Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Saskatchewan



In the middle of Canada lies Saskatchewan, a huge province that can basically be described "gigantic Nebraska + polar bears." With 1.1 million residents in a space nearly as large as Texas, Saskatchewan's two major cities of Regina (capital) and Saskatoon (most populated) frankly have a pretty poor history of permanent amusements. It's biggest draws are the two big fairs each year: the Saskatoon Ex and the Regina Fair. Both are serviced by the folks at North American Midway Entertainment, and were part of the Conklin Shows route up until the company's merger into NAME in the 2000s.

Historically, the only permanent park in the province of note prior to the present day was Saskatoon's Leisureland, a park that reportedly had a train, ferris wheel, dance hall, and more. There's no pictures, postcards, advertisements for the park in local magazines, notes about its operation, or anything else I was able to dredge up about it, nor is there anything resembling a tell-tale sign from images of the trailer park on it's location today. This isn't to say that it didn't exist: Obituaries suggest that Michael Egnatoff (1908-2012) founded the facility along with a number of art communities in the 1960s, and concessions were operated by Ede Burge (1937-2016) and her husband Jacob Getzlaf (???-1979). They ran the small carnival outfit Funtime Amusements, and were well suited to manage a small set of permanent attractions. Her husband's death was sudden and unexpected, causing her to leave the industry. That a ferris wheel, train, and carousel opearate at Kinsmen Park's Nutrien Playland is probably not a total coincidence: the company she was part of also operated concessions at the city park in the 60s and 70s.



2015 saw the rebirth of amusements in Saskatoon with the corporately sponsored Nutrien Playland. Along with the carousel that had been part of the park for untold years prior (NCA doesn't list it), a new ferris wheel was constructed (around 60 feet tall), along with upgraded play equipment and a splash pad. It joins the privately owned Wilson's Entertainment Park with its ropes course, electric go karts, and inflatables as the best options for dry fun all summer long in the province.



Let's get downright rural: Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village is located an hour west of Regina, and is a living museum showing the early 20th century farming way of life as well as a boat. The boat is a bewildering sight with an incredible story of loss and eccentric madness powering its builder to fashion it in the throes of the Great Depression. Along with the boat is a model town, antique tractors and cars, and the remains of Tom Sukanen, who's story is played out. Slightly less tear jerking is Corn Ways Adventures: there's a corn maze that's the big draw, but also zorbing, quad course (bring your own ATV...or rent!), ziplines, and bounce houses. Country Fun in Prince Albert doesn't have an active internet presence, but it still seems to be open in summers and has a train that used to run at Kinsmen Park (which in turn might have run at Leisureland...maybe?).



This far north, it isn't too surprising to see that there's not a lot of water park activity. The Travelodge Regina is a newer build and has a pair of newish slides along with some water play areas, while an older model Ramada in the same city has two slides of its own with a lower ceiling. Metro Saskatoon has the Battlefords Co-Op Aquatic Center, fulfilling both desires for community owned attractions and an indoor water park with a lazy river. And finally, we have Kenosee Superslides, a full scale outdoor water park that's primarily terrain based rather than being a bunch of towers, but has some wild speed slides too.



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Rhode Island



It's small!

Really, really small!

"How small is it?"

It's half the size of the Toronto-Hamilton Metro Area!

"Uhhh, how small is that?"

There are 431 counties and parishes in the United States larger than Rhode Island. Brevard County Florida is bigger than Rhode Island. 

"That seems small."

That is small. Officially named "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," it also has the largest and totally not at all overcompensating name. 1.06 million people live there says Wikipedia, which is also a number that is now decreasing. Why the departures? It costs money to live in Rhode Island and things just aren't as fun now that Mayor Buddy Cianci is dead. Yeah, he was in the back pocket of the mafia, but look at how much rad stuff happened in Providence thanks to him. They got like, one of the few things I'm gonna list here!



So because this is a place without much happening today, I'm gonna go into the recent past, because there was a lot happening. Like, even during my lifetime. I could have gone to Rocky Point - I saw the commercials, and I could have asked to visit, but nah, it never happened. I wasn't a theme park fan or coaster enthusiast then, and it like Americana in Ohio and the Texas State Fair wood coaster are the ultimate "almosts" in my lifetime. When it closed in 1995, both of it's coasters (steel) were relocated - one to Prince Edward Island at Sandspit, the other to Wild Waves in Washington to become the Wild Thing. The most unique rides were argurably its sky ride and the gravity driven House Of Horrors though, and both were lost to time. The park followed Crescent Park in East Providence which had shuttered in the late 70s. Their death left the state with no full size parks.



The state's capital at this time was a mess. Providence, like many of the feeder cities to the megasized Boston and New York areas, resembled a warzone in a state of total collapse. Buddy Cianci was given the task of righting the ship there in a second time around as Mayor. The first time Cianci had been in charge, he had put out a cigarette on a contractor he believed was sleeping with his wife while his police escort watched. He took a felony charge and wound up getting to stay out of prison. He returned to prominence in 1991 on a populist campaign intended to spur action. Depending on what neighborhood you were in or who you were, Buddy's second run as mayor was either heroic or tragic. In some neighborhoods, people would call when the sidewalk was cracked and see it patched a day later. In others, mob affiliated henchmen stole city property in broad daylight for scrap. Cianci was accused of a multitude of crimes over the years: rape, intimidation, racketering. The last of those landed him a 7 year federal prison term and the effective end of his political career (though he would run again, even as cancer ravaged his body).



Cianci unquestionably found success with his plan to remake Providence's waterfront around artists. Artists, he thought, would attract people with money and talent, and people with money and talent invest and create businesses, which in turn stabilizes and sends the city into a growth period. The centerpiece of this was WaterFire, which now enters its 24th year in 2018. Peformance art, music, spectacle, WaterFire has become the symbol of Providence to the world. Cianci is a deeply divisive figure to many, but in this, his place as the man who led the city out of the dark ages has effectively been forever guaranteed.






Westerly is not exactly well known outside of the immediate area, but yet it's the center of the present day Rhode Island amusement universe. Misquamicut Beach draws people, and when you have crowds, crowds want to do things. In a tight space around Atlantic Ave lies the largest aquatics facility (Water Wizz; converted concrete terrain slides and some 90s era speed slides), Atlantic Beach Park (kiddie park with the state's only operating coaster and an arcade pavillion), and Bayview Fun Park (mini golf, go karts). I can't say that any of this is really worth rushing over to, but as someone who grew up visiting often, I know that it has a special place in my heart even if it isn't exactly Wildwood or Coney Island.



