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Weirs Beach New Hampshire

Neon sign in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, home to Funspot, the world’s largest arcade. Photo © Tricia Vita


A recent trip to New Hampshire took us to Weirs Beach, a summer resort on Lake Winnepesaukee that is also home to Funspot, named “The World’s Largest Arcade” by Guinness World Records. The indoor fun mecca was founded more than 60 years ago by Bob Lawton, who at 84 years young still runs the place, which is open year-round.

While kids rode coin-op carousel horses and pint-sized bumper cars and families bowled and played the Famous Landmarks of New Hampshire-themed mini-golf in the 75,000 square-foot fun center, we trooped upstairs to meet Hercules, the World’s Largest Pinball Machine. Manufactured by Atari in 1970, the giant size machine uses a cue ball as a pinball and dwarfs its neighbor, a 1938 Genco Stop & Go.

Hercules, Largest Pinball in the World

Hercules, ‘Largest Pinball in the World,’ at Funspot. Manufactured by Atari in 1970. Photo © Tricia Vita

Hercules is stationed at the entrance to the American Classic Arcade Museum (ACAM), which museum curator Gary Vincent describes as “like stepping into the Wayback Machine.” ACAM has over 200 classic video games as well as a selection of pinball machines, any of which can be played for a few tokens. Four tokens cost $1.00; we splurged on 100 for $20.

“We use 1987 as a cutoff date for video games in the museum,” says Vincent. He notes that when Double Dragon came out, there was a shift in the industry from quirky puzzle-and-fantasy-based games to what he calls “the kick punch shoot games.”

Among the rare video games you can play are Computer Space (1971), the world’s first commercially available coin-operated video game. Developed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, who would go on to found Atari, th mod looking machine has a fiberglass cabinet with sparkle gel coat. “It actually has a television set in it that has been modified to run with video game hardware, which is typical of video games until about 1974,” Vincent explains.

“Having worked at Funspot since 1981, and having watched the industry go way, way, way up and way, way, way down, I saw an opportunity to save a lot of the older games here by starting a museum,” Vincent says of the nonprofit which was founded in 2002. The fact that 60 video game enthusiasts showed up for the first classic arcade tournament in 1999 convinced him of the need to collect and preserve games and put them out where the public could learn about them and enjoy them again. “It’s really funny to see dad who is about 40 with his 15-year-old kid, saying look, come here, I played this when I was a kid.”

Although Funspot donates the space to the nonprofit museum, the games in the museum don’t make enough money to support themselves. “It’s sad but true, the only money to be made in classic games is selling them on eBay,” notes Vincent. “You don’t make money putting them out where people can play them, seven days a week, 12 hours a day. It’s kind of a labor of lovejust wanting to preserve games so people can come along 10, 15, 20 years from now and be able to play things that they just can’t play anywhere else.”

Sky Jump Grand Slam Pinball Games

Sky Jump and Grand Slam, pinball games from the early 1970s at Funspot’s American Classic Arcade Museum. Photo © Tricia Vita

Among the electro-mechanical pinball games that we got to play were Gottlieb’s 1972 Grand Slam, a baseball game of which only 3,600 were manufactured, Sky Jump (1974) and Devil’s Dare (1982), and Bally’s Mr. and Mrs. Pac Man Pinball (1982). Rare video games include Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator (Sega, 1983), Cloak & Dagger (Atari, 1983), and Death Race (Exidy, 1976). The museum’s 501-c3 status lets it to run weekly bingo games as fundraisers, allowing it to buy more classics, fix them up and put them on the floor. Luminaries from the video game community such as Curt Vendell of the Atari Museum, and Robert Mruczek, the former chief referee of Twin Galaxies, have donated a number of games from their personal collections.

As we were about to leave, it was a great pleasure to meet Funspot’s founder Mr. Lawton. We talked arcades and exchanged business cards. His card entitles the visitor to $20 worth of free tokens and is tucked away in the glove compartment in anticipation of our next trip to New Hampshire.

