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Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer


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Through a combination of events, I ended up spending five weeks of my summer this year traveling on two separate trips. Some of that time was spent on my own. Some of it was a family trip. Some of it was traveling with TPR. Some parts good, some parts bad, but overall everything was a ton of fun. Not everything was theme park related, but over the course of the summer I visited two dozen out of state parks and got over 80 new credits. Since everything is somewhat mixed together, I'll just showcase it all here.

 

Before I get started, here's the plan: I'm going to try to do two updates per week, though sometimes I may only be able to do one. Each update will cover either one day or one destination (except the first and last, which will each contain two destinations). Although there will be other stuff mixed in, every update will contain some theme park content. And finally, a reminder of my coaster rating system:

 

A: A coaster worth traveling just for that one ride. One of the best coasters I've been on. In order to get an A from me, a coaster must be worth a 60+ minute wait, must be good enough that I want to ride multiple times per visit, and must be something I'd like ERT on.

B: A must ride if you visit the park, but not worth traveling to the park just to ride. These are rides I would typically ride every visit but may not ride again unless the line is short.

C: A ride that isn't bad, but isn't really anything notable. As a general rule of thumb, if I'd ride it again but wouldn't wait for it again it gets a C.

D: What would typically be considered a credit coaster. These are usually rides I'd do again if someone wanted to ride but would skip if I was on my own.

F: A truly horrible ride. I rarely use this rating, as it is reserved only for coasters that I never, ever want to ride again (and does not apply to kiddie/family coasters).

 

And with that, let's begin.

 

Trip 1, Part 1: FSAE Electric-June 15th to 21st, 2014

 

The first trip of my summer began on the day I graduated from UCI. Basically, we had our graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 15th and had to be in Lincoln, Nebraska on Tuesday, June 17th for a school-related event that started the next day, and we were driving. I went to the ceremony, went home, got changed, got lunch, drove back to school, picked up my traveling companions, and took off.

 

What was the event? FSAE is an engineering competition where student teams design, manufacture, test, and compete with Formula-style racecars. Since my chosen senior project was Racecar Engineering, the class ended with this competition. 33 members of the team chose to go, and that day all of us departed split among seven vehicles (two pickup trucks, four minivans, and my dad's car (he would be meeting me later that week in Lincoln and we were road-tripping back to California).

 

Each group was permitted to choose any route desired, as long as they arrived in Lincoln by Tuesday evening. Most chose not to stop anywhere, as the school was not providing hotels en route, and ended up arriving in Lincoln early Tuesday morning. I, however, chose a more scenic route. The first day, we drove to Phoenix. I was originally going to stop by Castles n' Coasters for a couple credits, but by the time we arrived it was a little too late (plus my traveling companions had no interest). The next day, we took a scenic route and drove through Petrified Forest National Park, then headed through Albuquerque (sadly, Cliff's Amusement Park was closed that day) and up to Colorado. Tuesday was a somewhat boring drive across eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, until we arrived in Lincoln in the late afternoon.

 

Unfortunately, any excitement I had for the competition disappeared shortly after arrival. I found out the next day that our car had not been reassembled prior to departure, so we spent the first two days of the event (plus the night in the middle) just doing that. After our car failed technical inspection on Thursday, we were up until 4 A.M. in the parking lot of the hotel trying to get it up to spec, and by the close of inspection Friday we still hadn't passed and were disqualified from the dynamic events. Now, FSAE Electric has a notoriously difficult technical inspection (only about 20% of teams pass), but it was still disappointing to know that we likely had the best car there and couldn't compete. Add in the fact that about 1/3 of the team didn't really contribute and the hotel we stayed at was one of the worst I've ever been in (dirty, rooms leaked, elevator was a safety hazard, etc.) and this part of the trip I just want to forget.

 

The next day (Saturday, June 21st, 2014), I said goodbye to my racecar team and went to pick my dad up at the airport. We went and watched some of the endurance event at the FSAE competition (a 22 km race), got lunch, and explored downtown Lincoln a bit. The rest of the day was mainly a rest day, as he was worn out from an overnight flight and I was worn out from 20 hour days during the competition. Good that we did, because the next day the vacation really began.

 

Trip 1, Part 2: Denver-June 22nd & 23rd, 2014

 

On Sunday, we left Lincoln and made the 7 hour drive to Denver, Colorado. On the way, we stopped at a place called The Wild Animal Sanctuary. This place was a bit different from a typical zoo, as they take in rescued animals, typically ones that were mistreated at their former homes, and allow them to live the rest of their lives in a controlled natural environment. Instead of small cages, animals are kept in large enclosures (typically 10-15 acres), and there is minimal human interaction once they are acclimated to their new habitat. Visitors view the enclosures from an elevated walkway.

 

Overall, The Wild Animal Sanctuary was pretty cool, and I'm glad we went to see it. I'd definitely recommend stopping by if you're traveling through the area (it's about an hour from Denver and a little ways from I-76), but it's not the type of place I would make a special trip to.

 

Lakeside Amusement Park

 

Upon arrival in Denver, we headed directly to Lakeside Amusement Park. Lakeside is a smaller park without any big thrill rides, but what makes the park unique is that they retain a lot of old-school attractions that are not found in modern parks. Other than the drop tower, everything at the park looked like it was at least 30 years old. The park also has quite a bit of charm, and although we didn't stay until nightfall everything was lit up with neon lights. The staff at the park was great: operations were about as efficient as possible and every employee we encountered was personable. Lastly, the park is really cheap: rides were all $3 or less (most adult rides were $2), and even an all-day wristband is just $20 on weekends (cheaper during the week).

