I'm not really sure what to title this trip report, but the main goal of
this trip was my first visit to the Great Escape and the surrounding Lake
George area. I met up with Mark Rosenf'er in New Jersey, and after gulping
down a few rippers at Rutt's Hut (http://www.hollyeats.com/RuttHut.htm) - we
headed up towards Albany where we were crashing for the evening. We ended up
taking a quick diversion to the Palisades Mall
(http://www.palisadescenter.com/default.asp) to look at the carousel that
will only be there for a short while longer. The Palisades Mall has PTC
machine #15, which was an awkward time for PTC carousel designs.the horses
all look very strange and appear to be attempting to break free of their
poles. The carousel has been in many places but its longest residence was at
Dandelion Park in Wisconsin. It's in exquisite condition but in a horrible
We had an adequate nights sleep in Albany and then headed up to Lake George.
Lake George reminded me a lot of the Wisconsin Dells area. Perhaps a little
more upscale, but very similar. Mark had made reservations at the Howard
Johnson's Tiki Resort that is located just on the edge of Lake George
Village. Thankfully, and despite it's bizzaro website
(http://www.tikiresort.com/entertainment.htm), the hotel was fairly ordinary
and very clean. From the hotel we walked over to the abandoned Lake George
Action Park and then down to the water and the world famous Around the World
Golf (http://www.aroundtheworldgolf.com/). ATWG has two courses - One that
explores the world and one the USA. It is a very impressive attraction and a
lot of time and energy has obviously been spent on the themes and
maintenance of the course. The owner strolled through the course at one
point and answered a few questions. He has traveled extensively to obtain
some of the objects used on the course. After completing both courses we
walked to the downtown area. Lake George Village is very quaint and home to
many bars, restaurants, shops, arcades, and two haunted attractions (owned
by the same company).
We started with House of Frankenstein Wax Museum
(http://www.frankensteinwaxmuseum.com/) - a combination wax museum/haunted
house. There are many dioramas of famous 'horror' scenes - about 1/3 of them
have a button to press that activates the dioramas - some of which have
incredibly good scares - one in particular got me very good. It's a very
long attraction and we easily spent 20 minutes in it. It ends with the
highly advertised black hole that is a standard black-lit spinning
walkthrough tunnel. The other haunted attraction is Dr. Morbid's Haunted
House that is a guided tour through a haunted wax museum. I could not
understand very much of what the tour guide said - I think she was going for
a fake British accent and she couldn't remember all the words to the script.
More than anything the tour guide and one other actress, liked to jump from
behind corners and scream - it got more than a bit annoying after a few
times. There were some stunts, but only one that got me - it was nowhere
near as long and definitely not as impressive as Frankenstein. It would
strongly recommend Frankenstein and steer clear of Dr. Morbid (despite the
As the morning progressed, it was hard not for me to notice was the extreme
lack of people in Lake George this weekend, but I initially wrote it off as
we had started our day fairly early. But as the day wore on, I noted that
ALL of the hotels had their vacancies sign lit. It was approaching noon and
it was getting very warm. We decided to take a look at Waterslide world, and
pulling into the almost empty parking lot it was very tempting (especially
since they have original concrete slides) and there was no one in the
park..hmmm. We opted to move on to the Magic Forest, and once again were
greeted by an almost empty parking lot and park.
Magic Forest is a really amazing kiddie land / story land amusement park
trapped in time and the resting of place of many artifacts from now defunct
kiddy parks. The park features over 1000 statuettes (including several
revamped Muffler Men). From the road, it couldn't be better displayed to
entice little (and grown) children with its giant statues of Santa and his
reindeer, Mighty Mouse, Uncle Sam, and rides tucked into the trees. The park
offers a handful of adult rides (scrambler, tilt-a-whirl, Ferris wheel, and
Paratrooper) and a very large collection of pretty much every kiddie ride
that Alan Herschell and Hampton ever produced - plus a Mangel's roto-whip
and a few other oddities thrown in for good measure. The park is incredibly
well maintained and being in the middle of the woods has a lot of shade. The
premier attractions of the park are the diving horse show and the safari
ride. Before we paid to enter, we were politely warned that this is a kiddie
park, but I believe the woman taking admissions felt a little more relieved
after a brief conversation and both of us purchasing the new Images of
America book "The Kiddie Parks of the Adirondacks" (very cool book).
