Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ranking the best rides at Utah's Lagoon Amusement Park



There’s only one Lagoon — the Mountain West’s largest amusement park; the 27th oldest amusement park in the world; and the 15th oldest in the U.S.
Lagoon is now in its 127th season in 2013 and draws more than one million patrons a year.
With some 50 thrill rides, Lagoon has more than enough attractions to entertain visitors of all ages.
But what are Lagoon’s most thrilling rides?
You may not agree with these selections, but here’s my ranking of Lagoon’s top 20 rides, based on their thrill alone.
1. Sky Coaster. This attraction drops dangling riders, strapped together, some 150 feet at speeds of up to 80 mph. It’s not so much the drop as it is the expectation that builds as you are slowly hoisted upward that gets your heart pounding. Once you’re let go, you fall for perhaps 80 feet and then begin to swing back-and-forth in a huge fashion, then feeling a little like Superman flying.
Which riders gets or has to pull the release cord is an extra possible thrill. Nothing in the park can match this exhilaration. You’d have to sky dive or hang glide elsewhere to duplicate this level of excitement.
Sadly, this is a X-Venture attraction at Lagoon, meaning it costs extra to ride it beyond regular park admission — $15 per person for a maximum of three riders harnessed together. This ride opened in 1995, but is one every youngster at heart should try at least once.
2. The Catapult. This ride launches riders inside a sparsely enclosed metal ball up to almost 200 feet in the air. Riders may become momentarily weightless before they are pulled back to earth, The capsule has several oscillations up and down before the ride is over. But you get two minutes worth of solid thrill. The metal enclosure provides a small measure of comfort, but this is a ride where you want to use the restroom first! Another X-Venture ride, it costs $20 a person extra to ride (two-person capacity) it and opened at Lagoon in 2002.
3. Wicked. This roller coaster is exactly that. With a rocketing start that takes riders 90 degrees straight up a 110-foot hill and then straight down, what can it do for an encore? It has a corkscrew segment and a tunnel too! At 55 mph, this coaster travels 2,000 feet of track in two minutes and 36 seconds. It’s a world-class coaster and creates lots of smiles.
4. The Rocket, “re-entry” type. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, this ride will lift you off your seat at least a few inches as you drop. Thank heavens for shoulder harnesses to keep you on the ride! The ride slowly lifts you up to a height of almost 200 feet, as it builds expectation. Enjoy the panoramic view at the top for five or so seconds, because then you drop and bounce back up partially a few times. This ride opened in 1999.
5. Samurai. The six arms on this ride rotate and spin at the same time, creating a wild experience of dangling legs and loops that teenagers can’t get enough of. Don’t have anything loose in your pockets (or stomach) or you may lose them here. Thirty total passengers at once can enjoy this attraction, that opened in 2000.
6. The Rocket, “Blast-off” type. Unlike its sister, “Re-entry,) this variety zooms you upward almost 200 feet in two seconds and then you bounce up and down a few times. Not quite as thrilling as “Re-Entry,” but the full padded shoulder harness should be a clue on the “G” forces involved here.
7. Colossus: The Fire Dragon. This ride was billed as one of the top 10 roller coaster rides in the U.S. back in 1984, a year after it opened. Now 25 years later, it still delivers a double punch, with two upside down loops over a 2,800-foot track. It has a maximum drop of 85 feet and 55 mph top speed.
8. Roller Coaster. A fixture at Lagoon since 1921, all the wood has been replaced many times over the years, but the wood gives the ride a rickety, shaking feeling that no other Lagoon attraction has. Since Lagoon stopped painting it white, the coaster looks more vintage than ever. Top that first 60-foot hill and you’ll be cruising at 45 mph over a 2,500-foot track. Best seats on this coaster are the two rear ones, where whiplash is king. The open view on the front seat isn’t bad either.
9. Turn of the Century. These “flying swings” dangle over Lagoon Lake and offer a feeling of flying.
The next 20:
10. Jet Star 2. This wild little roller coaster negotiates some steep, sharp angles. Its enhanced thrills suggests it is more than the 45-foot maximum height and 45 mph speed. Since this ride seats two passengers in single file seat, it is a favorite among those bringing dates to Lagoon. It opened in 1976, but has been refurbished twice, in 1991 and 2005.
11. Double Thunder Raceway. These go-carts are an extra hit with 12-15 year-olds, because they can drive! You steer/you push on the gas.
12. Spider. This ride doesn’t look extra thrilling, but it can be when your car spins while going up and down hills.
13. Cliffhanger. This “human dishwasher” is extra fun on hot summer days.
14. Centennial Screamer. Encased in a metal car, passengers pull some pretty good “G” forces.
15. Wild Mouse. Unbelievably tight turns and open air combine for some thrilling delights here.
16. Rattlesnake Rapids. A cool river ride, where the key question is, “who will get the wettest?”
17. Flying Aces. This ride first opened at Lagoon in 1964 and still delivers a windy “World War I” plane ride, where you control the angle of flight.
18. Tilt-A-Whirl. This 55-year-old classic ride allows small families to spin together and don’t underestimate the force you can spin at!
19.(tie) Tidal Wave and Rock-o-Plane. Two classic rides that still deliver.
(Photos are the Sky Coaster and Wicked.)

NOTE: All the above is my own, independent opinion. Lagoon gives me no pay, perks or compensation.

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