The 10 best Canadian theme parks work with a list of the nation’s most popular playgrounds that have demonstrated the spirit of Canada with a mix of culture and history. As amusement parks, they’ve drawn in children of all ages to cast the worries of the world aside in the name of at least a few hours of fun and excitement. While the great white north has been known for its chilly winter season, there are a few theme parks that are situated indoors, making them accessible for visitors throughout the year.
There are some theme parks that really stand out as a representation of the Canadian spirit. Much like the men and women who built the United States from the ground up from state to state, the pioneers did the same with Canada from province to province. Canada has ten provinces, as well as two territories. Just like the fifty-two states that grace the American landscape, each of Canada’s provinces and territories has its own identity. In Canada, as each region has its own flavor, most of them still proudly call themselves Canadian.
10 Best Canadian Theme Parks
#10 – Sandspit Amusement Park, Green Gables, Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province. On the island, Green Gables is the same famed community that was featured in Ann of Green Gables. In 1985, it became a popular Canadian two-part television program that had its stories based on the 1908 novel written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. As for Sandspit Amusement Park, it is owned and operated by the Dunville family out of Cavendish, PEI. It is also one of Canada’s most famous and largest amusement parks as it sits on the northern shore of a small island that dictates the provincial borders of PEI. Sandspit is more than simply an amusement park. It has local beaches for visitors to enjoy, as well as fantastic scenery that makes this popular attraction feel like a world of its own.
#9 – Santa’s Village
In Bracebridge, Ontario, Santa’s Village has graced its landscape as a themed amusement park since 1955. Situated on sixty acres of land, children of all ages get to experience the magic of Christmas, along with all the thrills it has to offer. It also offers incredible scenery as it sits on the bend of the Muskoka River. While at this themed amusement park, be sure to ride the miniature train as a great way to embark on a village tour. There is also Santa’s Summer Sleigh Jet Boat, a great opportunity to take a cruise on the Muskoka River. The coolest part about Santa’s Village is the feel of Christmas all around you while in the park, even if it’s in the middle of summer. Bracebridge happens to be geographically located at the halfway mark between the North Pole and the Equator.
# 8 – Cultus Lake Adventure Park, Cultus Lake, British Columbia
The supernatural beauty of British Columbia has made it a favorite haven for tourists from all over the world to come to pay a visit. It also serves as an inviting spot for amusement parks to set up shop as a major tourist attraction. At Cultus Lake, the Cultus Lake Adventure Park is among the elite who’ve been able to do this with success. Maybe it has something to do with Cloud Buster. While at the top, you’re suspended on a drop platform at 150 feet in the air. You’re also taking in the mountainous view of British Columbia, just before you plunge through the treetops at a speed so fast it seems like a blur.
This park has received numerous awards for the craftsmanship that has gone into the one-of-a-kind rides and attractions. It’s not uncommon for Vancouver city folk to join the tourists as they visit one of the most beautiful amusement parks Canada has to offer. While here, if you’re game, try the Round-up 360, Canada’s only fully inverted extreme swing ride. For younger thrill-seekers not quite ready for that yet, there is Ribbit, a kid-friendly ride that has the climb on the backs of bullfrogs that croak and spring into the air.
#7 – Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, Niagara Falls
Usually, Niagara Falls, Ontario, is regarded as a favorite tourist destination among visitors wanting to check the splendor of its majestic horseshoe-shaped waterfalls. However, one of the city’s greatest gems happens to be the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark. The largest indoor waterpark in Canada is just a few short minutes away from one of the great natural wonders of the world. Even during the bitter cold winter months, visitors can still play in the water as the indoor waterpark keeps the Canadian winter outside where it belongs.
The waterpark’s most popular include an Atlantis-themed play area that features an indoor wave pool and six swimming pools. Even though Fallview is technically an indoor waterpark, there is an outdoor activity pool that remains open throughout the year. There is also a jungle-themed beach for children to have some fun in. As for the adults, the beach-style restaurant has a bar where you can enjoy sipping a few cocktails.
