Monday, October 31, 2016

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...British Columbia

The 3rd most populated province of Canada, and home to one of the major cultural hubs of the nation (the City of Vancouver), British Columbia is another typically gigantic piece of land with a vast variety of biomes, beautiful vistas, and yes, amusement rides and themed attractions. It is important to keep in mind that there's a lot more here than that - enormous mountains, incredible skiing, wonderful wilderness, islands, all sorts of wildlife, and the great cities of Vancouver and Victoria - that it should make its way up your rankings of places to see well before you find out there's rides. But there are.


-The Pacific National Exhibition grounds, better known as the PNE, is home to a permanent amusement park called Playland. The Vekoma loop-screw steel coaster here was featured in Final Destination 3, but of more interest to hardened theme park vets are the wood coaster (a wild antique, possibly the best wood coaster trains in the world), permanent haunt walk through, and North America's lone KMG XXL pendulum ride. The park is open for the whole summer, but busiest during the fair in August.

-Grouse Mountain's trams and skyride take millions to scenic vistas of the city of Vancouver every year. There's also nature trails, a wildlife refuge, ziplining, and lumberjack shows.

-Forget theming: you can ride down in an actual bobsled at terrifying speeds at the Olympic facilities in Whistler. In the winter, you can give skeleton a try. That's like luge, but head first. No biggie.


Based in Chilliwack, BC is the Imagination Corporation, a small company that has experience in designing set pieces and signage for the Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall's amusement attractions. Looking to expand their reach, they went about constructing their own park a little over an hour from Vancouver in the town of Cultus Lake. Cultus Lake Adventure Park is the end result - it certainly isn't a huge park, but real effort was put into making this a fairly high quality place. Neither coaster is particularly astonishing, and there aren't any rare flat rides, carousels, or dark rides, but it still seems like a very nice place to stop.

Back over by Vancouver's cruise port, local boys Dynamic Attractions constructed "FlyOver Canada", a Soarin' style simulated flight attraction that takes riders over native scenery. Dynamic has sold a number of these rides in Asia and the US, and it can be expected that they'll continue to grow in overall popularity.


The province has two operating carousels, both in places with decidedly lower impact ratios. Burnaby Village Museum is a living museum attraction that offers rides on an interurban trolley and aboard a CW Parker carousel. That's a pretty rare combination that Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT might only be able to have. The Burchart Gardens of Victoria are some of the finest botanical gardens on the continent, and complementing them is a modern hand carved wood carousel and lengthy boat tours.

There are some museum facilities worth nothing here also: Saanichton is home to Heritage Acres, where one can take small-gauge trains around the authentic period buildings housed. In the desert you never knew British Columbia had, one finds the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre, home to trails, animal exhibits, and "multisensory theaters" showing presentations on native culture. And then there is Kimberley's Underground Mining Railway, which is precisely what you think it is based on the name.


Miniatures are their own little part of the attraction/museum universe, and Victoria's Miniature World is a classic entry in this. Is it a tourist trap? Uhh, yeah. So is practically everything noted here! There's also the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad in case you can't get enough tiny things and toys combined into one contiguous manchild package. (No diss to other manchildren.)


There are several water parks in this part of the world, and most of them have slides that look roughly like everyone else's. Atlantis and Bridal Falls are two that buck the trend, going to the more or less tried and true "Build slides at the elevation of a nearby hill" style that died sometime in the 80s. Bridal Falls immense community hot tub thing is a modern marvel that we should all stare at in appreciation.


