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Ready Player One: Arcades, miniature golf winners in Lake George

Summer on Lake George

Ready Player One: Arcades, miniature golf winners in Lake George

The latest in games in popular summer spot
Ready Player One: Arcades, miniature golf winners in Lake George
4-year-old Avery Picca of Queensbury plays a round of mini-golf at Around The World in Lake George on Sunday, June 9, 2019.
Photographer: Erica Miller

A walk through Fun World in Lake George is like bouncing through a pinball machine.

Flashing red and yellow lights team up with electronic whistles and eclectic melodies for a visual and aural experience. Classic 1970s video games such as "Space Invaders" and "Pac-Man" fly and gobble on giant screens.

The "Deadstone Pirates" and dinosaurs from the "Jurassic Park/Jurassic World" movie series present other challenges -- when players climb into large globe-like booths connected to the games and suit up for action.

"It's like a kiddy casino," said Erin Coon, who has been running the landmark arcade at the corner of Canada Street and McGillis Avenue since 2018.

If people are not strolling, swimming or shopping in Lake George, they may be trying other diversions. Electronic games and miniature golf have always been among the most popular summer diversions in Lake George.

Anyone who has visited the lake during the past five decades knows Fun World, the arcade Robert Blais — longtime mayor of Lake George — opened during the 1970s. 

Maddie Ballerini, 11, of Harwinton, Connecticut, concentrates during her high-speed adventure on the "Super Bikes" at the Fun World arcade in Lake George. The arcade offers 100 games for people who like video, pinball and athletic challenges. Jeff Wilkin photo  JEFF WILKIN/GAZETTE REPORTER
Maddie Ballerini, 11, of Harwinton, Connecticut, concentrates during her high-speed adventure on the "Super Bikes" at the Fun World arcade several years ago in Lake George.

Erin's father, Douglas Coon, purchased the business in 2011 and later sold to Erin and Sean.

"For Lake George, I think the arcades are a draw because you're walking on the strip and it's hot, it gives you a chance to get out of the sun," Coon said. "People come back over and over."

Fun World players purchase "cards" good for monetary denominations, and the more they spend, the bigger the bonus play. Old favorites like pinball, air hockey and Skee-Ball -- the latter a bowling-like game that challenges players to roll grapefruit-sized balls up a ramp and into a high-numbered slot.

More: Your guide to summer on Lake George

Kids can still shoot hoops in a timer-based, electronic scoring basketball game. And summer would not be complete unless kids and their parents were able to take selfies the old-fashioned way -- inside a photo booth where serious poses are generally not considered.

"It gives the kids a chance to run around in an environment where the parents can see them," Coon said of the arcade.

Coon likes the booth-style games.

"People like the feeling of being enclosed," she said. "You can really immerse yourself in the game. Most of them are shooting games so you're either hunting pirates or doing a 'Jurassic Park' themed trip with dinosaurs. I know the other arcade in town also as them. And they're two-players, so it's a great way for a brother and sister or father and son to go in and play a game together."

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Will Janos, of Queensbury, plays a game of skeeball at Playland Arcade on Canada Street in the Village of Lake George in Lake George on Sunday, June 9, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Will Janos, of Queensbury, plays a game of skeeball at Playland Arcade on Canada Street in the Village of Lake George in Lake George on Sunday, June 9, 2019.

The Playland Arcade, located two blocks up Canada Street at the corner of Montcalm Street, offers cycling games, pinball, high-tech video and a throwback to another era — a wild west-style shooting gallery.

People don't have to be good shots to play miniature golf at the lake. At Pirate's Cove, an 18-hole course on Route 9 just north of Route 9N, half the fun is walking the course. Players travel under a waterfall, walk a fishnet covered bridge and putt their golf balls down a steep hill.

Players also learn about guys who wore bandanas on their heads and knives in their teeth. Placards that offer pirate legends and facts, such as their reputations for sea raids and poor culinary choices, are scattered around the field of play.

Pirate headquarters is part of a chain. The "Cove" has 25 locations in 14 states.

On Beach Road, "Around the U.S.A. in 18 Holes" and its companion course, "Around the World in 18 Holes" have been summer stops since Harry C. Horn opened the "U.S.A." course in 1963.

Horn died in 2014 at age 91. During a 2001 interview with The Daily Gazette, he offered his take on the non-stressful alternative to maxi-golf: "It's something nice to do out in the air," he said. "The grandparents can play with the children but they can't play something else. There's no age limit."

The Beach Road courses are colorful and creative. Each hole has a theme: A kangaroo is the symbol of Australia. A rustic tree house sits over the Kentucky hole. A surfer, Paris sidewalk, giant orange and smiling Paul Bunyan are also on the grounds.

ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER  
Customers play a round of mini-golf at Around The World in Lake George on Sunday, June 9, 2019.ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Customers play a round of mini-golf at Around The World in Lake George on Sunday, June 9, 2019.

Jim Huntington, groundskeeper on the two courses, believes nostalgia is one reason people keep coming back to Beach Road.

"I meet the grandchildren of people who came here when they were kids," he said. "I've met people here from Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Australia."

It's just not mothers, fathers, kids and grandparents knocking around red, green, yellow and purple golf balls. "There are a lot of hipsters who do it too," he said. "They may not admit to it among their friends, but they're up here golfing.

"I get the biggest kick out of the young kids who come up here, it might be their first time golfing and Dad or Mom generally show them how to use the club and how to stand. Within one hole, it turns into a game of hockey. It's a riot."

More: Your guide to summer on Lake George

Amanda Metzger, marketing director for the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, believes miniature golf and arcade machines are fun for both kids and adults. "They span every generation," she said.

While arcades are weatherproof — they can score crowds on both hot and rainy days -- Metzger said people should not automatically think rain in the forecast means a lost opportunity for a trip north.

"Maybe it rain or showers for an hour, you may have a beautiful day the rest of the day," she said. "We encourage people to look at the hour-by-hour forecast."

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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