Do I Amuse You? Do I Amuse You?

I had been waiting to take Thalia to Rye Playland for ages. The only one more excited was my father, who spent many 70’s summer weekends coaxing my brother and me onto the ricky-ticky haunted house ride, springing for caramel apples and unwinnable midway games, and gobbling down lukewarm hot dogs (the contents of which might convert the most stalwart carnivore to vegetarianism) all for the love of his children. We only lived a few towns over, and each summer we could count on at least one family excursion there.

The Playland of my youth was a far cry from the how-long-can-you-go-without-puking theme parks of today. You’d find art deco architecture, beautiful gardens, classic rides like bumper cars and the whip, and a single adult coaster in the old-style wooden Dragon Coaster. The boardwalk on the park’s eastern border was magical even before the movie Big came along and introduced it to the world. And you could also always count on some amateur dance troop to kick-ball-change across the main stage (Jazz hands, everyone!) for your entertainment when you needed to sit down out of the sun for a bit.

In high school, there was a brief summer when the park experimented with pay-one-price admission instead of ride tickets. That was the year we’d take on The Rotor 10 times in a row, allowing the centrifugal force to stick us to the carpeted wall while trading urban legends about previous Rotor riders and the wacky and wild things that happened to their semi-digested lunches.

(Is it even possible that my own stomach was ever able to withstand such torture without emptying its contents in foul and violent ways? And afterwards, take in beer? Cheap beer? I can hardly believe it.)

But it was my younger days in Kiddieland with its little toot-toot cars and helicopters you could “drive” which formed my sweetest memories–and where I couldn’t wait to take Thalia.

The place is far more run down than I remembered it; the attractions representing old amusement park charm–like little tableaus of animatronic nursery rhyme characters–are sorely neglected. The “Playland Express” train ride takes you on a tour past painted plywood cutouts of such can’t-miss local landmarks as the Westchester County Center. Most of the teenage ride operators were apathetic, if not downright annoyed. (Would it kill ya to smile at a cute two year-old even once?) The food was frightening.

And our day? Absolutely, deliciously perfect.

A few things I learned:

-Just because you rode the Rotor 10 consecutive times in high school does not mean you ride the Kiddieland car ride even once without feeling nauseated when you’re pushing 40.

-Oh my God, I am old.

-If the makers of Windex would consider making a deal with the park, I think the Hall of Mirrors could very much use your sponsorship. I knew I was That Mom (as Her Bad Mother put it) when I chased Thalia through the glass maze crying, “Don’t touch anything! Don’t touch anything!”

-The single most captivating attraction to a 2 year old girl at Playland: No idea, but it has Care Bears in it.


-Some people need to bring boom boxes into a theme park to have a good time. You can totally see why–theme parks just aren’t inherently fun. In fact I put them in the same category as traffic court and the hospital emergency room on Christmas Eve.

-If your daughter is begging to see the singing cats and you have no idea what in God’s name she is muttering about, take a look around. If you still see no singing cats, but your daughter is now on the verge of tears asking for the singing cats, look again. When you decide to walk away assuming there’s some sort of cat character walking around, yet your daughter is now flailing wildly in your arms screaming SINGING CATS, that is when you’ll notice that right in front of your face is something that to a toddler very much looks like singing cats. Stupid Mommy.

Of course she was a little upset when her
daddy wailed baseballs at the singing cats.

-Food at a theme park is an afterthought. Not for you maybe, but for the theme park. And if Dippin’ Dots are the “Ice Cream of the Future” I will happily remain in 2007 forever.

-While you can put any number of vegetables in front of your daughter and she will refuse to even try them, you can offer her some puffy pink thing on a stick that looks like stuffed animal innards, and even though she’s never heard of it before, she instinctively knows it will taste like pure sugar.

Even better than fat peas!

-Grandpas, not money, make the world go round. Although a grandpa with money is definitely an asset on the midway.

-If you find a midway game filled with a bunch of seven year-old campers, don’t be all nice and parent-like and wait for them to finish up. Take those beyatches on! You may very well win that Dora doll on your first try for a total cost of $2, instead of the $168 it customarily takes.

Licensed characters! Licensed characters!
Now I can cross that yearly good mommy deed off my list.

-Turn your head for one second and you child will inevitably find the one thing you don’t want her to.

Thalia ranked lukewarm, but Dora was downright frigid.

-Whatever you do, save the carousel for last. Nothing will compare. Not even the Dora doll.


