Located in Bristol, Connecticut, about a 40-minute drive from Hartford’s  Bradley International Airport, Lake Compounce is a 332-acre theme park and water park featuring more than 40 rides and attractions.  It’s also the home of Boulder Dash, a “mountain coaster” consistently ranked among the top ten wooden coasters in the USA and 2013 Golden Ticket award winner for #1 wooden coaster.   This gem of a coaster is reason enough to make the trip.

The park is owned by Palace Entertainment, which owns half a dozen theme parks including Pittsburgh’s Kennywood, and a large number of water parks.   Opened in 1846, it’s the oldest and longest-running theme park in the country.

In a scenic setting, the park makes the most of its mountainous terrain and this is evident with Boulder Dash.  One of the first things you see upon entering the park is the vintage wooden coaster Wildcat, built in 1927 and after renovations still going strong.   There are so many other rides and attractions suitable for families and people of all ages that no-one is in danger of running out of things to do or see. Among the rides not previously mentioned are Thunder Rapids, Revolution (a spinning disk sending riders backwards and forwards to the top of each end of a steel track), drop tower and the obligatory Ferris wheel, to name just a few. Also of interest is a lakeside water park featuring a number of attractions including but not limited to slides, rafts and a wave pool.

Staff at the park is friendly and the ride ops are superb.   On Boulder Dash, they are welcoming to the extent of asking for a round of applause for first-time riders and birthday celebrants.   The price of admission is lower than that at most parks – $38.99 as of 2013 – with seniors (60+) receiving a substantial discount ($19.99).  The cost of regular parking is also a bargain at $8.00, in sharp contrast to the $20.00 charged by a nearby theme park in Massachusetts.  This is one of the advantages of visiting a theme park that’s somewhat off the beaten path and not owned by one of the two largest chains.

Dining options are plentiful although not exceptional, more or less what you would expect to get at a theme park.   However, the Potato Patch deserves a mention for serving fresh-cut fries and baked potatoes.  One of the amenities provided by Lake Compounce is the drink stations, scattered through the park, where guests can get free unlimited soft drinks. This is one of only two theme parks the author has visited that offer free soda and on a hot, humid day it’s a real blessing!

With great landscaping, congenial staff, free refreshments and Boulder Dash, what more could one ask for?  Lake Compounce is a real treat.  5 out of 5 stars.