Trip Report: AJ's Epic Theme Park Summer-Part 12 (New York & Boston)

Edited: January 29, 2015, 3:42 PM

Part 12: New York City and Boston

New York City: August 4th-6th, 2014

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Although the big TPR tour was over, I still had several days left before returning home. My Dad has wanted to visit New York City for some time, so since the trip ended up here it gave us the perfect opportunity for a family trip. My Dad, brother, and sister all arrived in New York City on Saturday (August 2nd), and spent a couple days exploring the city before I arrived. I joined them upon arriving in the city after Six Flags Great Adventure.

Monday, August 4th was a late morning for everyone. Eventually, however, we all got up and out to start with some sightseeing.

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First stop of the day: The National September 11th Memorial. Due to construction, it was a little tricky to find the memorial. I thought the memorial was pretty neat to see, though I was a little too young when the event happened to fully get the impact of it. I was disappointed to find that the memorial has essentially been turned into a tourist attraction and plenty of visitors did not appear to be giving it the respect deserved of such a place. Due to lines and the price, we opted not to go inside the museum.

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Once we were done at the Memorial, we headed over the Brooklyn Bridge and walked across to the far side. We walked around Brooklyn for a short while before locating a subway station to head back.

After returning to Manhattan we wandered around the city for a bit, then headed back to the hotel for a mid-afternoon break.

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My sister opted to remain at the hotel for the evening while my Dad, brother, and I headed over to the Roosevelt Island Tramway. The tramway, a Leitner-Poma aerial tram, was of particular interest to me simply because I like aerial ropeways.

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After a bit of time exploring Roosevelt Island my brother headed back to the hotel while my Dad and I headed to Yankee Stadium for the baseball game.

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Baseball is my favorite of the major team sports and I always enjoy visiting the local stadium, but this particular one was somewhat underwhelming. The Yankees have a very nice stadium, but it just felt really sterile and generic with a lack of uniqueness. In any event, the game was decent and it was still an enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, August 5th was our busiest day in New York City.

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The day began with a ride out to Liberty Island to tour the Statue of Liberty.

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While we could not access the crown, our tickets still got us to the top of the pedestal, which provided a good view of New York Harbor and the city skyline.

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Once done here, we headed over to Ellis Island, which I found more interesting and more relevant to American history than the Statue of Liberty. It was neat to see the old buildings that many European immigrants were forced to pass through in order to reach America.

Following Ellis Island, we headed back to the city, where we boarded a subway bound for Brooklyn, as Tuesday was the final park day of this trip.

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The line ended at Coney Island, one of the most famous sites in the world of amusement parks.

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After waving to the departing TPR group (those doing the New York add-on visited in the morning on this day), we headed to the original Nathan's for lunch, then made our way to the park.

Coney Island

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Depending on how you count, Coney Island is one, two, or three parks located right next to each other. Luna Park is the main ride park, and this is where you will find the famous Cyclone roller coaster. Scream Zone is located at the other end of the boardwalk and contains mostly upcharge attractions, including the brand new Thunderbolt. In the middle is Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, a completely separate property featuring the Wonder Wheel and a selection of carnival rides.

Every area of Coney Island is priced separately, so a day at the park can get quite expensive. Fortunately, we were able to get a good deal on Luna Park wristbands and Cyclone tickets with a ClubTPR discount. We started our day with rides in Luna Park, then moved to the Scream Zone, and ended with a ride on the famous Wonder Wheel. In total, we spent about three hours at the park as lines were fairly short.

Coaster Reviews:

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Coney Island is not a place you visit for roller coasters. While Cyclone is a legendary ride and is actually a lot of fun, the rest of the park's coasters are all below average. However, if you enjoy Zamperla creations you will find a couple interesting ones here.

Tickler:

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Tickler is a standard Zamperla spinning wild mouse, though it has one noteworthy difference: The cars spin during the entire course. In addition, this particular model seemed to spin a bit more than similar models, though still nowhere as intense as some other spinning coasters. Due to these factors, Tickler is my favorite of the Zamperla spinning mice, though it's still just an okay ride. C-

Cyclone:

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There are a handful of coasters that have gained historical significance outside of the coaster enthusiast community, and Cyclone is one of those coasters. The Coney Island Cyclone is arguably the most iconic wooden coaster ever built, and even though the ride is nearly 90 years old it still gives many modern woodies a run for their money. The ride is thrilling, though not overly intense, and while it is a bit rough at parts the huge pads on the ride minimize discomfort. If it wasn't for the $9 price per ride, I would have definitely given Cyclone a re-ride or two, but I'm glad I got to ride this classic and it conveniently ended up as credit #350. B+

