Jump to content

Amusement Parks and Water Parks


jayandstacey
 Share

Recommended Posts

I haven't really been to any of the amusement parks or water parks around here. But when the kids get older, we'll be looking for worthy overnight options. Would love people's input on nearby amusement parks and water parks, as well as where to stay and eat. For example, is the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg worth spending the night at? What about Sesame Place? Dutch Wonderland? Hershey Park? If you've driven there from here, then I'm interested to hear about your experience. I'm interested in your opinions about the park, where you stayed, and what you ate.

ok, here we go. I've been to all, and then some.

Great Wolf Lodge: I've been to the Williamsburg and Poconos outposts. In full disclosure, I bought stock early in WOLF, learned an expensive lesson and got out...but have been back as a visitor since, so I don't hold much of a grudge. You are paying essentially for the rights to a semi-private indoor waterpark here. To that end, I wouldn't bother going during the summer, nor would I expect much from the food or accomdations - though the accomodations are fine. At about $250 per night or more, the real thing you're paying for is the semi-private part. The food is pretty bad generally but luckily each outpost is an area with other food options.

Dutch Wonderland: We LOVE this place, despite the hints of religion around the park. It is perfect for kids up to about 11, and the waterpark is nice on a hot day. We've rented the cabana at the waterpark and liked that too. We've been probably 20 times - the food in the park is a little better than average, with some local flavors mixed with the standard pizza/hotdog selections. The park is small enough to tackle in a day but big enough not to be boring, and is a pretty quick trip from I-270. It has VERY close options for food, but most are of the Applebees type. One interesting note - there's a Howard Johnsons' down the street that has an indoor waterpark. It is NOT the same scale as Great Wolf Lodge- but has many of the same elements and is like...$75 a night. We've gone to the Lancaster area, stayed in the HoJo, gone to Dutch Wonderland's Christmas hours and enjoyed the waterpark...all on the cheap. (note, it isn't about "cheap" but I'm pointing out that sometimes you can get nearly as much value for a

Sesame Place: I haven't been in a while (maybe 6 years), and remember this as being more for kids up to maybe 7 or 8 (not 11). It is great for them and has some wide-open spaces, like a HUGE jungle gym /ropes area, plus a better selection of characters. There are plenty of places to stay/eat nearby and with Philly not far, you have 'real' restaurants nearby.

Hershey Park: (12 coasters, 30 family rides and attractions, 14 kiddie rides, 9 water attractions, 132 miles from DC, dates and times)

Other places we have driven to and could review (understanding I didn't give many specifics above):

- Six Flags NJ

- Six Flags... PG County

- Busch Gardens

- Kings Dominion

- Knoebels

- Cedar Point

- Kalahari

- Kennywood

- Storybook Land

- all the Jersey Shore boardwalk ride areas

- All Disney Parks

- Adventure Park USA

- a few waterparks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm mostly interested in ones where you would drive to. I just listed some that I heard about. Would love your take on as many as you're willing to write up.

I've driven to all of them :)

The Disney ones are obviously a big drive investment that I won't do anymore and Cedar Point/Kanahari is a bit of a haul...but the others are all doable in a weekend - they are all in the PA/NJ/VA/MD areas.

I wrote an article for my neighborhood newspaper aabout a year ago covering most of these. I'll send it to you when I'm able.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another one that could be useful would be Dorney Park in Allentown, PA. My experience is more than a decade old at this point, but I always enjoyed the coasters and the waterpark was a pretty solid size. It's actually owned by the parent company of Cedar Point.

Just thinking of Hercules (an old wooden rollercoaster that was taken down in '03) makes my teeth rattle to this day b/c of the violent ride that thing gave.

I'd recommend staying in Bethlehem (better area than Allentown with a nice downtown area featuring some good restaurants and a solid brew pub) vs. Allentown as its only a 10 minute ride. There are some other things to do in the area, but my perspective would skew a bit older (the Sands Casino that is relatively new in Bethlehem, PA, etc).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another one that could be useful would be Dorney Park in Allentown, PA. My experience is more than a decade old at this point, but I always enjoyed the coasters and the waterpark was a pretty solid size. It's actually owned by the parent company of Cedar Point.

Just thinking of Hercules (an old wooden rollercoaster that was taken down in '03) makes my teeth rattle to this day b/c of the violent ride that thing gave.

I'd recommend staying in Bethlehem (better area than Allentown with a nice downtown area featuring some good restaurants and a solid brew pub) vs. Allentown as its only a 10 minute ride. There are some other things to do in the area, but my perspective would skew a bit older (the Sands Casino that is relatively new in Bethlehem, PA, etc).

