Editors note: To get the full Do the Puyallup experience, a fair visitor must do at least a few of the more than 60 rides. Heres a first-person guide to get you started courtesy of Craig Hill, News Tribune outdoors writer and adventure guy for whom at least one ride was too adventurous to stomach. He opens with the new ride that Puyallup Fair officials hope will create a buzz.
I admit I had certain expectations when I heard there was a zip-line at this years Puyallup Fair.
I assumed Id be able to zip past the blue ribbon pigs and giant pumpkins and sail over the rides, the chainsaw art and the deep fat fryers all while enjoying the smells of warm elephant ears and onion burgers.
Zip It! is nothing like that, but thats OK. As the fair began its 17-day run Friday, it was clear this fun-size zip-line fit neatly into the fairs stable of kinetic attractions.
Its hardly extreme or even scenic. If Northwest Treks zip-line course and an airport stair truck got together and had a baby, this is what it would look like.
Think of it as the perfect introduction to an activity thats growing wildly in popularity, said Zip It! co-owner Mike Parsons. Its perfect for kids and people who want to work up the nerve for something more intimidating.
For a lot of people, it is hard to step off that platform, Parsons said.
The ride starts 28 feet above the ground at the top of a set of portable stairs. It ends after an 180-foot ride. The heavier you are (the limit is 250 pounds), the faster you go.
Parsons said Id reach Mach 1. I made it down in 6 seconds.
By comparison, Northwest Trek opens a series of new zip-lines and aerial obstacles this weekend, the longest of which is 720 feet and 78 feet high. The new Trek course, the crown jewel of the regions burgeoning canopy tour scene, costs $60 plus park admission.
Zip It! is $10 for the first ride and $5 for each additional trip as long as you dont remove the harness. (Putting on and removing the harness is the longest part of the experience.) The harness, unlike other area zip-lines, has shoulder straps allowing you to lean back and ride upside down.
The ride might be short, but it produces long lines. Zip It! got a test run at the Spring Fair earlier this year and spokeswoman Karen LaFlamme said it was very popular.
VIDEO: Zip It!
Your short flight will leave you plenty of time to explore the fairs other rides.
Costs listed below are based on full-price 50-cent tickets. Books of lesser-priced tickets are also available, as well as all-you-can-ride Dizzy Passes on some days.
BEST WARMUP RIDE
You owe it to your stomach to get in a starter ride before heading for the Extreme Scream or human slingshot.
LaFlamme says the Wildcat steel-track roller coaster is an ideal warmup ride. It lasts less than a minute but offers plenty of speed, dips and turns. Its one of the fairs most popular draws with 68,698 riders last year.
Cost: $5 (10 tickets).
At 55-feet-tall, the Giant Coaster is easily the most iconic structure in Puyallup. The coaster is 77 years old, two years into a three-year reconstruction project and one of about 20 original wooden roller coasters left in the United States.
It doesnt take you upside down or anything like that, said John Hinde, who oversees the reconstruction. Its just a great family roller coaster.
Its still a thrilling ride after all these years with speeds reaching 50 mph and drops as far as 52 feet. The ride lasts 1 minute, 45 seconds. Last year 49,403 people rode it.
Also entrenched as a Puyallup landmark is the Extreme Scream. Installed in 1999, the 185-foot tower is the tallest building in town. In 2011, 28,563 people were propelled skyward by compressed air pulling nearly 3Gs. How intense is that?
Well, a few years back it was enough for one rider to lose a set of dentures. Park officials say the false teeth survived the fall.
VIDEO: Extreme Scream
Cost: $6 for the Coaster (12 tickets), and $10 for the Scream (20 tickets).
There are a number of ways to get a birds eye view of the Puyallup Fair, but most require you to be launched like a rocket before plummeting faster than the Mariners playoff chances.
The Sky Ride is a mellow way to soak up views of the grounds, the city and Mount Rainier.
The 1,600-foot gondola ride has 40 cabins and was originally built for the 1962 Seattle Worlds Fair. It was moved to Puyallup in 1980.
Cost: $4.50 one-way (9 tickets) or $5.50 roundtrip (11 tickets).
MOST ROMANTIC RIDE
Holding a wedding ceremony on the Giant Coaster has become a tradition of sorts. But one fair worker recently told me about a man who claims he was conceived on it.
This remains unconfirmed, thankfully, but it inspired me to pass along three pieces of advice:
• Try not to know where you were conceived. Your brain simply wont work right after trying to process this information.
• Wash your hands regularly. Fair officials say 627 gallons of soap and 397 gallons of hand sanitizer were used last year. Sounds like a lot, but thats only 0.12 ounces per visitor.
• Please dont try to make babies on the Giant Coaster. The sign clearly states to keep both hands on the safety bar at all times. (Oh, and its illegal.)
If youre looking for a romantic ride, keep it G-rated and go for a spin on the Ferris wheel. (Cost: $4.50, or 9 tickets.)
BEST PLACE TO TOSS YOUR SCONES
Im not paid nearly enough to test ride Zero Gravity, so I got the lowdown from my 13-year-old daughter. I had to put a motion-sickness patch behind my ear just to write what she said.
Essentially Zero Gravity gives you a test tubes perspective of a centrifuge. The ride spins faster and faster until you feel as if youre glued to the back wall.
Then, just when your stomach seeks refuge someplace near your ankles, the entire contraption rises and tilts until youre spinning almost vertically.
For the sake of the people around you and the poor guy who has to hose down the ride, please save the Earthquake Burger for later in the day.
Cost: $4.50 (9 tickets).