Any kid who grows up in Brooklyn has spent some summer days at Coney Island, our salty, rowdy, beachside amusement park. The park, which has its own subway stop, is worn-out, rough around the edges, and filled with electric energy – the type of place where your parents remind you to stay close, but then let go of your hand themselves to point out the guy with the falcon on his shoulder or to run ahead and snag you a place in line for a ride. Coney Island is home to the annual Mermaid Parade and the original Nathan’s Hotdogs, which serves amazing crinkle cut fries and hosts a famous hotdog eating contest. But more importantly, it’s home to The Cyclone.
The Cyclone is wooden and supposedly (do you know it?) world-famous. Charles Lindbergh is said to have claimed it more frightening than flight, and a mute boy to have spoken his first ever words on its wooden rails (“I feel sick”); a one-time survey of items found beneath it included multiple glass eyes. It’s rickety, surprisingly fast, and exceedingly fun. For a young roller coaster fanatic, it’s the highlight of any visit, and always worth the line. I don’t remember the first time I rode it but I do remember the last, about four years ago: it left me feeling weak-kneed and joggled my head so much it gave me a serious headache. But wow – I loved it still.
For this issue of tbjkids, we sent two young Beijingers out in search of Beijing’s own Cyclone experience. To scope out the best of Beijing’s amusement parks, our tireless junior reporters Flora Qi and Naomi Martin traveled to the far reaches of this far-flung city and strapped themselves in to countless rides. They patiently waited in 50-minute lines, faced rain and wind and all the other delights of the Beijing spring, and without a doubt suffered more than one headache of their own. And guess what? Through it all, they had fun.
It turns out that Beijing presents Coney Island with some real competition. In Roller Coaster Roundup, Flora calls the Feng Shen coaster at Shijingshan Amusement Park the best roller coaster she’s ever been on, anywhere, and Naomi tells us she rode the Frog Hopper 15 times in a row. The joys of the amusement park are the same in Beijing as they are in Brooklyn, apparently: the sideways swirl of a teacup ride, the upside down woosh of a roller coaster descending from another loop, the thrilling knowledge that each and everything around you was constructed with the express purpose of providing you with pure, unadulterated fun. My stomach’s no longer the cast-iron thing it once was, but I still haven’t grown out of my love for a good amusement park ride.