One thing Rhode Island does have that's pretty different are some rather spectactular carousels. Adults can't ride the Flying Horse Carousel in Watch Hill, a late 18th cenury ride that was driven by a horse and had a hand cranked organ when it first started running for the public in 1876. 142 years later, it has been given an electric motor to get the thing spinning, with horses suspended from the ceiling (leading to the age requirement to prevent big folks from boarding). Crescent Park's carousel stayed put when the park died, and it's a fantastic showcase machine featuring all different pieces from the Looff catalog circa 1895.



Aside from these, there isn't that much left to talk about in the modern day: Adventureland of Narragansett is a fairly expansive FEC featuring mini golf, go karts, bumper cars, and even a small carousel. Mulligan's Island has a mini golf facility to go along with Par 3 golf, Driving Range, and Pitch and Putt. Rhode Island is unlikely to ever get a big park again, but hopefully what it does have sticks around awhile. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Universal's Endless Summer Resort


Universal has give it's newest resorts a name: Universal's Endless Summer Resort. Thinking this was too easy, they split it into two sides with their own names, Surfside Inn & Suites and Dockside Inn & Suites. Universal's Endless Summer Resort Surfside Inn & Suite. That's a mouth full.

But what they've spent on the name they're not asking for you in terms of price as these resorts have an introductory offer that starts at $73 a night for a one week stay during select dates in a standard room. While these rates will not last, this resort will round out the value resort tier with 2800 rooms, 1450 of those being suites. Suites will be competitively priced too at $111 a night for a one week stay during select nights.


The rooms are beach contemporary, filled with pastels, rustic wood, surfboards, wicker, and white appliances. The suites, unlike those at Cabana Bay, will feature three beds (queen in the master bedroom and two twins in the common room) instead of a seating area.

Surfside opens summer 2019 and Dockside opens 2020.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #146 - Spoons on Sailboats


This week Joe, Kenny, and Mike talk about Stranger Things at Halloween Horror Nights, Universal's Endless Summer Resort, parking fees (again, sorry), Fast & Furious Supercharged, and lay some hate on Pandora's AMP walking suit.

Next Joe interviews Kevin Perjurer, creator and editor of Defunctland, a YouTube series on defunct theme park attractions around the globe. Find out his inspirations, what attractions he wishes to do in the future, and what's next for the channel.

And finally Alex and Jeff do one of our patented car ride park reviews from Kings Dominion opening weekend. They discuss Twisted Timbers, Racer 75, Grizzly, and more.



Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeAlanParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick, and ParkscopeLane.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Quebec



It's huge! It speaks French! Did I mention that it is huge and full of people that speak French? Yes. French. It's a really foreign place but it shares a border with the United States and you can go there almost any time you want assuming you don't have a prior conviction. Disney's EPCOT features the Château Frontenac as its center piece from Quebec City, so it is exotic and fantastic enough to feature as theming elsewhere. The second largest territory/province in area, and the second largest in population (behind only Ontario), Quebec has some mountains, wilderness, giant cities with underground development, fjords, lakes, moose, roads to basically nowhere: there's a lot happening in, well, a lot of space. 595,391 square miles, to be precise. That's more area than every state in the US Eastern Seaboard, Vermont, Ohio, West Virginia, and Alabama combined.



For all that space, there's fundamentally only one major theme park for the area. La Ronde opened in 1967 as the attraction and amusement area of that year's World's Expo, and while little remains of the original rides, there are a few gems like the monorail and "Tchou Tchou" - it's a kiddie ride, but it's probably the most adorable thing here. Did I mention this is a bad theme park? It is a bad theme park. Possibly the worst. So bad that we here (OK, me alone) attempted to get in contact with the employee's union at La Ronde to get their take as to why people think La Ronde is generally considered the worst run theme park in North America. I've been. Twice. I only got in once when they closed unannounced on a national holiday because there was rain (the employees, still being paid, stayed and I swear to god continued ran rides in the not open amusement park). The second time I went rides never ran more than one train and it was a miserable, awful experience that I fled early from because, really now, I was in Montreal.

But I'm not going to talk that much about La Ronde, because Six Flags owns it and theoretically, it is "known" in a way that most other parks. No, we spend our time here on Parkscope with this series on things that are more interesting; more fun. More challenging. So instead, we're just going to point Google Maps at the same exact artificial island and look south.


If the Biosphere in Montreal looks like a Geodesic dome, that's because it was one until the skin burned off of it in the 1970s. It's part of a mix of active and dead fragments left from the World Expo, ranging from the good (how Habitat '67 are some of the most desired condos in the city) to the diminished (abandoned pavillions like Jamaica's and Tunisia). Still, it's the Montreal Biosphere that best lives up to the promises of futurists and educators with its incredible metal framework and important messaging.



Quebec is also home to some of the more quirky steel coasters on the planet. Mega Parc, located inside Quebec City's Galeries de la Capitale, is presently undergoing a "reimagining" of sorts, but it is hoped that Capitale Express, a junior coaster that encircles the ice rink, will reopen with the rest of the facility in late 2018. Still operating is the Python Panique, an adult sized L&T Systems steel coaster at Granby Zoo. Granby Zoo is a rarity in Canada as a AZA accredited facility, and often offers discounts to those with memberships to US zoos. There's several other rides present, mostly for kids, but an operational monorail and carousel also beckon beyond just the animal exhibits.



Small kids parks dot the landscape in Quebec: Pays des Merveilles is a classic storybook park with pretty much nothing for childless parents to do (so please, please don't go unless you have kids) a little bit north of Montreal. Village du Pere Noel in nearby Val-David fills the requirement for a Santa-themed park, equally bereft of anything for normal adults to do. But most aspirational of all is Parc Cavaland, a theme park of sorts based around horses. Every child can ride a pony. Or a carousel, if an artificial animal is preferred. Also they may paint ponies and watch an array of equestrian shows ranging from displays of horsemanship (is that a thing?) to jousting. It's like an expanded Medieval Times or something. It's...interesting.



Is a horse themed park with horse riding not enough weird for you? OK, fine. Because I've also got La Vallee Secrete in Saint-Raymond, not far from Quebec City. There's a forest filled with various booths you need to interact with to get clues from which you can solve some sort of mystery, and if you collect them all, you gain access to a building with an animatronic dwarf show because that is absolutely the thing you wanted.



Not enough wandering through the woods? Then there's Foresta Lumina, a night only experience filled with various projection mapping sequences, LED lights, and just overall amazing stuff that you have very likely never in your life heard about. Part themed attraction, part art installation, it's part of an increasingly DIY approach to themed design that has sprung up with the Meow Wolf's of the world.



