Lagoon: Disneyland, but Damper

Meg and I recently asked our boss Clint if he would pay for us to go to Lagoon so I could write about it. He said yes because Meg is a woman and I’m a gay and I told him if he ever says no to us we’ll sue him for illegal discrimination. Now we get to go to places like Lagoon for work and ride around The Beehive’s offices on ponies.

But when it came down to it, we just couldn’t find the time to go to Lagoon. Or the energy. Or our antibiotic prescriptions.

But that’s ok. I didn’t really need to go to Lagoon for research. Because, friends, I have been to Lagoon roughly 100 times in my life. I grew up in The Utah beginning in nineteen hundred and mumble mumble. I basically saw them build the White Roller Coaster. I know the place like the back of my hand, which is permanently stained with a Lagoon entrance stamp for which they must have commissioned NASA to create the ink.

My friend Hannah and I started a tradition some time ago of getting season passes every year and we both think the other would be devastated if we stopped doing this so neither of us has backed out. This is me, Hannah, and a permanent Lagoon hand stamp.

C:\Users\emccann\Downloads\IMG_6296.JPG

The point is, I’ve got a lot of thoughts. So, today, I give you a list, in no particular order, of aspects of our dear theme park worthy of discussion.

1. The Zoo

Why does Lagoon have a zoo? Who is it for? Is there anyone who has ever been more motivated to go to Lagoon because there are some animals kept inside a thimble full of their own urine out back?

I don’t have the resources or time to conduct a full study on this, but I just polled everyone in the room with me right now and he said he has never been interested in going to Lagoon to see the animals. Statistically that means that 0% of the population wants Lagoon to keep the animal exhibit (margin of error ~99.9 points). So, yes. If the execs at Lagoon don’t shut down the Lagoon zoo based on data provided by someone who, and I don’t want to brag here, got a B- in statistics in 2006 from an accredited religious university, then they are basically asking to be poorer.

2. Lagoona Beach

Lagoon has a waterpark within. Why? Who knows. Lagoon appears to have decided some decades ago that people would be willing to pay substantially more than a typical waterpark to wander passed some roller coasters into the interior of the park to strip and jiggle their bodies down a couple of waterslides fueled by recycled water.

To be fair, it seems Lagoon was right about this. The last time I was there, there were so many people in the lazy river that 100% of the pee-water had been displaced to the neighboring sidewalk. I noticed this not because I visited Lagoona Beach, but because the waterpark is encased by a barred-fence all the way around, perfect for people-watching from the outside. The cutoff jean bathing suits. The dripping mullets. Shirtless children named “Bud” screaming the F-word at their younger siblings for not sharing the floaty toys. Lagoona Beach really does have it all.

You might think of this as Lagoon’s second zoo.


3. Pioneer Village

Speaking of water, Lagoon has a few rides that promise patrons they will get wet. I don’t know why this is an enticing promise, but these attractions are popular, as is evidenced by the line of families in skimpy denim outfits that wraps around the park. It’s like a Hands-Across-Utah for Rattlesnake Rapids and the iconic Log Flume. Both of these attractions are tucked away in Pioneer Village at the far southeastern corner of the Lagoon.

The Log Flume and Rattlesnake Rapids lack much of a thrill when compared to nearly all other rides in the park, but people are willing to die for these attractions. The wait is often several hours for either of them, even when it’s chilly out. As a result of the rides’ popularity, every seat for every attraction in the entire park is perpetually wet from the dripping butts that wander from the Lagoon campground at the south end to the exceptionally terrifying Ferris Wheel at the north end—one of the few man-made structures that can be seen from space.

The most frustrating part about the popularity of the water rides, however, is how sad the rest of Pioneer Village looks in comparison. The place is full of authentic log cabins and relics from our pioneer past, open and surprisingly unmonitored for self-guided tours. On even the most crowded days at Lagoon, these buildings are completely empty.

Some time ago I became everyone’s mom and spent a good portion of an afternoon touring the historic-and-definitely-haunted homes in total silence. I channeled my inner Indiana Jones, whispering under my breath as I looked at a 19th Century Singer sewing machine, “This belongs in a museum.” Off in the distance I heard the rattle of a roller coaster and excited screaming.


4. Performances

There are musical performances that take place on small stages throughout the day. I once had the following exchange with a new Tinder match:

Me: So what do you do?

Him: I’m a performer at Lagoon.

Me: Wow! You must be talented!

Him: No. I’m a performer at Lagoon.


5. The Haunted HouseS

That’s right. Lagoon does not have one, but TWO haunted houses in year-round operation. The two attractions are nearly identical. Riders are placed into a line of a slowly-moving vehicles that roll them through a small handful of muggy rooms where dusty skeletons and animatronic witches from the 70s robotically cackle and oscillate at the exact speed and cadence of a floor fan.

One of these two haunted houses was “updated” a couple of years ago. This was advertised heavily by the Lagoon marketing team. Since then, the line to get inside has consistently reached Phoenix. I waited in this line last year because I figured with all this excitement, they must be handing out cocaine inside.

After going on the ride, I still don’t really know what was updated. All I can tell you is there was no cocaine.  