 

As far as the ride selection goes, Lakeside has four roller coasters (one of which is fairly notable) and a decent collection of flats. Of the flats, the best that I tried was the Roll-o-Plane. This was my first encounter with this type of ride, and it was great. The ride was more intense than I thought, especially when going backwards after the ride tilts. I didn't ride too many other flat rides, as we did pay per ride and quite a few weren't running, but I also tried the Whip and ZOOM, both of which were fun. As for the coasters...

 

Cyclone: Cyclone is one of two remaining Vettel woodies (the other is the Conneaut Lake Blue Streak). I wasn't expecting the coaster to be anything special, but this ride was really good. In fact, it was probably the best I rode on this trip. The ride is very smooth for a 1940s woodie, features quite a bit of airtime, and has a decent layout, though the ride does die out toward the end. Cyclone also still uses the original Vettel trains with only a seatbelt to secure riders. I've now been on both operating Vettel woodies, and I have to say this is definitely the better of the two. B

 

Wild Chipmunk: This is one of the two remaining Miler wild mouse coasters. This coaster reminded me of the former Tree Top Racers at Adventure City, but was a better ride overall. No restraints at all on this one...just get in, hold on, and watch your head. Fun ride, though this was probably the longest line in the park due to capacity (only three operating cars, and two adults would be a squeeze). C

 

Dragon: Standard Zamperla powered coaster with two helixes. Probably my least favorite of the three I've ridden due to an extra hard stop at the end, but otherwise nothing special about this one. No rating.

 

Overall, I enjoyed Lakeside quite a bit. The park is a bit different than most modern parks, but that is a good thing in this case. I would definitely recommend visiting if you're in the Denver area. I'd say 2-4 hours is about the right amount of time for this park (more if you're getting a wristband or going on a weekend). Just be sure to check the hours before visiting, as the park is typically only open in the evenings (they usually open at 6 or 7 p.m. on weekdays, noon on weekends).

 

After we left Lakeside, we headed to our hotel. The next day, we visited Denver's other amusement park.

 

Elitch Gardens

 

Elitch Gardens is one of those parks that I've always been interested in visiting, but didn't think I was too likely to get to anytime soon. I'd heard it wasn't the greatest park, so I visited with low expectations. What I found was a park that wasn't so good for the traveling enthusiast but perfectly acceptable for a local resident.

 

Elitch Gardens (the current Elitch Gardens) is not that old of the park, but it has been through several owners during its lifetime. The park was owned by Six Flags at one point, and Herschend managed it at some point after that. I'm not sure who's in charge now, but they seem to be doing a decent job with the park. Everything was operating except Half Pipe and one random flat ride, Mind Eraser and Twister II were using both trains, operations were reasonably efficient, and all the employees were friendly. The park does have some issues (most notably a confusing layout and low quality food), but neither of these are major enough to complain about.

 

Despite being the largest park in Colorado, Elitch Gardens is still a smallish park. There are six coasters here, though all but one are stock models and none are particularly notable. The park also has a dark ride, a decent collection of flat rides, two water rides, and an included waterpark (did not visit).

 

Coaster Reviews:

 

Twister II: I had heard Twister II was a below average wooden coaster, but the ride actually surprised me. It isn't that fast or that intense and has almost no airtime, but the ride was fairly smooth and it was just a fun wooden coaster. This was actually my favorite ride at the park, and while it isn't a ride I'd go out of the way for it was a coaster I'd definitely ride again (I rode twice on this visit...the only ride in the park I rode more than once). B-

 

Boomerang: As far as Boomerangs go, this one was right in the middle. Not too rough, but there was some headbanging. It wasn't the worst coaster in the park, but that doesn't say much. C

 

Mind Eraser: This was SLC number six for me, and based on my experiences it seems that they are all more or less the same: a decent layout that is too rough to enjoy. This one was fairly rough...not as bad as Flight Deck at Canada's Wonderland, but worse than Kong at SFDK, and definitely my least favorite coaster at the park (plus it had the longest line). C-

 

Sidewinder: This was my first experience with an Arrow Launched Loop, as only a couple of them remain in operation. I had heard the ride was decent, and several reports said it was the best ride there. I, however, thought it was just okay. The ride isn't rough, but it is uncomfortable to bang your shoulders on the restraint due to the small amount of airtime on the hill, and I really didn't care for the backwards trip since this was unexpected. It was certainly better than the average boomerang, and was the best steel coaster at the park by default (especially since Half Pipe was closed), but I much prefer the Schwarzkopf shuttle loops. C

 

Non-Coaster Summary:

 

Elitch Gardens has a decent collection of flat rides, several of which I did (Big Wheel, Dragonwing, Observation Tower, Shake Rattle and Roll, Tower of Doom, and Troika). None of them really stood out, as all were standard models, but for a basic amusement park they were fine. I did ride the park's Ghostblasters dark ride, a newer version of the attraction which was quite fun (though I prefer the classic version). I also rode Shipwreck Falls, the park's splash boat. The ride was wetter than I thought it would be, and due to the small size you actually get hit by the splash while loading in the station. I did not visit the waterpark due to time constraints, but nothing there looked particularly special.

