2012: Year of the theme parks

Grandpa Chuck, Sherri and Carys repelling an attack while riding the River Blast.

Grandpa Chuck, Sherri and Carys repelling an attack while riding the River Blast.

Mention a theme park and, well, I’m ready to go. Roller coasters, bumper cars, rides that spin you around and upside down, the games and, yes back then, even the carnival-type food with its tantalizing aroma drifting throughout the park make up some of my most cherished childhood memories.

And theme parks were just as much fun for me when my kids became old enough to take them.

Needless-to-say, I’ve always enjoyed going to theme parks. But in the past few years, the visits to these wonderful places have been few and far between and I figured my attraction to getting on a roller coaster that drops you 60 feet in two seconds and travels through corkscrews at 70-plus miles an hour, had waned and given out to old age.

I was wrong!

Carys, Dyland and Sherri waiting in line for Fire In The Hole.

Carys, Dylan and Sherri waiting in line for Fire In The Hole.

Now, 50-plus years later, I’m enjoying theme parks even more — with my grandkids.

Because of our grandkids, 2012 will be remembered with great fondness as the Year of the Theme Park. In less than a month at the beginning of the summer, we had taken in the adventures of Silver Dollar City as well as Worlds of Fun. And just this past weekend, we were at Silver Dollar City again riding rides and eating the great food and taking in the magical Christmas Tree Light Show and Light Parade.

In late June when daughter Sherri and grandkids Dylan, 6, and Carys, 4, arrived for a two-week visit and in between going to the Mahaffie Stagecoach and Farm, the Nelson-Adkins Art Museum, the Overland Park Arboretum, swimming, and fishing locally and at Bennett Spring, Mo., we spent a weekend at Silver Dollar City. The weather was great, the park wasn’t crowded and the wait time for rides was minimal.

Alexandra and Robbie walking towards the Boomerang at Worlds of Fun.

Alexandra and Robbie walking towards the Boomerang at Worlds of Fun.

Going from one ride to another was virtually non-stop: the train, Fire In The Hole, the spinning swings, the spinning tea cups, the Flooded Mine, the flying elephants, the kids roller coaster, and we were able to ride them again, and again, and again stopping just now and then to get a drink and go to the bathroom.

We made candles, bought freshly baked cinnamon bread (I can still smell it), and played a long time climbing through and shooting Nerf balls in Geyser Gulch. We got wet on the Lumberjack Camp (log ride) and really wet on the Lost River ride. We also enjoyed riding the Thunderation roller coaster.

But one of the favorite rides was the River Blast, a water ride where riders shoot squirt guns not only at people on passing ships but also at people watching the ride. And, of course, there are water canons available for them to shoot back, too.

What a great time.

Then, after spending three weeks visiting daughter Jessica in Seattle, we were able to bring son, Robbie’s, daughter Alexandra, 12, back with us to Olathe where we spent a week swimming, going to the park, the Arboretum, and helping me take care of her cousins, granddaughters Rylin and Ashlyn.

Grandpa Chuck pointing something out to Rylin while waiting to get on the train at Silver Dollar City.

Grandpa Chuck showing something to Rylin while waiting to get on the train at Silver Dollar City.

When Rob arrived from Colorado, we were able to spend a day at Worlds of Fun, reliving a day we had done years earlier when Alexandra was 7.

It just so happened that Will, a classmate from Alexandra’s school in Seattle, also was in the area visiting his dad in Lawrence. Arrangements were made for him to make the trip with us, too. I was a Sunday and we virtually had the park to ourselves. There was little, if any, waiting in line for anything: rides, food, bathrooms. It was almost like Chevy Chase and the Griswold’s going to Walley World.

This time, Alexandra was old enough to ride any ride in the park — and we did. No roller coaster was too big or too scary. We rode them all and had a great time doing it! The consensus favorite? The Mamba and the Patriot with the Boomerang right in there.

Who is having more fun at Silver Dollar City? Rylin or her mom Heather?

Who is having more fun at Silver Dollar City? Rylin or her mom Heather?

And then, this past weekend, Dec. 1-2. We took Rylin, 3, and Ashlyn, 6 months, along with their folks son Justin and wife Heather, to Silver Dollar City. Rylin always has been fascinated with Christmas lights and what better place to see them than at Silver Dollar City.

The weather was exceptional, 70s during the day, low 60s at night. We expected there would be a lot of people taking advantage of the weather to take in Silver Dollar City. But we had no idea just how many. And neither did Silver Dollar City officials. By 7 p.m., they estimated a record 23,000 visitors were in the park — so many people that park officials decided to remain open an extra hour.

In a span of nearly 4 hours, Rylin had just ridden four rides when it came time for the Christmas Tree Light Show and Light Parade. But while most people crowded along the parade route, Terri suggested getting something to eat and wait to watch the night’s second parade. Good suggestion. Getting our sandwiches was quick and we were able to make a couple of candles, get (mmmmm) some cinnamon bread, and take in some rides while waiting for the next parade to start.

And by then, many people had left. We found a spot along the parade route, sat down, and it ended up being a perfect spot with several of the parade folks stopping to talk with Rylin and Ashlyn — even Frosty the Snowman!

The next day we arrived early at Silver Dollar City and ate lunch at Molly’s Mill. By the time we finished the main park was open. It wasn’t crowded and we went from ride-to-ride. Rylin enjoyed the Tea Cups, the flying caterpillars, the ladybug ride, the flying frogs, the swings, and kids roller coaster. She liked the train but was iffy about the Flooded Mine and Fire In The Hole.

Her favorite? The flying elephants, the fast-moving pirate ships and especially Geyser Gulch. In fact, she wanted to bring some of the Nerf balls home with her and was a little upset when she found out she had to leave them there.
Theme parks and grandkids. I’m looking forward to when they’re all old enough to get on every ride. Roller coasters…here we come!

Rylin and dad Justin were excited as they opened the gate to Silver Dollar City.

Rylin and dad Justin were excited as they opened the gate to Silver Dollar City.

Alexandra, Rob, and Will give a "thumbs up" after riding the Mama.

Alexandra, Rob, and Will give a “thumbs up” after riding the Mama.

Ashlyn and Grandma Terri have a discussion at Silver Dollar City.

Ashlyn and Grandma Terri have a discussion at Silver Dollar City.

Rylin squishing her dad on the fast-moving pirate boat ride.

Rylin squishing her dad on the fast-moving pirate boat ride.

Carys getting ready to squish mom Sherri on the fast-moving pirate boat ride.

Carys getting ready to squish mom Sherri on the fast-moving pirate boat ride.

Grandpa Chuck and Rylin get ready to spin in the Tea Cup ride.

Grandpa Chuck and Rylin get ready to spin in the Tea Cup ride at Silver Dollar City.

And there they goooooo!!!!!

And there they goooooo!!!!!

Dylan, Carys and Sherri on the roller coaster.

Dylan, Carys and Sherri on the roller coaster.

Ashlyn and dad Justin watch Rylin and mom on a ride.

Ashlyn and dad Justin watch Rylin and mom on a ride.

Mom Heather and Rylin watching the changing colors of the large Christmas Tree lights.

Mom Heather and Rylin watching the changing colors of the large Christmas Tree lights.

It was a big weekend for Rylin who was pretty tired and took advantage of her dad's shoulder as we left Silver Dollar City for the car.

It was a big weekend for Rylin who was pretty tired and took advantage of her dad’s shoulder as we left Silver Dollar City for the car.

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