One of my priorities in this hobby is to ride as many wooden coasters as I possibly can. Eight years ago I managed to finish the set of all operating installations worldwide, and while I’m nowhere near complete at the moment (mainly due to new installations in China) I’m nevertheless very willing to drop other parks from my plans when doing so enables me to knock off another wooden coaster.
Sesame Place added a wooden coaster a few years ago, making it an essential stop for me. I’d planned to visit mid-week, but a fellow enthusiast on a similar routing warned me that the ride had been closed when he had been there. Rather than blindly roll the dice I decided to contact the park via Facebook, where a helpful member of staff advised me that the ride I wanted was only opening on weekends due to staffing constraints. Visiting on a Saturday meant cutting a few hours out of my planned time at Legoland New York and dropping Land of Make Believe entirely, but I deemed both to be reasonable sacrifices in pursuit of a larger goal.
In the interests of maximising my day I made a point of getting to the park fifteen minutes ahead of the advertised 10:00am opening in the hope that I could do a few quick laps on my target coaster and be back on the road at 11:00am. This was a great idea on paper, but it didn’t quite work as planned. At 10:52am, shortly before my planned cut-off, neither of the park’s roller coasters was open. Vapor Trail was cycling trains and engineers were walking the wood coaster, but both were unequivocally shut. I went in search of someone official, and learned that the ride I had come for wasn’t due to open until 1:00pm. In the interests of not shooting the messenger I contained my utter visceral fury.
Losing a chunk out of my day was suboptimal at best, but there was nothing that I could do about it. It was frustrating, though; if I’d known about the late opening I could easily have gone to Land of Make Believe for an hour and change while still getting to Sesame Place with time to spare. I could also have gone to Legoland New York first. Whether I’d have been able to ride more coasters by routing differently is of course an academic question, but as the folks who run the lottery are fond of saying, if you’re not in, you can’t win.
Vapor Trail opened shortly after 11:00am, and as I had nothing else to do I decided to join the queue. There were two trains on track, but just as with Hersheyparkyesterday there was no capacity advantage as the air gates for oncoming passengers were left closed until after the train on course reached the final brake. I did three laps in the interest of killing time, waiting around thirty minutes on each occasion. The ride was enjoyable enough, but it's fair to say that I wouldn't ordinarily queue for it more than once or twice at the outside.
I picked up what passed for lunch from an in-park food truck at about 12:45pm, then relocated to entrance of Oscar’s Wacky Taxi (#2969) to wait. Operators began cycling trains in earnest about five minutes before the appointed time, though it would be remiss of me not to record that it wasn’t until 1:18pm – some 198 minutes after park opening, or for preference around of a third of the way into the operating day – when the barrier was finally removed from across the entrance.
The ride is a family-sized design from Gravitykraft Corporation with a support structure painted in an unusual (yet visually spectacular) shade of green. The lift height of 43 feet puts it broadly in the same category as Kentucky Flyer, Timber, and Wood Express – though the design is entirely custom and the better for it. A slight turn to the right prefixes the lift hill, which has been constructed parallel to the park entrance. The apex gives a view down the main midway, though guests have only a moment to appreciate the sight before the train makes a sharp left turn and drops to ground level, around five feet below the station. The sequence that follows can be thought of as a double out-and-back: a series of airtime hills separated by a few turns. I enjoyed two back seat rides, both of which were great. I rejoined the line for a third lap towards the front of the train, but decided to abort after thirty seconds because the queue had ballooned beyond what I was prepared to deal with.
Legoland New York
4th September 2021
My trusty Garmin estimated a 4:00pm arrival at Legoland New York, and this guess was accurate insofar as I arrived at the park at that time; the only catch was that the wretched contraption had routed me to an emergency access gate for maintenance vehicles only. My attempt to reconfigure the technology failed spectacularly, so rather than waste any more time I used Google Maps on my phone to get to the correct location. This turned out to be a twelve-and-a-half minute drive spanning 3.7 miles that culminated with me being less than a thousand feet away from where I’d started.
Signage at the main entrance warned visitors of three closed attractions, and one of those was the Dragon’s Apprentice, a production model Zamperla 80STD with a special theme. The root cause was almost certainly a technical problem; quite a few enthusiasts visiting in late August and early September found the ride in an advanced state of non-functionality. Though I’d have preferred that the ride be open, it was easiest to be philosophical about the loss; the ride was only the fourth missed credit in a month-long trip potentially impacted by both staffing issues and a pandemic. It could easily have been a great deal worse.
I began my visit with Dragon (#2970), which on paper at least is the same Zierer Force Five design found in Dubai, Germany, Japan, and Malaysia. This one has a slight upgrade over its predecessors: immediately after the dark ride section there is what could almost be described as a small launch before the train engages the tyre drive lift. A whooshing noise made me wonder if there was a hidden LSM at ground level, but an on-ride video suggests a far simpler system comprising a tyre drive and a speaker to add the special effect. Two trains were in use, with a third sitting on a transfer track. I didn’t manage either front or back due to assigned seating, but I got close to each end of the train which was good enough.
My next stop was at LEGO® NINJAGO® The Ride, which I experienced for the first time at Legoland Billund last year. On that occasion I couldn’t quite get to grips with the controls, and figured that I might as well give it another shot. The general premise is of a target shooting ride where you hit things by gesticulating wildly rather than firing a weapon, and this is every bit as ridiculous as it looks. I got the hang of it after a few scenes, and scored reasonably well. The ride wasn’t something I felt the need to do more than once, but then again I’m not in the target age bracket, and I have no familiarity whatsoever with the franchise.
The star attraction in the park at the moment is the LEGO® Factory Adventure Ride. This is a brand new concept created for the New York time, though I daresay it’ll only be a matter of time before clones appear elsewhere in the chain. It uses trackless vehicles, three of which dispatch at a time into a route comprising a mixture of sets and screens. For me the highlight came in the first room, which suggests to passengers that Lego bricks are set using dragon breath; a rather neat projection mapping effect makes this scene work really well. The paths are less varied than they might be, but despite that the experience remains several steps forward from classic tracked designs. I did a second round because the ride was walk-on.
I also went for a meander around the entirety of the park, including the locally-focused Mini Land. This served to emphasise what I regard as the park’s Achilles' heel: it has been built on a hill, and there are lengthy winding paths to get from one area to another. It's possible to cut 90% off the distance by taking shortcuts over the grass, and while it's obvious that management really don’t like that – there are signs everywhere asking guests to appreciate the park from the path – there’s not much that they can do. This feels like a design failure to me; you can't expect guests to walk long distances when there are obvious shortcuts available. Perhaps management will use the off season to add stairs where the grass has been trampled to nothingness?
Castle Fun Center
4th September 2021
Castle Fun Center is a small family park located about ten minutes by road from Legoland New York. It features inflatables, an arcade, go-karts, mini-golf, a zip-line, and a selection of amusement rides. During peak season it stays open later than its larger neighbour, presumably in the hope of catching a few people after one more ride. It certainly worked for me.
Dragon Coaster (#2971) is located directly to the right of the main entrance gate and ticketing window, and while it lacks the presence, theming, scale, and dark ride elements of its namesake up the road it is nevertheless a fun little thing worth a brief stop. The price today was $5.25 for a three lap cycle, allowing me to take my count for the type up to six.
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