Dorney is an excellent park with a very large water park. Six Flags Great Adventure would be a primary competitor to Cedar Point given it's size and version of Top Thrill Dragstar which is 447' tall. Park capacity is about the same. In New York and Philly both Dorney and SFGAdv go one on one with each other. I would choose Hershey over Grt Adv.

Busch Williamsburg is the most beautiful park in America-with all due respect to Disney and Universal.

Elsewhere I mentioned Europa Park: http://www.europapark.com/lang-en/Home/c1174.html?langchange=true It is approximately the same size as Busch but does over 4 million people a year with a longer season (Busch is around 3). Europa is incredible however having benefitted from Eastern Europe "opening up" and many craftspeople going west with their first stop at Europa. The result is that there is a literal handcarved Russian village, stained glass worthy of a cathedral, landscaping to equal Tivoli Gardens and a number of buildings "borrowed" from Disney just perhaps built as well if not better. It's also a half hour from Strausburg, France and a half hour from Freiburg, Germany (entrance to the Black Forest and beautiful!) with the Swiss border 30 minutes down the road. The park is perhaps what Busch wants to be with a number of rides to equal Cedar Point. They also have five themed hotels on the property and each of them is themed more heavily than any of the Disney hotels.

I should also mention that the family who own Europa (which is now a E 200 million a year business) have been in the amusement industry for SIX generations. Cedar Point is my favorite park in the world (beach, Lake Erie, Funway, coasters, history) but Europa is considered by many enthusiasts to be the best overall park in the world. A note about large European parks: the age range is more diverse than in the U. S. with the result that shows tend to be more spectacular with an overall higher quality than most American parks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dorney is an excellent park with a very large water park. Six Flags Great Adventure would be a primary competitor to Cedar Point given it's size and version of Top Thrill Dragstar which is 447' tall. Park capacity is about the same. In New York and Philly both Dorney and SFGAdv go one on one with each other. I would choose Hershey over Grt Adv.

Busch Williamsburg is the most beautiful park in America-with all due respect to Disney and Universal.

Elsewhere I mentioned Europa Park: http://www.europapar...langchange=true It is approximately the same size as Busch but does over 4 million people a year with a longer season (Busch is around 3). Europa is incredible however having benefitted from Eastern Europe "opening up" and many craftspeople going west with their first stop at Europa. The result is that there is a literal handcarved Russian village, stained glass worthy of a cathedral, landscaping to equal Tivoli Gardens and a number of buildings "borrowed" from Disney just perhaps built as well if not better. It's also a half hour from Strausburg, France and a half hour from Freiburg, Germany (entrance to the Black Forest and beautiful!) with the Swiss border 30 minutes down the road. The park is perhaps what Busch wants to be with a number of rides to equal Cedar Point. They also have five themed hotels on the property and each of them is themed more heavily than any of the Disney hotels.

I should also mention that the family who own Europa (which is now a E 200 million a year business) have been in the amusement industry for SIX generations. Cedar Point is my favorite park in the world (beach, Lake Erie, Funway, coasters, history) but Europa is considered by many enthusiasts to be the best overall park in the world. A note about large European parks: the age range is more diverse than in the U. S. with the result that shows tend to be more spectacular with an overall higher quality than most American parks.

Dorney, Idlewild/Soakzone and Del Grosso's (the same people who sell the spaghetti sauce) are the next three parks on my to-do list. Now I'll add Europa too.

We're blessed with a really wide selection of options around here, even if none are on the beltway. We've got big, old, beautiful, nostalgic...and we almost had Disney ;)

If I play my cards right, in "retirement" I'll go work in an amusement park. I talk to those older guys pretty often and while some are there because they have to be, many are there because they still enjoy the sights and sounds. Then I'd quit six weeks into the season and piss everyone off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dorney, Idlewild/Soakzone and Del Grosso's (the same people who sell the spaghetti sauce) are the next three parks on my to-do list. Now I'll add Europa too.

We're blessed with a really wide selection of options around here, even if none are on the beltway. We've got big, old, beautiful, nostalgic...and we almost had Disney ;)

If I play my cards right, in "retirement" I'll go work in an amusement park. I talk to those older guys pretty often and while some are there because they have to be, many are there because they still enjoy the sights and sounds. Then I'd quit six weeks into the season and piss everyone off.

I wrote this on LinkedIn:

I started as a brakeman on a wooden rollercoaster, part time, in 1964 while in high school in the D. C. suburbs. Later, after college, I did a great deal of research on my industry which included meeting, interviewing and writing about those who today may be considered to have helped shape the Golden Years of the industry. This was all primary research and interviews; often I was among the first to meet and write about them popularly. This led to Intamin, Chance and later to Whitewater where, after over 30 collective years I am about to retire. I passionately love this industry. I am indeed truly fortunate to have been part of it and perhaps, even if secondarily, help influence a bit of its direction either through IAAPA or one of the companies I passionately represented.

I sincerely hope that those who are coming behind me-on both sides of the table-share the love and the passion for both the parks and for those who come to them. It still means everything to me to stand at the end of a runout lane or in a station house and watch parents, children and teenagers walk off laughing and smiling. It's a business-but a business that brings smiles, laughter and hopefully happiness. To be part of this is the realization of a life's ambition. Certainly, my life's ambition.

_____________

I've had incredible experiences in 30+ years of doing this on both sides of an ocean. I have deeply come to love the people who have similarly grown up in this industry. MBA's aside the real education was starting in high school as a ride operator and working part time through undergrad and grad all the while passionately appreciative that this was my/their life's calling. There are more people in sr management in my industry who literally chased their jobs than perhaps any other industry around. Aerospace engineers solicit coaster builders, MBA's do theses in the industry then approach a company; half of the original 26 members of American Coasters Enthusiasts from Busch in 1978 are in some way connected with the amusement industry. There's a whole collection of sr mamagers and owners who date to Palisades Park: at one time Palisades had concessionaires who later owned: The Great Escape (Charlie Wood in Lake George), Canobie Lake (The Captells (invented the bumper car), the Ulakys and the Bernis), Howard Berni (later Cincinnati's Americana), Jerry Albert who owned Astroland and the Coney Island Cyclone, Joe McKee (one of the most prolific coaster builder of all time eventually settled down at Palisades after building for the Harry Baker Company and John A. Miller. He built the Thunderbolt from Annie Hall (I have the blueprints), Rockaway Playland Atom Smasher coaster from Cinerama, the Savin Rock Hell Diver and 45-50 other coasters from Cuba to Bell's Park in Tulsa.

I once met Anna Cook who was Irving Rosenthal's niece. She was the ticket taker at Coney Island who sold $1.00 tickets for the Cyclone on Declaration Day 1927. Later, her uncle Irving Rosenthal who owned the Cyclone, bought Palisades. Competing against the NY World's Fair in 1939 he built the largest Bobsled like ride ever built called the Lale Placid Bobsled which featured a 127 foot drop for a coupled 12 seat bob sled vehicle which flew violently up and around walls. Enormously thrilling-one of the greatest and most intense amusement rides ever built.

Eventually Anna married. Eventually Palisades-as so many other parks in the '60's-closed. The land under Palisades was some of the most valuable in the New York metro area. Irving made the decision to redevelop it. When I visited his niece Anna in 1981 she lived in the only house on he original land which was flanked by the 40 story Winston Towers condominiums. I also met her husband who then, like her, was in his '80's. We were together for almost six hours during which I found out that he was the foreman of the crew which built the Coney Island Cyclone. (how they met-she worked on it). Later introduced me to Asenith McKee who was Joe McKee's daughter. John Rinaldi, once Palisade's GM, later ran

Babe's Yellow Cab in Ft. Lee while Arthur Imperatore, owner of the wildly successful APA Transport was going to rebuild Palisades on land adjacent to the Hudson river on the railroad tracks which he had bought years before. He had over a mile of linear shoreline directly across from Manhattan. Note that an early Palisades poster proclaimed it as "in sight of Broadway."

Over the years I have shared brief essays on here and Chowhound about some dining and travel experiences. One day soon I'm going to sit down with some time and a lot to write. Much about the people I have met-so many from the amusement industry.

And, by the way, they were all obsessed with food. Geoffrey Thompson, a Great man whose family has owned Blackpool Pleasure Beach since the 1890's, recorded every restaurant meal he ever had in a diary with several volumes.

Some of the greatest characters in the world, so full of life and passion and ambition, have driven the amusement industry over the years. Characters who immodestly proclaimed their rides and their parks, "the greatest hair raising thrills you can get!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[Thanks to Ericandblueboy for prompting this - it's been something I've wanted to do for awhile (and not just for amusement parks - do we have any Nationals fans here?). Please don't forget that we can, and should, start one thread per amusement park if you're going to write any substantive information in terms of helping people eat, or where to stay near there. I can make this the Mother Thread and link to the appropriate threads from here, so we'll have sort of a "master index." Just keep typing, the more opinions about rides, food, and lodging, the better - I can assemble factual information by obtaining it from the internet. I love that we're doing this because I love amusement parks so much! Can baseball be far behind? And for that matter, if anyone is truly passionate about anything - knitting (Eunny?), Mexican food (Zora), tennis (Don?), well why not have them as discussion forums in this community? With the right leadership, the substance of the discussions would be tremendous - and between aggregation and original content, as useful and educational as anything on the internet. THIS is why I love running this website. Cheers, Rocks]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...