Friday, September 1, 2017


Many years ago, before we had kids, Craig and I spent a day at Seabreeze, our local amusement park.  It's a small park, much smaller than Darien Lake, where I crafted much of my coaster love as a teenager, and even a bit smaller than Fantasy Island, which we've covered here the previous two summers.  We went through a phase in our relationship where I tried to break Craig of his coaster-phobia, and out of love he tried to ride a handful of coasters for me--a couple at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, and a couple at Seabreeze.  Despite having a really good time that day at Seabreeze, we never ended up going back.  The closest we got was venturing back to that part of town for a great anniversary date a couple years ago, to the mini golf course across the street and a bar down the road. 

Last year, after Jacob went to Seabreeze with camp and loved it, and Carter turned into a ride maniac at Fantasy Island, I promised the kids we'd go this year when Carter was tall enough to ride almost everything.  I think he was just 38 inches last year and I knew he'd cut it close if we tried then, so I figured we might as well wait.  And sure enough, he clocked in at 41 inches this year, which made him tall enough for all but a handful of rides, plus a bunch of waterslides he wouldn't do anyway.  It took us forever to find a date that worked, but we finally made it happen on Tuesday.

The park doesn't even open until 11am, and since I hadn't been at an amusement park past dark in ages, I figured we wouldn't rush there and we'd plan to stay late.  There's something special about old school amusement park rides with the flashing light bulbs on every appendage, and I probably hadn't done that since possibly my "Coasters Across Ohio" trip with my friend Lois in 2001.  Disney is a totally different animal and doesn't count, and I feel like any other time I've gone to a park (which isn't very many in the past 15 years or so), we've gone early and left before it got dark.  So, with a late start, nostalgia for my late nights at Darien Lake, and an insistence that I was not going to rush us through the park, I figured a late night might be in order.

I had an allergy shot in the morning and then we ate lunch at home to minimize any food issues at the park.  We arrived around 1pm, when it was just feeling warm enough to start out our day at the waterpark.  We were lucky enough to get a really pleasant day in the mid-70s, but it almost felt a little too cool with a bathing suit, especially considering that the water (much like our pool) has been out in the open on our recent nights in the 50s!  Still, we had a great time.  We split up and Jacob and I did some of the big slides--one open one in a double tube, one tube slide in single tubes, and these crazy racing slides on toboggan-shaped mats that you rode on head-first.  The first two were great, but the racing slides were a bit much--very narrow, water in your face most of the way, and quite fast.  Even still, we had a great time.  Riding the double tubes with him was a lot of fun!
The racing slides - they pretty much just looped around and then came out into the open for a final hill.  You can see the other two slides we did in the background--one was blue and the other was a cream color.
After those slides, we met back up with Craig and Carter.  They'd been unsuccessful in doing anything, as Carter's water phobia--which I'd hoped we'd cured a bit with the alligator float in our pool--was still holding strong.  None of the splash pad areas or mini water slides were of any interest to him.  Jacob and I still had to conquer one more slide--the one Jacob was afraid of, the Helix, and then I figured I'd take my shot with Carter.  The Helix was among Craig's and my favorites from our original trip there, and yet Jacob refused to try it.  I told him if he did it I'd let him play the basketball game he likes on the midway, and he agreed.  So, up we went...
This is the Helix...and also note those little teal and pink slides below it.
We had been calling the Helix the "toilet bowl" because that's sort of what it's like.  You slide down the big slide (as seen above), which is a very fast, very intense three second ride, then get spit out into the bowl, which you ring around a couple times (just like a flushing toilet) before falling through a hole in the bottom and sliding down into the pool.  Coming out of the slide at the beginning and going into the pool at the end, the tunnels have water streaming down on you, so between those and some intense splashes from the current in the bowl, I was a little nervous about Jacob's response.  We rode a double tube and I couldn't see his face, so when we were finally in the pool and he said, "Can we do that again?!" I was immediately relieved!  He loved it! 

Oh, and while we were waiting on the stairs to that slide, down below us, Craig bribed Carter to try the teal slide in the picture above.  We watched from above as he came up the stairs, hesitated, then went back and finally went down!  Again, I couldn't see his face as he got to the bottom, but as he stood up he slipped and face-planted back in the water, which I knew wouldn't go over well.  Even still, when we joined back up with them, he was proud of himself and was excited to do more!

Our next stop was the lazy river, which we could do as a family.  Carter and I shared a double tube, and Craig and Jacob shared another.  Carter was just tall enough to have his feet on the bottom while popping up through the tube, and I made sure to keep my feet accessible so I could steer us out of approaching waterfalls.  Jacob, on the other hand, was purposely steering Craig into them!  In the picture below, you can see a low, arched set of fountains to the middle right.  Jacob steered Craig into those and he got a direct hit for a good 10 feet!  Merciless, that kid.  And yes, the water was cold here, too.

