My favorite documentary of all-time is PBS’s Great Old Amusement Parks. If you haven’t seen it, stop what you’re doing right now and go watch it. One of my bucket list goals has been to hit every (operating) park featured in this program. Oaks Park was one of the places featured.
Oaks Park was shown as a well-shaded park with a set of Lusse Skooters and a wooden roller rink. But what would I find on my visit 20 years later?
My next stop was the Skooter. Due to time constraints, I had to cut out the Knoebels Skooters on my visit earlier this year. So the Oaks versions seemed like a worthy consolation prize.
Seemed was the key word. As I approached the bumper car arena, I encountered this abomination.
I haven’t followed Oaks too closely over the years, but a quick search online reveals the Lusse cars have been gone for almost a half decade. It was a sad sight to see.
The roller rink was exactly as advertised though. Since I skate as well as Golden Horse designs roller coasters, I took a pass. But I have to admit the atmosphere was infectious with the music and disco ball.
The classic Carousel was a mixed bag. On one hand, the wood-carved animals were absolute eye-candy. I was particularly enamored with the rare creatures like frogs and pigs. But it had one major drawback- the music.
I get that not every park still has a band organ. When that isn’t the case, I just ask that the park plays clear, crisp music. Oaks didn’t do that. I’m sad to say the audio was quite choppy and muffled. 6 out of 10
One replacement I agree wholeheartedly with was the addition of Adrenaline Peak. I never rode Looping Thunder, but I have to imagine a snazzy new Eurofighter is better than a Pinfari death machine.
Adrenaline Peak is the star attraction Oaks needed. Even though this ride has an almost identical layout to my home park’s Eurofighter, Arenaline Peak is far better for one reason- lap bars. Being able to enjoy the compact layout without headbanging is so refreshing.
And the lap bars make the ejector air on the first drop and hangtime on the inversions even stronger. Just don’t put your hands up. Oaks is very
strict about this. 7 out of 10
The other coaster had the longest line of anything in the park. Zoom boasted a whopping 10 minute wait. I went in expecting a mundane kiddie coaster, but this thing actually had some balls. Not full balls, but puberty balls.
The drop into the helix had some real whip to it. And the finale felt like a bucking bull. It felt like a more intense RMC pre-lift. I bet you didn’t expect me to compare a kids coaster to an RMC. 4 out of 10
The park’s most thrilling flat is the Scream’n Eagle frisbee. While the spinning pulled some good Gs and the max swing had some awesome floater, there was a problem. Notice how I said max swing and not max swings. The ride only had one max swing. That’s just a tease.
It’s also worth noting this ride may have some of the most violently lowering restraints I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure this things are spring-loaded to launch downwards, so be ready for that. 5 out of 10
As the sun began to set over Portland, I climbed aboard the Ferris Wheel for a bird’s eye view. While I got a great view of the park, I didn’t have the best view of the city.
Oaks Park has the same issue as Canobie’s Ferris Wheel, the view is blocked by giant trees. While I was able to see some skyscrapers poking in the distance, I feel like a few extra feet would have made a major difference here. 6 out of 10
I ended the night with a few more laps on Adrenaline Peak. I could only ride it 1-2 more times since I had a bad headache (not from the ride) and the Gs at the base of the drop were a bit too much to take. But I was able to enjoy the stunning lighting package.
Oaks Park is a survivor. It’s a rare city park that hasn’t bit the dust, so they must be doing something right. Oaks Park isn’t exactly a place I’ll be rushing back to, but it’s great for what it is. And judging by all the happy families, I think they’ve satisfied most of their customers.