Summer in the City
I grew up as an adrenaline junkie. My dad, despite being an emergency doctor who should probably know better, loves doing dangerous stunts on snowboards and surfboards, blowing things up with fireworks, and, of course, riding epic roller coasters. Oregon doesn’t have many options for the latter, but we made do by blasting off on the crazy slingshot ride at the state fair every summer and otherwise exposing ourselves to significant potential for harm.
My best memories with him include the day we spent at Great America in California on every roller coaster we could find, riding adrenaline highs through heat and long lines. So when I found out there’s was new roller coaster at Oaks Park, I was on it.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Oaks Park, the over 100-year-old amusement park off the Willamette, has finally given me the ideal roller coaster experience: the dramatically named “Adrenaline Peak” coaster is short but sweet, thrilling but not too terrifying, and best of all, its lines only last a few minutes. The one thing better than a roller coaster is a roller coaster with short lines.
That quickness is probably due to the boarding process: Adrenaline Peak has only eight seats, and while one set of people is blasting off at 45 miles per hour, the next set is already loading—and doing it fast. The ride can be run up to 75 times per hour, according to Oaks Park Marketing and Events Director Emily MacKay, who added that the ride can handle 600 people per hour at peak performance. If I’m any indication, though, a lot of those people are repeat riders; I just kept getting back in line.
Adrenaline Peak lasts about a minute, and a lot of that is a nerve-racking, slow climb 72 feet into the air. The ride up to that peak gives you a great view of the rest of the park, provided you can enjoy it during a horrifying pause when you’ll instantly begin to regret every decision that led you to this point. But then you can’t think anymore, because you’re falling into a mind-bending past-vertical drop.
That first drop immediately throws you into a full loop (97 degrees!) followed by two twists that put you upside down. (Hold onto your glasses.) The whole thing is just over 1000 feet long and is over entirely too quickly.
You’re not allowed to put your hands up in the air or out to the sides, presumably because you would lose them, but it’s a lot of fun to try and hold them out in front of you like Superman, fighting the G-forces to keep them upright. Also fun: screaming ’til your voice stops working or laughing maniacally.
If you’re typically wary of roller coasters, this one might be perfect for you: I went eight times in one day and didn’t feel even slightly nauseated—maybe the shortness of the Adrenaline Peak leaves your stomach unable to interpret what’s happening before it’s over. But if you’re a real scaredy cat, maybe go on a cooler day: “The duration of roller coasters can change based on the weather,” McKay advises, “so if it’s a hot, sunny day they run faster and if it’s a cold, rainy day it runs slower.”
And folks have been coming out to do that since the ride opened in March—MacKay says Oaks Park has seen increased attendance even on rainy spring days thanks to the ride.
I don’t expect much of an amusement park in Oregon—ours just don’t compare to other parts of the country—but Oaks Park has a lot of charm. There’s a great little walkway along the river where families set up their barbecues, so it’s easy to get away from the carnival chaos and cool off under some shady trees. And no matter where you are, the homespun feel of the place has the ability to evoke nostalgia even if you’ve never been before.
That’s helped by the fact that Oaks Park has rides from a bunch of different eras, from a classic roller skating rink that was built in 1905 when the park first opened to Jetsons-inspired bumper cars to a carousel that’s been around since 1911. Adrenaline Peak is just the latest ride, but I hope it—and Oaks Park—lasts forever.