Nickelodeon Universe NJ

2nd September 2021

Day 29 of my trip began with an early start and a long drive south to the American Dream shopping mall in the outskirts of New York City. When I first visited the mall a few weeks before the pandemic I described it as a work-in-progress, and almost two years later very little has changed. A small number of shops have opened in the intervening time, but for the most part the place remains a desolate wasteland. Today there was additional trouble, in that a large area had been roped off for drying out following the remnants of Hurricane Ida; it seems that some of the building roof wasn’t quite as waterproof as it was designed to be.

I was one of the only guests in Nickelodeon Universe today, possibly because the $79 plus tax required for admission puts the place beyond the budget for many potential visitors. It’s hard to understand this price point given that the nearby Six Flags charges less than that for an annual pass. I’d have thought that a pay-per-ride option would be worth exploring in order to bring in more casual visitors – but on the other hand the mall doesn’t have all that many of those at the moment!


The primary reason for my return was Sandy’s Blasting Bronco (#2962), a ride best summarised as Intamin’s version of the Premier Sky Rocket II. The Liechtenstein-based manufacturer has built some top quality rides over the years, but I’m sorry to say that this isn’t one of them. The experience begins with a forward launch that delivers enough oomph for the train to complete the entire circuit: three back-to-back Immelmann inversions followed by a dive loop. Eighteen seconds later the train slows dramatically on a drop lined with brakes. It crawls forward onto a turntable over a ten second period, which rotates the train 180 degrees, allowing the same sequence to be completed in reverse.

My initial impression was of a dull ride, and after a second lap at the opposite end of the train I saw no reason to change my opinion. There’s nothing wrong with the ride per se; it does what it sets out to do well enough, and the trains are comfortable; it’s just that it doesn’t actually do anything particularly memorable. I suspect that I might have thought a bit more of the experience if I had ridden it before the magnificent GaleForce rather than the other way round, but even allowing for that I genuinely couldn’t see it cracking my top one thousand.

My next stop was at Skyline Scream, a S&S tower ride. On my last visit to the park the ride featured a rotation at the apex as part of its programme, which was conspicuously absent today. I sincerely hope that this was an aberration rather than a permanent alteration to the ride sequence, as it was really nice to see the New York skyline from onboard. The experience otherwise was fine, though; this is a good ride and well worth waiting for.

On disembarking I went to Nickelodeon Slime Streak. Anyone seeking to ride what I'd argue to be the park's best coaster must spend somewhere in the region of three minutes walking back and forth through cattle grid, as there’s no bypass for quiet days and the operators are unimpressed by anyone who tries to step over or under any of the barriers. I ended up in the front seat, which I was only just able to squeeze my knees into. I overheard another guest asking if any of the cars were more spacious, and this is pertinent; I’m not sure why Chance decided to go with small rolling stock on a ride that is large enough for the whole family to enjoy.

I doubt I’d have bothered with anything else if I hadn’t paid full price admission, but since I had I decided I might as well do one lap on each Gerstlauer coaster. First up was Shredder, a ride that I described last time round as “beyond dull” and “doing nothing of consequence”. The experience today was marginally better than I remembered only because the car made it through the first few block brake sections without slowing down, but it was still nothing to write home about in comparison to the various Mack spinning coasters.


With that done, I endured a single lap on TMNT Shellraiser. My car spent a good fifteen seconds at the top of the vertical tower looking down, giving me plenty of time to consider whether the pothole after the drop was still there. It was, and it hurt; those who don’t need the credit are advised to think carefully before boarding. (It’s worth noting that the ride is still covered in construction residue more than two years after its debut; one might have hoped that something would have been done to sort this out during the pandemic-forced shutdown.)


Travel Note

2nd September 2021

After arriving at my hotel lat night I spent some time investigating whether there was any realistic way to park my car outside of New York City and take public transport into Coney Island; driving into the Big Apple is not for the faint of heart at the best of times, and that's before you consider the cost of the road tolls. After much back and forth I decided that there wasn’t; the fastest public transport option required two hours, well beyond the 40 minutes the drive was expected to take, and I’d need a similar amount of time to retrieve my car before driving to my hotel.

As ever the journey took a little longer than predicted thanks to heavy traffic on the Belt Parkway, but it was less than an hour from end to end. Better yet, despite gloriously sunny weather I was apparently one of the only people heading to the amusement parks; the area around Surf Avenue was almost completely deserted. I had to relocate from my first attempt at parking because the credit card reader on the pay machine was broken, but that was a minor embuggerance in the grand scheme of things.

