Nostalgic fun awaits you at Canobie Lake Park, a classic amusement park in New Hampshire that's kept up with the times!

Memories of Canobie Lake Park

If you grew up in New Hampshire, you had at least one field trip to Canobie Lake Park, a classic amusement park in Salem. You rode the Yankee Cannonball, and possibly the Turkish Twist—the latter still makes you dizzy just thinking about it. Your parents may have taken you there, too, and you have memories of riding the flume ride with your dad.

A ton of nostalgic fun

You may have even gone to Canobie Lake Park at night with your friends, as I did in college. And then, unless you had kids of your own, you probably never went there again. At least, I didn’t, until very recently, when I visited the Canobie Lake Park as a solo traveler. I’m here to tell you that Canobie Lake Park is a ton of nostalgic fun!

This post gives you everything you need for a wonderful visit to Canobie Lake Park and shares my adventure there.

Canobie Lake Park

Canobie Lake Park—a classic amusement park with new rides

Open since 1902, when it started as a trolley park to bring visitors to the lake, Canobie Lake Park has provided boundless entertainment for over 100 years. Here you’ll find classic rides, like the aforementioned Yankee Cannonball and an old-fashioned Log Flume, as well as the terror-inducing Untamed Rollercoaster and other thrill rides you’d expect at larger amusement parks.

Modern touches

I remembered Canobie Lake Park being a bit hokey, especially when compared to the larger Six Flags in Springfield, Massachusetts. However, in the years since my college visits in the 1990s, Canobie Lake Park has caught up with the times. In addition to the new rides, they accept credit cards throughout the park, and you can get a map on your phone. Canobie Lake Park’s website has detailed ride descriptions, so you know what to expect. You can also learn if rides are temporarily shut down for repairs.

Delightfully, the modern additions have not detracted from the sparklingly clean Canobie Lake Park old-fashioned charms. The Olde Canobie Lake Village still exists with its Western theme, and the rides I remember best from childhood remain.

About Canobie Lake Park

My first thrill ride

As a kid, I adored thrill rides. The scarier, the better. Family legend has it that my parents took me on an indoor scrambler when I was three (like the Psychodrome ride at Canobie Lake, but at a different amusement park). Not only was the scrambler a more intense ride than my parents expected, but the ride had flashing lights and intense music. I sat with my dad, and my mom was in another seat, and she said that she was screaming the whole time for the ride to stop, because “SAAAAARRRRRRAAAAA!”

Well, Dear Reader, as the story goes, my mom rushed over to me, and I hopped down and screamed, “THAT WAS FUN! CAN WE DO IT AGAIN?”

I rode this wild ride a lot as a kid

I loved thrill rides as a kid

Throughout my childhood, I hopped aboard any scary ride I could ride, and the only time I ever got scared was the time that I fudged my height a little bit to get on an upside-down ride, and, as a result, could not reach the handlebars. Otherwise, no problem. I rode the thrill rides like the Yankee Cannonball and the Turkish Twist at Canobie Lake Park every time I went in the 1980s and 1990s, and I always had a great time.

And then time passed

Time passes, however, and the last time I even remotely thought about riding a roller coaster was at the Prater in Vienna when I rode the Wiener Risenrad (I know, it sounds funny in English, doesn’t it?) Ferris wheel to bust my jetlag. Alas, the skies opened up and it began to pour, but I can tell you that my entire being shouted “NOPE!” when I saw this one ride whipping people around high above the park. Methinks that age may have added a bit of a wish for self-preservation.

The Yankee Cannonball 's wooden frame

Can I still ride roller coasters?

I found myself wondering if I still had it in me when pulling together my Summer Bucket List, so I added “ride a roller coaster” to my list of summer fun. We had a bit of a strange summer, weatherwise, so it took me until the last weekend of summer to make my way to Canobie Lake Park to test my mettle.

Arriving at Canobie Lake Park

The road leading to Canobie Lake Park would have you guessing if you’d gone the right way, if not for the cars you’re following and the signage. You drive straight through a residential neighborhood to get to the park on the shores of Canobie Lake. If you got there in the afternoon, like I did, you will find yourself parking on the outer edges of it. It was fine, though. I’d purchased my ticket online, so I wasn’t worried about getting in.

Tip!

Only take what you need in the park and take advantage of the lockers to store anything that might go flying when riding the rides

Olde Canobie Village

Belongings stashed, I headed toward Olde Canobie Village. As name implies, this is one of the oldest areas in the park. It has a bit of a western theme and has old-fashioned arcade games, in addition to some of the tamer rides in the park.

The first ride I rode at Canobie Lake Park

The Pirate

For my first ride, I hopped on the Pirate, one of those rides that swings you back and forth. I always loved these, and I thought that it would be a good first test. I sat as far back as I could, wanting the full experience. Wheeee! I even raised my arms . . . a bit . . . as we reached the full height, looking straight down. Good sign.

Tip!

