Once the calendar flips to January, it’s a dark time for coaster enthusiasts in the northeast. While some enthusiasts flock to Florida, most can be found buried under blankets, sipping hot chocolate, and clutching their phones with a kung fu death grip watching random Vekoma death machines, jealous of the beating riders are experiencing. Anything to get their coaster fix.
But I broke free of my blankets and decided I would ride a coaster. So I booked a February flight to Orlando courtesy of Spirit. If I can travel to Europe for two weeks in just a backpack, I can survive a weekend out of an 8” X 8” X 8” or whatever asinine bag size they allow for free. Until then my coaster options seemed bleak as the temperatures were below what Six Flags even considers a minimum operating temperature.
But I wanted a coaster now. Then I remembered I was a mere half hour away from New England’s best coaster in the month of January (that last prepositional phase is important). Of course I’m talking about none other than Fun World’s Orient Express. Bold statement? I know. I didn’t want to cause any controversy naming an alpine coaster. Everyone agrees a Wisdom Orient Express is a coaster.
Full disclaimer, I already had the Orient Express credit. Would going out of my way solely to ride a kiddie coaster be insane? Absolutely. But I was passing Nashua on the way to a Patriots game party and this Orient Express also happens to be located at my favorite arcade in the area. So it was a win all around for myself and my Patriots on Saturday.
As I approached coaster salvation, Fun World’s towering 50 foot castle beckoned as I drove down the road. Now don’t get your hopes up. This isn’t a Disney castle. This isn’t even one of those Chinese ripoff Disney castles. But compared to the generic boxy Dave and Buster’s, I’ll happily take the Fun World’s character even if the castle doesn’t look like it has been updated since the 1980s.
I'm guessing they've never changed this sign.
Ignore the fallen light post.
Enough dilly dallying, I know you all want to see the coaster. The Orient Express stands a whopping 117 feet tall. Whoops I got that mixed up with Worlds of Fun’s Orient Express. This one is 180 feet above sea level, which when you remove Nashua’s 150 foot tall elevation and the ride’s placement on the second level, you are left with a 10 foot tall roller coaster.
The facility has a single operator bouncing between their three rides. Honestly the most impressive of all the rides may be their double decker carousel. Yes this indoor FEC not only has a carousel, but it’s a freaking double decker carousel that stands a good 30 feet tall. Then there’s a mini Himalaya for the real daredevils out there. I got no weird looks from the operator (he had the same indifferent face for everyone in line) and plopped myself down second from the back.
As I waited for the restraint check, I couldn’t help but notice the small details. The random Pinocchio squatting in the center of the helix, the mirrors surrounding the coaster, and instead of painting the car numbers, Fun World uses an engineer’s best friend, duct tape. Yes they literally slapped a piece of duct tape on the back of the cars and labeled 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 in Sharpie.
“Wait where’s 4?” But before I could finish that thought we rumbled out of the station. According to Ultimate Roller Coaster, this coaster used to have 7 cars. Guess it only has 6 now.
Just because a car was removed doesn’t mean a ride is bad. Look at the Voyage. But in this case, Orient Express is a kiddie coaster. As far as kiddie coasters go, this one is decently enjoyable. There’s one bad jerk returning to the station, but outside of that it’s smooth. If this coaster were outside, slapped in a parking lot, this would be a completely mediocre coaster. However, there’s a novelty to an indoor coaster where you genuinely could hit the roof if you raise your hands.
And I present New England's best coaster in January.
I can't think of another park where a carousel is the tallest attraction.
After three laps on the Orient Express, I had my coaster fix. So I spent the rest of my time playing the arcade games I grew up with. I wouldn’t call Fun World a retro arcade, but it’s not quite a modern arcade either. Yes they have some app based games like Crossy Road and Temple Run, but 80-90% of their games are either non-redemption games or the redemption games from the 1990’s.
One of the other major benefits of Fun World is the price. Remember when arcade games cost just 25 cents. Most arcades now have the card based system where you pay X credits to play (see this is why credit whoring is useful). Fun World still has tokens, gold for arcade enthusiasts. More than that, most of the games I played only cost 25 cents! That’s unheard of today.
Unfortunately about 20% of the games I played were broken, but the collection was rare and diverse enough that I was able to look past this issue (after getting my token back of course). Some of the highlights were:
Pinball- This is still my favorite arcade game. They had a stellar mix of old and new machines. My personal favorite was the X-Men machine. Having Magneto magnetically interfere with the ball was a very clever use of IP and really increased the uniqueness and difficulty level on the machine.
Basket Fever- Everyone is familiar with skeeball. However, my local arcade had a variant on the timeless classic where you rolled balls into basketball hoops. This game disappeared along with my local arcade, but Fun World allowed me to relive my childhood.
World Series 99- Yes MLB the Show is a technologically more impressive game. The Show has far superior graphics and more advanced controls. But there’s something genuinely cool playing my favorite sport on an oversized cabinet.
