One of my earlier childhood memories is of my mom taking me to Deer Park Funland sometime in the early 80s. I can remember the petting zoo and getting to ride the train around the park. The Corkscrew roller coaster was a relatively new addition to the park (it opened in 1979), but I would have been too young to ride it (and I was too young yet to have learned that I adore roller coasters anyway). I know this memory is from pre-1988, because that’s when Deer Park Funland was renamed Michigan’s Adventure. It was called simply Deer Park back when it first opened in 1956.
That makes this year, 2016, the park’s 60th Anniversary! (I kind of feel like I should have brought a gift of diamonds, but that’s a little out of our budget).
My husband and I, in a display of either extreme bravery or extreme lack of concern for our own sanity, took (most of) the crew to Michigan’s Adventure last weekend. (We left the baby with grandma, because really, what’s a 10-month-old going to do at an amusement park besides sit in a stroller and get mad that he’s not allowed to get out and crawl all over everything?) I had visited Michigan’s Adventure one other time, back in 2003 when I had just two children (who were 2 and 7 at the time – my oldest son – that’s him bottom right in the picture, with me sitting next to him – wasn’t quite sure what to think of Shivering Timbers at the time, but now that he’s 20 years old he remembers it fondly!)
This time, however, with four kids instead of just two, there was quite a lot of planning involved to get ready for the adventure. Thankfully Michigan’s Adventure has a great website chock full of helpful information. (You can read my earlier post, 10 Tips for Visiting an Amusement Park with a Special Needs Child, for details on some of the ways we prepared for the trip).
While we only planned for a one-day trip, there are also Season Passes for the park itself (both regular and Platinum), which gets you into Michigan’s Adventure (and WildWater Adventure) unlimited times during the season. It also allows you early entry to WildWater Adventure on select dates, food & merchandise discounts, and Bring-a-Friend discounts! Since we only live a couple of hours away, and my husband has a Monday-Friday work schedule, this is something that we’re considering for next year. A Season Pass pays for itself in less than three visits. (And a Platinum Pass gets you into ALL Cedar Fair parks – including Cedar Point, another favorite of mine that I haven’t visited in a while – and free parking too!) These are just a few of the 100 Reasons Why visiting Michigan’s Adventure (especially with a Season or Platinum Pass) is a great idea – click the link to read them all, and leave a comment below if you can add to the list!
We made the journey on August 20th, the day before my 40th birthday. My original plan was to do the “happy family arriving at Michigan’s Adventure” picture right in front of the admissions area. However, it started raining when we were about 20 minutes away, and turned into a DOWNPOUR by the time we arrived. It was raining so hard that part of the parking lot was hubcap-deep in water! We wound up sitting in the car for our first half hour at Michigan’s Adventure, waiting to see if the rain would taper off. (It did, but not until much later). We finally realized that we were going to get wet anyway, so may as well just deal with it and head on in, maybe browse the stores until the rain let up enough for the rides to start running again. (They don’t shut down everything when it rains, but there are some that don’t run in inclement weather).
Our first stop was Group Sales to pick up our tickets, our Boarding Pass, our Parent Swap pass, and get Braeden’s cooler tagged. (In addition to his other dietary requirements, he only drinks water or white milk, and they don’t sell white milk inside the park, so I’d emailed ahead for permission to bring a cooler with milk in it for him). The two younger kids were of course a little over-excited already (not that the two older kids weren’t, they’re just better at containing it), so it was pretty hectic trying to get everyone and everything sorted, but the office staff did a SPECTACULAR job of helping us. We also rented a wagon, which may have been the smartest thing we ever did, as evidenced by the “Start of Day” and “End of Day” pictures below. (Strollers and wheelchairs are also available for rental in the park).
We figured we’d be focusing on family rides most of the day, since those are the ones that both Braeden and Taylor would be able to safely ride. These are rides like the Scrambler, Sea Dragon, Swan Boats, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Lakeside Gliders. (My husband wasn’t allowed to go on much of anything in the main park except for the carousel, since he just had spinal fusion surgery a couple of months ago, so he was particularly looking forward to our afternoon visit to WildWater Adventure).