If you’re going on rides, don't eat until after you've finished going on rides

Getting on the Flume

Log Flume

Next, I stood in a long line to ride the Log Flume, the smaller of two flume rides at Canobie Lake Park (the big one, the Boston Tea Party,  looks really fun, but you get absolutely soaked, and, after seeing a few people get off the ride, opted to skip it). The ride is set up like an old logging building, and it looks like the 1800s in there. While signs state that singles and groups of two would be paired with others, the attendant put me in a log (well, fiberglass) boat by myself.

It starts out gently enough

The ride starts like a little river, and you bounce about a bit as your log makes its way to the drop. OK, I thought, this drop is a bit like a roller coaster. Let’s see how we do.

Wheee!

You can see the flume from the parking lot, and it looks fun, but certainly nothing wild. Still, when climbing up in a little fiberglass log, thrill was had. I got to the top and screamed WHEEEEE! as I flew down and splashed at the bottom. If the line hadn’t been so long, I totally would have gone again. I’m sure the photo they took on the ride for souvenir photos was amusing, but I did not get in that line.

Giant Sky Wheel

One of Canobie Lake Park’s classic rides, the Giant Sky Wheel shares the history of the Ferris Wheel as you wait in line (and head’s up—this one is popular). I’m down for riding a Ferris Wheel just about everywhere I go, and I often use them in my travels as a way to orient myself to a new city. I figured that, in addition to being fun, it would help me figure out where to go next. You can always look at a map, but there’s nothing like getting a bird’s eye view of a ride to get you excited!

High above the park, swaying slightly, looking out at the lake and hearing the shrieks of delight from below, I smiled. This was fun!

Tip!

The Giant Sky Wheel gives you a bird’s eye view of Canobie Lake and the park, and it’s a great way to orient yourself

Untamed Rollercoaster (spoiler: I was tamed)

Untamed (spoiler: I was tamed)

From the Giant Sky Wheel, I spied Untamed, a grizzly-bear-themed roller coaster that drops you 72 feet (22 meters), and then whips you upside down. I headed straight over there. Determined to test my mettle, Dear Reader, I got in line. The sign had warnings about asthma, high blood pressure, medications, and a warning not to eat before riding. While my blood pressure is just fine, and the medications I take would not affect my ability to ride a roller coaster, I had second thoughts. Up close, Untamed looked to be too much for me.

Tip!

Canobie Lake Park is supposed to be fun. If a ride looks more terrifying than fun to you, why do it?

Let’s try the Yankee Cannonball rollercoaster instead

Having hesitated with Untamed, I decided that I would attempt the Yankee Cannonball, Canobie Lake Park’s 1936 wooden roller coaster, before I went any further. The line for the Yankee Cannonball was far longer than the one for Untamed, and, indeed, was the longest line I stood in that day, taking about an hour to get through. Thankfully the line is covered with a red-and-white striped awning.

Finally, it was my turn to board. The first part of the ride is an incline that you go up just slowly enough to realize that you are about to be flung like a cannonball. On a wooden track that’s nearly 100 years old.

I’m glad I tried this one first!

WAAAAAAAA! Goodness, I screamed as we hurtled down and banged around from side to side on the track. Fun, hell yeah, but was that seatbelt going to hold? WOOOOOOOO!!!! AIEEEEEEE!!!!!

Shaking like a leaf after the ride’s end exactly one minute later, I proved to myself that I could, in fact, still ride a roller coaster, but there was no freaking way that I was getting on that Untamed thing.

Tip!

Popular rides often have long lines, so do factor in wait time when planning your visit

I rode the Xtreme Frisbee twice

Xtreme Frisbee

I would, however, ride the Xtreme Frisbee, which whips you around from side to side and up and down, including one spin where you’re basically staring straight down at the other passengers. I rode it twice, actually. Screamed like a banshee both times, along with everyone else. WAAAAAHOOOO!!!!

Totally fun, but it took me a beat to stop shaking.

For this ride, as with some others, there was a bin for any belongings you had that were not firmly in your pocket. I stashed my phone in its beach pouch. There is a ride attendant, but, as I mentioned before, I made sure that I was carrying as little as possible.

I declined this challenge

I debated the Star Blaster

Another ride I debated and ultimately decided against was the Star Blaster, one of those rides that shoots you into the air and then drops you, bouncing. I think it’s the drops that really scare me. The line was rather short for that one as well.

I did not debate the Turkish Twist or Zero Gravity

I remembered the Turkish Twist (they really ought to change that name), which spins you around so fast that you do not need a seatbelt or a floor to stay pinned to the wall. I absolutely loved it as a kid and as a young adult, but no. Same for Zero Gravity, which has a similar effect, only it also spins at an angle.

I was saving eating for when I was done with the rides, but best not tempt fate.

Psychodrome

Feeling nostalgic, I decided that I had to ride the Pyschodrome, which was like my very first thrill ride. This ride shows its age, but it has not lost any of its punch. An indoor scrambler with strobe lights and music, it sends you whipping around in smaller circles as the entire ride moves in circles as well.

