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Lake Compounce
Mixing nostalgia with contemporary thrills
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• Kennywood Parks
 
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In brief

One of the most charming traditional amusement parks in the nation, Lake Compounce is a joy. Instead of the high-energy hustle found at larger parks, the Lake has a more laid-back, agreeable rhythm -- which harkens back to its 19th-century origins. Beyond the nostalgia and beautiful surroundings however, Lake Compounce has a great assortment of unique rides, including the truly world-class Boulder Dash wood coaster.

  • Address: Bristol (in the center of the state, near Hartford), CT
  • Phone: 860-583-3300
  • Highlights: Boulder Dash wood coaster, gondola Skyride, Ghost Hunt dark ride, Thunder Rapids raft ride
  • Dining: Nothing special, with one major exception -- awesome fries, the same Potato Patch fresh-cut fries found at Kennywood

Park Overview

The oldest continuously operating amusement park in the U.S., central Connecticut's Lake Compounce began in1846 as a picnic grove. Like many vintage parks, it had fallen on hard times and was in danger of closing for good in the mid-1990s. The park caught the brass ring in 1997 however, when the folks from Kennywood came to its rescue with huge infusions of cash and bold expansion plans.

Now the transformed park sparkles with new rides, new legions of fans and a new lease on life. There is a palpable sense of nostalgia that the new owners take care to preserve but Lake Compounce is also very much in tune with contemporary park sensibilities.

Wild terrain

The park is in synch with its lovely setting and loaded with charm. It features many unique rides tied to its lake and the mountain that surrounds three sides of the park. The Mark Twain sternwheeler plies the lake while a 1911 electric trolley shuttles guests aside the lake to the base of Southington Mountain. There, guests can board the Skyride's gondola cars for a leisurely ride over 700 feet up to the summit of the mountain for breathtaking views of the park and the surrounding Connecticut Valley. The Thunder Rapids river raft ride also incorporates the park's beautiful natural surroundings.

Boulder Dash, introduced in 2000, is the first coaster to be built on the side of a mountain. Besides its unusual location, BD doesn't look like a typical coaster. Instead of a mass of lumber rising well off the ground, the ride uses the mountain as its base and follows its wild topography. Dubbed a ''terrain'' coaster, the 60 mph speeds it delivers seem all the more impressive as riders whiz past trees and ground-level boulders. It uses the mountain's rock face as thrill elements. At some points, it looks like you're diving right at boulders then, bam! You skirt around them at the last second.

Mountain air (time)

Also known as an ''out-and-back'' coaster, BD makes a half-mile circuit around the perimeter of the park before turning back. Call it voodoo but the ride never lets up and actually seems to pick up speed on the return trip. Watch out for the "trick-track" toward the end of the ride. This intentional disruption in the track abruptly sends the car trains flying first one way, then the other. Loaded with airtime, BD is nonetheless rock-solid smooth and a heck of a lot of fun.

Other coasters include the Zoomerang, an off-the-shelf, boomerang shuttle ride and Wildcat, a vintage 1927 wooden coaster. The park¹s Ghost Hunt is a clever, interactive dark ride. Using laser guns, guests shoot targets to score points and trigger special effects.

Although it is quite small, Lake Compounce also features a water park. Instead of the typical palm trees, Splash Harbor's signature lighthouse is more attuned to New England. For an interesting twist, two of the water park's slides empty into the lake. Guests can also lounge on a sandy beach and swim in the lake.

Photo: (C) Lake Compounce 2001

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