Where Will Tom Hanks Get Big?

I’ve been scouting around the Westchester area recently, and every day, I pass the exit on I-95 for Rye Playland, an 82-year old waterfront amusement park. I’ve never been, so on my way home today, I decided to finally check it out – and see where Tom Hanks found the Zoltar machine at the end of Big.


Well, good thing he found it when he did – it’s been replaced by a Pepsi machine!


The Pepsi machine is literally located on the exact pole they stationed the prop Zoltar machine. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the same power outlet visible in the above still. Sort of too bad Rye hasn’t installed a working mechanical fortune teller here, or at least a plaque  reading “Zoltar Says: Make Your Wish!” Anything beats a Pepsi machine.


I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get out to Playland – the art deco buildings and boardwalk are absolutely stunning, and as soon as the temperature gets a little warmer (i.e. not 14 below like it was today), I’m going come back out to do a full post.


On my way out, I passed the amusement park, which has been closed for the season.


There’s something so unnatural about seeing an amusement park shut down in the middle of the day, as if the rides are frozen in time, desperately waiting for a button push that will bring them springing back to electronic life.


PS – If you pull the plug on the Pepsi machine, will it do something magical too?

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  1. Hi –

    Having been to Playland many times, I am always amazed that this gem has survived as long as it has. A office friend and I would drive to Playland on Mondays (when the park was closed, and there was no parking fee) to have lunch and walk around the place. It’s a very peaceful place to go when the rides are not running, and I hope that Westchester county always finds the extra money to keep it around for future generations…


  2. Josh Baskin: “I wish I were big.”

    Pepsi Machine: “Here’s some high fructose corn syrup in a can.”

    Josh Baskin: “I meant big as in tall, not big as in fat.”

    Pepsi Machine: “Too late. You made your wish. Drink up.”

  3. She’s been moved to the inside of one of the arcades. Playland is definitely worth a visit during the season-if only because it is far more photographer friendly than Coney.

  4. I have a sister who is much older than I am and she would take me to Rye Playland when I would come visit her over the summer in the last 60s and early 70s. I had almost forgotten about the place – thanks for posting this. 🙂 I’m amazed it’s still there.

  5. I grew up going to Playland. When I was little the annual family trip with all cousins seemed so far away. It was only 20 minutes! My family still goes each year, although sometimes without all the cousins. We have tried over the past few years to get together with them (and their young families) to keep the tradition going. It is so much fun to just watch everyone have a great time The park should be declared a historical site (has it been already?) and preserved. Someone should be able to spend a little time finding a wy to make it profitable for the county.

  6. If you pull the plug on the Pepsi machine, it dispenses Coca-Cola.

  7. Playland is the BEST!!! It has unique old rides that still work including The Whip, which consists of little cars chained together moving around an oval, speeding up around the turns to purposely give the rider whiplash. (YAY!)

    There is also a super fast carousel which tries to imitate horses on a racetrack. The poles on the horses are actually leaned in toward the center to keep you from flying off from the centripetal force.

    Then there is a ride which I have seen in some older amusement parks which is little bucket shaped “airplanes” all attached with cables to a high central spinner. The fun part is that the little planes have a big rudderlike sail in the front that you control with a handle. These catch the wind as the ride turns and allows you to control your movement, dipping up and down. At rye, there is already a good breeze coming off the water, so if you hit the wind right you can pull off these sickening maneuvers where the whole line goes slack for a moment and you feel like you are about to die.

    Then there is the Old Mill ride, which I believe is one of the oldest. It is one of those Small world boat ride deals where you are in a little canal that winds through different decorated rooms and there are animated characters that tell some sort of story. Please go on this just for the John Waters campiness. I think a little kid died on it a few years ago, so there might be a ghost there now.

    Rye is also great because it is not pretentious and is actually used by local city folk that may not have tons of money or time to go to 6 flags.

  8. I only live 10 min. from Rye Playland but I didn’t make it out to the park until this past summer. What a perfect day! This amusement park is beautiful with lots of old, as well as kitschy, charm. Like Queen TEE said in the above post Playland has kept some of the old rides. And there is an old-style b&w photo booth that I sunk a lot of coins into 🙂 One of the best parts was the fact that this amusement park wasn’t overcrowded with people so lines for a rides were short. Too bad for Playland business but good for the consumer. Definitely go back.

  9. I am a former Director of Playland. I have enjoyed your pictures and reading the comments.

    I am pretty certain that the electrical outlet for the Pepsi Machine is the same one that powered Zoltar. By thw way, The Zoltar machine was the property of the fim company and is not in the park.

