Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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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