#6 – Calypso Theme Waterpark, Limoges, Ontario
A short drive east of Ottawa, Ontario is a community known as Limoges. There, the Calypso Theme Waterpark is its main attraction that draws visitors to check out Canada’s largest waterpark. It’s also regarded as one of the nation’s best as well. This isn’t just some ordinary waterpark. This is a themed waterpark. While here, try taking on the ninety-foot-tall water slide tower. It is Canada’s largest. There’s also AquaLoops, sending riders down a near-vertical slide before going into an inclined loop. Among visitors preferring gentler rides, Calypso has something designed for everyone. At the park are two themed rivers, as well as a kid zone. There are also VIP cabanas and a Hawaiian-themed beach bar.
In 2010, Calypso Theme Waterpark opened to the public for the first time. As its popularity grew, it began to accommodate nearly half a million visitors each year from the months, usually from June to September. The park became popular very quickly, thanks to rave reviews from magazine publications by recognizing it as one of Canada’s top new attractions. In 2011, it was rated the best waterpark in the world by MSN Travel. Consistently, year after year, Calypso continues to earn accolades and awards, including best amusement park awards by Canada’s CTV Network and the globally recognized TripAdvisor.
#5 – Playland Amusement Park
The history of Playland Amusement Park begins in 1910. Located just east of Vancouver’s downtown area, Canada’s oldest theme park was founded on the grounds of the Pacific National Exhibition. British Columbia’s largest city hosted annual fairs at this location before eventually deciding to officially design a theme park in 1929. Originally Happyland, its location was at Vancouver’s Hastings Park until 1957. After this, it officially became Playland. From May until September, this park remains open for visitors to spend at least a few hours of fun under the sun. For Halloween, the park opens up again as a special event known as Fright Night. Vancouver’s Playland Amusement Park has the infamous Wooden Roller-Coaster, the very same ride that was featured in Final Destination 3 and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. It was also featured on the television series, Smallville.
What’s great about Playland is how well it merges nostalgia with today’s trends, proudly displaying itself as an amusement park that has it all. As Pacific National Exhibition continues to own and operate Playland, this amusement park remains in the ranks as a world-class facility, despite its age. PNE has earned a world-class reputation as a non-profit group that excels at reflecting the spirit of British Columbia, as well as all the elements that make Canada such a wonderful nation.
#4 – Calaway Park
Located just west of Calgary, Alberta is Calaway Park. It is the largest outdoor family amusement park in Western Canada. Annually, the park sees about half a million visitors while the doors are kept open from May until October. While the park is loaded with rollercoasters and rides, namely the Dream Machine, Ocean Motion, Timber Falls, and Vortex Rollercoaster. Even though none of these rides necessarily stand out as incredibly popular, the view of the Canadian Rocky Mountains from higher altitudes of a ride facing west adds to the appeal. Speaking as someone who has been there on more than one occasion, I’m personally fond of Timber Falls. This log flume ride does a series of zigzags along a river that includes three high-velocity drops.
Originally, Calaway Park was designed with the iconic Flinstones in mind. It was meant to open as Flinstone Fun Park but the name was changed just prior to the park’s 1982 opening. The park owners already reached an agreement with Hanna-Barbara Productions for the licensing rights to the characters that were featured in the highly popular animated series. When visiting the park, fans of The Flinstones will see these infamous characters playing an integral role in the theme of the park. However, Calaway Park also prides itself on being proudly Canadian, making this evident throughout the park as well.
# 3 – La Ronde in Montreal
In YEAR, Six Flags was a theme park that eventually expanded to a twenty-seven amusement park giant. Originally starting out in Texas, USA, Six Flags chose to place a park in Montreal, Quebec. This came about as the French Canadian City was set to host Expo 67, a 1967 World Fair that invited visitors from all over the world to experience Montreal’s unique hospitality. With a lease agreement that doesn’t expire until 2065, the largest amusement park in the province of Quebec also happens to be Canada’s second largest overall. It sits on 146 acres of land belonging to the northern tip of Saint Helen’s Island. The park got its name after a small island that used to be there, Ronde Island. Every year, the park hosts the Montreal Fireworks Festival, a must-see event that takes place during the summer months.
