, it would give me more time to appreciate the gorgeous mountain view. Second, S&S space shots usually don’t do much for me. The drop on this one was decent. It gave a burst of air at the start, but the intensity just isn’t there compared to its Intamin and Larson brethren. 7 out of 10
There was one credit I was skeptical I would get. And it wasn’t the kiddie coaster either. The coaster in question was Jet Star 2. For one, I read online the coaster doesn’t run in the rain. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue. What was an issue was the no single rider policy. Due to the restraints, Lagoon requires guests to ride in groups of two or three. I patiently waited on the ride platform for 10-15 minutes until I found a winner- a father whose teenage girls didn’t want to ride in his lap. While the girls took selfies, I got up close and personal with their father.
The coaster itself was decent. The drops had good zip to them, as did the first helix. However, saying the brakes were harsh would be an understatement. The stop was so abrupt that it felt like my riding buddy was trying to go in my back door.
If Jet Star 2 allowed single riders, I definitely would have given it another whirl. But it was a one and done for me due to that policy. 5 out of 10
Sky Rides are a photographer’s dream. They’re especially nice when they can transport you from one end of a park to another. Lagoon’s Sky Ride satisfies both. As we were descending, in the corner of my eye, I spotted a kangaroo. For a second I thought I had ridden Puff the Magic Dragon, but my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Lagoon has a random kangaroo exhibit. I love this park. 9 out of 10
Up next was Colossus the Fire Dragon, a coaster with an almost identical layout to Dorney’s now removed Laser. I didn’t have fond memories of Laser. I remembered the coaster offering enough vibrations to appease a porn star. However, that was also at a time when I thought Steel Force was the best coaster in the world, Boulder Dash had no airtime, and the Internet was only for schoolwork. I was a confused child.
Colossus set me straight. The first drop had a powerful snap to it like Alpina Bahn and the following two loops were the usual Schwarzkopf perfection. But what came next was the coaster’s most intense moment. I have never been more thankful for lap bars. The transition into the helix folded me over onto the seat next to me. Colossus abused my body. Yet I liked it.
The final two helixes were decent, but nothing compared to the first half. Colossus was surprisingly the second best coaster in the park. 8 out of 10
In most areas, wicked means evil. For musical fans, Wicked is the spin off from the Wizard of Oz. To coaster enthusiasts, Wicked is simply, as we’d say in New England, a wicked cool coaster. Like Cannibal, Wicked had a single rider line. However, it wasn’t too much of a time saver. For that reason, I preferred to wait in the main queue to ensure myself a front row ride, where Wicked was noticeably smoother. The lap bar only trains prevented headbanging, but the rattle in the back row bashed my legs against the shin guard quite a few times.
After hearing a blaring siren, Wicked treated me to one of the most unique launches out there. In terms of raw speed, it’s pretty pedestrian. What’s special is the fact that it’s a two-part launch. It starts horizontally, has a brief reprieve transitioning up the tower, and then surprises riders with a vertical launch. That vertical launch had way more force than I expected and it was absolutely mind-bending to be accelerating as we climbed the tower.
Wicked then treated me to two strong and distinct pops of air, one as you crest the tower and another on the vertical descent. That’s followed by a decent airtime-filled speed hill, an ok overbank, and a dazzling zero-G roll loaded with hangtime. In some ways, I wish Wicked had stopped right there. It had already done more than most launch coasters.
Instead Wicked crept through a laughably bad second half devoid of any speed, forces, airtime, or excitement. It serves no purpose other than to add a block section and some additional length to the ride. It’s reasons like this that I don’t mind a ride like Twisted Cyclone forgoing an extra lap for a fast and memorable finish. Still Wicked’s first half is good enough to carry the coaster. 8 out of 10
Up next were the two mice coasters. Both had full queues and took about 25-30 minutes to get through. I started with Spider. For the most part, this was your standard Maurer spinner except we started to rotate after cresting the lift. Usually you don’t start spinning until the second hill. While it was cool to start the spinning sooner, there was hardly any spinning the rest of the ride. It was especially odd since we had a very unbalanced vehicle with a couple on one side and me on the other. 6 out of 10
Wild Mouse was a minimally braked version of the commonplace coaster. This resulted in some powerful laterals on the top section and a bit of air on the big drop. But the highlight was the brief, house-themed tunnel. The amount of detail in that single tunnel is impressive considering the coaster flies right through it. But it does make for a nice visual off-ride. 5 out of 10
Roller Coaster is the unoriginally named classic coaster that is the park’s senior citizen. The station definitely looks retro with the architecture and flashy neon lights. And it’s clear the park appreciates the coaster’s rich history as there’s a detailed montage in the station. I think the funniest bit is an old photo where everyone has their hands raised and Lagoon has a disclaimer stating it was a historical photo and that riders must now hold on.
