Canada's Top 10 Theme Parks

High-speed slides at  Magic Mountain
Kamikaze Slide - Magic Mountain1


Most of what lures the theme park enthusiast to the best amusement parks in Canada are the thrill rides. Ever wonder why the frazzled-looking visitor who just got off that massive, wooden, fear-inducing roller coaster practically runs back to the long line that they were just complaining about an hour earlier? It's not the hot dogs, cotton candy or animal exhibits that usually keeps the tourist in for a whole day at the park. Rides, rides and more rides are on the minds of most Canadians and foreigners looking for that next hair-raising, exhilarating rush. While thrill rides are the main draw, aesthetically pleasing theme parks are also a major attraction.

Not surprisingly, most of the top ten theme parks have at least one and up to 15 roller coasters to entice the bravest of souls. There is of course more than roller coasters, skyscreamers, boomerangs, top spinners and mindbenders to enthuse the park lover; sea creature shows, amazing water parks and even go-karting and mini-golf have satisfied many visitors. For the not so courageous park goer, bring some comfortable shoes and for those bold enough to try anything, pack some lozenges for the throat because screaming on those hairpin turns and inverted ascents and descents is likely.


CANADA'S WONDERLAND

It's not hard to see why Canada's Wonderland is the largest and perhaps the most popular theme park in Canada. Commonly called Wonderland, this park has lured millions of visitors annually since 1981. The park boasts over 200 rides and a 133 ha (330 acre) water park. Roller coaster fanatics can get a thrill from one of the 15 different roller coasters at the park, almost a record number of coasters in any theme park. Coaster enthusiasts will love a few rides, including Time Warp, Canada's only “flying” roller coaster where passengers ride lying face-down and are lifted up like the passenger is flying. New to the park as of 2008, Canada's biggest, fastest and tallest roller coaster, the Behemoth, is not for the faint of heart reaching a height of 70 m (230 ft) and dropping down at an angle of 85 degrees.

Thrilling roller coaster ride
Roller Coaster Ride2  

Movie-themed rides started a trend in 1994 when Paramount Pictures bought Canada's Wonderland, which became Paramount Canada Wonderland for 12 years before reverting back to its original name. Some of the popular rides inspired by movies are: Flight Deck, Canada's only inverted roller coaster and named after the Top Gun movie and Back Lot Stunt Coaster, created from a car scene in the 2003 movie The Italian Job.

Roller coasters are definitely a main pull at this park but for the weak-stomached rider and younger kids, the Splash Works water park offers plenty of exciting rides that will entertain and delight. Splash Works is a 8 ha (20 acre) water playground that features 16 water slides and over two-million gallons of heated water. Situated adjacent to the theme park, the water park is home to high-speed slides such as the Plunge, the Blackhole and the Super Soaker, a fast ride through a tunnel that spirals down into an open-air flume. For the less adventurous, try heading down the Lazy River, a more relaxing ride which takes one down a one-quarter mile river in individual rafts. The Riptide Racer and the Baracuda Blaster are two other exciting water rides to try. Also stop in at Canada's largest wave pool.

Situated only 30 kms (18.6 mi) north of downtown Toronto in Vaughan Ontario, this attraction is well worth a visit.

LA RONDE

The largest amusement park in Quebec and the second largest in Canada, La Ronde was originally built for Expo 67. Located on Saint-Helen's Island in Parc Jean Drapeau, this park is also home to the annual fireworks competition that attracts thousands of locals and tourists every summer. One of the most popular rides at La Ronde is the Monster, a wooden roller coaster that invokes a fear of the unknown as the structure of this beast rattles on the first ascent. Other exciting rides at this tourist attraction include the Boomerang and the Tornade, the largest suspended roller coaster in Canada. At 32 m (105 ft) high and reaching up to a speed of 80.5 kmh (50 mph), if the visitor has to choose to ride only one of the nine roller coasters that this park offers, the Tornade is the one. Since 2002, La Ronde was deemed an official world-class theme park with over 40 rides to choose from. The water rides are a perfect choice for hot and humid days that are typical during the summer. Try the Splash, a 20-passenger boat that plunges down a 15 m (50 ft) waterfall creating 5 m (17 ft) waves. Staying dry is not an option for this ride. Tour de Ville is a custom-designed Old Montreal theme ride that takes up to 48 brave souls on a carousel ride to the sky. In 2001, Six Flags bought La Ronde from the City of Montreal.

GALAXYLAND AMUSEMENT PARK

Located in the popular West Edmonton Mall and in operation since 1981, this amusement park has 26 indoor rides that will entertain and thrill the entire family. Kids' rides are plentiful at this indoor playground. The Space Bump allows kids to drive carts around bumping into others or wee ones can try the ever-popular Carousel. The Galaxyland Raceway is a good ride for the would-be little speed racer, featuring Go-Karts that drive through an “Indy” style racetrack. For something a little slower, the kids will enjoy the Balloon Race, a ferris wheel with balloon-shaped cars. The whole family will enjoy the Cosmic Spinner, an intermediate space ride which features individual spinning UFOs.

