Elizabeth and Brian Tan sat side-by-side with trembling fingers clutching the safety bar of the Sea Dragon. The siblings, 11 and 9 respectively, were about to experience the new ride for the first time.
Groaning and creaking like a leaky, old pirate ship, the gondola eased backward and upward until it had reached a 90-degree angle and the siblings stared directly at the ground in front of them. Brian raised his hands in the air; Elizabeth kept hers firmly on the safety bar, and their playful screams mingled with those of other riders as the Sea Dragon hurtled directly toward the ground before swooping back up in an arc.
The Tans traveled from Sicklerville with their aunt to enjoy a day of rides and arcade games at the Steel Pier on the Atlantic City Board walk. Despite the long trip, Elizabeth estimated that they come approximately 15 times a year, particularly to ride the Crazy Mouse, a roller coaster that features cars that twist and twirl around on the track. After riding the Sea Dragon, however, Brian says he has a new favorite thrill ride.
The Sea Dragon is one of two new rides at the Steel Pier this summer. The other, The Balloon Race, with its colorful hot air balloon replica compartments, may look tame but offers plenty of fun as they fly through the air.
In Ocean City, Gillian's Wonderland Pier added two new rides this summer: the Mini Scrambler and the Demolition Derby.
The Mini Scrambler is a children's version of the popular scrambler or sizzler ride in which riders sit in a car and revolve around a central post while spinning in circles around a smaller bar. On the Demolition Derby, riders sit in cars that look like they've been smashed in a junkyard while revolving close to other riders at high speeds and angles that suggest the threat of crashing into the other cars.
Jackson Taylor, 12, of Jackson was excited about the Demolition Derby.
"I like the teacups," says Jackson of a similar ride. "They make me so sick. But they were too girly; this one is more boyish so nobody can laugh at me."
But that's not the biggest news. Over in Sea Isle City, the brand-new, 12-ride Funland is more than just a "kiddie park." It's a place where adrenaline junkies of all ages can come and be satisfied.
Brendan Gray, 7, of Abingdon, Md., loves the thrill of the Wonder Bear Bounce, a smaller version of the Drop Zone at Fantasy Island in Beach Haven.
"It goes really, really fast when it comes down," he explains
Four-year-old Carson Gray, Brendan's younger brother, lived his summertime dream at Funland.
"I love it," Carson says of the Kite Flyer, a ride on which little riders lay flat on their tummies & stretch their arms out to fly through the air. "Because I always wanted to fly."
While other parks, such as Morey's Piers in Wildwood, may not have new rides, there are plenty of other attractions, such as the Summer Concert Series to please fun seekers of all ages and tastes. Check out our sidebar to find information on ticket prices, operating hours and party packages for more southern New Jersey amusement parks.
SOME LOCAL AMUSEMENTS PARKS
WHERE: 320 7th Street, Beach Haven, (609) 492-4000
WHEN: Open daily from 6 to 11 p.m. through Labor Day.
HOW MUCH: Tokens cost 75 cents or $15 for a 20-token roll and $30 for a 40-token roll. Max Flight, the virtual roller coaster is 10 tokens. Every Friday, "pay one price," $15 from 2 to 7 p.m. for unlimited rides.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: Minimum eight people, $20 per person. Package includes three hours of rides, soda and soft ice cream. Parties for children younger than five include three adult ride-along wristbands, older than five years include two wristbands.
WHERE: 304 J.F.K. Blvd., Sea Isle City, (609) 263-1363
WHEN: Open daily from early afternoon to 11 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Tickets cost $1 each, $20 for 30, $50 for 75; most rides cost 1 to 4 tickets. All rides only two tickets from 1 to 4 p.m. on "two ticket Tuesdays." On "wristband Wednesdays" enjoy unlimited rides for $20 from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets purchased at either Gillian's park can be used at both Gillian's Wonderland Pier and Gillian's Funland.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: Minimum 10 people, $15 per person for one hour, $20 per person for 2 hours and $25 per person for 3 hours. Birthday packages include 45 minutes with Wonder Bear, balloons and party supplies. Birthday person goes free.
THEME: Gillian's Funland is located on Fish Alley and is a nautically themed family park with most rides geared toward children 12 years and younger.
Gillian's Wonderland Pier
WHERE: 600 Boardwalk, Ocean City, (609) 399-7082
WHEN: Open daily from noon to approximately 11:30 p.m. through Labor Day.
HOW MUCH: Tickets cost $1 each, $20 for 30, $50 for 75; most rides cost 2 to 5 tickets. Tickets purchased at either Gillian's park can be used at both Gillian's Wonderland Pier and Gillian's Funland. All rides only two tickets from 1 to 4 p.m. on "two ticket Tuesdays." On "wristband Wednesdays," unlimited rides with wristband from 1 to 4 p.m.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: Minimum 10 people, $15 per person for one hour, $20 per person for 2 hours and $25 per person for 3 hours. Birthday packages include 45 minutes in the party tent with a party coordinator, Wonder Bear, balloons and party supplies; birthday person goes free. Group rates for 25 people or more are $25 during the week or $30 on weekends. Party tent starts at $50 per half hour and accommodates 50 to 100 people.
