Two New Rides, Expanded Splash Area Coming to Canada’s Wonderland for 2018!

Wonderland 2018 New Rides

Canada’s Wonderland will be adding two new rides, Lumberjack and Flying Canoes, along with an expanded play and splash area for children in 2018! From new thrills, to family fun, to splash zones, the upcoming season will provide new experiences and memories for the whole family.

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Lumberjack will take guests for a thrilling ride on two swinging axe pendulums, propelling them into the sky with their feet dangling through 360 degree loops. With inversions reaching up to 75 feet (22m) high, Lumberjack will give riders the sensation of an inverted coaster loop!
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Flying Canoes is an interactive family ride that will allow riders to control their journey of flight in two-person canoes.
Plus! In addition to Lumberjack and Flying Canoes, Splash Island’s children’s pool in Splash Works will be expanded to double its size and will feature all-new interactive spray features.
Full details can be found here.

Working in a Theme Park series: Cedar Point

Eleven years ago this summer when I was 20 years old, I took an adventure that changed my life forever. While some people take trips to Europe, volunteer in Haiti or join the circus, I ran away to work in an amusement park in the United States……100_1999

First a little history

As a 6th grader, I was part of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets that took a group trip to Detroit, Michigan. Somewhere along the way at a gas station or something, I remember spotting a Cedar Point brochure with Mantis on the cover.
After reading it cover to cover, I got back from my trip and begged my dad to take us to this amazing place. Look at the coasters, the rides, the shows! Everything looked amazing. Eventually, the next summer we took a trip and it was amazing. Not only did we visit Cedar Point, we did a whole amusement park trip with stops at the now-defunct SeaWorld Ohio & Geauga Lake.
Fast forward to a couple of years later, I’m bored in class in my last year of college and thinking of what to do in the summer. I decided that it would be cool to work at Cedar Point and that’s what I was going to do. I immediately applied online and much to my amazement they hired me. No interview, no phone call. A simple email confirmation that I was to start at the end of May. Little did I know how this would change my life.Mantis

Getting a work visa

I spent a couple of months dealing with getting my J-1 visa so I could work in the United States. It’s a temporary Visa for Summer Students so they can work with the intention of returning to their home country. I had to prove I had the job by getting a confirmation letter, and also how much money I had in the bank so I could support myself. In addition, the Visa cost me around $500! Yes, I paid $500 to go work a minimum wage job at an amusement park.
Just as I finished school, I packed up my stuff into my red Neon and drove to Sandusky, Ohio. Known only for Cedar Point in the summer, and nothing else!
This was my first time away from home, so it was both exciting and terrifying. Most people move away to school, I was moving to another country to an apartment & job sight unseen.
After crossing the border, getting my visa and driving 6 hours to Cedar Point, I headed straight to H.R. Checked in (processed as they call it) and they showed me my home for the summer: The Cedars. Was I in for a surprise! Let me explain: The Cedars was a hotel at Cedar Point way back in the day, we’re talking like 100 years ago that they converted into dorms for the summer employees. Featuring no heat or air conditioning, and communal bathrooms, this was the most terrible place I’d ever step foot into and it was my new home.Cedars

Moving in

At first, it wasn’t pretty. My first roommate was a pothead who eventually got fired and the second was a big oaf of a dude who was just a weirdo. One day after I met some neighbours, I moved in when one of their guys moved out. It proved to be the best choice I’d ever make.
We made the terrible housing work, I mean we were 20 and had never lived away from home. Being away from adults was worth its weight in gold.
I brought my TV and DVD player, we had a fan running all the time to make the summer heat bearable, and we bought a fridge to keep our snacks and food in. We even bought a snow cone maker to cool ourselves off. When I say I lived in a simple room, that’s what I mean. No kitchen or bathroom, simply a bed, bunk bed, dresser and hangar on the wall that acted as our closet. Oh yeah, and a phone. So where did we cook our food you ask? Their idea of cooking facilities was one microwave in the common room for hundreds of people. Luckily they had a staff cafeteria in the park with cheap food for employees, but not very healthy. I ate A LOT of pizza that summer.
 