There is no rhyme or reason to the layout or theme of Magic Forest as it is
the culmination of several parks thrown into one - petting zoo, kiddie land,
Storybook land, Christmas land, and Indian Village are all meshed together.
The diving horse show, which is the only one of its kind left, leaves little
to the imagination - they run a horse up a ramp in which he can't turn
around, he hesitates at the top, dives into the water and gets out - that's
it and it lasts all of 60 seconds - unique and quick. The safari ride (and
the train ride) takes you into the outskirts of the park through various
tableaus of fiberglass creatures. Of particular note, on the train ride
there are more fiberglass animal-head trash receptacle tops then I have ever
seen. AND the Safari ride tram is a classic NAD Century Flyer tram in
amazing condition. A brief conversation with the ride operator disclosed
that they actually have two of them. Magic Forest has a huge amount of land
to play with if they ever wanted to.
The Storybook land portion of the park has one major outdoor walk through
section and there are walk-thru buildings scattered through out the park
with displays of various tales. Of particular note was a 1939 NY Worlds Fair
Snow White exhibit built by Walt Disney. It is a series of 9 animatronic
display windows that are primitive but definitely a precursor to Walt's
later concepts. Other indoor displays include Cinderella & Santa's House.
The rides are very much geared towards the younger set, but we enjoyed a few
of them - The Alan Herschell first generation kiddie coaster, which came
from Canobie Lake, has seen better days, but I have a soft spot for them.
The large circular slide in the front of the park was definitely not meant
for full-sized adults (but we did it anyways, Mark twice). The place looks
like it does well for itself, but it was a little eerie to be in an empty
park on a beautiful Saturday in July. We spent about 3 hours in the park and
thoroughly enjoyed it.
We had a quick BBQ supper at the Barnsider Inn, and it proved to be an
excellent choice. The ribs were some of the best I've had in a long time and
Mark agreed. We then headed for the Great Escape.
I've heard a lot about the Great Escape for a long time, but it has eluded
me up to now. I wish I could've seen a few years earlier, but at least I've
finally had the opportunity. Mark grew up on the park so it was excellent
having some insight to the background of the park and to know what the
changes are. The Six Flags presence can definitely be felt, but it's not
quite complete. It reminded me a little of my first visit to Knotts before
CF had completely dug in its claws. The Great Escape is on the verge of an
identity crisis. The biggest change to the park is the addition of pay
parking (it was free up to this year), and the addition of the Indoor water
park/hotel/resort (which appears to be a huge success). The Screamin' Demon
is very much the major visual presence as you approach the park.
Much like the Magic Forest, the Great Escape is a culmination of several
different types of parks that Charlie Wood once owned - all thrown into one
location. A lot of this still exists and we started our visit with one of
the original attractions, the swan boat. The boat operator/tour guide was a
wealth of incorrect historical information about the park and its rides, but
we bit our tongues and I enjoyed my first look at the park. We knocked out
the boomerang which was surprisingly smooth, but still sucked. We basically
meandered through the park taking it all in.
Of the parks more unique features, I particularly liked the horse drawn
pumpkin-coach, the Alice in Wonderland walkthrough, the remnants of the
miniature village, petting zoo, and the cave entrance to Ghost Town. The
Looney Tunes national forest walkthrough (formerly a jungle attraction) left
me at a loss as it was essentially a long walk back through a swamp with a
couple of rocking-rope bridges. It appeared more than anything to be a good
place for the couple of guys in front of us to light up a doobie. Speaking
of smoking - the SF no-smoking policy was definitely present in signage but
not in enforcement.
I really enjoyed the log flume - it has a nice length to it and good pacing.
