Purchasing of our 2023 Roller Coaster Calendar & Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Book

2022 Coaster Calendar PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Our 2023 Roller Coaster Calendar Is Available Now! Thanks for your support!

Our spiral bound 2023 Roller Coaster Wall Calendar is our tenth annual Roller Coaster Calendar and it features roller coasters from many amusement parks, including: 
-Knoebels in Pennsylvania 
-Belmont Park in San Diego 
-Waldameer Park in Pennsylvania 
-Busch Gardens Williamsburg
-Knott's Berry Farm 
-Six Flags Magic Mountain 
-Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania
-Cedar Point 
-Morey's Piers in New Jersey 
-Indiana Beach 
-Six Flags Great America 
-Lakemont Park in Altoona, PA 

These calendars are custom made by us with photos taken by us. The calendars open up to be 17 inches tall by 11 inches wide (8.5 by 11 per page)

Also available is our book on Pennsylvania's historic amusement parks, Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip. It features Knoebels, Kennywood Park, Hersheypark, Dorney Park, Waldameer, DelGrosso's, Lakemont, Dutch Wonderland, Idlewild, and the gone, but not forgotten, Conneaut Lake Park.

Purchases of both items can be made through the PayPal menu at the bottom of this page, and at the top of this page. Thank you for all of your support over the years!

2023 Coaster Calendar PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Belmont Park: Classic Giant Dipper Coaster and Seaside Fun in San Diego

My favorite kinds of park days are those where the park is a part of the experience of an overall fantastic day. Carefree days where maybe you go out and swim on the beach for a while, walk along the shores, and go ride some rides and have some good food. Seaside parks generally fit the bill for this kind of fun, and Belmont Park in San Diego is a wonderful place to do this. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are a delight for surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, skaters, bicyclists, and more. Mission Beach is home to Belmont Park and their classic Giant Dipper coaster, one of the most picturesque classic roller coasters out there. San Diego has something to offer for pretty much everyone, and the weather is almost always perfectly in the 70s. All of the stress just melts away when you are in San Diego. As someone who is into bodyboarding, riding the wild Pacific waves is as much of a thrill to me as riding any roller coaster as well. 
Anyways, back to the topic at hand,  Belmont Park and their Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. This is a lovely little boardwalk amusement park with one of the last three remaining coasters with the touch of Prior and Church. The other two being the other Giant Dipper up at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and the Dragon Coaster at Rye Playland Park in New York. This is a great little coaster with some awesome and flowy curves. As much as I respect Morgan for getting this coaster running again after a long SBNO period, I would love if the park got some GCI Millennium Flyers for this ride, both to provide riding stock that is more like the old Prior and Church trains, but also to better accommodate riders. Every time we rode, the ride ops had to work hard to get the two row single position lapbars to fit average sized riders. I had to slide my feet to the side of the car to make the lapbar fit, and I am only 6 feet tall. Since the trains are so light, when they would get caught by the brakes at the end, the train would often stop in the brake run and the ride operators had to go out and push it into the station. The lightness of the trains caused cars to fishtail in the higher speed portions of the curves. All of these issues would be solved with a new set of Millennium Flyers from GCI.

With all of that being said though I will say that the ride is still fantastic, especially with the lateral forces in the turnarounds. The station and coaster are also built to be a spectacle for the midway. It looks fantastic, especially as it gets dark and the lights come on. 

The station is so cool looking and ornate.

With the other rides, including an ice cream sundae themed tilt-a-whirl, and Control Freak, which is a Gyro Loop from Moser. I never saw one of these little rides before, and it is a ridiculously neat and super intense little ride. It can't be more than 30 feet tall, yet it was such a great center of attention on the midway. The park also has a series of great little family rides and a nice arcade.

Overall, I would rate Belmont Park with its surrounding beach, boardwalk, and overall fun atmosphere, as one of my favorite parks. While it does not have much of a collection of rides due to it small size, it is perfect as a part of an overall great time at the beach. Seaside amusement parks are usually my favorite in general. Couple that with the year-round perfect weather in San Diego and you have one of the most pleasant places to be. I highly recommend checking this out along with just slowing down and taking in the environs. While fixating on just coasters and parks is what we tend to do in this hobby, it is important to slow down and check out what a region has to offer as much as you can. If you don't slow down and check out San Diego, you are really missing out on some of the best scenery and overall environment that this country has to offer. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Knott's Berry Farm Trip Report