Dear Reader, I still love those rides.

Ride at Canobie Lake Park. Image shows people on flying swings against a bright blue cloudy sky and an old-fashioned ride

Davinci’s Dream

Besides the classic carousel, Canobie Lake Park’s most beautiful ride is Davinci’s Dream, a swing ride on the edge of the lake that gives you sweeping views of the park and the water. The line was rather long, so I didn’t wind up riding it, but I very much enjoyed watching it from the ground.

Sky Ride

In addition to funiculars and Ferris wheels, I am pretty much guaranteed to take a good gondola or cable car ride. The Sky Ride at Canobie Lake Park is a little more humble but absolutely adorable and provided another bird’s-eye-view of the park and the lake. I thought it fitting for my final ride of the day.

An orange freeze and day’s end

I had a summer ritual for the fifteen years I lived in Somerville, Massachusetts. Boston had these Mr. Freeze ice cream trucks parked near the Public Garden and Copley Square. Each summer, I would get at least one orange freeze—soft serve vanilla ice cream blended with orange soda. They taste just like summer to me. While in line at one of the many snack stands at Canobie Lake Park, I discovered that they had orange freezes on the menu, and I just had to get one. The execution was a  little messy and more like a float than a freeze, but it still tasted absolutely perfect as the sun lowered in the sky.

Canobie Lake Park is an even better amusement park that I remembered

Dear Reader, I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to love a day at my old amusement park, but I most certainly did. Canobie Lake Park strikes a prefect balance between nostalgia and contemporary, with rides for thrill seekers, and gentler amusements for all.

Plan your trip to Canobie Lake Park!

You’re in for a treat! Canobie Lake Park is a delight. Here’s what you need to know to have a wonderful visit.

Getting to Canobie Lake Park

  • Canobie Lake Park is located in Salem, New Hampshire, about 35 miles (56 km) from Boston, making this an easy day trip, provided you have access to a car.
  • Take care on the last stretch of road before you reach the park, as it’s residential.
  • Arrive early for the best parking options.

Hours and tickets for Canobie Lake Park

  • For hours of operation, see the calendar on the website. The park is often closed on Tuesdays. They are open at night, as well—check the calendar for details.
  • Book online to enter the park faster.
  • Ticket prices vary. The best deals are scheduled tickets, but you can also purchase a ticket good for any day the park is open. Check the website for the latest prices. My all-day admission on a Sunday in September was $49.

What to wear to Canobie Lake Park

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing appropriate for the rides you want to go on. Flowy dresses could prove unintentionally hilarious.
  • If you wear glasses, this is a good day to wear your contacts. Glasses can go flying.
  • Wear sunscreen.

Money and securing your belongings at Canobie Lake Park

  • Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Canobie Lake Park. You do not need to bring cash.
  • Lockers are available to left of the main entrance. They come in various sizes and accept credit cards. I’d advise not brining too much with you.
  • Take care with your belongings and carry only what you need while you’re riding the rides, as stuff can go flying. Think what you can stash in your pocket (think front pockets—this is a crowded area) or otherwise on your person. I had a phone pouch that I’d gotten for the beach, and used that.
  • Some rides have bins for your belongings so that they do not get lost as you’re on the ride. Use them but know that the park assumes no liability. I didn’t have any problems, but I was only stashing my phone.

General considerations

  • This is a family-friendly attraction, so expect lots of kids. The park is open some nights, which would reduce the number of kids.
  • If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden a scary ride, start slow. I nearly got in line for the scariest roller coaster, and, based on my experience on the Yankee Cannonball, I don’t think it would have gone well.
  • Watch when you eat or drink if you’re going on thrill rides. You really do not want to be that person. I decided not to check out the bars at the park, as I wanted to ride rides more than I wanted a cocktail.
  • Remember to stay hydrated, especially on hot days.
  • Lines for popular rides can be very long. Plan accordingly.
  • For other questions, see the FAQs on the Canobie Lake Park website.

Water park

In high summer, Canobie Lake Park has a water park, Castaway Island. I didn’t go, but it looks fun!

Solo travelers at Canobie Lake Park

I had a great time at Canobie Lake Park as a solo traveler, and I think you would, too! There can be a bit of an advantage with some rides, as you don’t have to wait for seats to open up for a group.

Generally, I found the park safe. I haven’t been to Canobie Lake park at night as a solo traveler, but I wouldn’t hesitate to do it.

Accessibility

See the Guest Accessibility Guide (PDF) for details on Canobie Lake Park’s accessibility accommodations, including a list of accessible rides and information on accessible parking. There is priority boarding for accessible rides and wristbands to make you more visible to attendants if that would be helpful for you (it’s not required). Should you require them, you can rent wheelchairs or electric scooters.

Do note that plus-sized visitors may have some issues with seatbelts and bars on some rides. I am plus-sized, and I was able to ride everything, but it definitely could be an issue.

Take better day trips

Day trips like one to Canobie Lake Park can be highlights of your trip! Check out my tips and tricks for taking better day trips!