The Roller Coaster Alley team made its annual Summer pilgrimage to Silverwood Theme Park, and for fun, we decided to mix things up a
bit this year. To start, instead of dropping in during our favorite time of summer
, we opted
for an August visit. And to get even
more crazy (because this is the extent to which theme park geeks like us do "crazy"), we did NOT visit on two back-to-back days,
but instead, split the trip up a bit. We know, we know, we've got to settle down. ;)
Before we dive too deep, please note that we've been to Silverwood more times than we can count, and the purpose of this Photo Trip
Review (PTR) is not to dissect and evaluate every ride or slide that we experienced. You can find details regarding those particulars on
our 2018 Silverwood Attractions Guide and Boulder Beach Attractions Guide,
or the Ride Reviews sections of the site. Instead, this PTR will focus mostly on the things we found that had changed in
2018 - for better or worse - as well as a few items that either were completely new, or just "new-to-us" (i.e. we weren't paying attention
close enough last year to notice them).
Upon first arriving, we grabbed a new park brochure, and were quickly reminded that, yes folks, this is Silverwood's 30th year of
operation. Allow us to pause and reminisce: 30 years ago Gary Norton opened the park gates to the public with a steam engine train
and a few other modest offerings. We can still remember the first trip we made back in 1993, when Thunder Canyon was brand new, the
parking lot was still un-paved, and man communicated via writings on the walls of caves. Yep, times they have a-changed in Northern Idaho.
When entering the main plaza, Silverwood has decorated its street lamps with various signs commemorating the 30th. They are a nice
touch, but as you'll see from the review that follows, there's not much more to the big 3-0 celebration (if you can even call it a
celebration). We choose to remain optimistic that Silverwood opted to save every single penny possible for that inevitable
that's surely just around the corner. Right? Right???
We arrived at the park extra early so as to nip our sweet tooth in the bud, and grab a boatload of early morning calories to go with
our early morning caffeine. (Hey, it's vacation. The diet can wait for when we return home.) As usual, there was no line when we
walked into the Silverwood Coffee Roasting & Trading Company to grab both a Cream Cheese and a Caramel Praline Cinnamon Roll. We've
said this before, and we will say it again: these things are a guilty pleasure worth every penny, and it boggles our minds that they
haven't caught on more with the average guest. Next time you are there, stop in and give one of these fresh baked pastries a try.
Best. Breakfast. Ever.
Day 1 of our trip was on a Wednesday, and it became apparent rather quickly that this was going to be a busy weekday when the line for
Boulder Beach reached the end of the train. Fortunately, we've done Disney on the busiest of holidays, and Silverwood is a relative
piece of cake.
We noticed a nice new time-occupier for a few ambitious guests: an oversized chess game right outside of the Victorian Coffee House. Because
everyone knows playing chess is more fun than waiting in line. We think.
Because we were over-caffeinated to such an extreme that we could not stand still in line, a few of us made our way over to Main
Street to window shop. Naturally we first hit Curtiss' Candy Factory, because, sugar. The homemade candies always draw our
attention, and while we've yet to purchase very many of these, we admittedly have sampled more than a few. Honestly, who can
resist Milk Chocolate-covered Habanero Caramels?
Directly across the railroad tracks from the candy shop, we noticed something that caught us by surprise - and this is probably just
one of those "new to us" things - a small, quiet sitting area (landscaped of course, because Silverwood doesn't do it any other way) named
"Tigger's Garden". It's tucked away on the side of the Main Street Theatre, and is little more than a nicely landscaped sitting area
with a few tables and chairs. This is one of those things that makes Silverwood such a special place. They didn't' have to create
this space. But they did. And when the crowds are nuts and you need a break from the noise - well, here's your perfect refuge.
Our final stop of the pre-opening morning was the Main Street Cinema. The theater is now showing classic films such as Gone With the
Wind, and Casablanca. We love the theater, and think it is one of the best kept secrets in the park, though we do question the
placement of full-length films here. Are that many guests really stopping to watch an entire movie? We don't claim to be the experts, but
give us the good old days when the theater ran the retro-80's Garfield cartoons. We found those to be the perfect length, as well as the
perfect fit for the park, and we'd gladly welcome those back at any time. Of course, we are also ridiculously immature for our ages,
so there's that.
Finally, 11:00 am hits and it's time for that most hilarious of human herding activities: the early morning speed-walk into the park. In
this case, as always, we head straight for Boulder Beach. The employees are enthusiastic as usual, giving high-fives to every guest who
will return them. As we made our way to set up camp for the day, we noticed a few changes. First up, Silverwood has made a brilliant decision
to add canvas shades to the queues for both Pablo's, as well as the
Chicken Shack. This is one of those "why didn't they do this sooner?" things. It's a great move, especially with how long, hot, and
unfortunately sometimes slow, the lines can be.