Quebec is in Canada, which most Americans think is exceedingly cold. Of course they would have a tremendous amount of water parks then. Mont Saint Sauveur is the most famous of them, with a mix of old concrete and newer plastic/fiberglass slides. If there's one cornerstone attraction there, it would have to be Riviere Colorado, a 2+ minute long "rafting adventure" with two person rafts that seat face to face on a perilous journey. Ski Bromont also has a water park with some weird relics; Trompe d’éléphant spits riders out of a "elephant trunk" through the air and into a deep diving pool (complete with audience viewing seating), while Grand Canyon is a fine concrete slide full of random pools which exist for no clear or obvious reason. Even Super Aqua Club in Pointe-Calumet has a pair of concrete tube slides in addition to its primarily ProSlide based modern rides (which includes a really awesome looking ProSlide RocketBLAST/FlyingSAUCER water coaster).



Slide action doesn't end in Summer. No; Winter is really the dominant season in Quebec, and that means tobogganing. Since 1884, the Terrasse Dufferin Slides are seasonal icons. Their classic lighting scheme and appearance evokes a real feeling of yesteryear. And for about 6 months a year, you can enjoy them. Valcartier Vacation Village may not have the history, but it has size as the "largest snow park in the world." That distinction is related to their impressive collection of tubing runs, including some based off a tobogganing base and a few using what look like white water rafts.



Forkscope - #ThisForkIsForSV

We’re rebranding and turning this into Forkscope, your home about all things regional forks! We talk the history of forks, types of forks, fork etiquette, and ask you for your favorite forks! Send us a tweet @Parkscope with the hashtag #ThisForkIsForSV with your favorite forks and fork knowledge!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #145 - Forgive Tom


Joe, Mike, and Nick reunite! Joe's a little sick and out of it, Mike is doing spit takes, and Nick is enjoying grading during his break. We catch up on news and rumors from WDW and UOR. Is the MK theater cancelled? Guardians coaster vehicles leaked? Toy Story Land is opening June 30th. Star Wars Galaxy's Edge attraction information. Be Our Guest is getting a fixed menu. Resort parking fees. That Damn Marvel Contract. Horror Nights dates. Voodoo Donuts opening. Fast & Furious progress and more!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeAlanParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick, and ParkscopeLane.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Prince Edward Island

Canada's smallest and least populated province, Prince Edward Island (often just referred to as PEI) is one of the Atlantic Provinces along with Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Many people come to enjoy the beaches here, which feature surprisingly warm water thanks to the Gulf Stream and red sand. There's great shellfish to eat; PEI mussels being world renowned. Throughout the summer time, cruise ships will stop in Charlottestown as part of their Canada routes, bringing in huge groups of tourists. Others will arrive by car ferry or the Confederations Bridge, a phenomenal 8 mile world wonder with steel reinforced pillars intended to work like ice breakers. But make no mistake; there aren't any huge cities here. Charlottestown has a population just a tick over 50,000. That alone is 1/3 of the permanent population.



Aside from shellfish, whale watching, and red sand, PEI is most notably the setting for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. The book is, of course, extremely famous, and popular not only in the Americas, but wildly loved in Japan where Anne's sacrifices mirror cultural norms. As a result, the island is one of the most popular locations for Asian tourists in all of Canada. While Anne is a fictional character, her experiences were generally based in the real life experiences of settlers and farmers in the region. Prince Edward National Park contains the Green Gables Heritage Place; a mockup of her life, home, and that of many other characters with people playing the roles of the book's protagonists in costume.





The proximity of the book's setting to the Cavendish Beach region of PEI ultimately led to the development of a tourist strip here. While it is nowhere near as built out as, for example, Pigeon Forge, there are still a number of attractions along here that evoke reminders of Montgomery's series. The first of these to open was Rainbow Valley in 1969; a storybook park built entirely in house, primarily from fiberglass. There were some rides to go with it, but it is most noteworthy with the region for it's walkthrough attractions, dark ride, and the Owl which spoke to guests (think a prehistoric Turtle Talk with Crush). The park closed in 2005 when the owner retired and sold the land under it to Parks Canada for an expansion of the Prince Edward National Park. However, just down the street from where it once stood is Shining Waters Family Fun Park, it's spiritual successor. Whatever classic decor/theming items could be taken from Rainbow Valley effectively were and wound up in Shining Waters, along with new water slides and an array of different rides. A recent expansion saw the construction of the Buccaneer Bay Bullet, which formerly ran inside New Brunswick's Crystal Palace. It probably has one of the highest concentration of walk through attractions in any park, plus a wilderness hike.



Shining Waters is part of the Maritime Fun Group's strangle hold on facilities in the province. Only a mile or two away is Sandspit, a more traditional amusement park with an unspectacular collection of fairly basic flat rides and a Schwarzcopf Wildcat coaster. The most interesting item at the park is probably that coaster: when it rains in PEI, operators place canopies over the cars to prevent the occupants from getting wet. It is the only such Wildcat with these custom covers. Maritime Fun Group also possesses one of the smallest Ripley's Believe it or Not! locations on the planet in a strip mall looking edifice that contains an FEC (Adventure Zone) and mini golf. The group also possesses the Route 6 Haunted House in Cavendish and the Burlington Amusement Park in Kensington; that's primarily a FEC with go-karts and batting cages, along with a set of bumper cars and bumper boats.





While there is a lot that's controlled by Maritime Fun Group, there are still attractions in this region which are not. Perhaps the most compelling of all of these is Haunted Mansion in Kensington. Built in an old Tudor-style mansion by Rainbow Valley's owner's son, the Mansion opened after the son realized he made a mistake not taking over his father's park. The facility has, in effect, two parts: one is the giant walkthrough mansion itself. That's a 20-ish minute experience, and probably among the best non-Halloween walkthroughs anywhere. After exiting, there's an array of miniatures to look at, then a separate section with kiddie rides and even some bigger flat rides (like a Tilt-A-Whirl). It's very reasonably priced and seems to be quite popular even being a little off the tourist track.

On Route 6, just down the street from most of the main attractions, sits the incredibly strange and partially abandoned Great Island Science Center & Adventure Park, since sold and rebranded as Jurassic Bart's Dinosaur Museum & Petting Farm. There's free play carnival style games out front to just practice on endlessly. There's some dinosaur statues.. There's a petting farm. There's a rotting and inaccessible full size model of a Space Shuttle and an equally derelect planetarium. You get your UrbEx and your fill of prehistory all in one place.



Finally, we head to Charlottetown for area's one factory tour of relevance: Cows Ice Cream. A super premium ice cream available almost uniquely in the region, Cows has a visitor center with a short film, windowed assembly line, and lots and lots of shirts for sale (usually riffing off of whatever is big in pop culture at the moment. I'm sure there's some "What are thoooooose?" shirts on sale right now with fax Black Panther holding a waffle cone flying off the shelves.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #144 - Calling Timber


Joe is joined by Alan and Alex to talk about THE FIRST  Twisted Timbers review, Kings Dominion thoughts, Schlitterbahn lawsuits, Whataburger, Arizona trip thoughts, XFL update, and more!

