After months of staying inside, amusement parks are finally opening back up! One of the closest parks to where I am right now is Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, and I was able to visit yesterday, June 16, for the second time in my life.
June 16, 2020
What a perfect, sunny day for an amusement park on the pier! Pleasure Pier is a small amusement park that delivers big thrills, and for me, good memories too. Way back in the summer of 2012, when I was transitioning into middle school and back when I was still in the GP phase, I visited the park for my first time. I remember riding all the rides, going to the beach, riding more rides, and marathoning Iron Shark until midnight. Yesterday I got the opportunity to finally revisit this park and not that much has changed after all these years.
Tickets and Pricing
I only had to drive an hour to get here, and since there are not that many rides, I only needed a few hours here. Unlike most amusement parks in the country, Pleasure Pier does not have a fixed entrance fee. Instead, you can pay for rides individually or buy an unlimited rides pass for only $27.99. I chose the unlimited rides pass because it is cheap and a really good deal. I purchased the ticket online and the agent exchanged it for a wristband. What’s cool about the wristband is that you are allowed to exit the park and re-enter as long as you keep it on. That is what I did last time I was here. I think it’s a fantastic deal and is way more convenient than paying each time you want to ride something.
Rides and Attractions
The pier has a really good selection of rides, including a 100 ft tall Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter coaster known as Iron Shark. It is a short ride, but really fun and you can never go wrong with a vertical climb and beyond-vertical drop. Unfortunately, the coaster has gotten rough over the years. This seemed to be more of a problem in the front row, so that’s something to keep in mind when you go to ride it.
After Iron Shark, we rode the Texas Star Flyer. I have been on a few of these tall sky screamer swing rides but this one by far was the best of them all. The ride is located right at the edge of the pier, meaning that you are literally flying more than 200 feet above the water. It is awesome!
Next up was Pirate’s Plunge, the park’s log flume with cheesy theming. The ride was better (and wetter) than I remembered. After this I rode the Larson Loop, known as Cyclone, and the pendulum ride called Revolution. The last time I rode one of these was last summer at the fair in Spain, and the Revolution was very tame compared to that one. I then rode another flat ride that spins in circles and bounces up and down, and it was way more nauseating than I remembered.
After this it was time for some re-rides. For a brief moment Iron Shark was a walk-on and I got a fantastic ride in the back row. I then got a zen ride on the log flume. At this point it was getting late, and I really wanted to ride the Star Flyer again but it had a line. We wrapped up the visit with the small swing ride before mistakenly realizing that the other park of the day, Kemah Boardwalk, would close earlier than we thought. Oh well.
Ride Reliability and Safety
I was expecting it to be a walk-on like it was the other time, but unfortunately there was a line. Surprisingly, the new standards of cleanliness did not impact the coaster’s throughput. But what did affect it was that as soon as I got to the station, the ride was experiencing technical difficulties. (This seemed to be a common theme throughout the day.) I cannot forget the moment a mechanic opened up a shed and took out a towel and rubbed it onto the track. The ride operators said it needed a greasing (could this explain how Iron Shark has gotten so rough?) and without testing the ride, they let four guinea pigs on the ride. Seems sketchy for an amusement park in America, right?
Something weird happened on the Texas Star Flyer as well. As we got on the ride, we were all forced to undo our seatbelts and wait near the exit. The last thing I heard was that it had something to do with resetting the winch. If that’s the case, then how on earth could a ride operator forget an important procedure and remember it only when everybody is already loaded? Between this incident and the problems with Iron Shark, I felt a bit nervous about the overall safety of this park.
Lastly, the pirate ship broke down and although the mechanics were quick to fix things, they were not able to get it back up and running for the rest of the day.
Food and Amenities
Most of the food and drink locations were closed, and I’m assuming it’s related to the pandemic. Among the ones that were open, there was not a whole lot to choose from. I bought a cheeseburger and fries, but the food was very dry and tasted old.
If you want decent food at the pier, Bubba Gump Shrimp and the other large restaurants near the exit are pretty much the only places I would recommend for good food.
* Because COVID-19 has changed the way amusement parks operate, I will be adding a temporary category to my park reviews. I feel it is important to measure how well parks are dealing with the situation.
- Guests do not have to make reservations to enter or to ride the attractions– Because Pleasure Pier is a small park and it does not attract many people compared to larger parks, I feel like this isn’t an issue here. It is also convenient because there is no fixed entrance fee.
- Masks are not mandatory for guests but employees must wear them- Although the park doesn’t get too many people, there are some very tight spaces where I think people should be forced to wear masks. I saw some people wearing one but most were not. I wore one wherever I was in close proximity to other people.
- Social distancing is inconsistent- While there are markers to tell people where to stand, they are only located in certain areas. For example, at the ticket booth they did a good job with this but in the queue for Iron Shark it was not being enforced at all.
- Some arcade games and food stalls were closed- I am assuming that about half of the food stands were closed to limit capacity.
- Rides were sanitized frequently but this was also inconsistent– On most of the rides, every seat and restraint was wiped down between every cycle. This did not really effect the operations except on one ride where the process was unacceptably slow. On Iron Shark it seemed like they were only wiping down seats that people sat in, and towards the end it seemed like they stopped sanitizing the ride all together. One thing that I found annoying is that guests were not given hand sanitizer before getting on any of the rides. Just to be safe I brought my own sanitizer and used it each time I rode something.
- Tables were placed six feet apart but employees were still handing out cash.- I really think they should have implemented cashless transfers, as money is a common disease vector.
- They did a good job at providing sanitizing locations throughout the park– There were many random hand sanitizer locations strategically placed near restrooms, arcade games and bathrooms.
Overall, I think Pleasure Pier did an ok job at handling the pandemic but they could definitely do better.
That is it for my review of Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. It was great to be back here after such a long time. I'll see you next time at Kemah Boardwalk! Ride on!