Here are two perfect, one-day trips for the entire family that won't cost an arm and leg.
Martin's Fantasy Island: After you cross the Rainbow Bridge into Niagara Falls, New York, it's only a half-hour drive away. Travel I90 towards Buffalo and when you cross the bridges that cross over the Niagara River, take Exit 19. Almost immediately you will see the giant Ferris Wheel at
Martin's Fantasy Island Park at 2400 Grand Island Boulevard. This is a clean, well supervised family-friendly park with plenty of rides for big and little kids like me. 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 their wooden, "Silver Comet" rated as 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, rip-roarin shoot-out throughout the day at the Golden Nugget Saloon where the good guys take on the bad guys. Don't get caught in the middle like me.
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 fast food or alcoholic beverages permitted). The park is closed on Mondays and open the rest of the week from 11:30 am until 8:30 pm. 2011 Admission, which includes everything in the park, is Adults $24.95, Children under 48 inches $19.95 and seniors $16.95. Until August 31st 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 along. Parking is free.
Seabreeze Amusement Park: This is a bit longer drive from the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to this side of Rochester, New York. 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, and 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 Road, Rochester N.Y. is nearby. Parking is free. The park is open daily from noon until 10 pm and on Friday and Saturday until 11 pm. 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 web-site.
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 traveled 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 are here. Two popular rides for the smaller visitors are rides on the train and the boat. There's an extensive water park that everyone can experience. Try the Raging River if you really want to get rich.
There's also a midway, with familiar games like the Duck Pond, Ping Pong Toss, Water Race, and Balloon Darts. Music of the 50's play 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 about $10.00.
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 anymore. The kids are having a blast!"
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.