Having gotten back into roller coasters lately and not having actually ridden one since 2012,when my family and I visited Hershey Park, I decided to take a day trip to Coney Island today. I was only interested in two rides--the legendary Coney Island Cyclone and the large, looping Thunderbolt coaster. It was a cloudy and (relatively) cool day in New York, so I was hoping the attractions would be less crowded than usual. My wish, as I will get to later, was granted.
I was somewhat concerned about parking, but this fear was unwarranted. Though somewhat expensive at $20 for the whole day, the lot at the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball stadium had plenty of spots available. I made it a point to arrive as close to Luna Park's 11 A.M. opening time as possible, and, again, it was not the greatest beach day, so I cannot speak to how quickly this lot fills on hotter, sunnier weekend days. The lot is very conveniently located, a three-minute walk to the Thunderbolt and less than ten minutes from the Cyclone.
This season, Luna Park, the main park at Coney Island, is operating with an admission system--guests book, online, a certain time to arrive at the park and are given a choice among three types of wristbands. These wristbands, which begin at $40, allow for either two or four hours at the park with unlimited rides on selected attractions. The different types of wristbands allow access to different rides. For example, the Family Fun wristband does not cover the Cyclone, and the Thrill Seeker wristband does not cover the smaller midway rides.
There is a way around purchasing the wristbands, however, and I took this option. Single rides can be purchased for $10 on the Cyclone and Thunderbolt. These two big coasters are located outside the gates where the majority of the Luna Park attractions are housed; the ticket stand for the Cyclone is located on the sidewalk at the foot of the coaster on the corner of Surf Avenue and W. 10th Street, while the ticket stand for the Thunderbolt is located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk. These coasters are on either side of the main Luna Park attraction area, the Cyclone to the east and the Thunderbolt to the west.
I wanted to ride each coaster more than once, so I purchased three rides on the Cyclone and two on the Thunderbolt. At $40, the Thrill Seeker wristband would have been the better value by $10, but I didn't want to risk a long wait to pick up the wristband. The ticket booths accept both cash and debit/credit cards, and upon paying, your admission is placed on a plastic card that is scanned at the adjacent attraction turnstile. Holding stations for objects that won't fit inside your pockets are conveniently located at each coaster's loading station.
As for wait times, the only blemish was a fifteen-minute delay for my second ride on the Thunderbolt after maintenance was needed (it looked like one of the restraints wouldn't unlock). My other four rides between the two coasters were walk-on, and I had the entire train to myself on one Thunderbolt ride. Heavenly!
I chose different seats for my three rides on the Cyclone--I rode once in the second row, once in the middle, and once in the back row. The back row was my favorite as it provided some good floater airtime on the coaster's numerous drops. The ride itself is pretty rough, and you will be sliding around on the coaster's undivided seats around the turns, but I came off each ride grinning and laughing like the proverbial schoolgirl.
After finishing my three credits on the Cyclone, I went to Nathans, which is located on Surf Avenue between the Cyclone and Thunderbolt, for lunch: two hot dogs with mustard, fries, and a lemonade. I usually love Nathans' hot dogs and fries, and these were no exception. The restaurant is organized cafeteria style with the left half of the building being used for guests ordering Nathans' burger, cheesesteak, and seafood offerings and the right half being used for people, like myself, wanting only hot dogs, fries, and a drink. Seating with tables is available outside the restaurant.
After channeling my inner Joey Chestnut, I tackled the Thunderbolt. The coaster, with its vertical lift hill and numerous inversions, dominates the area skyline. As I had on the Cyclone, I came off the Thunderbolt grinning and laughing. Admittedly, however, it is not the greatest coaster. The transitions between inversions are jerky, and the restraints can have the same effect on your thighs as those on Hershey Park's Skyrush. On my first ride, I found the restraints uncomfortable, though not really painful. Interestingly, on my second ride, the restraints were perfectly comfortable. Go figure!
Souvenir on-ride photographs can be purchased at the exit to both coasters for $12. As with the tickets, both cash and debit/credit cards are accepted for payment. Against my better financial instincts, I purchased a photo on each ride.
All in all, it was a fun day, and I hope to be riding more roller coasters in the near future, possibly later in the summer at Hershey or Great Adventure.
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