 

Overall, I thought Elitch Gardens was a decent park. Unlike Lakeside, it's not somewhere I would probably go back to unless they added a major new coaster or I was certain Half Pipe was operating, but I did have a good day there and could see it being the type of park a local might visit for a few hours. I don't really have a strong recommendation either way about whether you should visit it on a Denver trip, but I will say it would be easy to do both this and Lakeside in one day...Elitch Gardens is a 6 hour park at most (we were there about 4, and if you were just getting credits you'd be done in 2).

 

After Elitch Gardens, we went back to the hotel and rested for a bit, then went and walked through downtown Denver, ending up at Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies game. I've been to five or six different ballparks, and Coors Field is probably my favorite of them. The stadium has a great layout, and there are some neat features, such as a games area for kids and a party deck on the roof above right field. The only issue I have with the stadium is the direction it faces; we were on the first base side and were staring into the setting sun for most of the game. I don't remember too much from the game other than that St. Louis shut out the Rockies (the St. Louis Cardinals are a much better team anyway) and that my dad caught a foul ball.

 

Nothing much happened after the game. We just walked back to the hotel and went to bed, since the next day was an early departure with lots of driving.

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This is Zeta, the car we brought to Lincoln. It is UCI's first FSAE Electric vehicle.

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UCI's racecar project builds vehicles like this. The car pictured is Epsilon, UCI's last FSAE vehicle (it competed in 2011).

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I spent a majority of my time in the program working on Savage, the school's 2015 competition car (specifically, I did suspension design).

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Back in the Triassic period, this area was a forest, but now all the trees have become petrified wood.

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It is pretty to look at. I bought a couple souvenir pieces at a store just outside the park.

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The Crystal Forest trail is pretty much a 3/4 of a mile walk past stuff like this.

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One last picture of petrified wood for good measure.

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There weren't many visitors here, either. This was the only parking lot we saw with more than two cars in it, and we passed maybe a dozen during the drive through the park.

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Since we only had time for one hike, we chose Crystal Forest. Not much of a forest remains.

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The Agate Bridge is a fallen tree that has become petrified and therefore connected to the rock, forming a natural bridge.

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I've been to a number of national parks, and this one is one of the least interesting. Most of the park looked like this.

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Newspaper Rock was kind of neat, as the rock was covered in petroglyphs (though you needed to use the telescopes to see them).

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Our last stop in the park was Painted Desert. This is probably the nicest part of the park to look at, and you can hike down there. Unfortunately, we didn't have time.

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The only notable stop en route to Lincoln was Petrified Forest National Parks.

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Fast forward two days, and we're now at FSAE Lincoln/Electric.

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Our team, on the other hand, spent a good amount of time doing this.

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The event contains three team presentations (Business, Cost, and Design), along with five dynamic events (acceleration, skidpad, autocross, endurance, and efficiency).

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Most of the competitors were doing this.

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Fun Fact: FSAE is an international competition, and we were paddocked next to the Japanese Honda team. Surprising Fact: The Japanese Honda team didn't really do that well.

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The rest of the UCI team was on the way back home at that time.

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Here's a shot from the endurance event the next day. I watched this event for a couple hours.

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Saturday afternoon, my dad and I went and explored downtown Lincoln a bit.

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This appeared be the old part of town. When we were arriving, they were just cleaning up a morning street fair.

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I liked Lincoln, though I definitely wouldn't want to live there...it's too far from anything interesting to do.

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The event takes place on an unused section of the Lincoln Airport. All that separated us from the active area was that orange fence.

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Since most of the animals are rescues, however, they don't go straight into an enclosure. First, they are placed into a building like this until they get used to the sanctuary environment, and are then gradually introduced to other members of their species.

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All of the animals are kept in large enclosures (10-15 acres), such as this one.

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Enough with Lincoln, onward to Denver. En route, we stopped at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, where you can see lions...

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One of the bear enclosures, with toys for the bears to play with.

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Most of the animals are large carnivores people have kept as pets. In addition to the previously mentioned, they also had wolves, wolf hybrids, foxes, and a few other miscellaneous animals.

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...and tigers...

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...and bears (oh my).

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There were rabbits running all over the place, and since they are free to enter the habitats I'm assuming the animals get them quite often (we saw the lions make a kill while we were there).

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At one point, the sanctuary received nearly 20 lions at once, so they had to build a building specifically to hold them for the winter. The gates open to the outdoor enclosures.

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The end of the Mile into the Wild walkway. There's plenty of room to expand the sanctuary (the eventual plan is to have a 3 mile walkway), but it's all determined by money. If you like these animals and happen to be in the area, check this place out.

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Wolf exhibit.

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Since we visited midday, a lot of the animals were just relaxing.

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What in the world is that thing?

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Wild Chipmunk is the other adult coaster at the park.

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Apparently a chipmunk is more wild than a mouse. This thing was quite fun.

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I love the old-looking ticket booths all the rides had.

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I had heard Lakeside is the "ghetto park" according to locals, but it actually seemed like a pretty nice place.

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This ride doesn't look like it's been working in a while.

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Oh, it's a defunct Ferris Wheel. From the looks of it, this has probably been here since the early days of the park.

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I guess they used to have a boat ride on the lake, but it appears long gone.

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Okay, okay, you came here for amusement park pictures. Welcome to Lakeside Amusement Park!

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Cyclone is the star attraction of the park. Not only is it the best ride here, but it is the best roller coaster in all of Colorado and actually a really good wooden coaster.

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Almost all the signs at Lakeside were old neon lights. If I go back, I'm definitely staying until after dark.

