Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Join me at "Carousel for a Cause", June 13th at Santa's Village Azoosment Park!!/events/523507984351436/

Cover Photo

I couldn't be more honored, pleased and humbled.  On June 13th, I'll be part of the festivities at "Carousel for a Cause", a benefit for a variety of charitable organizations, being held at Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee, Illinois.

From the Facebook event page:

"Join Santa's Village Azoosment Park on June 13 for a special reveal of the thirty unique and antique carousel horses re-painted by resident artist, Dutch Akers, and six historical replicas decorated by local, not-for-profit organizations. Each organization participating has a connection with either children or animals, which are both such a vital part of the park.

Organizations participating in this artistic event include: Andersen Animal Shelter (South Elgin), Boys & Girls Club of Rockford (Rockford), Clearbrook (Arlington Heights) March of Dimes Northeast Division (Joliet), Operation North Pole (Des Plaines) and Willowbrook Wildlife Center (Glen Ellyn).

We hope to see you at the celebration, and be sure to check out the event photo album for more information on each of the charitable organizations!"

What's really nifty about my participation is that I'll be signing copies of my book there and be donating half of all proceeds to the above organizations.

Please get your tickets NOW! It should be a magical, memorable event.

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'!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Listen to My Most Recent Radio Interview on WCNS THIS Saturday morning ONLINE!!!

The jaunty chef guy who oversees the making of the Potato Patch fries at Kennywood

Mike Krcil is a rock star (figuratively speaking), an award-winning broadcaster, and a really great guy.  What makes him a rock star is that he asked to interview me for my book, helping to get the word out about it in the Greater Pittsburgh area (where a chunk of the parks I visited reside) and hopefully getting folks interested in doing their own vintage amusement park road trips.

So make a nice latte, cozy up to your computer, and give the interview a listen THIS SATURDAY (that's tomorrow, May 18) at 9:30 Eastern.  You can do so by clicking on this link at the appropriate time:

It's part of the Saturday Talk Block on 1480 WCNS.  Mike and I chat about Western Pennsylvania parks like Kennywood and Idlewild, and I also give some hints about parks to visit in other regions of the U.S.  And at the very end of the 30-minute interview, I give out a holler about how YOU can help save a vintage park in peril, the awesomely historic Rye Playland.

Take some time and tune in tomorrow!!!  Your soul will smile.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Keansburg Amusement Park re-opens THIS SATURDAY!

Miracles are afoot in Keansburg.  Months after being devastated by Hurricane Sandy, this stalwart little vintage park, the jewel of the town, is set to re-open to much fanfare this very Saturday.  I'm so excited for them and my heart aches that I can't be at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but I'm out in Chicago and can't make it there, so I'll be living vicariously through Facebook updates and news posts online.

Here are a few from my 2011 visit to the park.  This July, I'll be updating them when I finally get to re-visit this park that embodies the phrase "Jersey Strong".

Spook House vehicle sporting a groovy-scary paint job.
Arcade game.  Very "Danny and Sandy" from "Grease"
Caterpillar kiddie ride

The carousel.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Holy Mary Blair! Check out the "It's a Small World" Android app!!

This ardent Mary Blair fan just got a boost to her soul on this fine Thursday morning.  Never mind that she'll be recording a NEW interview for her book on a Pittsburgh-area radio station - THIS may have topped it!!!

At the left you'll find a screen shot for the new "It's a Small World" Android app! My fingers are actually ITCHY this very moment because I know I need to write at least this teaser blog post about it FIRST before I can actually download the app.  But I'm definitely going to review it in an upcoming blog post.

Imagine me, the ultimate Mary Blair fan, carrying around a part of one of my favorite rides from any Disney park along with me wherever I go?!

It's a Small Blair!!!! 

From the app's website: Enter this delightful world filled with vibrant settings, and meet fantastical friends along the way. Travel through the Snowy Alps, dusty plains, calm seas, and more as you tour different regions around the world. From beloved Disney characters to toy soldiers and mermaids, encounter new and familiar faces throughout your travels. With so much to see, start your joyful journey today!

Friday, May 3, 2013

It's rainy and cold in Chicago. I want a margarita. And I know which one I want. Hint: Mexican pavilion in Epcot.

Sometimes it's really very simple.  You wake up, it's cold and damp and rainy outside, it's only 48 degrees.  You are shivering.  You turn on the TV and your local news has some guy who's a mixologist on and he's concocting a margarita in honor of Cinco De Mayo on Sunday.  You notice it's a basic margarita recipe, save for the inclusion of vanilla bean-infused triple sec (which you think is a very good idea).  You talk to our hubby about what you've just watched and you plot a way to make such a margarita over the weekend.

Three caballeros poster.png

Then you ponder other margaritas you've had in your young life and realize you may have had one of the most spectacular ones ever just about two years ago.  It was at Epcot in Disney World, in November, 2011.  You were happily ordering your dinner at the San Angel Inn, the nifty restaurant inside the Mexican pavilion, right near the Gran Fiesta tour boat ride featuring Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito. 

Then you saw the drink menu and something popped out like in a pop-up book and had you hooked.

The drink that haunts your waking moments on a cold, rainy Chicago day is the Orange Mango Fire Margarita and it is exactly what it says it is (from the menu online): El Mayor premium Tequila, ginger liqueur, orange juice, mango, fresh lime juice, a hint of tabasco sauce, served on the rocks with a Tajin chili powder rim.  It is $12.50 and you tabulate how may you could have for $100, but you don't order that many because one is sufficiently heady enough.

The Disney Food Blog (WHY DON'T I HAVE THIS JOB???) wrote about it back in 2010, when it was offered at the other World Showcase Mexican restaurant,  La Hacienda de San Angel (  Here is their photo of the drink:

This is all you want.  It is citrussy and spicy and packs a wallop.  This one drink has it all.

You do your level best to be back at Epcot within months.