Soarin' Eagle:

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I previously rode a Volare when I visited Canada's Wonderland a couple years ago and discovered the truth...they are terrible. I'm happy to report that Soarin' Eagle wasn't quite as bad as Time Warp. As this is the original Volare, I'm assuming Zamperla gave it a good refurbishment during the relocation. It wasn't a good ride by any means, it was just less bad than the others. D+

Steeplechase:

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Steeplechase is a Zamperla MotoCoaster, in my opinion the best coaster design the company has produced. While it is identical to Darien Lake's MotoCoaster, Steeplechase felt a little slower and less intense. It wasn't a bad ride, just not a particularly notable one. C

Thunderbolt:

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When Thunderbolt was announced, I thought it looked like a pretty good ride. It's a little short, but it's got a vertical lift and drop, several inversions, and hills that appear to deliver significant airtime. Sure, it was Zamperla's first big coaster, but that didn't really concern me. While I never expected it to be top ten material, I did expect it to be on par with rides such as the Gerstlauer Euro-Fighters. Never have I been so wrong about a coaster. Thunderbolt was absolutely horrid. Okay, I'll revise my statement...Thunderbolt has a good drop, a decent loop, and a downright terrible remainder. I don't know what causes it, but the cars shake and jostle around for the entire ride as if running on square wheels despite the coaster only running for a few months. The lapbar looks like it would be comfortable, but it isn't and any time you get airtime the straps dig into your shoulders. There is airtime on this ride, but it is violent ejector airtime and is more unpleasant than fun. Need more evidence that the coaster has serious issues? A kid in the front row of our car came back with a bloody nose due to bashing their face into the restraint. No joke...the ride is that brutal. I'll be honest...if Thunderbolt was a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter with the exact same layout, it would be worth the $10 that is charged for the ride and would be a solid B coaster. However, the actual ride deserves about a C- (that's even a bit generous) and I wouldn't ride again unless the trains are modified and it is no longer an upcharge. Overall, Thunderbolt is a good concept that was poorly executed and I hope Zamperla never tries to build a large coaster again.

Non-Coaster Summary:

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Coney Island has a large number of non-coaster attractions, ranging from standard carnival rides to prototype or one-of-a-kind attractions. The most famous non-coaster attraction in Coney Island is the Wonder Wheel, the centerpiece of Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. While the ride is similar to the Fun Wheel at Disney California Adventure Park, the Wonder Wheel is the original and is well worth a ride. Coney Island's other top flat rides are located inside Luna Park. Air Race is a prototype Zamperla thrill ride that is quite fun, though I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. Brooklyn Flyer was my personal favorite flat of Luna Park, as although it's a shorter swing on a stick it does give a good view of the area (not as good as the Wonder Wheel). Luna Park's other flat rides are all common Zamperla attractions, mostly of the kiddie ride variety. Outside of the parks, Coney Island also has a collection of carnival rides run by an independent operator.

For those looking for a dark ride, Coney Island has two. Spook-A-Rama, located under the Wonder Wheel, is a historic dark ride that is surprisingly good, though a tad expensive at $7 per ride. I did not ride Ghost Hole, an independently operated dark ride nearby, but it looked like a standard carnival ride. For water rides, Coney Island is lacking, with only a mediocre carnival log flume, but there's the beach nearby if you want to get wet.

Overall Thoughts:

I was excited to visit Coney Island, but unfortunately I was a bit disappointed by the place. Although a historical amusement park, it felt as if a lot of the history is gone. Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel still stand and independent operators are present, but Luna Park felt like little more than a Zamperla showcase and their big new coaster was a major letdown. However, you get the good with the bad...Luna Park was decent while Deno's was a bit dumpy (I imagine all of Coney Island used to be more like that). Across all three parks, operations were decent and the staff members were friendly so I can't complain about those areas. I did enjoy the few hours I spent there, it just wasn't quite what I expected.

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After leaving Coney Island we headed back to Manhattan and over to Little Italy in order to have dinner at Lombardi's, the first pizzeria in North America. I really liked this restaurant and was surprised at how big it was. The pizza itself was a little different from what I'm used to, but it was really good and quite reasonably priced.