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Lakeside had a decent looking kiddie area.

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This was more fun than I thought it would be, but was probably my least favorite ride that I did (other than the powered coaster).

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I've never seen a Whip before. Let's give this ride a try.

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The back part of Lakeside looked more like this. I'm guessing the area around Cyclone was the original park and it expanded back along the lake.

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Yes, I rode this. Yes, I count it as a credit.

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This was the only ride in the park that looked relatively new. It's just a standard ARM/Larson tower.

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Here's another ride I've never seen, the Roll-o-Plane.

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At the end of the park was Heart Flip, a weird suspended teacup ride. Sadly, it was closed.

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I wasn't sure if I'd like this ride, as I don't usually do backward spinning, but it ended up being great and more intense than expected.

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In my opinion, best flat ride in the park.

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Fun ride, but it's a common model and the most expensive flat in the park (still only $3).

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Yep, Mind Eraser was pretty bad.

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I like the layout of the SLC, but all the ones I've ridden are pretty rough. I wonder if there's any SLC considered good.

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On second thought, I think I'll pass. I like rapids rides and don't mind getting wet, but I don't like the wetness being due to a fire hose.

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I guess I'll ride the splash boat instead.

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Oops. Should have watched that before boarding.

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Twister II is the best ride at Elitch Gardens. It's not anything special, but it was a decent wooden coaster.

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I was surprised to see three-bench trains running on this ride, as those are usually only used on out-and-backs.

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Apparently Twister II is built on a swamp or something. Other than the area of the entrance and exit pathways, the ground under the coaster was wet.

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The entrance area to the park was nice, but once you got past that everything else pretty much looked like this.

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Brain Drain, the park's new for 2014 ride. It wasn't running due to technical difficulties (I think it did open later).

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I rode one of the two coasters in this picture. Which do you think it was?

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Why did you buy a drop tower with only three cars, and then use only two, Elitch Gardens? At least buy the four car model, if not six. Okay, honestly operations were pretty decent at the park, with Tower of Doom being the lone exception.

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Oh no, they've got one of those here.

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Dragonwing = discount SkyScreamer/Windseeker.

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Let's go check out the rapids ride.

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Which is the better ride, Sidewinder or Troika?

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One last credit to get in the park (since I'm not waiting for the kiddie).

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Best name ever!

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Apparently it is mandatory that every visitor to Denver visits Elitch Gardens.

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The next day, we went to Denver's other amusement park: Elitch Gardens.

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Plenty of people were having fun in the waterpark.

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I've never seen a half-pipe slide exit into the lazy river like that.

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Coors Field is somewhere down there.

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The waterpark or the river, which makes a better day out?

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Nice views from the top of the tower.

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Goodbye Elitch Gardens. I had a good time.

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On the way back from the park we passed this mural under an overpass.

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Not sure if this has any significance or is just a beautification project.

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I guess some people chose the river.

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No need for a waterpark, just bring a tube and ride down here.

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Once you cross the bridge, there's a nice park to walk through before the city.

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WTF? I have no idea what this is.

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Time to head to the game. From our hotel, we had to cross this bridge to reach downtown Denver (note: I think this picture is in the wrong direction across the bridge).

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Walked by Union Station on the way to the stadium.

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Time for a ballgame. Tonight, we'll be watching St. Louis vs. Colorado at Coors Field.

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This is the fourth baseball stadium I've seen a game at, and it's probably my favorite.

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What's special about the purple row of seats? I'll reveal the answer at the start of the next update.

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And we'll end it here (both because I've got no more Denver photos and this is the limit). St. Louis dominated the Rockies, in case anyone is curious. More to come next week.

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Before leaving the park, we went up in the Observation Tower. From here, you can see that Elitch Gardens really isn't that big.

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The park is located in the middle of downtown Denver, right next to the Denver Aquarium and Mile High Stadium.

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^Some parts of Lakeside are a bit run down, but a majority of the park is in decent shape. The are around the park, however, is not somewhere I'd want to stay.

 

Also, in case anyone is curious, the purple seats at Coors Field mark exactly one mile in elevation.

 

Trip 1, Part 3: The Drive to Vegas-June 24th-26th, 2014

 

Tuesday began the real road trip back toward California. Of course, we made several stops along the way. The first destination of interest along our route was the top of Mount Evans, located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. While the peak is not the tallest in Colorado, the road up here (which ends about 100 ft. below the 14,265 ft. summit) is the highest paved road in North America. At this elevation, there is snow year-round, so even though it was summer we saw plenty of snow. While we didn't hike to the very top of the mountain (hiking at 14,000 ft. is not easy), there was still a great view from the overlook at parking lot level.

 

Our other main stop for this part of the drive was Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, located in Glenwood Springs, slightly over two and a half hours from Denver.

 

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

 

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is an interesting place. It is located on top of a mountain, so you must take a gondola to get up to it. Once there, you'll find a couple dirt trails that lead to various attractions. You could call it an amusement park, but although they have several amusement rides that isn't really the main focus of the attraction. The park was started as a cave tour, and until about ten years ago that's all they had. Today, two cave tours are available. The Historic Fairy Caves Tour is the original tour at the park, and takes visitors on a 45 minute guided tour of a natural cave system. This tour consisted of walking through various caves and tunnels, including a section traveled by candlelight (the original way the cave was explored) and a brief walk along the rim of the canyon. The other tour is the King's Row Cave Tour, which is more strenuous and takes place inside one gigantic chamber full of unique formations. For those who want something more extreme, there is the up-charge Wild Tour, a two hour spelunking adventure in portions of the cave system not covered in either tour.

