Zone-ing out

July 08, 2001

Danette Goulet

When you wander among the white clapboard buildings with green-teal

trim, you may think, "the Balboa Fun Zone has seen its heyday -- and it's


But when you sit atop a carousel horse as it pitches forwardbefore

pulling you back up again and look out over the once-packed brick

boardwalk next to the bay, it is easy to feel nostalgia for a scene you


never even saw.

At least that's what I thought when I went for my first Fun Zone


From the outside, the Fun Zone just seems old. But once you get into

the spirit of things -- ride the rides, watch the children -- you realize

there is still life in the place that entrepreneur Al Anderson created in

the middle of Washington, Palm and Bay avenues in 1936.

Anderson brought amusement park-style attractions and with them the

young crowds of the springtime Bal Week celebrations. But the area became

rather rundown over the years and, following the 1970s and the rising

popularity of Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, was at one point slated

for demolition. But the landmark Fun Zone was saved, renovated and

remodeled. New shops and eateries, along with the carousel and Ferris

wheel, were added, and it was reopened in 1986.

So what is there today for vacationers and bored local families to do

this summer? Quite a bit, actually.

Opening at 11 a.m., it doesn't take the bayfront block long to start

bustling. There are five amusement park rides without the outrageous

admission fee of a park.

I tried the Scary Dark Ride fun house first. It's not high-tech, with

its iridescent paint warnings on the walls, glow-in-the-dark skeletons

and canned screams and cackles, but it did make me scream once.

The carousel was first class all the way, thanks to the view and my

silver steed, which was in top condition.

Next I tried the Little Drummer Boy ride, which is a close relative to

the spinning teacups. Not knowing my own strength, I cranked the center

wheel until I feared the loss of my eggs Benedict. But the two little

girls in the drum next to me, Ashley McIntyre, 8, and her sister Devon,

5, touted the ride as very fun.

I passed up the bumper cars fearing I'd look like a bully, because the

other drivers at the time were all younger than 10, so instead I went to

watch a small child fly through the air on the Rock 'n Bungee.

This thing is great.

You put on a harness with a bungee at each hip and bounce on a

trampoline -- except their feet never touched the trampoline. Besides

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