On Saturday, our family went to Seabreeze Amusement Park as part of our Weekend o’ Fun in Rochester. I had thought that the name was a little silly, but that’s because I’d had limited experience with the Great Lakes before. So when I actually checked out Ontario Beach, I was surprised by how ocean-y it looked, smelled, and felt. And sure enough, as we’d hit the crest of a roller coast and check out the lake, it felt like we were on a vacation far, far away.
Prior to Seabreeze, our most recent amusement park visits were Hersheypark and Disney World, so you might think that it would suffer by comparison. Nope. Don’t get me wrong: I loved those other destinations, but Seabreeze provided plenty of fun with a lot less stress. We happened to visit on a day that we’d been warned would be the busiest of the season, and we even considered changing plans. But I’m glad we didn’t, because lines were short–or at least very reasonable–almost everywhere in the park. Seabreeze includes a water park section along with the coasters, kiddie rides, and other amusement park standards. We followed a local’s advice and began in the water park section, and that worked well for us, because the water park was getting busier as we left the area.
The water park included a wide variety of attractions, with smaller kiddie activity areas with small “beginner” slides as well as twisting tunnels and fast racers.
My girls loved all of the sliding. I liked that, with climbing all the steps to the next attraction, it felt like we were getting a decent workout. There was plenty to do, but it wasn’t so huge that I was getting lost (which I do, you know, because I have no sense of direction). The longest line when we were there was for the Helix, a raft ride where you shoot out of a tube into a large bowl that the girls and I thought seemed really quite like a toilet bowl. They thought that was hilarious. For that ride, it was clear that heavier rafts were able to circle the bowl more times before going down the drain, so to speak, so plan accordingly. I loved the tube rides, but my least favorite activity was the girls’ favorite: The Wave.
The waves were huge, and the pool was crowded, so I found it really quite terrifying. There were plenty of lifeguards, and they were vigilant, holding their whistles in their mouths and pacing back and forth, alert and tense, “like caged tigers,” Cute W described it. I still thought it was scary, and I spent the whole time twisting my head between J and M and back to J again. The waves would stop occasionally to give swimmers and lifeguards a break, and each time they paused I rejoiced.
We rented a locker ($10 deposit, I believe I got $5 back), but it looked like many groups just chose a home base among the chairs and lounges, and you’re permitted to bring in your own picnic baskets or coolers, so that’s a great option. Still, the food was fairly tasty. Prices varied, though, so if you’re buying at the park, you might want to scope it out and tell the kids what they’ll be having. In the spirit of trying a bit of everything, we sampled a Boneless Buffalo Chicken Combo (a generous portion of chicken, tasty fries, and a soda) for $9.99, an Italian sausage with fresh peppers and onions for $4.99, and slices of pizza that were $3 to $4. All of the food tasted pretty good, but a slice of pizza was not enough food for lunch for super-active and hungry kids. If I did it again, I’d probably still buy lunch, but I’d bring along some healthy snacks as well. For $6.99 you can get a drink in a souvenir mug with 99-cent refills, which is a good way to keep those kids hydrated. One thing that wasn’t obvious is that at the Idaho Fresh Cut Fries place, you can get the Chicken Combo without the Buffalo sauce, so a single chicken and fries combo like I had could easily feed two young kids. Halfway through our visit we determined that we needed more sunscreen, and I was glad to see plenty of sunscreen at prices that weren’t jacked up for desperate parents like me. Which reminds me, don’t leave food unattended even for a minute. When I took the girls away from our table to re-spray them with sunscreen, a couple of aggressive seagulls almost made off with my fries before they were waved off by random helpful strangers.
After the water park, we headed to the dry section of the amusement park. Here Jack Rabbit, a classic wooden coaster that’s the third-oldest coaster operating in the country, was a big favorite. Just across from Jack Rabbit, Bear Trax is a really great option for a first roller coaster ride. Both were fun for the whole family and non-nausea-inducing. I can’t say the same thing for Revolution 360, which left me so green that I skipped the Whirlwind, which Cute W and M both loved. A favorite for all of us was The Spring, which was a vertical ride that lifted and dropped you repeatedly. For some reason it just caused all of us to giggle uncontrollably. J and I decided to spring repeatedly since there was no wait.
Just next to The Spring there were rocking chairs set up to watch the carousel or just to take in the people passing by. It’s a great example of the whole friendly and relaxed atmosphere all around Seabreeze. The place was clean, and it was fun without feeling too frenetic and overstimulating. It wasn’t one of those destinations (like, say Chuck E. Cheese) that just makes you think, “Oh, gosh, did I remember to bring Advil?” when you walk in. Maybe because it wasn’t too crowded and you could see trees and green space most of the time? It also helped that the staff were great. The lifeguards and usual teens who man the rides at parks seemed more alert and friendlier than average, and there were clearly more senior staff members, supervising and looking on in a benign way that made you feel like they could handle anything. All of which made it a relaxing (well, that’s a relative term) experience for us parents.
Oh! And there were periodic acrobatic shows, which the kids enjoyed.
We had a wonderful time. In fact, we’d heard that it was small, so we’d expected to spend two to four hours there, but we ended up at Seabreeze for a six-hour marathon. If you’re thinking of going, 2012 tickets are $26.99 for adults who plan to ride and slide, $21.99 for kids 48″ and under, and kids 2 years and under are free. Check out details here.
It’s got soft ice cream, and although I’m not an expert, I thought it was awesome. They always have chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate almond, and they’ll have one or two other flavors that rotate.
If you’re wavering at all, go for the chocolate almond. It’s not chocolate almond flavored ice cream, but the chocolate ice cream is topped with lightly salted chopped almonds. It’s really quite extraordinarily tasty. In fact, I have to stop looking at the website now.
Also right near Abbott’s and Seabreeze is Ontario Beach Park on Lake Ontario. There’s a lovely carousel and a playground there, so if you wanted to do something a bit calmer before or after the amusement park, it’s conveniently located. When I stopped by, though, the beach itself was closed to swimmers. I chatted up some lifeguards and they suggested their two favorite local beaches, Durand Eastman, which is just a few miles east and still within the City of Rochester, and Hamlin Beach State Park, which is farther out to the west.