Classic Pinball

A row of electro-mechanical pinball machines at the American Classic Arcade Museum. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2014: Spring Reading: “Automatic Pleasures: The History of the Coin Machine”

November 15, 2013: Modern Pinball NYC Opens with New Arcade Business Model

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Greetings from Coney Island! Coney Island Polar Bear Club poses for group photo before their first swim of the season on November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Sunday, the 112-year-old Coney Island Polar Bear Club went for their first swim of the 2015-2016 season on the same day the amusement rides went for their last spin of the year. Today, Mayor de Blasio gave the Polar Bears a shout-out in a release for NYC & Company’s new winter tourism campaign. Called Unlock NYC and taglined “Find a Winter Less Ordinary,” the campaign was launched on Monday at World Travel Market in London.

“There are endless reasons to love New York City in every season, but something special happens when the snow falls – from Lunar New Year celebrations in Flushing and the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, to watching the Polar Bear Club brave the frigid waters on Coney Island,” says Mayor Bill de Blasio in the release. “People from around the world feel the pull of New York City, and with Unlock NYC visitors can find the hidden gems – the New Yorker’s New York – and experience our city on a budget.”

New Year's Day Polar Bear Dip at Coney Island

He Did It! Annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dip at Coney Island Attracts Thousands. January 1, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita


On January 1st in Coney Island, people travel from near and far to welcome the New Year by joining the Polar Bears’ annual dip in the icy Atlantic. “I believe we had approximately 2,500 swimmers participate, very similar to last year,” Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club told ATZ a few days after this year’s swim. The event attracted just as many spectators and raised more than $70,000 for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses can enjoy a summer vacation.

The Coney Island Polar Bears, who have about 125 members, swim on Sundays at 1pm from November through April. If you want to join them for the 2016 New Year’s Day Dip or as a guest at a Sunday swim, here’s how.

Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Club’s first swim of the 2015-2016 season. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 2, 2014: Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge’s Best Dressed of 2014

January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

January 3, 2012: Record 3,000 “Do It” at Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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Christmas window display.

Christmas window display on Mulberry Street. December 25, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Buon Natale from magical Mulberry Street! These photos were taken very early on Christmas morning in Little Italy after Mass at the Church of the Most Precious Blood and Shrine of San Gennaro. Crèches, Christmas tree ornaments, and an array of amulets to protect against the evil eye were on display in store windows.

Christmas window display

Christmas window display on Mulberry Street. December 25, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

There were also snow globes of the holy family and statues of Napoleon as well as espresso sets and cheese graters, but none could be purchased since the shops were closed on Christmas morn.

Christmas window display

Christmas window display on Mulberry Street. December 25, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Inspired by the humility and inclusivity of Pope Francis, ATZ went to Christmas Mass last year for the first time in a very long time. This beautiful church on Mulberry Street was built in 1888 but currently has very few parishioners—there were only about 10 people at the Christmas morning Mass.

Church of the Most Precious Blood

Church of the Most Precious Blood and the Shrine of San Gennaro, Mulberry Street. December 25, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

The last time that we there, for the Feast of San Gennaro on September 19th, we took photos of the crowds, the food and the carnival games on Mulberry Street, as well as the procession featuring the Statue of San Gennaro and the interior of the Church of the Most Precious Blood. It was the day of the saint’s martyrdom in the 4th century and thus the procession and the miracle. We were told that at 9:30am in Naples, where his body is preserved, the blood of San Gennaro liquefied.

Amid the empty streets on Christmas morning, the most mysterious sight was this sign on a townhouse door: “Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting.”

Christmas Door on Mulberry Street

Christmas Door on Mulberry Street: “Pretending to be a normal person day after day is exhausting.” December 25, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ...

December 22, 2013: Traveler: Christmas Holidays at Parks in Northern Climes

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

September 20, 2013: Photo Album: 87th Annual Feast of San Gennaro

September 24, 2009: Photo Album: Coney Islanders and Carnies at San Gennaro

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Turkey Whirl

Turkey Whirl. Photo via Holiday World Theme Park

Happy Thanksgiving! You can celebrate again this spring at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana, by going for a spin on their turkey-themed Tilt-A-Whirl ride. The world’s first and only Turkey Whirl was custom-made in 2007 for the holiday-themed park.

“Do you watch carefully for the first robin of spring each year?” says their blog. “Here at Holiday World, it’s the first turkey of spring that makes our hearts leap with joy!” The park opened as Santa Claus Land in 1946 and later added sections with rides and entertainment inspired by Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July, as well as roller coasters and a water park. Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari opens April 25.

