Monday, June 28, 2010

Brass Ring

So I got this crazy idea in my head that I would tour some of the country's top roller coasters and write a little travel diary about them as I timeshare my way about. But the roller coasters I remember as a kid have changed dramatically. For example, they have this monstrosity called Kingda Ka at Six Flags in Jackson, NJ. You know about this thing? It's the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. Get this, it's 456 feet high with a 418 foot vertical drop that reaches 128 mph. Are you kidding me?! And how about the Krypton Coaster in Six Flags Fiesta Texas, with a 145 vertical loop? I mean, I love coming up with new adventures to write about and all, but unless you're training for a NASA moonshot, why in the world would you do that to yourself? And pay money no less?! So I quickly backpedaled from the whole idea and turned my thoughts to more sedate (and sane) memories from my youth, and came up with carousels.

Do you remember riding a carousel when you were a kid? All those beautiful carved horses, and colors and lights, with the organ music grinding out its cacophonous tune? Well even if you are too young to remember, these whirling works of art haven't lost their ability to captivate people of all ages, even if they can't go 400 mph. But I wasn't sure if or where I might go about finding one these days. Turns out that the National Carousel Association (NCA) hosts an index of North American carousels. They've got classic wood and metal carousels, as well as newer ones, all listed by state. It so happens that many of the antique wooden models (my favorites), are located in great spots for timeshare rentals, like California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and more.

For example, there's a circa 1896, all wooden carousel at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. It was built by the Detzel Carousel Company, a family of 19th Century German immigrants, and is one of only fourteen of their creations remaining in the world. Knott's Berry Farm is a great place to take the family and there's a little place called Disneyland ten minutes down the road that you might enjoy too. You can rent a two bedroom timeshare at the WorldMark Anaheim for as little as $143/night. It's ranked 5 stars by members and puts you minutes from everything.

Then there's 1938 classic by Allan Herschell at the Aquatic Center, Lake Havasu City, AZ. The Herschell Company specialized in portable carousels that could be transported from one town to the next, like at a carnival or fair. And if you were not already aware, the London Bridge is located in Lake Havasu City. That's right, the one from the children's song that was "falling down, falling down." I guess it landed in AZ when it finally came to rest. You can see it all by renting a beachfront timeshare at the First Cabin Club for as little as $93/night.

Finally, I wanted to be sure to mention Playland in Rye, NY. It features not one, not two, but three antique carousels under one roof. One of them, a 1927 Prior & Church "derby racer," is one of only three left in the world. Playland is a National Historic Landmark, the only government owned and operated amusement park in the U.S. and the last of its kind in terms of early twentieth century, family-oriented fun. If you've ever seen the movie "Big" with Tom Hanks, you'll recognize it as the home of "Zoltar the Magnificent." You can rent a timeshare in Manhattan, about thirty five minutes away, at the West 57th Street by Hilton Club. Studios are about $138/night, with one bedroom units starting at $300/night.

Well thanks for letting me take you down memory lane, and I hope you'll get out and see some of these pieces of living U.S. history and help keep them alive for another generation.

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