There is a good chance you've never heard of Brandauer. They're an Austrian manufacturer known for building what are known as Summer Toboggans or alpine coasters. If you're an American, you may have at some point seen such an attraction in places like Pigeon Forge, Park City, or Branson. Most of those rides feature two rails, gyroscopic braking systems, and they're almost all made by a different company named Wiegland. They're generally really fun rides. Really fun! But Brandauer's rides have a reputation of being much more extreme. The don't have the same level of automatic speed controls the Wiegland rides have, and the single rail gives a different center of gravity. And of course, I'm mentioning this because there is such a ride in British Columbia. Revelstoke Mountain Resort's "Pipe" has a ton of big fat drops and crazy speed just as you'd expect from this manufacturer.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Arkansas

Home to roughly 3 million people, Arkansas is another deep south state with all the negative issues traditionally associated with the deep south as it pertains to amusement and theme parks. Hurting it further is its own image to outsiders and investors. Wikipedia notes this was "characterized by early explorers as a savage wilderness full of outlaws and thieves." Perusal of Billboard's June 30th, 1917 issue gives us the name of 5 historical parks for the state operating then. That is but a tiny fraction of Pennsylvania or Ohio's take in the same issue. Of those 5, none seem to have operated past the 1920s.

Arkansas' first new full scale park in the post war era was quite an interesting one; Dogpatch USA, themed to a single IP (the Lil' Abner cartoon series). The park actually hung on for roughly 25 years before succumbing to debt load and poor investment decisions. Today, only one major park operates in Arkansas: CNL Management Group owned Magic Springs & Crystal Falls, located in the resort town of Hot Springs. Often rumored to be paring down to a water park only facility, Magic Springs is another victim of poor management/ownership as it is operated by a hedge fund seeking to create liquidity yesterday, not profits next year. Half of Six Flags St. Louis' original dual mine trains, a Maurer-Sohne X-Coaster, and the former wood coaster from Circus World/Boardwalk and Baseball all operate at the park.


The state has 4 parks of interest located on public lands and/or operating as trusts. Queen Wilhelmina State Park features a narrow gauge miniature diesel train for rides and mini golf. Funland Amusement Park, the state's longest operating amusement facility, runs on the grounds of Burns Park in North Little Rock. The Park at West End over in Fort Smith offers an Eli Wheel and carousel (non-historic). Finally, that brings us to the Little Rock Zoo, which happens to have a very unique piece of amusement park history. Constructed nearly 100 years ago by Herschell-Spillman, the Over-The-Dips Carousel is the only ride of its type in permanent operation anywhere on earth. Rather than using traditional mechanisms for jumpers, the ride uses an ondulating floor with the horses and flooring being mounted to a Caterpillar chassis. The ride was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, and fully refurbished in 2007.


Mountain Village 1890 provides insight into the history of the Ozark region, the Baldknobbers, and all that nonsense which frankly I know little to nothing about, just like all my Yankee brethern. The internet tells me Baldknobbers sided with the North, and if there's anything I learned from Silver Dollar City, it is that they are the bad guys so...this I'm sure is interesting. No rides, just lots of buildings and period costumes.


The Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame seems like a strange choice: a small free museum dedicated to musicians from the state doesn't seem that interesting. But alas: How about a Johnny Cash Animatronic that sings 6 of his best songs? Yes. This is a real thing.


This isn't the midwest, and as such, the number of giant haunts isn't really comparable. The Carpenter's Mortuary has the slickest website and claims to be in an actual former mortuary. The Old Haunted Warehouse promotes total darkness with only the aid of a glowstick. As someone who's been in total darkness, you'd really be surprised how well a glowstick can illuminate. They're rather underrated!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

111- Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review

Lane hosts as Joe, Mike, and Nick talk about their trip to Orlando and Horror Nights. We talk about our night at Hoop, Trader Sam's shenanigans, off site hotels, cover all the HHN houses, walk through the scare zones, review the Academy of Villains and Bill & Ted, and finally close with our thoughts on The Repository upcharge experience.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeJoeMikeNick, and Lane.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Monument Valley: When you think of  Arizona, you think of the grand terrain. From high pine forest to the endemic Saguaro of the deserts in the south, Arizona varies tremendously in altitude, climate, and environment. Nearly 7 million people call Arizona home, putting it squarely between Washington and Massachusetts on the depth chart, and of those, 2/3s of them live in "The Valley"- better known as the Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale CSA.  With all those people, you'd think there would be all sorts of weird rides and attractions, and you would be right.