We did two laps around the river by the kids' request, then Craig and Jacob did a couple slides (including the Helix again) while I hung out with Carter.  He decided to try a couple more slides, all on his own!  He did these two before I made him sit and warm up for a few minutes because he was so shivery!

He did them a couple more times after that, along with the pink one next to the teal one he did first.  I did one more Helix run with Jacob before checking out the wave pool for a few minutes, and then we decided it was time to change back into regular clothes and start checking out the rest of the park!

Jacob and I started with a ride on the swings, and Craig and Carter went on the train.  On the swings I noticed that Jacob was closing his eyes for the whole ride.  He wouldn't really talk, but he didn't look scared either.  He looked like he was in some zen state throughout the ride.  I haven't quite figured out his ride tolerance.  He likes rides, but coasters scare him and he doesn't really like spinning.  He avoids ones I think he could do and tries ones that I know are probably not the best...and you never quite know what he'll say.  Despite his eye-closing, he really likes the swings!  We moved on deeper into the park and Carter and I rode the kiddie coaster, which was pretty decent as far as they go.  We also checked out the new ride this year, the Time Machine.  It's reminiscent of the Rainbow, a long ago ride where you sit facing forward, and the whole ride swoops up and around in a big vertical circle.  You remain upright.  I went on something similar a couple years ago in Erie, and it wasn't too intense, so I figured this one might be okay.  We bypassed riding this one for the moment, though.

We did ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, which was once upon a time my favorite ride.  It is not any longer.  Spinning is definitely no longer my forte.  I figured that out over the past couple years, but this confirmed it.  I definitely did not feel great coming off this one, despite taking a Dramamine that morning.  I was fine enough, mind you, but I get this little headachy blah feeling if I spin too much. Jacob also went on for some reason and really didn't enjoy it either.  Carter, on the other hand, giggled the entire time.

While Carter and I went on another ride, the Seabreeze Flyers, Jacob got his snack of choice, a root beer float...
And yes, I am jealous of Craig's iPhone's portrait mode that makes everything look like a professional shot!
The Seabreeze Flyers is an old school ride where your car floats outward as the ride rotates, and you have control of a rudder/sail type thing that lets you control whether you fly straight or twist and turn in the air.  Carter loved it.  I liked it, though after the Tilt-a-Whirl I was ready for it to be over pretty quickly.

I think it might have been around this time that Jacob and I rode the Jack Rabbit for the first time.  He had ridden it with his friends from camp, but I could tell he wasn't convinced he liked it.  But he came with me, and because the lines were so decent, we waited a few extra minutes to go on the front car.  I love the front in any coaster, but its line is usually twice as long.  So, with generally short lines, I figured this time it was worth the extra few minutes.  I also explained to Jacob that the front is so much smoother than the rest of the train, and I figured he might need that.

It's a classic wooden coaster with a top height of only 75 feet.  It's a fun ride, and this run was actually smoother than most wooden coasters.  Of course, Jacob had his eyes closed for the whole thing, but he seemed to like it a little better than when he went on the old wooden coaster in Erie with me.  He also seemed to think the front car made for a better ride than he'd done in the past.

After that, we decided to walk over to the kiddie rides and let Carter ride a bunch of stuff while the rest of us ate some dinner and/or digested.  He rode the turtles...

...the rockets...

...the boats...

...the cars...
Seriously, how cute is that tiny gas station that dinged when they passed under the canopy?  The theming for the whole ride was so cute!
...and the swings!
Oh, this kid...

He had a blast!  He just loves rides so much!  (And I'm internally rejoicing because I need a ride buddy ASAP!)

Slightly more digested, we headed to this fun ride, the Bobsleds.

Craig is not a ride person at all, but this one he did.  It's another old school roller coaster, this time with a much smaller hill and a tubular steel track.  So while it looks and feels much like a wooden coaster, it's not.  It also has single, four-person cars, so we fit perfectly.  It has a fun little layout with lots of little hills and crazy turns, and both kids absolutely loved it!  I wasn't sure about Jacob initially (eyes closed), but in the end we rode this one three times!  We raced in the USA bobsled first, then Italy, and then Jamaica...haha!

I then braved this crazy coaster, the Whirlwind, by myself.  It's a bit like a wild mouse coaster, but the cars spin and they're double sided, so I rode much of it backwards!  It's a pretty fun ride, though it whips you around a bit so you need to be prepared when it changes direction--which was a little tough when I couldn't see what was coming!

