- Spook-a-rama, Coney Island: When I rode on this a couple of summers ago, I was so thrilled I smiled all day. This is the lamest, most glorious thing. Ancient tracks and ride vehicles that make you feel like it’s 1945, and a ride through the crummiest Halloween robots flailing around pathetically. Still, I screamed the entire time. With delight. I don’t think anyone else rode this ride that day except for me and my dear friend. Because everyone else– they were fools. Queue: I don’t think there is ever is a need to wait, as there was no need on 4thof July weekend, when the beach was standing room only. Visuals: 7 (so bad it’s great) Story: 5 (it’s a dada sort of story) Charm/thrill:8 Total score: 20
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, formerly Disney World (RIP), Disneyland:Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but we loved Mr. Toad before he left Florida. Mr. Toad was crummy, not Spook-o-rama crummy, but still crummy. What you saw was mostly cutouts painted, no robots, no fabulous scenery. But you’re whipping around, and you’re riding in a little old British car, and having the time of your life. The end of the ride is why you get on board: first you seem to run into a train (a single light representing the train’s headlight) with sound effects to suggest it, and then, in the last room, you go to hell. No, I mean, you really go to hell. There’s a little devil hanging down, and it’s hot and steamy. Once, infamously, we were riding Mr. Toad and got stuck in hell. What a thrill! To end your day saying, “Today, I got stuck in hell.” Queue: 4 (not much to see) Visuals: 4 Story:6Charm/thrill: 7Total score: 21
- The Flooded Mine, Silver Dollar City: this ride wins for its oddity, longevity, and great dialogue. First, they thought, let’s make a ride where people float through a prison. I would have stopped right there and said, what? But they did not stop. They said, hey, let’s make this prison flooded. But a flooded prison? How could that happen? Hmm. Let’s put it in a mine. I’m not aware of any prisons located in mines, or any prisoners being sent to mines for their work duty, but at Silver Dollar City, the inmates have been engaged in mine work for years. Maybe it’s better than breaking rocks on the chain gang or stamping license plates. Best line: “I’m gettin’ out of here/No matter what!” With the touch of southern accent that lets you know Branson is approaching the south , this line is positively Shakespearean. To me, anyway. After delivering it, a prisoner pushes down on a t-shaped detonator, presumably blasting his way out of the mine with so much TNT.* All this would be enough, would be plenty. But wait—there’s more! The Flooded Mine was converted to an interactive ride some years back. They installed targets throughout the mine, and heavy pistols tethered to the ride boats, so now one spends one’s voyage through the mine shooting at targets, which often set off various reactions. Shoot one target, and a shovel hits a tin pan. Shoot another, and the canary in the cage peeps. Why are there targets in the mine to be shot? In my humble opinion, it’s just because Americans like to shoot at stuff. The icing on this cake is that during Christmastime, all the prisoners wear Santa Hats. Inmates working in a flooded mine in holiday wear. Could it get any better? Only if they let you ride through twice in a row.
Story: 8 (for absurdity)
Total score: 23
4. Space Mountain, Disney World (preferred)/ Disneyland: The joy of Space Mountain is in its speed, the vertigo, the mission control dudes in their pod ready to supervise your journey, and your fear throughout the ride that you may be decapitated. (It just feels that way. Only a few people have been decapitated on Space Mountain. You’re safe as long as you remain seated.) The line for Space Mountain is also awesome—silver balls from a ball pit, a tunnel so long it can make you sick with claustrophobia. Sit in the back. You’ll be whipped around until you feel ten years older. In a good way.
Story: 4 (no real narrative here)
Total score: 27
5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, formerly Disney World and Disneyland (RIP): the best ride vehicles of all time. These were actual submarines– on tracks, never underwater more than an inch, but still, submarines. You were underwater. They looked like the Nautilus, outside and in. The portholes were real. The organ music filling that little space, while you sat on your little stool, gazing out at mermaids and the giant squid tentacle and the lost city of Atlantis—I grieve the loss of this ride. I love Nemo’s story, and it made for a great movie, and a great ride. The queue sucked, but it didn’t matter because the ride was so amazing. I miss the hell out of it. (Please also note the dudes running the ride wearing identical uniforms to the seamen in the movie.)
Queue: 3 (nothing to see, and slower than Christmas)
Bonus for extremely amazing ride vehicles: 2
Total score: 32
*A short digression, Melville style: That little detonator, so beloved in children’s entertainment! The little guy on the Muppet Show who blasts things up. The blaster is but one of Wil E. Coyote’s tools, but it’s a favorite.