The Great Escape in Lake George, New York is a small park with a rich history. Debuting as Storytown USA in 1954, it claims to be one of the first theme parks ever opened in the United States. The brainchild of a prominent local man named Charles Wood, the park was renamed "The Great Escape" in 1983 to reflect its expanding offerings, which by that time included a Ghost Town and Jungleland area as well as major rides. Below is the historic heart of the park.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
The Great Escape
The Great Escape's most notable attraction was added in 1994. The Comet has a long history and was seen at the time of its opening as a victory in preservation, as it began its life at Crystal Beach Park in Ontario, Canada in 1948. However, its origins stretch back even further than that.
The Comet used much of the structural steel from the former Cyclone at Crystal Beach, which was known as one of the most intense coasters of all time, so much so that a nurse was often stationed at its exit. From its opening in 1927, the brutal Cyclone grew increasingly less popular and more difficult to maintain. The redesigned Comet was an economical way to add a new ride and became a local favorite.
Crystal Beach closed in 1989, and everyone hoped that the Comet would find a new home. When Charlie Wood purchased it at auction, many breathed a sigh of relief. It would take several years, but the Comet finally opened at its new home in 1994.
In 1996, the park was absorbed into the rapidly expanding Premier Parks, which purchased the massive chain of Six Flags parks two years later. Today, the Great Escape is one of three parks owned by Six Flags that does not use the Six Flags name.
Ghost Town was added in 1957. You originally had to walk through a cave behind a waterfall to enter, though you can see that that was blocked off the day I visited due to construction near the other end. When it first opened, Ghost Town contained many small buildings and exhibits, but the area's charm has fallen victim to Six Flags, who replaced the classic Tornado darkride with the Canyon Blaster mine train coaster in 2003.
You can still find remnants of the park's Storytown beginnings in its center. The pumpkin coach around the castle used to be a unique attraction where children could ride with Cinderella, but now it's only used as a display piece.
Although Six Flags erased some of the park's charm, Great Escape still has a much more pleasant, "country" atmosphere compared to other Six Flags parks, as it retains lots of trees.
Charles Wood was known not only for his work in making Lake George a well-known tourist destination but also as a friend to the community with his prolific charitable work. A colorful character, Wood was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks' Hall of Fame in 1992.
Arto Monaco was a famous local artist who built child-sized play buildings for Storytown USA and other parks in the Adirondacks, including his own, the Land of Make-Believe.
I hope you enjoyed your tour of the Great Escape. Next post, we'll take a tour of the park's outdoor Alice in Wonderland walkthrough.