First day of work

I was assigned to park operations, which meant I got to work on the rides. It was awesome. In the pecking order of the amusement park world, park operations is second only to entertainment in social status. It’s glorious. The minimum wage version of being a rockstar!
While I didn’t get to work on any of the star attractions, I ended up working a couple of classics that allowed for us to have fun and mess around without always being super busy. I started on Mine Ride, but quickly realized it was too easy to get an operational, so I requested to be moved. An operational is a safety violation, and the way the lap bars and seat belts were designed it was almost impossible not to get one. I wanted to keep my job so I moved to Snake River Falls.
Snake River Falls is a giant boat ride that takes you up a giant hill, around and splashes you into the lagoon below. Perfect for a hot summer day. The crew at the ride had all started before me, but I quickly became great friends with them. I happened to be the only Canadian working there, so I was given the very creative nickname “Canada.” I was proud to represent my country and be known as the Canadian guy.
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Best summer ever

Did it suck sometimes, of course! I’m looking back at it with rose coloured glasses. We put up with terrible housing, getting paid American minimum wage ($6.25 per hour), early hours, late hours, crazy guests, and much more. However the experiences, people and memories overshadow any negatives. We’d eat food at 1am at Steak n Shake, visit the crappy mall, see movies in the outdated movie theatre and take trips to places like King’s Island and Geauga Lake on our days off. It was a much simpler time and our goal was to have as much fun as possible. This was right before social media and smartphones became a thing, so we were isolated from the world and in our own little bubble.King'sIsland
Outside of our actual jobs, Cedar Point ran a lot of awesome staff events. They would do movie nights, ride nights for staff only, beer & water park night, and of course Big Bash, which was the end of the summer party for staff. The back half of the park was open with rides, games, free food and awesome activities. It really was amazing!
I woke up to the sound of roller-coasters in the background every morning and left work walking past a laser show with fireworks. Who wouldn’t love that? I was just a kid when I left, turning 21 while working there.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Adventureland”, you can sort of get an idea of what working in a park is like. Living, working and partying with the same group of people all summer long.
I met some of my best friends there and had the best summer of my life. To this day, some of my closest friends are from that amazing summer. The only thing that has topped that experience is Working at Walt Disney World. I’ve been back to visit a couple of times and the place still gives me the same feeling as the summer I worked there. However visiting Sandusky during the fall is a very different experience than summer. It’s a very seasonal town, Cedar Point is the reason that town exists. Translation: the place sucks in the off season!
To wrap up, it was the best summer I ever had and it changed me for the better. It helped me grow, learn new skills and meet awesome people that became lifelong friends. Cheers to 11 years later Cedar Point!Dragster
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72 Hours In Ontario

Over the weekend I took advantage of a stopover in Ontario on my way to Orlando. I managed to visit my family and friends in Acton and Toronto. While I couldn’t see everyone, I worked in quite a few.  

   
Also got to visit the awesome Christmas windows at Hudson’s Bay downtown after a fantastic lunch at Drake 150. The windows always gets me in a festive mood, and the food has always been great at this restaurant located downtown Toronto on Bay Steeet.  

    
   
Currently I’m headed to Orlando, taking the new UP Express Airport shuttle from Union Station. The price is a little steep at just over $27, however the trains are super modern and the trip is only 25 minutes long. Pretty impressed with it, there’s also free WiFi. I was going to use Uber, but didn’t want to get caught in traffic.
   
I’ve got a connection in Newark (ugh) then I’ll be arriving in Orlando just after midnight. Off to Universal tomorrow to see Diagonal Alley!

Shanghai Disneyland in Calgary? A visit to F & D Scene Changes

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This weekend I was lucky enough to take a tour of F & D Scene Changes  as part of Doors Open Calgary, an annual event that gives the public access to places around the city they normally would not be allowed to visit. What is F & D Scene Changes you ask?  They are a company that creates “projects that range from scenery for theatre, television and film to theme park elements, museum exhibits, and trade show and retail displays.” They’re located right here in Calgary, behind the Stampede grounds in a gorgeous historical building and I had no idea they existed!

