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A recent stroll through Ontario Place

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Ontario Place.....a government owned amusement park shut its doors out of the blue in February 2012. Since then, what to do with the land it sits on has been up for debate but it's been currently decided on a regular public park of sorts will be on the islands that make up Ontario Place. A portion of this park is open, and learning that the iconic Cinesphere (more on that later) was operating again, and they were playing 2001 A Space Odyssey in the world's first IMAX theatre, well it was a given that I had to see what became of Ontario Place. Below is a map of it's final years as an amusement park:




Ontario Place to give a brief history lesson, as I understand was not intended to become an amusement park. The islands were landfilled in order to cheapen the cost of the centerpiece, the five "pods" which float over the water, these pods contained exhibits apparently regarding the history of Ontario. A few years later, a giant play area for kids called the Children's Village opened up on the east island, which was followed by a water park, and I guess the rest was history. But understand the difference, Ontario Place's attraction for the most part appeared to be centered around DOING rather than simply riding.

While much of the East Island has been redone with the park (the map is south-up, so the left side of the map is the east island) the west island appears to be in the same state as it was when they closed the doors.

The heart of the West Island was three main attractions:

The Wilderness Adventure Ride - this was a log flume ride which was themed after Northern Ontario, indeed there was an indoor lift hill partway through the ride with animatronics similar to the final lift hill of Adventure Express at Kings Island

Mega Maze - a bunch of silos on the outside were used in this unique attraction as a collection of mazes you walked through, unlike a Halloween Haunt maze, this was an actual maze per se, the guest was given a plastic card to find a dozen or so readers hidden throughout the mazes. This attraction closed a few years before Ontario Place did, in 2009

Motion Ride - While I would call this "Sea Trek", the Sea Trek ride only existed in the 1990s, and I'm going to be brutally honest, the theming of this ride for a generic attraction was very good. The only other ride that had similar theming in my opinion was Tomb Raider at Kings Island. Very little exists on the internet about this ride, but I can find a Hamilton, ON news story speaking about this ride when it opened:

I believe they changed the ride in the 2000s a few times, but I never rode it then. So it's unclear if the theming was as strong for the subsequent motion rides.

Here's the current state of Adventure Wilderness Ride.....no water to be found at all of course:


The ride's station is below, now a bunch of picnic tables :(


This was the beginning of the ride upon leaving the station:



Below were one of the walkways that connected the megamaze silos together, back in the day these were covered over, and it never felt like you went outside.



I never did get to explore the East Island, but even seeing the state of the water slides a few years ago is sad stuff.


The slides have been removed, but that tower in the background still stands for now.


As for the Cinesphere.....this it still seems to look okay, and the presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey was awesome! The Cinesphere was the world's first IMAX theater.


And of course, the entrance is starting to look fairly run down now, but what can you do.



And finally....the pods themselves, they look much the same as I always remember on the outside. However, they have not been used on the inside since the late 90s except for the two in the foreground, they were used for potential private events. Back in the early to mid 90s, the other pods had great attractions in them, like a laser show, the Nintendo Power Pod which was full of SNES games that were free to play, in 1996, the N64 was playable before it's official release in September of that year. I never experienced that but it's what I've heard. Next door to the Nintendo Power Pod, was Legoland which was inside the pod next door. Somehow, these attractions withered away, I personally think they were great attractions. The Children's Village which arguably started the whole direction of amusement in the first place was torn down in 2002 and replaced by carnie rides. This is a view of the pods.



While many have a lukewarm opinion of Ontario Place, and I was one that really didn't care in 2012. It's still kind of sad how this all turned out. It's possible the future of Ontario Place may be up for debate again, like putting a giant ferris wheel on the site. But who knows, for those who actually experienced the place as a kid in the 80s or 90s, it was a decent place.

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Ontario Place was/is adjacent to downtown Toronto, and well if you were to drive straight north without backtracking west on the QEW to reach the 427 to eventually get to the 401, it's a distance of around 27 km or 17 miles.

Ontario Place's Marina, as well as the large concert venue, the Molson Amphitheatre (now the Budweiser Stage), and Atlantis pavilions (which used two of the pods at the time) survived the 2012 closure. The cinesphere closed in 2012.

The Molson Amphitheatre ended up "stealing" the big shows from Kingswood in Canada's Wonderland in the mid 1990s. Similarly to how Riverbend did the same thing with the Timberwolf Amphitheater.

Atlantis has now completely shutdown, it was used for private events I do believe.

The Cinesphere CLOSED in 2012, but it reopened as of November 2017 with constant showtimes. During the older days of the CNE, the IMAX documentaries were usually only played in the Cinesphere and not "regular" movies. The Ontario Place grounds are completely free to walk around, although I do believe much of the East Island looks different now.


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I remember going there in 1996 because it was free to enter during the CNE. Getting a chance to play N64 early was probably my favorite part of that day because of how hyped I was for the console to be released. I still remember playing Mario 64 for the first time and seeing Mario run around in 3D was amazing. I was also talking to one of the Nintendo workers there about how excited I was for the system. They ended up giving me a Donkey Kong Country VHS tape and a N64 t-shirt that I still have.

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I never went to Ontario Place much, I lived in Brampton and rarely went downtown. In fact, I can count on one hand how many times I went there. I went once in 1995, then again in 1999, and as a Grade 8 Graduation Trip in 2000. Other than CNE crossovers I did in the late 2000s to watch the airshow from atop of the pods, I never went there since. But on those times I crossed over from the CNE, the place was really starting to look neglected and run down.

The CNE is the Canadian National Exhibition, it's kind of like a large state fair which happens in Exhbition Place, the exhibition grounds just on the other side of Lake Shore Blvd. The CNE occurs from about the middle to August to Labor Day, the last 3 days of the CNE, an airshow is held, and it was ideal to watch the airshow from Ontario Place. Admission to either CNE or Ontario Place at that time allowed for you to crossover to the other place for free.


As for the Nintendo Power Pod.....very little information on the internet exists about it, but someone else beside me can prove its existence. The Lego Pod existed in 1995, however the Lego area moved to a different spot outside the pods in 1999.

This is a video of the Wilderness Adventure Ride in its better days, there's many videos on YouTube of it at least:


As for the children's village.....perhaps the most memorable thing was the punching bag forest.




But perhaps the most embarrassing story if you ask me was the water slides which no one ever got to ride. The waterslide in the front was to be known as Topsy Turvy, built in the 2011 offseason before the sudden closure in 2012.


At least the good news was this ride was relocated to Canada's Wonderland's Splash Works, where the ride is now known as Typhoon. For what it's worth, Ontario Place was trying to improve, but someone upstairs ordered the doors shut. I remember reading an article saying that the justification figures used to close Ontario Place were from a notoriously bad year and that attendance was starting to improve in the final years.

Here's the article if anyone's interested.


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