Bowling- For just $2 (or 8 tokens) you can play a full 10 string game of bowling. Sure the alley isn’t quite regulation size, but tell me where else you can play bowling for a price that low.
I was only able to fit half of the arcade's pinball machine's in this shot. They're tucked away in the back.
Magneto's powers lend himself very well to a pinball machine. I can see why Wolverine has had difficulty with him all these years.
1999 Pedro Martinez in a video game is basically a cheat code. So of course I used him.
Why is the left lane different? Who knows. But for $2, I wasn't going to question it.
For hard core arcade enthusiasts, I should also point out that Fun World has a Galaxian 3 cabinet. From what I understand, this was at one point the “World’s Largest Video Game.” Unfortunately the game has been tarped over for at least the past year and the roof was leaking near the classic game.
This must be a sad sight for fans of classic arcade games.
Will I return to Fun World again this year? Without a doubt. Dave and Buster’s can’t hold a candle to Fun World. Will I ride the coaster again? Not this year. I’ll probably ride it again in future years though. If you’re an arcade fan, Fun World is the place for you. If you’re solely a coaster enthusiast, Fun World is not the place for you unless you’re a true credit whore.
The kiddo and I ended up making a stop here after Canobie Lake Park last year -- yes, to get the credit, but also to have some fun at an arcade. I gotta say, we ended up spending so much time downstairs playing redemption games that we nearly lost track of time and forgot about the stuff upstairs. I'll definitely be making a return trip the next time we're up that way.
And it's not just "could" slap your hands on the ceiling, in my case it was "did, saw the ceiling panel move, then thought better of having a mirrored tile come crashing down on our heads". Yikes.
That coaster dad  and that coaster kiddo .Road trip buddies for life. Dad's faves: Fury 325. Phantom's Revenge. Intimidator 305. El Toro. Skyrush. Kiddo's faves: Storm Runner. Banshee. Top Thrill Dragster. Valravn. Apollo's Chariot.
Disney's Hollywood Studios and America's Worst Airline
Walt Disney World is impossible to fully experience in two days. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about that. The resort simply has too much awesomeness. Normally I’d give myself a week, but I now have the opportunity for some spontaneous weekend trips through a high school friend.
His spouse works at Walt Disney World, which means he has guest passes available whenver he visits the park. That’s a coaster enthusiast’s dream to hear! Since he has a normal Monday-Friday job, the visits are restricted to weekends he’s free and when there's cheap airfare available. Naturally I took him up on an offer to visit amidst the northeast's wintery weather.
But first the whole trip was almost ruined by Spirit Airlines, aka the Greyhound Bus of the Sky. Skip the next few paragraphs if you just want to read about the Mouse.
To maximize my time at Disney, my ideal flight would depart late Friday and return late Sunday. And wouldn't you know Spirit offered a $30 one way flight to Orlando at 6:45 pm on Friday. That was perfect. With any luck I may even have enough time to pop into Fun Spot on the way to the hotel. Spirit simply laughed. They had a reputation to uphold as America's worst airline.
I knew Spirit was notorious for two things- ridiculous bag fees and lateness. Both are expected for such a bargain price. I avoided the first by cramming everything into a tiny drawsting bag. After going to Europe for 2 weeks in just one backpack, this was child’s play. I was at Spirit’s mercy on the latter. It was so bad I couldn't help but laugh at the insanity of the situation, except when my flight seemed largely at risk of being cancelled.
Prior to reaching the airport, I received an alert my flight was delayed 2.5 hours. Well that axed Fun Spot, but still would get me to Orlando at a reasonable hour. Then on the way to the airport, I received an alert my flight was delayed another hour. Well I was already on the way, so I figured I mind as well keep going. After getting through TSA in less than 5 minutes (figures that happens when I’m in absolutely no rush), my departure was now midnight. Needless to say I was skeptical it would even take off.
And the delays begin.
Guess Fun Spot isn't happening tonight.
Add another hour for good measure.
I was one of many who swarmed the Spirit Gate. There had to be another option. And there was! A flight to Tampa at 8:30. It was inconvenient but at least I could make it to Disney. As I was about to switch, I received an alert my flight was now set to depart at 8. I was bewildered but wasn't going to complain!
Not even 20 minutes later, I received an alert the flight was again scheduled for midnight. I had seen enough. I switched to the Tampa flight for no extra cost which was at the gate and ready to board.
Could it be? My prayers were answered and my flight was pushed up 3 hours!
"Nah, let's just eff with people"- Spirit
The rich part is why my flight to Orlando was delayed. The plane was on the tarmac. Spirit had borrowed a crew from JetBlue. So what was wrong? Apparently the flight path from Boston to Orlando brought us by Winter Storm Mateo. For those keeping track of weather, Mateo was in the midwest. So let me get this straight. A plane traveling to Orlando was grounded yet a plane flying 60 miles west was unaffected and boarding. Wtf?
