Winter is coming… it will be long and freezing and slippery… but it is not here yet! And while we are going back to classes and looking for our missing McGill toque or right-hand glove, it’s not a bad idea to look at the Summer offers that are about to end, and perhaps take advantage of some of them, if our schedule allows it.
This is what I did recently, in one of the last real hot Summer days of 2018. Destination: La Ronde. This amusement park on St. Helen’s Island isn’t too far from the city centre, and if you are carless like me, you can easily reach it via public transport. What convinced me to go, beside the fact that I don’t even remember last time I went on a roller coaster and I was eager to do it again, was the student discount. Indeed, if you visit the PGSS events page, you can find several offers for PGSS members, and one of them is about La Ronde ticket discounts. Tickets are on sale for $35, vs. a regular price ranging between $50 and $60… quite an advantageous offer! The 2018 season will end on October 28, so if you are interested you still have several weeks to go!
My experience was absolutely great. I can’t compare this park to the other North American amusement parks, but I definitely liked it. The park doesn’t seem to have a clear theme—do the few zombies here and there count as “theme”?—and if on the one hand I would have liked some clear theme giving the park more “personality”, on the other hand not having a theme was a wise choice: a cartoon-themed park would have attracted families and discoutaged groups of adult friends, a sci-fi park would have been just the opposite… while a park with no theme can appeal practically anyone looking for that kind of fun.
As the La Ronde website explains, there are four main kinds of attractions: Thrill Rides, Family Rides, Kid’s Rides, and Shows. Being a person in her late twenties and looking for some thrills, I mostly did thrill rides, along with a couple of family rides. Of course the graduate students with children will probably spend more time at the kid’s rides, family rides and shows, and I bet they probably are as enjoyable as the attractions I tried.
Among the family attractions, my friends and I tried the Minirail and the Condor, the first one being a calm “tourist tour” of the park, perfect after lunch, and the second one being an attraction made of small bird-looking cabins spinning and reaching quite an exciting height. My 10-year-old self would have been ecstatic… and my now-self liked it too.
But the thrill rides were the most memorable ones. My friends and I started with Vol Ultime, a very high group of rotating swings that despite the thrill label seemed quite a calm attraction to me. Then we got on the Titan, and… OMG… not only you are almost upside-down, but you are almost upside-down at a very remarkable height… and you stay there a few seconds, in which you can really look down, enjoy (well, that’s debatable) your position and feel the thrill. Attractions like the Démon and Vertigo do 360-degree twirls that put you completely upside-down, but they are not as high, and thus I found them more fun than the Titan, and not at all scary.
When it comes to high-speed thrills, the best attractions are the roller coasters, or the Orbite. The Orbite is a tower in which you are suddenly sent to the top, and then suddenly sent back to the bottom. Few seconds of very concentrated adrenaline. Roller coasters are a classic, but even among the classics there are variations and new developments. At La Ronde, you can try a piece of “roller coaster History”: the Monstre, a huge roller coaster built in 1985, as per information provided to us while we were in line. This roller coaster has two different paths, and its structure is mostly made of wood, which makes it distinctive from the other roller coasters at La Ronde. This roller coaster is really scary, because it makes you enter narrow tunnels at an extremely high speed, and you almost fear you’ll end up beheaded… of course you won’t, but when you are on it you end up crouching, just in case. Many attractions have a warning forbidding you from putting your hands up in the air. Well, do take this advice seriously when you go on the Monstre. Beside the old Monstre, there are plenty of recent roller coasters. The Splash, that wets you a bit or a lot, depending on how careful you are. The Goliath, the gigantic roller coaster that is somehow an icon of La Ronde. And the Vampire, my absolute favourite among all the attractions I tried: not only you are moving at a high speed with your legs swinging, but at a certain point you revolve upside down a few times in a row, and you do it so quickly that for a few seconds you don’t understand anymore where’s “up” and where’s “down”. I am definitely not a roller coaster expert or reviewer, but for me that was the absolute best. Wow.
I didn’t manage to try all the attractions in one day, in part because of time restrictions, and in part because not all the attractions were active… well, maybe next time!
Fall has begun, but La Ronde is still open, and on the PGSS events page there are other interesting discounts—such as tickets for the Botanical Garden and the Insectarium, or for the Planetarium, and upcoming events—like the Thanksgiving Dinner, the Old Port Ghost Tour, and the Halloween Party. Have a look, and enjoy!
Banner photo: Detail of the PGSS webpage https://pgss.mcgill.ca/en/event/704