20 thoughts on “Do I Amuse You? Do I Amuse You?”

  1. How magical! She looks like she had a blast!There is a place near my hometown like this called < HREF="" REL="nofollow">Kennywood Park<>. I took Sam there last summer, even though he was only six months old, and I bawled. I can’t even bear to think how I’ll blubbery be when he’s old enough to ride things!

  2. That horse she’s riding on is beautiful.And her looking at the CareBears? Totally adorable.I have fond memories of Playland. I haven’t been there since the late seventies.I too cannot ride any wild rides anymore. Sh*t, even the swings at the playground make me dizzy.Old. Right.

  3. The Dragon Coaster is the MOST frightening roller coaster in the world. It beats the Cyclone in terrifying rickety-ness.Thalia on the Carousel is priceless!

  4. We once took Tacy apple-picking up in Warwick. She stood in the middle of the orchard and howled: “I want to go back to the park and ride the carousel!”Those babies are powerfully addictive.

  5. Out here it’s the Santa Monica pier. Same thing though. I took my nieces a few months back and I was amazed at how small it all was. Thaila looks like she had a blast.

  6. I just hear the words “Rye Playland” and I start to feel all warm and fuzzy inside.And that getting sick on the kiddie rides after a youth misspent on endless rounds of the Rotor (god that sounds like some kind of overly personal medical exam)? Right there with you. How on earth I ever rode all those things I’ll never know.

  7. Wow, that was an awesome trip down memory lane. I spent many days there as a child and many nights there as a teenager. I’m sure I was kissed by more than one boy in their version of the tunnel of love (what the heck was that thing called?). And that other roller coaster – the mighty mouse, was it? All these names are escaping me but I’m relatively certain I could sit down and draw a map of that place.I’m glad you all had fun.

  8. Ahhhh, the Rotor. Was there anything better? Thalia looks so happy with Dora! Too cute! And cotton candy is impossible to resist. I eat as much as the kids when we get it.I didn’t have Rye Playland, but I had Riverside Park with all its cheeziness and creaky coasters. Unfortunately, I can’t take my kids back to the park I remember b/c it was bought by Six Flags and turned into a massive, slick, ‘make em puke’ coaster park. Love the photo of your dad with Thalia on the merry-go-round. I think he fulfilled a dream on that day as well.

  9. You are brave. I have yet to take my kids to any sort of amusement park — I pass that off to their grandmother (although I think I’m on the hook for this Tuesday. I’m afraid.)

  10. Oh, I’ve been wanting to go there…this just cemented it. I have fond memories of the Mighty Mouse (or something like that), from about 1974. It was an old roller coaster with right angle turns.

  11. magpie and merrily – it was the Monster Mouse! I used to get so banged up and bruised in that thing. It’s been replaced by a superman-like coaster where it tilts you forward as if you’re flying which lasts just about as long. 20 seconds maybe?And the tunnel of love? The old mill. It’s still there.

  12. I lived only a couple towns over from there also. We went every summer. So fun. And that Monster Mouse roller coaster was so scary if only because it seemed like it might fall apart at any moment. I may have to take my kids there one day soon. Who needs college funds.

  13. Well… it wasn’t on my original travel agenda – but now I clearly need to bring the kids to Playland. I need to go to the Sex Tester.

  14. My husband always says Dippin’ Dots HAS to be the ice cream of the future…becasue no one in the present will eat it!I’m with you on the cotton candy thing. How do they refuse cream spinich, but mint chocolate chip ice cream they sense will be tasty, even though they’ve never tried either before? I’ve tried prohibiting the veggies, as if they are really yummy treats, but he sees right through that one!

  15. Trips to Rye Playland is the sole reason I have an au pair. My son LOVES it and I think it’s better if I enjoy it from afar. I am sure that he’d be wearing surgical gloves if I ever went there with him. Also, his strategy when going through the Witches Castle or whatever it’s called is to yell “AAAAGH” at the top of his lungs to all the animatronic ghouls. I’m sure he’s very popular there.Great post.

  16. Wow, I remember our day trips to Rye Playland as a child! We would make the 40 minute trip up there at least 3 times each summer. I would love to take my kids there one day so they can see it.

  17. The archway above the entrance to Kiddieland, displays the line, “The most beautiful music in the world is the sound of children laughing”What a Golden Truth! I decided to get married and raise kids after reading that line.

Comments are closed.