Braeden decided he wanted to try out Lakeside Gliders, but insisted that he had to ride in #8. The ride operator gracefully allowed us to throw off the rotation by acquiescing to Braeden’s request, so Braeden and I climbed into Glider #8. Well… he climbed in. I awkwardly managed to wedge myself in after some effort, as seen in the picture below. (These rides are clearly not designed for people who are 5’10 with long legs!) Once I managed to get both legs in the glider, though, Braeden and I had a grand time flying through the air and moving the front wing to twist the glider from side to side. It was a rather damp ride, but we had fun!
A great option for a rainy day is the Dodgem Bumper Cars, since they run under a pavilion. Grandpa and Braeden shared a ride in a police car, while Dustin (my 15-year-old) took a taxi instead.
The next neat attraction we stumbled upon isn’t a ride, but rather an experience to commemorate the park’s 60th anniversary. Funland Farm is a petting farm featuring llamas, alpacas, a mini horse and a mini donkey. We only stopped briefly, though, as the kids were pretty focused on “MORE RIDES!” by this time.
When we went to the county fair, one of Braeden’s favorite rides was the Tilt a Whirl (which also happens to be a ride that Taylor can go on), so the kids and I loaded into a car and took some selfies while we waited for the ride to start. I don’t know if we just got a really good car or if Michigan’s Adventure’s Tilt a Whirl is just a lot better than the county fair version, but we definitely got tilted and whirled! (And the kids loved it!)
After that, Braeden and I tried out the Trabant (a circular ride that tilts, tips, and turns), but he wasn’t a big fan of that one. I think he’s inherited my love of fast spinny rides, and this one was fairly tame compared to some of the others we went on (but a great ride for people who don’t like the stomach-lurching rides!)
Logger’s Run, however, was a completely different story. Braeden was terribly excited about going on the “boat ride,” so we (me, Taylor, grandpa, and Braeden) very carefully loaded ourselves into a 4-seater log to go on a boat ride. This 6 minute long ride starts out deceptively relaxing – you go up a big hill, and then take a leisurely winding tour way up high in the air. It’s not until the final moments that the ride earns its “High Thrill” rating (unless you’re scared of heights, in which case the entire ride may be terrifying), when your log tips forward and picks up speed as it heads down a steep hill, ending with a huge splash at the end.
Restaurants are one of the locations that Braeden just can’t cope with, so my husband and I decided to walk around for a bit with Braeden and Taylor and see if we could find some more rides that Braeden might like to try. But it was about this time that Braeden
decided he was done and he wanted to go home and play on the XBox. Not even suggesting a roller coaster (which he’d been asking for) or going swimming at the beach (i.e. WildWater Adventure) could sway him. He’d decided he was done with the park, he wanted to play on his XBox, and nothing was going to change his mind. (I’m pretty sure he gets his stubbornness from me). So this is where our backup plan went into action – grandpa had driven separately to the park, partly because he was coming from the other direction but partly so we could have our backup plan. We knew ahead of time that Braeden’s limit might be much earlier in the day that everyone else’s limit, so after grandpa finished his meal at Coasters, he and Braeden left for home. I was sad that Braeden wouldn’t get to try out the roller coaster (we were going to let him try Zach’s Zoomer) or water park, but he’d reached the point where the park wasn’t fun for him anymore. And now we have an idea of how long he can tolerate the activity level before hitting his limit so we’ll know for next time we visit (although the time limit would probably have been even less on a busier day). Having our “Grandpa Backup Plan” in place meant that the rest of us were able to stay at the park.
The upside of going to Michigan’s Adventure on a very rainy day? The lines for the rides that ARE running are SUPER short – and the ride lines stayed short all day, even during the sunshiney interludes between rain showers. We had a Boarding Pass so that Braeden wouldn’t have to wait in long lines, but we only wound up using it one time the entire day. The other upside to a rainy day visit? Super fun puddles to splash around in! While we waited for grandpa and the older boys to finish eating, Taylor found a way to amuse himself.
So after seeing Braeden and Grandpa off, we decided to head over to WildWater Adventure. I had literally just activated my new phone that morning after my previous one stopped working, so despite the waterproof bag I kept it in for most of the day, I decided it was safest to leave my phone (which is also my camera) in a locker. The waterproof bag worked perfectly to protect my phone from the rain and the splashes from watery rides, but I wasn’t confident in its abilities to protect my phone from complete and repeated submersion. Therefore I don’t have any pictures from the water park, but I am sharing some images from Michigan’s Adventure’s website.
