On Father’s Day, we took a 30-minute detour from visiting my own dad to visit Conneaut Lake Park in western Pennsylvania.
We arrived an hour before the posted closing time of 9 p.m. and had planned on buying tickets to ride just the Blue Streak and also the Devil’s Den dark ride attraction.
I was a bit concerned when we rolled up to the grassy parking lot across the street and there were just four or five cars parked there.
The front entrance gates are pretty much abandoned and you now have to walk down the midway to purchase tickets.
The park is certainly showing its age, with paint peeling from many of those rides that are operational and many of the stands are shuttered.
It is sad to see the long-closed, water park that ironically looked to be in better shape than many of the rides.
The park has been struggling financially in recent years, but I must say they are certainly working hard to keep the lights on. The midway was free of trash and the workers were very friendly.
Just a handful of people were strolling along the midway and all the rides were essentially walk-ons.
It turns out the park was running a special and ride wristbands, including unlimited rides on the Blue Streak, were just $5 – what we were expecting to pay to ride just two rides.
My oldest son quipped that the park looked like a set from the Walking Dead. Sadly, he pretty much nailed the zombie on the head.
We decided to check out the Devil’s Den first. They were operating just three cars with two running through the short attraction at a time.
We did have to wait about 10 minutes to ride because of the limited number of cars. The infamous gum wall was not as fragrant or plentiful as I remembered.
Most of the gags were lit and working, but the soundtrack was not audible. I think it might have been heavy-metal music, but I could not be certain.
We then walked by the carousel that actually looked like it was holding up pretty well to make our way to the Blue Streak. My boys were "too cool" to ride the carousel. I told them, "you're never too old to ride a carousel!" But time was limited and we had to press on.
We walked on the roller coaster as no one was in line. We sat in the last car. I was a bit apprehensive sitting back there, but my sons insisted.
Ironically, I think the last car was the smoothest ride – and that’s not saying much – of the three times we rode the coaster.
I have forgotten how long the tunnel is before you get to the lift hill so that was a pleasant surprise.
The lift hill offered its own anxiety as you could look ahead to see how curvy the track is and there’s a disconcerting dip to the left about two thirds of the way up. The coaster is a patch work of diiferent era wood.
The first hill is a knee-banging, out-of-your-seat adventure that would have been a lot more fun if my 6-year-old, daredevil son, who was just tall enough to ride, wasn’t sitting next me. I was holding onto to him for dear life fearful he was about to fly out of his seat and into Conneaut Lake Park history.
The next two hills also offered pretty good airtime and rattled you around as well.
The rest of the ride was pretty much a blur, but it was amusing to see the happy grin on my son’s face. I could hear my other two boys hooting and hollering in the seat behind us.
They must have enjoyed it as they walked off and immediately got right back on the ramp to ride again. We were able to snag the first seats as no one was waiting in the station to ride.
With our innards pretty well scrambled, we decided to check out some of the handful of other rides that were up and running.
Two of my sons rode the bumper cars. There were just four cars running with several others parked along the side in various states of disrepair.
My youngest, who was too short to ride the Bumper Cars, instead rode the classic Tumble Bug with me. It was fun to watch the ride operator rock the cars back and forth to get enough momentum to get them over the first hill.
We then took a short stroll down the heart of the midway. Most of the attractions were shuttered with exception of a few games. The new Hostile Hostel haunted walk-through attraction was not open.
There were no rides operational on the lake side of the midway and it was sad see the old restaurant building along the lake gone after it was destroyed by fire a few years back.
We took another spin on the Devil’s Den; the ride operator had thankfully turned off the garbled music.
We checked out the spinning Witches Stew next door. We were the only riders and at one point my oldest son wondered whether we needed to call 911 for help, as it seemed as if the ride operator was never going to stop the ride.
We also rode the adjacent Trabant that I had just a few minutes before told my sons was obviously not in working order.
We were surprised when the operator of the Witches Stew strolled over and opened up the attraction.
Unlike most amusement parks and fairs where they try to spread out the riders, we were all clustered on one side of the ride.
After an “extended” ride on the Trabant, it was nearly closing time so we decided to hit the Blue Streak one more time. It was one too many for my oldest, who ended up looking a bit green after being tussled one last time.
As we were making our way out of the station on that last ride, I realized there was just one ride operator pulling the mechanical brake and getting the riders on and off the coaster. This is a far cry from Cedar Point where it seems there are as many workers on the coaster platform as riders.
It was also interesting to note that unlike a lot of parks where closing time, means closing time, Conneaut Lake was still welcoming riders on its attractions well past 9 p.m. This was particularly surprising given the fact there could not have been more than 20 people in the park.
Our short visit to Conneaut Lake Park was a perfect way to end Father's Day.