  Twists and turns for the coaster fanatic
  Dizzying Turns On The Roller Coaster 3

The older crowd seeking a thrill to remember will be drawn to the Mindbender, the world's largest indoor high-speed triple loop roller coaster. If being launched 37 m (120 ft) skyward and then thrust back to the starting position with 11 other screaming people sounds exhilarating, try the Space Shot. The Sonic Storm is an advanced ride which takes the passenger back and forth in a circular bouncing motion while the Galaxy Orbiter is a stomach-churning spinning roller coaster.

PLAYLAND AMUSEMENT PARK

The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) site is home to one of the oldest amusement parks in Canada, Playland Amusement Park. Since 1910, this amusement park, once named “Happy Land,” is sure to make guests smile when they take on the park's marquee attraction, the wooden roller coaster from 1958. At least that's what half a million thrill-seekers do each year. Ideally located in Vancouver B.C.'s Hastings Park, Playland has various thrill rides, a bonanza shooting gallery, and an 11 m (35 ft) climbing wall. If the wooden coaster doesn't scare the guest enough, maybe the Demon of the Dark haunted house will do it. For jolts and spins, try the Crazy Beach Party, also called the Frisbee, a ride which spins on a huge disc and swings back and forth like a pendulum reaching a 90 degree angle. Other exciting rides include the Hellevator, the Wave Swinger and the Scrambler.

Those with a faint heart may want to try their hand at the mini-golf course, the glass house or the pirate adventure ship geared towards kids. The popular Midway games are also a pleasing sight to those with a fear of heights. Great rides for the kids include the Dune Buggies, Flying Elephants, or the Paddle Wheeler, a fun ride for water lovers who don't want to get wet as they ride down a river in safari-themed paddle boats.

MARINELAND

Whales Showing Off
Whales at Play 4  

The main attractions and unique features of this marine park, located one mile from Horseshoe Falls in Niagra Falls, Ontario, is the marine mammal shows, feedings, mammal touchings and animal exhibitions. But what really sets this place apart from some of the other theme parks is its open green spaces, picnic areas and the low-tech feeling of the whole park. In addition to spotting sea creatures, this park offers 16 amusement rides and plenty of fun activities to keep the kids busy. Be sure to catch the dolphin and walrus moves at the park's main daily show, The King Waldorf Stadium Show, or stop by the Arctic Cove to spot or touch the beautiful beluga whales. Killer whales can be found at the Friendship Cove for a show that will always be remembered. For a thrill or two, escape to the adult roller coaster, Dragon Mountain, or test vocal cords at the Skyscreamer, the world's highest triple tower ride at 137 m (450 ft) that launches the rider up and down at speeds of 96 kmh (60 mph). Other rides include a spinning ferris wheel called the Tivoli Wheel and the Topple Tower ride. Kids will enjoy the Lady Bug Coaster, the Bumble Bee ride and the Orca Screamer, a kid's version of the Skyscreamer. As well as interactive animal displays, catch a glimpse of the black bears, deer and elk.

ONTARIO PLACE

Since 1971, this parkland located in downtown Toronto has grown from a pavilion complex with one restaurant and an IMAX Theatre into a recognized leisure and entertainment centre that encompasses a huge water slide, a children's village, the Molson Amphitheatre and regionally-themed restaurants, stores and rides. Situated on three man-made islands on Lake Ontario, Ontario Place's Soak City water park features heated water slides, including the Pink Twister and Purple Pipeline. Located on Adventure Island, the visitors will discover the world's largest animated flume ride and the Wilderness Adventure, which takes the passenger down a 12 m (40 ft) splashdown. On a hot and humid day, the Hydrofuge ride is the perfect recipe for cooling off. At speeds of 80.5 kmh (50 mph), zoom down a tube on a thin sheet of water through a gigantic bowl of water, then a dip into the 20 m (6 ft) of deep water at the bottom. Other fun water activities include Go-Karting on water (Aquajet Racers) and Waterplay, a water park designed just for kids. For a short break from the rides, drop off the little ones at Microkids, an activity centre for pre-schoolers, and spend a few hours at the five-pod pavilion complex to browse the technology and communication displays. Kids can also try their driving skills at the O.P. Driving School, where kids drive around a realistic course on electric cars or just zoom around in the mini-bumper boats. For adult fun, try the simulator ride MARS, or check out the concert schedule at the Molson Amphitheatre.

