While many folks in Seattle were cheering the opening of The Seattle Great Wheel on June 29, one day later the legendary Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster celebrated its 85th birthday. In honor of the coaster’s historic milestone, rides on the Cyclone were 25 cents during the first 85 minutes on Saturday, paying homage to the original price when it first operated on June 26, 1927.
Long considered the “father of America’s roller coaster revolution,” the Cyclone lives on at Luna Park in Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Recent improvements include 280 feet of new track along its first 60-degree drop, which is 85-feet tall at the peak. The ride rattles and rolls through six turnarounds and eight additional drops.
Back in Seattle, the $13 ride ($8.50 for kids 11 and under) at Pier 57 on Alaskan Way proved popular, with people lining up early in the morning for its afternoon debut. The wheel is about 175 feet in diameter, with riders reaching heights of 200 feet above the pier and 40 feet out over Elliott Bay. The 42 air conditioned gondolas each hold up to six passengers, and there’s also a VIP gondola with a glass bottom floor and four leather seats. VIP tickets are $25 and include a Seattle Great Wheel tee-shirt and a shorter wait time. Tickets for the VIP gondola are available only at the pier and the gondola cannot be reserved for a specific time. All rides last about 12 minutes and include three rotations.
The Seattle Great Wheel is not technically a Ferris wheel, which traditionally featured open air seating. But today, most observation and big wheels around the world are often referred to as Ferris wheels, named after George Washington Gale Ferris. He designed and constructed the original one for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The only big wheel I’ve been on is the London Eye, which opened as the Millennium Wheel in honor of the Millennium in 2000. Now one of London’s iconic modern landmarks, the 442-ft. wheel is the UK’s most popular visitor attraction with an admission charge (around $30 US for a 30-minute ride). I’ve seen other wheels during my travels, including the Wheel of Manchester in England and the Singapore Flyer. The latter is the largest in the world, rising 541 feet above the city in the tony Marina Bay development. The ride lasts around 30 minutes, and passengers are in one of 28 air-conditioned capsules that hold up to 28 people.
I’m looking forward to riding The Seattle Great Wheel, but waiting for a clear day when hopefully I can almost see forever.