Central and Western New York, part II

Wednesday, September 3, 2014 11:25 AM

I promised to have part II yesterday, but with the thrilling news around Mantis, I was too overcome to type.

Ok, so usually when we take trips we go without much of a plan. (unless it's to WDW) We like it better that way, and find it to be more relaxing. Plus, sometimes we hear tell of something different that we'd like to visit.

So Saturday morning we got up and decided to bid fond farewell to the booming metropolis of Syracuse. It was a nice enough town, I guess. The university keeps it kind of on the hip side, but for us we had pretty much run out of things to do. So after some discussion we set our sights on the Buffalo/Niagra region.

BUFFALO

Jim travels extensively for work and always has points that we use for stay. We were shocked in trying to get a hotel around Niagra to find that rates, even for the Days Inn were 2 to 4 hundred bucks a night. We guessed it was on account of the holiday weekend, and wound up settling for a nice Residence Inn off of I90. After we dropped off our bags we went looking for something to do.
Buffalo has a garden/conservatory so we headed there first. It was small, had a jewel box greenhouse, and was in the slow, painful process of renovation. There just isn't public funding for those places, and they do their best. We realized that in Columbus how lucky we are to have the beautiful restored Franklin Park Conservatory.

One of the events in Buffalo over the weekend was the National Chicken Wing Festival, held at the ballpark where the Buffalo Bisons play. You enter for five bucks and chicken wings are a buck a piece with many local and regional restaurants trying to get your attention. While we grazed we were treated to the "Bobbing for Wings" contest, where the contestants strap on goggles and attempt, using only their mouths, to fish wings out from a baby pool filled with blue cheese dressing. (Marie's, of course. One of the sponsors) It was entertaining but was soooooo grooooosssss. Later, also on the Jumbotron was a chicken wing eating contest where the winner wound up eating something like 2 lbs of wings in 8 minutes.

So when we were finally done with that I said "Where should we go next?". And Jim said "Isn't there an amusement park around here somewhere?". (This is why I love him.)

"Why, yes there is!"

MARTIN'S FANTASY ISLAND

So back in 1961 my mom and dad took us on a family trip to Niagra Falls in the station wagon. As a treat for me, we stopped at a new place called Fantasy Island, I was probably 6 years old. I have vague memories of a storybook style kiddie park, and also remember the dog went with us and even rode some rides. When I was in my 50's and my dad was nearing the end of his life we were reminiscing about stuff like that and he asked me if I remembered our trip to that "dreadful place". I assured him that I did, but I didn't recall that it was dreadful. He just laughed and said they thought it was the worst place they'd ever been to and they wanted their money back. "They even let the dog on the rides, for chrissake!" I guess I was so young I didn't realize the place was anything short of fabulous.
Martin's Fantasy Island endures to this day, though. And I'm sorry to say maybe my dad was right after all.
The place was kind of a strange cross between the old Wyandot Lake and Beech Bend. There's a wooded area that's quite pretty, but that's not where the rides are. They live on a long midway, seemingly miles away from the gate. The rides area has a real carnival feel to it, mainly because they are a bunch of carnival flats sitting on the gravel. Silver Comet is a wooden coaster that was fast and fun, maybe a little rocky, but not like I had feared. The Zamperla Crazy Mouse was the lamest ever. Other rides of note include the Devils Hole (gravitron) a Stinger (KMG? I forget), a large Chance ferris wheel, and antique cars with a terrible layout and no scenery. New this year is Over the Falls, not a water ride as the name suggests, but one of those large flipping windmill rides, like the KMG Speed.
On the way out I went to the other side of the gate where the kid rides are, and figured out it was the area where the original Fantasy Island attractions were. It was nicer over there and a few of the rides and buildings there were relics from back in the day. There was a great antique Mother Goose roundabout ride from the 1930's. The figures were wooden, they "wore" cute dresses and hats, and bobbed up and down as the ride rotated. There were a couple more vintage rides mixed in with the new and there were figures like Humpty Dumpty, Jack, and the sleeping Giant. There was a nice long train ride that went all around the park.
So, bless their hearts, they're trying over there. They advertise low prices, and the water park seems to do well. But here, friends - what a difference between this place and the previous days visit to Seabreeze. MFI has all the makings of a great park in terms of rides and attractions. But they show little care for the atmosphere, sadly, everything was so rundown and tacky. A little elbow grease, sensible design, and upgraded theming and landscaping are all it would take to turn it into a beautiful little park.
I was glad I went, though, and I wish I could tell my dad.

After that big day we went back to the hotel and crashed. When Jim asked if there was anything else I'd like to do as we made our way back home I said Waldameer. Of course.