The La Ronde is one of two theme parks belonging to Six Flags that doesn’t actually sport the name. The other one is in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma as it is referred to as Frontier City. This park has over forty rides and attractions to keep visitors entertained. In the mix, there are ten rollercoasters for thrill-seekers to enjoy, including Goliath. This is one of the tallest and fastest rollercoaster rides in Canada. There is also the Boomerang, which shoots a rider down a trio of high-speed loops before boomeranging them backward to the start. Among rollercoaster enthusiasts craving the need for speed, Cobra should do the trick. While at the La Ronde, enjoy a thrill ride on Le Monstre, the world’s tallest two-track wooden rollercoaster. As for family-friendlier rides, the Galopant is the oldest wooden carousel in the world. It was built in 1885.
# 2 – Galaxyland
Galaxyland is the world’s largest indoor amusement park. It sits inside West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta. There are over twenty-seven rides and attractions that stay open all year long, giving visitors an opportunity to either escape the bitter cold of Canadian winters or beat the heat of a hot summer’s day. The park was designed with a space theme in mind and is home to Mindbender, the world’s largest triple-loop rollercoaster in the world. Among kids who want to have fun in an indoor jungle gym, the one inside this park stands four stories tall. This amusement park opened up its doors for the first time in 1985 and has since become one of Canada’s top choices as an amusement park. It has received several awards for its excellence in catering to thrill-seekers of all ages.
Originally, Galaxyland opened up as Fantasyland in 1983. It was a name it had until 1995 when Disney filed a lawsuit against the mall owners as this name already belonged to their own parks, including Disneyland. Upon the name change, the park itself underwent a series of renovations to give it a spacier theme to go with the new name. As of 2020, Galaxyland and Hasbro teamed up to bring the indoor amusement park up to speed with new rides and attractions. Today, Galaxyland has officially been branded as Galaxyland powered by Hasbro.
#1 – Canada’s Wonderland
Canada’s Wonderland sits on over three hundred acres of land and is the nation’s largest theme park. It is also one of the most popular parks to visit throughout all of North America. There are seventeen rollercoaster rides to be found here, along with an impressive collection of attractions and other rides. While visiting in the summer and you need to beat the heat, Splash Works is a waterpark designed to help you cool off. While visiting Canada’s Wonderland, be sure to take advantage of Flying Eagles and Skyhawk. Skyhawk is a flight simulator that puts you in the driver’s seat as you maneuver through 360-degree turns at 135 feet in the air. The Flying Eagles is a ride designed for smaller children as their opportunity to fly around like pilots, going as high up as twenty-eight feet in the air. As for rollercoaster enthusiasts wanting the ultimate thrill experience, be sure to ride the Leviathan, if you dare.
Canada’s Wonderland first opened up to the public on May 23, 1981. Located in Vaughan, Ontario, it sits just north of Toronto. It was the first amusement park in thirty years for the greater Toronto area, after Sunnyside Amusement Park shut down in 1955. That park was demolished to make room for the Gardiner Expressway. Oddly enough, as Canada’s Wonderland was still in the planning stage, several Canadians were concerned about the influence of American culture potentially chipping away at their home nation’s identity.
By the time Canada’s Wonderland officially opened as a park, those concerns were settled as it was designed to be a theme park members of the Canadian population could be proud of. Going into 1994, ownership of Canada’s Wonderland switched hands to Paramount Pictures. From that year until 2006, Paramount’s name was added to Canada’s Wonderland as a brand. In 2007, after Cedar Fair bought the park, Paramount’s name was dropped, allowing the park to continue as Canada’s Wonderland without any official branding.
Feature Photo: Massimiliano Pieraccini / Shutterstock.com
Our Top 10 Best Canadian Theme Parks list presents a list of the most exciting and enjoyable theme parks north of the Canadian Border.
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