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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New York's Coney Island, August 10th, 2014

So we opted to head to Coney Island for a lazy Sunday. There is nothing more American than Coney Island. The 150 foot Wonder Wheel is said to have actually been the first sight of America for many immigrants coming into Ellis Island, even before they saw the Statue of Liberty, and with our nation being one of immigrants, this is extremely important. I never got to ask my Slovak grandfather, who came with his parents at three years old, what his first sight/memory in America was. Both sides of my family immigrated in the 1920s from Eastern Europe and went through New York. The thought that the first sight of America for many immigrants was the Wonder Wheel is really special to me.

The street views of the different parks that make up "America's Playground" are pretty dramatic. You still do not get a very good sense of what makes up the place from street view. I was not sure what to expect from this quirky place. Below you can see the world famous Coney Island Cyclone, possibly the most famous coaster to have ever been built.
 The 250 foot parachute drop is quite a sight to see. I can only imagine what this giant looked like when it was running. It was built for the 1939 World's Fair in Queens and rebuilt at Coney Island in 1941. The ride ceased operations in 1964 with the closing of Steeplechase Park, the place in which it was assembled. The ride remains as the only vestige from this park. The tower was said to operate for a few years afterwards on a sporadic basis, but the ride has remained out of use for over four decades. Recently they have painted the tower and installed a state-of-the-art lighting package. 
 The first stop for us was the brand-new Luna Park Thunderbolt! The coaster looked awesome to me, but I still was not quite sure what to expect. 
 The same goes for Coney Island in general. This place is quite a gem and it lives up to the name "America's Playground." It is a place where everyone can just hang out and relax. The boardwalk is huge, the beach is huge, there is a lovely fishing pier, lots of food concessions, karaoke on the boardwalk, some fun rides, and lots of history. 
 The B&B Mangels/Illions/Carmal "carousell" with two l's, is beautiful! When the carousell's operator passed away in  the 2000s, the unit was purchased by the City of New York and sent away for restoration. It reopened just last year after 8 years of meticulous restoration. Dozens of layers of paint were stripped from each horse, and the finer details of the horses shone through once more. 
 This beautiful carousel makes for a cool centerpiece between the amusement parks area, the beach, and the ballpark next door. This must be a really hopping center on a day with a baseball game. The carousel is really stunning and the only one that remains of the many greats that once resided in America's Playground. 
 Now back to the Thunderbolt. This is a terrific ride that really goes by you like a whirlwind. The vertical lift hill is fast, the 125 foot vertical drop feels huge, the loop also feels giant and the large zero-g roll (pictured). I especially love the zero-g roll because it offers a really great zero gravity feeling, along with some airtime heading in and out of the inversion. This is followed by a very large "Stengel Dive," which in my fancy terminology I call the "we're turning now" element. It is essentially a corkscrew that never inverts, but rather turns bank. It is a mixed of an over banked turn and a camelback hill. The perfect pacing of the ride allows you to really enjoy this element and get some great airtime. The turnaround element is a dive loop, which leads into a small corkscrew and a series of camelback hills that provide some terrific airtime. The ride has a really large drop, a perfect speedy pace, some large, fun, and airtime-filled inversions, along with tons of airtime all around. 
 I was not sure what to expect with this ride, and it blew my expectations. The track length is only 2000 feet, but it felt much longer than that. At no point does this ride's pacing fizzle out. It is something of a rarity in a looping coaster in that it is built as a straight out and back ride. I really enjoy this aspect of the coaster in that it is pleasing aesthetically, making the 2000 feet of track stand out for how long it is, in addition to feeling similar to the pacing of a hyper coaster or a wood coaster. Sometimes modern looping coasters seem gimmicky or have moments of roughness. This coaster has quite a few elements to it, in addition to being very smooth and having TONS of airtime. Upon sitting in the train I was not sure of what to expect because the restraints and seat were 100 percent fiberglass. They molded the lap bars and seats pretty well in order to maximize comfort. They also have two shoulder straps that are pretty much thin seat belts that you only feel during moments of extreme airtime. Overall, I enjoy Thunderbolt very much. It is definitely a home run for Zamperla and the park. 
As you may or may not have been aware, the Luna Park portion of Coney Island is leased by Zamperla and utilized as their prototype debut area. There is TONS of room around the Coney Island area and I hope to see Zamperla keep building these breathtaking new coasters. I also hope to see a park or two add one of these new designs from Zamperla. Thunderbolt offers an experience as good as any modern sit-down looping coaster out there.
 One of the first additions that Zamperla added to the park upon taking up the lease was the Soarin' Eagle. It was relocated from Elitch Gardens.
 The coaster's spiral lift hill is really pretty interesting.
 I like how Zamperla has added names that hearken back to old attractions at Coney. While they bear little or no resemblance to the rides of old, it is cool to see them appreciate the past through naming rides in this manner. The Steeplechase hearkens back to a coaster in which riders would ride on horse-shaped vehicles. On this Zamperla Moto-Coaster the cars are shaped like horses and the riders are launched into a series of helix elements. In the background you can see the awesome Deno's Wonder Wheel!
 Going to Coney is almost a ritualistic type of experience. You cannot go to Coney Island without getting a hot dog from Nathan's World Famous. It looks like we just missed the Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest. 
 There is nothing much more American than Coney Island, Nathan's Hot Dogs, the Cyclone, and the Wonder Wheel! 
 Now to see the fortune teller. I suppose that Tom Hanks has grown "Big" again now. I still need to get to Rye Playland to see the place where that funny movie was filmed.
 Onto the Wonder Wheel! The outer gondolas are stationary and the middle gondolas loop around on tracks. As thrill seekers, I am sure that you can predict where we decided to ride. Needless to say, Brit and my sister were terrified! 
 I spot the Cyclone! Not quite time to ride it yet! I also spot a Larson/ARM Vertigo Swing Tower. These are my favorite of the swing tower genre. They are better than both the Windseekers and Star Towers and they are a fraction of the height. You may be more familiar with the Larson/ARM drop towers that are at places like Knoebel's, DelGrosso's, Waldameer, Myrtle Beach Family Kingdom, and others. Just as their drop towers are the most intense of their genre and a fraction of the height of the competition, the same is true for the swing towers. I would love to see more of these around!
 I am brimming with excitement to ride the Wonder Wheel!
I am all about shifting back and forth to get the maximum swinging effect. Needless to say, Brit and my sister Taryn were terrified!
 Below is the old Astroland Rocket. It was taken out of Astroland when the park closed in 2008 and it is being rehabilitated for future use as we speak. It was returned to the park this summer. You can see a similar old rocket simulator at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA.
 The views from the Wonder Wheel are amazing.
 The view of the Manhattan Skyline, including the brand new One World Trade Center.
 Such a beautiful place!
 Getting closer to the Cyclone!
 The views from the Wonder Wheel are amazing!
 The Wonder Wheel, created by a company called the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company in 1920, is the last of its kind. A remake was made for Disney's California Adventure in 2001.
 A one-of-a-kind place.
 I was mesmerized with the Thunderbolt, if you have not noticed.
I like the vertical signage.