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeAlanParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick, and ParkscopeLane.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour - The Road Trip

Overcast (iOS) - Simplecast (Stream & Download)

Alan and Joe spent a week on the road visiting tourist locations, amusement parks, and breweries in Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and Tennessee. Catch up on their trips to BBQ places, Segways, beer, City Museum, Silver Dollar City, and Six Flags over Texas below.







Friday, March 9, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of...Pennsylvania

Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania make up the traditional amusement park strongholds of the United States, and it's Pennsylvania which has wound up with the greatest variation and the best preserved attractions. The state is even home to the birth place of what is often seen as the predecessor to all American roller coasters. Trying to parse out the "known" from the "unknown" is more or less a product of someone's background, as the PA parks are about as well known as any nationally.



For those that there's little doubt about their recognition, Hersheypark and Hershey's Chocolate World lead the pack. With greater than 3 million visitors a year, Hershey, PA is home to the king of all factory tour rides, some of the baddest coasters on the planet, monorails, a zoo, and a waterpark. Dorney Park in Allentown isn't that far away; it's a historic facility that doesn't have a whole lot of historic rides thanks to fires and liability insurance costs. It does have Cedar Point's old Demon Drop, the 1924 wood coaster Thunderhawk, Steel Force (Morgan hyper), and a collection of above average flat rides and other attractions. History lives at Kennywood, with an Old Mill, three classic wood coasters, the last operating Noah's Ark funhouse, and tons of other "last of its kind" attractions spanning the last century. Finally, we mention SeaWorld Entertainment's Sesame Place, a water theme park facility that's expanding dry rides in 2018 with a new Gravity Group wood coaster.



From there, there's the slightly less known. Idlewild is Kennywood's sister park, and another historic facility that transitioned from trolley park to fairytale park during the 50s. Home to the Rollo Coaster and the Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood attraction (still running with the same trolleys from when it was Mister Roger's), it's a great family park. Another top end family park is Dutch Wonderland, located on the main strip in Lancaster. It also has a wood coaster (Kingdom Coaster, formerly Sky Princess - CCI's first project) along with a couple boat rides, a monorail, sky ride, and a new suspended coaster that might open in 2018. Maybe. 



Pennsylvania is full of traditional parks that cater to local business outings and smaller populations. Knoebels is the most well known of these; open for eons but only really built out as an amusement park in the 1980s forward, Knoebels Amusement Resort is effectively the brain child of Dick Knoebel and his late wife, who were huge amusement historians and fanatics. They acquired, restored, and rebuilt numerous classic ride types long thought to be lost to time - The Elitch Gardens Twister, the Flying Turns, the Golden Nugget Mine Ride from Wildwood, multiple carousels, a Herschell Looper, and of course the San Antonio Rocket, now known as the Phoenix. Think of it as a theme park where the theme is "the greatest traditional amusement park ever assembled." It might really be that.



Further west are a trio of small parks that used to be a quartet. Lakemont in Altoona closed after the 2016 season to be retooled as a smaller "family entertainment center" that retained its two historic coasters. As of now, it's still not reopened, and it looks like 2019 at earliest will be when the doors are unlocked. Home to the world's oldest roller coaster (Leap-The-Dips, also the last side friction), it would be a tragedy to lose it. Part of it's woes are the proximity to Delgrosso's Amusement Park, a small facility built and run by a local tomato sauce distributor. The pizza and spaghetti here are, as you'd expect, very good. There's also a decent collection of rides and water slides kept in great shape.



Another pairing of "struggle" with "success" is Waldameer Park in Erie and Conneaut Lake. Conneaut Lake has been bouncing in and out of bankruptcy since the mid 1990s, but has found a foothold at present and is dragging itself out slowly. Like the other long gone Pennsylvania/Ohio parks that died before it, there's a 20s era wood coaster full of airtime (Blue Streak), a mix of really old flat rides and kids rides, a nice water front, and a cute hotel that's been heavily renovated. Waldameer Park probably benefited the most from the death of Geauga Lake in Cleveland, drawing lots of people who used to go there to it's expanding offerings. There's a reasonably sized water park there now in addition to the classic rides (Bill Tracy-designed Whacky Shack and Pirates Cove, Comet wood coaster) and newer thrillers (ARM drop tower, Gravity Group's awesome wood coaster Ravine Flyer II).



The American history of the roller coaster goes back to Pennsylvania and a small town now known as Jim Thorpe. The Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway was a tourist railway with extremely steep drops and curves, and became famous throughout the US in the mid-late 19th century as the first and only word in terror. When early coasters were constructed both in the US and throughout the rest of the world, the term "Scenic Railway" was associated with the format, and like the real thing in rural Pennsylvania, there were no underwheels and speed was controlled by brakemen. Many scenic railways even had mountain facades and theming; you can see this still on the scenic railway in Wiener Prater in Austria. While scenic railways are dead in the US, mountain coasters still exist as a sort of throwback to that era. Camelback Ski Resort operates such a ride year round.



Speaking of Camelback, let's talk about water parks. Pennsylvania has a lot of people in it and is far north, which means that indoor water parks are very much viable here. Camelback has one - Camelbeach. And it has a monster indoor water coaster, along with several other slides and attractions. They've also got a substantial outdoor water park too during the summer months. But the largest indoor facility in the state is by far Kalahari. The Pennsylvania location of the water park chain is the largest single roof indoor water park in the country, exceeding 200,000 square feet. There's more slides inside here than most outdoor water parks in the nation, along with a wave pool and two lazy rivers.



There's several outdoor water parks in the state worth noting as well. Kennywood's water park is Sandcastle, which of course is several miles away because Kennywood is totally closed in by urban development. The space it occupies is on the Monongahela River in a tight footprint that leads most slides to face the river itself. Smaller water park facilities are found at WildRiver in Saxton and Carousel Water & Fun Park in the Poconos which cater primarily to kids.



