Tonawanda News

Features

July 18, 2011

Historical fun and games abound at Midway

— — Many children might not be impressed that they’re visiting an amusement park that existed before their parents, their grandparents and maybe even their great-parents were born.

That is, until they actually get there.

On a recent sunny Saturday, my family made the jaunt down to the shores of Chautauqua Lake to visit Midway State Park, a little bit of Western New York history that actually turned 113 years old shortly after our visit.

Formally opened July 12, 1898, Midway is now the 15th oldest continually operating amusement park in the United States and the fifth oldest remaining trolley park. (Trolley parks were picnic and recreation areas along or at the ends of streetcar lines, created by companies to give people a reason to use those lines on weekends.)

 After going through several owners, it was purchased by New York state in 2007, and continues as a state park to this day.

Midway is no Six Flags ... but that’s not a bad thing, since it’s a good size for kids. It features 17 rides, plus go-carts, and while adults can ride some of them, most are geared for children.

My two gleefully bounced between vintages. Midway has a helicopter ride, cars, toddler-sized paddleboats (a HUGE hit), a train the encircles most of the ride area, a Tilt-A-Whirl, a small Dragon roller coaster and more. The boys deigned to go on the carousel and train with their parents, but gloried in driving their own cars and boats and rockets around and around. The 3-year-old in particular would have gone on the two small coasters if I’d judged him old enough (maybe next year).

Many of the rides — including the 1946 carousel — are products of the Allan Herschell Co. of North Tonawanda.

A short walk down to the lakefront leads to the arcade (located in the former trolley depot), including both newer and vintage games, and further, to the building housing concessions (ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy, that sort of thing), a gift shop and a small museum.

Picnic tables and shelters abound for those taking a break ... or those who want to bring a picnic lunch. (I think we’ll do that next time.) The lake view is lovely, and there were a number of people fishing off the pier as we strolled the shore.

We had planned to stay an hour or two. Instead, almost four had passed before we realized that the kids were starting to look a little wobbly on their feet (and so were we).

When you have to carry your exhausted 3-year-old, kicking and crying, back to the car because he wants to go on just one more ride ... well, it have must be a good time.

Contact reporter Jill Keppeler

at 693-1000, ext. 313.

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