Visiting Knotts was such a pleasant experience for the most part. The park was very crowded, likely near capacity, yet walking around it was still so pleasant. We got most of our rides in on the early side and then headed out in the afternoon when every ride had a full queue. Normally that would not be a very good time at any amusement park, but the theming, landscaping, and planning of this park make it such a pleasant place to be. Today's report is a split of photos with camera and with my phone. 
Even with two of the main attractions out of the running, with Montezooma's Revenge down for a planned restoration and Xcelerator doing its typical Intamin extended downtime schtick, we still had a great time at the park. 
Ghost Rider was a fun ride, especially in the second half. 
The first half was alright, but I was expecting the wicked laterals of Great White at Morey's Piers on this CCI creation, but it seems like the GCI renovation likely tamed this down, and the Millennium Flyers absorb the lateral forces more than the PTC trains. They seem to have left the second half more intact since it is at a lower speed. 
I would imagine that when Ghost Rider first opened, it had way more in common with the wicked laterals of Great White. Still a fine ride though, and it is likely the most popular in the park. Seemed to have a full queue from the start of the day and you could hear everyone raving about the ride all over the park. It is probably the most popular wooden roller coaster out there thanks to its placement right in the front of the park as your entrance greeting. It is great to see a wooden roller coaster be the center of the party like this. It seriously is a fun ride.
Next we rode Hang Time. This Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster is terrific. Fantastic airtime, hang time, elements, and inversions. 
I would love to see Gerstlauer attempt a hyper and see what they could pull off with that much space, height, and speed. Hang Time feels completely out of control, and the dive gimmick on the first drop is so thrilling. 
Next we attempted to ride Pony Express, but it ended up breaking down for a little bit, and when we came back later the line queue was full so we opted to skip it. Looks like it is a great ride though. We did the same maneuver with Sierra Sidewinder. I opted to ride Silver Bullet a few extra times with a 15 minute wait than waste a ton of time getting those two credits. 
The park's log flume, dark ride, and railroad are just terrific. With the Ghost Town and Calico Railroad, I was especially impressed with the authentic narrow gauge railroad equipment, and antique locomotive, and rail cars. It is authentic Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and Rio Grande Southern Railroad equipment and the fact that the park had the foresight to preserve this priceless equipment, and have the means to do so, is really rare. Walter Knott is one of the few people who had the foresight to preserve this equipment for the joy of future generations, and one of an even smaller amount of people who had the means to successfully pull off the feat in a location that makes the operation sustainable. 
They also have horse drawn carriage rides through the park. It is the little touches where the park really went above and beyond that make this not just a pleasant amusement park, but also just a pleasant place to be in general. 
Silver Bullet is an absolutely terrific custom B&M invert. I love the genre and have enjoyed pretty much every one of them I have ever ridden.
The location of the coaster makes it appear absolutely giant, as it winds over a lagoon and the midway at the park. The interaction with the surroundings of this coaster with the features of the park, and the cobra roll right at the entrance to the park, makes it look so awesome. 
The only other invert that I have ridden and can think of that really interacts with the midway and surroundings like this is Great Bear. 
I love when a ride makes itself a visual center and marker for a midway. As far as the ride itself, the turning drop, loop, overbank, cobra roll, zero g, final two corkscrews, with terrific laterals on turns interspersed. The final helix is just awesome and very forceful. I absolutely loved this ride. 

Before our first ride, for some reason they were cycling empty trains and had the queue line closed off, but they did not give us any updates on what was going on. It only ended up being a 15 minute hold up, and because of the line being closed for that long, we had a window where you could get right on for 3 more rides before the queue filled up again. 

At this point we attempted to find lunch, and that took a while. The offerings were not terrific, and they were sparse. The stands had lines that were 20-30 minutes long. At least the food quality was alright though, but not really any different than the standard Cedar Fair chicken fingers. 
We had the best food later when we got an afternoon snack at the bakery with some of their famous boysenberry pie. 
We got in a ride on the observation tower, which was awesome. Riding on these is always a treat and seeing the views from the top was terrific. 
We closed out our day with a ride on Jaguar, which was pretty nice, except for the really slow moving line. There is no reason that the ride line needs to move that slow, but between line skip pass and filling out and checking accommodations sheets, they somehow managed to have 5 minutes between dispatches and stacking, which is ridiculous. There is no reason the entire ride crew needs to stop and not do anything while these things are sorted out. Overall though, that is a really fun family ride. It has such an enjoyable and meandering layout. The station area is also a nice shelter from the heat and it is really nicely themed.
An animatronic bear fishing in the river at the river rapids ride.
What Knotts doesn't have in quantity and size, it has the charm and quality with the rides and overall park experience. This overall experience is so greatly lacking across the industry. The intangible charm of this place makes it a place I want to regularly visit, not just on a conquest to ride as many rides as possible but to just go and relax at. There are only a handful of parks that I really want to revisit for being the whole package. So many times, large amusement parks are just a jumble of coasters put together with barely any touches on the quality of the visit experience. The little things are what make a day at a park great, and not just feel like a different venue for the typical experience of doing work. Knotts is a just about perfect amusement park and we highly recommend checking it out. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Universal Studios Hollywood Trip Report, June 2022

