Santa's Village4th August 2006
The decision to add three small kiddie parks into this day was a late one. Though it would be nice to claim otherwise, the main reason of course was the prospect of three additional coasters. There was one other fringe benefit, however, in that we arrived at our (moved) overnight hotel before eleven in the evening, compared to what would certainly have been two in the morning had we not made the change.
Santa's Village is a particularly nice kiddie park in New Hampshire, marked by friendly staff and quality theming throughout. Case in point was the extremely enthusiastic ride operator on Rudy's Rapid Transit (#869), who was jumping up and down and waving his arms in the air as the train passed through the station. A large tivoli coaster is nothing particularly special of course, but this one was enjoyable and ran well.
We rode the Giant Wheel as it provided a good photo angle on the coaster, before making our way over to the Great Humbug Adventure dark ride. This was a fairly typical shoot the targets attraction, but had the benefit of larger target areas than usual, which were much easier to see and hit. The designs were not altogether unlike the Senyo-built versions in Japan, rather than the more common Sally models seen everywhere. It is fair to say that my ability to hit a target is somewhat substandard, due to medical reasons, and for this reason the bigger target areas allow me to enjoy the ride far more. My score was still below average, but at least I was able to actually hit something!
We decided to pass on the park log flume, and everything else was targeted at people a great deal smaller than we were. Nevertheless, we spent some time walking around and taking in the atmosphere of the place, noting some of the tiny details; street signs for things such as Ho Ho Ho Boulevard, and a signal crossing which, instead of ringing as might be normal, played a few notes of Jingle Bells. The place certainly has the atmosphere to be the spiritual home of Santa, but for one thing; the absence of snow. However, unlike so many other parks in this country, it is possible to visit in December. Guests to the area should do so!
This park was known as Six Gun City at the time of this trip report.
After the wonders of Santa's Village, we were brought rapidly back to reality by Six Gun City. The place can be summarised rather succinctly by the fact that their new attraction, Gold Rush Express (#870), has been built on a large concrete slab that at one stage might was part of the car park. You can still see some of the lines where cars once parked. As for theming? Well, the ride has green coloured track, which I'm sure has something to do with the midwest theming found in the entrance area of the park.
There were of course a few other attractions; two token waterslides representing the water park, a boating lake, go karts, and laser tag. Nevertheless, we did not find anything that in our view justified the $18.95 admission fee. The coaster certainly didn't.
There was one little oddity we noticed on the way out, however. Two days ago we were introduced to the nation's only diving horse. Six Gun City appears to have crossbred a new species for the sole purpose of transportation, pictured across. One wonders if they've chosen to patent the diesel powered horse.
Story Land is somewhere every small child should be brought to. Forget about Disneyland; this park has beautiful theming and a decent selection of rides to please both the young and the young at heart alike. Due to wait times we decided to pass on both the log flume and rapids rides, but we did find time for the Polar Coaster (#871), a Hopkins-built ride that takes advantage of the park terrain to provide a decently long ride without ever dropping more than five feet at a time, just the thing to introduce small children to their first roller coasters. Two trains were in use too, which kept the line moving well.
We also partook of the Slipshod Safari Tour, a gentle journey through a forest full of animatronic creatures, with some entertaining touches, such as the stripy paint shop (for Zebras needing a makeover) and the toll bridge with different vehicles being charged different numbers of bananas. As with Santa's Village earlier in the day, though, the real charm of the park for us was walking around the place and admiring the cleanliness and theming of another cute park. Ten out of ten.
Palace Playland4th August 2006
Palace Playland was in many ways similar to Jenkinson's Boardwalk, the only difference being a slightly more adult selection of rides, albeit an unimaginative listing largely from the Zamperla catalogue. There didn't appear to be any custom attractions, and there were no dark rides that we could see. Having said that, there were still several rides for the younger folks, such as Orient Express (#872). Even we wouldn't have made a special trip to the park if that was all there was, mind; the draw for us was a SDC Galaxi (#873). These are great little rides, being smooth and fun, and gentle enough for the whole family to enjoy.
Ten minutes after Palace Playland we'd arrived at another Galaxi (#874), although this one had one marked difference from the other, as it ran single car trains rather than two cars chained. The sensations were largely the same other than in the middle of the course, during which the car slowed down to the point that I thought it was going to get stuck on the anti-rollback. It made it round, fortunately, giving us one more credit in the process.
The draw at this park, however, was the rather good wooden coaster Excalibur (#875). The park has clearly taken theming of this attraction seriously, with the station facade being designed as a large castle. Better yet, they've designed in a queueing system that allows riders to choose early on whether they want front seat, back seat, or any available seat. It would be so nice if other parks did this.
As for the coaster itself, it was definitely a front seat ride. The first half of the ride from that end of the train was loaded with airtime and the typical furious intensity typical of CCI. Unfortunately, half way through the design seemed to peter out; sure, there were some helixes and a few more drops, but they lacked the energy of the first section. It was only in the approach to the brake run that you felt things were getting going again - only to have the brakes take away that speed in style. As for the back seat, there was no perceptible airtime throughout the course, and a few potholes on the track didn't help things much. Overall, a front seat was probably worth a seven out of ten, and the back maybe a five.
We arrived at the last park of the day a little after seven in the evening, and promptly joined the line for Canobie Corkscrew (#876), reasoning that we might as well save the best for last. All the Arrow Corkscrews ride in the same fashion, making this one at best unremarkable.
The powered coaster Dragon would also have been unworthy of note were it not for what is unquestionably the oddest loading procedures we have ever seen in a park. The operator would allow four people through the gate, wait for them to be seated, walk up the train to check their harnesses, then walk back to the entrance, repeating the procedure until each row was filled. This was, as you can imagine, not entirely the fastest way to load a coaster train. Better yet, having got the train full, she proceeded to do another full check of the restraints (a good idea to be certain, but with this it probably wasn't necessary to do another check beforehand). The net result was a train every eight minutes or so. Fortunately it wasn't a particularly popular ride; otherwise there might well have been mayhem.
Yankee Cannonball (#877), on the other hand, was a popular ride, with the longest wait of the evening. It went quickly enough, however, as a friendly local had struck up a conversation with us, and before we knew it we'd gotten to the loading platform. From the front seat we found a positively superb wooden coaster, easily a nine out of ten, and a great way to end the evening. My only regret was not being able to ride a second time, but with a three quarter hour wait and a long drive to the hotel ahead we elected to give it a miss.