I would never have dreamed that the Wonderland Amusement Park would become my first amusement park in the USA. Few amusement park enthusiasts are familiar with it, but it is still of great importance to the industry. The former water ride specialist O.D. Hopkins was able to present his first ride here and with the Texas Tornado there is also a roller coaster from the same company in the park, which for many years even belonged to the best roller coasters in the United States. Accordingly, the park is actually a must-do, but unfortunately the city of Amarillo is off the beaten track.
Full of anticipation for the opening of the theme park in the evening I left the Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the late afternoon only to stand in front of closed gates. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one there and more and more people are joining me. In fact, I was only a little lost in the opening hours, which is why I had to wait here for half an hour.
Even before the cash desks are occupied, the staff already start their work at the gate by serving all those who have obtained their tickets in advance. You can also buy tickets from them. I waited a little (as I didn’t want to wait close in a closed off area till the gates would open) and bought my ticket from a charming, albeit toothless old lady.
The park itself consists basically only of a Midway, where the rides are arranged to the right and left. At both ends of the way the park spreads out a little and forms with the corner around the chain plane Fiesta Swing almost an enclave. Basically, the Wonderland Amsuement Park is a classic Luna Park.
Accordingly, the entrance fee to the amusement park is quite low. The rides can be paid by the use of tickets or you can buy a wristband for unlimited rides. But here in the park there are two different variants, namely the WOW Pass and the Coca-Cola Ultimate WOW Pass, which includes mini golf, the free fall tower Drop of Fear, the roller coaster Texas Tornado and one ride on the dark ride Fantastic Journey.
As I would notice later, this wristband system is an absolute nonsense. Although I have noticed in the research for the report that I could have played minigolf for free, the surcharge is hardly worth it if you can already see from the outside that one of the main attractions would not be in operations on the day of visit.
Therefore, I was in search of a better mood. Practically, there’s a ride that creates a great smile without any effort: a HUSS Rainbow. I always liked this ride, when it was still in my home park. At every visit to the Heide Park, I rode it at least twenty times. After an incident at the Swedish amusement park of Liseberg, most of the rides disappeared in Europe. The Rainbow of the German Showman Klinkerfuß and the one at Serengeti Park have been preserved for some time, but since four years none of these can be found in Germany. Fortunately, the Rainbow of Serengeti Park can now be found in the Polish amusmement park Legendia.
Here in Wonderland Amusement Park the ride has been running since 1999. Unfortunately it looks a little bit run down. The ride is still a lot of fun. Due to the unnecessary seat dividers and the use of belts, the charming sliding from one side to the other one within the two-seater is no more. Only the generous gondola decoration made in Germany reminds us of the former ease of the ride.
Things look much better with the all American classics, which were really in good shape, e.g. the Eli Bridge Scrambler named Scrambler. Compared to the English version of this true RCT classic, the ride in the American original is even more rustic.Who needs modern hydraulic bars when the ride itself is purely mechanical and all movements are controlled by only one motor? You can also just have a door, which you secure with a pin. Sure, the handling takes significantly longer, but who cares? It’s still the original design, like the ones in your grandparents time. Overall, the Scrambler is a great ride!
Our next stop on our park tour is the wild mouse Cyclone. But don’t panic, Cyclone is not a wild mouse of the 90s. The company Mack Rides was at the time of construction still completely new in roller coaster manufacturing and the Maurer AG knew nothing about their BHS takeover. Instead, this steel mouse comes from Miler Manufacturing. It was built in 1960 and since 1968 you can ride the ride here in Wonderland Amusement Park.
As soon as we have taken a seat in the car, the journey starts immediately. With outstretched legs we quickly climb the lift of the ride. After reaching the top, we immediately take the first corner, whereupon a few longer straights and wide curves are added for us to get used to. In a series of tight hairpin curves, we are pressed four times into the side wall of the car.
With momentum we enter a tight bend, which also drops slightly in the middle. After that we hit the big drop of the course in a double-down. With a lot of drive we then go to the second level of the roller coaster. After a very funny turn we are taking another straight in a sloped position. This is followed by the double ascent and descent, known from many Wild Mice, which is also visually impressive due to its location just slightly above the park’s log flume. In the front area of the course we now cross the station in another sloped straight. Two more ascents and descents await us. Thereby, we get dangerously close to the just route above us, which is a brilliant moment as we are also experiencing some airtime. Our excursion to the third level of the mouse is only of short duration. After a short left turn we immediately turn ourselves into a helix that also heralds the end of the ride. In a longer straight, the brakes are reducing the speed of the car till we reach the exit position of the ride.
