If there is one thing Australia is lacking in the coaster department, it’s those silly, little, out of the way places harboring a lone kiddie coaster that only the hardiest of credit whores seek out. And really, thank fuck for that. There is no surer way to question your life choices than by driving six hours to a children’s amusement park for the privilege of having a Wisdom Orient Express bruise your skin (and your ego, and your sanity, and other people’s formerly esteemed opinions of you). Now, I admit some of my favorite memories come from such credit whoring expeditions (let’s look at yesterday, for example), but let’s be honest: sometimes you can’t deny the foolishness of this hobby when you decide to leave a nice park earlier than you’d like in order to make it to a Big Apple five hours away.
The closest Australia comes to that sort of thing is Wonderland Fun Park, and even then, it’s not that ridiculous a credit. Big Apple it may be, but at just four miles away from Luna Park Melbourne, it was hardly a diversion. Or at least it wasn’t a diversion that required much justification.
That is, until we encountered the Costco crowd.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Costco. Any place whose smallest bag of pancake mix could feed the entire population of Djibouti is a winner in my book. But a weekend afternoon at Costco, where all of suburbia congregates in one concrete warehouse, with frugal wives, despondent husbands and unruly children still wearing their soccer gear all vying for space between shopping carts the size of catamarans? The only layer in hell deeper than that is a Saturday afternoon at Walmart.
Consequently, our visit to Wonderland Fun Park commenced with a situation that was anything but a wonderland and anything but fun: sitting in a line of cars, each awaiting their right of way to turn into the Costco parking garage on the opposite side of the road. Costco is just one of dozens of stores in a retail Gehenna that also includes the sprawling Harbour Town shopping mall. It was a weekend. It was a beautiful day (which, for some reason, is always remarkably effective in enticing people inside a sepulchral Abercrombie & Fitch to inhale throat-singeing cologne and spend $80 on a t-shirt). It was a skinny two lane road.
We waited awhile.
But finally, there was an opening and we inched forward as car after car after car turned into the Costco garage like a dutiful line of ants. As for our parking, we used a public garage for Harbour Town, where it was $3.00 to dump the car for an hour. Setting our watches to credit whore mode (well, not really, unless you count the fact that Richard had programmed the park into his bulky, unwieldy, and charmingly nerdy GPS watch, whose utility was once again lovingly extolled upon for my benefit, just in case I wasn’t listening the first 8,967 times), the countdown was on to nab this worm and hustle on over to Luna.
But we didn’t need the watch.
Kinda hard to miss a park that’s set up in the shadow of this thing.
(Oh, what’s that? Did you say something about us losing the Harbour Bridge the other night? Pffft, don’t know what you’re talking about.)
Wonderland Fun Park—as well as the surrounding stores, restaurants, and the Melbourne Star observation wheel—is part of an area in Melbourne called the Docklands. Because it’s easy to mistake my writing output for that of a sloth, I must report that the park has actually moved since our visit. From what I can gather, however, it hasn’t moved far. It’s still adjacent to the wheel; I think the only difference is that it’s on a larger plot of land, which I presume is for when they add the Intamin giga coaster.
It seems they’ve spruced up the area and added more entertainment options, like this fairy show. The website also mentions “assorted gourmet hot dogs,” so really by all accounts this place should be more well known in enthusiast circles.
At the very least, the various attractions are a convenient bargaining chip/bribe to get your kids to go shopping with you (and to convince me to leave the serenity of the car in the presence of Sunday afternoon Costco shoppers).
Our first glimpse of the park took in the white Pleasantville-y picket fence demarcating its perimeter. Indeed, “pleasant” is an appropriate adjective for the place. Inside, more white picket fences made tidy borders around each ride. Instead of blacktop or concrete underfoot, there was artificial grass/turf (or, failing that, green carpeting, which didn’t look as nice but hey, E for effort). Planters provided a bit of landscaping. There was plenty of seating, whether in the form of green plastic lawn chairs or umbrella-shaded table and chair sets. The employees were friendly (which is to say that the Wacky Worm ride op did not look at us like we had three heads).