I landed just after midnight. Getting a one-way rental car was a nuisance, but I deserved it for my frugality. In the end my Spirit flight plus the rental car cost as much as a JetBlue flight. But at least I still made it to Orlando and got a true Spirit experience in the meantime.
With just 2 days at the resort, we planned a greatest hits tour of Walt Disney World. I chose the 2-3 rides at each park I absolutely wanted to ride and anything else would be gravy. Batting leadoff was the park that would be the shortest visit, Hollywood Studios.
As we approached the park, I caught glimpses of both Star Wars Land and Slinky Dog Dash. Without a doubt, I’ll be returning later this year for the wiener dog themed coaster but today I had two rides on the agenda- Tower of Terror and Rock “n” Roller Coaster. While I also love Toy Story Mania, it already had a sizable queue as we entered the lot.
After passing through the front gate around 9:30, we made a right hand turn down Sunset Boulevard for the resort’s top thrill ride combo. Since it lacked a single rider line, we both agreed to start with Tower of Terror, which was a 13 minute wait (aka a walk-on).
Tower of Terror is the pinnacle of Disney imagineering. The facade is iconic. The interior queue and pre-show set the tone for the ride to follow. And then the ride itself is still the best drop tower in the world by far. Sure towers like Hurakan Condor and Lex Luthor have better drops, but none of them offer the same theming and ride length as Tower of Terror.
I’ve ridden the version at Disneyland more often than the one at Hollywood Studios. While that one is still incredible, it's missing two things- the ominous 5th dimension room and random drop sequence. The latter was particularly refreshing. I got the perfect mix of stomach wrenching drops and rapid airtime filled ascents.
I love Guardians of the Galaxy. It's one of the better Marvel movies. But I will shed a tear if I see Star Lord anywhere near this tower.
We were hopeful to encounter an equally short wait at Rock “n” Roller Coaster but were stunned to see a 90 minute wait this early. No thank you. Instead we used the single rider line. Through a stroke of luck and no one in the normal queue when we reached the station (the pre-show timing was off), they had to fill half a train with single riders. So we ended up in the same row 20-30 minutes later.
For an indoor coaster, the theming is quite good, particularly in the launch area. For a Vekoma looper, it's also remarkably smooth. Going in, I had remembered the coaster being equal to Flight of Fear and Poltergeist. Unfortunately it was a bit weaker than I remembered. The launch didn't have the same kick I remembered and it meandered around quite a bit, but the inversions were strong and it's still a fun coaster. 7.5 out of 10
I didn't know Hanes made guitar picks.
We wanted to snag another ride on Tower of Terror, but the queue had creeped up to 45 minutes. Because neither of us had been on Star Tours since the Last Jedi scenes were added, we waited 25 minutes to see Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, and mysteriously no Rey.
As a huge Star Wars fan who actually enjoyed Last Jedi (I seem to be one of the few), I was impressed. Star Tours has always been one of my favorite simulators so I’ll always welcome new scenes. I’d especially welcome my pipe dream scene of Jar Jar being executed, but that may be a tad out of place at a Disney park. Then again this is the company who regularly kills off the parents and villains in animated flicks.
Star Tours > Spirit Airlines
We had Space Mountain fastpasses at 1 so we decided to park hop over to Magic Kingdom. To be continued...
Yeah, you may be thinking you're getting a deal flying Sprit or some of the other 'Low Cost Carriers' but really it costs you more in the long run! Whether it's your time, sanity, actual money, or whatever, you get what you pay for!
Canobie Coaster wrote:Tower of Terror is the pinnacle of Disney imagineering. The facade is iconic. The interior queue and pre-show set the tone for the ride to follow. And then the ride itself is still the best drop tower in the world by far. Sure towers like Hurakan Condor and Lex Luthor have better drops, but none of them offer the same theming and ride length as Tower of Terror.
Personally after flying more and more of these ULCCs I'm beginning to find myself pretty firmly on the Frontier Airlines bandwagon. They often get lumped in with Spirit and Allegiant but they don't deserve to be. Their on-time performance last year was 78.91%, a virtual tie with American Airlines. They also beat Southwest and beat Spirit and JetBlue handily. Allegiant wasn't even ranked, but in my experience they've been horrible.
I am enjoying the report. look forward to reading more.
Southwest and Frontier have both been good to me and I have no complaints. Southwest gets the edge for me with their response to the United Airlines beating that happened. " We beat our competition not our customers".
Am I literally the only person in the world who has yet to have a bad experience with Spirit's punctuality? Flying from Tampa to Minneapolis with a 4 hour layover in Chicago last May, both flights landed early, but I saw at least three Spirit flights delayed during my layover. I will agree with their ridiculous bag fees though as I've been charged multiple times for having overweight luggage.
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