On the edge of the unknown, Arizona's lone permanent dark ride is one of the Kingdom Quest trackless units installed at the Tempe Legoland Discovery Zone, and of course there's the State Fair every year with some big steel brought in by Ray Cammack Shows and Bishop Amusement Rides.


Big Surf is the point at which all discussion for Arizona amusement legend probably has to start. Back in 1969, Big Surf completed and opened one of the two claimed "first" wave pools in the world. You might recall that an entirely different group constructed one in Alabama from a previous edition of this very series. Well, this is the competitor. Unfortunately, most of the original concrete slides for the park have been replaced with more generic fiberglass tube slides, and they really aren't anything to get too excited over.

This is probably a good point in the article to discuss some of the aspects that make the Phoenix market a little different than other major metropolitan areas in terms of the construction and operation of a permanent amusement facility. Temps in Arizona get hot - 120 Fahrenheit hot - and regardless of how dry it is or how used to these sorts of conditions you imagine one might get residing there, the simple reality is that it is too hot for any sort of serious outdoor activity (when one is not submersed in water). As such, that prime summer season for most everyone on earth is commercially non-viable in Arizona. It gets cool enough in winter to be a bit chilly too, which makes the whole place not ideal to run a big amusement park, even if you could, theoretically, operate all 12 months of the year.

Water parks are a different situation. Big Surf has 2 significant competitors within the market; Wet N' Wild Phoenix has a number of modern slides, most from Whitewater West such a dueling water coaster, Constrictor, and a Boomerango. Over at Golfland Sunsplash, you have the Proslide variations on those attractions. Either way, you're basically seeing more advanced water park stuff than what is in Southern California or Orlando. Smaller water parks can be found in Tucson and Yuma too.


Castles n' Coasters in Phoenix, AZ is the only real "dry rides" amusement park of note in the entire state. Akin in size and style to a facility like Orlando's Fun Spot or Ocean City, MD's Jolly Roger, there's a tight footprint with stacked attractions, a big arcade, and enormous mini golf. Being completely honest, for what this is, they put in a surprising amount of effort in the design of the buildings and signage. Locals often complain that it has a rough clientele, which may be code word for "Mexicans." If being around Hispanics is enough to cause you terror, why are you even reading this? Stick to someone's vlog where they review flax breakfast cereals.

Interestingly, Castles n' Coasters offers a bit of an ironic twist when it comes to decor. Many of the buildings are clearly built with a Middle Eastern flair, approximating mosques more than anything. Yet the coaster names of "Desert Storm" and "The Patriot" hearken back to the first Gulf War of 1991 (they both opened in 1992). Both coasters and the log flume are products of O.D. Hopkins. Fun fact about Desert Storm in particular: Hopkins built 4 looping coasters over their history, and each of the four feature entirely different track designs. At the time of last/current operation, all four also had pronounced differences in rolling stock. Desert Storm is also perhaps the best operating thanks to the strange second inversion and lap bar restraints.


Phoenix happens to be home to an assortment of generally strange, outlier stuff theme park wise. Wildlife World Zoo has a skyride, a new Chance family coaster, and a log flume which passes through an aquarium. There's an assortment of antique carousels in Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Phoenix, as well as a more modern carved carousel at the Phoenix Zoo. And then there's Schnepf Farms. And really, there's not much stranger than Schnepf Farms.

