The History of Canada’s Wonderland – 1981-2019

Canada’s Wonderland is an amusement park that opened on May 23rd, 1981.

The park is located in Vaughan, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto.

While the park is not very old, the history is very interesting and extensive.

This post covers the history of the park and how it evolved to what it is today. It is the most seasonal visited amusement park in North America, a huge accomplishment.


Taft Broadcasting Company proposed a theme park in Vaughan, Ontario.

Several different locations were proposed. This area had been proposed for many different amusement parks. The seasonal climate led to it being unattractive for park proposers.

Many different concerns arose during planning of the park. These include: competition with other attractions, reduced property values, increased traffic, infrastructure not able to support the park, planning for the region, American theme park in Canada, and cultural concerns.

These concerns were crucial to the park’s success and many decisions were made to satisfy people.

Construction began immediately after planning and continued into 1981 which is the year the park officially opened.

The centerpiece of the park was not a replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, but instead was Wonder Mountain.

The park was officially opened to the public on May 23rd, 1981. 10,000 helium balloons, a band, and other things marked the “celebration” opening the park.

Thunder Run, a powered roller coaster opened in the park for the Opening Season of the park.

Also, Mighty Canadian Minebuster, Dragon Fyre, Wild Beast, and Ghoster Coaster debuted with the park as well.

12,000 guests were present in the park on Opening Day. The park costed $120 million dollars to build.

Kings Entertainment Company operated the park in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1987, The Bat opened which is a Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster.

In 1991, Vortex, an Arrow Dynamics roller coaster opened.

Connections with other companies led to Paramount Pictures to gain full ownership or the park.

In 1994, Viacom bought Paramount so Nickelodeon cartoons were used to attract guests to the park.

In 1995, Flight Deck, an inverted Vekoma roller coaster opened in the park.

In 1996, Paramount Canada’s Wonderland SplashWorks water park was expanded. A new water slide, wave pool, and a kid-friendly water playground was added.

In 1998, Taxi Jam was part of the KidZville area and is themed to the freeways of Toronto.

In 1999, The Fly opened which is a wild mouse roller coaster.

In 2001, a new themed area was added to the KidZville section.

Also in 2001, Silver Streak was another addition to the park for the season.

In 2002, Action Zone was added replacing the Exposition of 1980.

In 2005, Backlot Stunt Coaster opened (known as The Italian Job: Stunt Track). It was renamed to its current name for the 2008 season.

In 2005, Fearfest, a Halloween event consisting of haunted houses, attractions, and theming of rides for the season marked the event.

In 2006, Spooktacular, a kid-friendly Halloween event was added to expand Fearfest.

On May 14th of 2006, Cedar Fair announced that they wanted to acquire the five Paramount Parks.

In 2007, the company dropped the Paramount name from all five parks. It became Canada’s Wonderland.

All Paramount logos and references to movies were removed before 2008 because legally Cedar Fair did not own liscencing rights.

In 2008, Behemoth opened which became the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Canada.

In 2011, WindSeeker opened making it the tallest ride in the park at that time. A new nighttime show was added.

In 2012, Leviathan surpassed the records of Behemoth making it the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Canada. Dinosaurs Alive opened which was an outdoor walkthrough dinosaur exhibit.

In 2013, Wonder Mountain’s Guardian was announced. It is a 4-D interactive dark ride. SkyRider closed on Labor Day the next year.

At the end of the 2015 season, Skyhawk and Flying Eagles (two flat rides) were added to the park.

Virtual reality headsets were added to Thunder Run for the 2016 season for an upcharge.

In 2017, Soaring Timbers was added to the park. SplashWorks was also expanded for the season.

Flying Canoes is an interactive family ride added to the park in 2018.

Yukon Striker, a B&M dive coaster was announced and will open this season for 2019. Orbiter will also not open for the season and has been removed.


