Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Dear diary: One man’s frolic through Summer Adventures at Fair Park
Grab a lei and frozen mojito -- it's not just for kids, you know.
FAIR PARK When you enter Fair Park’s newest addition, aptly named Summer Adventures in Fair Park, the smiling staff gives you a multicolored plastic lei, with the presumed hopes of providing an escape from the dog days of Dallas’ summer.
Sure, it’s only a plastic string of flowers, but the gesture is a sign of good things to come.
The $30 million amusement park aims to draw people to Fair Park beyond the State Fair of Texas’ run every fall, and it boasts an impressive 50-plus attractions and exhibits with admission to Texas Discovery Gardens and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park included in the standard ticket price.
The park operates on a “passport” system for access to its amenities, which transforms your park ticket into a credit card of sorts that can be refilled for games, food, and merchandise throughout the grounds.
Lei-clad and with passports ready, my friend and I started our Sunday trip to Summer Adventures with the three standard expectations of any amusement parkgoer: long lines; expensive, mediocre food; and sweating, lots of it.
We were both pleased to find out that our first expectation, annoying long lines, was virtually nonexistent. Thanks to Summer Adventures’ newness, the park is lightly peppered with patrons, and getting a seat on any of the park’s rides tends to be as easy as walking up to its gates.
I was taken aback by the park’s emptiness, so much so that I called the park’s press representative the next day. Was my Sunday trip a fluke, or is park attendance always this sparse? As with any new theme park, she explained, attendance starts out low.
With this free reign we were able to ride some of the park’s top-billed attractions, such as the Top O’ Texas Tower and the Windstorm, multiple times without having to wait at all. Top O’ Texas, a 500-foot spinning tower that offers a great view of downtown Dallas, is worth the price of admission by itself. We loved it so much, we rode it twice.
Summer Adventures does a good job of offering rides suited for both children and adults. Smaller, less intense rides like the spinning Luv Bugs or the swinging Pirate Boat can keep any kid entertained while the more jarring rides like the Flipper or the Starship are better-suited for the park’s older guests.
Outside of the thrill-ride realm, Summer Adventures fills its operating hours with shows that range from highflying cats to soaring exotic birds. Nestled in the southeast corner of the park is the Island of Dogs and Cats. There, parkgoers can catch two separate animal acrobatic shows, one with dogs, the other with cats.
Hoping to educate the public about purebred adoption in local shelters, Summer Adventures has found 20 purebred dogs that frolic in front of park guests while knowledgeable employees give facts about each breed. The best part? At the end of the summer, if you feel so inclined, you can apply to take your favorite dog home, since each of the 20 is up for adoption.
Finding good food wasn’t a hard task, either. Considering the park’s State Fair of Texas roots, vendors such as Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are present with other booths offering assorted fried fare. The Pelican Bay Bar and Grill was an adult oasis, with plush leather seats, flat-screen televisions, and an over-21 policy. I’d like to know how many other theme parks can offer guests a frozen mojito (a delicious one, might I add).
In terms of beating the heat and staying cool, it’s obvious that Summer Adventures is no stranger to the long, hot days of Dallas’ summer. The park gives visitors a free bottle of water with admission, and the grounds are sprinkled with water-themed activities likely to help everyone cope with the heat. The Log Flume was the most disappointing of these offerings. With the attraction’s steep plunge into murky waters, one would think riders would get soaked. However, the Log Flume offers more a spritz than a splash. We left the ride disappointed and dry.
The park’s greenhouse is another way to stay cool. Its air-conditioned building houses green plants with replicas of Texas’ iconic and historical structures such as the Alamo and the Fort Worth Stockyards.
As a whole, Summer Adventures in Fair Park is an impressive addition to the area’s theme-park scene.
When it comes to Summer Adventures, I can’t help but call back to the famous line from Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come.”
Well, it’s built. Now go.
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