Seattle's Department of Planning and Development has just given the OK to build a giant "observation wheel" (essentially an enclosed and slower-moving ferris wheel) on the Seattle Center grounds. I've ridden the London Eye before. It's overpriced and boring. So what are some better carnival-style contraptions that would be way more exciting than an observation wheel? Here are five.
4. Freak Out. If the name alone doesn't have you sold, then the photo should. Imagine a horrible swinging, rotating pendulum of screaming vacationers, made visible from space with the help of a huge number of blinking LED lights. Not only would the ride benefit those on it, it would also be a boon to anyone who decided to take hallucinogenic drugs and hang out on the lawn.
3. The Zipper. A staple in the nightmares of American children for decades, The Zipper combines all the comfort of being locked in a steel car-shaped cage with all the excitement of crashing it repeatedly into a wall. Remember, we want our tourists disoriented and showing poor judgment. And since anyone who gets on the Zipper is obviously already suffering from the latter condition, whipping them into a state of confusion should be easy.
2. Roller Coaster. Really, the obvious choice in waterfront amusement. The question becomes what kind of roller coaster? The best are typically the old wooden behemoths, where beams creak, screws are rusted, and every ride gives people the sense that the whole thing could come crashing down at any second. I'd advocate a complete reproduction of the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz, Calif., built in 1924 and only held together by chewing gum and marijuana resin blowing in from the pot-obsessed locals.
1. Gravitron. Not only does the Gravitron (sometimes called The Twister) pack all the nauseous power of the four previous rides, it does so with a live DJ and a set of seizure-inducing lights that can make people feel high even if they're only eating cotton candy. The Gravitron is basically a large, spinning top-like ride where people lie flat against the inner edge and then are pinned against the wall by centrifugal force as the thing rotates at ridiculous speeds. In Seattle, we could make the outer wall out of glass and stack a dozen of them on top of each other so there would be a rotating tower of vomiting visitors, to whom we can can sell food again and again in an endlessly enriching cycle of eat, purge, and repeat.
So, yeah, maybe an "observation wheel" is more "classy" and "practical" than a cheap, fairly dangerous carnival ride, but Seattle was founded by risk-takers. And frankly, I think the Denny Party would have been proud to barf funnel cake all over The Zipper.