6. Face Painting

There is an area of the park where you can sit for face painting. This is meant for very small children, so I don’t know why, several years ago, my friend Erin decided to have her face painted like a cat. She was 20 years old and in college at the time. She discovered later that evening the strongest chemicals with which she dared assault her own face would not remove the black whiskers. This went on for 3 days, during which she was required to give a class presentation on the collapse of Enron.


7. Cliffhanger

There’s an attraction called “Cliffhanger” that is currently committing crimes against humanity at Lagoon. It is made up of two rows of seats. The rows slowly rise into the air, turn upside-down, and then icy fountains below waterboard the riders for what feels like several minutes. Then the passengers are slowly rotated upright, lowered back to the ground, and asked to disclose Iraqi state secrets.

That’s it. That’s the ride.

One time Hannah and I accidentally got onto Cliffhanger without knowing what it was. This was in October and fortunately they didn’t have the water running since it was 50 degrees outside. Imagine the ride I just described above, but without the waterboarding part.


8. Germs

When Hannah and I get back from Lagoon my husband makes me strip down at the door and place my clothes in a plastic bag. He won’t kiss me until I’ve showered.


9. Air Race

On the same day as the Cliffhanger experience, we got in line for a ride called Air Race, in which riders sit in cartoonish planes that travel in circles, frequently upside-down. While waiting in this line we witnessed someone, mid-air, vomit all over the grounds below. The 12-year-old Russian who was operating the machinery then approached the line and announced what we had all just seen with our own eyes, and then he left it up to us whether we still wanted to ride and risk sitting in that person’s vomit since they weren’t sure if they could clean it all up.


10. Western Photos

In Pioneer Village you can actually dress up in what I’ll call “moist saloon attire” and pose for a brief photoshoot. The first summer Hannah and I had season passes, we made a half-sarcastic pledge to one another that we would do everything Lagoon had to offer once, no matter how painful or ridiculous, before Halloween. We agreed at the beginning of the summer we could each have one veto in this process. She used hers on Cliffhanger (see supra). I used mine on the zoo (see supra). What this meant was neither of us had an available veto for the western photos.

C:\Users\emccann\Downloads\IMG_2876.JPG


11. Ninth Grade Lagoon Day

Since whenever-such-and-such date, Lagoon has hosted something called “Ninth Grade Lagoon Day.” For one whole day, all of the puberty in the entire State of Utah descends upon the already damp park for their last hurrah before heading off into Utah high school (which begins in the 10th grade here).

I participated in Ninth Grade Lagoon Day during my last week at South Jordan Middle School (SNOW LIONS FOREVER) in 1998 and let me tell you, pre-arranging the Lagoon Day group with which I would hang out is still the most stressful social activity from my life. And I once went to an Eve 6 concert with coworkers.

I ended up spending Ninth Grade Lagoon Day with my best friend Sam and two of our middle school crushes, Rachel and Cherice. I don’t want to brag about my past sexual exploits, but while slowly ascending Colossus just at sunset, mine and Rachel’s forearms briefly made contact. Or maybe this was with Cherice. Or it might have even been with Sam. The point is, SEX.


12. The Carousel

The Carousel is over a hundred years old. It’s made up of all sorts of animals. It’s intended for children.

C:\Users\emccann\Downloads\IMG_2286.JPG

We don’t know who that grown man is behind Hannah.

C:\Users\emccann\Downloads\IMG_2287.JPG

I tried to wear those shorts recently and the button popped off and hit a wall.


13. The Bathroom

One time when I was 8 and I was at Lagoon with my family, I walked into the crowded public restroom and saw a man drop his pants and underwear all the way to the ground, plant both hands firmly against the wall, and pee into a urinal.


14. The Lagoon

There’s a body of stagnant green water at one corner of the park, presumably the “Lagoon” for which the park is named. It smells terrible and appears to have never been cleaned. The CDC is currently considering renaming West Nile Virus “Lagoona Leprosy.”


15. Campground

I referenced this above. Lagoon has a campground just next to the park. It’s for families who want to spend more than one day at Lagoon.

One time Hannah and I were waiting in line for the swings when two teenagers adorned in BYU gear turned around and started talking to us. They each had a hand in one another’s back pockets. They excitedly told us they were staying in the Lagoon campground for their three-day Lagoon honeymoon.  

They smiled and beamed as we refrained from clarifying whether they were spending their honeymoon without access to a shower.

Above us the swings spun to the blare of Bush’s “Glycerine” coming from speakers at the booth where a 15-year-old operator, who was responsible for the lives of hundreds of patrons, sat. A child, whose soaking wet Jazz t-shirt was hanging off of one of his shoulders, was holding onto his dad’s leg behind us, excitedly asking how much longer it would be until they reached the front of the line. A woman in a blue polo shirt tucked into her khaki shorts was yelling at a teenager with a rattail nearby because he wouldn’t get out of the way of the oncoming zoo train.

Whiffs of kettle corn and hot-dogs glided by our noses as a prepubescent voice screamed through an intercom at the the two kids who were twisting in their swings.

I congratulated the newlyweds, whose heads were now tilted toward one another, and touching.

I looked down at my hand stamp and wondered if my coworkers would notice it over the next few days.

(Design: Josh Fowlke) (Editor: Rachel Swan)