Finally, we get to the oversized family entertainment center portion of the piece: Legoland Discovery Center goes here because it's new. That's really the only reason. Also, it has a unique dark ride for the chain rather than the usual Kingdom Quest rides seen in the US, so that's kinda cool. All the Legoland Discovery Centers have trackless shooting dark rides, but unless you have a kid under 12 years old, you'll need to scour the events section to learn when the next adult night is. Fun Fore All in Cranberry Township on the west side of the state has kiddie rides (including a coaster), a Triotech shooting simulator ride, go-karts, bumper boats, and all the ticket redemption games you can shake a stick at. There's also an independent mini golf place across the street for more hot putting action. And last, but not least; Bushkill. Bushkill is sorta kinda a defunct park that's been whacked by flooding multiple times. But in 2017, they reopened their roller rink. And they're intending to open rides along with it soon enough. Sadly their pretzel dark ride and fun house are long since lost, but any regrowth here would be wonderful.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Oregon


Associated with loggers and hipsters, Oregon is a ecologically diverse and physically large place. There's a big city (Portland), there's some smaller cities, there's miles of sometimes treacherous coast line, there's forests, there's huge desolate treeless landscapes in the east; it's pretty wild. This wild history also means that Oregon has trended low historically; only 4 million people live there today, more than half of which are in the Portland area. It shouldn't be a surprise that most of the history of the industry revolves around Portland then. The primary park there was Jantzen Beach, which eventually closed in 1970 after years of dwindling attendance, migration away from the flood plagued area surrounding it, fires that ravaged the park's attractions, and freeways that moved traffic away from its gates. It's worth noting that it had a competitor for 3 years during the Great Depression called Lotus Isle - that park may not have even sought to be even exist, but simply be bought out of competing by Jantzen Beach only to wind up actually being built. In one of the wilder stories in amusement history, a plane crashed into its heavily themed scenic railway coaster in 1931, leading the park's elephant (named Tusko) to go on a rampage and destroy several rides. The park's ballroom burned down and it closed in 1932.



That's all in the past. What about right now in 2018? Well, there are two primary parks serving the community. One is the Oaks, which also happens to be the oldest park in Oregon. Ed Bollinger ran the park from the 30s until the 1980s when he created a non-profit to operate the park and donated the facility to it. See, progressive, futuristic thinking isn't just a recent trait in Oregon! Oaks has a famed roller rink and a small collection of rides being joined this year by a brand new Gerstlauer Eurofighter coaster; that's the park's largest capital investment in decades.



The primary competitor is Enchanted Forest in Turner, a classic story book park that's got extremely unique rides. There's the one of a kind shooting dark ride Challenge of Mondor. There's the Big Timber Log Ride, who's steel coaster based drops and uphill sections earned it a place on RCDB. There's the Haunted House walk through. And most famously of all, there's Ice Mountain Bobsled. What is Ice Mountain Bobsled? Well, it was originally designed as a heavily themed alpine slide, but transitioned into being a unique, in-house built roller coaster with full enclosed three car trains. Enchanted Forest certainly mixes the traditional with the novel.



Oregon has some other more orthodox, but still unique, attractions elsewhere in the state. Seaside, Oregon is a classic beach front town which still features a few indoor attractions after the closure of the one amusement park here in the 1980s. Of most notability is what Google Maps indicates is "Interstate Amusements Co." on Broadway, home to what is often referred to as the best set of Lusse Auto Skooters on the planet. These are the same sort of super heavy bumper car in use at Knoebels, and previous sets have disappeared during my lifetime from Hoffman's Playland (now Huck Finn's) in Upstate NY and Oaks in Oregon. The heft and speed of these cars makes the hits exceedingly violent; there's nothing else comparable. The area also has a small carousel, a more modern set of electric bumper cars, a Tilt-A-Whirl, indoor mini golf, and a Fascination parlor (a great electromechanical game I've detailed before). I'm not quite as enthusiastic over the existence of Prehistoric Gardens near Eugene, but as far as static models of dinosaurs made primarily in the 50s and 60s go, it's in great shape. This is an old school sorta roadside attraction that we're losing left and right.



Like almost every state with something approaching a real population, Oregon has some stand alone attractions. Modern wood carousels have opened in the state in Salem and Albany as community focal points. Occupying the "Independent FEC and Pizza Restaurant" niche is Roaring Rapids Pizza Company, which has a metal CW Parker Carousel, mini golf, and arcade games. Train Mountain Railroad  is not only a rail museum with the largest private collection of Cabooses, but features ride-able scale trains. None of the county fairgrounds have anything too exciting, but the Oregon State Fair does have a permanent sky ride that runs during the event, and the local rides company of Funtastic Shows and Davis Amusements Cascadia often travel with interesting pieces like the Schwarzcopf Flitzer and Funtastic's Herschell wood carousel.



While there's no really great outdoor water parks in Oregon, there is a really interesting indoor one. Wings and Waves Waterpark features an aeronautic and space theme, with a real life Boeing 747 mounted on the roof that serves as a platform for slides.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Ontario

Possessing nearly twice the population of its closest competition, and 50% more space than Texas, Ontario claims home to the nation's capital (Ottawa), Canada's biggest city (Toronto), the most used border crossings (Buffalo & Detroit), 40% of the country's GDP, and a connection to all but one Great Lake. Most people's experiences with the province will be limited to just Southern Ontario - the spit of land between the lakes where the major cities of the province all reside. Wind your way north and you'll eventually run out of road before you run out of Ontario. The Trans-Canada Highway, AKA ON-11, effectively establishes a boundary for traditional craft. To go past that requires high clearance vehicles and immense fuel tanks, along with the bravery required to travel for hundreds and hundreds of miles on logging roads into places where literal polar bears reside. There are huge tracts in which no man may have ever stepped foot. Ontario is that big.

As such, this is going to be an above average Hidden Rides segment. There's a lot to cover, after all. As always, I'll start by referencing the known thing: Canada's Wonderland, Cedar Fair's now second most popular seasonal park. Home to 15 roller coasters (one of which has dark ride elements), the best collection of flat rides in North America, and a Mountain centerpiece that is really really cool, Canada's Wonderland is an above average park that is also apparently getting a B&M Dive Coaster for the 2019 season. And we have to move on now, because there's other things to see.



Metro Toronto itself is home to a whole bunch of lesser known attractions; Centreville Amusement Park on Toronto Island is probably the most beloved, and has the coolest ride of the bunch with old school scary dark ride the Haunted Barrel Works, but also a brand new skyride, several car ride attractions, a junior coaster, and a log flume. Legoland Discovery Centre in Vaughan has a Kingdom Quest trackless shooting dark ride like many other facilities in the chain. Fantasy Fair at Woodbine Centre is an indoor family entertainment center in a mall with several kiddie rides and a small train. There's also some haphazard theming including animatronic dinosaurs and Main Street USA style store fronts.