Very much a farm that very much grows things, the Schnepf Farms got into the group sales business awhile ago and expanded and expanded and expanded. There's a small amusement park on site featuring a number of second hand rides, most of which aren't available to ride except during group outings and the occasional public day. Among the notable such rides:

-a train which circles around some of the grounds

-a rare to this part of the planet calcinculo - these are swing rides popular in Italian fairs. Their key specific difference is that they are designed to have individuals rock and in fact kick the seats. The term means "kick in the bottom"! Riders in Europe generally attempt to win free rides and entertain crowds by grabbing a flag placed way above where the typical ride action would ever place you. Schnepf Farms predictably doesn't have the flag (check out an onride video below from an Italian one)

-a CW Parker carousel. Parker carousels are generally easy to distinguish due to to the "grasshopper" mechanism for the jumper horses and the more "folk" carving styles. This particular carousel was a barn find in the midwest

-Gravity Roller Coaster. Previously named the Peachtree Express, this is the only remaining Miler "World's Largest Portable Roller Coaster" model in the world. It looks like a very large version of the standard Miler oval model that was subsequently copied en masse. This is also one of the ten oldest steel coasters in the World. It was built in 1953, the same year as Hanayashiki Amusement Park's Roller Coaster (Japan's first coaster ride of any kind) and 6 years prior to the tubular steel Matterhorn coaster.


Arizona was the shooting location for more westerns than I can possibly list in addition to, you know, being in the West. And it should be no surprise then that there are a great many attractions themed to this period of American history. You very likely have heard of Tombstone already, but there's 4 others worth discussing:

-Gold King Mine and Ghost Town in Jerome is not only the most remote, but the least developed of the bunch. No real rides, but plenty of gritty, dusty, rusted realism along with a good dash of carny spirit.

-Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction, an hour east oh Phoenix on the edge of the Superstitions offers visitors the real and hyper real. Real excursions by 4X4 can be booked into the heart of the nearby Superstition Mountains State Park. For those seeking something a little less bumpy, there's a gravity house attraction (think real life "Gravity Falls"), narrow gauge railway, museum, shooting gallery, and most interestingly, the Goldfield Mine Tour. That comes complete with floor shaking "dynamite explosion" and elevator ride.

-Rawhide Steakhouse and Theme Park closer to Phoenix is exactly what it says it is. Plenty of trailered vehicles shaped in various fashions, shootouts 3 times a day, and steak.

-Trail Dust Town in Tucson, AZ also features a steakhouse and stunt show/shootouts. But there's some actual mechanical rides like a ferris wheel, Herschell Carousel, and most notably, a Chance CP Huntington train with a dark ride-esque segment through the "Ol' Terrible Mine."

-At the far end of the spectrum is Arizona's studio park, Old Tucson Studios.  There's another carousel and Chance CP Huntington train here, but there's two items that are a little more unique in this space. One is an antique car ride, which is about average for the style. The second is the Iron Door Mine Adventure. Noted on the Dark Ride & Funhouse Enthusiasts site as a dark ride, the cars were removed at some point in the past, and it now acts as a guided walk-through attraction.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wish Upon a Blue Sky, The Top 30 Disney Attractions Never Built #25: The Asian Safari and the Animal Kingdom Dilemma

Warning: this is the longest article you've ever read in your life. It might be better for you to engage in a shorter activity, like fully exploring Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. This is an article about Animal Kingdom. It literally is EVERY thought anyone's ever had about Animal Kingdom. Don't say you haven't been warned. It's about cloning, and more safaris, and C-Tickets, dorms (don't ask), and disco. And it's about what could be done to make Animal Kingdom fresher than ever! To be absolutely fair to you, the reader, I've constructed a full Table of Contents for your upcoming journey, to help you navigate the Light and Dark Worlds. Let the century begin.