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Imagine my excitement to find out in my very own backyard that they work on set pieces, parade floats and other amazing projects for Disney Parks, Universal, Cirque Du Soleil and more. Everything from design, lighting, welding, sculpting, prototyping, the list goes on. Talk about a hidden gem in Calgary.

During our visit, our tour guide was not allowed give us many details or even mention the name of some of their clients, including their Florida Client. We figured out pretty quickly that was Disney. We got some insider access and saw them working on projects for what I assume was Shanghai Disneyland Resort, as well as a new mall called Tsawwassen Mills (very similar concept as Vaughan Mills or CrossIron Mills .

Based on all the Shanghai Disneyland concept art I’ve seen, I could pick out a few things that were clearly headed overseas to the park. One was a smaller parade vehicle that had hidden Mickey heads printed all over it, another was the giant tree (we’re talking 40-50 feet high) that I assume will be the centrepiece for the Tarzan Show.Tarzan Call of the Jungle Show

They were even working on some concepts for a project based on a very popular “cold & icy” movie…..I’ll let you figure out which one.
It was really interesting learning about how they take the idea and have to figure out a way to engineer it so it looks good, is safe and can survive in any situation possible. They consult with engineers on many projects to ensure people are safe when climb, ride, carry, hold and interact in any way with their pieces. An example was that if a performer passes out in the middle of the show on a tree branch, will the weight of two additional people be okay to climb out to assist them. In addition, are there enough hand holds for three people to safely climb out and back.

Due to the nature of the projects they work on, we were not allowed to take photos of anything in the works. I did however take a bunch of pictures of completed projects they had laid out in their main office. They helped with the Little Mermaid rides at Disneyland & Walt Disney World, Transformers at Universal Studios, tons of other Tokyo & Hong Kong Disney projects, Broadway. Calgary Stampede…The list goest on. It was an awesome tour and highly recommended if you ever have the chance.

Here are some pictures of past projects they have worked on, very impressive!

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Beakernight: Everything is Awesome

This past weekend, Beakernight took over the Sunalta area of Downtown Calgary. What is Beakernight you ask? It’s described as “a massive outdoor gallery of art and engineering, including fire-spitting skee ball, interactive works, performances and experiences.” Pretty much super awesome stuff. Words can’t describe how cool it was, so here’s a bunch of photos from the event. Enjoy!

 

D23 Expo 2015 Review: We had a blast!

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We’re back from the 2015 D23 Expo which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center over the weekend and let me just say I had an awesome time! Being a first time attendee, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard so much about the event from previous years, and I must say it did not disappoint. With celebrities, panels, presentations, exhibits, previews, exclusive content, concerts, cos-play, signings, merchandise, giveaways, contests and much more, this event is larger than anything I have ever experienced. Almost to the point of being overwhelming.

We wanted to experience as much as possible at the event with an open mind, and we definitely accomplished that. Throughout the two days there (we skipped the third day as we didn’t see much we wanted to do), we overheard a lot of positive and negative feedback, and being in the events industry had my own two cents to add in as well. Looking across social media and message boards, you can find a giant range of comments saying it was terrible to it was amazing. It boils down to what the expectations of the attendee was and what actually happened. Sadly it’s the people who are negative that have the loudest voices and will be first to share an opinion, versus the people who had a great time who won’t voice it as loudly or at all.
Our goal is to give our unbiased, unfiltered views based on notes made during the event. Going in with no expectations other than having a good time gave a good starting point to review the event. Here is our review of the event, starting with the good, then the bad, and finally a wrap-up. Enjoy!