But when it comes to wackiness, few places can ever match Niagara Falls. Much like Pigeon Forge or Orlando's old I-Drive, there's no shortage of off the wall amusements and attractions. An entire section of this blog could be dedicated to Niagara Falls, Ontario alone, but we're going to limit ourselves for now and just go through most of the highlights:


  • Marineland. Probably the most controversial theme park in North America, and it's tough to argue why. Are there interesting things here? Sure; Dragon Mountain is a gigantic Arrow looper who's theming took 25 years to construct (and only partially when done). There's a huge S&S tower complex overlooking the falls. It has some really crazy Huss rides from the 70s. It has performing animals and...OK, so that's part of the problem. "Part" because there's a preposterously high death rate. "Part" because the reaction by management to criticism has been far more boneheaded than SeaWorld's ever was. Google "John Holer". That's all you need to do.
  • Clifton Hill. This couple of blocks is where the not offensive stuff is at: There are two dark rides here, both shooting ones - Ghost Blasters in the Great Canadian Midway and Tour Bus SWAT Team Ride at Adventure City, located in a Sheraton. Ghost Blasters was constructed by Sally, the other by I.E. Park (and originally themed to Spiderman). There's also a Funhouse, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, an Upside Down House, three wax museums (Movieland, Louis Tussaud's, and Rock Legends), two haunted walkthroughs (Nightmare's Fear Factory, Castle Dracula), Rainforest Cafe, 4D Motion Simulators (mostly from Triotech like Zombie Attack), multiple mirror mazes, multi-level go-karts, indoor and outdoor mini golf, and the Niagara Skywheel.
  • Niagara's Fury. This is run by Canada National Parks, and it's actually pretty interesting - there's a preshow where cartoon characters learn about the creation of Niagara Falls before one dons their poncho and heads into the big room. It's a 360 degree theater not terribly unlike Disney's except for the floor's capacity to shake and the (sometimes soaking) water effects. It's actually very well done! 
  • Head further towards the falls and it just won't stop. There's more haunted attractions, the Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre, Skylon Tower's wacky Greatest Possible Arcade circa 1996, more FECs, a Margaritaville, and towering hotel/casinos. Oh, go the opposite way and you'll hit the big Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and Bird Kingdom.  


With all the glitz and cheesiness of Niagara Falls, one may wish to step back and find something more simple and perhaps "authentic." Guelph is a university town a decent drive out of Toronto, and Riverside Park there features a Spillman carousel and a diesel powered miniature train. Way out on the eastern edge of Ontario is North Bay Heritage Railroad and Carousel - they actually possess two carousels with work being done by local carvers. The town of Roseneath, located about halfway between Toronto and Kingston, also possesses a classic carousel. This one is a CW Parker of 1906 heritage that's been given a new building and lots of TLC. Older yet is Lakeside Park of St. Catharine's Looff from 1903, also meticulously kept up. And in the remote city of Thunder Bay lies Chippewa Park, a small community amusement park. It's carousel is being refurbished, and it's Spillman built coaster was torn down in 2011, but some kiddie rides remain for summer operation.

This may still be too devoid of natural surroundings for some, and Ontario tries to answer those criticisms as well. Blue Mountain Ski Resort has the safest option all around with their Mountain Coaster, one of the first constructed on the continent. Horseshoe has zip lining, a rock climbing wall, and scenic chair rides. There's also a few resorts in Ontario which feature exclusive water parks: Logos Land and Cedar Park Resorts both have substantive aquatics facilities with old school fiber glass slides.



Speaking of water parks: Yeah, there's a lot of them here. Calypso Water Park just outside Ottawa is the nation's largest, and has a huge selection of water slides and two impressively themed lazy river attractions too. Wet N' Wild Toronto is probably the second biggest stand alone facility, having reopened and rebranded to Wet N'Wild (the other Wet N'Wild chain; no really, there's two) in 2017 and with a new slate of slides. Bingeman's Big Splash in Kitchener, Lake Lisgar in Tillsonburg, Adventure Bay in Windsor, and East Park in London round out the list of significant aquatics facilities in the province.



Storybook parks also have a very real presence; Santa's Village in Bracebridge is probably the nicest of all of them, and has a jet boat ride down the Oshawa River, both a powered coaster and SBF kiddie spinner, and a really above average train ride. Storybook Gardens in London might have the highest attendance in this category because of its location near a large population of people. In spite of the location, there's fewer rides here to go with the common fairy tale dioramas and what not. Story Book Land in Owen Sound is much more remote, but has a cool home built walk through haunt and a decent collection of family friendly flat rides. Castle Village & The Enchanted Kingdom completes the group with fairy tale houses, walking trails, and medieval museum exhibits, but it doesn't actually have rides.



Like most places in the US, there are family entertainment centers with go karts, rides, bumper boats, and golf. Blue Mountain Go Karts is perhaps the most traditional of these, with a first generation Herschell kiddie coaster, older style go karts, and batting cages. Fun Haven in Ottawa is an indoor variation, and as an indoor facility there's an updated coaster (SBF Visa spinning coaster), updated bumper cars, and updated arcade games. Then things get interesting: Neb's FunWorld of Oshawa is also an indoors facility, but is sprawling and freeform thanks to the building being added onto over time from a bowling alley to a much more expansive set up. The largest building features an indoor Moser kiddie drop tower that's actually themed with synchronized lights, electric go-karts, and the Sparetime Express kiddie coaster, inside of a a steel cage above the go karts.



Ratcheting up the "weird" factor even further is an indoor FEC located in a large garden center. Colsanti's Tropical Gardens is, in fact, a great place to buy things like trees and flowers if you are Canadian. If you are not, you can still stop in and play arcade games and put your kids on rides like the Miner Mike coaster. And topping all contenders is Wild Water & Wheels of Peterborough. Why this facility? Is it the go karts? Nah. The water slides? No. The mini golf? Negatory. No, its about the coaster: the last Bailey Autosled in existence. The gauge of the track is based on the original material of PVC pipe (this particular one is steel), and the individual seat cars are akin to an alpine slide. It's quite possibly the oddest roller coaster in existence.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

What's happening with SeaWorld? Part 2: The Plan?

Prior to discussing what it is SeaWorld is doing and whether or not it is working, let's first summarize Part 1 of this series:

-Busch Entertainment (what is now SeaWorld Entertainment) was acquired by Blackstone in 2009 from InBev, who was seeking to rid themselves of non-core assets of Anheuser-Busch after InBev's hostile takeover of the company. 

-Blackstone and it's investors paid $2.3 billion dollars to InBev; Roughly $1 billion dollars was cash from Blackstone and it's investors, and the remainder was in deferred financing provided by banks. Over the next three years, Blackstone would extract $610 million dollars from SeaWorld in the form of dividends. These dividends came from company profits, cash reserves, and sales of non-core assets.

-In 2013, 3 months after Blackfish made its debut at Sundance, Blackstone made the first public offering of SeaWorld (SEAS). They would sell stock 4 additional times until which time they ceased to have a position with the company. The stock sales and dividends paid over this time period allowed Blackstone to make nearly triple their money back on SEAS, even as the stock faltered in the wake of Blackfish. In addition to sale of stock, the deferred financing now hit the SEAS books as long term debt of roughly 1.5 billion dollars owed to various large banks. 

-SeaWorld's has two debt bubbles which may burst based on debt/EBIDTA ratio and more frighteningly, a maturing note in 2020 which SEAS best option to avoid default on may be selling attempting to sell junk bonds.