UPPER CLEMENTS PARK

Situated in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, this theme park offers a mix of rides, music and wildlife suited for every age group. Kids have plenty of rides to keep them busy, including bumper boats, bumper cars and the Red Baron Airplanes, where kids can act like pilots controlling their own elevation. The ever-popular carousel, kiddie bumper boats and mini trucks are also a treat for the young park enthusiast. One of the most hair-raising rides at this park is definitely the Tree Topper Roller Coaster, a wooden roller coaster that soars above the trees. Spin and roll into the air on the Rock N' Roll Planes, another thrill ride that will bring the rider back for more.

Entertainment in the evening also attracts visitors with the park's annual "Park After Dark" concert and fireworks display which takes place every Saturday in July and August. Other annual events include Christmas in the Park and Halloween, which both take place during the last two weekends in August.

After experiencing the rides and adventures at the theme park, walk through the underground tunnel to get to the adjacent wildlife park where views of snowy owls, black bears, deer, wild cats, emus and rheas are common. Participate in the Adopt-an-Animal program and then take a wildlife tour at the park in just under an hour. Be one of the thousands of visitors each year that experiences the thrill rides, musical entertainment or the cast of characters that roam the park grounds: Sparkles the Clown, Captain Kid Ryerson or story-telling Clementine are on site to entertain and expand the imagination.

SANDSPIT CAVENDISH BEACH

The largest amusement park on Prince Edward Island comes alive for nearly three months of the year, offering more than 18 attractions and rides to entertain the whole family. Thrill rides, Go-Karts, bumper boats and country fair rides attract visitors from all over the country. The Cyclone roller coaster is bound to rattle some nerves; the largest coaster in Atlantic Canada goes through three big drops and two corkscrews before the rider decides whether they want to do it all over again. The country fair rides include the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Scrambler, Rock N' Roll and the Paratrooper. Not afraid of heights? Head over to the 21 m (70 ft) ferris wheel. If being closer to earth is more the style, try the fast and fun double rider Go-Karts, the bumper boat pool or the mini-golf course. Children of all ages will enjoy the softball playground, the mini-helicopters, pony carts and the miniature train.

MAGIC MOUNTAIN WATER PARK

Based in Moncton, New Brunswick, Atlantic Canada's largest water park has been refreshing guests since 1987. This park offers everything from body slides, tubing and matting to slides for kids. Slide down more than 30.5 m (100 ft) at speeds of more than 60 kmh (37 mph) on the Kamikaze slide, close to a vertical drop. Twist & Shout takes the rider through a fully-enclosed slide in the dark, dropping 11 m (35 ft). If medium speed is preferred, the Loop de Loop may be more pleasing as the rider can choose from three slides with more gentle turns and drops. The Sidewinder is another easy but equally fun alternative for the body slides. For an even more relaxing experience, stroll over to the Lazy River, a relaxing ride on a 19th-century replica steam ship. Water-logged guests or those waiting for family members enjoying a splash

A refreshing ride to take on a hot summer afternoon
Valcartier's Dungeon City Ride 5  

can enjoy a relaxing day at one of two 18-hole golf courses.

VALCARTIER VACATION VILLAGE

This family theme park opened in 1963 and is currently a major playground in both the summer and winter. A 20 minute drive north from Quebec City, this summer water park turns into a major winter playground paradise during the colder months. Bundle up for some fun in the snow – snow rafting and inner tube slides with daunting names such as Everest and Himalaya will give the adventurous rider a run for their money. Jump into the Tornado and swirl down a hill with seven other brave riders for some breathtaking fun. Kids' eyes will open wide at the sight of the giant Ice Castle, where mazes and slides seem endless. An outdoor skating path is also available for the tamer winter adventure.

As summer brings hotter weather, this park is an ideal place to bring eager kids. The water park can entertain the whole family with close to a dozen water rides and attractions. The Pirates' Hideout features a pirate ship and a watercourse that takes the adventurer over a wooden walkway, through water slides and hundreds of interactive water games. For a fast rush, head to the Supersonic Falls, two massive water slides 20 m (65 ft) high or slide down a 12 m (40 ft) tower called the Corkscrew. For kids aged one to six years old, visit the Cookadoodle Farm complete with mini-slides and waterjets. Other rides that stir the imagination are the Amazon and Dungeon City rides. For activities on dry land, watch the acrobatic diving shows or try karting or the 18-hole mini-golf course, Maxigolf. A modern 700-site campground located next to the waterpark is available for tents or RVs.


PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
  1. Kamikaze Slide at Magic Mountain Water Park; Moncton, NB, CAN
  2. Roller Coaster Ride
  3. Inverted Roller Coaster
  4. Whales at Play
  5. Dungeon City Water Park Ride; c/o Valcartier Vacation Village; Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, QC, CAN
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