Related posts on ATZ…

December 22, 2013: Traveler: Christmas Holidays at Parks in Northern Climes

October 21, 2013: Traveler: Osteria Ai Pioppi’s Homemade Amusement Rides

August 9, 2012: Traveler: Skywheel at the Wisconsin State Fair 2012

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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Amusements of America

Amusements of America at the Coastal Carolina Fair in Ladson, South Carolina. October 30-November 9, 2014. Photo via Coastal Carolina Fair Facebook

Fair season is in full swing in the Southeast with the 11-day Coastal Carolina Fair in South Carolina’s Charleston County wrapping up this weekend. Amusements of America has played the fair for over 50 years and this year’s midway boasts 65 rides including such thrillers as the Crazy Mouse, Banzai, Space Roller and Tornado.

Check out the new fair foods reviewed by Hanna Raskin, food critic for the Post & Courier, who liked the deep-fried barbecue on a stick enough to consider ordering it for an off-fairgrounds lunch. Concessionaire Derek Porter’s Eastern Carolina whole hog barbecue is saturated with vinegar, a flavor that stands out in the Coastal Carolina Fair’s sea of sugar and salt, Raskin writes. “The barbecue is encased in sweet hushpuppy batter, which fries up impressively free of grease.”

Also on the new foods menu at the fair–Netterfield’s Frosted Flake chicken tenders-on-a-stick and Prowant’s Specialties’ deep-fried Sugar Daddy and pumpkin funnel cake with cream cheese icing.

Next week, A of A heads to the November 11-16 Okefenokee Fair in Waycross, Georgia.

Coastal Carolina Fair

Photo via Coastal Carolina Fair Facebook

Related posts on ATZ…

December 22, 2013: Traveler: Christmas Holidays at Parks in Northern Climes

August 22, 2013: Traveler: New York State Fair and Minnesota State Fair

August 9, 2012: Traveler: Skywheel at the Wisconsin State Fair 2012

October 8, 2010: Traveler: Most Beautiful Video of the State Fair of Texas

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Taylors of Edinburgh Funfair

Taylors of Edinburgh Funfair at Kirkaldy Links Market, Europe’s Longest Street Fair

“For most of us it’s the start of the season,” says a showman in this 1983 video of Scotland’s Kirkcaldy Links Market, Europe’s largest street fair. This year’s fair opened on Wednesday and runs through April 21st. The nearly mile-long midway along the Esplanade in Kirkcaldy, Fife, has over 130 rides as well as sideshows, games and food stalls.

A trader’s market has been held annually on the Links of Abbotshall since 1304. Some of the showmen, estimated to number over 1,000, have played the fair for generations. If a spot opens up, the Showmen’s Guild of Scotland assigns the location.

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October 21, 2013: Traveler: Osteria Ai Pioppi’s Homemade Amusement Rides

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 8, 2013: Traveler: The Cats of Rimini’s Italia in Miniatura Park

October 8, 2010: Traveler: Most Beautiful Video of the State Fair of Texas

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Christmas at Hersheypark

Christmas Light Display at Hersheypark in Hershey, PA. Photo courtesy of Hersheypark

While most amusement parks in northern climes close after Halloween due to the cold weather, a few have extended their season with Christmas celebrations featuring holiday lights, a visit with Santa, and a spin on selected rides for the price of admission. ATZ took a look at four parks that are worth the drive from the New York metro area, as well as Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens and Gothenburg’s Liseberg.

Christmas in Tivoli

Christmas in Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo via Facebook.com/Tivoli

CHRISTMAS IN TIVOLI
Copenhagen, Denmark

Tivoli Gardens, the 170-year-old amusement park in the heart of Copenhagen, has been open for Christmas for the past 20 years. Thousands of lights adorn the buildings and rides, while glass, mother-of-pearl and heart-shaped lights bedizen the trees. Father Christmas and his elves greet visitors and the Tivoli Boys Guard parades through the Gardens playing Danish and English marches and carols. The park features 50 Christmas stalls and 32 rides including five new rides which are part of a Russian and Scandinavian-themed Christmas. For the first time ever, Tivoli will be open for walk-in guests on New Year’s Eve before the Fireworks are launched. Last year’s successful opening of some of Tivoli’s restaurants on New Year’s Eve sparked the idea of a full scale opening of the rides, games and shops. November 15-December 31. Closed December 24 and 25.

