Day 1 of our Northeast Trip

Today we kicked off off day 1 of our 9 day, 18 parks, around 80-ish coaster trip that will take us through the northeast, into Canada, and back to New York. Unfortunately it started with a bit of a disappointment, but it quickly turned into a very fun, full day. The main theme of the day was small, unpolished (in the sense of copious uses concrete, metal fencing, and questionable yet oh-so-charismatic theming), but extremely charming parks. They had a very different type of appeal than major, heavily-themed parks, but nevertheless an extremely valid one – the best word I can think of is authentic. These parks are not pretentious; they’re about great fun, classic rides, and even a little silliness.

You can see many pictures and more detailed comments in the photos, but here is a good summary.


First stop was Bowcraft, a small, family-oriented park with a twist – a Zierer Crossbow, an intense (judging by appearances), tightly-twisted small coaster. There is only one other like this, and it’s in Germany. Unfortunately, it turned out this ride hasn’t yet opened this season; they said they were waiting on parts, and it would probably open in a few days – not soon enough for us to get back and ride it, though.

The silver lining, though, was that we still got to explore the whole area, including the station. This was where I was also presented a rather extreme temptation that it’s unlikely I’ll see again – a coaster with an empty station, the key in the operating panel, the panel on, and the dispatch button flashing. It took a lot of willpower to overwhelm my urge to start playing with it and see what I could do / how far I could get before they kicked me out. I also had to wonder how long that panel had been sitting there, on but unusued.

Otherwise, their Wisdom-built kids’ coaster, Dragon, I found reasonably enjoyable for the size it was – the helixes press you up against the side quite well, and we got 4 cycles. Brian, however, disagreed. There weren’t really any other rides of note, and the only other thing we rode was a tilt-a-whirl.

Keansburg Amusement Park

After Bowcraft, it was off to a small, seaside park in Keansburg that featured a classic Schwarzkopf Wildcat, a Miler kids’ coaster, and a variety of interesting flat rides.

With the removal of Cedar Point’s Wildcat, there was much nostalgia to be had here. This one has a rather interesting unique feature, though not a positive– they don’t use any block sections on it. I don’t know if this because the brakes aren’t hooked up (quite possible since none of them grabbed during the course), but it means that the capacity of this ride is much diminished – one car has to finish the entire course before another can be launched. It didn’t help that there was only one operator, as well, and that wildcats seem to require people to manually push cars from the exit station to the entrance station (I seem to remember this from Cedar Point’s as well, except they had a number of employees operating it). Operations aside, Wildcats are always very enjoyable, classic rides that pack a lot of punch into a small footprint. Their tight hills and turns create very enjoyable, if not extreme, forces – and the last helix and brake run can be quite forceful, in a good way (just make sure you’re paying attention). Oddly, given that the brakes are off on this one, I seem to remember Cedar Point’s and the Puyallup Fair’s Wildcats as being more intense, but there is some possibility that was just a fond memory overplaying it. I’ll try head down to the Puyallup fair next month to verify.

Their kids’ coaster, Sea Serpent, and its three cycles were not a lot to speak of – it was somewhat jarring, and not particularly enjoyable. Their flats, however, were much better. Of particular note was the Eyerly Loop-O-Plane, an extremely “classic” inverting ride that was clearly from an earlier era. It was fairly easy to see how it operated, and also the lack of modern safeguards (e.g. redundant latches and safety cables – though it is certainly debatable if that’s necessary; we both believe this ride is more than safe) and modern sizing (all of the cars are quite snug for even average-sized people, which means many American adults probably wouldn’t fit). We got a fantastically-long cycle on this, and inverting with only a lap bar to hold you against the seat was quite a sensation (for those wondering about the use of a lap bar on an inverting ride, you’re basically in a cage as well; there’s very little risk of you falling out).  I would say for me, this ride was actually the highlight of Keansburg, and it’s a real shame there aren’t more of these around.

There was also a Chance Chaos, one of the few that are still operating. I had the chance (pun intended) to ride Cedar Point’s (which had been one of the longest-lasting ones before it, too, was removed), but I rode alone that time, and the flipping wasn’t as good. Riding it with Brian definitely improved the inversion count and intensity, and it made the ride much more disorienting and enjoyable. I even got Brian to admit that he might get sick if he rode it again (Brian insists I qualify this with a reminder that he hadn’t eaten all day). While I wouldn’t classify this ride as exceptional, it was definitely good, and certainly worth doing since there are so few of them remaining.