    The park is a National Historic Landmark. Seven of its rides have individual landmark status; Dragon Coaster, Old Mill, The Whip, Derby Racer, Kiddie Coaster, Kiddie Carousel, Grand Carousel. The ride described by Queen Tee is the Flying Scooter, no longer in operation. To my knowledge there may be an original one at Knoebel’s Grove in Pennsylvania. There is a company that now makes a modern version.

    • @Joe: No more Flying Scooter??? Noooooooo!!!!!!!!! :(. Funny you should mention Knoebels, I grew up going to a summer camp in NJ that would take us there every summer, and I sure do know there is another one of those rides over there. BTW what a cool job working at Playland!

  10. Interesting posts, all. I only went one time, on a school-related outing. It seemed SO far away from where I lived in Queens. For some reason, we called it Rye Beach, not Playland.

    I agree, there should be some kind of marker for the “Big” scene. Katz’s Deli has a sign over the table where the infamous “When Harry Met Sally” scene was filmed. (“I’ll have what she’s having.”) Rye Playland should do something similar.

  11. We pass the exit for Playland all the time, but I haven’t been there in years. Probably 25 or more. I might take your lead and take a ride up there one day this winter on a day it’s not too frigid and get some shots.

  12. Lol god dayam California > New York.. West Coast > East Coast what?? Iz all bout the West kids..

  13. I used to go to Playland all the time about 15 years ago. Is the Mind Scrambler still around?

  14. Playland is AWESOME! I grew up 20 minutes from there and we used to go all the time back in the 70s and 80s. Sad the Air Scooter is not there anymore, that was the best ride ever, since you had at least some control over how fierce the ride was. The Dragon Coaster is terrifying too, especially when you notice on the way up the hill that it is all made of WOOD! The ricketyness just adds to the fear. We used to take boats over there every Friday night for the fireworks all summer long. I miss Playland and I’m glad to hear the rides have actual landmark status so it hopefully will never be torn down to build a mall or some tacky condos.

  15. I was born and raised in Yonkers, not a terribly long drive from Playland, and as a kid we’d go there every weekend in the summer. My friends and I had even made our own “Laugh-In-The-Dark” tribute in my basement ;>)

    Great memories – thanks for bringing them back!

  16. If you’re wondering what happened to Zoltar…the machine is currently located in Cooper’s Seafood Restaurant in Scranton, PA, which has an enormous amount of interesting memorabilia inside. It’s really something to see! And the machine does work 🙂 Not in a Tom Hanks/BIG kind of way, but it will give you your fortune! 🙂

  17. In 1988, I was mountain biking in the Palisades Interstate Park. When I approached Ross Dock(just north of the George Washington Bridge) I came upon a carnival with no people there. None at all. As I went through this Twilight Zone like scene,I came upon Zoltar the fortune teller. It was fascinating! I also found a plywood Fog Horn Leg Horn that said I had to be this big to ride the ride. I was thinking of stealing it when a truck driver drove up. He said that they were filming some”big” movie and he was getting paid double time and a half. I pressed him on the name of the movie and all he could tell me was that it was “big”. Only after the movie came out did I realize how lucky I was.

  18. I went to “Playland” at the end of every year on a class trip (grades 6 – 8). Got my first kiss in “Ye Old Mill” (thanks Joey). I remember a ride….the Rotor. I’d always promise myself NOT to go on it…it made me vomit. But every year, I would go on it. It’s not at the park anymore. I guess too many kids got sick. Ahhhhh, youth…it is wasted on the young. I now have a 7 year old daughter. We have taken her to “Playland” for many years (since she was born.) I bought her a season pass last year. I’m going to buy her one again this year. She loves “Playland”, especially the Dragon Coaster. Thanks Westchester County for keeping the park open and in GREAT shape!

  19. …can’t wait to make a pilgrimage here and buy a magical Pepsi

  20. Ralph Addivinola

    Like to see Brighton Beach Memoirs !

  21. Playland was always so much fun. In addition to big, you can also see it in fatal attraction and a Mariah Carey video. I know there was some other stuff filmed there as well but those are the first two that come to mind.

  22. Sergio Del Pino

    I was at rye beach back in 1968 with all the seniors of Bishop Dubois HS annual field trip. I had never been there and found this place was wonderful. The only amusement park we knew of,living in Manhattan was Palisades park in NJ. I’m so glad this place is still bringing joy to kids, I really thought that it had closed years ago

  23. I would love if they could find a Zoltar machine or something similar and put it in the spot.