Timeline

  • 1981: Park opens with Antique Carrousel, Balloon Race, Bayern’s Curve, Bedrock Dock “now operates at Carowinds as “Snoopy’s Yacht Club”, Blauer Enzian, Flintstone’s Flyboys, Ghoster Coaster, Great Whale of China “now operates at Carowinds as “PEANUTS Pirates”, Happy Landing, Hot Rock Raceway, Klockwerks, Krachenwagen, Mighty Canadian Minebuster, Pharaoh’s Eye, Wilde Beast, Quixote’s Kettles, Scooby Choo, Shiva’s Fury, Sol-Loco, Swings of the Century, Wilde Knightmares, Viking’s Rage, Wonder Tour, and Zumba Flume.
  • 1982: Kings Courtyard
  • 1983: Kingswood Music Theatre
  • 1984: White Water Canyon, Smurf Forest
  • 1985: SkyRider
  • 1986: Thunder Run 
  • 1987: The Bat
  • 1988: Racing Rivers
  • 1989: Timberwolf Falls
  • 1990: Jet Scream
  • 1991: Vortex
  • 1992: Splash Works: Whirl Winds, Body Blast, Splash Island Kiddy Slides
  • 1993: Kid’s Kingdom play area (later renovated and renamed Candy Factory)
  • 1994: “Days of Thunder” – Motion Simulator Movie Ride (Action Theatre – Currently Playing “Monsters of the Deep 3D”)
  • 1995: Flight Deck
  • 1996: Xtreme Skyflyer, Speed City Raceway; Splash Works: White Water Bay, The Pump House, Black Hole
  • 1997: Drop Zone: Stunt Tower (later renamed Drop Tower: Scream Zone)
  • 1998: KidZville, James Bond – “License To Thrill” (feature at Action Theatre), Taxi Jam, The Edge Climbing Wall
  • 1999: The Fly; Splash Works: Super Soaker and The Plunge; “Dino Island II: Escape from Dino Island 3D” (feature at Action Theatre)
  • 2000: Cliffhanger (Later renamed Riptide), Scooby-Doo’s Haunted Mansion (Boo Blasters on Boo Hill)
  • 2001: Shockwave; Zoom Zone (new kids area) including: Silver Streak, Blast Off and Jumping Jet; “Stan Lee’s 7th Portal 3D” (feature at the Action Theatre)
  • 2002: Psyclone; Splash Works: Riptide Racer, Barracuda Blaster and Kids Sprayground
  • 2003: Sledge Hammer, Nickelodeon Central, “Warrior of the Dawn” (in Action Theatre), “SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D” (feature in Action Theatre), Launch Pad (trampolines; requires separate fee)
  • 2004: Tomb Raider: The Ride (later renamed Time Warp); The return of “Days of Thunder” (feature at Action Theatre)
  • 2005: Italian Job: Stunt Track (later renamed Backlot Stunt Coaster)
  • 2006: “The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbara” (feature at the Action Theatre), Nickelodeon Celebration Parade, Hollywood Stunt Spectacular
  • 2007: Coasters 50s Diner, International Marketplace Buffet, Picnic Pavilion
  • 2008: Behemoth
  • 2010: Planet Snoopy
  • 2011: WindSeeker, Starlight Spectacular
  • 2012: Leviathan, Dinosaurs Alive!, Starlight Spectacular, “Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia 3D” (feature at the Action Theatre, Fast Lane
  • 2013: “Monsters of the Deep 3D” (feature at the Action Theatre)
  • 2014: Wonder Mountain’s Guardian
  • 2015: SlingShot, Splash Works: Typhoon and Splash Station, VIP Cabanas
  • 2016: Flying Eagles and Skyhawk, “Robinson Crusoe 3D” (feature at the Action Theatre), “Stars of the Peking Acrobats” (show at Wonderland Theatre), VR on Thunder Run
  • 2017: Soaring Timbers, “Our Canada” (feature at the Action Theatre), Cirque Canadien (show at Canterbury Theatre), Splash Works: Muskoka Plunge
  • 2018: Lumberjack, Flying Canoes, Splash Works: Lakeside Lagoon
  • 2019: Yukon Striker, Frontier Canada, and WinterFest

  • Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed learning about the history of Canada’s Wonderland!


    -Brandon

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