Places: Seabreeze (Rochester, NY) and Martin’s Fantasy Island (Grand Island, NY)
Date: Thursday August 16, 2012
Weather: Sun and clouds mix, highs in the low 80’s
Crowds: moderate to high at both parks
Closed Rides: None at either park
With amusement park season winding down for those of us in the Northeast, I decided to take a day trip out to Western New York and visit 2 parks that I don’t get to very often- Seabreeze and Martin’s Fantasy Island. My first stop would be Seabreeze. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from my house to Rochester, but I feel that Seabreeze is definitely worth the drive. It’s a small, very well-maintained park with a nice mix of rides including a few good coasters and one of the best flat rides on the planet.
I’ve been to many amusement parks in my years of coastering, but I have to say that the approach to Seabreeze is one of the most beautiful views you are likely to find. Coming north up Rte 590, you don’t even realize you are near the lake until you get to the end of Seabreeze Dr. Seeing Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay unfold in front of you is a stunning sight. I arrived at Seabreeze around 11:40 and noticed that the waterpark parking lot was already more than half full, which usually means it’s going to be a busy day. I had printed my admission ticket online at home, so I walked in, got my wristband and proceeded immediately to one of the park’s most popular rides, the Bobsleds. Arriving there, the queue was already ¾ full, which resulted in a 25 minute wait. Where’s FastLane when you need it?
Bobsleds is truly a rare gem. Built in-house, the park turned an old wooden coaster into a steel tracked ride that features a unique layout and neat bobsled-style cars. After leaving the station, the sled rolls down a few small dips en route to the lift hill. There are several drops, turns, and a smooth helix near the end. There really isn’t much to it. It’s just a fun, unusual ride that is a huge hit with families. The low capacity is the only negative I can think of on this as most sleds are sent out with 2 guests in them.
Since it was now past noon, all of the park’s rides were open, so I headed next door to ride WhirlWind, a Maurer-Sohne spinning coaster that still ranks as the best spinning coaster I have been on. Wait time here was about 15 minutes as the park only had four cars running. Climbing the lift, you get a beautiful view of Lake Ontario before plummeting down the banked first drop and flying up into the turnaround that sets the car spinning. While I didn’t get a ride that spun out of control, I still feel that Seabreeze’s spinner is far superior to the one at Waldameer. The cars seem a lot looser in Rochester than they do in Erie!
No trip to Seabreeze is complete without a ride on their Carousel, and no other Carousel can really hold a candle to the immaculate machine at Seabreeze. From its ornate wooded pavilion to the gorgeous hand-carved horses and the real band organ (which sounded a bit out of tune in spots), the Seabreeze Carousel is a treat that no park enthusiast should pa** up. The park history exhibit that lines the inside of the pavilion is also worth a look for history buffs.
Across from the Carousel is what I am now calling one of the best flat rides on the planet- the Music Express. Added in 2009, this Bertazzon model runs one of the best programs of any Himalaya ride I have been on. Those who know me know that I hate flat rides that run backwards, so it’s a surprise that I don’t mind that Seabreeze’s Music Express starts off with a backwards run. The ride doesn’t hit full speed and the backwards cycle only lasts about 30-40 seconds. At that time, a recorded message comes on to tell us that our ride is only half over and we are now going to “rock it forwards”. The music changes and you run forwards at a pretty good speed for about a minute. Then, the music changes again and all of a sudden the ride kicks into high gear as it hits full speed. I don’t know why, but it’s such a neat thing that most parks don’t do. Just an awesome ride, and I’m hoping that Mr. Nelson from Waldameer decides to run his new-for-2013 Musik Express in a similar manner.
The recently renovated Seabreeze Flyers were my next stop and I think these are probably the fastest Flying Scooters outside of Knoebels. I never snapped the cables, but when they turned the ride off to end the cycle, my tub twisted sideways. That was pretty cool! This is another low capacity ride as everyone seems to want to ride by themselves. Regardless, it’s a fun ride and looks great with its new paintjob.
My final ride on this visit would be the park’s signature coaster, Jack Rabbit. I have never been a huge fan of this ride as I always thought it was just “ok” and I have never been a fan of the Morgan trains. After this trip, my opinion has changed. I’m not sure if it was where I sat (2.2) or if the ride was just running unusually fast, but Jack Rabbit surprised me with a smooth and fast trip over the hills. I even caught a moment of air as the train entered the far turnaround. The ride concludes with a tunneled helix that contains one last drop before you return to the station. I exited Jack Rabbit and was thoroughly impressed.
Other rides at Seabreeze that I did not ride were a Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl, Screamin’ Eagle (Zamperla Hawk 24), a Chance YoYo, the park’s train and their unique log flume, a Zamperla Tea Cup ride, Moser Spring, Chance Sea Dragon and a Zamperla Mega Disko. The park’s souvenir stand was also closed for some unknkown reason.