 

As far as the rides go, Glenwood Caverns has about a dozen rides. Half of those are kiddie rides that I didn't bother with, and the rest are anything but ordinary. In fact, Cliffhanger (the park's roller coaster) is the least interesting of the bunch, as it is a standard S&MC Hurricane. The ride is located at the top of the mountain and is the highest coaster in the world, but I found it to be rougher than the S.D.C. version of the ride. There is also the Wild West Express, a Zierer Tivoli coaster (that I didn't ride), and one other "coaster" in the park... the Alpine Coaster. This was the first alpine coaster in the US and the first ride at Glenwood Caverns. It is a pretty good ride, more fun than about 80% of the real roller coasters I've been on, and although the Park City alpine coaster is slightly better this one is much cheaper ($12 versus $20 or included with the day pass).

 

For the non-coaster rides, the park has a Soaring Eagle zipline over a canyon and the Glenwood Canyon Flyer, a swing ride perched on the canyon rim and swinging over the side. However, by far the most extreme attraction at Glenwood Caverns is the Giant Canyon Swing. This is an S&S Screamin' Swing located on the edge of a 1,300 ft. cliff. It may not look like much, but if you're in the downward facing seat when the ride swings over the canyon you'll find a new definition of insane. I'll admit it: theme park rides rarely scare me, but this one did.

 

Overall, I really liked Glenwood Caverns. The rides were fun, the cave tours were interesting, the guides and employees were all great, and you can't beat the location. I would call it the best amusement park in Colorado, but the place isn't a true amusement park. It is a little expensive and is a half-day adventure, but I definitely think Glenwood Caverns provides more enjoyment than either of Denver's actual amusement parks.

 

After Glenwood Caverns, we drove onward to Moab, Utah, where we stayed for the night. The next day was spent exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Arches National Park was great, with a variety of natural rock features to look at. Unfortunately, we were unable to do the hike we originally planned to do due to misinformation, but we still got to see some neat stuff. Canyonlands was pretty good as well, but there isn't much to get out of it from a half day visit. I would love to go back to Canyonlands and explore the park more thoroughly, in addition to seeing more of the Moab area.

 

On the way out of the park, we took a rough and somewhat unnerving dirt road to a back exit. We also stopped and hiked to a random arch in the Moab area. This hike was better than anything we did in either park, partly because of the hike itself and partly because there was nobody else around (I think we saw two other people on the entire three mile round trip). After this, we got dinner at the Denny's in Moab and then drove to Cortez, Colorado.

 

Thursday was a long drive day, as we were driving all the way from Cortez to Las Vegas, an eight hour drive with no stops. Our route, however, included a few detours. From Cortez, we went to the Four Corners National Monument and stopped there for a few minutes just to get pictures. We then drove past Canyon De Chelly after my grandfather kept saying it was a must see. It was neat, but if we weren't already going by it I don't think I would have detoured for this. Our third stop was Meteor Crater, a 3/4 of a mile wide crater a little outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. This was quite interesting. If I remember correctly, the crater is the best preserved impact site on Earth. There's not much to do here other than view the crater from the rim, but I'm really glad I we went to see it. Probably the most impressive thing on this day.

 

The remainder of the drive was relatively uneventful as we drove west through Arizona, then north to Hoover Dam and onward to Las Vegas for the final portion of the trip.

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Once you get west of Denver, the drive through Colorado becomes a lot more scenic.

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Mount Evans is directly ahead. It is one of two easily accessible 14,000+ ft. peaks in Colorado.

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This is the top of the highest paved road in North America.

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Good view from up here.

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The actual summit of Mount Evans. We decided against hiking it.

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The Crest House used to be a restaurant and gift shop, but after it was damaged by a fire in 1979 the building was abandoned.

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At this elevation, you can find snow year-round. Perhaps Olaf should consider moving here.

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There were a bunch of Bighorn Sheep wandering around the area. I guess they like this climate.

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Even in June, the lake is still partially frozen. I wouldn't recommend walking out on it, however.

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Back on the road again. Fun Fact: At just over 11,000 ft., Eisenhower Tunnel is the highest point in the Interstate Highway system and one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world.

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Colorado has a number of ski areas right next to I-70. I remember passing Keystone, Loveland, Copper Mountain (pictured), Vail Mountain, and Beaver Creek, as well as seeing signs for several others.

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Colorado really is a beautiful state.

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Before arriving in Glenwood Springs, we stopped at a point along the Colorado River.

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If you've ever wanted to try river rafting, this would be a good place. There are some rapids, but nothing too extreme.

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That is a very long way down.

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There are some good views from the top of the mountain.

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Glenwood Caverns is famous for their cave tours. Two different tours are available, and both are included with admission.

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The caves are full of many formations, including Stalagmites, Stalactites, and Columns.

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That's a long way down. I wonder if there's an organist at the bottom.

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King's Row is the single most impressive room on either tour. When the lights are off, it is pitch dark in here, but once the lights come on you can see all the formations built up over millions of years.

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There are rides here too. This one, the Giant Canyon Swing, may be the world's scariest flat ride.

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Yes, the swing is beyond 90 degrees, and it is hanging off the edge of a 1,300 ft. cliff.

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A look down the canyon toward Glenwood Springs.

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More of the natural beauty of Colorado.

