Day Trip: Fun Spot America

You know, school years are just as tough on teachers as it is on students. The year started and I noticed that my time was gone, munched away by lesson plans, afterschool activities, and long slogs of reading really bad writing. In times like these, like most humans, we fall on the comfortable, those spaces that we know are guaranteed to provide a smidge of comfort to our weary souls, as the usual stressors mount.

Disney and Universal provide respite from the slog to the locals, as well as, those who are seeking promised escapism. But, as nearby residents, time and again, we walk past those small charms that dot the landscape that is Orlando, due to the need for our fix. There’s more around here than I ever realized and this past week, we got to find something that was a small treat, a certified hidden gem that really just sorta ‘hit the spot.’

Bright colors, yet not a circus-
Bright colors, yet not a circus-

The Fun Spot,  as it were.

We were able to try something new there and have a few jollys along the way.  Now, the airways around here are crowded with advertisments of this place, with it’s charming bearded spokesman screaming, “It’s Huge!” as if that was the reason we need to go.   It’s located on “Fun Spot” way, just south of Downtown Orlando, across from the Universal Resort’s famed parking lot and I-4.  In fact, you can see it from the top of FunSpot’s wooden coaster, if only briefly. There’s a FunSpot, apparently, down near Old Town Kississimee and, after this day’s experience, I might float down there some time and see what they might have to offer.

I was lucky. I found out that they had a special deal on tickets, given it was the 10th anniversary this summer. They knocked down the prices to sixteen dollars per person, their opening day price and, frankly, from what I’m seeing-if you can get a discount, that would probably be your best bet. They do offer something unique and special here, something the other three major players don’t offer here. But at a price at 34 to 44 dollars per ticket, I do not see the worth at this level. I will admire, however, the fact that the prices can be knocked down due to your size-since you cannot enjoy some of the rides. Something the other parks will not do. So there is that.  And online? A bevy of price discounts. Go there, too, should you think this is something you wish to see.

And, also, there’s no cover charge. If you don’t wish to ride the attractions, just let the kiddoes go crazy, then go for it. Find a bench and let the tykes be zany.  Won’t cost you a dime.

Alas, this is one of the things that does give me pause (the open door policy). By not having a gate charge, anyone can come in. That’s fine, but security, I noticed, was not present at all. Friday and Saturday nights, after sunset? How many parents drive up and drop off the kids while they head out, unsupervised? And, without paying for parking, a large assortment of people can waltz in and out between the cars without much in terms of supervision.

Without safety measures, this ride suddenly became a thrill ride!
Without safety measures, this ride suddenly became a thrill ride!

The majority of rides are carnival in style, portable ones that have been shored up and set into the pavement as permanent. Don’t fret, however. This is the way it is for most stand-and-spin rides the world over. They are still held to the standards Florida requires of the larger parks here. However, it does mean that you might have seen these rides before in local fairs or amusement parks.

Tell me you've seen this before-surely.
Tell me you’ve seen this before-surely.
The only water attraction. Keep that in mind.
The only water attraction. Keep that in mind.

What Disney and Universal doesn’t know, of course, is that these small rides, the Scramblers, the Paratroopers, the Ripcurls, and the Enterprises actually have some draw to them without much need to make them fit into a story. So, there are reasons to still enjoy these simple but affective distractions.

The main draw, actually, is two fold. One? The thing that put this place on the map.

The "Pit."  Yes, you have step over other cars here...so wear shoes.
The “Pit.” Yes, you have step over other cars here…so wear shoes.

Go karts. No locked in tracks here, like the Tomorrowland Speedway, either. They’re much fun, but, unlike Disney, there’s no upkeep at all. The pavement is pockmarked; the sides of the tracks are torn up without much adornment. The machines are standard, bleching gas and smelling like my brother’s old mechanic’s shop.  Here’s the other thing to keep in mind. Only older, larger children can ride. So this means you have adults and teens. And since it is a bit of a free-for-all, the teeth-rattling can be a bit intense. Even with my larger size, I did fit in the car just fine, but the low shake of the vehicle did do a number on my spine.  And everyone is constantly jockeying for a position ahead of you (which is weird, since you don’t win anything). Did I have fun? Sure!  The tracks are wondefully complex and pile on top of each other in such a manner that you are still guessing where the heck you are even in the second lap. There are four tracks in all.

The other draw?

2014-12-14 14.51.30

Coasters. This location underwent a huge expansion (heh, there’s that “huge” again, but size doesn’t matter, does it?) two summers ago and added two decent coasters-so good they almost seem out of place with the stock rides and surroundings.

This is that unique experience part I mentioned in the first part of this article. This is what will bring me back.

One coaster is called the “Freedom Flyer” and is something of a rarity. It’s what some would call a ‘lateral coaster’ where the cars swing slightly from side to side with the depth of each curve. This means the ride is composed mostly of helixes and gives the passenger the insecure feeling that they are going to fly away with every corner. The style is great for small, confined spaces, but, due to the amount of lateral G’s the body experiences, they tend to be short, quick rides. They never gained in popularity. But here’s one that’s chipper fun. I’m still not sure how they can have an open housing above the rider, however. Several times I noticed I could reach up and slap the track—not that I would want to–and a taller kid might.

The second is an old fashioned “woodie,” called the “White Lightening.” With it’s new paint, it just felt older, wiser, and didn’t really fit with the carnival feel of the rest of the space. It has all the aspects of famed coaster elsewhere-you feel like you’re visiting a boardwalk off the Jersey shore or small family park in the backwoods of Pennsylvania with this coaster.

And that’s a good thing.

I have to tell you…it’s a great ride and is completely incongruent with the rest of the park. There are two 90 degree embankments, two whoopsie humps on the second hill (giving small but fun airtime) and zero breaking until near the wheelhouse. With your pass, you can ride this multiple times and you will want to.

My hopes are this coaster steers more money and better attractions to this park.

As I left, I hit up the ice cream parlor by the front door and realized, too, the food, like the rides, were like any other carnival. Yes, I did see an advertisement for fried oreos. There’s a diner, but only prepared foods were available. Not bad, but given the short time you might spend here, I’d head over to I-Drive and get a more substanial meal.  I do have a beef with the popcorn. No small popcorns, my favorite treat. Nope. You have to buy their refillable tub.

I didn’t want that much popcorn, sorry.

All in all, a decent little park, sorry, huge park, with competent thrills and a nice break from the faux worlds of Universal and Disney. Go. Tell us what you think. I’ll be back, probably screaming my head off after the 30th ride on White Lightening!

 

 

 

 

 

is an author, blogger, and journalist based out of Eustis, Florida. He's been reporting on entertainment since 1992, when someone showed him that others will read his work. While he's still composing his Great American Novel, he bides his time with his partner, his corgis, his writing, many movies and many park hopping trips. Peace!

About Author

Joe Triggs-Smith

is an author, blogger, and journalist based out of Eustis, Florida. He's been reporting on entertainment since 1992, when someone showed him that others will read his work. While he's still composing his Great American Novel, he bides his time with his partner, his corgis, his writing, many movies and many park hopping trips. Peace!