Old park, old rides, lots of fun.
My fiancé and I made a trip back to our home state of New Jersey for July 4th Weekend. Family activities took up most of the time but I was able to get away for a quick visit to Bushkill Park. I’ve lived in New Jersey for 24 years and never once made a visit to this little park. Heck, I never even knew it existed until just a few years ago. It is pretty obscure and seems to keep a fairly low profile. Not even a directional sign on the roads will guide you to the park.
Getting to the park is fairly straightforward. From US 22 in Easton, Pennsylvania you take Bushkill Drive north a couple miles and make a left onto Bushkill Park Drive (there is also a Bushkill Street in the area so watch out). The park is on the left nestled in a grove of tall oak trees. We parked the car in the free lot and walked into the park under the entrance arch. The park features free admission on weekdays. Weekends will cost you $3 with the added benefit of entertainment on the stage behind the whip building. A sign on an empty ticket booth directed us to the Carousel Pavilion to buy ride tickets. We had a choice of a POP pass for $15 or individual tickets. Given the limited number of rides and our limited amount of time, we opted for the tickets. A strip of 14 cost $10. Single tickets are $0.75 each. Most rides take two tickets. The only exceptions are the Whip (3 tickets) and the bumper cars (4 tickets or a ride pass and 2 tickets). I felt the pricing was a bit steep and maybe the adult ride pass should be less then a children's pass. After all, adults can really only ride 9 rides but kids can everything (with the possible exception of the bumper cars).
Clutching our tickets, we headed over to the Scrambler we had seen from the parking lot. This ride, which the park calls the Merry Mixer, is the oldest scrambler I’ve ever seen. It has all the major features of your average scrambler but things are just, well, different. There are 4 sweeps instead of the usual 3. The tubs are smaller and of a different shape, the center hub has a sort of “homemade” look about it, and cables drive the sweeps. We boarded the thing and just barely got the lap bar closed (did I mention the tubs were small?) The ride started off slow and it stayed pretty slow throughout the ride. We had a long ride cycle but the ride just doesn’t deliver the way a good regular scrambler does. Still, it was impressive to see and ride such an old and unique device.
The “Barl of Fun” was next. This is an old (very old) wooden funhouse with a sign proudly proclaiming “featured on the Discovery Channel.” It features a really large rotating wooden barrel, an extensive collection of distorting mirrors, rolling walkways, a rickety staircase and an enormous wooden slide polished smooth from years of use. There is no time limit in the Barl of Fun and we spent some time going through the rotating barrel and going down the slide.
The park has another dark ride, The Pretzel (which runs cars that supposedly came from Kennywood’s “Le Cachot"). We boarded and took a ride. The scariest part of the ride was the roof on the building. It seemed as though it might cave in. It also contains more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. Quite a bit of light leaks into the building. The ride had very few stunts or effects but it was a neat ride nonetheless. The light leaks offered a good view of the twisted track layout.
The bumper cars appeared to be closed but we spent some time admiring them anyway. 11 (or was it 12?) metal-bodied Lusse Auto Skooters and a springboard perimeter! I have never ridden a Lusse and was dying for a ride. Nobody was around so we walked across the midway to the Whip. This is a 10 car (!?) model and required 3 tickets. It started off slow but gave some decent whipping action once it got up to speed. It ran pretty rough and I think our car in particular was in need some mechanical attention. Fun ride and my fourth full size whip.
The park’s train ride - the Bushkill Express appears to be a National Amusement Devices train. The engine was a little beat-up and styled to a streamlined diesel-electric type. Nice long ride around a large open field in the back of the park. No station for this ride. Just a sign on a tree telling us to “board the train here.”
I spent some time taking pictures of the park and then we went into the Candy Factory where they had a large selection of candy and chocolates. I also found a postcard of Bushkill’s 1922 Allan Herschel Carousel and a calendar featuring Bushkill Park and other small amusement parks that were once in the area. Attached to the Candy Factory is the Roller Rink. Open on Saturday nights and for special events. We peeked in the windows and admired the classic old rink.
The carousel is not the park’s original carousel but it is a nice machine with a band organ and a ring machine! Unfortunately, the ring machine was not operating but I was informed that it does operate but they mostly use it on weekends. They are raffling off a replica of one of the carousel horses. Those who catch the brass ring win a free raffle ticket.
We noticed a some folks lining up at the Bumper Cars so we headed over to see if they were running. Sure enough, they were. We waited in line and when the cycle ended, the operator got up and left! I flagged him down and he said he had to go run the Whip but he’d be back. I snapped some more photos and then I finally got my ride on the Lusses. These big old chunky cars go fast, hit hard, and fishtail around the turns. I only wish there were more people on the ride with me.
Two adult rides we didn’t go on were the Tilt-A-Whirl and the flying elephants. The park also has a collection of 9 ancient kiddie rides. Speedboats, Pony Carts, Swan Flyers, Sky Fighter, a really unusual kiddie Merry-Go-Round, Turtles, Cops and Clowns, circular kiddie whip, and the kiddie coaster. The kiddie coaster is a side friction and very unusual as it is not really a coaster. It is more of a train that runs along an undulating track. A locomotive themed head car contains the motor and is powered from a wire attached to a rotating arm in the center of the ride. It wasn’t operating which is a shame. I would have loved to get a ride.
I chatted a bit with the woman taking tickets at the “Barl of Fun.” She said the bumper cars require 4 tickets because they are so expensive to maintain. A lot of parts have to be custom made. She also said that the park had a 100th birthday celebration the previous Sunday. Jim Futrell, who features Bushkill in his book “Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania” was on hand to present the park with a plaque for being only the 24th operating amusement park to reach the 100 year mark..
Other observations. Bushkill Park once had a wooden coaster. It was torn down in 1967. A small wild mouse lived at the park in the 1970’s but it was removed in the late 70's or early 80‘s. A car from the ride is on display in the carousel pavilion. The only water available in the park is bottled water. We were told that the tap water is not fit to drink.
We made one final stop before leaving the park - the bathrooms. Not the best bathrooms but when you gotta go. . .
Bushkill is a fine old park. Another unlikely survivor that somehow has been able to hang on despite being just a short distance from Dorney. The park seems to be doing well. The grounds were clean and the employees friendly. The old stone fountain with the "Barl of Fun" in the background is about a classic a scene as you'll find anywhere. Children will really enjoy this park and I think many adults will too. A trip to this park is worthwhile just to view the old rides and atmosphere. I’m glad I finally made the effort to get there.
Edit: I checked into the old Scrambler and discovered that it actually isn't a true Eli Bridge Scrambler but a Garbrick Merry Mixer. Several other parks have these (including Knoebel's).
everything's better with a banjo
*** This post was edited by millrace on 7/11/2002. ***
Dorney Park visits in 2002: 13
*** This post was edited by Lord Gonchar on 7/6/2002. ***
84 coasters in Track Record!! Hypersonic XLC # 100 in July. Waiting for the 305 foot drop tower in 2003. Thank you PKD.
I wanted to go here for a few years now. I wasn't aware they were Lusse bumper cars there. I know of 3 parks in PA that have the great Lusses now Knoebels, Dutch Wonderland, and Bushkill.
I always wondered how to get to the parks as well thanks for the info.
Knoebels visits in 2002. 5
You must be logged in to post