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The Glenwood Canyon Flyer is new this year. It's a fun ride, but after the Giant Canyon Swing it's pretty tame. I like the theming, however.

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Hey, they've got a credit up here.

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Cliffhanger may be the world's highest coaster, but it is the least interesting non-kiddie ride at this park.

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I think they do some type of show here, but I didn't stay to find out.

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The park was smart to install two Soarin' Eagle ziplines right next to each other. You can't see it in this picture, but just behind the platform is a gorge and the other tower is on the far side.

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Since the Alpine Coaster is all below the park, it's hard to get a good ride. This was the most popular attraction at Glenwood Caverns, and probably the best as well.

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Time to head back down the mountain.

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You can't actually see the park until you're almost at the top. For most of the ride, your view is much like this.

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It started to rain a little as we rode down. Good timing on our part.

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You must ride the Iron Mountain Tramway to access the park. There's no other way up the mountain (well, there is a dirt service road, but that's only if the Gondola can't operate).

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The Iron Mountain Tramway, a Leitner-Poma Pulse Gondola, is 4,400 ft. long, gains 1,300 ft. in elevation, and has a ride time of 9 minutes. The top tower in this picture is only about 1/3 of the way up.

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Yes, this update does contain an amusement park. Today, we'll be visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

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We've now crossed the border into Utah and left the interstate. Pretty desolate out here.

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As you get closer to Moab, typical Utah scenery begins to appear.

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This somewhat reminds me of Big Thunder Mountain, but it's not quite the same.

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Random rest area along the Colorado river.

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I have no idea why there is a boat launch out here. Rafting tours, perhaps?

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The Colorado River runs through Moab, then cuts across Utah to Lake Powell. From there, it heads into the Grand Canyon.

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The next day was National Park day, which means hiking.

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There weren't many people on the Delicate Arch hike when we started. On the way back, however, we encountered tons (including Asian tour groups complete with a flag).

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There is the Delicate Arch.

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The famous shot of the arch. There was a line, so I never went under to get my picture.

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On the way back, we took a detour to see some Petroglyphs.

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We also went by this old house. Not sure who lived here.

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Balancing Rock is another popular feature of the park. Since there was no parking, we just took a picture and moved on.

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We only had time for one other hike in Arches, so we took the short hike to Double Arch.

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However, this was a good enough improvisation.

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This arch looked like it could collapse at any time.

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One last look at the park before heading out.

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One of the hikes we did was to Upheaval Dome. It was somewhat neat.

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The trail continued along the ridge, but we decided to turn back at this point.

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Most of Canyonlands looked more like this.

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Part two of National Park day: Canyonlands. Due to time, we only visited the Island in the Sky portion of the park.

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The park is much bigger than Arches, definitely more than can be seen in a single day. Even in a week, most people would only see about half the park.

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Island in the Sky is a large plateau in the northeast section of the park.

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If I ever go back to Canyonlands, I definitely want to do this.

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Mesa Arch was pretty neat. It is on the edge of a cliff.

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Seriously, it hangs over the edge and there is no idiot protection around it. You could even climb on top of the arch if you wanted to.

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This is the road we took out of the park. It is a one lane dirt road that winds down the canyon wall. No guard rails, no pull-outs, nothing. If you don't have 4 wheel drive, don't attempt this one.

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However, a fall from here would be game over. (note-I have no idea why the picture came out sideways)

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Out of the park now. I believe that rock outcropping is part of Dead Horse Point state park, but I may be wrong.

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I'm pretty sure this was the last time we saw the Colorado River on this trip.

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One more hike for today. For this one, we had to cross the train tracks.

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Someone built a lot of cairns out here.

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Lots of arches out in this area. Most of them form caves.

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This was the best hike of the day, partly due to location and partly because there was nobody else out here.

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There's the destination, Corona Arch. We didn't actually go under it, as getting out there required climbing ladders and traversing areas with the aid of chains.

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One last look at the area before heading back to the car.

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The next day began with a stop at Four Corners.

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Hey, I'm in four states at once. (Spoiler alert: Not really. The marker is slightly off from the actual four corners and is all in New Mexico).

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In case you forgot what the four corner states were.

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We then went to check out Canyon de Chelly, as my grandfather claimed it was really good.

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It was a pretty neat canyon. You can actually drive in the bottom if you have a guide with you.

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Yeah, it was overhyped by my grandfather, but I still think it was worth seeing.

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I think it's something like 3/4 of a mile wide and 500 ft. deep. Too bad you can't go to the bottom.

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There was a mining operation down there at one point to prove the crater was the result of a meteoroid impact. The operation is long defunct, but the equipment remains.

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I discovered my iPhone has a panorama function on this trip. Here's a view from the middle observation deck.

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Pictures don't always give a true sense of scale. This crater is huge.

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One last picture, this one from the lower observation deck. From here, we headed onward to Las Vegas. That will be covered in the next update.

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Next stop: Meteor Crater. This was cooler than I thought it would be.

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Perhaps two updates per week was a little ambitions, but I can definitely do one every week.

 

Trip 1, Part 4: Las Vegas-June 26th-30th, 2014

 

When planning this road trip, there were always two constraints. The first was that I could not leave Lincoln, Nebraska, before Sunday, June 22nd. The second was that I had to be in Las Vegas, Nevada, by the evening of June 26th, as we were having a large family reunion with my mother's side of the family that weekend. Had it not been for that constraint, the trip would have probably turned out differently.