Carter and I then took on the Sea Dragon, which is a very similar ride to my beloved Pirate at Darien Lake!  Since I now get a little motion sickness on playground swings, I was a little nervous about this one, but it was fine.  The funniest part was that we rode this later (with a gorgeous view of the sunset as the boat swung), and a woman couldn't believe Carter was riding it, because she was terrified to ride it!  And when we walked to the end of the ship, which is the seat with the most intense ride, she was even more shocked.  But of course he giggled through it and we had a blast!

Then I had to go with Jacob on the Music Express, which is much like the first ride he fell in love with two years ago at Fantasy Island.  Of course, he refused to ride the same one in Erie a week or two later, but with subsequent trips to Seabreeze he likes it again.  Once again, he closed his eyes for the entire ride.  That's why his eyes are closed in the picture!

Carter then wanted to ride the teacups, and I braced myself.  I tried my best to minimize the spinning on this one since it's somewhat controllable, and we all came out unscathed.

It was starting to get late, so after wandering through the arcade, we headed back toward the middle of the park so the big boys could ride the log flume before it got too cool outside.  All these years later it is one of the rides I tend to avoid.  Someday when we're at a park with a few water rides I'll dress appropriately for them (bathing suit and board shorts all the way) and ride them all, but if I can avoid them, I do.  I'm scarred from a couple childhood rides gone bad, or maybe it's just the squishy shoe/wet shorts aftermath.  No thanks.

Carter and I rode the train instead.
From the train, looking toward (L to R) the Screaming Eagle, Hot Air Balloons, Log Flume station, and the swings.  The flume track went all around us.
We got to see the boys start their flume ride as we rode the train, and we got off just in time to see them go down the hill!
Craig was mid-yell here, and I'm not sure if it was on purpose or he couldn't hold it back!

And the end result...WET!
You can't even see Craig's eyes because his glasses were still water spotted!
We rode the hot air balloon race, with Carter and me in one balloon and Jacob in his own...
I avoided spinning on this one as much as possible, too, as this one was like the teacups, only high in the air!
We then headed back to the area near the Bobsleds, where both boys rode the airplanes.  Carter rode it by himself earlier, and it was nice to see them actually acting like brothers!

We stuck around that area and re-rode a few things before dark.  On one of the Bobsled runs, Jacob finally opened up his eyes, and when we finished, he said, "That was much better with my eyes open!"  Ummm, yes, duh!  He did it again when we rode the Jack Rabbit later, this time in the back seat of the first car.  And again, much better!  Silly kid.

Eventually we hit up the carousel...
The building is beautiful and the carousel is a classic, although both have only been around since the mid-90s after a fire destroyed the old carousel.  They did a great job making them feel pleasantly old, though!
..and did another ride on the Music Express, this time with Jacob's eyes open!  And yes, he liked it better.
This picture didn't turn out as well as I'd have liked, but I did get the blur from the moving cars, so that was fun!
We walked back to the other end of the park one more time, where we did the open-eye run on the Jack Rabbit and another ride on the Flyers.  Before we headed out, I finally decided to brave the Time Machine.  Jacob, presumably still pumped from his ride on the Jack Rabbit, came with me.  It appears this more compact design makes things a bit more intense than the similar ride I'd been on, as the swinging motion was a little more than expected.  Jacob didn't enjoy it.  I was fine, but not the top of my list, for sure. 

It was close to 9:30 when we finally started to walk back out of the park, and I looked longingly at the Screaming Eagle (see the picture from the train above).  I wanted to try to ride it, just to see if I could still do an upside-down ride, but the kids were just starting to lose it so it was time to go.  Maybe another time.

Overall, it was a really good day.  The kids were pretty well behaved for the whole day.  If I had to pick highlights, I have a couple.  One was riding the Bobsleds as a family.  It was nice that all four of us could do something together and all enjoy it.  The kids both loved it and it was fun seeing them bond over a common joy.  My other highlight was seeing the kids face their fears and surprise themselves with their bravery.  Between the kids' waterslide runs and Jacob opening his eyes, it was always gratifying to see them overcome their fear and even enjoy it!  Carter's giggles on every ride still crack me up.  I can't wait until he's big enough to ride big coasters with me, and with any luck Jacob will get to that point, too.  I was sad that the medium sized drop tower they have wasn't working, because I know Carter would have loved that one, too. 

It was a truly good day.  Now the hunt is on to see if we can find an affordable indoor water park to visit this winter...or a new amusement park challenge for next summer...can't wait!

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