If you like thrill rides, but not the long line-ups that tend to go with them, then put Darien Lake on your summer bucket list. Located about 15 minutes outside Buffalo, N.Y., the park has been catering to Canadians for decades, taking our dollar at par long before it actually was about par. Now owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, the park is a curious mix of an old-timey boardwalk fair with some awesome modern coaster power thrown in. Ride of Steel? Don’t even. That thing is crazy. The creaky wooden Predator will rattle your bones.
The park is easily walkable in a couple of hours and brimming with young families. There are several rides for younger children including a new family section called Rowdy’s Ridge. This includes a hilarious Moose on the Loose ride sure to be any little one’s favourite. Though the park may be small, it doesn’t lack for stuff to do. It’s a major concert venue (additional charges apply) to acts such as Drake, Rascal Flatts and Toby Keith, and a nightly laser and fireworks show draws a crowd on the hill overlooking the small lake.
The water park competes on size and thrills with other parks, offering up an expansive play area, wave pool, lazy river and the wild Cannon Bowl Run where a group of four swirls back and forth in a giant bowl before being flushed out the end.
Darien Lake does hold one major advantage for those seeking refuge from larger amusement parks – no lines. You can practically walk on most rides.
Another bonus for families? The cost. Admission is just $45/person. But a family of four can stay overnight at the Lodge on the Lake for as low at $180, which includes two days at the park. Families can also stay in a cabin or at the campsite, all located just a short stroll away from the rides. Food is welcome at the park, but the concessions are not horribly overpriced.
Here’s another bonus: Parents can cruise around the park sipping on a frosty beer. And park rules require EVERYONE show ID, so even a 45-year-old gets carded. A steady diet of ‘80s music on the loudspeaker adds to the fun for parents who enjoy embarrassing their tweens and teens, or is that just me?