The Wild Mouse coaster Cyclone is a true representative of an unfortunately much too rare roller coaster species. The American steel mouse comes astonishingly close to its wooden siblings and simply inspires with its many slopes and strange curve manoeuvres. Strangely, that there aren’t any helices being build in modern Wild Mice apart of the Bobsled Coasters by Gerstlauer…
Right next to the steel mouse is the Big Splash Log Flume, which is a true budget version of the very popular Arrow logflume rides. A drop, a few curves and a very small footprint were the cornerstones for the most exciting career in the entertainment industry. O.D. Hopkins, who had previously only manufactured and marketed chairlifts, soaked the world.
The ride on the Big Splash Log Flume is relatively dry. Nevertheless, it is definitely a highlight not to be missed.
If you are a fan of dark rides, don’t miss out a ride on the Fantastic Journey . The self-construction by the park founder Paul Roads is characterised by a multitude of great design elements and ideas, some of which have been adopted by friendly park operators from their ghost trains. The heart and soul of the park owner is truly noticeable. The numerous black light scenes, the strobo-aluminium foil room with Alien or the colliding bus at the end of the ride are just a few examples of the adventures waiting within the ride. Sadly, you can only ride the ride once with the more expensive wristband…
The big Pinfari roller coaster Mouse Trap has also been in Wonderland Amusement Park for some time and makes a very good overall impression. The ride on the big Zyclone with a front length of 64m thrills its guests by a multiplicity of slopes and helices, whereby the very high and quite slow middle part of the ride, as well as the very high end of the ride, are a little atypical. However, the ride in the tripartite trains is a lot of fun.
Right next door you can drive a true American classic, a Tilt-a-Whirl. The US version of the waltzer is characterised by its rotating seating shells and distinctive valleys, which get the wagons going and put a big smile on the cheeks of the passengers.
Opposite the Mouse Trap roller coaster is the access to the Rattlesnake River Raft Ride, an O.D. Hopkins rafting ride. As with the logflume, this is the manufacturer’s prototype. To my own surprise the trip started as soon as I took a seat in the round boat as there are no belts and other safety features. The trip through the canal offers some rapids and splashing elements. But you don’t have to worry about the ride through the waterfall, here in the Wonderland Park there is only a garden sprinkler. Overall, the ride is quite interesting and worth a visit.
Equally interesting is the American version of the dinghy slide. The Water Coaster (funnily enough a trademark of WhiteWater) Pipeline Plunge offers a very refreshing (and very wet) ride through numerous curves and turns. In addition to that, you’ll also be racing down over a few jumps. Be sure to try it out! If you are also a fan of water trips from O.D. Hopkins, there is no way around this ride.
One ride that I would have liked to try out is the almost inconspicuous looking Thunder Jet Racers (also from O.D. Hopkins). This dinghy slide offers a race on two tracks located side by side over a straight line on the ground. The dinghy are accelerated by a strong stream of water. Unluckily, this ride is for younger park guests only.
Behind the Thunder Jet Racers there is a small park area offering the Chance Yo-Yo Fiesta Swing, a small baloon ride and one of the entrances to the free fall tower Drop of Fear. The former travelling free fall tower offers a total height of 200 ft and therefore a fantastic view at the region. None of the four lanes were in operation that day and it didn’t look like it would change in the near future. As the Drop of Fear is one of the few rides covered by the more expensive wristband this was very disappointing. I also wanted to try this rare Moser Rides free fall tower for a long time…Nevertheless, there is still hope as the ultramodern lighting system on the tower is quite new. Funnily enough, you can use the tower to display greetings and birthday wishes for a small fee.
Friends of good rides are well served in the rear corner of the amusement park. The HUSS Pirate, the Reverchon Himalaya or the Moser Flipping Action Arm Texas Intimidator are all worth a try. The Texas Intimidator offers a beautiful and thrilling rollover ride on a minimalistic footprint and therefore should not be missed.
The Hornet roller coaster also has a very small footprint. This Vekoma MK-700 roller coaster can look back on a proud past as it was the first of its kind. In 1988 it saw the light of day on Boblo Island near Detroit, where it was covered by a hall. After the closure of the amusement park, the ride moved to the amusement park Six Flags Astro World near Houston, where the ride was named Mayan Mindbender. After this amusement park had to be closed as well, the ride found its new home in the Wonderland Amusement Park, where it was not enclosed again.
That move actually suits the ride quite well, as the layout resembles that of a Zierer Flitzer, which you can normally find outdoors. The differences in the layout are actually rather small; the Vekoma variant has a more pronounced urge to go up- and downhill, which is especially apparent in the middle part of the ride (where the Flitzer just speeds through the curves). Thus, after climbing the lift hill, we are directly drawn into a Bavarian curve that tapers off and that at some point merges into the big drop of the layout. With a lot of momentum we pass the station before we make our way through the rear part of the ride. Shortly afterwards we change direction and race towards the ground again. Here we quickly change direction for another time, whereupon the brakes are coming closer and closer.
