The first memory I have of Canada’s Wonderland is being there in pastel purple shorts with suspenders that buttoned onto them; I was missing one front tooth. It was 1981 and the park had just opened.
My cousins were visiting from out of town and we took them there. I remember screaming like a baby with severe colic riding The Ghoster Coaster, and my poor baby brother got lost amidst the crowd during a time when parenting wasn’t quite so helicopter-like. (He was fine.)
Over the years, I grew into a little daredevil and Wonderland became one of my favourite destinations. We were treated to it once every year or two, and I relished in it. The pirate shows and the cliff divers always ranked high in my books. I remember a time when you could actually walk up into that huge man-made mountain where the divers still do their thing.
And then there was that weird time when it was renamed Paramount Canada’s Wonderland.
My kids are still not so much the adventurous types. So when we were invited to visit Wonderland this summer, I wasn’t sure how it would go over – or even if there’d be enough attractions to keep us busy for a whole day and make the hour-plus drive worthwhile. Be sure to scroll through the photos at the end of the review!
We arrived as the gates were opening on a Friday morning, and the lines were really reasonable. Every station was open and people were ushered through quickly.
I love that Canada’s Wonderland employs people of all races, ages and levels of both physical and mental ability. It was really apparent, from the moment we handed our tickets to lovely woman in a wheelchair with limited use of one of her hands to the many nationalities represented in the shows, that Wonderland values diversity.
The dedicated Kidzville is like an amusement park within an amusement park. In and of itself, it’s probably enough to keep youngsters occupied and happy for at least half a day. There are rides for even the most cautious of children, like The K Man, who was so worried those Jokey’s Jalopies were going to go right off the rails at the whopping two kilometres an hour at which they putter along. The Kidzville Station train also worked for my three and six year olds, as did Chopper Chase. Miss Q was the one who wanted to give the Flavourator a literal whirl, but she quickly retreated and we stood ring-side while her Daddy and brother laughed their way ’round in circles. Beyond that, they weren’t game for much else, but there were LOADS more rides and some looked so much fun (like Launch Pad!) that I wished I could be a kid again for the day.
Splash Works was excellent, with plenty of pint-sized waterslides and oodles of fun water features to keep kids busy for hours. We were there for two hours before the kids’ enthusiasm started to wane. The line for the Lazy River was long, but worth it. It’s a Lazy River that actually moves along at a good clip.
We managed to see one show, featuring some Charlie Brown characters and one “real life” performer, and it was good enough that the kids sat there taking it all in with smiles on their faces for the full 20 or 30 minutes.
Since we had the kids with us and no additional help, we didn’t make it onto any of the many new grownup rides that Canada’s Wonderland has added since the last time Big B and I were there nearly 10 years ago. I’m itching to go back to try Leviathan and Behemoth (and I’ll be purchasing those fancy Fast Lane Plus passes to do so), because from the ground looking up they were awesome!
If you bring a stroller, there was always ample stroller parking available outside of rides and shows and staff seemed to legitimately watch them to help avoid theft. I never once left my wallet in our stroller, but during the show we saw, we left it for a good half hour and it wasn’t somewhere I could keep an eye on it myself. And it’s a steal-worthy stroller with lots of bells and whistles, so if a stroller was going to get stolen, it’d have been this one. But if you’re really concerned, and you can skip the whole stroller thing in favour of a carrier, do it.
Funnel cakes. Need I write more?
The MarketPlace International Buffet restaurant was not good. There were very few healthy choices to feed the kids, but worse still was that there isn’t milk available as a drink option; it was pop or sweetened juices. Well, we don’t give our kids either, so I asked for milk. First, I was told that it simply wasn’t served there. Then a staff member showed me the creamers and mini-milks for tea and coffee, at which point I jokingly asked if I needed to take a coffee mug and fill them up with the little milks sitting there. As I waited for the joke to register (it didn’t), I asked if someone could please check in the kitchen. By the time we had plated our meals, someone from the kitchen came to our table and asked me if I needed milk heated up in a bottle. Um, nope. Has no one ever asked for milk for their children before…really? “Just two cold glasses of white milk, please,” I begged. At this point, I believe someone may have gone to fetch an actual cow because our milks were not procured for some time. But, finally, we had two tall glasses of milk to at least balance out what turned out to not be the most nutritious – or delicious – lunch. All that to say, try another restaurant and be sure to bring your own milk.
The cost of admission is steep for a family of four if you pay full price ($193.96 before tax). So, wait for a Groupon or DealFind or whatever coupon craze to which you subscribe; hold out for the once-a-year sale in early August when tickets are a steal at $29.99; or find someone who works for a union – they get pretty great deals all season long. There are also three-day advance tickets available directly from Canada’s Wonderland’s site, which are $39.99 per adult.
The price of lockers at Splash Works is also a bit jaw-dropping. We’re talking $20 for a pretty small locker. Thankfully, some random teenage girls saw us staring at the prices and offered us their locker for half price. I’m not sure I’d trust everyone doing this, so proceed with caution. You see, when you rent a locker, the computer kiosk spits out a receipt with your assigned locker number and a passcode; so if you “buy” a locker from someone instead of from the machine, you have to use their password. If you end up buying from the wrong person, you can bet your stuff will be pilfered (or simply gone) by the time you return. But if you’re hitting up Splash Works and you don’t have a wearable waterproof protector for your smartphone and essential ID/credit cards, I’m not really sure what alternative you have to renting lockers.
4.5/5 for the experience with young children
We’ll give you a rating for grownup action after we head there by ourselves!