My First (And So Far Only) US Theme Park
Back in 2009 I was spending six weeks exploring the Pacific North West of the United States with my then girlfriend. While our trips didn’t take us to iconic US landmarks such as Times Square, Washington DC, or Disney World – I was determined to hit up at least one theme park during my time in the country.
After all, what is more quintessentially American than a day at a theme park wolfing down unhealthy food and screaming yourself hoarse on roller coasters?
Following on from my recent review of Everland in South Korea, here are my thoughts on Silverwood theme park in sleepy Athol, Idaho.
All photos by Fallon Fehringer.
Idaho is an often overlooked corner of an often overlooked portion of the United States. Aside from a visit to Forks by Twilight nerds and a possible stop-off in Seattle to worship at the shrine of grunge or Starbucks, people tend to leave the idyllic north-west out of their travel plans when heading to the States.
So I was a tad surprised to find a theme park in Idaho, let alone in the sleepy north where the population isn’t quite as dense as you’d find in the south near Boise or Pocatello. In fact, Silverwood lies in a tiny little town that shares the same name as my grandfather – Athol.
It’s a short drive from beautiful Coeur D’Alene and about thirty minutes from Spokane in Washington State, which is the nearest city of any real size.
Prices for Silverwood hover around the $40 mark, with discounts available for people having the foresight to book online.
In true theme park fashion, Silverwood boasts a number of themed zones including Coaster Alley, Country Carnival, and Boulder Beach. I was unable to experience Boulder Beach during my visit on account of it being just above freezing.
Want to know more? Check out Silverwood’s website.
When you’ve got an area in your park named ‘Coaster Alley’, it’s a safe assumption that you’re a park that caters to the thrill-seeking demographic. Despite being a relatively small park, Silverwood sports a pretty awesome selection of four coasters – two wooden and two steel.
Of the four roller-coasters on offer when I visited on a chill October afternoon, three of them were in action for me to try. Much to my dismay the ominous looking Aftershock (a giant inverted boomerang style coaster) was closed due to the high winds. Sad face.
All told the park has a respectable five thrill rides:
- Tremors – A fun wooden coaster featuring four tunnels, including one through the gift shop.
- Timber Terror – A wooden coaster that, since 2010, has run backwards. Epic.
- Aftershock – The aforementioned inverted boomerang.
- Corkscrew – A traditional ‘classic’ coaster. It boasts the record of being the world’s first steel coaster and the world’s first to take people upside down twice. Relocated from Knott’s Berry Farm in California.
- Panic Plunge – A 147 foot drop much like Dream World’s much larger Giant Drop.
While there may not be a huge selection of rides for thrill-seekers, four roller-coasters certainly can’t be sneezed at. It’s a pretty intimidating selection as well.
Thrill Factor: 7/10
There are a lot of rides at Silverwood that aim at the family demographic. A lot.
- Thunder Canyon – Classic river rapid ride. Closed when I visited.
- Log Flume – Classic log flume with an inspired name.
- Bumper Boats – Dodgem cars in the water. Lots of fun.
- Sky Diver – Similar to the Scuba Diver at Dream World. Lots of fun.
- Paratrooper – Classic fairground attraction.
- Ferris Wheel – Romantic!
That only covers a few of them. All told there are twelve rides in Country Carnival as well as the attached water-park (Boulder Beach) with eight separate attractions ranging from water slides to outdoor play areas to the ubiquitous wave pool.
The park also plays host to a variety of shows throughout the year (right now there is an illusion show, for example) as well as a Wild West themed train ride. I’m told Garfield and Odie also roam the park from time to time, although I missed that.
With a nice, accessible layout that isn’t too sprawling – Silverwood is an easy park to explore. That’s a big plus.
Family Factor: 7.5/10
On the day of my visit I was doggedly determined to ride every (open) ride, so I have a little more hands on experience with the kids rides than I probably should.
The girl tiredly manning the Flying Elephants ride was most amused at my decision to ride solo. I couldn’t convince the girlfriend to tag along no matter how vehemently I swore the ride would be awesome.
And it was.
Kids rides at Silverwood include:
- Frog Hopper – A miniature version of the Panic Plunge.
- Tiny Toot Roller Coaster – A cute little coaster for the kids.
- Flying Elephants – Spin round and round and choose whether to go up or down.
- Red Baron – As above, but with biplanes.
- Kiddie Wheel – A tiny Ferris wheel. Very cute.
There are a handful of others as well. All told the park boasts an impressive selection of kid specific or kid friendly rides. Much moreso than Everland or Dream World.
Kid Factor: 6.5/10
It’s hard to accurately judge a park’s atmosphere when you visit it near abandoned on a dreary Fall afternoon when a great chunk of its rides are out of action.
Silverwood has a quaint feel to it despite being quite an impressive park. There’s a heavy focus on a theme that I’d call Wild West but which locals would probably consider colonial.
I don’t know how crowded Silverwood might get in the busy season, but it was pleasantly quiet for my visit. No queues!
Atmosphere Rating: 6/10
Being on a tight budget meant we ate a big meal before heading to the park and then went home to cook dinner – but I did find an excuse to sneak in Sno Cone despite the bitter cold.
For the most part the park offers the usual theme park cuisine. Burgers, pizza slices, hot dogs, soda, and even Mexican food are on tap. There’s also traditional sarsaparilla to be had at the High Moon Saloon as well as the sit down restaurant, Lindy’s, which offers classic diner food.
Wouldn’t mind a visit there now actually. This diet is killing me.
A good selection available at the US’s (comparably) low rate.
Food Rating: 7/10
I’m sure I’d be screaming out Aftershock’s name if I’d had the opportunity to ride it, but the winds ensured that wouldn’t be happening. So the winner by default would have to go to Tremors.
Do I have a thing for wooden coasters? Tremors joins Everland’s T-Express in the best rides column to make wooden coasters 2 for 2.
Honorable mention to the Flying Elephants. Man, they rocked my world.
Silverwood isn’t likely to measure up against a lot of parks in the United States. In the country where Disney and Six Flags have a monopoly on the theme park business and names like Cedar Point and Busch Gardens stand out as the best of the best, Silverwood doesn’t really leap immediately to mind.
But it’s a park with a foursome of roller-coasters and plenty of other rides in an area of the country (the Idaho/Montana/Washington State region) that doesn’t exactly come bursting at the seams with fun days out for the family. And I say that with the greatest of love for the region.
If for whatever reason your travels find you in northern Idaho (and count yourself lucky if they do), Silverwood isn’t a bad way to spend the day. And maybe all of the rides will be open when you visit…