GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. -- Here are two perfect, one-day trips for the entire family that won't cost an arm and leg.
Martin's Fantasy Island
www.martinsfantasyisland.com or 716-773-7591
After you cross the Rainbow Bridge into Niagara Falls, N.Y. it's only a half-hour drive away. Travel I-90 towards Buffalo and when you cross the bridges that cross over the Niagara River take Exit 19. Almost immediately you'll see the giant ferris wheel on your left at Martin's Fantasy Island Park at 2400 Grand Island Blvd. This is a clean, well-supervised, family-friendly park with plenty of rides for big and little kids. Check out the new Mind Warp' It's the first thrill ride of its kind in North America and only one of five in the world. For some of us who remember the wooden roller-coaster at Crystal Beach you'll want to ride the Silver Comet, rated one of the top wooden roller-coasters in the world.
I chickened out. I never was good with roller-coasters. If you have children, don't miss the foot-stompin, riproarin shoot-out throughout the day at the Golden Nugget Saloon where the good guys take on the bad guys. Show times are: 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.
There's also a water park, petting zoo and puppet shows. This park is not too big yet it has lots to keep the entire family occupied for the day. There are plenty of picnic areas, so pack a picnic lunch (no commercial fast food or alcoholic beverages permitted). The park is closed Mondays and open the rest of the week from 11:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Admission, which includes everything in the park, is adults $24.95, children under 48 inches, $19.95, and seniors, $16.95. Until Aug. 31 Canadians are offered on Wednesdays only an all-day rate for a family of four for $49.95. If you have room, take a neighbourhood kid who never gets to go anywhere. Parking is free.
Seabreeze Amusement Park
www.seabreeze.com or 585-323- 1900
This is a bit longer drive from the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to this park just this side of Rochester, N.Y. It will take you just less than two hours (160 kilometres) to reach the suburb of Seabreeze, N.Y., provided you don't stop for garage sales. Getting there is one of the nicest things about this trip. After crossing the bridge, follow the Seaway Trails signs to Highway 18 East, then take the little-travelled Lakeside Beach State Parkway, where no commercial vehicles are allowed. This parkway of unexpected delights hugs Lake Ontario and ends at Seabreeze. The park at 4600 Culver Rd., Rochester N.Y. is nearby. Parking is free. The park is open daily from noon until 10 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Admission to the park for unlimited rides/slides is adults $25.99, under 48 inches, $20.99, spectator only (no rides)$10.99. You can save money on the admission tickets by purchasing the tickets ahead of time on their website.
Seabreeze is an old-fashioned park much like the Crystal Beach of my youth. Opened in 1879, it's the third largest park in the United States. Once you enter through the main gate, close your eyes and imagine you are back at Crystal Beach Amusement Park. The cool breeze off Lake Ontario and even the smell of the lake will have you thinking you have travelled back in time.
There are four outstanding roller-coasters. Other familiar thrill rides like the high-flying Screamin' Eagle, bumper cars, and the Greyhound Ride.
Two popular rides for the smaller visitors are rides on the train, old-fashioned cars and the boat. There's an extensive water park that everyone can experience. Try the raging river if you really want to get wet.
There's a midway, with familiar games like the duck pond, ping pong toss, water race, and balloon darts. Music of the '50's plays in the background as seasonal students try to lure you to win a game. On the ping pong toss, I won a lovely little white teddy bear for one of my granddaughters. It cost me only $10.
Seabreeze Park, like Martin's Fantasy Island Park is a clean, safe intimate park that's hard to find today. Randy Wingfield of Oklahoma City was visiting with his family and had this to say, "It brings me back to when I was a kid. Some of the rides are over 30 years old and you don't see them any more. The kids are having a blast".