WHERE: 3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood, (609) 522-3900
WHEN: Noon to midnight through mid-October.
HOW MUCH: Tickets cost .85 or $30 for 36, $50 for 70, $100 for 170, $150 for 275. Ride passes are $33 fur riders under 48" and $44 for riders 48" to 54" and $46 for riders 54" and taller. Family (4 riders), multi-day and season passes also available.
DAILY SPECIALS: Enjoy unlimited rides from 12:30 to 6 p.m. on "Magical Mondays" for $25; Tuesdays pay only $20 from 12:30 to 6:p.m.; Go wild on all six coasters and AtmosFEAR when you purchase a $30 "XTREME Ride Wednesday" pass plus two extreme rides of your choice; Double your fun on Thursdays with ½ price tickets until 6 p.m.; Fridays, enjoy the $30 Splashtacular pass which includes admission to Raging Waters Waterpark as well as all three piers from 10-6, then stay for the fireworks with your $20 Fired Up Friday Nights pass from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: All birthday packages include pizza, cake, goody bags, a special gift for the birthday person and a visit from Sunny C. Gull as well as two complimentary parking passes and they'll even send out the invitations. For reservations go to firstname.lastname@example.org Minimum eight people, $31 gets you in to all three piers until 6 p.m.; for $42 ride till you drop; or get the complete package for $47 which includes 3 hours at the waterpark as well as unlimited rides on all three piers. Group rates are available by calling (609) 522-3900 ext. 1195
Playland's Castaway Cove
WHERE: 1020 Boardwalk, Ocean City, (609) 399 4751
WHEN: Open daily from 1 to 11 p.m. through Sept. 4.
HOW MUCH: Tickets cost $1 each, $30 for 44, $45 for 70, $60 for 95 and $120 for 210. Kiddie rides cost 2 to 4 tickets; thrill rides are 4 to 6 tickets.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: All parties are from 1 to 5 p.m. Minimum of 10 people, one-week minimum advance notice. Ride packages start at $11 per person for one hour or $14 for two hours. Party packages run from $13 to $16 per person with various combinations of 45 minutes in the party area, 1 to 2 hours of rides, golf and go-kart rides, ice cream, soda and snacks. Birthday cakes and cupcakes are welcome. No food or alcohol can be brought into the park. Call (609) 399-4751 for reservations and more information.
MINI GOLF & GO KARTS: Seaport Village Golf and Seaside Go-Kart Speedway are located at Pier 9. Golf is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and tickets are $6 before 6 p.m., $7 afterward. Go-karts are open from noon to 11 p.m. and cost $6 per person or $20 for four passes. Drivers must be at least 52 inches tall, and riders must be at least 42 inches tall. Golden Galleon Golf offers two 19-hole courses from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. at $5.50 per person or $6.50 after 6 p.m.
WHERE: 1000 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, (609) 345-4893
WHEN: Open from 3 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays, and noon to 1 a.m. on weekends through Labor Day.
HOW MUCH: Tickets cost 75 cents each or $25 for 35, $50 for 80 and $100 for 202. Buy one ticket book, get one free with Online only special that requires three-day advance purchase required.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: Minimum 25 people with two weeks notice. A 25 percent deposit is due at the time of reservation with the balance due one week prior to the event. Helicopter and Rocket rides are not included. Birthday packages are available for groups of 10 or more people at $21.95 per person. The package includes sand art for the birthday child, chocolate or vanilla cake and paper party supplies, two-and-a-half hours in the party pavilion, and each child receives an all-day ride pass, pizza or hot dog and soda.
SPECIAL THRILL RIDES: The Rocket costs $20 with optional DVD or T-shirt for $10. A special package includes two riders, one DVD and two t-shirts for $55. Helicopter tours are available for $34 per person for a shoreline tour or $59 for the city tour. There is a $5 surcharge for gas on both tours.
WHERE: 6415 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township, (609) 641-7847
WHEN: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 7.
HOW MUCH: Day passes are $20.95 per person older than 12 months. 2009 season pass is $83.95, good through Dec. 30. Gift cards are available in denominations of $10 to 100 and can be purchased at www.Storyland.com. A $6 shipping and handling fee applies to each order. Parking is free.
PARTY/GROUP RATES: There are no special packages for birthday parties or large groups. School groups are welcome on Thursdays and Fridays with prior reservations.
THEME: Re-live your favorite childhood adventures or introduce the innocence and wonderment of nursery rhymes to a new generation as you stroll through sets and enjoy rides based on classic fairy tales.