 

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, I did not go directly to our hotel (Bally's), but instead met up with my cousins at the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. This place is mostly about go-karts, with four different go-kart tracks. They did have a few rides, including a kiddie coaster, but I didn't ride any of them (plus the kiddie coaster was closed). Of the four go-kart tracks, we did three: the Turbo Track, a basic go-kart track that seemed a little better than average; the Sprint Track, a semi-slick track that was somewhat underwhelming; and the Gran Prix Track, where you raced against the clock in larger cars capable of speeds over 30 MPH (driver's license required for this one). The place was fun and wasn't too expensive, as $20 got you an hour of unlimited rides and nothing had much of a wait. We did each track twice (except the Sprint Track) and got dinner here before leaving.

 

After the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix, I said goodbye to my dad (who would be headed home the next day) and went with my cousins to Bally's, where I met the rest of the family. Some of them had just arrived on this day as well, plus it was getting very late for those who came from the east coast, so we didn't do much that evening.

 

Vegas Day 1: Wet 'n' Wild-Friday, June 27th

 

I had originally planned to check out the new Cowabunga Bay Waterpark while in Vegas, but as the opening was delayed until July we were forced to visit Wet'n'Wild instead. I was visiting with my aunt and one of my cousins from Northern California, so at 9 A.M. we met in the lobby and headed to the park.

 

Wet'n'Wild has gotten a lot of complaints from the locals, especially regarding its size and its lack of attractions compared to the original. In addition, I had heard the park was typically really crowded. To my surprise, we didn't find it to be too bad, and were able to do every attraction (some of them twice) in about 4 hours. I don't remember the old Wet'n'Wild too well, but it felt like there was more to do at this one than the old park. I will say the new Wet'n'Wild does lose points for blandness, however.

 

Slide Reviews:

 

Hoover Half Pipe: This was our first ride of the day, as the no single riders rule makes it difficult for groups of three. The ride begins with a short enclosed section before dropping through a wall feature. It wasn't a bad ride, but I did find it a little underwhelming and is probably my least favorite wall slide. Two rides.

 

Royal Flush Extreme: An innertube bowl slide, this was one of my favorites at the park. Although the ride is practically the same, it did feel faster than the ProSlide version, though both times I rode my tube got stuck and I had to push to the exit of the bowl.

 

Tornado: I love Tornado slides, and despite being smaller this one was just as good as any of them. One of my favorites at the park. We rode this twice despite it having the longest wait in the park.

 

Constrictor: I don't know what to think of this slide. On one hand, it felt just like any innertube slide, but at the same time the large tube sections were something different. I guess the fact that I only did this one once says something about the ride.

 

Rattler: This is a WhiteWater Mega Tube slide, the first in the US I believe. Basically it is a family raft slide, but there are two points where you enter a giant tube and oscillate back and forth like in a funnel slide. In my opinion, this is the best ride at the park, as not only is it the longest, it also has some extreme moments in the second Mega Tube (I thought I was going to fall out at one point). I just wish you didn't have to carry the raft to the top, as those are a lot heavier than innertubes (even the CloverLeafs). Rode this one twice. I definitely recommend doing this slide early, as it quickly got a 30 minute wait that never got any shorter.

 

Desert Racers: Fairly standard mat racing slide, though this one felt a little steeper and faster than most. Rode twice.

 

Canyon Cliffs: Six story freefall slide, not the best I've been on but still fun. This one was really smooth and didn't have any of the back scratching these rides are known for. Rode twice.

 

Zipp, Zapp, Zoom: This attraction is a trio of standard tube slides. One of the slides is open the whole way down, one is fully enclosed, and the third starts out enclosed and then opens up for the second half. None of them were that great (in fact, this may be my least favorite serpentine tube slide complex), but of the three the half enclosed/half open slide was the best. We rode each slide once.

 

Overall, Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas was a pretty average waterpark. It was a fun thing to do in Las Vegas, and I'm glad I got to check it out, but it's not somewhere I would go out of my way for. The park isn't big enough for a full day yet (I'd say it's about a 5-6 hour waterpark), though I am sure it will continue to grow over time. That being said, I don't get all the negativity surrounding this place. It isn't any more expensive than a typical waterpark, has enough to do for at least a half day, decent employees, decent food, reasonable crowds, long hours (they're open until 10 P.M. some days)...if I was a local I would be here all the time. The only complaints I have about the park are the lack of shade, the bland atmosphere, and the fact that every slide ends in a shutdown lane instead of a pool, but those wouldn't affect my ability to have a good time.

 

We left Wet'n'Wild at around 3 P.M. to head back to the hotel, as tonight was the big reunion dinner. One of my uncles had made reservations at Todd English's Olives restaurant in Bellagio, so we had our big dinner there. It was really nice to see everyone, but I'm going to be 100% honest about the restaurant: it isn't that great overall and is horrible for large parties. Service was slow (the entire dinner was about 4 hours), the food was pretty average (certainly not of the caliber I'd expect from an upscale restaurant), and we were split up at separate tables, making it difficult to talk to each other. After dinner, I joined a few others in the casino, but the party didn't last long as some of the group had an early morning flight the next day.

 

Vegas Day 2: Adventuredome-Saturday, June 28th

 

Sometimes the best made plans go to waste. That was the case with this day, as while the Adventuredome wasn't the only thing planned it was the only thing we did (until evening). Due to reluctance by some to get out of bed, we ended up waiting until after lunch to head to the Adventuredome. By the time we got there, it was packed, though fortunately we didn't encounter any lines over 20 minutes.