The Millennium Flyers were new additions in 2018. For this reason, I was optimistic this oldie would be reasonably smooth. That wasn’t the case. Roller Coaster is a pretty bumpy ride. However, I am willing to look past that because of the airtime. If you ride towards the front, you get nice pops on any smaller hill and powerful bursts on the final two turnarounds. In the back row, you get nice floater air on any sizable drop. 7 out of 10
I hadn’t heard much about Lagoon’s dark rides. Both Terroride and Dracula’s Castle had impressive facades, but I still expected something on the level of a carnival dark ride. So imagine my shock when I saw the detailed scenes and large props on both dark rides. Now they were both on the shorter side, but if that’s what they had to do to ensure enough budget for high quality rides, it was a worthwhile decision.
I had a slight preference for Terroride. It had two really well executed jump scares. And it cemented the fact that Lagoon clearly has a thing for human sacrifice. Their star attraction is called Cannibal after all. Meanwhile Dracula’s Castle was free of jump scares, instead relying on the detailed design of the cornucopia of horror monsters. 8 out of 10
Boomerang was more violent than usual. Vekoma Boomerangs usually concentrate their aggression towards rider’s skulls. Lagoon’s Boomerang focused on delivering body shots. Fortunately, Lagoon’s Boomerang isn’t a Vekoma Boomerang. Instead it’s their set of bumper cars. The cycle is definitely on the shorter side, but the arena is huge and the cars actually have some oomph to them. 7 out of 10
I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ride their pseudo top spin due to the water effects, but the attendant assured me they were off. This was true, but I think they also turned off the inversions by mistake. Cliffhanger was an absolute tease. It came as close as possible to flipping without actually flipping. Maybe the ride just needed some WD-40 since it sounded like metal on metal screeching with each movement. 1 out of 10
Thankfully the Rock-O-Plane delivered inversions in bunches. Now that I know what the magic lock and release lever does, I lock and unlock my vehicle to my heart’s content to maximize inversions. The only downside with Rock-O-Plane is the painstakingly slow loading procedure. Every other time I’ve ridden a Rock-O-Plane, I’ve been the only rider so I’ve never had to witness the load procedure that makes a Ferris Wheel look like the Phoenix’s dispatches. 7 out of 10
Centennial Screamer was the park’s enterprise. Going into my visit, this was one flat that I heard was run particularly well at Lagoon. It was fast, but I’ve been spoiled by the enterprise at Fun Spot. I love the friction pads on the seats that prevent riders from sliding and wish more had those. Nonetheless, enterprises are a dying breed so I make it a point to ride these intense flats whenever I see one. 6 out of 10
Air Race was probably Lagoon’s least efficient ride. Beyond having a third of the ride’s vehicles closed due to maintenance, the loading wasn’t particularly fast. As of late, I’ve been running into the smaller air races so it was refreshing to see a larger model. However, this one had a much shorter cycle. Still it was enough time to get at least a half dozen inversions. 7 out of 10
I still had 3 credits left, so I made my way to Bombora. Before they built Cannibal, Lagoon designed this roller skater on steroids. Bombora probably has the most gratuitously overdesigned trains that I have ever seen. Not only does this junior coaster have on-board audio (themed to surfing of course), but it also has LED seashells that illuminate at night. As for the coaster, it was glass smooth. There wasn’t a bit of force, but that’s pretty typical for a junior coaster. Really it’s those trains that make this coaster somewhat memorable. 5 out of 10
The sun was beginning to set and I was a bit nervous. I had yet to make my way to the back of the park where the two water rides are located. In some ways, I figured venturing to the back of the park would be a waste of time. The temperature had plunged into the 40s. Surely Lagoon wouldn’t be operating their flume and river rapids. Or would they?
It took me a while to find the water rides. These rides are separated from the front of the park. I thought I made a wrong turn as I passed through the picnic pavilions, but that’s how you reach them. The only other alternative is to pass through the water park (when it’s open of course). The Log Flume’s station was deserted outside of an operator. It appeared open, but I was worried I’d be turned away as a single rider considering that’s a policy I’ve encountered on several flumes.
Oddly enough, Lagoon had no problem with me riding as a single rider. The flume has one of the most tranquil experiences I’ve had on a ride. While the scare actors and crowds were roaming the midways at the front of the park, Lagoon’s Log Flume quietly meandered through the still woods in the back of the park. Then plunge at the end wasn’t anything to write home about and fortunately it wasn’t a soaker. The last thing I wanted was to get drenched on such a cool night. 6 out of 10
Yet I was stupid enough to ride Rattlesnake Rapids. I talked myself into it saying my next visit wouldn’t be for quite some time and Lagoon would probably have the effects dialed back anyway. Unlike the Log Flume, Rattlesnake Rapids did ban single riders. Fortunately there were two teenagers as crazy as me and I rode with them.