I walked past Luna Park NYC, which has recently installed the Mini Mouse that once operated in Victorian Gardens, but decided against going in; the park has switched to a wristband-only option this year and I wasn’t prepared to pay full price for a relocated kiddie coaster, especially since a substantial new coaster is due to be added next year. I took a few photographs through the fence before heading to my main target.


Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

2nd September 2021

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park has been a staple of Coney Island since 1920. It has been surrounded by competition for most of its existence, giving it no room for expansion; every addition had to come at the expense of something else. The closure of the adjacent 12th Street Amusements in 2017 gave a rare opportunity to acquire a new parcel of land, and the owners decided to make the most of the space by commissioning a brand new Suspended Family Coaster from Vekoma Rides.


Phoenix (#2963) sits at the intersection of W. 12th Street and Bowery Street. It begins with a 180 degree left turn onto a tyre-drive lift hill, which stretches to a height of 68 feet (20 metres). A drop of around half this height leads into a tightly banked left turn, a further descent to ground level, and two consecutive over-banked turns: first to the right, then to the left. These turns are the best feature of the layout, though the finale is also respectable: a climbing helix followed by a drop and two further tight turns back to the station.

The experience is not extreme, but it’s definitely thrilling. All of the turns are tight and forceful, delivering considerably more than the casual observer might expect. The tight clearances help the ride feel faster than the advertised 34 mph top speed, and the tracking is smooth at both ends of the train. The result is brilliant. There’s only one criticism to be made, which is the fact that there are no unlimited ride deals available as of this writing. Those prepared to invest in large quantities of credits can ride at a discount, but the average punter will need to shell out somewhere between $8 and $10 for a lap that lasts about 35 seconds from top-of-lift to brakes. I decided to stop after three laps when I’d happily have done a great deal more given the chance. Maybe on a future visit?

I also paid $5 for the privilege of riding Sky Flyer (#2964), a SBF Micro Coaster with a height differential measurable using a ruler. The cycle had way too many laps, as always, reminding me exactly why it’s a bad idea to count coasters. I think there should be a special category on Coaster-Count for rides that enthusiasts could have ridden but decided not to bother with; with the passage of time I expect a significant percentage of my count could be lumped into this category!


Morey's Piers

2nd September 2021

It was just after 4:00pm when I crossed the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge out of Brooklyn, and I had a decision to make. A straight shot to my hotel would get me there at around 6:30pm. On the other hand, a detour past Morey’s Piers (hopefully including the coasters I’d missed on Tuesday) would get me to my hotel at around 9:30pm, not including time spent credit whoring. Though not particularly sensible I decided to drive south; I had nothing better to do, and it’s likely to be at least a few years before my next major coaster trip in the area.

Readers retracing my steps should be aware that parking meters in the Wildwood area only accept quarters, and there’s a significant shortage of these in circulation at the moment as most people are choosing to transact using credit cards. As I only had two I decided that I’d no choice but to accept the $6.50 cost of a private lot for the evening. There were a range of prices in the vicinity, and I’d apparently found one of the cheapest; quite a few were looking for $10.

Morey's Piers

My first stop was at Mariner’s Landing, where I handed over a slightly insane $9.78 for the six tokens required to ride Wild Whizzer (#2965), my 47th encounter with the figure eight SBF spinning coaster design. As of 2021 there are 81 known examples of the “two loop” subtype, comprising three variants: a standard model, a model with taller supports, and a portable version. With that done I made my way across to Surfside Pier, which has recently been enhanced with Runaway Tram (#2966), the American premiere of the Zierer Force 281 and my third encounter with the type. The seven token ride has been lined with lights, and passes above the midway; I rather suspect that another kiddie ride will be added within its boundaries at some point, as there’s definitely room for one in an area that is currently bare concrete. My two-lap cycle in the back seat was absolutely great.

I thought seriously about buying another tokens for a second lap, but decided instead to wrap up my visit with a nine token ride on the Great Nor’easter, one of the world’s first Vekoma SLCs. My decision was one of curiosity; during the 2016/2017 off-season around 90% of the original track was replaced, and new rolling stock was acquired with soft vest restraints – and I was eager to see how much of a difference the overhaul had actually made. All loose objects had to be placed in a locker enforced using metal detection, which was a minor nuisance, but on a happier note these were free of charge; my ride ticket was sufficient to open one up.

I’m not sure what I had expected from the experience, but I can report that it was unexpectedly brilliant. I was in a slight stupor when I disembarked, not because I’d been hit in the head a few times, but because I hadn’t – other than a few minor jolts, notably one immediately after the double inline twist, the ride was absolutely fine. I’d have happily ridden it again several times; when have you ever heard me say that about a SLC?