Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 2, 2002

Let’s beef up Bonfante’s lines

Although we were a season late to the party, my family has finally joined the Bonfante Gardens bandwagon.

All four of us have season passes, which – at more than $250 for two adults and two kids – is not an inexpensive venture, and have enjoyed the park in recent weeks.

My daughter is just barely tall enough to get on the “big kid” rides at the park, including Quicksilver Express roller coaster, the Banana Split and the Mushroom Swing.

Her reaction upon experience with each of these thrills has been fun to watch: a mixture of excitement (“I’m flying!”) and fear (I’m so scared!”). Her body language tells the same story, as she alternates between bravely thrusting her hands in the air and wisely using a white-knuckle grip to grab whatever safety device is strapping her in.

I’ve visited Bonfante Gardens twice on weekday evenings after work since the park’s summer hours began, and have been both thrilled and worried that we’ve been able to walk right up to rides with absolutely no waiting. Of course, the least fun part of any theme park is lines; but the lack of queues is worrisome because the attendance doesn’t seem to bode well for the beleaguered park’s long-term survival.

My husband, who was on a new-fangled “you will take this week off” vacation from the Silicon Valley firm where he works, took our kids, age 7 and 11, during daytime hours last week, and also reported no lines.

Our kids are enjoying the novelty of being able to attend an amusement park at the drop of a hat, and it’s nice that it’s a place Mom and Dad enjoy as well.

As a well-documented plant nut, I love to wander around, gawking at the amazing circus trees and envying the beautifully landscaped grounds, which are a far cry from the concrete jungle theme parks I remember from my childhood.

I would ask, however, that the park do a better job of identifying the plants. I think every patch of lovely growing things should have a little sign with its Latin and common names.

I’m learning to barter with the kids so that we spend our time on a mix of the rides they love and the gardens I enjoy. Of course, after lines, the worse part of theme parks is getting the kids to go home. The threat of not returning for a long, long tim is usually enough to stop the whining about leaving the park.

But it’s great to live close enough to a theme park that the expense of season passes is justified. When I was growing up in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, the nearest amusement parks (King’s Island and Cedar Point, respectively) were more than two hours away. What a treat to be just 15 minutes from Bonfante Gardens.

But I hope it’s not a short-lived treat. As season-pass holders, we recently received a letter from the park’s general manager that mentioned that Bonfante Gardens’ weekday closing time has been moved from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. for economic reasons.

I hope all South County residents will visit Bonfante Gardens – often. Buy a season pass. Take your visiting relatives to the park for a day (or two). Introduce your friends from “up north” – San Jose and the Peninsula, for example – to this prize right in their back yards.

Do what you can to ensure that this treasure is available for South County residents – as well as visitors from distant locales – to enjoy beyond this season.

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