Seabreeze is just an awesome place for those who enjoy smaller parks. The park was spotless, the landscaping was immaculate and the employees are friendly enough. Add in free parking and the lakefront location and you’ve got one of the best little parks in the country. I still think the park needs to take advantage of its location though by having a ferris wheel or even an ARM drop tower that offers views of the lake. Oh, and a dark ride too…
I ate lunch at Primo’s Diner across the street from the park. I walked in at 2:01 and asked to see a menu, but I was told they had just closed. Apparently they only serve breakfast and lunch. But, the owner said they still have everything on and if I’d like something, they’d be more than happy to make it for me. So, I ordered a burger and fries to go. $6 for the meal was a good deal, and I have to say that the burger was quite good. Major props to the owner for staying open just to make me a burger. You won’t find that kind of service at too many places.
I scarfed down my food and headed back west on I-90 towards Buffalo. I arrived at Martin’s Fantasy Island a little after 4:00. I had a $4 off coupon from the park’s website, got my ticket and entered one of the most bizarre little amusement parks I have ever been to.
When you walk through the front entrance, beautiful landscaping greets you, a Chance Carousel is surrounded by shrubbery and looks awesome, and the storefronts have a charming, old-school look to them. It really is a nice first impression. Turning left and pa**ing underneath a small archway, you pa** through a small western town where “shoot-outs” take place several times throughout the day. Again, the theming and atmosphere is very nice. Further up is a quaint little pond with a small island in the middle where guests can take canoe rides. Up to this point, guests can be tricked into thinking this is one of America’s most beautiful parks, because it really is very nicely done. Then we get to the rides area. The trees seem to disappear, many rides are portable models and have their trailers attached. All of the nice atmosphere just sort of disappears once you get back to this area. I will say that the ride area isn’t the worst looking park I have ever been to, in fact it’s still not bad. But after the nice entrance area leading here, it seems sort of a letdown. I only rode three rides at MFI, so enough gabbing about the park atmosphere and onto the rides.
The signature ride at Martin’s is Silver Comet, a CCI wooden coaster that aside from the crap employees absolutely rocks. I had to wait about 20 minutes to ride thanks to the horrific operations (the reports on URC were indeed true!). A train would come in, riders would exit, the gates would open, and then you were yelled at in a very Nazi-esque manner “You will NOT touch your lap bars. We will lower them for you. Do you understand?” It’s really rather irritating and I did the best I could to hold back from hurling insults and profanities back at them. In any case, the whole seat-belt check/lap bar lowering process takes about 4-5 minutes and then the train is dispatched. As the train climbs the lift, you can see the skyline of Niagara Falls to your right in the distance. The first drop is steep and smooth as the train then flies over a series of small hills into the first of many tight turnarounds. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but it happened very fast, there was a nasty lateral jolt on one of the far low turns, and the ride hits the brakes about 90 seconds later. It’s a truly awesome ride that doesn’t get the respect it deserves. If only they could do something about the idiotic ride ops.
Next stop was coaster credit 224, the Crazy Mouse. On my last (and only) visit to Martin’s, a Schwarzkopf WildCat stood here. Now a Zamperla Crazy Mouse sits on a slab of gravel. After a 25 minute wait (!), I got to ride what has to be the worst spinning coaster ever. The car barely turned at all and it was relatively off-balance. I noticed a few cars that really got spinning, but they were the exception rather than the norm. This was a real disappointment as I am a sucker for spinning coasters and this one simply failed to deliver. On a more positive note, the girl that was checking lapbars here was far more pleasant and told everyone to enjoy their ride.
My final ride was Flight, a Zamperla vertical swing (similar to the Star Flyer). There was no line, so I asked the ride operator if I would be able to ride and she replied that everyone needs a partner and that she was very sorry. Seriously, this lady was genuinely nice. As I was walking away, she yelled out to me and said that someone else needed a partner and if I didn’t mind riding with him, I could go on. I figured she went out of her way to yell for me, so I hopped aboard. Flight stands about 120 feet tall and as the flimsy swings climb the tower, you get a great view of downtown Buffalo on one side and the hotels of Niagara Falls on the other. The carriage lowers about halfway down the tower, then climbs back up during the relatively long ride cycle. The kid I rode with told me he was afraid of heights. For some reason, I don’t think this ride was a good one for him! As the ride ended, the friendly ride op came by and thanked me for riding and told me to have a great evening. I really think Martin (or whoever the owner is) needs to send the morons at Silver Comet over to this lady for customer service training. She definitely gets it while the Silver Comet punks do not.
I did not ride the Mind Warp (Technical Park Loop Fighter) as it didn’t seem like it would be that thrilling. The wheel hardly spins, the cars don’t let loose during the loops, and overall it looked kind of boring. Other rides in the park I did not ride were the train, Chance Carousel, Giant Slide, Devil’s Hole (custom Wisdom trailer-mount Gravitron), Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl, Zamperla Mega Disko, ARM Full Tilt (trailer-mount), a portable bumper car ride, a Chance Gondola Wheel, the Antique Cars and a rather wet-looking flume ride.
Overall it was a fun and tiring day. Seabreeze and Martin’s each have their definite highpoints, and despite some setbacks, I recommend a visit to each if anyone is ever in the area. Videos are included below. No pics this time. I apologize about the wind in the Martin’s video. I had the wind filter turned on and it still sounds like there’s a hurricane coming through despite not being very windy at all. Oh well… more incentive to buy something better next summer.
Thanks for reading!