Valleyfair

30th May 2006

Stupid rules in theme parks are usually associated by me with parks in the Six Flags chain. However, the new management in that chain seems to be turning things around. Fortunately for those who enjoy farce the management at Valleyfair has taken up that torch, and in style. The net result: a park which I had anticipated for a while turned out to be a total let down, and one which I would not make a huge effort to return to.

Valleyfair

The fun began trying to get through the gate. I needed to buy a season pass, which unlike every other chain out there cannot be done at a ticket office; one must, instead, visit the season pass processing center. Fifteen minutes later, with that sorted, we attempted to enter the park through an entrance turnstile. This, of course, is wrong; you must go through the one entrance turnstile for season pass holders. However, George's Cedar Point pass (which allows admission to Valleyfair) wouldn't work here, so he had to go to Guest Services to get in. However, I couldn't go in the same way with him even though we were together; I had to return to the main gate and go in through the dedicated season pass entrance. Confused yet? We certainly were.

We were already aware that the signature coaster in the park, Wild Thing, would not be operating due to an accident ten days before our trip. Additionally, adults are not allowed on the Mild Thing kiddie coaster. As such, we had five coasters to visit, and we began with Steel Venom (#728). The staff were letting only a train load of people into the station each ride, so it was pot luck which row riders were able to get. There was no obvious safety reason for this that I could see, as each row had a working air gate, but what do I know? Having ridden all the rest of the Intamin Impulse coasters I knew what to expect here and was not disappointed.

Next up was Corkscrew (#729), a moderately decent Arrow looping coaster. An efficient operations crew was running two trains with very little stacking, but given that there were six of them this is reasonable to expect. The ride was fitted with seat belts, which appeared to be an after market addition; I've never seen this particular design of coaster with both seat belts and over the shoulder restraints. Is there some state law in Minnesota that requires all rides to have seat belts? Anybody know?

Our next stop was at High Roller (#730), a classic wooden coaster, and easily the best ride of the day so far. Two trains in use made for a reasonably fast moving queue. The age of the ride made for a good deal of shaking, but enough to make the ride fun rather than uncomfortable. We went from there to the queue for Mad Mouse, which broke down after about twenty minutes. The staff decided not to allow people to wait, and insisted that we all go elsewhere. Frustrated, we made our way over to Excalibur (#731), an elderly Arrow coaster running one train, the other being parked on the transfer track. After a full fifteen minutes contemplation, I came up with precisely no complimentary things I could say about this ride.

Valleyfair

The one non-coaster ride I tried out was the Xtreme Swing, an installation of the new "Screaming Swing" design from S&S. This model did not disappoint, being as it is the second tallest operating installation. I've developed a real soft spot for these rides which no doubt will some day become classics, at least if the reliability issues with the design can be sorted out. It's not at all surprising that they're now popping up in parks around the world.

After a lunch break, we had a go on the Ferris Wheel, the first such example I have seen anywhere in the world to be fitted with seatbelts which could only be opened using a special key held by the ride operators. Yes folks; it seems that the good guests of Valleyfair need to be secured in their seats on a ride that safely operates with no restraints everywhere else in the world. The one thing to be said for the wheel is that we could see that the Mad Mouse (#732) had reopened. This was without question the best operational steel coaster in the park, being fast and furious without being painful. The screaming and other sound effects generated by the two teenaged females in the back seats (and yes, the double entendre is entirely intentional) also added a great deal to the experience!

 

Como Town

30th May 2006

Satnav had an awful lot of trouble bringing us to Como Town, a small kiddie park in St Paul. The principal difficulty was the fact that fully two thirds of the roads in the immediate area of the park were closed. Nevertheless, we finally made it there, after deciding to completely disregard one road closed sign in the interests of sanity. The one coaster therein, Screaming Dragon (#733), had individually numbered parts visible all over the track. This was the only evidence we could see that things had been put together in the right order; the bottom of the first drop on a fifteen foot high coaster should not be quite as violent as this installation was, and after six full circuits we were definitely ready to stop.

Como Town

 

Nickelodeon Universe

30th May 2006

This park was known as The Park at Mall of America at the time this trip report was written. The ride names from that time have been left in place in this report.

Ridiculously large shopping malls are not unusual in the United States, but the Mall of America takes things to extremes. You know there's something wrong when the official web site has a whole section dedicated to planning your visit (it's a shopping centre, for goodness sake!). Fortunately, there is a reason to visit other than the four hundred shops therein, namely a small amusement park. The star coaster is Timberland Twister (#734), which is, in a word, great. Gerstlauer have gotten the genre of the spinning coaster absolutely right. None of the other ride manufacturers have tried face to face seating on their spinning coasters, and this model is testament to how much it adds to the genre. To be fair, a certain amount of the fun of this coaster is the setting, as the track does interact with various other rides. Nevertheless, the layout and design were ideal; I don't think I'd change anything at all.

Much to our surprise, the operator didn't even bat an eyelid when we entered the queue for the Li'l Shaver powered coaster, which takes the new record for the smallest powered coaster I have been on. It could not have had a height differential of more than three feet, covering an area about the size of the average family car. At the other extreme, Pepsi Ripsaw (#735) covered almost the entire area of the park. The area was so wide, in fact, that the ride neededs two lift hills; one provides the energy to take the train fully across the park, with numerous helices for diversions, and the other takes you back. It wasn't a bad ride, though it would have gained quite a bit from having a few decent drops in the course.

The Ferris Wheel had possibly the silliest sign seen on a ride; a warning advising people not to climb out on the side that, well, hung over open space. No doubt some lawyer somewhere would take a case on behalf of the unfortunate person to do this, presumably posthumously. It reminds me of an old joke; what does one call ten thousand lawyers at the bottom of an ocean? A good start!

Exit

The only other ride we tried was Ghost Blaster, a Sally-built dark ride with reasonably good scenes though woefully inadequate aim on the light guns. There is something truly wrong if you cannot hit a target at two feet, and neither of us were able to. I did manage to hit a few things, though I'm really not sure how as they were at least a foot or more away from where I was aiming.

As a final footnote, a family member asked me to source some low dosage aspirin, and in my na├»veté a giant shopping mall seemed an ideal place to find such a thing. It amused me, therefore, to discover that this huge mall, which shops of all descriptions, does not, in fact, have a drug store.

2006


Valleyfair

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Como Town

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Nickelodeon Universe

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