Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Trip To New England's Family Theme Park - Part 1

After our adventure at Six Flags New England it was time to visit the charming family park known as Lake Compounce, located in Bristol, CT.

This amusement park is brimming with history. In fact, it's known as the oldest continually operating amusement park in North America. It's opened each year since 1846. They say that things only get better with age, so I had high hopes when we pulled up to the park!

Lake Compounce has a very pretty entrance area

While the weather was great for the first part of our trip, Mother Nature had another thing in mind for us during our time at Lake Compounce. It was one of those days where there is either a constant light rain or heavy mist, with the occasional heavy rain thrown in for good measure. That said, forgive my photos for looking a little gloomy.

But we're troopers here at NPN, and some rain isn't going to stop our fun! And thankfully Lake Compounce felt the same - only one ride was closed due to weather - and that was a sky ride that takes you 750 ft. up a mountain! Understandable. A representative of the park even gave us a tour of the property - in the pouring rain - to help orient us to Lake Compounce. Generous thanks to Sara for making the rainy journey and showing us around!

Inside the entrance area, themed buildings with vibrant colors

Lake Compounce got its start by offering dips in the lake, a bandstand for concerts, and a modest selection of rides. What it now offers is known as "New England's Family Theme Park," a motto that fits it well. There is plenty of history in-between those modest beginnings and today's modern amusement park, which are detailed in depth here.

The park is packed full of rides, but isn't expansive to the point where you need to take a break in-between walking from ride to ride. The park is tucked aside a mountain and a lake (obviously), and the shady midways unravel to reveal the numerous rides and attractions. This is another top notch example of classic amusement park atmosphere. Lake Compounce may have developed greatly over the past few decades but hasn't lost the classic park charm.

Soar on Rainbow Riders

After entering the park you must either head left or right. If you choose to head right you soon see the entrance for Circus World, the park's children's area. The area contains more than 10 rides and several other attractions for kids. Above is Rainbow Riders, where you can soar up to the sky in your very own hot air balloon.

Coaster enthusiasts in training!

Many of the rides are smaller versions of big ones offered at Lake Compounce - such as the Kiddie Coaster seen above. Even on a rainy day there were a lot of children having a great time on these pint-sized rides.

Drop Zone is a kid-friendly free-fall style ride

Circus World also features a stage that has live entertainment produced specifically for younger minds. This year the stage actually features two shows, Superstar Fiesta and Dance-A-Long, the latter of which creates an interactive dance party!

One of the best looking swinging ships I've ever seen!

After checking out Circus World one might be a little thirsty - and Lake Compounce has that covered for you. The park offers free Pepsi products at many stations around the park - and has done this for quite some time now. Only a handful of amusement parks offer free soft drinks - and I think it is a wonderful idea.

Now we'll start to move on to the adult rides that Lake Compounce offers. The Pirate (above) is a swinging ship attraction that sits atop a beautiful waterfall. Sara pointed out how much time the park spends on creating and maintaining their beautiful landscaping - and I believe it. It's little items like this grand waterfall that set Lake Compounce apart from the others.

Twisted, coiled, Zoomerang!

1997 saw the debut of the Zoomerang, a large Boomerang style coaster. The train heads out of the station backwards, and up the 120 ft. lift. Once released, the train then heads through the course, which contains three inversions.

But naturally that's not all. Once at the top of the second lift the train is released to complete the course backwards. Zoomerang features trains that are different from many Boomerangs, which gave a much more comfortable riding experience.

Time to go for a drive.

One park's loss is often another's gain, and so is the case with Zoomer's Gas N' Go, which was moved to Lake Compounce from the closed Miracle Strip park in Florida. Zoomer's features cars you can actually drive along a 1,000 ft. track, all themed to the boppin' 1950s.

Three ways to twirl in the air!

One thing I picked up on soon after starting to walk around Lake Compounce was that they had a very healthy selection of flat rides. Some big theme parks rely oh-so-heavily on huge coasters to attract crowds that they lack the spinning rides that have also been a draw for centuries. Lake Compounce does not suffer from that problem. Everywhere you turned was a ride of some sort - spinning, twirling, inverting - you name it and they offer it.

A storms' a brewin'

And if you're really interested in flying through the air, then you and Thunder N' Lightning are a match made in heaven. The ride relies on compressed air to thrust the ride vehicles way up toward the sky. It's like the swing set at your local playground went crazy - but not in a bad way!

Talk about reaching for the stars

The contraption seats 16 riders on each of the two arms. At full swing the riders will be almost 100 ft. in the air and blasting at almost 60 m.p.h. - all while a lap bar holds them securely in place. Since the arms swing both ways each row of riders experiences the motion both forwards an backwards - double the thrills. Thunder N' Lightning was added in 2006 and has been a hit at the park ever since.

Lake Compounce's oldest coaster is The Wildcat - it dates all the way back to 1927. The 85 ft. lift hill is sure to get your blood pumping, but the thrills the ride offers aren't too much to take it out of the family ride category.

Down the drop they go!

Wildcat features a twisted layout that uses the hill it sits on to its advantage. Just when you think there's no more room to drop, surprise, there is! The train rumbles through the course in a little over a minute, covering well over 2,700 ft. of track. The smaller kids I rode with were so excited to ride again they asked to dispatch the train again before we even got back into the station.

Get your fill of blasting spooky ghosts

One ride that we had a fantastic time on was the Ghost Hunt dark ride. This is one of the interactive style dark rides where each passenger gets their own ghost blasting gun. During the ride there are many targets that you can shoot at to try to collect points. In the end they show you your ghost hunting ranking depending on the total points you scored.

The ride actually features trackless vehicles that are pretty darn neat. There are plenty of special effects along the way as well, pushing this ride to a level above most others of its kind.

You know me and Log Flumes...

Most people would probably think that riding a log flume in the rain sounds crazy. Or perhaps it makes a lot of sense - go on a water ride when just standing outside is like a water ride - what's the difference!

Regardless of all that I just had to take a trip on Lake Compounce's Saw Mill Plunge, a traditional log flume at its best.

Notice you can't see the flume on the mountain... but it's there

Saw Mill Plunge uses the mountain that the park sits next to to the best of its ability and the result is near magical. Out of the loading station you turn and immediately start climbing toward the trees. At the top you are completely under cover of the dense trees that are on the mountain, meandering through the larger than life boulders that dot the landscape. It's quiet, peaceful and really rather beautiful.

Naturally there's a drop at the end of these type of rides, and that's fun too. But I still cannot get over how beautiful the journey at the top is! It's really one of a kind. I highly recommend it.

But enough of my love of all things log flume. We'll look at the second half of the park soon - and yes, that includes Boulder Dash!