This original park restaurant reflected Warner LeRoy's vision for Great Adventure, a colorful, larger than life spectacle. Over time changes have been made to the Yum Yum Palace including the menu and the name of the restaurant, but it remains a favorite of many guests more than 35 years after its debut.
|Perhaps the most representative
piece of architecture at Great Adventure that captured the sense of
wonder and whimsy envisioned for the park, and in many ways all of
Warner LeRoy's visions, was the Yum Yum Palace. Designed to
look like a larger than life ice cream sundae, the building featured
vivid colors and oversized decorative elements.
Pictured here are the plans and artists rendering of the elaborate details of the Yum Yum Palace. Those plans came to life on the ground taking a generic rectangular restaurant building and adding an elaborate porch wrapping around, topped with steel framing to hold the fiberglass theme elements. The plans pictured above detail the elaborate mirrors that fanned out around the interior columns and around the perimeter of the building.
The fiberglass parts were fabricated and painted off site and brought in on trucks. The fanciful decorations were painted in vibrant colors and decorative patterns.
The building took shape among the trees of the Enchanted Forest. By opening day of 1974, the building was semi-finished, with the front facade complete, and the rear sections left unadorned, and 34 years later, still incomplete.
|The finished version
of the Yum Yum Palace as it opened in 1974 was an amazing sight to
visitors walking down Dream Street, with its bright colors and graceful
There was no mistaking what the specialty of the restaurant was, with many varieties of ice cream treats available. The restaurant porch offered a nice shady spot to sit and rest and enjoy a sundae or a float, in addition to a selection of lunch and dinner items. Floats and shakes were served in plastic souvenir glasses with the park name on them. Menu items originally included hamburgers, hot dogs, special picnic sandwiches, Belgian Waffles, French crepes, and “chocolate covered marshmallows and lemon drops, with stripes of peppermint and chocolate".
The original interior of the Yum Yum Palace featured large mirrors throughout, including behind the counters with the menu posted on them. Small chandeliers hung from the ceiling with white iridescent globes on them. The flower petal design of the mirrors around the interior columns echoed the design found in the windows of the Yum Yum Palace's sister restaurant, the Gingerbread Fancy, as well as the designs in the lighting on the Giant Wheel and central panels of the Round Up.
|Over time, the sun,
weather, wear & tear and more than anything the sap from the surrounding
trees required the re-painting of the building. With each
time the building was painted, some of the original details were lost as
the colors were altered from the original design.
Some of the first things to change were the metallic finishes of some of the details were covered with paint as the shine was quickly lost to weather. The incredible marbleized pain found on the tops of the columns was replaced with a much simpler single color, and the columns themselves were given the look of ice cream cones with a simple light brown paint job.
In these pictures you can see various stages of the painting in progress over time as the colors were freshened from season to season.
the 1995 season, as part of the park's thematic makeover by then owners
Time Warner, the Yum Yum Palace was transformed into the Great Character
Time Warner worked to introduce more of its characters and brands throughout the Six Flags chain, and the Character Cafe was given a 1950's style makeover on the interior, with the Looney Toons characters featured in fiberglass form throughout.
The front entrance was given a new sign, complete with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck figures as roller skating waiters on large pedestals flanking the steps.
The Great Character Cafe wasn't ready for the park's season opener, with the new entrance and interior taking shape over the spring finishing in time for the peak summer crowds.
|After becoming the
Great Character Cafe, the building facade received another paint
makeover, this time taking on the turquoise accents of the new interior
of the building, with matching purple railings around the porch.
With the dawn of the new millennium, the 25 year old fiberglass was starting to really show signs of age and required major repairs. At the start of the 2001 season, the tops of the two turrets were still missing, along with the arch of sweets connecting them across the front of the building. Those pieces were put back over the course of the season.
In spring of 2002, the turrets were stripped back to the steel framework again as the season kicked off. The steel was repaired where it had rotted and was given a protective coat of primer in preparation for the return of the panels. At the same time, the octagonal frameworks attached to the roof where the turrets were supposed to have been constructed for the back corners were removed, dashing any hope that the building might finally be completed.
With the 2002 work, many of the fiberglass scoops that sat on the roof were removed for refurbishing in the park's Fiberglass Shop, where they still sit today, leaving the building's HVAC units in view of guests. One of the large round "scoops" that make up the corner sundae turrets required major repair, and a replacement was created. The replacement piece was placed on the right side of the building, and is still there today. If you look closely, you can see an odd seam around the back portion of the dome, and see that it is somewhat lopsided.
As the season went on, the refurbishment was completed giving the building a clean, fresh look.
During the spring 2002 refurbishment of the Character Cafe some of the
fiberglass elements were replaced, including the center cone which came
back with a new pattern. The fiberglass scoop that
used to sit on the right side of the porch ended up becoming part of the
hayride for the park's annual Fright Fest, with the chocolate drips
becoming green, and hoses being attached as part of an alien invasion
|Some examples of the
problems caused by time and weather include the occasional decorative
piece falling off and landing on the roof of the building.
You can see one of the "dots" and a scoop laying on the roof waiting to
The figures of Bugs and Daffy get quite a bit of wear as well, and periodically need facelifts.
The Yum Yum Palace is full of amazing visual detail that can easily be overlooked.
A couple of the interesting details to note are the unique puffs among the otherwise uniform edge of the facade. Over the two side doors are special double size dollops, which also feature an extra puff on the bottom.
Towards the rear of the left side there is a puff that is missing, but has never been attached to the building. As part of the Enchanted Forest theme of the park, as many trees were left in tact as possible, and to accommodate one of those trees, the decoration was left off to allow space for the tree trunk.
|From 1974 through today, the
restaurant has been a park favorite, offering an air conditioned break
from the heat as well as a great place for food and ice cream.
Whether guests sit inside the bright and colorful space, or go back out through the oversized doors to enjoy a bite to eat in the shade of the porch surrounded by the sights and sounds of the crowds and adjoining rides, the Cafe is a great place to rest. The music of the Carousel fits the fanciful theme of the ice cream dream.
graceful lines of the porch are accentuated by the spindles and railings
atop the colorful terrazzo floors. There are two styles of
colorful tables, the round ones being newer, and the more delicate
scroll backed chair tables being original to the building.
Something interesting to note is the steel brackets on the roof which were supposed to hold the additional fiberglass pieces. Unfortunately the rear turrets and the additional arches will probably never come to be.
In just a few short years, the paint has begun to show signs of age, and it looks like it's about due for a facelift again in the next year or two. Hopefully everything can be refreshed and restored to its former glory as this park landmark deserves to be treated like the palace that it is.
The many colors
of the Yum Yum Palace: