Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 4

French Street. Land of cheese, wine, and croissants - enough of a stereotype for you? Well, the French Street section of MGM Grand Adventures was another small one, consisting of a couple retail and food locations, and one ride.

© Mike Brister

So small, in fact, that it is hard to get good photographs of it - best I can tell it amounted to about two buildings. In the photo above the building on the right was part of French Street, and contained a Mama Ilardo's Pizzeria and the Hollywood Clothiers retail store.

The one ride of the area was the Parisian Taxis bumper cars. "Bonjour and buckle up" was the motto of the attraction, where guests could drive one of the taxis around in a circle while crashing into other vehicles.

Like many bumper cars, guests were instructed to keep driving in the same direction, thus keeping the bumping to a minimum. Still, bumper cars are always a good time at an amusement park - even ones themed to a Paris traffic jam!

© Mike Brister

© Mark de Jong

© Mark de Jong

You can see in the photos above of the attraction that there were Paris themed painted backdrops surrounding the driving area - but that and a nice facade were as far as the theming went. The Parisian Taxis made it through the size reduction of the park, and operated until it closed for good.

Moving forward, the Salem Waterfront area is up next.

© Mike Brister

The Salem Waterfront was another small area, though just as well themed as the rest of the park. I've been to the real Salem, Massachusetts, and the style of the buildings is dead on for most of the town. No witch trials taking place anywhere, though. The waterfront aspect worked, too, because the area bordered the park's central lagoon along its length.

The red building in the photo above was one of the park's larger eateries, Kenny Rogers Roasters. Spit-roasted chicken for everyone! The restaurant went much further back than you can see in the photo, and was actually quite large.

© Mike Brister

The area also housed the park's traditional 'dark ride,' The Haunted Mine. The building for the attraction had most of the Salem area's facades built on it. In the above photo you can see the "sound stage" building behind them that held the ride.

The Haunted Mine attraction remains mostly a mystery for me. I've had tough luck trying to find even one photo from the inside of the attraction. I know that Technifex created the attraction from design to build, but even they have nothing on their site about it. It did have an elaborate and dramatic story line though:

"Legend has it that this abandoned mine was cursed by and old Indian Chief after it collapsed. What spirits remained - trapped inside - to haunt the mine forever? Clattering through the tunnel, a sudden camera flash resurrects the skeletal ghost of a menacing Medicine Man. Revenge will be his! Hold on tight as the ore car shudders past barricades and booby traps. The venomous spirit stakes his claim on the mine with a vengeful explosion that turns the mine to rubble. Will you escape in time?"

And that's pretty much what I have at this point. While the story was neat and dark rides are usually fun, this one didn't have many great reviews.  We did have a reader write in with some information on the ride, many thanks to Michael P. for sharing:

"The majority of the ride is a basic mine themed dark ride. The one "scare" I remember most clearly is the giant spider.  The queue sets up the theme... we aren't in a mine but some kind of natural history museum. There are posters and artifacts about Native Americans everywhere - pottery, weapons, deer skins.  I remember it being intentionally clean and stringent and museum-like and realizing that it was actually a great set up.

You boarded your car and head into what looks like a series of historical dioramas.  There are maybe 3 or four of them showing Indians - loving nature, building fires, tribal dancing.  There is a very mundane voice over about the majestic Indians if I remember correctly, the gist of it was that the land we are now trampling on was sacred Indian land.

Then things get unhinged. You turn a corner and see (what I actually believe is one of the first of it's kind) Some kind of scary, angry Indian chief. He's not an audio-animatronic but an actual movie projected on some kind of 3d type screen. He's clearly mad, and makes some kind of obvious speech about how we shouldn't be here and that we are now cursed and doomed. Then he throws his magic/evil tomahawk at you. Keep in mind that this is all on the movie screen ahead of you...

So he throws the movie tomahawk at you and the movie disappears (or you turn a corner or something) and the movie tomahawk is now an actual prop. The prop is suspended in the air and spinning so that as your cart approaches it it looks like it's flying, spinning towards you but you are actually moving towards it.  After that nonsense you are in the mine and there are all of the usual scares none of which I remember except for said giant spider.  It was kind of clever but also mildly offensive and not terribly scary."

When the park was reduced in size the ride was closed - even though the building was not removed as it was not needed for the pool/convention center expansion. In fact, I believe the building still stands today.

Tumbleweed Gulch was the traditional Old West themed part of the park. In later years it was renamed Gold Rush Junction.

© Mike Brister

The area was home to the Over The Edge flume ride, on which guests took the spill over not one but two drops. The ride was manufactured by Intamin, and sat in the back right corner of the park. It carried a fairly generic sawmill theme, but in the hot Vegas sun you don't care too much about that!

The ride's capacity was also greatly increased by the use of a turn table loading station. The two drops were around 30 ft. and 40 ft. tall, with the larger of the two ending the experience.

© Mike Brister

Here's a great shot of the ride in operation, you can see a boat making a big splash after heading down the final drop. The park took care to add trees and other plants to help hide the view of the buildings outside the park - but in Vegas that's a mighty feat.

© Tabbicus Domesticus

Proof that I was on the ride! Yes, that's a much, much younger version of me looking mighty happy on Over The Edge. Isn't it weird how our log is totally crooked in the channel? Where the heck were we headed!

After the park closed the ride quickly was put up for sale, and that's where these photos came from. That also explains why there's no water in the flume in them. Still, they're pretty unique views that we'll never get again.

There's more of Tumble, err, Gold Rush Junction to cover, but that'll come in the 5th part of this series.