Animal Kingdom in More Words Than You’ve Ever Wanted
I.               A Discussion on Clones
1.    Types of Clones
2.    Best Clones
3.    Worst Clones
4.    Secret Clones (Clone Variations)
II.             The Second Safari
A.    The Asian Safari
B.    The Ride Itself
III.           The Animal Kingdom Dilemma: A Full Critique
A.    The Ambition of Animal Kingdom
B.    Animal Kingdom’s Lovers and Haters
C.    Land by Land
1.    The Oasis
2.    Discovery Island
a.     Tree of Life
b.    It’s Tough to Be a Bug
3.    The Shows
a.     Festival of the Lion King
b.    Finding Nemo
4.    Kilimanjaro Safaris/Africa
5.    Conservation Station
6.    Everest
7.    Asia/Kali River Rapids
8.    Dinoland
a.     The Theming
b.    Dino-Vomit
c.     Countdown to Extinction (NOT Dinosaur)
D.    Where Are the People?
1.    The Half-Day Park
2.    The Nahtazu
3.    Attendance
E.    Theming and Message
1.    Reality vs. Escapist Theming
2.    Hypocrisy
3.    Naïveté
4.    Negativity
F.    What Would You Do?
1.    Consistent Message
2.    Enjoying the Park
3.    Headliners/E-Tickets
4.    Dinoland
5.    Characters, C-Tickets, Immersive Theming, Phase II Expansion
6.    Extras: Dining, Behind the Scenes, Nitghttime Fun
IV.           Fin

A. Post-Show Video

Clones, and the Attacks of Said Clones

It is strangely and inherently paradoxical that Disney fans (and casual visitors) seem to at once welcome and disdain duplicated attractions. It’s one of the many ongoing battles that designers fight with executives on, that fans write to executives on, and that fans argue with each other on. Over the internet age, Disney fans have taken to call this subject the “cloning” phenomenon. Each interested party has its own views on the subject, frankly in a rather black-and-white perspective. “Cloning sucks/is terrible/is bad” is what many old-school Disney fans say. “Cloning is best for business” is what executives say. Yet in this day and age of discussion boards and online forums, there are honestly few areas contention that should be less black-and-white than the cloning question.

Disney, and other theme park chains/franchises/what have you are part of the cloning business. It comes with the territory. Ever since Walt proclaimed that his new planned community would have, at the head of Phase 1, a theme park similar to Disneyland, cloning has become part of the lexicon of the theme park business. This implies, since we’ve been doing this for almost 50 years now (yes kids, WDW’s 50th is right around the corner, not that Disney would actually do much of anything about it), that there are many, many examples of cloning within the theme park ranks, and there are. But when it comes to sound business decisions, especially when branded entertainment is involved, cloning goes only so far. Hitting the “Expand Forever” button does not work, as the Six Flags overexposure of the early 2000s would suggest. So, like many other business decisions, it’s important to straddle the line when cloning is involved.

It's good to see Jay Rasulo's team finally got some sun

With this sort of subject, one that is not necessarily black-and-white, it is not what is done but rather how it is executed. Execution, for the most part, is everything. I have yet to meet a person who is so religiously against cloning that he or she despises the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, or Tokyo Disneyland. These are, after all, clones, are they not? Yet even the most pants-on-head devout who would so much microwave his own spleen before being subjected to another clone thinks MK and TDL really isn’t so bad, all things considered. So the question is, just where exactly is the line of demarcation? At what point do the “Exploitation!” alarm bells sound?

Thanks Disney

At both ends of the spectrum, it’s easy to see where both sides are coming from. The hardcore fans do not like clones. Setting aside the aesthetic and metagaming reasons here, clones are duplicated at different parks, and since hardcore fans are frequent visitors at multiple resorts, they do not like to see a “new ride” being touted at Disneyland when it is “just an old ride” from WDW. “Why should I go see Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland when I’ve already seen it at Disney World?” the thinking goes. That’s hard to argue. Cloned attractions lower the uniqueness, and therefore the value, of a particular park or resort. The executives, of course, love cloning. If a particular attraction is popular at one resort (and more importantly, gets more merchandising revenue), of course it would make sense to duplicate that popularity at another property. As Kirk Wise would say, “If they laughed at one banana peel, they’ll laugh twice as hard at two banana peels!” A cloned attraction all but guarantees success without paying as much overhead for more design and R&D, and as a result the attraction’s budget would be greatly reduced. It’s less risky and has a built-in audience, like a movie sequel. It’s executive nirvana. The casual visitor, stuck in the middle, doesn’t really care that much either way. The casual visitor doesn’t visit multiple Disney resorts, so a SoCal local will be thrilled that she finally gets to ride Tower of Terror (too soon?)

