After a stressful school year filled with crammed study sessions and all-nighters, only one place can take my mind off it all – Sylvan Beach, New York. Decades ago, my great-great grandparents discovered this beach town on Oneida Lake in Central New York, and it’s been a tradition to visit every summer since.
2nd PLACE 2014 FTF and ILNY TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
HONORABLE MENTION 2014 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
“Anything to drink, hun?” a cheery waitress asks as I peruse the Flashback Café menu. Sipping my coffee in the wrought-iron chairs on the café patio, I watch Sylvan Beach awaken – a well-tanned vacationer drags a laundry bag to the Beachy Clean Laundromat, the owner of the What’s the Scoop ice cream window wipes down his plastic tables and yellow umbrellas, and the employee at the Beachcomber gift shop hangs up colorful inner-tubes. The perfect beach day doesn’t require any intense planning, all it takes is a leisurely breakfast.
First, my family and I slip into bathing suits and walk down to the beach. The tractor that comes by every morning has recently raked the sand, and each step down to the water is soft and satisfying. After we set up umbrellas and lay out towels, I sit in my beach chair and watch the waves lap up onto the sand, like tubes of wrapping paper rolling across the floor. The soft breeze and bright sun is perfect for reading a book or splashing in the lake.
The water can be intimidating at first, as it is filled with clumps of algae and bundles of lake-grass. But it doesn’t take long to get used to, and soon the green clusters are hardly noticeable. We continue the day with my favorite beach activities. Everyone participates in a lively game of cornhole, and we end the afternoon with a friendly handstand competition in the lake.
When we’re finished at the beach, my family and I walk around the block to Eddie’s Restaurant for some pie. My favorite is coconut cream, because one slice is as big as my face and thick as a dictionary. The pie is paired nicely with a Shirley Temple, which is manufactured at the local Saranac brewery in Utica.
After refueling at Eddie’s, we head to the historic Sylvan Beach Amusement Park. It’s right between the Erie Canal and Oneida Lake, and only a two minute walk from the shores of the beach. My favorite ride is called Laffland, a haunted train ride through two old bath houses that used to be operational right down the road at the beach. Next to Laffland are the arcades. Walking by I hear the shrill sirens from the skeeball machines and the soft voice of an employee at the prize counter tallying up tickets.
We grab a slice of pizza for dinner as a pack of little boys run to the Galaxi, one of the tallest roller coasters in Central New York. Many ride the coaster for its thrilling track, but I enjoy the breathtaking views at the top. As the sun sets the coaster car begins its ascent up a hill, and I look out to the left at the glistening lake and the sinking pink and yellow sun.
As dusk sets in, the park gets brighter – lights from the rides flash and swirl and dance, a mini Times Square in the hush of Central New York.
As the park begins to close, so does our perfect beach day. The restaurants lock their doors and cars packed with damp towels and tired children make their way back to normal life. The town slowly falls asleep, preparing for another day of laughter, fun, and memories.
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