WALDAMEER PARK

When we woke up the next day it was pouring. Ugh. We had the hotel breakfast and packed up to head toward Erie. We decided to spend the last night in Cleveland, so I knew our time at Waldameer would be limited, and hoped and prayed the rain would let up.
Waldameer's one of my favorite little parks and I hadn't been there since Ravine Flyer's inaugural year. When we pulled in the rain was letting up and I could see from the parking lot the park was pretty empty. Their last day is Labor Day, so I'm sure the weather was a disappointment for them. Not for me.
We went straight for RFII and there was a one train wait. Both trains were operating, but they were only filling the red train, the blue would be dispatched empty. I was a little surprised by how rough the ride had become, especially the spot before the bridge on the return trip. Quite a pothole there. We rode the ride twice, or rather, I did. Jim didn't like it and declined a second ride. We also rode the Dragon spinning mouse, Ferris Wheel, drop tower, Whacky Shack, Pirates Cove, the sky ride and the Comet. The new areas they had developed since my last visit were nice, the North End offers a couple of kiddies and a Wave Swinger and great views of the Flyer. At the other end, past the ticket gate, they've extended the midway to include a Disk-O and a Musik Express. The original carousel shelter remains for picnics and everything looked great.
The was also a celebrity sighting at the park. Our very own Rideman, Dave Althoff Jr, was there with some friends, looking all spiffy in a Camden Park t shirt. Every time I saw him he was either too far away or on a ride so I failed to stalk him properly. Next time.

CLEVELAND OH

After Waldameer we headed for Cleveland where Jim had made a reservation at the Residence Inn downtown. We also had a reservation at Michael Symon's restaurant, Lolita, and we were so looking forward to that. We wound up being disappointed in it though. The food had good flavor but we were slightly underwhelmed by the menu. The salad, starter, and the entrees all arrived at once. My risotto was crunchy. Ah well.
After the meal we went to the casino (Horseshoe) and lost our asses there. The place was expensive, there was no free money for signing up, and I didn't hit a dime.

So that was the end of our fun filled trip- we drove home Monday morning. I got 6 new rides for my list so I was quite satisfied.

Thanks for reading!

Last edited by RCMAC, Wednesday, September 3, 2014 11:30 AM
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014 2:34 PM

Huh, that's surprising about Ravine Flyer. I was just there on August 23rd and to say it was running spectacularly would be an understatement. I've gone at least once a year since RF2 opened, and these were by far the best rides I'd had on it. I wonder what the difference was between then and Labor Day? If anything I would've expected the rain to help matters. (Ironically, we'd considered trying to squeeze in another visit on Labor Day because of how well it was running on the 23rd.)

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014 2:44 PM

I really enjoyed both parts of this TR.

Damn I want to go to the wing festival. How have I lived in CLE for 15 yrs and never heard of this? Next year...

My wife and I visited MFI 11 years ago. I remember being underwhelmed with the park in general, but we both loved the Silver Comet. It was a great ride, with only one "pothole" in a lower turnaround section. (This was before my wife gave up on coasters. Now it's a father/son thing.) I've always wondered how this ride has held up over the years. I am not a big fan of the steel-framed wooden coasters, as I feel they provide a much stiffer, rougher ride, and I always imagined a place like this with a shoestring budget might let the coaster decay. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Now that our son is old enough, (he was an infant when we went on this trip) I'd like to go back and repeat the BUF area coaster trip. (MFI, Darien Lake, MarineLand, and Seabreeze, which I've never been to.)

As for Michael Symon, well he has B-Spot Burgers about 3 miles from our house. (west CLE burbs.) We ate there once and were not thrilled. Based on our experience there, we will not be trying anymore of his restaurants. For a burger place that is supposed to be casual, they sure were pretentious. The server flat out told us that we were not allowed to make requests on the burgers. Gee, I'm sorry... I don't like red onions, why can't I get white onions? "Well the chef has specifically designed the burgers to a specific taste and will not modify them." Then I guess the chef can bite me. After that they hustled us out, and when I commented to the server he told me "that's what we do here, in and out, keep the turnover moving." I think it might have been because we're more of a jeans and tshirt type family in a place that is trying so hard to be hip. And that we weren't drinking alcohol. Either way, they were d1cks.

Sorry this got a bit to long.

Last edited by Tommytheduck, Wednesday, September 3, 2014 2:48 PM
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014 4:26 PM

We wanted to go to Lola. It was just around the corner from the hotel, but closed on Sunday. We have a new B Spot in Gahanna, haven't been there yet, so Lolita it was by default. When I brought up the crunchy risotto to the manager he says "yea, our risotto is more al dente than some, it's just how we make it. Sometimes we get complaints from those who are used to it the other way." I'm thinking, yea... Which would be EVERYbody?

I rode the RFII in the second to the last seat both times I rode it. Maybe I'm just a wuss in my old age, but I could definitely feel a rather unpleasant vibration. In fact the second time I rode it was headache time.

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