My husband was particularly excited to visit WildWater Adventure – he’d visited Michigan’s Adventure several times in the past (before we met), but had missed out on the water park fun several times in a row. He also had spinal fusion surgery back a couple of months ago, so about the only ride he was allowed to go on was the Carousel (which our three-year-old son turned out to be scared of). (Also, my husband is 6’8, so the rides he could go on even before his back problems were limited just because of his height). He knew he wouldn’t be able to go on the water slides, but we headed over to Tidal Wave (the medium wave pool with a maximum depth of six feet) with Taylor (our 3-year-old) and splashed around for quite a while. (Life jackets are available complimentary in WildWater Adventure, although we brought our own for Taylor).
I had actually never been in a wave pool before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when the buzzer went off and the waves started forming at the deep end of the pool. Turns out it’s super fun, sort of like jumping the waves in Lake Michigan (my only basis for comparison, living as far inland as we do).
The Lazy River was the ride my husband had been most looking forward to, so after leaving the wave pool we floated down the river. I was happy to find that Taylor and I were able to fit inside the same tube, and everyone had a great time floating lazily down the river.
Next we headed over to Half-Pint Paradise, which is a small area with shallow water for younger kids to play in. Here I discovered that I’m too big to go down the water slide (Taylor was a little hesitant the first time, so I went down the slide with him) – the water is so shallow at the bottom that I landed square on my tailbone on the bottom of the pool! But Taylor loved it, and went down the slide by himself after that.
In the meantime, my two older boys were off on bigger adventures – their favorite ride was the Funnel of Fear, which I kind of wanted to try but didn’t get a chance to. Oh well, there’s always next time!
After leaving WIldWater Adventure, we headed over to The Family Grill, which seemed like it would get us the biggest bang for our buck(s), since it’s an all-you-can-eat with burgers, hot dogs, mini corn dogs, baked beans, and the like. We found that the seagulls also love The Family Grill, and that Taylor loves seagulls! He spent most of his time trying to catch one – when he couldn’t chase them down, he tried his hardest to bribe them with a mini corn dog. (There are signs saying not to feed the seagulls, but Taylor can’t read that many words yet).
Michigan’s Adventure also offers Dining Passes, from a single meal deal to an all-day pass to a full season pass. On our next visit I think we’ll be purchasing an all-day pass for each of us (the current price is $26.99 and lets you get a meal at seven different locations inside the park – check the website for more information).
Finally, it was roller coaster time. I wasn’t sure about taking a 3-year-old on a roller coaster (even a very tall 3-year-old), but I’d checked into the rides before our trip, and knew that Zach’s Zoomer is a child-friendly coaster. (The minimum height is 46″, or 40″ if a grown-up goes with you – and Taylor is 42″ tall). So once again I wedged myself into a child-friendly ride, and away we went! I was worried that he might be scared, despite how much fun he had on the Tilt a Whirl and Logger’s Run, but he absolutely adored it – that’s my boy! (And that’s one of my other boys sitting behind us, my 20-year-old son Jayson).
The last ride of the day was just for mom – the Thunderhawk! The Thunderhawk is an inverted roller coaster (the kind where your legs dangle free) that reaches speeds of 50 mph and heights of 120 feet – there are 90-degree vertical climbs, barrel rolls, inverted wing looping, and a complete roll over, and let me tell you, experiencing it is a lot different than reading the description on the website! It was terrifyingly fun, even though I spent the entire ride trying to tuck my legs up. (The maximum height is 78″, and I’m only 70″, so I was never in any danger of actually losing a leg or a foot – it just felt like it at the time! Hubby couldn’t have ridden this coaster even if he hadn’t had back surgery, though, since he’s 80″ tall).
Finally we’d all reached our limits (and the park was closing in 20 minutes anyway), so we assembled our party together and headed back to the minivan (after returning the beloved red wagon that made our day SO much easier).
Our family adventure at Michigan’s Adventure was definitely a memory maker, and we’ll definitely be clearing space on our schedule to go back next summer!