The Hornet roller coaster is a great family coaster, but it is a bit weaker in comparison to the much older Flitzer. Unfortunately, the Vekoma ride is a little inert due to its long train and the up- and downhill leading curves. Friends of light lateral Hangtime will definitely have their fun, as the actual target group (young kids) already does.
Probably this will be also the case with the small SBF Visa roller coaster, which is currently being built behind the roller coaster Hornet. The Compact Spinning Coaster Spin-o-Saurus was purchased from a park in Florida. Unfortunately I couldn’t test this ride for you – like the HUSS Airboat, which was lying around in parts right next to it.
As a fan of the O.D. Hopkins water rides – who would have guessed it – a ride on the Shoot the Chute had to be done. The splashing boats are just one of my favourite rides and therefore I looked forward to apply the push method learned in Japan once again.
Since I was the only passenger the ride could start immediately after free choice of place. With a total height of only 40ft the ride belongs to the rather smaller representatives of its kind. But that does not mean that it is not just as wet. Also the generated wave is just as stunning. Simply, a great ride!
Since the ride ran in two-boat operation, the second boat had to be sent off first before I could get off the ride. After saying goodbye to the operator, I made myself on the way to the bridge to take a picture of the plunging down boat and head into security shortly after. So far so good, but Wonderland is just mean and puts a zigzag barrier in your way. In short: I was drenched.
I wonder why no other amusement park came up with the idea. The way the bridge was built, almost every former passenger will get drenched a second time. Soaking wet, without any photo and absolutely happy I spend my time at the park until closure. Since my hotel for the evening was based in Wichita Falls, I had to change in my car. A hotel in Amarillo would have been a good choice. Thanks, Hopkins 😀 .
The biggest highlight in the park is the double looping roller coaster Texas Tornado, which can absolutely inspire with its differently constructed inversions. As so often in this theme park this roller coaster comes from O.D. Hopkins. This makes it one of only seven roller coasters ever built by the manufacturer. Of course the prototype is the one in Wonderland Amusement Park. But the train comes from PTC, which normally only build trains for wooden roller coasters – so what should go wrong?
In the test phase, where the original Hopkins trains were still used, things actually went wrong. First the train didn’t manage the Double-Up element after the first looping, whereupon the exit of it was moved some feet in the height. After this change, the train didn’t made it through the second looping, whereupon the second loop was massively reduced in size. The actual appearance of the two consecutive loops, however, was to be retained, which is why both loops now look the way they do today: they are pretty wacky.
Before we go on the ride, a short hint for all those who want to venture the ride at some point: Fat people will not fit in the coaster. Even I had the pleasure to fix my safety belt with an extension, even though I never had any problems with the usual used belt lengths on any other roller coaster. Also you only gain a few inches with the belt extension. During the second ride I managed to close the buckle without the extension. I gave up the first try after I have already changed the seat (they all are very tight).
In addition there is another rather big problem, as the first ride on every roller coaster in the park has to be done fully occupied. Since not everyone in the park has the more expensive wristband, you can sometimes wait a very long time for your ride. All attempts of animation didn’t help, which is why the visit only pays off on a day when there is a lot more going on in the park.
If, however, a journey is made, it starts immediately with a left turn out of the station. The chain lift brings you up to a height of 80ft, whereupon we dive down to the ground. With full speed we pass a long straight, in which a small bend was built in. Shortly afterwards we see the world go upside down for the first time and expose ourselves to very high G-forces at the same moment. With full force it pulls us into the looping, over the apex and into the elevated exit of it – what a great fun. In a Double-Up element you gain a little height, but unfortunately no airtime is offered. In a steep turn we pass under the Shoot the Chutes and once again experience very high G’s. After a hill the second looping follows and with it another acquaintance with the strong forces of the ride. Shortly afterwards we dive into a tunnel. Here we drive with full speed over another bend, before we head back to daylight and cross the park’s rafting ride Rattlesnake River Raft Ride in a longer straight. Shortly afterwards the ride ends at the station.
The Texas Tornado is a bomb of a roller coaster that you should definitely have experienced. The coaster offers a great ride and nearly endless pressure. Beyond that, the ride just looks stunning in its white-red-blue colouring. Basically, it’s no wonder that the roller coaster was one of the best of its kind in 1985 and still has some fans today. The double looping was on everyone’s lips back then and Hopkins planned a flawless ride that still stands out today.
Wonderland Amusement Park is a good family-owned regional theme park with the charm of an old Luna Park. Although not much has been added over the years, the park offers a variety of really good amusement rides. The close friendship with the water ride specialist O.D. Hopkins led to a very large collection of water rides, all of which can convince. Also Wonderland Amusement Parks offers a lot of prototypes, which makes the park even more special. For me the park has been on my bucket list for a long time and I am happy to have visited it.