One of the animatronics in Story Land is a groundhog, who pops out from a box and looks around and tells people of the show starting in however many minutes this is. Then it burrows back down. It's adorable. bunny_hugger and I have gotten to appreciate having shows in amusement parks, and it's a bit sad that we weren't able to make the groundhog's show or most of the other shows. They'd had some kind of Paddington Bear-starring pro-reading event going on in the early afternoon, for example. Towards the end of the day they also had a whole mass of characters, Tinkerbell and fairy-tale princesses and Humpty Dumpty and oh yeah Duke, the dragon from Dutch Wonderland. (That park's moved from Hersheypark to the Kennywood/Parques Reunidos chain, and so Duke has been showing up at all their parks, unsettling us.) They're well-stocked with characters to meet.
They also have Character Dinners. This softens the early closing hour, I suppose. Folks presumably with kids could ``join Cinderella, Duke the Dragon, Humpty Dumpty and our newest friend `Rory' for a memorable Buffet Dinner'' (as their web site puts it). We were a little tempted by this, must say, though it can be terribly uncertain what's at a meal like that which a vegetarian, or someone trying to be vegetarian, can safely eat.
But two things we did get to, which blur the line between rides and shows, were the boat rides. Story Land has a good-sized and irregularly shaped lake and two separate boat tours. One is the Story Land Queen, on a boat with a large swan front end. The dock for this, at least when we went there, seemed to be unattended. The gate for getting on the boat was closed and locked, yes, but it was easy to imagine how the equivalent at (say) Cedar Point would have at least two ride operators watching every moment until the boat arrived.
The Story Land Queen brings folks on a tour to Butterfly Island, while the ship's master tells a story of how something-or-other scared the color out of the butterflies. So we have to go past the scenic drawbridge --- ordinarily closed so the pirate ship can't follow --- and bring color back to the butterflies if our cheering and applause and such are enough. On our expedition they were and color returned to Butterfly Island in time to putter back past the drawbridge. Also we got to see there was a crane of some kind hanging about the lagoon and occasionally jabbing at, we trust, the fish. It's always wonderful encountering this sort of wildlife in a park. At Cinderella's Castle we spotted a chipmunk who'd worked out what parts of the castle he could get to without being annoyed by humans.
The other lagoon ride is the Buccaneer Pirate Ship where, just as the lady running the Story Land Queen warned, kids are sat down beside oars and ordered to paddle. This takes a different path and doesn't even try to get to Butterfly Island, raising the implication that the Story Land Queen is spreading falsehoods about the pirates. It does go past prop pirate fortresses and cannons and wrecked ships and the like, while the ride operator talks in that joking comic pirate fashion. There's less narrative than the Story Land Queen offers, but it makes up for that with more animate shoreline stuff.
Also crossing the line between ride and show is the Slipshod Safari Tour. This is a ``trek through the wilds of Africa in a wagon train'', per their web site, and that's fair enough to say. The truck carries everyone along past a mixture of fixed statues and animatronic props which represent gorillas and rhinoceroses, snakes and turtles, elephants and zebras, while the driver describes what's seen and jokes about them. Corny? Yes, but if you don't like corny why go to an amusement park? Why go with me?
We noticed by the way that season passes for 2016 were already on sale, and they were good for the rest of 2015, and you could apply that day's ticket purchase to the season ticket price. It would be a bit crazy to buy season passes to Parques Reunidos parks, except ... well, we had two Parques Reunidos parks we were certainly visiting on the New England Parks Tour alone. We could easily imagine getting to Kennywood and/or Idlewild a weekend this year. And if not then, next year surely, maybe more than once. Sad to say, they don't have chain-wide season passes; the most we would get is a discount on buying tickets at sister parks. How big a discount? The customer service guy grimaced as he told us. It was something like four dollars. Well, it would've been nice.
Trivia: The first telegraph cable across the English Channel, laid in August 1850 by the General Oceanic and Subterranean Electric Printing Telegraph Company, was so light that the wire would not sink. Weights had to be affixed to it to make it drop to the bottom. Source: The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage.
Currently Reading: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii To Iraq, Stephen Kinzer.
PS: Reading the Comics, September 14, 2015: Back To School Edition, Part II, just what it says on the label.