Rattlesnake Rapids is one of the best landscaped river rapids rides I’ve ridden. If the mountain backdrop alone wasn’t enough, the ride’s layout is completely concealed by trees and is loaded with rockwork, including a lengthy, fog-filled cave. This is one of the longer river rapids rides I’ve ridden and there was easily more than a dozen rapids. If I had to guess, the ride was toned back due to the temperature. The rapids didn’t offer more than a sprinkle and there were a few points that looked like obvious candidates for a waterfall. 7 out of 10
The one coaster I was dreading to ride was the Bat. For one, it had one train and a full queue. I really did not want to burn a half hour waiting for a cruddy coaster that is the beginner’s guide to CTE. Fortunately the park’s speedy dispatches got me on the Bat in just 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the Bat still sucked. I leaned forwards for self-preservation, but still took a few headshots. 2 out of 10
The final coaster was Puff the Little Fire Dragon. By this point, I knew the drill. As a single rider, I had to sit somewhere in the middle of the train. However, the operator moved me to the back of the train. I stopped trying to understand Lagoon’s seating policies and instead happily got my kiddie credit. 2 out of 10
I also rode one other dragon. This one was Jumping Dragon. The park has two Himalayas. I think I rode the one targeted more towards kids and families, but the ride was too beautiful to skip. Not only was the ride vehicle a bright and colorful dragon, but the ride was nestled in a pagoda. As for the ride, it was faster than expected and traveled in both directions. The latter is something that even most adult Himalayas fail to do. 6 out of 10
Originally I wasn’t intending to experience any of Lagoon’s haunts. I figured they’d have lengthy queues and I’d rather spend my time racking up night rides on the coasters. But Lagoon offered an absolute lifesaver in the Time Warp pass. For just $15, I was granted 7 skip-the-line passes for the 5 different haunted houses. I cannot recommend this pass enough since the haunt queues easily looked to be over a half hour in length.
Malevolent Mansion was the best and scariest haunt. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a haunt has well-designed set pieces, but it’s too dark to enjoy them. It’s possible to be scary in a lighted environment and Lagoon proved that. The haunt actors were extremely aggressive and not afraid to get right up in my grill. This resulted in several excellent jump scares. The haunt was short, but it excelled in every other area. 8 out of 10
Fun House of Fear was just a notch behind in quality. This haunt traded scares for interactivity. The scare actors were plentiful and holding creepy conversations throughout. Combined with the colorful set design, some neat animatronics, and the gimmicky 3D effect, Fun House of Fear was a really nice haunt. It reminded me of a toned down version of Canobie’s Carnivus haunt that I love so much. 8 out of 10
Nightmare Midway started off as a disappointment. It began with a pitch black corridor with nothing but jump scares. For many, this is all that’s needed for an effective haunt. But as I said earlier, I look forward to theming. Fortunately the second half had some interesting sets like a strobe maze, streamer maze, and an Area 51 section. 7 out of 10
Nightwalk was where the vampires and witches came alive. It had as many jump scares as Nightmare Midway except it had a decent set to compliment them. Nothing in particular stood out, but it was a solid all-around haunt. 7 out of 10
Lastly, there was the Frightening Frisco. Tucked away in the back of the park by the water rides, it wasn’t too surprising this was the only haunt without a queue. Or maybe it was because it was easily the worst haunt. However, it shouldn’t have been the worst. It may have had the best set design as they went all in with the western theme. The haunt was just missing scare actors. Not only were there less actors than the other haunts, the actors that were there just weren’t getting into it. I’m hoping I just caught it on a bad night. 6 out of 10
Probably the best part of Frightmares was the Seance upcharge. It cost $10 and was well worth it. This is something that is way better if you do not know what is going to happen. For that reason, I really won’t go into detail. I will say that it had some really impressive effects and it was an intense show. One of the guests asked to participate looked like she pooped her pants worse than Nathan Peterman in the fourth quarter. 9 out of 10
The only area that left me disappointed was the food department. Yes this is a rare park that charges for water, but that wasn’t my issue. My issue was the food quality. After a mediocre soft pretzel and substandard fries, I decided to try one of the chains at the park. In retrospect, I should I gone to Subway, but I had never been to Arby’s. And let me say that I will never be going back to Arby’s. My “roast beef sandwich” tasted more like bologna. Please come to New England if you want a real roast beef sandwich.
My best meal of the day came at the surprising In-N-Out Burger location on the way to the highway. And I’m going to be honest, this is the most overrated fast food joint out there. It’s not bad by any means. In fact, I’d take it over most fast food restaurants. I’m just perturbed by In-N-Out Burger fanboys. If you thought Cedar Point or SFMM fanboys were bad, try telling an In-N-Out fan that their burgers are just ok.
You know you’ve visited a great park when you feel sad exiting through that turnstile. You think of all the pleasant experiences you had and then get distressed that it may be quite some time before your next visit. That’s how I felt leaving Lagoon. I don’t know when I’ll be back at Lagoon, but I will definitely be back there someday. It really is a fantastic park. It’s a shame more enthusiasts don’t make it to Lagoon because it has a very well-rounded ride collection combined with efficient operations.