Lastly, there was the S&S double shot. These towers are more fun in their shorter variants, and this was no exception – good airtime at the top. After that, and some fried Oreos and snow cones, it was off to New York’s most famous park and what is arguably the world’s most famous roller coaster.

Coney Island

Coney Island is actually more like a district than a park; it’s a number of smaller parks that make up a larger whole. There’s also a very cool – and busy – boardwalk area adjacent to it, including a beach leading up to the bay.

The first thing we did upon arriving was head to Deno’s and ride the Wonder Wheel. This is a classic old Ferris wheel that has moving/swinging cars; as the wheel turns, they move along a track within the wheel itself (having a look at the pictures may make this easier to understand). The only other Ferris wheel I know of like this is at Disney’s California Adventure; Deno’s Wonder Wheel was the inspiration for that one. Deno’s feels much more classic, and there’s a very cool effect I didn’t notice on Disney’s, where the car slides forward and then swings out past the structure, making you feel like you might be launched off of the wheel. Our next step was to ride the Sea Serpent at Dino’s, which, like the one we’d ridden earlier that day, was mostly unremarkable, although this one was a mite smoother. Then, we moved on to the most famous part of Coney.

Astroland – at least by name; much of Astroland was lost when it closed a few years back – contains the Cyclone, which I’ll assert is likely the world’s most famous roller coaster. Sure, Santa Monica Pier gets a lot of screentime in the movies, but no other coaster is as well-known, as historic, and as iconic as the Cyclone. Six Flags even opened up “inspired by” wooden coasters at a variety of their parks, although unfortunately Psyclone (Six Flags Magic Mountain) and Texas Cyclone (Six Flags Astroworld) are now defunct.

So, how has this historic coaster held up with age? It has an endearing, exciting rawness to it that modern rides don’t – there are spots where the airtime in the back is, simply put, amazing. It grabs you out of the seat and shoves you against the padded lap bar with surprising, almost painful strength. At the same time, I’m very glad that they’ve padded the trains until they’re almost like overstuffed couches – each dip reminds you that this is no young ride, rattling and shaking you forcefully. It is awesome, but I will never understand how coaster enthusiasts marathoned this ride.

It is currently being refurbished by GCI in a multi-year process, and I’m glad that we got in on the early part of that. I trust GCI to make this great ride even better, but I also wanted to know what it felt like in its more ‘historic’ condition. I’ll be looking forward to going back once they’re finished, and seeing how well it’s improved.

After Cyclone, we headed back over to Luna Park and Scream Zone, a pair of parks run by Zamperla. Here, we rode the Tickler, an oddly named but quite fun spinning mouse, which really takes advantage of the spinning aspect. On many spinning coasters, the spinning is limited, but the spinning on this one was quite extensive and took place throughout nearly all of the ride. After that, we hit the Circus Coaster, an interesting but small kids’ coaster. Its most unique attribute was two rather delightful pops of airtime from a very shallow pair of hops just before the train returns to the station.

Following this, we grabbed some of Nathan’s famous hot dogs at his original location, although I have to say I probably liked the orangeade most of all of the items I got. This break was a great reminder that the character present in the parks permeates all of the Coney Island area, including the restaurants and other attractions. I’ll skip any in-depth food reviews, unlike certain amusement park review sites, but it was an enjoyable part of the trip that helped complete the Coney Island experience.

Next up was Soarin’ Eagle, a Zamperla Volare flying coaster – the first of three on our trip (thanks, Brian).  Volares are not exactly known for their exceptional smoothness, but they are at least fun, compact coasters. I enjoy them quite a bit, although they can be a bit jarring. Of the ones I’ve done, this was middle of the road – fairly smooth for much of it, but with a few jarring parts, and a restraint that felt more restrictive than the typical Volares.

After that was Steeplechase, a launched Zamperla (seeing an obvious trend?) MotoCoaster. This was my third of these (after Darien’s and Knott’s), and it’s the best I’ve ridden. Its layout is far more engaging than Knott’s, and it felt much faster than Darien’s – to be confirmed at the end of this trip when we are there. Actually, the difference between Darien’s and this one was enough to validate in my mind that Zamperla’s MotoCoaster might actually be interesting to see in larger form, at larger parks…

That was the last of our coasters to ride, but there is one other ride worth of mention – Air Race. Air Race is an interesting flat ride that involves many inversions – rather than attempt to explain it in words, it’s best to just see the pictures. Air Race was very enjoyable, as well as fascinating to watch, and I would love to see this model start to appear in more parks.

After our extremely full day, we set off to our hotel on Long Island, and Adventureland the following morning…

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