I have a confession to make: I love amusement parks. And another: I hate roller coasters. It's true. One of the greatest betrayals of my life to date remains the time a family member tricked a 12-year-old me into riding the Mighty Canadian Minebuster at Canada's Wonderland. Howling in terror and gripping for my life to that dinky metal bar, teeth chattering and glasses slipping down my nose, I vowed right there and then to never again set foot on a roller coaster.
I've kept that promise. And the good news is that, free of the oppression of that metal bar, I am able to roam and enjoy the myriad other attractions these vast and varied places have to offer. You may wonder why it's worth close to $100 of my hard-earned cash to gain access to a gated community where the main things that await are expensive snacks and shrieking children. It's simple: Amusement parks, to me, are places of magic, happiness and freedom.
Trips to these places, therefore, are tied to very specific memories – mainly those involving food and friendship: The cheese pizza and fruity frozen drinks at Walt Disney World in Florida, followed by a trip through the Back to the Future simulator; a chewy pretzel and plastic guitar full of ice-cold white wine at Darien Lake before a cruise down a fake jungle river dotted with animatronic wild things.
See, I don't hate all rides – just most of them. I've hopped on Swings of the Century from Paris to Niagara Falls, and I love anything that spits water on a hot day.
My favourite amusement-park memory, however, would have to be from three years ago, when my friend Yvonne and I took the Greyhound bus to Canada's Wonderland. (Yes, the bus – another guilty pleasure.) Since Yvonne is as easygoing as I am neurotic, she was utterly indifferent about riding roller coasters. Instead, we wandered around talking, gawking and taking pictures of oversized stuffed animals, before ending up in a beer garden. There, I proceeded to sip my first Smirnoff Ice cooler since high school while lollygagging in the afternoon's rays. (If memory serves, Yvonne drank something much classier.)
After finishing our drinks, we strolled over to the Lazy River, which we proceeded to float down alongside a happily shrieking family of four. Sufficiently cooled off, we lay in the grass to let our clothes dry in the sun. See? Magic, happiness and freedom.