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After dinner, my brother and sister headed back to the hotel while I went to the Empire State Building with my Dad. Even at 10 P.M. on a weeknight there was still an hour wait to get to the top, and judging by the queue I imagine there can be lines that put Disneyland to shame.

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Anyway, the view from the observation deck was pretty good, it's just a hassle getting up there due to the lines and the need to take two separate elevators to reach the deck.

Wednesday, August 6th, was our last day in New York City, as we would be taking a train to Boston that afternoon.

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However, we had enough time to go explore Central Park in the morning. While we didn't get to see the whole thing, we did see a decent portion of it. I knew it was big, but it was larger than I thought. If I go back to New York City, I'd definitely like to spend a couple hours just wandering around Central Park. After the park we returned to the hotel to retrieve our luggage, got lunch, and then headed to the station to wait for our train.

Overall, I enjoyed New York City and wish I had another day or two to explore it a bit more. While some of the stops weren't all that interesting to me, I'm still glad I got to see what I did and would definitely consider making a return visit to the city. It's not somewhere I'd like to live, but it is a fun spot for a vacation.

Boston-August 6th-9th, 2014

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The train ride to Boston took about 4 hours, so by the time we arrived and checked into our hotel it was a bit late to do anything notable. We explored the area around where our hotel was (Copley Square) and got dinner at a nearby restaurant.

The next day was our first of two full days in Boston.

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We started the day by heading out to Fenway Park, the oldest Major League Baseball stadium in the country.

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Although the Boston Red Sox were out of town, we were still able to take a tour of the stadium.

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While I would have preferred seeing a game here, it was neat to tour the stadium and see areas you can't typically visit during a game. Once the tour was over, we headed out to Harvard and spent the rest of the day exploring the areas around Harvard and MIT. It's not anything particularly exciting, but I can now say I've been to an Ivy League school.

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We returned to the Copley Square area for dinner and ended up having to relocate halfway through our meal due to a surprise downpour. Although not the best thing that could have happened, it was definitely memorable.

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Friday, the last full day of the trip, was spent walking the Freedom Trail.

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This 2.5 mile trail begins at the Boston Common and passes a number of historical sites from the American Revolution period. Highlights included the Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution at the end of the trail (see slideshow below for complete Freedom Trail pictures). While not a strenuous walk, it does take a good six hours to complete the trail and see every site. Once we reached the end, we took the Charlestown Ferry back, then returned to our hotel and got dinner at the nearby shopping mall.

Although Saturday was the departure day, our flight didn't leave until 5 P.M. so we had a bit of time before departure. At the suggestion of my brother, we decided to walk the Black Heritage Trail. While not as interesting as the Freedom Trail, it was a decent tour of the Beacon Hill neighborhood and passed several important sites. Unfortunately, many of them were simply designated by a plaque and it was impossible to tour them further.

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Since we still had time to kill, we decided to go to the Boston Tea Party Museum. Although it is labeled a museum, the attraction was more of a historical experience where you play the part of the colonists on the night of the tea party.

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After participating in a town meeting, storming a replica ship, and throwing imitation tea chests into the harbor, you go inside the actual museum to view a series of displays about the events that led up to the start of the Revolution. Although we were worried it was going to be hokey, the attraction was actually really well done and something I'd recommend if you've got time. From there, we went back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage, then headed to the airport for our flight back home.

Overall, I really liked Boston, and of the big cities I've visited it is probably the one I would most like to live in. The city is a mix of old historical structures and newer buildings, giving it a unique character. It is also a lot like many places in Europe in that major historical events actually happened there and you can feel it as you walk around the place and see the sites. While I would be more likely to return to New York for a vacation, Boston was definitely worth the trip to visit.

Now that this trip report has come to a close, it is time for a review of my summer. Over the summer of 2014, I got to...

-Go on two trips totaling 5 weeks
-Visit 5 new states
-Experience 15 new parks
-Collect 81 new coaster credits (including credits #300 and #350)
-Spend time in three major cities not previously visited
-Sightsee at three US National Parks
-Compete at a student engineering competition
-Join a family reunion
-Participate in both US TPR tours
-Meet plenty of new people and see some old friends again
-Have a ton of fun doing all of it

I'd say that's more than enough to consider it an epic summer. I'm glad I got to do all this while I could as I doubt I'll have this much free time again anytime soon.

