The place is massive — clocking in at 321 acres (Disneyland sits at a paltry 160 in comparison) — and is essentially one big loop, very similar to the hub-and-spoke setup you’ll find at Disneyland (and at parks all over the world, not coincidentally). While Wonderland has been a staple of Canadian amusement parks for many years, it put itself on the international map in 2008 by opening Behemoth — it affirmed its spot there with the addition of Leviathan, and it further cemented its place in the North American pantheon with Guardian this year.
Wonderland has the third-largest roller coaster collection in North America, and while many of these aren’t anything to write home about (a Vekoma SLC, a few non-descript wooden coasters and a boomerang being among them), the Canadian park offers enough high-end thrills to earn its bronze medal. Beyond the coasters though, what makes Wonderland so great is its landscape — the park is absolutely gorgeous and there’s no lack for space anywhere inside. Wonderland largely achieves what I believe is a theme park’s chief goal: making guests forget about the world outside the gates.
This was especially true at the park’s Halloween Haunt event, which boasts 11 haunted attractions (10 of which are mazes) that sprawl across the park. Many of the names and themes are familiar to those who have spent any time at a Cedar Fair Haunt before — Asylum, Club Blood, CornStalkers and Terror of London are all mazes I’ve experienced in some form before, but rest assured they share in name and theme only. As someone who spends most of his Halloween-time in Southern California, it was interesting to see how permanent many of these mazes are — in sheds and warehouses backstage, it was pretty clear a few of these mazes hibernate 11 months out of the year before being spruced up for the annual haunt.
That isn’t a knock on the event, to be clear, it’s just a comment on what is necessary to put on a Halloween event without a year-round staff dedicated to it. There is no John Murdy and there is no well-publicized-designers-panel like at Knott’s Berry Farm. The actors eschew makeup for masks for the most part, and like at Knott’s the impetus is certainly more on fun than fear. While there were a few good scares to be had, the mazes seemed to be designed to give you a sense of place and not a sense of dread.
There were no chainsaw actors and I didn’t see a single slider at the event — we were able to finish every maze within a few hours of its opening, thanks in large part to the parks’ massive size. While many of the mazes were a bit forgettable, CornStalkers stood out as one of the scarier mazes I’ve experienced. To get to the entrance you must walk through what feels like miles of queue which takes you towards the back of the park. Once you arrive there you are sent through corn stalks that are easily nine-feet tall — and they straddle a path that couldn’t be much narrower. Many of the actors could use some coaching, but by and large the event was a lot of fun.
In many ways that sums up the Canada’s Wonderland experience — it wasn’t striving to be Disneyland or Universal Studios, and it doesn’t have to be. What it did was set attainable goals and knock them out one after another. With two of the best coasters in North America in Behemoth and Leviathan and a nice collection of all-ages coasters and rides, Wonderland has the talent to be a name-brand park; now it just needs the recognition.Tweet
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