Monday, August 3, 2015

Fantasy Island, Indeed...

Last week after I got back from my conference, I started looking at the rest of our summer.  I needed to plan vacation time from work right away, because suddenly things were getting busy again.  We also get a couple free Fridays off during the summer, and I needed to get those planned, too.  I realized that this weekend might provide a perfect opportunity to kill a couple birds with one stone.  My mom had mentioned that she wanted to take the kids to Fantasy Island, a fun amusement park I hadn't been to in probably 20 years.  I figured that if I took off Friday, we could fit that in.  In addition, Craig had to go to Canada twice this weekend, so I figured he could meet us at my parents' on the way back from his first visit Friday night, and we could stay all day Saturday so he'd be closer to drive back to Canada on Sunday.  On Saturday we could go to Old Fort Niagara, where Craig had wanted to take Jacob for a while.  In the end the plan worked very well, though by the end of the weekend the busy few days took their toll and the boys were a bit on the crazy side, but I'll get to that later.  Let's start with our fun Friday!

Now, if you know me, you may know that I used to be an amusement park fanatic.  I took two amusement park trips with college friends in the couple years after college, and I made every effort to hit up parks when I traveled.  Craig, however, is not much of a ride fan, and once we had kids it got even more pointless to go.  It had been years since I was at a park other than Disney, and obviously those rides are a little different than standard park fare, so I didn't really get to test out Jacob too much when we were there.  I was interested to see how this trip would go, particularly now that Carter could ride a little, as well.

We got to the park around when it opened, and we started easy with the kiddie rides.  They were pretty basic, cars in circles and such...and it seemed to start out okay with two excited kids.  Both boys hopped in the same truck...and then Carter started crying.  If you look in the picture below, you can see Jacob through the windows of the blue truck, and Carter sticking his head out the side window crying.  UGH.

We had the same result on the boats, though he seemed to come around a little bit during the teacups.  In the meantime, I walked over to a small, very easy roller coaster with Jacob.  I pleaded with him to go on it with me.  He was very hesitant about riding real rides.  In fact, all week when we talked about this trip, he grumbled about it.  I told him that he had no idea if the rides would bother him, that he's never really had issues with rides, and that Daddy's issues with them don't mean he will have issues.  Well, by some miracle (OK, a bribe for a slushie), I convinced him to go on the ride.  I could sense his nerves as it got going, and when we hit the small hill in the middle (not the beginning) I watched the terror in his face.  But then he sort of laughed, and I realized he might actually be liking it!  The coaster did two circuits, and when the last one ended, he said, "That was fun, let's do it again!"  Of course, in true Jacob fashion he immediately retracted it, but the seed was planted!

We moved on to the carousel, which we knew Carter would probably enjoy more.  Jacob picked a horse decorated with Canadian designs...

...and the smile returned to Carter's face!

We took a little walk through another section of the park to track down Jacob's slushie, and in the meantime my mom and I snuck in a ride on the biggest coaster in the park, the Silver Comet, a good-sized wooden coaster that was a new addition since my last time there.  The coaster was pretty fun--fast, lots of airtime--but we had a near disaster!  No glasses were allowed on the ride, and my mom didn't leave her glasses in the cubbies because she was afraid she'd forget them.  I told her a trick I used to use in my coaster days, to wrap the arms of my sunglasses around my bra, right in my cleavage.  Sounds weird, I know, but lots of crazy coasters later, I've never lost any.  Well....somewhere in the middle of the ride they disappeared!  We never saw them fly out but they were nowhere to be found.  Definitely a bummer feeling at the end of the ride!  Fortunately, a few steps off the coaster and they fell out from wherever they had somehow wedged themselves where my mom couldn't feel them!  Disaster averted!

We walked back and watched the Western shootout show, pretty much the same goofy thing they've been doing since I was a kid (and probably since my parents were kids).  The show was super cheesy, but it's a classic!
Preparing to draw with kid volunteers
The ending remained the same, with the villain falling off the roof onto the same obvious crash pad.  Oh, and they still give out the same flimsy metal deputy badges!

After the show we walked down to the far end of the park, where Jacob's main target was...the antique cars.  He's hovering around 49 inches tall, and the minimum to drive is 50.  I was hopeful his shoes and hat would put him over the top, as it was the one thing that changed his attitude about the trip in general, and sure enough, he got to take the wheel!

I will say that I'm thankful we have another nine years before he can get his license, but we got through just fine.  Multitasking the gas pedal and the steering wheel was a challenge, but he had a blast and kept wanting to go back for more!

It took a massive effort, however, to get him on the ferris wheel.  He's convinced he's afraid of heights, and he was close to having a total meltdown.  Still, we got him on...and while he did fine, he didn't want to go on again!  Carter, on the other hand, loved it!

From the top we had a lovely view of Niagara Falls...
Once upon a time, there were only a handful of items in that skyline--a couple hotels and three observation towers.  Now it looks like a major city.

And a view of the park...
See that crazy swing that's super high above the ground?  My mom and I went on that later!
While Carter and I waited through Jacob's second trip on the antique cars, I snapped a picture of the roller coaster my mom and I went on earlier...

And here's Jacob giving Grandma and Grandpa a ride!