Replies (5)

January 29, 2015, 4:50 PM

Thanks for the highly detailed and extensive trip report AJ. I've been following this since Part 1 and never once lost interest. Visiting 15 new parks in one summer is something most of us can only dream of. Most of these parks are on my bucket list, so I appreciate the honest reviews as to what's worthy of our time and what isn't. I'm glad you enjoyed your adventure and hope you have solid plans for next summer so it won't seem dull by inevitable comparison.

Edited: January 29, 2015, 11:29 PM

James, you're welcome. I'm glad you've enjoyed it. Summer 2014 was more something that just happened to come together vs. something I actually planned on doing. It was the result of a school trip that I was able to turn into a personal road trip, as well as receiving enough money from college graduation to do two TPR group trips and my Dad wanting to visit New York and Boston. It is not likely I'll ever have another chance to do this, especially since I'll now have a job to worry about, and if I ever get to 15 new parks in a year again it will likely be the result of an international TPR trip. If there is something you want to do, try your best to make it happen and don't give up if you have to settle for less.

As for 2015's plans, I'm intentionally trying to avoid planning anything as I'm currently searching for a job and I know once I get one I probably won't be able to take significant vacation time for at least a year. However, there is one trip I'm fully committed to: A week-long Alaska cruise with my entire family to celebrate my Grandparents' 60th anniversary. Provided I get either very lucky or very unlucky, the following theme park trips are currently on the table:

-A week-long Orlando trip: This trip would not include Walt Disney World, but would include Universal, Busch Gardens, and SeaWorld.
-A week-long Deep South trip: This trip would include Six Flags Over Georgia, Dollywood, and Carowinds. I could possibly do a shorter trip omitting Carowinds or an even shorter one to just Dollywood.
-A Texas trip: This would either be a 1 week trip to all three Texas parks or a weekend trip to either Dallas (Six Flags Over Texas) or San Antonio (Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio).
-A Northern California trip: This would include California's Great America, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk over a long weekend. I've visited all these parks before, but they're within driving range and I'll have passes to two of the three.
-A Lagoon trip: I visited this park on a ski trip last year and really enjoyed it, plus Cannibal looks like it could be a sleeper hit. This would be a long weekend trip with a lot of driving (10 hours each way to and from Salt Lake City).

If I visit any parks outside of Southern California next year, I'll definitely post another trip report here. However, as of right now it is looking unlikely I'll do any of these except possibly Northern California.

Edited: January 30, 2015, 4:40 AM

Great stuff, AJ, and yes, you did indeed have a truly epic summer one that you will likely remember for the rest of your life. I very much appreciate you taking the time to put down your reflections of your adventures in such an organized and entertaining fashion, and share them with your TPI friends. It has been an adventure for me just lurking in the background and following along. Wonderful. Thank you.

Now, as always, I turn to the food... I have actually been to Boston over a dozen times for work related trips, and am very fond of the place. Whenever I visit I do try to squeeze in a new, unique restaurant or two to balance out an otherwise dreary business trip (it is an especially pleasant experience since the meals are covered by the company I work for when I go!). So, you mentioned you had a couple of meals in Boston... where did you eat?????

Edited: January 30, 2015, 3:34 PM

Thanks for the comments, James. I'm glad that you've enjoyed my epic summer report, and thanks for suggesting I post it here. Even though this site doesn't see as much traffic on the message boards as others, if I happen to visit any interesting parks outside of Southern California in summer 2015 I'll be sure to post another report (of course, it won't be nearly this massive).

As for food, when traveling with my brother it is exceptionally difficult to convince him to try anywhere we don't have near home as he is very picky, so we ended up doing more fast food type meals than I would have liked. We did go to Lombardi's in New York, as mentioned previously, and that was very good. My family also went to Junior's Restaurant before I arrived in New York, which they said was excellent. In Boston we went to an Uno Chicago Grill on the day we arrived, which doesn't exist in California so despite being a chain it was something different (I'd been before and said it was somewhat like a better BJ's). We also went to an Italian place near the hotel named Papa Razzi, which was pretty good (this was where we got rained on and had to move inside). The rest of the trip was mainly quick service restaurants (the best of these was Nathan's at Coney Island).

February 1, 2015, 6:06 AM

Understood, AJ, sometimes it is tough to balance the things you would like to try with the needs and wants of the family. Thankfully my kids are still young enough that their opinions don't have much too much weight (especially since I am footing the bill!). Still, one must be considerate to keep everyone happy, especially on a trip as long and epic as yours!

Anyway, enjoy the off season and rest up those typing fingers, because I anticipating another stellar trip report from you after the summer of 2015! The pressure is on!

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