Upon a recent trip to Niagara Falls and Toronto, a lot of important events took place. I went to a foreign country without my family for the first time. I learned that it is not spelled “Niagra”. My fear of driving over bridges over waterways grew from unsettling to near-crippling and/or panic attack inducing phobia (“gephyrophobia”, I found out it’s called). I got engaged. I saw a Maple Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre. Although those events are not necessarily listed in order of importance.
(They probably are; I’m just not allowed to officially say that for fear of being killed.)
One other very important thing happened to me on that trip: my faith and love for all things amusement park was shaken to the core, forcing me to question every belief I have ever had. This didn’t actually occur at a full fledged amusement park, but it did involve a dark ride, one of the foundations of every good amusement park.
This happened on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. Clifton Hill is the sort of street that usually appears on boardwalks: lots of souvenir shops, crappy-yet-enjoyable attractions (with a Ripley’s… always with a Ripley’s), and lots of junk food. It’s one of those paradoxical instances where you are simultaneously entertained and depressed by what is going on around you.
Like when someone makes a reference to an old show you used to watch: it makes you happy because it brings back good memories. It also makes you depressed because you’re old. Then it makes you angry at the person for thinking that just making unrelated nostalgic references makes them interesting. It doesn’t. Stop.
Or late Saturday night. It’s good because it’s Saturday night, but then you think, “Hey, Saturday night is almost Sunday. That means it’s basically Monday morning.”
Or when you see a little kid fall down. That’s mostly funny, but while you are laughing to yourself there’s a part of you thinking, “Maybe everyone’s right, I really am a dickhead.”
Point being, anyone who has been to one of these tourist trap areas knows the feeling. You can quickly spend your entire day and empty your entire wallet and come away with nothing redeeming. And you know that going into the day, but that doesn’t stop you. You think you’ll be fiscally responsible and do something that will make memories to cherish, but within the hour you find yourself in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, seeing the same boat made of toothpicks and wax sculpture of the guy with the candle in his head that you’ve seen at every other one you’ve ever went to.
I can remember being here with my family in 1998, when I went in one of the “not ready for Orlando” haunted houses. I also bought an Our Lady Peace shirt here (it is Canada, after all) which I was later forced to throw out. I had ruined it because it was covered in sticker residue, from when I covered the shirt in felt teddy bear stickers. Don’t ask.
It was all but inevitable that we would wind up at the Spider Man attraction. I saw the sign for it while we sat in the car at the Canadian border for about half an hour. There were brochures in that brochure rack that every hotel has, containing the usual assortment of two or three legitimate must-see sights, and the rest of the rack being filled with brochures for places that you probably wouldn’t go to even if the choice was between going there or getting kicked in the crotch. But mostly because at least getting kicked in the crotch is free.
Finally, I saw it a few times while eating at the Skylon Tower. This is a revolving restaurant that is high up. The idea is that you can get a beautiful view of Niagara Falls for about ten minutes, then for the next twenty or so minutes look at the slums that surround it, then when you come back to Niagara Falls, you appreciate it that much more. The Skylon Tower is also one of the most expensive restaurants I have ever had the privilege of paying for. While in Canada I didn’t pay too much attention to prices, figuring what I was paying in US dollars wasn’t as much, so it was okay. Unfortunately, “A whole lot of money” in Canadian dollars still translates into “A lot of money” in US dollars.
The next day we wound up at Clifton Hill, albeit accidentally, but nevertheless we had arrived. Climbing the stairs, there was a life size animatronic figure of Ultimate Green Goblin. The difference between Ultimate Green Goblin and comic Green Goblin (or movie version) is that he is from Ultimate Spider Man (duh), which is basically a re-imagining of Spider Man’s younger years. The animatronic was fairly well done, since it wasn’t even part of a ride, and was just an outdoor display.
Inside, it was basically a glorified arcade. I went over to the ticket counter, and asked for my two tickets to ride Spider Man.
TWENTY SIX DOLLARS.
What in the hell?
Two tickets for one ride was $26. For that kind of money this ride better come with a happy ending. We made our way over to the ride, and it was starting to look more and more like a poor investment. There were two people in line ahead of us, and we still wound up waiting to get on the ride. This was probably because the cars moved approximately three feet per leap year, on a very conspicuous track that the car grinded on (ground on?) fairly loudly. Now, I wasn’t expecting Spider Man from Islands of Adventure, but at the same time I felt it should move better than the fire trucks that four year olds ride in a circle at carnivals.
We were then given our 3-D glasses. This sounds impressive, but no. They were cardboard 3-D glasses, like you would get with a comic book. Except they were grey lenses, not even the cool red and blue. I figured at least with those I could pretend to be that guy from Back to the Future. But, alas, this was not to be the case.
It got worse from there, although initially only true geeks would find fault. We are greeted by a 3-D version of Ultimate Spider Man, who tells us the city’s villains are on the prowl. Now when I say 3-D, I mean “we were wearing 3-D glasses while looking at a seemingly 2-D image.”
Now the truly geeky complaint: in Ultimate Spider Man, Peter Parker is fifteen years old, an underclassman in high school. Spider Man on the ride sounded like a 35 year old man. Small complaint, seemingly, but come on. I paid $13 a person to be on this ride, at least attempt to get some details correct.
From there, we go into the ride, whose sets look like they were painted by Paas, judging by the pastels and day-glo colors that made up the scenery. But hey, it was Easter time after all.
After a typical J. Jonah Jameson intro, Spider Man informs us we need to shoot all the colored targets we saw. Oh yeah, the cars came with web guns, to shoot with and keep track of our score with. Except neither of ours worked.
The first villain we meet Scorpion, which is somewhat cool, at least its kind of an obscure character. Then we fight the Lizard, then Electro, then the Green Goblin. Although the screen was broken when we “fought” the Goblin, so we didn’t really know what was going on. Finally, we meet Doctor Octopus, but at this point I was beyond caring. I sat there with my broken gun, in absolute awe of just how terrible the ride was.
Mercifully, the ride ended pretty soon after that. While getting out of the car, the attendant said the best thing he possibly could have: that we could get our money back, since the guns were broken. Thank you, broken guns! Even if the guns worked, the ride still would have sucked total ass, so I was more than happy to accept that offer.
The ticket woman didn’t even ask for a reason why I was getting a refund; maybe they have to issue so many that they don’t even bother asking anymore.
Had I not gotten a refund, I would have been ultra mad about going on that horrid ride. Instead, it’s just a story that seemed a lot more interesting before I started actually writing it out.