The Good

Badge Pickup: We didn’t get our badges mailed to use as we live outside the US, so we headed to the convention centre the day ahead to pick up our badges. It was quick, efficient and had no lines.
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StagePass Distribution: Thanks to this pass, we were guaranteed admission into the “A Goofy Movie” 20th Anniversary Reunion without waiting in line outside the theatre. We did wait in a long line to get the pass, but it saved us as the animation panel ran long so we sprinted to the panel and got there just in time to see it. Whew!
Presentations: Most sessions we attended were awesome, with one exception which we’ll get to later. We got into the Disney/Pixar Animation presentation as well as the “A Goofy Movie” presentation and both were filled with amazing surprise guests. Animation was hosted by John Lasseter and has guest appearances by: Dwayne Johnson, Ellen Degeneres, Ty Burrell, and Ed O’Neill to name a few. Goofy had Jason Marsden & Jenna Von Oy, Bill Farmer (voice of Goofy), plus videos from Pauly Shore, Wallace Shawn and a surprise Powerline concert with Tevin Campbell. Disney sure knows how to put on a show!
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Disneyland: The Exhibit: An amazing collection of past and present artifacts, props, videos and models from the park that started it all. So well put together and when we visited the line wasn’t too long which meant we could take our time looking at everything.
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Shanghai Disneyland Preview: This was a comprehensive overview of the amazing new resort currently being built-in China. With many unique attractions and Asian flair, this looks to become one of the most incredible Disney Parks on the planet!
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The World of Avatar Preview: Many folks have been critics of this concept for a while, but after seeing the model in person and hearing Joe Rhode speak so passionately about the details, we’re sold on this being a perfect addition to Animal Kingdom in Florida.
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Star Wars Land Announcement: Finally the cat is out of the bag, and it looks to become a giant hit! Taking a cue from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal and Cars Land at Disney California Adventures, the theme park wars continue to go full force. A full 14 acres of Star Wars sensory overload, look for this to become the most incredibly themed land in any theme park to date.

The Bad

Insane lineups and mass confusion as to which lineups people were supposed to be in: In order to get into the halls, there were three separate lines outside: D23 Gold/ Silver Members, General Admission and Ticket Sales. Problem was, the lines were not clearly marked so it became a treasure hunt to find which line was the correct one. The crowd control people seemed untrained, which is shocking as right across the street at Disneyland Resort they are masters at moving people.
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Badge scanning/ entry: Slowest staff ever. They need to get RFID badges to expedite the lines into the hall. There is no reason a venue of this size can’t have multiple entrances and quicker scanning to get in. Once in the expo hall, there were virtually no crowds for the first couple of hours, with the exception of lines for the panels & shopping. Meanwhile the lines of people outside were dying in the heat wave.
StagePass Distribution: There were 12 kiosks available but only four open for the most popular sessions (ie. A Goofy Movie), resulting in it taking over an hour to get the pass! We’re glad we got it, but there was no reason they couldn’t have used all the kiosks the distribute each option available to expedite the line.
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Food and drink: Simply not enough places to eat or get a drink. Lineups were insane (45 minute waits) and with no vending machines available, you had to line up for everything including beverages. We settled for Mickey Pretzels for lunch! Day 2 we brought our own Lunchables, snacks and drinks so we wouldn’t spend half the day in line for food!
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Shopping: Three separate locations with every long lines (reportedly 4-6 hours at some points). If you didn’t sleep overnight in line, it almost felt like there was no point in trying. Waiting hours to possibly buy something is not how we wanted to spend our Expo. In addition to the three separate stores, you would need to know which store the items you wanted would be located in and then wait in line hoping the item wasn’t sold out.We did get into the Dream Store with minimal line, only to find out what we wanted was in another store! Nowhere was a list of items available so you could make an educated decision. In addition, many people were clearly there solely to buy merchandise to sell for 5x the price on eBay, which is totally unfair to actual fans that just wanted the damn John Lasseter Rayne Spooner shirt (me, me, me!).
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Too many people: With the acquisition of Marvel & Lucasfilm, this event is quickly heading towards San Diego Comic-Con territory without the experience to do so. We wouldn’t be surprised if they announce this as an annual event soon as it’s such a cash cow.
Late Sessions: The Disney/Pixar Animation session started late for no apparent reason, and took over 45 minutes to load in. When you’re running a tight schedule to see as much as possible, timing can become a setback. Other sessions ran late as well.
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Star Wars Land Announcement: This happened right at the end of the Live Action presentation, not during the Parks & Resorts presentation as was expected. As all the parks fans were waiting for that presentation, the internet blew up with the announcement making everyone in line question what exactly we were waiting for now that the cat was out of the bag. Yes we got more details, however the WOW moment was lost.
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Ok, we’ve gone on long enough. To wrap up, events of this magnitude are difficult to pull off flawlessly, and they did a great job. This is a living, breathing event and sometimes things don’t go off as planned. There are typically hundreds of temporary staff that receive little to no training as to what their job will be and how to best make quick decisions without someone in charge being around. In addition, you have three crazy popular brands (Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm) with massive fan bases, all congregating in one place. Sometimes people don’t play well together and that can’t be controlled. As I said before, it’s all about setting the right expectations for  yourself.
 
