Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...New York

Home to what is probably the cultural capital of the world, New York City, and also somewhere there's a bunch of other urban areas you frequently forget about (Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and more!), New York is neither New England, the Rust Belt, nor the Mid-Atlantic. It's all of those things at once. Amusement and theme park culture in America was born here at Coney Island, a beach community in the borough of Brooklyn back in the later half of the 19th Century, and the area around it became home to many of America's major ride manufacturers. Coney Island is still there: the Cyclone and Wonder Wheel (on which Mickey's Fun Wheel is based) are National Historic Landmarks and still plugging away, surrounded by a ton of new rides from the folks at Zamperla who've helped revitalize the region and bring it to a glory it hasn't seen since the 1950s. 

The "known" of the state ties back to Six Flags: Darien Lake used to be part of the empire, but it has since been dispensed of and gone through a series of private equity owners interested in its unique combination of campground, hotel, concert venue, and amusement rides. Standouts include the world's first Intamin hyper coaster, Ride of Steel (Superman branding disappeared with the six flags) and the wacky cult favorite kids ride "Moose on The Loose." Still part of the corporation is Great Escape in Lake George: formerly a family run storybook park, Premier Parks bought it from the Wood family in 1996. There haven't been that many changes to it since, with the park still retaining a family park feel instead of a big thrill facility. The Schmeck Comet, formerly operational at Crystal Beach, runs here and is still lauded by many as one of the best classic wood coasters in the world. 

But there is more: so, so much more. With perhaps the exception of Pennsylvania, no state in the union has a better attachment to the history of amusements than New York. It then unsurprisingly contains many examples of classic rides, attractions, and even shows that are often otherwise lost to time. Lake George is home to one of these examples in another storybook park called Magic Forest. An accompaniment of fairly general kids rides, the "safari" train ride with its statues, and fairy tale displays with primitive animatronics are, in and of themselves, rarities. But then there's the diving horse. Yes. A diving horse: one that jumps off a ledge into a pool of water. West of Magic Forest is another storybook park with a strong aquatic retro feel, Enchanted Forest Water Safari in Old Forge. Rather than diving horses, it has an unmatched array of classic concrete water slides; most with heated water!

Western New York has plenty of history to celebrate too. The Herschell Carousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda details the history of one of the most important ride manufacturers in American history featuring both fully restored and operational kiddie rides as well as a full size carousel. Midway State Park features a small amusement park operated by government this way too on the banks of Chautauqua Lake. Perhaps its most impressive feature is the roller rink/ballroom, a gorgeous facility that closed when the park transferred to public hands in the 2000s but is kept maintained for the time being. Amusement rides and games are still available. Another lake (Oneida) is the location on which Sylvan Beach runs. This complex is actually operated by multiple concessionaires, and there's a 100+ year old carousel, electromechanical games of chance such as Fascination, and a full size steel roller coaster. The park is probably most well known for its Pretzel dark ride, Laffland, mostly untouched in the many decades since its construction.

Two "full size" parks also celebrate the history of amusements in the region. Seabreeze outside of Rochester opened its gates back in 1879, and features all sorts of goodies. There's Bobsleds, a junior wood coaster that was converted to tubular steel in the late 1950s. There's the Jack Rabbit, a terrain wooden out-and-back from Miller and Baker. The train opened in 1974, but the rolling stock seems much, much older. The carousel also looks older than it actually is: the original burned down in a fire, and craftsmen meticulously went about recreating it. Today the building is much more fire resistant and that's good considering how many pieces of carousel music the owners store here. It's practically a museum to carousel and automatia. If you can believe it, the oldest mini golf in the US (Whispering Pines) is within walking distance of Seabreeze - and it is tough. Fantasy Island on Grand Island near Niagara Falls has undergone their fair share of name changes (at one point being "Two Flags Over Niagara") and ownership (now part of Apex), but still hasn't lost its identity as a family park with unique attractions like canoeing. The Silver Comet wood coaster is based roughly on the Crystal Beach Comet (yeah, like the same ride at Great Escape!) but focuses more on laterals than airtime. And it runs really well. 

In a superior fashion to most states, New York meets the needs of the smaller markets better than almost any other in the union. Eldridge Park in Elmira (just south of the Finger Lakes) doesn't have a lot, but it does have a carousel, really nice set of Flying Scooters, and several other kiddie rides that most small cities would adore having. Upstate in Albany, Huck Finn's Playland saved most of the rides from Hoffman's Playland (minus the Lusse Bumper Cars) and keep them up and running from Memorial Day into early October. Bigger than both combined is Adventureland in Long Island, which will be getting a new dark ride for the 2018 season and received a Gerstlauer spinning coaster in 2015. But all of these pale next to the County-owned Rye Playland. Filled with classic Art Deco architecture, a gorgeous beach, classic arcade games, and great old rides, Rye is a gorgeous throwback. There's three dark rides, a smooth and fast wood coaster (Dragon Coaster), and the best Derby Racer anywhere. If you've never gotten a chance to go, you can see video of it as a focal point in the film Big. Yeah, that amusement park on the beach? Big.

1 comment:

  1. These are the famous places of New York City which is called the attraction of this city which attracts visitors, I have also visited once there and enjoyed these places. If you are looking for the Places To Visit In Nyc, You can get the information at govisitnyc.