Moving on to the actual slides and attractions at Boulder Beach, the one major change to Boulder Beach for 2018 is found at what we
call "Family Slide Mountain" (because Silverwood must have a "mountain", as do all serious theme parks). Approaching the Ricochet
Rapids and Avalanche Mountain slides, at first glance, nothing has really changed other than the continued growth of foliage that now
practically engulfs the entire slides. However, when reaching the loading area, we quickly noticed the all-new tubes that were being
used for both slides, as well as the new & strictly enforced guidelines for loading (i.e. number of people and combined weight).
Let's start with the tubes themselves. They look good, they are comfortable, and some of them even have foot rests, for those who would
rather not have their co-riders feet and/or legs draped over them. We can't really recall specifics about the old tubes, but these really
do look and feel like a high-quality product.
This unfortunately, is where the pros end. We're not sure if it is the weight or material of the new tubes, or simply the new rider restrictions,
but both of these slides are noticeably slower now. We even paired up with some strangers to push the weight limit, and we were getting
nowhere near the air-time that we have been used to.
We were hoping that this was a fluke, but unfortunately it proved itself over multiple rides. It led us to a conclusion we never thought
we'd reach: Ricochet Rapids is now a better ride than Avalanche Mountain. At least with Ricochet you still have the nice drop (though it
too is no longer nearly as wild as it was in prior years), and you also get the long journey through the tunnel. But Avalanche Mountain
was always all about the air-time you could get when your raft rolled up the sides of the slide - sometimes so high that a portion of your
raft was literally above the edge of the slide - and you were certain you were going to fall out. Don't get us wrong, neither are now
BAD slides by any stretch. But they were better before this year. Perhaps things will change in the future. Most likely due to guest
safety and other liability concerns, they will not. At least we have the memories.
The rest of our morning at Boulder Beach was fantastic. Riptide Racer is still the best slide in the park (and still has the timers
working!). Having two separate wave pools is still one of the most brilliant moves any water park has done, anywhere. And the lazy river
still lives up to its name by proof of how many laps we made floating on our tubes and doing absolutely nothing, but having the time of
our lives. While there are definitely water parks that have more slides, and maybe even arguably better individual attractions, we still
maintain that Boulder Beach is - Disney water parks aside - the best themed, best maintained water park in the country.
Boulder Beach took up the majority of our Day 1, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We opted on Day 1 for Caselli's Pizzeria, home
to the absolutely brilliant, world-class magician, Nick Norton. We could rave about this guy all day. If you had time to do only one
thing at Silverwood, we wouldn't suggest a single coaster or water slide. We'd suggest going to see Nick's show. This is a top-tier Vegas-style
magic show, and Nick has a celebrity-style personality that is both captivating and entertaining. If you take one thing away from this PTR,
let it be these words: Do not miss Nick Norton's magic show at Silverwood Theme Park.
Now that we have that all out of our system, our visit on Wednesday meant that Nick was off for the day. Instead we were able to watch, for
the first time, his protégé, Isaiah Daniels. So what did we think? This guy is definitely one to watch. He's got the talent and charisma to
make a name for himself in the long term. He put on a great show, with a few original tricks and also tapping into some of Nick's tried and
true show-stoppers. Clearly, he's learned from the best, which is just one more reminder of how lucky we are to have Nick Norton as a
resident magician at Silverwood.
The rest of Day 1 was filled with a few coasters, spinners, and water attractions in the theme park. One that must be highlighted is Thunder
Canyon. We've griped in prior years about the glacially-slow moving queue for this one, and worse, our frustration watching raft after raft
depart with half the seats empty. For 2018, it seems that Silverwood has addressed this issue head-on. A dedicated employee makes their way
through the queue to segregate riders into groups of 8, well before boarding. This means that every raft - yes every single raft - that we
saw operating on both days of our visits, was completely full. Bravo to the park for making this happen. While the line was just as long
as usual, it moved much quicker. And the ride itself was as wild and wonderful as ever.
We returned to the park for Day 2 on a Sunday this year, and figured that it would be much more crowded, given the weekend. In reality, we
noticed very little difference. The water park line still stretched back to the end of the train just prior to opening, and we found the
length of the queues at both Boulder Beach and the Theme Park to be about the same. It would seem that, at least during hot August days, there
isn't a whole lot of difference in the weekday vs. weekend crowd levels, at least that we noticed this year.
During Day 2 we spent much more time in the Theme Park. One major change for 2018 is the removal of the Old Time Photo store. This was a
bit of a sentimental kick in the stomach for us, as it's one of the very first things we did at the park during our first visit back in 1993.
Admittedly, we haven't done it since, and maybe this is in part the reason why it is gone today - we never noticed any line for this attraction.
Today, they have taken the space formerly used for the photos, and expanded and completely remodeled the Toy Store. Walking in, one quickly
notices the very open and polished feel. It's a really nice shop - perhaps the best in the park, with themed props lining the walls, as well
as areas for kids to get off their feet and read, color, or relax.
