Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Dismal Sylvan Beach Amusement Park (Nothing Amusing About Proposing Here!)!

Sylvan Beach,New York,USA

The Good: Nice small town feel, Friendly people
The Bad: Relatively expensive for the size/location, Fairly dirty
The Basics: Small and dirty, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is more or less guaranteed to disappoint people who want real fun.

Virtually every day for the past five years, I have driven past the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park in Sylvan Beach, New York. For years, I drove by it to take my spouse to work or to pick my spouse up at work and since the divorce, I have driven by it to get everywhere else. Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is situated in Sylvan Beach - essentially a one street town - off Oneida Lake and the fastest way to get from the north shore of the lake to places like Syracuse, Oneida, Canastota, and even just the New York State Thruway, is to go through Sylvan Beach, past the amusement park.

In the summer, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is a bustling little cash cow for the local economy and in the winter, it is a skeleton of snow drifts and abandonment. I'm not sure which is better considering the mediocre state of this amusement park.


On Route 13 in Sylvan Beach, New York, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is a strip of rides more or less right off the sidewalk between the major route and the waterfront. Being liberal with the dimensions, this is park is perhaps a half mile long by a quarter mile deep (much more likely about 3/8 miles long by 300 meters deep), with about twenty rides, an arcade and various food stands. As well, there is now a small miniature golf section in the park, which is right off the roadside, so it encourages players to aim well.

Sylvan Beach is pretty much the back end of nowhere in Upstate New York. It is about twenty-five miles from Syracuse, NY and about the same distance to Utica, NY. Outside the amusement park and a few dining options, there is nothing to do in Sylvan Beach, save swim or boat (if one has a boat). This small amusement park is basically set on asphalt and grass feet away from a one lane (each direction) route that carries all sorts of traffic around Oneida Lake. The park is basically bordered by road, parking lot, lake, and a small cross street/beach on its four sides.

Ease Of Local Transport/Parking

If you can find Oneida Lake and Route 13, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is easy enough to find. From the Thruway, head away from Canastota (a right when you get off at the Canastota exit, Exit 34), and in approximately eight miles, there it is on the left. Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is generally only crowded in the summertime.

Parking has recently become a sore spot, especially for the locals. Route 13 has parking right on it, at least on the park-side of the street. However, in the summer, there is a fee to park and the Pay-To-Park meters only allow one to pay for two hours, before one moves their car. As well, pay-to-park meters have been put up in the parking lot for the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park. Anyone planning to spend time at the beach or the amusement park ought to bring $5 - $10 and plan on moving the car periodically while at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park. The State Trooper's office is on the same lawn as the amusement park and they have been very proud of their local ticketing abilities the last few years.


Well, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is - allegedly - a place to go and be amused, at lease for a few hours. During the day, there is miniature golf, an arcade with a few video games and skeeball, a haunted house, a giant slide, a roller coaster and several rides. Rides include: tea cups, a kiddie coaster (it goes up and down in a wave as opposed to upside down or such), a tilt-a-whirl, bumper cars, and a spinning ride with two cars at opposite ends of a long, centrally pivoting pole (I've no clue what the name of it is, though).

The roller coaster is a very simple metal and wood coaster with a steep initial incline, two rough turns and no loops. It is only about three stories high, so it does not go terribly fast or vigorously. The scariest aspect of it is that it creaks something fierce when riding it, so there is the sensation that at any moment the whole thing could collapse. That is far more frightening than the actual speeds of it.

Similarly, the haunted house ride is a lame little predictable dark ride with things that jump out or glow at pretty predictable intervals. The giant slide is very much for kids, about two and a half stories up, the plastic slide is a pretty conservative descent and it is only open when there is a guard on duty, so it is pretty safe.

The rest of the rides are very typical: the tea cups twirl, the tilt-a-whirl goes fast round and round, then rises to take a place more or less perpendicular to the ground. And after watching Carnivale (reviewed here!) for the last few weeks and seeing the Colossus ferris wheel, the Sylvan Beach Amusement Park's ferris wheel (which is not taller than the roller coaster) seems pitiful by comparison.

More than that, the rides are almost universally dirty, which I suppose is to be expected wherever children are involved. However, having been to well-maintained theme parks, this one seems especially dirty. Indeed, virtually every surface at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park seems to be coated in leftover ice cream, snot and dirt from children who have played on the beach, sneezed and then ridden the rides (not as an organized movement, you understand, but this seems to be how it all gets everywhere). In riding the bumper cars years ago, was quite happy when I found one car that was clean and my germaphobe companion found one she could live with. But once we got those cars, we sure stayed in them!

There is skeeball, which earns the player tickets that can be redeemed for things like little plastic rings. This should not be an excuse to play skeeball and/or propose at Sylvan Beach. Seriously, hold off for someplace classy. With more tickets, for example, one can win stuffed animals or little plastic spiders. Go for those!

In the main Sylvan Beach Amusement Park, rides are paid for via tickets. Tickets (last time I went) were 3/$1.00 with bulk packages for $5.00, $10.00, etc. I used to go on their "Unlimited Ride Night," which allowed us to ride all the rides after 7 P.M. on Wednesday for $10.00. We rode the bumper cars for hours those nights. Good times, kid crud and all.

It ought to be noted, though, that despite my generalized loathing of children, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park has the benefit of being a remarkably safe place for children. Sylvan Beach is a relatively small community, there is a New York State Troopers office right on the grounds and it is very well patrolled, including at night (note to adults: it is well-patrolled at night! NOT a good place to sit in the car necking!). There is a very low occurrence of child-related problems at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park, at least that make the press.


At Sylvan Beach Amusement Park there is a pizza stand that makes pizza and fried dough. As well, there is a kiosk with hot dogs and hamburgers and another that sells cotton candy and snow cones. This is, of course, carnival type food as expected. Across the street from Sylvan Beach Amusement Park, there are two pizza places, a nice diner, and a fine dining restaurant as well as a new night club (hey, we locals were as surprised by that as outsiders who see us as hicksville!). On the same strip, there is the famous local restaurant Eddie's and the fine seafood restaurant, Captain John's.

But at the amusement park, there is pretty much just fast food which leaves children with sticky or slimy hands.


The closest to shopping that Sylvan Beach Amusement Park has is the skeeball alley with its tickets that can be redeemed for prizes. On the strip across from the park are places to shop, like a swim shop. Just down the way is a Dollar General, a local convenience store, and the local head shop*


Sylvan Beach Amusement Park is about an hour's worth of fun, so it's a tough sell for those looking to make a vacation here. As part of a day at the beach or one of the local state parks, I suppose it could be an interesting distraction. But for people who are young, in love and looking to get out of the apartment, there are vastly better - even less expensive - places to go for a fun night.

For other New York parks, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Fair Haven State Park
Chittenango Falls State Park
Green Lakes State Park

* The local head shop was recently closed down and currently the building is occupied by - no kidding - a pool and spa seller.


For other destinations, please visit my Travel Review Index Page for a complete, organized list of my travel reviews!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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