Thursday, August 5, 2010


I can't believe I forgot to write about this before, but we went to Coney Island on Tuesday, mostly to see the brand new amusement park, Luna Park. It is absolutely magnificent. The rides are sparkling new and exciting to watch.

The rides are all too intense for me, except the kiddie rides, which I can't fit into. The adult rides are labeled "mild thrill ride," "moderate thrill ride," and "high thrill ride." All of the thrill rides have a warning that it probably isn't a good idea to ride them if you are pregnant, have a bad back, have recently been sick or had an operation, suffer from high blood pressure or a "nervous disorder," or get motion sickness (duh). I qualify, or disqualify, on several of these counts. I used to go on fairly scary rides when I was younger, but now I'm absolutely convinced I would have a heart attack.

The beautiful new rides were made by Zamperla, an Italian company which is pretty much the preeminent maker of amusement park rides in the world. I urge you to check out the website -- it has little videos of each of the rides they make, plus photo galleries for each, some of which are from Coney. It was just incredible to watch them in operation. The one that fascinated me was the Twister Coaster, a Wild Mouse-type gravity coaster -- but it not only has the sharp corners of a Wild Mouse, but the cars also rotate from the centrifugal force. It's a knockout.

The other thing I love about Luna is that it's very faithful to and respectful of the history of Coney Island. First off, it's named in honor of the first Luna Park, which was one of the three major Coney Island amusement parks of the early 20th century. The gates of the new Luna use the half-moon motif of the original Luna. Zamperla has decorated the cars of the Twister with the face of the Steeplechase clown (I have absolutely no idea how to upload a photo to this blog, so you may have to check out Google images.) In fact, the Zamperla ride was called the Wild Mouse, but the one at Luna was named the Twister Coaster in honor of a ride called the Twister at Steeplechase Park (another of the big three, and the one that lasted the longest, closing in 1965). Zamperla has now changed the name of its ride from Wild Mouse to Twister Coaster. Zamperla is so cool.

And Zamperla has customized all of the Luna rides to have Coney Island themes. There's a kiddie ride called The Mermaid Parade, a thrill ride called the Coney Island Sound (the cars are decorated with musical notes and the centerpiece is a sculpture of a carousel calliope), and other seaside and Coney-oriented rides (the Brooklyn Flyer, Coney Island Hang Glider, and so on). Zamperla customizes their rides for different parks. They are amazing.

In case I haven't mentioned it, I am really nuts for Coney Island history. Even though I never went there as a kid (I think my mother considered city beaches and the amusements at Coney Island as low-class, though we used to visit the late lamented Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey), somehow I am insanely nostalgic about the place. Maybe it's an old-Brooklyn thing, because I also really love Brooklyn history. Here are some of my favorite Coney Island books and documentaries, along with a great Brooklyn history. Also two novels set partly or entirely in old Coney Island.

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