La Ronde is Montreal's chief, if only, amusement park on city soil, a Six Flags property since the theme park chain purchased the former Expo '67 attraction from city hall in 2001. With over 40 attractions to its name, La Ronde is the province of Quebec's largest amusement park and the second biggest across Canada, trailing behind Vaughn, Ontario's Wonderland located just north of Toronto.
In 2017, La Ronde is open from May 20 through October 29, 2017. In 2018, La Ronde is open May 19 through October 28, 2017 (TBC).
La Ronde's Claim to Fame?
In my personal opinion, the Montreal International Fireworks Competition is as world class as La Ronde gets. But if you're talking thrill rides, one distinction can be made between the Montreal amusement park and Six Flags' other commercial properties.
Le Monstre, aka The Monster, is a classic two-track wooden roller coaster that, since its 1985 debut, remains the tallest of its kind in the world according to Six Flags. Moving at speeds of up to 96 kilometres an hour (60 mph), drops dip as low as 40 metres (131 feet).
The loopless Le Monstre may not possess the craziest statistics in the coaster world. But what wood loses in terms of torque -metal frames handle loops better- is more than made up with speed coupled with the overall jumpy feel of the ride, a sweat-inducing rickety sway you just don't get with steel. At times, Le Monstre almost gives you the impression you might fall off the track.
My colleague Arthur Levine, About.com's longtime theme park expert, has a soft spot for the Goliath, a steel hypercoaster proposing a g-force four times that of gravity. That's more g-force than that experienced by astronauts on a space shuttle rocket launch.
To quote Levine: "the 175-foot tall, 68 mph-reaching Goliath is so large that riders are actually propelled outside the park..." There's also the Vampire, your standard 360-degree-looped Six Flags suspended roller coaster reaching 81 kilometres per hour (50 mph) while dangling passenger feet whip in the whirlwind.
New in 2018
La Ronde proposes three new family rides in 2018. More info will be revealed as we head into the new year.
New in 2017: Titan
Reaching speeds of up to 112 kilometres per hour (70mph), Titan is a steel pendulum that swings up to 45 metres high (148 feet) in the air. The experience is supposed to give guests a feeling of weightlessness.
New in 2016: Virtual Reality Roller Coaster Experience
The first of its kind in Canada, La Ronde offered a brand new experience starting May 21, 2016: the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster. The Six Flags property wasn't premiering a brand new coaster. But what it introduced was the chance for guests to wear wireless VR headsets while riding the Goliath where "riders will be transported to a futuristic battle to save planet earth from an alien invasion. They are the co-pilots in their own fighter jets as they strap in for air-to-air combat."
So in essence, you're riding a steel hypercoaster exerting more g-force than a space rocket launch and destroying a mothership intent on invading Earth at the same time. Access to the virtual reality experience in included in La Ronde door admission.
Note that the alien invasion theme switched to a demons theme in late August 2016.
Also New in 2016: Vampire Backwards
If the Vampire's 360-degree loops already freak you out enough as it is, wait until you try La Ronde premiers Vampire Backwards, an opportunity to try the suspended roller coaster in reverse, starting with a 32-metre climb and then it's all backwards inversions from there at 81 kilometres an hour (50 mph).
La Ronde Family Attractions
At least half of La Ronde's rides are kid- and family-friendly, from classic go-karts and bumper cars to a revolving hot air balloon and... the Minirail. Coincidentally, one of my earliest, fondest childhood memories was riding it, the only remaining section of Expo '67's original monorail which back in the day spanned all of Parc Jean-Drapeau.
From Fright Fest to Maison Rouge
Six Flags across the theme park chain feature Fright Fest, an annual Halloween house of horrors of sorts that recurs every October.
But in 2015, La Ronde took terror a step further, introducing Maison Rouge (aka The Red House), a full-time attraction dubbed the "Labyrinth of Terror." Expect clowns. Note that the maze does have a height restriction (1.57 meters or 54 inches). It's also not recommended for children under 13 years old.
La Ronde: Admission
Regular admission $66.99, seniors ages 60 and over $49.99, kids with a height below 1.37 metres (54 inches) $49.99, free for ages 2 and under. Note that service charges apply and that prices are subject to change without notice. Season passes available.
Note that parking at La Ronde is $27 on a regular day and $30 during the Montreal International Fireworks Competition.
La Ronde: Operating Hours
La Ronde is generally open mid-May through the first weekend of November. In 2017, La Ronde runs May 20 to October 28, 2017. Hours vary significantly by day and month. Consult La Ronde's schedule directly for specific opening hours indicated by date.
La Ronde: Contact Information
22 Chemin Macdonald, Île Sainte-Hélène (Montreal), QC H3C 6A3
Tel: (514) 397-2000
Getting there: Parc Jean-Drapeau Metro