The rapids ride is very long, but not that wet. I enjoyed Screamin' Demon
for what it is - I definitely preferred it to the Enchanted Village's model.
We hit the Comet around 8pm to near walk-on conditions and two train ops.
Mark said that it was running at about 6-7 out of 10. It's very much a fun
ride and has a few really nutso moments. You can definitely tell where the
reprofiling/retracking was done - it feels like a completely different ride
for that one hill. I particularly liked the bizarre square hill before the
second turn around and the final turn around. I would be torn to say if I
liked the front or back better as they were equally potent. We scored about
7-8 rides in an hour and a half, and could've had more if we wanted.
We headed back to Ghost Town to see if we could score a last minute ride on
Nightmare, and were pleased to see that Canyon Blaster had opened (it had
been down earlier). We quickly walked onto the ride and after the ops
resolved a little restraint issue we were off. I'd have to say that Canyon
Blaster gives Hershey's Trail Blazer a race for the money for worst mine
train ever - the helix ending gives it a bit of an edge. It was 10 o'clock
on the dot, but we figured we would make an attempt to get on Nightmare at
Crackaxle Canyon (enclosed Jet Star). Mark was able to sweet talk a security
guard with some borrowed Flarespeak and next thing we knew we were on the
ride. It's an excellent ride, but I can't imagine the hell it must be to
wait in line for this capacity nightmare. We found out right before leaving
that the ride is now only available on a reservation basis due to its
I have to say I'm torn about the Great Escape - it has so much potential,
but I fear that with the addition of Astroworld's SLC and the corporate
branding of SF, that a lot of the original charm will soon be gone. Unlike
Magic Forest, TGE had a nice, but not overwhelming, crowd - the water park
is an obviously a huge draw. I can't see the park disappearing, but my main
draw to the park is the Comet and I hope that it can stay in the form that
is currently in.
We ended the night with a round of mini golf at Gooney Golf. While not as
good as Around the World, a lot of thought and effort was put into the
course. It was once home to haunted house walk-thru that is now occupied
primarily by an arcade and a very small walk through called the black hole.
$1.75 gets you all the time you want in a spinning room with black lights
and Pink Floyd being piped in with a little scare stunt at the end (that did
We retired for the night and decided the next morning to head back towards
the city hitting Hoffman's Playland on the way. But only after a horrible
Howard Johnson's breakfast buffet and a quick round of Lumberjack mini-golf.
Hoffman's Playland is located in Latham, NY just north of Albany. It opened
in 1952 and it doesn't appear that much has changed since it opened. It's
your quintessential roadside kiddie land park. Skirting the park is a great
ice cream joint, Dairy Freeze, and a large indoor/outdoor mini-golf
course/shooting range. Playland has just a few adult rides - the most
important is a set of beautiful Lusse Autoskooters in immaculate condition.
They also have a second generation Herschell Kiddie coaster with a gnarly
turn after the first drop that's not too pleasant for adult riders. We didn't
spend a lot of time there, but the place is obviously doing quite well for
As we drove through Albany, we decided we would investigate the State Museum
of New York. The museum is the home to a spectacular 1915 Herschell-Spillman
Carousel. Words really don't do justice to how amazing this machine is. The
machine also has a rare spinning tub and a rocking chariot. I could've spent
hours at this museum as it simply packed to the hilt with great displays. I
found the 9/11 exhibit a bit more potent than I had anticipated. The whole
area around the state museum is also spectacular, and I hope that I will get
to go back soon to spend a little more time there.
All in all it was an excellent weekend trip.. thanks for reading..
Jim 'jimvid' McDonnell
Pix r here:
Lake George Mini Golf:
Misc Trip Shots (including Palisades Mall Carousel):
State Museum of NY:
The carousel is our last stop and I enjoyed every second on it. I think it's a pay-what-you-wish fee for a ticket. It's very pretty.
I wish the kids would have gotten more out of it though.
The photos were outstanding. The "tanks" especially brought back childhood memories of Peter Pan Playland in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
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