Of course, this brings the question to the casual visitor, as to everyone, on whether the cloned attraction was properly executed. After all, some attractions are far more popular on one coast than the other. A cloned attraction done improperly can ruin the impact. There are several ways to both succeed and fail in instituting a cloned attraction, and Disney has tested every method under the sun in its 45-year cloning history. 

The easiest way to hit a home run with a clone is to simply take the original attraction and expand on it; either give it some additional scenes, construct more elaborate sets, or build more sophisticated vehicles. Probably the best examples of this are the Walt Disney World versions of Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion. Both took the baseline model of the original, enhanced it, added new scenes that augmented the story and did not detract, and literally upgraded every element possible. In my opinion, this is the best way to execute a clone.

Another equally valid implementation of a clone is to twist the original design due to space limitations, while still retaining the original scope and scale (and budget) of the original. Notice how most instances of the first method I mentioned were applied at WDW (where there is space aplenty), and most instances in this second method can be found at Disneyland, where space considerations come into play. The best examples of this second method are Disneyland’s Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear attractions. In each, space (no pun intended) was much more limited, and the attractions had to be fit into much smaller buildings (DL’s Space Mountain dome is famously set on top of a warehouse, unlike the massive WDW cone that contains the entire ’75 attraction). However, the scope of each attraction (the E-Ticket Space and the C-Ticket Buzz) was kept appropriately, and each attraction was redesigned but not condensed. Both are great examples of cloning done well, and artistically creative to boot.

Monday, October 10, 2016

110- Hurricanes Suck

We're tired and exhausted as we finally delay our Orlando trip Wednesday in the prelude to Hurricane Matthew. Then we talk about Muppets in Liberty Square, Shanghai Disneyland not meeting attendance (and maybe financial?) expectations, new Star Wars land rumors, and more.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeCaptMichael87ParkscopeNick, and/or Lane.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Alberta

Canada! Our glorious neighbor to the north has slightly more area under their flag and 1/10th the people. With just over 4 million residents, the province of Alberta is definitive "Western Canada" - culturally they're nothing like the people of the massive Toronto/Hamilton metroplex and share affinities for hunting, oil drilling, and pickup trucks much more alike the residents of somewhere like Utah or Texas.


Before Cedar Fair bought themselves a pile of robot dinos, Alberta's Jurassic Forest opened. A modern version of the roadside dinosaur parks that littered the Upper Midwest in the 50s, Jurassic Forest provides trails through a wooded area where one encounters, you know, dinosaurs. There's mini golf too, but the idea of moving lifesize dinosaur robots into a more "realistic" environment is the true pull here. Look, did you know that gymnosperms didn't become the most common tree type until the late Cretaceous? Nah, don't even play like you did.


Back in the 1970s, Calgary became the epicenter of an oil boom in Western Canada. Between 1966 and 1986, the population nearly doubled to 630,000. This burst of activity, money, and people led to a number of developments being planned and constructed. One of these that came to fruition was Flintstones Fun Park, changed to Calaway Park prior to its 1982 opening, in the suburb of Springbank. Projected to obtain half a million people in attendance within a couple years of opening, the park themed to the famous cartoon family was just like virtually every theme park development of the post war era and instead turned into a commercial disaster for the first owners.

Today, many of the original buildings still show facades and even names from the Flintstones, even if the license was dropped following receivership and sale in 1986. Aside from the vintage Arrow Corkscrew, there's a few other notable attractions. Whitewater West, the company responsible for almost all of Disney's water slides and attractions, and their subsidiary Hopkins Rides constructed a log flume for the park in 2012 that's fairly substantial. There's also a pair of rare flat rides: a Chance Chaos (most were removed from action after an accident at Michigan's Adventure) and an Intamin Mini Enterprise (like a tiny version of the Waagner Biro wheels at Hershey and the Great America parks).