Here it comes again!
The views from the pier are beautiful! I took all of these pictures, but did not take one from the pier. It was a cool place, with lots of people sunbathing and fishing. The overall experience in the beach area is awesome. The beach was very popular. It, along with the boardwalk and pier are all free, allowing for a great and affordable day at the beach. You can opt to ride some rides if you please or eat some great food, while just relaxing. The sand at the beach is very clean and there are multiple water play sprinklers and sets of playground equipment. The relaxing aura of this area is truly one-of-a-kind. The park's feeling of being in the city, mixed with a beach resort and amusement park area make this place unlike any other.
 It looks crowded, but once you got down to the beach it did not feel that way.
 I love that zero-g roll!
 Almost to the legendary Cyclone!
 But first to the ice cream stand. This "out of order" sign is definitely the most distinctive that I have seen! I love the edge of the people in New York City. After living in Allentown, PA and having a mix of Philly and New York attitude and culture, I felt at home with the slight edge that the people have, if that makes any sense.
 The Wonder Wheel is stunning both on and off of the ride.
 Now onto the world famous Coney Island Cyclone!
 But not before I look at the park's awesome Larson/ARM Vertigo!
 The ride was running really fast and providing the awesome and twisted ride that everyone raves about!
This 1929 coaster is the only project built by Keenan that remains, and one of only three that were involved with Baker to remain as well.
GCI (Great Coasters International) has vastly improved the ride over the last few years to be smoother and give a better ride experience after changes were needed. I am happy to say that the ride runs absolutely amazing these days!
 This coaster is also an ACE Coaster Classic and ACE Coaster Landmark. If this is your favorite ACE Coaster Landmark, be sure to vote for it on the right-hand side of the page. If it is not your favorite ACE Coaster Landmark, vote for another!
 The beautiful entrance to the park!
 Home of the famous side-shows! A remnant of the ugliness that used to pervade the area.
 This sign for the bumper cars cracked me up! This ride is pretty cool for it allows you to ride the bumper cars in almost total darkness.
 Heading out, but I had to take a photo of the train in my favorite element on the ride, the "we're turning now" Stengel Dive. It is an element that almost feels like an inversion and offers a ton of airtime. Great ride!
Take the trip to the park. The only consideration I have is to take in the whole experience. The beach, fishing pier, and boardwalk are free to roam and enjoy. The coasters are slightly expensive, so do not expect to be riding the entire time. With that being said, there are so many awesome things to do at Coney Island, "America's Playground" and you will not be disappointed. Go and check out this one-of-a-kind, bucket list, type of place. You will not regret it!

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