By Rebecca Sloan
Admission and parking at Waldameer are still free.
ERIE, Pa. — Thrill seekers will earn their wings this summer at Waldameer Park when they ride the brand-new Ravine Flyer II Roller Coaster.
The Ravine Flyer II’s 3,000 feet of wooden track and steel construction feature three giant drops, 10 spots of air time, six tunnels and 10 cross-overs.
After plunging down the first 120-foot drop, the coaster will soar along at lightning speeds — sometimes in excess of 60 miles per hour.
At the top of the first hill, riders will enjoy a breathtaking view of sleepy, blue Lake Erie, and after a trip through a tunnel, they’ll whiz over a 165-foot arch bridge across Erie’s Peninsula Drive — a four-lane highway.
The Ravine Flyer II is Waldameer’s fourth roller coaster, and park owner Paul Nelson said it’s the most expensive addition to Waldameer in its 112-year history.
“The total cost will be around $7 million,” Nelson said. “Construction started last summer and has continued steadily through the winter.”
Waldameer’s three other coasters are: the Steel Dragon spinning coaster, which has free spinning cars; The Comet, which provides the nostalgic excitement of a classic wooden coaster; and the Ravine Flyer 3, a steel coaster designed for kids and their parents.
Since opening in 1896 as a humble picnic grove with a merry-go-round, Waldameer has gradually expanded to become a sprawling amusement park and water park in one.
“We’re the 10th oldest amusement park in the United States,” Nelson said.
Popular amusement park rides at Waldameer for grown-ups include the X Scream, which drops 140 feet; the Thunder River log flume ride; Ali Baba’s flying carpet that sends riders soaring seven stories upward; the Wipeout, which spins riders to rock-’n’-roll music; the Sea Dragon, a giant, swinging Viking ship; and the Giant Gondola Wheel, a Ferris wheel that takes riders 120 feet into the air.
Favorite kids’ rides include the Big Rigs trucks and the jumping Frog Hopper.
The park offers a game-filled midway, state-of-the-art arcade, gift shops and food galore.
Parking and admission to Waldameer are free, although visitors must pay to ride the rides.
“We are the only park in the area with free parking and free admission,” Nelson said.
Free attractions at the amusement park include live musical shows at the Showtime Theater, karaoke on the midway stage every weekend and holiday and fireworks displays May 25 and 26, July 3 and 4 and Aug. 31.
“We’ll have some new musical shows in 2008,” Nelson said.
Waldameer’s Water World, which got started about 20 years ago, opens Friday.
Admission to Water World is $14.95 for people more than 42 inches tall and $10.45 for those less than 42 inches tall.
The water park boasts a bevy of water slides including the Presque Isle Plunge and Lake Erie Dip body slides and the Midnight Plunge and Awesome Twosome, which are both enclosed two-person raft slides.
The water park also offers the Wild River single-person tube slide and the Raging River two-person raft ride, the Bermuda Triangle water slides, the Free Fall Slide and the super-fast Speed Slide.
The water park’s Tad Pool Area has three wading pools and five slides for children, and the Endless River offers relaxing refreshment for folks who want to kick back and take it easy.
Waldameer’s Water World also includes showers and private changing areas, secure lockers, the Sundeck Caf , the Pizza Beach Caf and free use of tubes and life jackets.
Nelson described Waldameer and Water World as “laid-back and family-oriented.”
“We have 19 picnic groves and are geared toward picnics for families, churches, schools and businesses,” he said.
“The park is also very picturesque and has won awards for its landscaping.”