I was afraid I would miss out on Waldameer. The day before, I noticed the weather forecast predicted a 100% chance of thunderstorms and heavy rain. A forecast like that could give pause to a major park opening and would close most smaller, family parks like Waldameer. I called the park the day before asking what their rain policy was. They said as long as it wasn't thundering, they would run everything. Even in heavy rain? They said yes. I went to bed the day before hoping the forecast would be wrong just in case, but it wasn't.
The skies were grayer than Obama's hair after he left the office. On the way to Waldameer, I planned to hit Fun Fore All (my hotel was just 5 minutes away, definitely not a coincidence
) and Conneaut (any season could be that park's last). As I pulled into Fun Fore All's lot, it started to rain. Unfortunately, that shut the coaster down. The FEC had a really nice arcade so I stalled for a bit playing pinball and a few games I had never seen before, but the rain didn't stop. I'm not above stopping for a credit, but I wasn't going to wait around like a dog begging for food for a coaster less than 10ft tall to open. That's where I draw the line.
Fun Fore All didn't work out, but maybe Conneaut would? Before I could even call them, I saw their Facebook page said they would be closed due to weather. I feel like that's a park that excels in closing so that was expected. I was bummed to miss out on Blue Streak, but at least I should have another better woodie to hit at Waldameer. I called the park again on the way to confirm they were open and they greeted me with an enthusiastic yes. An hour later, I rolled into their almost entirely empty lot (it had less cars than Clementon, a true feat) as my car was pelted with rain. But the park was open!
I messed no time heading towards Ravine Flyer II just in case the weather took an even darker turn for the worse. I was not going to miss this acclaimed wooden coaster. As I walked through the empty queue, the rain slowed down a bit. That was enough to get me in the front for my first ride. The lift gives a breathtaking view of Lake Erie that is as good as the views you get on the lifts at Cedar Point.
The first drop was very steep and I quickly learned Ravine Flyer had an affinity for tunnels. I believe there were 4 or 5. The airtime hill over the bridge gave amazing air and that was followed by an aggressive pop of ejector and a weaker pop on the turnaround hill. The train crawls over the top of the turnaround, but the drop is basically a 2nd first drop so you get all that speed back. The second bridge hill and the two tunnels afterwards give outstanding air and feel even faster than they are thanks to the ride diving in and out of tunnels. The ride loses a lot of speed in parts of the second half when it climbs back up the ravine, but there are still 4 smaller pops of air and a 90 degree turn. What a great ride!
I tried Ravine Flyer II in the back afterwards and the ride was excellent as well. The first drop was absolutely crazy, one of the best I've ridden. The major ejector air combined with the view was hard to beat. The air in the second half was weaker in the back, but not by much. I got almost 30 rides in both the front and back (as you can see crowds never became an issue). I preferred the front by a small margin thanks to the better second half and a slightly smoother ride. Despite several aggressive turns and direction changes, Ravine Flyer II is a very smooth ride. It's a great coaster. It just barely misses out on my top 5 since it does let up a tad in the 2nd half. 9.5 out of 10
Remember when the employee on the phone said they run everything in heavy rain, they weren't kidding. Most of my rides were in light to no rain, but a few were in the midst of a torrential downpour. For anyone who has ridden coasters in the rain, yes that can be a tad painful to say the least. But with my rain jacket, it was totally worth it and I applaud Waldameer for still running Ravine Flyer II even if I was the only one crazy enough to ride it. I also want to applaud the ride's staff. Despite the low crowds, they were still loading and checking the trains fast. They were also very sociable and among the friendliest I've come across at a park.
Steel Dragon was a stark contrast to Laff Trakk. Laff Trakk was braked to death and had the interesting glow-in-the-dark theming. Steel Dragon had as little theming as humanly possible. It was a portable installation; however, once you crest the lift, the brakes don't engage until the very end. While I can appreciate a themed ride, I'll pick the faster, crazier spinning in this case. Also being the only one on the ride ensured there was even more spinning than usual since the car was grossly unbalanced. 8 out of 10
Comet was a solid little coaster. Tucked in the trees, the layout is loaded with some decent headchoppers. I'm pretty sure most other parks would have removed most of those branches but not Waldameer. The setting and slightly longer layout makes Comet better than the junior woodies of comparable size, but the ride experience is otherwise similar. There was one hill with air if I remember correctly. I would have said rain-slicked tracks would help, but the lighter than usual trains probably negated that. 5 out of 10
Ravine Flyer 3 was a credit I wasn't expecting. I remembered reading that Waldameer only allowed kids on this one. That was a shame since it looked to have a considerably better layout than most kiddie coasters and was over a fountain. However, I didn't notice any signs banning adults so I casually walked up and the op let me on. Hooray! That made up for the lost credit at Fun Fore All. The ride is mostly smooth, has great placement, and the drop over the shed was a nice touch. I'm not sure if adults are always allowed now or if it depends on crowds, but as far as kiddie coasters go, this is top notch.
