Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5 Awesome Vintage Amusement Parks to Visit on Memorial Day (that won't break the budget and aren't mega-sized).

You've got lots of options this summer for big fun.  Might I suggest the following?:

Visit a vintage amusement park!  Or two or three!  Heck, make a road trip out of it!!!

Yes, I'm talking to you.  I know you; you're cost-conscious, yet a thrill-seeker.  You want something unique and memorable to do with your family.  But sometimes when you think about amusement parks, what comes to mind are the super-duper megaparks, crawling with just too many people and not enough space to rest, to enjoy a meal, to breathe.  Well, I'm hear to tell you there are other parks out there, really great ones, some family-owned and operated, that are much more manageable in scope, but still packed with everything you could possibly need or want for a great, old-fashioned time.

Behold my top 5 parks from my book, "The Cotton Candy Road Trip" specifically picked for you if  you're fixing to have a great time, without losing the kids in a crowd (or your patience within the first five minutes).  They're all user-friendly in size, full of charm and history, and, for those adrenaline junkies out there, each has a very noteworthy roller coaster:

1.  Knoebels, Elysburg, PA: Plenty of trees to rest under, some of the best park food you'll ever taste, and an impressive parade of vintage rides that will please every age range.  What sets Knoebels apart is the way they keep up and constantly improve the collection of the vintage rides, sometimes rescuing rides from other parks (like the astounding Phoenix roller coaster).  They're actually working on a Flying Turns ride, patterned after an attraction from the fabeled past of Chicago's Riverview park.  Be sure to check out their on-premises carousel museum!

Knoebels' carousel

2.  Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, CA: Right on the Pacific Ocean, the park boasts an amazing arcade, scrumptious boardwalk food (yes, you will want the chocolate-covered bacon), an excellent haunted dark ride, the Big Dipper coaster, and a skyride, which allows you to take in the breathtaking ocean view.

Gargoyles guarding the haunted dark ride

3.  Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver, CO: At night, this park becomes an astounding jewel box of neon signage.  Antique ride signs have been lovingly preserved; you will not find such a collection at any other park.  Thrill as you ride the Vettel rollercoaster, one of only a few which still remain in operation.

Seriously.  It doesn't get better than this.

4.  Arnolds Park, Arnolds Park, IA: Ride the Legend rollercoaster, go for a picturesque boat ride on the lake, blow your wad shopping, visit the Rock and Roll museum, get lost in the mirror maze, go shopping again, take in the park's historical museum, then round out your visit with a Nutty Bar (trust me on this).  And there's a concert series to boot.  If you run out of things to do at Arnolds, you're just hopeless.

The Legend.  And it IS.

5.  Rye Playland, Rye, NY: With three dark rides, the iconic Dragon roller coaster, the historic Derby Racer, and a well-stocked kiddieland, there's more than enough delights for kids of all ages.  What's unique and wonderful about Rye Playland is that it still has the same layout it had on opening day back in 1928, when park planners thoughtfully plotted out green spaces and restful, tree-lined areas.  Rye Playland weathered Hurricane Sandy and is still standing.  This season, it needs your support and patronage so that it doesn't get severely "edited" by the powers that be who wish to wipe out about a third of the rides.  Don't let that happen.  Visit Rye Playland and visit often.

View of a portion of Playland from the park's Ferris wheel
Pack the sunscreen and get moving!  Summer hasn't even officially begun but it's already a'wastin'!


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