Calgary's best overall "themed" experience is probably the Calgary Zoo, which itself has a prehistoric dinosaur walkthrough. But for something more human in nature, there's the Heritage Park. A living museum complex, it intends to show various periods in the history of the area through exhibits, costumed characters, a standard gauge train (!) and museum pieces. Of particular interest to ride nerds is the Conklin Lakeview Amusement Park. It might be possible that the name "Conklin" is familiar: Conklin Rides became the biggest carnival midway in North America around that time with events like the Calgary Stampede, Canadian National Exhibition, Big E, and Miami-Dade Fair before becoming absorbed into what is known today as North American Midway Entertainment (N.A.M.E.) along with several other operators.

There's a Herschell-Spillman Carousel and an Eli Wheel here, but the real pulls should be the 1921 Mangels portable Whip ride, the 1920 one-off "Dangler" swing ride, and the 1928 Spillman Caterpillar (complete with hemp canopy that covers riders mid cycle!). Those three rides are the only operating examples of their sort anywhere on Earth. This is real living amusement/theme park  history: when they're gone, there's gonna be nothing left but pictures and choppy video to go by.


It was in 1981 that the first phase of the West Edmonton Mall opened to the public, and in the subsequent 35 years, there have been many changes. For visitors acquainted with the theme park industry, the most obvious attraction is the giant and infamous Schwarzkopf triple looping roller coaster, the Mindbender, which sits at the far end of the mall under a slanted roof. Unlike most giant malls you'll find in Asia's more developed regions, West Edmonton Mall looks and feels free-form, as though guess work for its sprawling spaces was a primary driver. There's an enormous indoor water park, and several other interesting rides and attractions in Galaxyland. But look closer, and you'll find remnants of a strange past. Take, for example, the model of the Santa Maria. Yes, one of Columbus' ships has been recreated here and placed in a lagoon. But did you know there was a ride around this at one point?

Yes, Disney weren't the only folks with a sub fleet. As is too often the case also with any theme park outside of Disney, there's precious little footage and photos to look at about how it appeared when operational. Here's some video from a souvenir video the mall produced:

Today, you can still find Canada's sole dark ride outside Ontario here with Quirks in the Works, a haunted house, multiple mini golf courses, Sea Life Caverns aquarium, casino gaming, and more. The Mindbender is still here too, but just know that it closes multiple times a day for inspection. And yes, it killed three people. That really did happen.


Alberta has a permanent skyride over at the Stampede fairgrounds. It is possible you've never heard of Stampede, so to summarize: it is a Very Big Deal. If you know what the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo or San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo are like, it is like that but with even more rodeo stuff. If you don't know, then it is rodeo replacing all the agricultural stuff at most giant state fairs, plus more fair stuff, plus more rodeo. Calgary is known globally for Stampede, being the home of the 1988 Winter Olympics, and the home of the NHL Flames and Bret Hart in exactly that order.


Screamfest is the biggest thing in the province for the Halloween fans, and takes place each October over in the Stampede grounds. Haunted Calgary is a more homemade sort of thing, put together by volunteers each year to benefit the Calgary Food Bank and Oops-a-Dazy Animal Rescue. Those crazy Canadians, doing things for their fellow man! Poor Fort McMurray pretty much burned to the ground this year, but it seems some people still have something, and they're looking to continue the Halloween weekend tradition of Chateau Boo at the Boys and Girls Club. Seriously, their city burned down, people. Feel free to give a little money if you've got it to something like this fund managed by the local Rotary. Finally, the Paramount Theater in Edmonton gets turned into Deadmonton each year, and apparently they go all out in trying to keep the theme down of a haunted movie theater.