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Darien Lake Theme Park

This roller coaster looks tame compared to the Mind Eraser, a new 8 million dollar ride for '97.

Viper passengers experience a 360-degree loop, double corkscrew and boomerang curve at speeds up to 50 mph.

by Georgia Mullen, GC Magazine Editor

I hate roller coasters. Why anyone with more than Jello for brains would pay real money to dive from painful heights, dash sideways and flip upside down at velocity challenging the Shuttle takeoff leaves me in the dark.

Take Darien Lake Theme Park's latest world class roller coaster-Nightmare at Phantom Cave, New York's first indoor supercoaster. The name itself is a warning. Do I want to soar, plunge, wind, wheel and veer at 60 mph in complete darkness through a monstrous 8-story, 1,772 foot-long mysterious cave packed with unsuspected surprises?

I don't understand why Darien Lake brags about these coasters. So the all-wood Predator is rated 9th in the world, and its 12 treacherous drops have earned it international acclaim. Do I want to hang 95 feet in the air, plummet 87 feet, hurtle along at more than 50 mph, and be squished by 2.7 maximum Gs?

Then, there's the grandaddy of Darien Lake roller coasters, The Viper. How friendly. This infamous supercoaster was the first in the world to turn riders upside down five times. Yippee. Beginning with a speedy four-second, 75-foot drop, each passenger experiences a 360-degree loop, double corkscrew and boomerang curve at speeds up to 50 mph. Like, you'll get me up there.

Here's another crazy ride that thinks it can trick me with a cozy name: The Skycoaster. What are the chances of me being strapped into a safety harness, hoisted up a 180-foot tall tower and released-to free fall back to earth at 70 mph? Do I have a death wish?

Someone told me Darien Lake has been reinvented. "If you haven't been there recently, you haven't been there at all." Besides that Nightmare thing, there's Hook's Lagoon, a 40,000 sq. ft. water adventure area anchored by an immense multi-story treehouse fitted with hundreds of interactive aquatic family activities. A 1,000 gallon barrel atop the treehouse tips and drenches guests every five minutes. How refreshing.

Popeye's Seaport, for younger adventurers, features 11 rides, shows and attractions. But will it make me want to eat canned spinach?
Darien Lake Performing Arts Center accommodates 20,000 guests and features national recording artists like the Dave Matthews Band, Chicago, the Allman Brothers and Sting.

Darien Lake is located between Buffalo and Rochester. Its camping resort is the fifth largest in the country, offering more than 2,000 sites, plus RV rentals. After being scared out of your skin, you won't have far to flop.

Oh, I forgot to mention Barracuda Bay, the liquid-to-the-limit water park sporting 15 wet and wild rides and slides-and my personal favorite, the carousel.

If you go: Darien Lake Theme Park and Camping Resort. Over 100 rides, shows & attractions. 716-599-4668. Take NYS I-90 to Exit 48A, then south on Route 77. Open late May to early September. $17.99, all-day admission; $12.99, children under 48 inches tall; group rates; season passes. Accommodations, 716-599-2211.

GC Editor Georgia Mullen has ridden one roller coaster in her life. So, how would she know?

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