And here's a picture I took from the top of those crazy swings!  Don't worry, my camera and I were both secure!
See that pinkish-purple coaster to the left?  It's called the Crazy Mouse.  Remember that one for later...
We grabbed a little lunch and checked out the water park, which I would have loved to hang out in for a while since it was so hot!  But Jacob wasn't really interested, and the logistics were admittedly a bit tough with Carter, so we headed back out to some other rides.  We passed by this one below and out of the blue Jacob said he wanted to ride it.  I could hardly believe my ears!  I used to love spinny rides like this but wasn't sure my body was still up to it since I've had moments where spinning Carter or swinging on a playground swing threw me off a bit.  Still, I knew I had to do it for him.  As we were waiting, Carter nearly fell asleep sitting up in his stroller, so we reclined him and he took a nice long nap.  YAY!  So, anyway, the spinny ride...

My mom came on with us and she was a bit nervous, too.  We actually did fine, though forward was better than backward for us ladies!  And Jacob?  He LOVED it.  He's still talking about it days later.  Never saw that one coming.  After that, my mom and I rode this crazy ride with a spinning circle on a half pipe.  We were fine after that one, too, but I think we were both relieved when it was over!  Jacob was still asking to go on the antique cars (again) so we wandered back that way and he and I took another ride. 

Once we were done, I was pondering going on the Crazy Mouse roller coaster while we were there.  It's a newer wild mouse-style coaster, very similar to Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom at Disney.  My mom decided to come along, and as we were just about to head off to the line, Jacob decided he was coming, too!  I was very excited, though with each new thing, I was also nervous that he'd hit his breaking point and suddenly swear off everything again.  But the coaster looked pretty manageable, aside from the one big drop.  But you know, he did great!  I think he bumped his head a couple times because of the sudden stops and changes in direction, but he was a trooper and really seemed to like it!  Yay!  (Insert image of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons here, doing the plotting thing with his hands..."My plan for cultivating a roller coaster buddy is going splendidly!")

We eventually started heading back to the front of the park, stopping at the bumper cars.  They are not my favorite ride at all, but Jacob was interested so I reluctantly got on with him.  Whiplash is not really fun, so I'm not sure why bumper cars ever got popular, but off we went.  This one was a little disorganized since I'm more used to versions with a center island that keeps traffic moving in one direction, and this one was just a free-for-all, but we did our fair share of bumping and Jacob enjoyed it.  I did slam my knee pretty hard on the wheel with one hit, but as a whole we we fine. 

I snuck in one more ride on the Silver Comet, and by then the focus was on the giant slide (the kind you see at a lot of fairs and festivals).  As I was waiting there, I decided I needed to take an opportunity to ride a ride that had intrigued me since I was a little kid.  See, we used to go to a park in Niagara Falls (where Casino Niagara is now) called Maple Leaf Village.  We'd go to the Canadian side of the Falls once a summer or so, and walk up Clifton Hill, walk through Maple Leaf Village, and check out the tourist traps in the adjacent mall.  Sometimes we'd get to pick a ride to go on in the park, and at that age I generally went on kiddie rides.  Still, I recall being fascinated by the Gravitron, this UFO-shaped ride.  I had heard a little bit about what it did, but since all the action was hidden inside, I still didn't fully understand it. At the same time, Fantasy Island had a ride called "Devil's Hole", named after a hiking spot near Niagara Falls.  In that one, riders stood in a circle against the wall.  The circle started to spin, and eventually riders were stuck to the wall and the floor dropped out.  There was an observation deck, so I watched this happen a few times, fascinated.  From what I had heard, the Gravitron employed a similar tactic, but for whatever reason I never got to go on one.  I only saw them in a couple places after that--generally either pay-as-you-go places or when I was with a group of unwilling co-riders--so I never got to ride it.  However, Fantasy Island had a Gravitron-type ride appropriately named Devil's Hole, so I decided this had to be the day!  I'm not sure it lived up to 30 years of expectations, but it was an experience! 

I joined everyone back at the giant slide and took a ride with Carter on my lap, racing Jacob (I won!).  By then the weather was starting to look iffy, so we made our way back to the kiddie rides for one last hurrah.  The boys rode the train one more time (you can see Grandma, who somehow wedged herself into the tiny engine, since Carter wanted to ride there)...

We had a much happier ride on the truck ride from earlier...(and yes, I thought it was strangely sweet that Jacob kept riding with Carter)...

Jacob and I did another ride on the kiddie coaster while Carter rode on a bird, and the boys skipped around to a couple other rides after that.  Carter eventually wanted to go on this hot air balloon ride, and I volunteered to take him.  The cars moved up and around, plus they had the little spinning wheel (like the teacups) in the middle of each car to make you spin more.  When that ride got going, Carter's giggles were priceless!  I was laughing at him laughing!  I caught the end of it on video but haven't had a chance to upload it yet.  Hopefully I will have another post with some videos from the weekend and any fun pictures my parents happened to catch, but for now, just enjoy this shot...

The rain drizzled as we walked out of the park, but our day wasn't over.  We were off to my parents' church, where there was a free carnival!  Both kids napped a bit on the way there, not surprisingly!  We grabbed some dinner and fun snacks there, and the boys played a bunch of games to earn tickets for prizes.  Here's Jacob desperately trying to master a five-pin bowling game...

...and here is Carter's strange ring toss technique.  It's hard to see, but his arm is cocked way back even though he's right there!  Silly boy.

We had a very long but very fun day!  I ended up a little sunburned despite sunscreen, but as a whole we came out of it tired but generally unscathed and full of smiles!  It was just the start of a fun two days, and next up was Old Fort Niagara!

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