Beyond the renovation and expanded merchandise offerings, this store is now home to a permanent photo op with Garfield (or Odie, depending on
the time of day). The characters are scheduled at specific times, and the air-conditioned building no doubt provides quite a bit of relief for
the actors inside those costumes, as well as the guests waiting in line. It's a win-win for everyone, and a great move by the park.
We hopped on the train for a spin around the property, as is of course required of any true fan of Silverwood. Once again, as they have done
for countless years in a row, the park continues to "plus" this attraction with new things to look at and enjoy along the route. This year,
the Sasquatch section received some new props. Totally corny; exactly as they should be.
The mid-trip bandit show continues to be fun, and a true highlight. This is one of those things that the park could easily remove to save on
the cost of the actors, but they really work to make this a fun, entertaining part of the experience. A great job by all involved.
On the return trip, the Fairy Forest has also seen several new additions in the form of various troll-looking creatures scattered throughout
the woods, a couple of which actually shoot water toward the train. This keeps riders on their toes, and adds a bit of excitement to the
final part of the journey.
The train continues to be one of the highlights of any visit to Silverwood, and this year just builds on what was already a great attraction.
We clearly remember the days when the mid-trip show was literally the only thing to see on the 30-minute trip, other than trees. It's come a
long way, and aside from what we feel is a bit too much on-ride narrative, it really is a special part of the park that everyone should
experience and re-discover every year.
As far as the thrill rides are concerned, there wasn't a whole lot of "new" to report. Timber Terror is still one wild ride, just rough enough
to thrill, but not too rough to disappoint. It's teetering that fine line very close these days, and we wonder if a re-tracking is inevitable
at some point.
Tremors is still the best coaster in the park. Unfortunately, 2018 did not see the addition of any new sections of Topper Track, and the
transition between those sections and the "untracked" sections is becoming extremely noticeable. It proves just how incredible Topper Track
can make a coaster. We'd be major advocates for Tremors getting a full re-tracking with 100% Topper Track - even if it meant the ride was down
for a period of time. Again, as the coaster ages this probably will eventually happen; the question simply boils down to "when?"
Aftershock continues to be freakishly reliable for a Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang. Haven't most of the other parks that have these either
removed them by now, or at the very least, left them Standing But Not Operating as relics of the past? Silverwood has proven year after year
that you just need the right attention and budget, and you can breathe extended life into any attraction.
And Corkscrew is still one of the best maintained old-school Arrow coasters out there. Riding it always feels special in a way, due to its
place in coaster history, even if it is a bit rough on the head. Silverwood keeps this one looking brand new, and pays it the respect it
Finally, SpinCycle (we still cringe at the name) is a huge crowd pleaser, even 5 years later. We love this ride, and yet we find it is almost
as much fun to watch as it is to experience. It's also still got a bit of bragging rites attached to it, as there are very few of these in the
world that make a full 360-degree revolution.
In the way of "new", we did observe that the Paratrooper was running both a forward and backward cycle, which obviously was a nice touch. Panic
Plunge continues to genuinely frighten us every single time (in a good way). And the Ferris Wheel unfortunately continues to run all day with
half-empty seats. (We still maintain that Silverwood NEEDS to get rid of this relic and add a new giant wheel - never mind the capacity increase;
think of the views!)
As the day started to wind down, we stopped at Lindy's for dinner. We can't say enough good things about this place. First up, it's not burgers,
hot dogs, or pizza. Second, it is table service, which is always appreciated after a long day of standing in line. Third, you can sit inside and
enjoy the A/C, if you want to beat the heat. Fourth, GARLIC FRIES. It's not the cheapest place to eat at Silverwood, but this is a theme park. And
we've always felt the value, food, and experience more than justified the price.
After a few more early evening rides (don't miss the light show on SpinCycle), we wrapped up with a stop at the Silverwood Creamery. As far as we are
concerned, this is still the 9th Wonder of the World, where less than $5 buys you a "single scoop" cone which is literally 5 scoops and up to 3
different flavors. (The "Kids Cone" is a double scoop.) Why anyone would ever choose Dippin' Dots over this place is beyond us. We dread the
day when inevitably either the prices will rise and/or the portion size will decrease. In the meantime, we hit this place up every evening and
will enjoy it for as long as it exists. "They gave me way too much ice cream!" said no one, ever.
As the sun set, we left Silverwood as we usually do: full, happy, and contemplating our next visit. We can't help but think that the odds of
2019 holding something new for the Theme Park are relatively high (the last major addition was SpinCycle in 2013). But even without a new
headliner, the park feels far from stale. Credit the management and staff, who keep the place looking polished and pretty year after year. No
doubt the future will hold even more welcome additions and surprises. Whatever those turn out to be, Roller Coaster Alley will be there to keep
you updated every step of the way!
Have you been to the park this year? What did you think of the changes? Do you agree or disagree with our take on the new rafts on Ricochet and Avalanche?
Let us know what you thought of this trip report, and what topics you'd like to see us cover in the future!