Overall this was an amazing event that we had the greatest time attending. We got to see so many things we would never see anywhere else, and got to be the first to preview some amazing upcoming movies and attractions. In addition to the star power, being around so many fans brought such a positive energy that you can only really experience there. We had a blast and would definitely go back, thank goodness we have two years to rest up!
Did you attend D23 Expo…tell us about your experience! Would you go back, what would you improve/change? Leave a comment below!
 
 

One Week Until D23 Expo!

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We’re down to one week until the D23 Expo starts, and we couldn’t be more excited! We’ll have a couple of days to play in the parks before the event starts, but we’re so close that we are just finalizing our game-plan for the event. As always, we’ve made a list of must have essentials for any Disney trip, with special considerations for an event of this scale. Being first time attendees, we want to be prepared for anything!

Here’s what we’ll be taking with us in addition to the usual essentials:
iPad Air 2: We plan on waiting in a lot of lines, so having a device loaded with things to read, watch and play is essential.
GoPro Hero 3: How else will we capture all the magic?
Extra Batteries: The GoPro is notorious for terrible battery life, so extra batteries will keep us going all day
Mobile Phone: Staying connected is a must, especially so we can follow along and see what’s happening onsite at the event.
External Battery Pack: Always a must when you’re taking photos, videos and posting on social media. This will help us avoid having to waste time sitting along the wall charging our devices.
D23 Mobile App: So much is going on at this event, we’ll have our schedule set up beforehand but can also get push notifications & stay connected to find out what else is going on.
Disneyland Mobile App: To see up to the minute wait times and optimize our visits to the park.
Roam Mobility USA SIM Card: An essential for us Canadians visiting the Unite States and not wanting to pay astronomical mobile roaming rates. Unfortunately as of this writing the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland Resort do not have WiFi (with the exception of the hotels).  The mobile app has some cool features we want to use, but having a data connection is a must. We’ve never used this service before, so look for a review once we’re back.
Small Backpack: To carry everything in and make our lives much easier!
That’s the list so far, did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

Journey to D23 Expo!

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So excited to announce we are headed to the D23 Expo in Anaheim! It’s less than a month away. Stay tuned for updates on the most amazing Disney/Marvel/Lucasfilm/Pixer event on the planet!
We’ll also be checking out the Disneyland 60th Diamond Celebration. Fireworks, parades, attractions, food, shenanigans!
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We’re back baby!

Cirque du Soliel KURIOS – Incredible & Amazing

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Thursday night I had the pleasure of attending Cirque Du Soleil KURIOS here in Calgary. It has been 10 years since I’ve seen a touring Cirque show, and I must say this was the most impressive one I’ve ever seen. I’m a big fan of the Vegas and Orlando shows, as they have purpose built theatres and can do much more in that environment compared to a touring show. Once you’ve been to the resident shows, the touring shows all seem to repeat themselves with different themes. With that said, KURIOS was completely different in the best way and blew my mind. The steampunk theme, unique circus acts and music all worked together to create an incredible experience. The score was infectious, I couldn’t get the main hook out of my head. So much so I got the album immediately. If you’ve never been to a Cirque Du Soleil show, KURIOS is highly recommended!