Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Have Some FUN Today!" - Part 1

Ahh yes, the good old fashioned road trip. Some are unplanned journeys into new territory, and some - like mine - are scheduled from start to finish. My obsessive tendencies aside, this road trip was meant to experience three new amusement parks in beautiful New England.

First up on our trip was Rye Playland, a park that hearkens back to the early years of modern amusement parks.

Some quick history to start things off. Playland officially opened in May, 1928 as the first fully planned amusement park in the country. The Westchester County Park Commission developed the property with the help of industry veterans such as Frank Darling of the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company.

The park's layout, with it's many art deco style buildings, was laid out to feature a 1,200 ft. long mall that ran from the Long Island Sound beach all the way to a man-made lake. Both sides of the tree lined mall featured a variety of amusements, some of which are still in operation today.

In the above photo you can see the park's Music Tower standing 110 ft. tall in the background, one of many such structures at the park that are originals from its opening days.

One of the rides that dates back to around opening, 1929 to be exact, is Ye Old Mill. It's located right at the side entrance to the park, and was one of the first rides we experienced at Playland.

Old Mill style rides are hard to come by these days, although they were quite popular at parks ages ago. Many have been destroyed by time, fires, or lack of upkeep - however Playland has not only maintained theirs but upgraded it.

The ride now features a Mining theme, and it's filled with cool looking animatronic Gnomes and Trolls. There's plenty of special effects and animated creatures along the path - it's really a wonderful experience. Sally Corporation is credited with the re-theme of the attraction, and they did a wonderful job.

It's quite encouraging to see a park spend time and money on a classic attraction like Ye Old Mill. Hopefully it will be around for another generation or two to experience.

Ye Old Mill actually travels under one of Playland's biggest rides - the Dragon Coaster. In fact, the two rides were built at the same time. Dragon Coaster also dates back to 1929, and came to the park as a more family friendly alternative to the long removed Airplane Coaster - known for being quite intense.

The Dragon Coaster isn't one of the biggest or fastest coasters around, but it is a great attraction that the whole family can enjoy. There were lots of camp groups at the park the day we were there, and the younger campers were overjoyed while waiting for the Dragon Coaster. They seemed just as excited after having ridden the coaster, too!

The coaster was designed by Frederick Church and is now one of only a handful of his rides still operating. It's also well known for it's Dragon themed tunnel, seen above, which even has special effects at the entrance!

I took at lot of shots like this one while at the park. Having been to quite a few amusement parks I can say that it's not common to find green space in them like Playland has. We visited on a cloudy day but I'm not sure it'd have made a difference if it was sunny - the park is filled with mature trees providing plenty of shade. The cooler temperatures mixed with salty sea air makes for a wonderful environment. It really has that classic amusement park feel to it, you know?

Being a lover of dark rides, I felt quite at home while at Playland. Technically they have three traditional dark rides, counting Ye Old Mill. Above is the Flying Witch - probably one of the most unique names for a ride I've come by. It's a mash up of scary scene after scary scene - plenty of loud noises and creepy lightning to be found in there.

The Zombie Castle is similar in ride experience to the Flying Witch. The rides have no set story line to follow - it's just one scare after another. This one actually dates back to the 1930s when it was named Laff In The Dark.

Tucked back in the corner of the park is the Crazy Mouse. If tight twists and turns are your style, then you will love this ride. Technically speaking, the ride is a Zamperla Zig Zag, and is somewhat smaller than other mice, but still packs a punch.

I must say that I rather enjoy it's paint scheme as well. Playland has a one price admission wrist band that you scan at the entrance to each ride to gain admittance. Sometimes this helps gets riders through quickly, but other times it slows things down quite a bit if the bands won't scan. The reason I mention that here is because it seemed to happen an awful lot at the Crazy Mouse.

We'll finish our tour of Rye Playland in Part 2 - coming very soon!