The next day, we spent our time at Darien Lake. For those of you from Pittsburgh, it's like Kennywood and Idle Wild/Sandcastle all combined into one. It definitely feels older than Six Flags would, but that's probably because it is. They keep adding new and innovative rides, though, and maintain the facilities well, so you get the best of both worlds: old charm and exciting rides.
The last time I was there I was a teenager. This experience was a bit different because I was there with my husband and two very young children. While I totally predict that both my kids will grow up to be coaster heads a la Lisa Kudrow in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, height restrictions kept us to the kiddier parts of the park this time.
And that was wonderful.
We spent the vast bulk of our time in Hook's Lagoon where our kids played on a pirate ship, "rode" on floating animals and creatures in the kiddie pool and shot water guns on their climb up to the slide.
Initially, the slide freaked me out. Our youngest had to ride down with an adult, which I thought was great, but our oldest was apparently too big. There are sensory issues with that one, and I wasn't sure how going down a water slide for the first time without an adult was going to pan out.
I stood at the bottom wracked with anticipation, waiting for them to appear around the curve. When they did, it was with a huge smile on their face. As soon as they got to the bottom, they were up and climbing the steps to do it again.
View from the top.
Remember how the littlest wanted to ride the Niagara Sky Wheel? Well, when they saw the Ferris wheel at Darien Lake, it was all over. Luckily for us, we went on a day where there were virtually no lines. (Though they did give us a linehopper pass just in case as one of our children needs a little more help. I was very pleased with how efficiently and kindly they accommodated us during our visit. All it requires is a quick visit to guest services.)
The Ferris wheel, aptly name the Giant Wheel, is actually incredibly cool. Originally, it was built for the 1982 World Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was the largest Ferris wheel in the world at that time. Right now, it's the second largest in North America. As you could imagine, the views were spectacular.
I'd also highly recommend doing this first because it gave us a bird's eye view of the park, which allowed us to get a really good view of all the rides and attractions. When we got off, we were able to head in the general direction of the kiddie rides because we had seen the entire park's layout.
Other highlights included the merry-go-round, the Haymaker (which made Dad and me sick, but the kids giggle with glee,) and finding a $2 game that gave everyone a prize no matter what, which was perfect for our kiddos.
We didn't get food in the park; instead we stopped at a local place on the way back to the hotel. Again with the picnic idea, though.
Short trips can be just as good as long ones.
We had a great time on our little sojourn, and it reminded us that short vacations can be as valuable as long ones when it comes to the fond memories we end up storing in our brains for years to come.