Passing the Torch and Making New Memories At Huck Finn's Playland

Sunday, June 30, 2024

 It's disappointing when you reach the end of a good book, exciting when there's a sequel and even better when it becomes a series.  The same is true for places where family traditions are formed and memories are made and such is the case for Huck Finn's Playland - formerly Hoffman's Playland.

I first blogged about the Playland back in 2014 when Ruth and Dave Hoffman were about to retire after running Hoffman's Playland since 1951.  At the time of that post, the future of the park was uncertain.  Despite efforts by a group of 20,000 area residents to find someone to take over the park, things looked pretty bleak, that is until Huck Finn's Warehouse owners decided to purchase and move all the rides to its property in the warehouse district in downtown Albany.  

I wrote about the park again in 2015 after our first visit to Huck Finn's Playland in Albany.  I'd had some concerns prior to our visit but we were all relieved and excited to find that aside from the new location, not much had changed at the park.  The Playland was the same magical park, with the same fun rides, a bunch of fresh faced young employees eager to provide a fun and safe experience for kids and their families.  

The park has once again changed hands as Huck Finn's passed the torch to Troy native, Joe Masher and Scene One Entertainment.  Joe not only heads up Movieland 6 in Downtown Schenectady, the Wilton Mall Cinemas in Saratoga Springs, and Spectrum 8 Theater in Albany, he had personal reasons for wanting to carry on the legacy of the Playland.  Joe's first amusement park rides took place at the original Hoffman's Playland.  He, like so many of us natives of the Capital District, has fond memories of time spent at Hoffman's Playland as a child.  He understands that to be able to bring our own kids and grandkids to the same park today is truly special.

We returned to the park as adults with our girls back in the 80's and again in 2011 when we returned to the park with our first granddaughter.  Since then, we've made annual visits each summer and I can tell you, the excitement of going to the park never fades for our grandkids.  When we announced last Friday that we were going to Huck Finn's, their eyes lit up.  Even our soon-to-be 14 year old was excited.

I've always loved this venue - it's large enough to provide hours of fun but small enough for grandparents to navigate without total exhaustion.  It seems lots of folks feel the same because we were surrounded by lots of grandparents, as well as many young moms with their little ones.  The first thing we noticed was a plethora of new umbrellas on all the picnic tables providing much needed relief from the blazing sun.  I'd read that creating more 'shade' is high on Joe's short list and I was thrilled to be able to catch my breath out of the sun.  In the meantime, he's also had misting stations installed at one end of the park.  While the weather Friday was cool and breezy, kids seemed to really enjoy the fun of a gentle mist, especially this kid ;)

We've always been impressed by the young employees running the rides and this year was no different.  Although a little older than years past, each staff member we met was patient, kind and friendly.  No one though can top the gal conducting the train.  Although her job that morning was to run the train, when she heard our grandson was disappointed that the slide was not open, she said, "I've got a few minutes, I'll open it for you."  Of course, when the kids at the park saw the slide was now open, a long line quickly formed and before you know it, 30 minutes had passed and it was time for the next train run.  Our gal told the kids to hang on for 5 minutes and she'd be back to reopen the slide.  True to her word, she manned that ride for another 1/2 hour....climbed down the stairs several times to take tickets, then back up to assist the next 3 kids safely down their run.  What was most impressive - this employee was not a kid, or young adult.  But she clearly understood a kid's heart and made sure  this kid didn't leave the park disappointed.  I'm betting we were one of many folks on the receiving end of her above and beyond kindness.

Many of the rides have been repainted, new awnings have been purchased, new propellers made, and many more updates making Huck Finn's Playland a perfect family getaway, close to home and not requiring a full day investment.  It's obvious Joe Masher has invested not just his wallet, but his heart into ensuring that families will be able to continue making memories and creating traditions for years to come.  

When I sat down to prepare this piece, specifically the photos, I went through years of photo files, hundreds of photos, from just the past 13 years.  I saw my grandkids, whose first trip to the park was as a toddlers, grow and change year after year, each year still savoring the thrill of each and every ride.  I've mourned (with them) as they were saddened to have outgrown kiddie rides, especially the boats.  I've watched them as they graduated to the bigger, faster rides, as they mustered up the courage to ride the scrambler and the roller coaster.  I've watched my husband as he joyfully relived his childhood as he accompanied the kids on these rides, as I stood on the side capturing the memories, the smiles and the unbridled joy.  Hoffman's/Huck Finn's Playland has provided so many years of memories and so much joy to so, so many.  We are so grateful for Huck Finn's Warehouse and now to Joe Masher for keeping these traditions alive and strong.  I'm sure so many families share my sentiments.

Back in the mid '80's....our daughters at Hoffman's Playland ....


And my youngest daughter's girls through the years:

And my older daughter's son at his first carousel ride with Dad and tis  with his Grandpa....
Like Mom, like son.....1986 and 2024

And a few more photos from our recent visit:
Fully restored to greet carousel riders

This year the park opens at 10:00am. We arrived at 10:00, rode almost every ride, several more than once, and left the park at 1:30. The one and only thing I would say needs improvement was the concession stand. At 12:30 on a Friday, my husband was in line for 30 minutes to order 3 fried doughs which he then had to pick up at the food trailer 10 minutes later. I can't imagine what the wait might be on a weekend. That being said, guests are free to bring their own snacks and there are several picnic tables available for dining. The bread dough was delicious. Also new this year, the first Saturday of each month will feature a bubble show by Jani Poppins Bubble Party from 1:00-2:00pm. The park located at 25 Erie Boulevard in Albany, NY and is open Tuesday-Friday, 10:00-7:00pm, Saturday 10:00-9:00pm, and Sunday 10:00-7:00pm. I can't wait to see the park all lit up again! They are closed on Mondays. A book of 20 tickets will cost you $39.95 with a $2.00 coupon for the concession stand. A book of 10 tickets is $24.75. Single tickets are $3.00. Kiddie rides require one ticket (12 rides) and 4 major rides require two tickets. Adults and chaperones require tickets to ride. Something new this year....on Tuesdays, guests can purchase a wrist band for $20 and enjoy unlimited rides all day Tuesday.  We ended up using three books of 20 tickets, with one ticket left over. Everyone had multiple rides, mostly on the two ticket rides.  I consider that a deal and just the right amount of fun (and fresh air) for grandparents and kids.  
If you haven't checked out Huck Finn's Playland yet, I strongly urge you to make a date to do so soon. Your littles, and your tweens, will be begging to go back again and again.  Thanks Joe writing the sequel to Huck Finn's legacy and for keeping the park alive so we can all make new and lasting memories for years to come!
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