The second park we hit on our trip was Universal Hollywood. To be fully straightforward about this, we were primarily going to go on the backlot tour, which is the entire reason the park was built in the first place. All of the other attractions are secondary, and frankly I am glad that we were not really into the different IPs because each ride had a 45 minute wait. We basically went and rode the backlot tour first, saw lines that were 45 minutes to 90 minutes for each ride, and decided to just head out. 
The park is landlocked and has a small footprint, that is understandable, but I think it is unacceptable to charge about 30 bucks to park and over a hundred bucks to get in to the park, just to basically have a walking around pass and no guarantee on getting on pretty much any of the rides unless you go and blow another hundred bucks on the line skip pass. I would prefer if the park came up with a way to have set reservation times in a logical manner so that everyone can get to ride. Maybe make a nominal gate pass price to walk around that is much lower than the current ticket rate, and then maybe 10 dollars additional per ride reservation on a sliding scale with a guaranteed ride time, similar to what you would get with a reservation for a session time at a ski area or something. I am sure the park has no motivation to change as long as the money keeps flowing. After a while though, I think enough people will have a bad experience that their attendance will begin to drop. Especially with families who want to make their recreation dollars count when they realize that their admission ticket is basically just a gate pass to walk around and not really ride anything. 

Anyways, on to the real star of the show, the legendary Studio Tour. The neat attraction that almost makes the exorbitant admission prices worth it. 
Courthouse Square has been showcased countless flicks, including, most notably, Back to the Future. It is done up a little differently for something they are filming there at the moment.

Magnum PI's Lambo
Back to the Future cars, Biff's car in the 1950s and the future flying car from Back to the Future II
Flintstones movie vehicles
Jurassic Park vehicles
Jurassic Park lab vehicle
Jurassic Park vehicle
Part of the western set. This area has been used for countless flicks too, including a ton of westerns with John Wayne, Tom Mix, and Jimmy Stewart.

It is cool walking around the themed areas, but I think it is ridiculous that you have almost no guarantee to ride more than one or two rides after you plop down all of that money. I will say that the studio tour is *almost* worth the amount of money you spend, and I am sure the kiddos love random stuff like Minions and whatever, but I am glad that the only themed area that one of us had any interest in was Harry Potter land, because it would be brutal having to obligatory wait for one of the rides, let alone all of them. I feel bad for parents of little kids that blow a ton of money to get in, only to have their kids probably have one long wait for a ride in them. I have a little bit of interest in the Simpsons, but not enough to wait an hour for. I also rode the Simpsons in Orlando and thought it was kinda boring. I miss the old days with the Star Trek Adventure in Hollywood, ET, Back to the Future, Battlestar Galactica on the Studio Tour, Terminator II, and the old King Kong experience, which was destroyed in the fire that also destroyed countless priceless tapes and films of American cultural significance. I have to say though that the King Kong and Fast and Furious sections in 4D are pretty neat. 

The theming in the Harry Potter Land is pretty incredible. People were packed in like this all across the park. It was lively but absolutely jammed. 

The Star Trek Adventure was one of my fondest memories of the park from when I was little, and the slightly later Star Trek Experience in Vegas. Walking though the Harry Potter land and seeing all of the intricate details, and seeing the die hard Harry Potter fans getting to walk around in their fantasy land made me a little envious of them It made me wish that I could still have that same kind of experience of wonder with an IP that matters to me, like Star Trek. 

Did I mention that the walkways were absolutely jam packed with people? The food options were few and far between and of low quality and exorbitant price, basically only burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, pizza, and tacos. People were waiting 30 minutes for a standard hamburger. Themed food options seemed like a swing and a miss. By no means is this problem isolated to just Universal, because Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knotts had similarly long waits for overpriced food, but at least with a place like Knotts, the stuff is of decent quality and they have some signature entrees. 
Simpsons land had Duff beer brewery, but the food options were in a separate area and pretty weak and jammed up with people. Harry Potter land had the butter beer, which was cool, but minimal theme otherwise with the food? With some creativity, they could do cool things with the food, but then again, why bother if people are willing to wait 30 minutes for a 15 dollar bland hamburger? They had the Moulin Rouge themed sit down restaurant and we were like "hmmm maybe lets shell out for that" only to find out that the proletariat aren't allowed to go there without buying another separate VIP experience thing. We ended up just leaving when we were getting hungry and had no interest in waiting for the rides. We ended up eating a little better and a little more affordably out in the CityWalk area, but once we walked out there, we weren't going back in the park. Don't get me wrong, we had an alright time, but I wouldn't say that we had several hundred bucks worth of fun. Feels like a tourist trap rip off. Still a cool place and the backlot tour has so much priceless Americana on it. If it were not for the backlot tour, it would be a rip off. If you are a real movie buff, you are better off just driving and walking around for free in Hollywood. Next time we go we will probably go check out some of the other studios as well. Overall, it was neat and we recommend that everyone goes on the Studio Tour at least once, but if you are pressed for time and money, go on a tour through Hollywood instead and wrap up by heading up to Griffith Observatory and seeing the numerous scenic overlooks to experience real Hollywood magic.