-Negative attendance in the wake of Blackfish, potentially lied about by SeaWorld management, led to collapse of share value. Blackstone's last sale of stock was to a Chinese firm (Zhonghong Zhuoye Group) in 2017 who paid in excess of market value for the shares using borrowed money. The company's chief  was embroiled in criminal legal wranglings, and the company's stock has been frozen by Chinese regulators in the months since. 

There's a lot there to grasp, and while there's certainly a lot of financial issues, they're compounded by poor managerial decisions and bad promotion. That's what Part 2 intends to tackle.

Friday, February 9, 2018

What's happening with SeaWorld? Part 1: The Finances

Ever since Blackfish was released, SeaWorld Entertainment has been struggling. Attendance is down dramatically at their Orlando flagship and in San Diego, and attraction closures at their less struggling Busch Gardens facilities are becoming an epidemic. There are investigations, lawsuits, and flat out bad press. Trying to make sense of this in a vacuum would be difficult. The tea leaves on theme park media, meanwhile, are often intentionally impossible to read. Jeff Putz, the man behind Coasterbuzz.com (it mattered more in the pre-social media era) had this to say as someone who wound up doing contract work for the company:

"Now the word comes that the CEO is stepping down, and they're laying off about 300 people across the chain. That's unfortunate, and I think it's an over-reaction (the company is still profitable), but it's also not surprising. Is it because of Blackfish? I don't think you need insider knowledge to know the answer to that question. As someone who has observed the theme park industry for around 15 years, I think it's obviously not that.

.....

I have no idea what they were up against in each of their markets in terms of competing attractions, but that you have to sink some cap ex dollars into theme parks to keep attendance up isn't some secret sauce. Disney, Universal, Six Flags, Cedar Fair and even independent parks like Holiday World get it. That's where SEAS is failing."

Robert Niles at Theme Park Insider instead points at another factor: The loss of free beer.

"Leaving the Anheuser-Busch family not only robbed SeaWorld/Busch Gardens of a corporate owner with deep pockets, it meant the end of the beer giveaways that time has shown might have been the most under-rated attraction at those parks. Without the lure of free beer, the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks have been exposed as under-capitalized attractions in generally inconvenient locations near competitive markets, without the hotels and secondary development to support growing attendance, and attraction line-ups that have suffered with too many recent flops."

Niles goes on to argue that theme park fans don't care about animals in the same piece that establishes SeaWorld Orlando as having had an attendance of 5.5 million within recent memory. That's pretty inconsistent as a take, but the general theme continues here that SeaWorld's mistake was not spending more money or that the money was spent poorly on the wrong rides/attractions. For most, this is a satisfactory answer. It's simple enough to grasp and to lots of people makes sense given the popularity of attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Cars Land. It even fits well with the popular internet idea that audiences specifically demand "fully immersive" attractions such as this. 

As is often the case on this blog, I often look at issues or topics in the theme park industry that aren't well analyzed. As good an explanation as this is, is it actually the right one? 


Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Oklahoma



Their college team wears Red, the state's name is derived from Choctaw for "red people," the capital is the popular pick for America's best conservative city, and yes, they almost always vote Republican. Oklahoma lives the gimmick. Home to possibly the most avoided stretch of tollway in the nation (I-44), the state is most famous for it's weird shape, white supremacist terror attacks, Russell Westbrook, T. Boone Pickens commercials, and Jim Ross' BBQ sauce. It's a bit like Kansas except their voters are practically destined to approve medical marijuana (even if they can't afford to regulate it because their taxes are really low). Fracking income is down but wind farms are getting built like crazy. Its what you think of it, and then it's something else too.



Oklahoma City's population has skyrocketed, while Tulsa's city population has been flat and its suburbs instead absorb the humanity. If one inspects that further, you can see how amusements mirror that reality. Frontier City was the park from which the whole Premier Parks empire grew to absorb Walibi and Six Flags: it's back in the hands of Kieran Burke today as their flagship. There's several decent size coasters here, though none are all that wonderful (the Wildcat wood coaster has been neutered; the steel coasters are basically 70s era production models) and there's a dark ride and some halfway decent theming. That's more than I can say for Bell's Amusement Park, Tulsa's classic facility that managed to get kicked out of its home on the Tulsa Fairgrounds. There's a long back story about that you can read here, but let's just say that the space isn't generating revenue for the public of Tulsa. Politics rule.



Speaking of abandoned parks: Eagle Park. You can show up and get tours of the last Comanche chief's house along with lots of pictures of the decrepit rides. It's a regular stop for urbex types looking for soft adventure.



So before we get to the really deliciously obscure stuff, let's get to the stuff that's easier to Google: Lots of facilities in the state have a ride or two that aren't really full parks. Incredible Pizza Company in Warr Acres has a SBF Spinning Kiddie coaster. Elk City has a city park with a nice modern carousel. Oklahoma City Zoo does the usual zoo thing and has both train rides and a newer carousel to hit up: Tulsa Zoo has, well, the same sorts of things.



"What about kiddie parks?," I hear from the back. Oklahoma has you covered with three significant ones: Meadowlake Park in Enid has a Eli Wheel, CP Huntington Train, and a classic carousel. Quartz Mountain Fun Park and Water Slide doesn't have a coaster, but has something way rarer - the nation's other Eyerly Fly-O-Plane. There's this one (which was acquired from Eagle Park) and the one at Lake Winnie outside Chattanooga, and that's it. There's also an adapted concrete slide too, so you've got the best of all worlds. Finally, Kiddie Park in Bartlesville has 17 rides, most of which are vintage 50s pieces that are indestructible.



But wait! There's more. If you follow this series, you know that the states around Oklahoma (Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas) have fairgrounds with community owned attractions. Oklahoma is no different. The largest of them is, unfortunately, not operating any more - the old Observation Tower at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds is static and will probably never run again. The other state fair in Tulsa however rehabbed their scenic attraction: a Von Roll Skyride, just like the ones Disney used to operate or that runs at Cedar Point today.

BUT WAIT. THERE'S MORE.

There are also 5 other community carnivals in the state of Oklahoma, and they have some gnarly stuff:



Carnegie Tri-County Free Fair: 5 rides in total; Ferris wheel, Pirate Ship, Space Train, the Swing Ride, and the Fish Ride.

Geary Tri-County Fair: Tilt, Ferris Wheel, Scrambler, kids rides (kiddie train, Astrojet, Swinger)

Hinton District Fair: Ferris Wheel, Train, Tilt, Scat, some other rides



Hydro Free Fair: Ferris wheel, Hustler, Octopus, Loop-O-Plane, kiddie rides, pool. City also has a carousel.

