Lafayette, LA (KPEL News) - Louisiana families begin planning their summer vacations as spring begins and the time changes. Today, those vacations involve flip flops, sand toys, and heading east. For Louisiana's Gen-X, families traveled west. Mom reminded us to wear comfortable shoes and clothes that could get wet. We were going to Astroworld in Houston, Texas!

The amusement park would celebrate its 56th anniversary on June 1 this year (it opened in 1968), had it not closed in 2005. The place filled with fun was located south of I-610 between Kirby Drive and Fannin Street. I remember fondly driving close to it, my face pressed against the car window (no seatbelt laws back then), anticipation dancing in my tummy.

I visited the park several times between the late 1970s and early 1990s, and I can identify my favorite rides from pictures. I recently saw a Facebook post with a picture of the park map and it all came rushing back. That map was our guide to excitement and constant smiles.

If you're from Louisiana and of a certain age, you likely made a trip or two to the place filled with wonder situated next to the Astrodome. Our family traveled for a few nights away, our youth group made a couple of day trips, and my husband and I took a few jaunts west with friends to just have fun.

Remember the commercials? Each time a new roller coaster or attraction was created, a new commercial aired to tease children and have them begging their parents to take them (I did!). Before the dancing old man campaign, Astroworld commercials simply showed parents and children in various states of thrall.

The thought of climbing into the car of a roller coaster today makes my stomach lurch. I get nauseated if I take a curve too fast. But back in the day, I couldn't get enough of the twists, turns, and drops each ride had to offer.

Louisiana Gen-Xers, let's remember together what it felt like to be in those roller coaster cars and getting splashed by the water rides. Buckle up! Here we go!


The XLR8 (pronounced accelerate) was a marvel when it began operating in 1984. It was unique because the cars dangled from the tracks. It didn't go very fast, but it was so much fun! To a teenager in the mid and late 80s, it looked very futuristic and high tech. For the younger folks, remember that the concept of a computer in our pocket hadn't entered our consciousness.


A coaster that goes upside down? In 1978, that was a big deal. While Greezed Lightnin' may look very meh and unimpressive by 2024 standards, it looked terrifying to an 8-year-old. Located in the "Western Junction" section of Astroworld, anyone walking through could hear the screams of riders. The name represented more than just a terrifying thrill ride to this Louisiana girl. The movie Grease featuring the song of the same name came out the same year.


The park's second oldest roller coaster, Excaliber began running in 1972 under a different name. Truth be told, it was this Crowley girl's absolute favorite. It was just fast enough to be exciting and had the right number of twist and dips to be thrilling. Astroworld dismantled it at the Houston location in 1998, long after my last trip there.


The not-so-steep drop and plunge into the pool at the bottom is burned into my memory. Our family of four (at the time) would climb into the "boats" that had something resembling bamboo on the sides, my sister and I seated next to one of my parents. Off and around the bend through the "lush forest" of the Orient we'd go, and then the big plunge to splash ourselves and anyone standing nearby. No trip to Astroworld was complete without a ride on the Bamboo Shoot!


To this day, I can still feel my stomach in my throat after the one and only time I rode the sky screamer. I had just turned 13, and our youth group took a day trip to Astroworld. We all lined up to climb onto the platform where you'd stand to be dropped from the sky (hence, the name). I remember being terrified, but this Louisiana girl would have gnawed off my arm before admitting it to our group. Four riders climbed onto the car of the freefall ride that dropped you more than 130 feet. Just dropped. The Sky Screamer was definitely a ride you either loved or hated.


Despite its ominous name, the Serpent was tame. A ride down a Louisiana road will give you more of a jolt, truthfully, but it was Astroworld's first roller coaster. The ride on the steel track took you on a trip through foliage and over what amounted to a large pond. The Serpent was a good way to start the day or experience roller coasters for the first time.


Saying "Astroworld" immediately conjures up a mental picture of the Texas Cyclone. It served as a hallmark of the Houston theme park. The wooden roller coaster was created to mimic the Coney Island Cyclone and was two minutes and 15 seconds of thrills. In the video, you'll hear the clackity-clack as the train of cars makes the initial climb before that jolting drop. The Texas Cyclone didn't ease you into the thrill. It started with the fall. The coaster would plunge, whiz, and then slow down before doing it all again. As the cars came to a stop, riders caught their breath and got back in line for another turn.

Astroworld holds so many memories for me and other Louisiana kids who know what it felt like to approach the ticket booth. As I write this article, I think about the cable cars, Thunder Rapids, the shows with dancing girls in beautiful costumes, and smiling until my cheeks hurt. My adult self loves going to the beach and relaxing, but that little girl inside remembers the days when our days were planned with a colorful map and an exciting opportunity to be scared silly waited around every corner. Louisiana folks were lucky to have such a treasure so close to home.

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