A FAMILY VACATION THAT TRULY WAS WORLDS OF FUN
It’s Worlds of Fun’s 40th anniversary. Kansas City’s world-class amusement park has opened its 2013 season with a bang, or should I say, a roar. They’re celebrating with a brand new, interactive dinosaur park, Dinosaurs Alive(!) I remember the fun my brothers and I had when our parents took us to Worlds of Fun in the mid-seventies. It was the highlight of our summer vacation.
We would start off early in the morning so we’d be sure to arrive when the park opened for a whole day of fun. However, every year my dad had a certain tradition, that is, to get lost. We would get so tantalizingly close, once we could even see the multi-colored Worlds of Fun balloon in the distance, yet to our dismay, it slowly faded away as we watched out the back window.
Dad found the way, and we arrived at this enormous parking lot where employees in neon vests waved sticks to show us where to park. Then, we’d wait for a tram which bounced us along to the main entrance. We entered the park through a huge ship, the U.S.S. Henrietta, which displayed flags high on the mast, from all over the world. Worlds of Fun was a theme park based on Jules Verne’s book, “Around The World In Eighty Days,” and was divided into five international sections: The Orient, Scandinavia, Africa, Europa, and Americana. We walked over the wooden plank onto Market Square where there was a big, sunken fountain in the middle. It was surrounded by shops with names like “Yum Yum Tree,” and “Brims ‘n’ Bonnets.” There were huge, hanging baskets of gorgeous flowers along with many different varieties of plants and trees. Worlds of Fun was surrounded by acres of woods which lent a natural beauty to the park.
We would study one of the big park maps (they always had “You Are Here” on it, in case we forgot where we were) to scope out the best rides. In Americana we rode the Screamroller, a roller coaster that did two loop-de-loops over a lake. I remember the click, click, click sound, and thrilling anticipation as the train took us up the first hill. It was pretty scary diving straight towards the water, then the coaster flipping us in a loop at the last second, only to do it again!
In Scandinavia we rode the Finnish Fling, a cylindrical ride that would spin us around so fast we’d be plastered to the wall. Then the floor would drop down underneath our feet, and we’d be left hanging there. Only when the ride slowed down did we – one by one – sink to the floor.
The Viking Voyager was a flume water ride that would float us over the rapids, around through the treetops, then the forty-foot plunge in which I would lose my stomach every time.
In Europa it was fun to drive the old-fashioned cars at Le Taxi Tour. We gave our parents quite a ride through the French countryside.
My brothers and I would measure our height before each ride, and we were usually tall enough. However, we occasionally had to sweat it out whenever a ride attendant double checked our height with the big measuring stick.
In Africa we rode the Zambezi Zinger, a fantastic roller coaster which began gradually going around and around in a spiral all the way to the top, paused, then took us on a jaw-dropping seventy-five foot dive which turned into a super fast thrilling ride through the forest, then soaring through a long, dark tunnel until it shot us out at the end like a cannon! When mom and I were waiting in line to ride the Zambezi Zinger for the first time, we could see that we were going to be in the first car. (Two people could sit together, one in front of the other – no seat-belt needed.) She turned to me and said, “I don’t want to be the first one, let me get in ahead of you.” And I said, “Okay, sure mom.” As soon as it was our turn, I jumped in that car faster than lightning. Mom had no choice but to sit in the front. She was so angry with me that I had to listen to her as we slowly circled all the way to the top, how she was “never, ever” going to forgive me. (By the way, she never did!)
To cool off, we’d buy a cold drink at “Wet Yur Whistle,” or an ICEE at “Big Jack’s Jungle Juice.” (Today whenever I smell hot asphalt, it takes me back to these times.) We would check the time at the big clock made out of flowers and catch the Fins and Flippers dolphin show in the Orient. The dolphins were delightful to watch as they did their high-flying jumps and dives. To take a break from the heat, we’d go to the air-conditioned Moulin Rouge Theatre in Europa, and see a musical with pretty girls dancing the Can-Can. My dad really liked this show!
It was always funny to see someone walking with what appeared to be an invisible dog; just a stiff leash and collar. As souvineers, our parents let us have caricatures drawn, and we looked hilarious with our gigantic heads and teeny-tiny bodies.
To get an aerial view of the park we could ride in a cable car that took us from one side of the park to the other. It had two stations: the Ski-Hi in Americana, and the Ski-Heis in Scandinavia. One time we were riding in a cable car when we saw our parents riding in another one going in the opposite direction. By the time we caught up it was almost dark, so we rode over (all together this time) once more, and it was spectacular seeing Worlds of Fun lit up at night.
We stayed until the park closed, gleefully riding as many rides as we could. Then we caught a tram to take us back to our car – where had we parked? – and headed home.
Worlds of Fun has thrilled millions of people over the last 40 years. Today, new generations will enjoy the exciting rides and attractions. However, I’ll never forget the magnificent times my parents, and my brothers (even though they made me drop my pickle on-a-stick) and I had together. Those glorious summer days, the pristine park, and people of all ages laughing – nobody is old at Worlds of Fun.
Many of the rides and attractions I’ve mentioned are gone. Although, last I heard, the Zambezi Zinger was alive and well, still soaring riders through the jungle in Columbia, South America!