Marineland Canada is an odd hybrid that mashes together shows and attractions featuring sea creatures, zoo exhibits with land animals, and amusement park rides. Opened in the early 1960s, the park has an old-school, slightly funky vibe.
Unlike most theme parks, which shoehorn its features into a tight footprint, Marineland has plenty of undeveloped land and open space. Instead of the constant cacophony of screaming riders and a hyper-stimulating environment, there are lots of picnic areas and plenty of shade to find some respite.
Whereas the SeaWorld parks give its attractions a relatively sophisticated, multimedia sheen, Marineland uses more of a low-tech approach. The King Waldorf Stadium show, the park's feature presentation, offers performing sea lions, walruses, and dolphins along with some of the world's lamest jokes. You might suspect that smartphone-toting, computer-savvy, video game-addicted kids would quickly tire of the retro shtick. You'd be wrong. They seemed to love every minute of it.
Arctic Cove, which features beluga whales, and Friendship Cove, which features killer whales, offer guests the chance to get up close and view the majestic animals. Some of Marineland's older facilities, such as the aquarium dome, appear to be long overdue for some TLC.
The amusement park attractions, some of which are loosely themed to the animal and sea life exhibits, include the usual collection of spin-and-spews, such as the Wave Swinger and a Teacups ride. The park's enormous Sky Screamer tower ride is quite thrilling and a real hoot. The park uses some deceptive advertising to claim that at 450 feet, it is the world's highest triple tower ride. The tower is actually 320 feet tall (which is quite high, but there are taller drop rides such as Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa), but is perched on a 130-foot hill.
More deceptive advertising: Marineland declares that its Dragon Mountain looping coaster is the world's largest steel roller coaster. Hang on a sec. Since it's nowhere near the tallest, doesn't have the longest track, nor offers the longest ride duration, I have no idea what basis the park uses to make the claim. The coaster does appear to have one dubious distinction: the world's slowest line. The day I visited, only one of the ride's three trains was in use, the ride operators were taking their sweet time loading and unloading the ride, and they kept sending the train out with three or four empty seats.
Marineland has Courted Controversy
The park has had its share of controversy. It has had charges of animal cruelty leveled against it by animal welfare agencies. Former employees have gone public with allegations of animal abuse. As one of the few places in the world that maintains killer whales in captivity, animal activists have spoken out against the park.
Admission includes all shows and rides. Discounted prices are available for children under 10. Children 4 and under are free. Parking is free. Discount coupons are widely available in brochures, tourist directories, and a number of other locations throughout Niagara Falls. The park offers a fun card season pass for a few dollars above the cost of a one-day ticket. For an additional fee, guests can purchase tickets to feed and touch the beluga whales.
Location, Phone, and Directions
Niagara Falls, Ontario. The address is 8375 Stanley Avenue.
From Toronto/Hamilton: Follow QEW Niagara and QEW Fort Erie to the McLeod Road exit. At the end of the McLeod Road exit ramp, turn left and follow the "Marineland" signs.
From the Rainbow Bridge: Follow Hwy. 420 to Stanley Avenue. Turn left at the traffic lights and continue to the end. Turn left at traffic lights and follow the "Marineland" signs.
From the Peace Bridge: Follow QEW Niagara to McLeod Road Exit and turn right. Follow the "Marineland" signs.