There was even theming.
As for the ride selection, it was modest but varied:
There was the Flying Dragon…
…and a surprisingly large carousel, given the size of the place.
Also on offer were dodgems, a pirate ship and trampolines, among others—all told, a fine little collection that would have kept my five to eight year old self happy for hours.
Honestly, the only real criticism I have of the place is that it could have used more shade.
But they kind of made up for it with mister fans and free sunscreen.
So pleasant indeed it was, but if ever a park lived up to its name, then Wonderland was it, for it was there that two wondrous—nay, miraculous—things happened:
First, the coaster was actually open.
But that was nothing compared to what happened when Richard and I walked past the Crazy Wave, for its soundtrack at that moment generated a phenomenon so extraordinary, so unbelievably astonishing, that I thought for a second we were in an alternate universe: In unison, we said, “You really can’t fault the music selection.” In unison. We said this in unison.
Richard and I are alike in many ways, but our music tastes are about as polarized as you can get. I am an alternative/pop/rock/twenty-one-pilots-gets-played-at-max-volume-whether-you-like-it-or-not kind of girl. Richard is a classical/musicals/church choir/I’m-wary-of-music-that’s-under-two-hundred-years-old* guy. Now, I have no problem admitting Beethoven wrote some fine tunes in his day, but the number of petty arguments we’ve had while trying to agree upon music for livening up the monotony of long drives is…well, let’s just say I’m glad we didn’t start off this relationship with the “what kind of music do you listen to” icebreaker question.
*except ABBA. He fucking loves ABBA.
But now, at this little Melbourne Wonderland, we’d reached an accord that I’d place on par with, oh, probably the Treaty of Versailles.
And that song that sparked the magic?
“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba.
Which makes zero sense given the above description of his tastes, but he has his eccentricities, like sprinkling chicken soup powder over his pasta, willingly rising before 11:00 a.m. on weekends, and dating me.
The harmony didn’t last long. By the time we’d bought our coaster tickets, the Crazy Wave soundtrack had switched to “Magic” by B.o.B. and Rivers Cuomo. I was rocking out on my own to that one.
And speaking of tickets, today’s order from the Whoretastic Fun Catalogue cost us $7.50 apiece.
For $7.50, we got three laps on Wacky Worm Family Coaster and a reminder that I need to stock up on granola bars and 500 count multivitamins the next time I’m in the States.
Now we come to the part where I show you photo angles you’ve seen thousands of times while I try to recall something, anything that’s unique about a ride model with over 500 entries on rcdb.
The coaster came from the U.S. in 2010, where it probably operated on the fair circuit.
Umm…instead of the usual flower decorations, there were flags. Faded and tattered flags.
The supports that led to nothing at the top of the lift suggested there’s an abandoned apple tunnel out there somewhere.
The drop section wasn’t painted for some reason…and…I’m grasping at straws here, just like the seatbelt buckle was grasping and pinching my ass cheeks (adults, we were told, weren’t required to wear the seatbelt).
Okay, so I think even the dirtiest among us can agree that’s more than sufficient coverage for a Big Apple? Yes?
With Crazy Wave onto another Megan loving/Richard hating jam (“Disturbia” by Rihanna) and Rexy gesturing his pointless little arm noodles in the direction of the parking garage, we made our exit.
So. Total elapsed time between obtaining and paying the parking ticket? 24 minutes. Doesn’t get much more efficient than that. Seriously, this is such an easy stop to make if you’re in Melbourne. All credit whores, from the shamelessly deranged to the ones still in the closet, can manage this one. I encourage you to make the effort.
(P.S. Don’t forget your Costco membership card. You’ll want a pallet or two of ibuprofen before hitting that scenic railway down the street.)