Christmas at Lake Compounce

Christmas at Lake Compounce, Bristol, CT. Photo via Lake Compounce

HOLIDAY LIGHTS AT LAKE COMPOUNCE
Bristol, CT

Lake Compounce, North America’s oldest continuously operating amusement park, is bedecked with thousands of bulbs including “12 Days of Christmas” displays to celebrate the park’s 2nd annual Holiday Lights event. A selection of kiddie rides and family rides are open for the occasion. Lake Compounce’s train, which circles the lake, has been recommissioned the North Pole Express. Among the indoor activities are Story Time with Mrs. Claus, cookie decorating and gingerbread house making, carolers, an ice carver, clowns and holiday characters. November 29-December 22, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Hershey Park

Hershey Park Christmas Candylane, Hershey, PA. Photo via Hershey Park

HERSHEYPARK CHRISTMAS CANDYLANE & HERSHEY SWEET LIGHTS
Hershey, PA

Founded in 1905 as a leisure park for Hershey Chocolate Company employees, Hersheypark marks its 30th holiday celebration this year. Christmas Candylane features more than 30 of the park’s rides including the Twilight Express, Santa and nine live reindeer, the N.O.E.L light show with 125,000 lights synchronized to Christmas carols, live entertainment, costumed characters, games, shops and food. Hershey Sweet Lights is a 2.3-mile drive-thru of 600 themed light displays with a customized radio broadcast. November 15-January 1. Closed December 24 and 25.

Christmas at Storybook Land

Christmas at Storybook Land, Egg Harbor, NJ. Photo via Storybook Land

CHRISTMAS FANTASY WITH LIGHTS AT STORYBOOK LAND
Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Fairytale-themed children’s parks were a popular attraction in the 1950s but New Jersey’s Storybook Land, near Atlantic City, is one of the few that has survived and is thriving in the 21st century. Christmas has been celebrated here for over 25 years and is a tradition for generations of South Jerseyans. Through December 23rd, Santa Claus comes out of the chimney of his house nightly at 5pm, waves his wand and lights the park’s million lights. Bubbles the Coaster, the Tick-Tock Clock Drop and other kiddie rides along with the park’s storybook architecture are also bedizened with lights. November 23-December 30. Closed December 24 and 25.

Christmas in Kennywood

Christmas in Kennywood. Photo via Kennywood.com

12 NIGHTS OF HOLIDAY LIGHTS AT KENNYWOOD
West Mifflin, PA

Kennywood’s 3rd Annual Holiday Lights Festival includes two different light shows every half hour in the area surrounding the lagoon, local choirs, magic show, strolling band, dinner with Santa, and readings of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Pittsburgh radio and TV personalities. Operating rides include the Paratrooper, Kangaroo, Merry-Go-Round, Turtle, Ghostwood Estate (with a special holiday twist), The Gingerbread Express (Holiday Lights version of the Olde Kennywood Railroad), and up to 9 rides in Kiddieland. Although the park’s roller coasters aren’t open, guests are invited to stop by the Racer to take a unique picture with Santa in a replica coaster car. November 29-December 22. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Christmas at Liseberg

Christmas at Liseberg. Photo via Liseberg.com

CHRISTMAS AT LISEBERG
Gothenburg, Sweden

Founded in 1923 as a temporary attraction for the 300th anniversary of the city of Gothenburg, Liseberg is Sweden’s most popular amusement park. In November and December, the 260-acre park hosts Scandinavia’s largest Christmas Market, which is illuminated by nearly 5 million lights. Rustic stalls and shops sell arts and crafts, and traditional food such as marinated herring, roasted reindeer meat from Lapland, marzipan pigs and glögg. Some rides are open including the Liseberg Wheel, carousels and kiddie rides. There’s also sleigh rides, an ice skating show, Santa’s House, a midwinter festival at a medieval village, and white rabbits from the North Pole greeting the park’s green rabbit mascot. November 15-December 29. Closed December 24 and 25.

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Related posts on ATZ…

December 18, 2013: Photo Album: Christmas Peddlers in Old New York

December 13, 2013: Photo Album: Gingerbread Coney Island in City Harvest Extravaganza

October 21, 2013: Traveler: Osteria Ai Pioppi’s Homemade Amusement Rides

December 18, 2011: Playing Santa at the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

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