In the category of places that aren’t fun for parents, but are fun for kids, I have to place Belmont Park’s historic oceanfront Belmont Park amusement park close to the top. It has all the hallmarks of a kid-magnet: rides, hot dogs on sticks, prizes, bells, whistles and a multitude of attacks on all five senses.
Now, here’s why it’s still worth the outlay of cash and high risk of sunburn. Your kids will love it so much you’ll stop caring how much you want to go home.
You’ll watch your kids toss a baseball at a wall of balloons (to the tune of $9) to earn a stuffed surfer frog worth 37 cents, and you’ll know somewhere deep inside that you won’t forget it. Also, you’ll congratulate yourself for being the best parent ever, because you forewent the natural beauty of the beach — just yards away — to allow your kids the manmade pleasures of the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Vertical Plunge and the Speedway Bumper Cars.
The Giant Dipper isn’t just giant; it’s also old and really scary
Located in the Mission Bay area of San Diego, this park was opened by a big sugar magnate back in 1925. The most famous attraction there is still the good old Big Dipper, a roller coaster that almost seems frozen in time, a throwback to another era, when safety and smoothness maybe weren’t huge considerations when it came to speeding down a rickety old track at high rates of speed.
This outdoor amusement park on the beach is free, but all of the rides you buy a la carte (if you don’t want to purchase a day pass). We had an extra ticket at the end of the day, so I rode this bad boy with my 7 year old.
The only thing that could neutralize the jarring nature of the track, the sensation of free-falling, the abject terror, was the opposite reaction my son Nate was having. A smile was plastered on his face every single second (which was hard to see under the SPF 2,000 I had to slather on it for the day).
This place is great for pre-k style amusement, too
My 4 year old wasn’t tall enough to ride most of the rides, but he was happy enough to buzz around the (indoor) arcade and spend mommy’s money.
And I must say, if an arcade is going to systematically lure the coins from my pocket, I appreciate when they make the transaction simple, in this case, by offering plastic cards that you can load up with cash and use to play the games. Expect the usual array of video games, Skee-Ball, pinball, etc.
The country’s most delicious cult food item is on point and on the premises
Disney fans are obsessed with Dole Whip, the pineapple flavored soft serve most notably available at Disneyland (if you don’t mind waiting in a very long line). Because of this vegan dessert’s cult following, I decided to hit up the little Dole Whip stand at Belmont Park, which very few people seem to know exists.
For $8, I got a giant plastic pineapple filled with sweet pineapple goodness and topped with a paper umbrella.
What can I say about this stuff, that inspires loyalty and love across our great nation? That is the subject of many an adoring food log? Is it overrated?
NOPE. It is underrated
Nothing I read about Dole Whip before my visit to San Diego prepared me for its perfection, the airy texture, the delightful tang, the creaminess of it all. They also sell pineapple floats, which douse the Dole soft serve in juice. They also offer strawberry flavored whip.
To be honest, when I think about Belmont Park, it’s like the entire memory file in my brain is tinged with pineapple, and I’m not afraid to admit I was forced to return the next day for another dose.
Sure, I had to ride the Giant Dipper again, but it was well worth it. One is frozen in time, one is just plain frozen, but they both taste like old school San Diego, in the best way.
And when you’re ready to escape Belmont Park, The Dana on Mission Bay, BW Premier Collection® is just a short five minute drive away, waiting to welcome you back from your day of crowds, money spent and rickety rides.