Waldameer is also well known for their two classic Bill Tracy dark rides. Whacky Shack is an acid trip of a ride if I've ever seen one, but that's what makes it awesome! From the creepily friendly welcome spiel running non-stop in the queue to the peculiar odor given off by the ride that should be scented by Yankee Candle, Whacky Shack has so many minor touches that makes the ride special. None of the effects are anywhere close to cutting edge, but they were all immaculately maintained and every square inch of the ride was populated with gags. It also had a drop so I'm sure some of you out there would count it as a credit. I really wish more dark rides like this existed. The nostalgia and classic feel of the ride honestly make Whacky Shack better than some of those multi-million dollar dark rides found at Universal or Disney. 10 out of 10
Pirate's Cove is an interesting fun house. Like Whacky Shack, Pirate's Cove tries to disorient riders with rotating lights, darkness, and angled platforms. The ride was incredibly simplistic but a true joy to experience. I came off most rides stumbling side to side like a pirate who had just downed 2 kegs of rum. I would also pay to watch people who were absolutely hammered race through Pirate's Cove since I guarantee you they wouldn't stay on their feet the whole way. 8 out of 10
Thunder River was an amazing flume. It's a long ride with two fairly steep and tall drops, a nicely shaded setting, and a long, mist-filled tunnel. The ride is also designed to provide the perfect amount of wetness but that was completely irrelevant on a day when the man upstairs spent the day wringing out his laundry over everyone in the park. 10 out of 10
Waldameer also has the beloved Larson/ARM tower in X-Scream. Rising high above the treeline, X-Scream gives absolutely breathtaking views of Lake Erie. I would have loved to see how much I would have been able to see on a perfectly clear day, but it was so serene seeing an empty shoreline and smelling the fresh raindrops. And then you hear the little click and the peace is disturbed as the car drops like a rock and you hover a good foot off your seat the whole way down. There's still something unnerving and awesome the moment before the brakes when you realize your butt is 100% off the seat and you are thrown back down. 10 out of 10
The Sky Ride can be thanked for several or my park photos. It ran down a good chunk of the park and passed by over a dozen rides. It only had one station, but that's fine for a park as small as Waldameer. It's really all about relaxing and getting a birds eye view tour of the park. This was a day before the accident at Great Escape and am still trying to figure out how someone could have fallen the way she did.
The rest of the park's ride lineup consists of a mix of new and old flats such as a Spider, Wipeout, Bumper Cars, etc. A few of the ride ops were bouncing across flat rides. One in particular who I ran across at the Flying Swings was particularly awesome. He was clearly excited to have people finally board his ride that he was interacting with us through the speaker all ride. He was also heckling riders on Ravine Flyer II as they flew by. He was so awesome that I stopped by the Happy Swing (it was as meh as you'd expect) when I saw him there later in the day.
I skipped the water park since Mother Nature turned the ride park into a water park. I was absolutely soaked to the bone throughout the day, but after the initial bout of rain, I was having too much fun to care. As far as water slides, they looked to be pretty average and nothing worth paying for since Water World is an additional cost on top of the ride side.
Amusement parks are well known for fried food, but I found a new fried delicacy I had never seen before at Waldameer, the deep fried pretzel. The park literally takes a super pretzel, deep fries it, and sprinkles a few bits of extra salt on top. It tasted like a hybrid of two of my favorite theme park snacks in fried dough and soft pretzels so I was in heaven. I had two of these. And they were less than $3 too!
With the low crowds, Waldameer closed two hours early at 8. I don't blame them one bit, but I commend them for staying open that late. I think they were hoping the better weather in the evening (last bit of heavy rain was around 4) would bring people in, but it didn't. I think I was the only person on well over half of the rides I took on Ravine Flyer II and the park's other rides.
Waldameer is an amazing park. While small, the park has an amazing collection of rides and really knows how to treat the customer well. This is the type of park I wish was closer to me since you can run in for a few hours and be guaranteed to have a great time. Ravine Flyer II alone is worth visiting for, but everything else makes Waldameer better than many of the larger, corporate parks I've been to. It's a bit out of the way, but I will definitely be returning in the future.