Mountain View Free Fair: CW Parker Ferris Wheel, Carousel (? vintage), Kiddie car ride, possibly Italian

Many of the kiddie rides are probably worth 10X whatever the fair boards think they are at auction, while stuff like the Parker Wheel and Scat are rare, lucky-to-see-them-twice-in-a-lifetime pieces. Who knows how long they'll keep on running though, which makes them all the more important to record and see in real life; few pictures or video exist of any of these.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #143 - Visual Scan


Your favorite theme park podcast returns to talk about the XFL, art museums, Henry Ford, training systems, and Detroit. But no, really, we cover the announcement of Voodoo Donuts at Universal, closure of DarKastle, Blackpool demolishing its Wild Mouse, Legoland getting rid of Island in the Sky, Kennywood removing Log Jammer, and more complaining about things closing. Finally we talk about Alan's latest articles on theme park employment trends and how theme parks make money. Is Six Flags ahead of the curve in revenue trends and training? What should Cedar Fair do? What about SeaWorld? Finally we close with your questions!



Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeAlanParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick, and ParkscopeLane.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Ohio

Along with Pennsylvania and New York, Ohio has always been one of the most amusement park heavy states. Where industry flourished in the late 19th century, independent trolley operators arrived. Where independent trolley operators were, amusement parks were sure to follow. Since I got into being a theme park fan, Ohio has lost a number of notable and significant facilities: Sea World Ohio, Geauga Lake (later Six Flags Ohio and Six Flags Worlds of Adventure), and Americana all entered the long, dark night. Along with the 70s/80s era closures of Idora and Chippewa Lake, the state isn't what it used to be. That doesn't mean it isn't still above average; Cedar Point and Kings Island are still here and pull over 7 million combined attendance. There's also Columbus Zoo, which was where Jack Hanna presided over enormous growth (aided greatly by his promotional touring) into one of the finest zoological parks in the world. During Six Flags' struggles, the Zoo acquired the old trolley park Wyandot Lake and reformed it into a mixed water/amusement facility that retained its classic wood coaster. Cincinnati's zoo is also exceedingly well known, and is home to 4D theater rides, a carousel, and a train.



Any serious look at themed attractions has to look at zoos, and to use the popular urban parlance, "Ohio's zoo game is strong." Columbus Zoo also operates The Wilds, a gigantic outdoor animal facility south of Zanesville. Consisting of some 20+ square miles, The Wilds is roughly half the size of Walt Disney World's entire boundaries, and multiple times as large as the next largest facility (San Diego Safari Park). In addition to bus and jeep tours that run near 2 hours, there's ziplines, rental yurts for overnight stays, and onside dining. Don't forget the pollinator garden either.



Not as well known as Cincinnati or Columbus, but not much less grand, are Cleveland and Toledo's zoos. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has an outstanding Australia area with train ride, classic carousel, and the impressive indoor Rainforest area. Toledo has two carousels, a train that runs the perimeter of its well done "Experience Africa" area, and an aerial course, as well as some really good WPA structures that still stand. The other small cities of Ohio still have above average stuff for zoos: Dayton's Boonshoft Museum of Discovery has an AZA accredited indoor zoo within a science museum. Akron's zoo is small but still has a carousel (and a "train"; doesn't really run on track) and impressive theming in sections like Grizzly Ridge.



Some of the most traditional amusement vibes on the planet can still be found in Ohio. Stricker's Grove is a throwback like almost no other; it's a private picnic park for group outings that opens to the public only a few days a year. While many picnic facilities exist in the US, few contain two operating wood coasters and an assortment of classic flat rides. Stricker's has the business model and the ride selection of something from the 1950s, except you can see and experience it in the present day. Interesting fact too: during our last visit at Stricker's in 2017, I flipped arcade play into a Vollmar's Park trivet, of all things. Vollmar's Park operated several hours away in Bowling Green and actually closed in 2001. Maybe some of the rides had wound up here at Stricker's, but I still found that a really strange find.



The state also features two classic 50s era kiddie parks. Memphis Kiddie Park operates on a small plot of land in Cleveland proper: the Herschell Little Dipper coaster at the park is among the oldest steel coasters in the world, having opened back in 1952. Another Herschell kiddie coaster can be found at Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia, half an hour south of Canton. Unlike Memphis Kiddie Park that is family owned, Tuscora is a public park which has outsourced amusement operation to a third party to draw families. The rides are geared to kids and in many cases exclusively open to them.

Newer family entertainment center style facilities have popped up to help take some of the load off. The owner of Howard's Apples Farm Market acquired a kiddie coaster from the defunct Dover Lake Water Park, then decided to open it to guests coming for apple cider slush and corn mazes in 2016. An hour south of it is Sluggers and Putters, an above average mini golf/go kart facility who opened a refurbished version of Americana's old kiddie coaster in 2015. While it possesses no rides, Entertainment Junction north of Cincinnati does have trains - so many in fact that it has the largest indoor train display in the world. Part of it? A model of Coney Island Cincinnati.



When a name became popular in the 19th and 20th century, everyone raced to copy it. When getting into hot water became popular, a lot of "Carlsbad"s started to come around. When amusement parks started getting built, everyone wanted a name that screamed what it was you were attending. RCDB lists 21 amusement parks named "White City" after the original 1893 World's Fair. There's 14 Dreamlands, 13 Tivolis, 10 Coneys, and 124 Luna Parks. Those are just the places that ever had a roller coaster, by the way. Coney Island Cincinnati was one of these places. It's not on an island, but it did have a swimming beach (later replaced by a pool, probably since the Ohio River wasn't the best to swim in), and it did have rides. Lots of 'em. It was among the most, if not the single most, successful regional park in the United States after World War 2. Walt Disney himself sought out the advice of its owner and manager, Ed Schott (yes, like Marge, who married into the family) when developing Disneyland.

Coney Island was too successful for it's own good: that position near the Ohio River that once brought in steamships full of passengers also meant the park was in a flood plain. There are also rumors that pressure either from within the ownership or from outside in Cincinnati's elite pushed the ownership (which by this point had morphed into Taft Broadcasting) into moving Coney Island. The park was supposed to close forever after the 1971 season; one which was reportedly its most successful. After only a few years of limited operation, Taft wound up spinning off Kings Island and keeping Coney Island. The park was ultimately sold in 1991, and while it is nowhere near as grandiose as it once was, many features such as the Sunlite Pool (largest recirculating pool in the world since opening almost a century ago), modern and classic thrill rides, and even a steel roller coaster still run.



As amusement parks have closed, many Carousels have been made available and become standalone attractions. Among the most notable are the two at Sandusky's Merry Go Round Museum, which is downtown only minutes from Cedar Point. There's displays, horses and other figures to view, and then of course the carousels themselves. The Cleveland History Center recently reopened a carousel of their own, this time once owned and operated at another venerable Ohio institution that closed in the 60s; Euclid Beach.