 

I'm not a huge fan of the Adventuredome, but I don't dislike it either. I wasn't necessarily planning to visit on this trip, but El Loco made the park a must visit. The ride had about a 15 minute wait with four cars running, which I hear is pretty typical for a weekend. It was my first experience with an El Loco, so I had no idea what to expect. How was the ride? Well, I liked the ride, but I didn't think it was worth going out of your way for and probably wouldn't pay $10 to ride it on a future visit. The first drop is great, and the rest of the ride is interesting, but to me the coaster felt somewhat repetitive by the end, as it more or less did the same sequence of elements twice. It was also a very short ride and I got nothing from the audio. Fun ride, definitely the best at the Adventuredome, but possibly a bit overhyped by the locals (I'd give it a B-).

 

The Adventuredome's other coaster, Canyon Blaster, was running just as good as ever. This is one of the better Arrow loopers that I've been on, and despite the short length it does quite a bit. Not worth the $10 they charge for it, but definitely worth a couple rides if you buy the wristband. This one gets a C+ by my rating scale.

 

After doing two rides on each coaster (we bought wristbands), we played a game of Laser Tag, then we did a few flat rides before leaving (I only did Sling Shot, but other members of the group did the Carousel and/or Ferris Wheel). We were originally planning to try out the Voodoo Zipline over at the Rio, but nobody was that interested and it was almost 5 P.M. so we skipped it.

 

That night, I went with most of the remaining family to hang out in Downtown Las Vegas for the night. I'd never been to this part of town before, but after going I will say that everyone should check out Fremont Street at least once. It is just a totally different atmosphere down there, and feels more like a street party than anything. We also found casinos here with coin-play slot machines, a novelty that has disappeared from most of the Vegas casinos. It was a fun evening, probably the best of the ones in Vegas.

 

Vegas Day 3: Miscellaneous Random Stuff-June 29th, 2014

 

The third day in Vegas began with breakfast at Serendipity over at Caesar's Palace. I'd never heard of this place before, so I was interested to try it out. It wasn't the greatest breakfast place ever, but the portions were huge (you do pay for it, however) and the frozen hot chocolate was a great treat.

 

After breakfast, we headed to the south end of the strip to visit Coke World and check out the new Hershey Store. Some of the group drove, while others (including me) decided to give the Las Vegas Monorail a try. The Monorail is a good concept, but poor execution, as it is located way behind all the hotels and is very expensive ($5 per ride). Upon arrival at MGM Grand, we walked over to New York and checked out the Hershey Store, which I found a bit disappointing. I was expecting it to be a combination exhibit and gift shop, but it was just a two story store selling everything Hershey. Since I wasn't interested in browsing, I decided to go play slots with my grandmother instead. I ended up winning $10, so what did I do with the money?

 

Ride the Roller Coaster. Yes, I have the credit. Yes, I've been on it a number of times. No, I was never planning to ride it. The only reason I decided to ride was because I last rode the coaster when my credit count was under 100, and wanted to see my opinion now that I've been on over 300 (actually, I was a little under 300 at that point). The ride...yeah, it's not good. No, it's not the worst ride ever (now that SkyRider is gone, it's probably my favorite Togo), but it's about on par with the average SLC for roughness and although it's a long ride, everything after the dive loop is completely pointless. If you've only been on a handful of coasters, it's probably a good ride, but otherwise it's just an epic rip-off at $14 and easily Nevada's worst coaster (I give it a D).

 

After the ride on the Roller Coaster, I met up with everyone at Coke World and got a float, then we all headed back to the hotel. Everyone not headed back to Southern California was departing this afternoon, so we said goodbye to them and then I (and a few others) headed out to the Pinball Hall of Fame. For those that haven't been there, this place doesn't look like much, but it is probably the biggest hidden gem in Vegas. It is little more than a warehouse full of pinball machines and arcade games, but they've got everything from old 1930s wooden machines to modern pinball games, and most of them are still in working order. I think I probably spent about $40 here playing a variety of games, and other than perhaps Wet'n'Wild this was probably the best thing I did in Vegas.

 

For dinner that night, we decided to venture away from the strip to a Carrabba's, as they don't exist in California and the food is really good. As expected, the food was really good. After dinner, my grandfather and I went and did the High Roller, Las Vegas's new giant observation wheel. You get a great view from the top of this thing, but unfortunately while on the lower half of the wheel you really can't see much. I'm glad I did it, but I would never pay the price they charge ($30+) to do it again. The rest of the evening was spent packing, as we were headed home the next day.

 

Vegas Day 4: Departure Day-Monday, June 30th, 2014

 

This was the final day of the trip. I wasn't sad that it was ending, as while I did have a good time I was ready to go back home. Just before 11 A.M., we headed down to the valet, retrieved our car, and headed out.

 

I was traveling home with my Grandparents, as they needed someone to drive them (my uncle had done it on the way out, but he was extending his trip). On the way, we decided to make one final stop at Buffalo Bill's, as I wanted to see how Desperado was running. Now, last time I had been to Buffalo Bill's, the place was at least acceptable, but in the five years since it has become a total dump and ghost town. The casino was deserted; I saw maybe ten people gambling in there, and in the food court only three tables were occupied. We grabbed lunch while we waited for the rides to open, and once they did I purchased tickets for Adventure Canyon (the log flume) and Desperado, then headed off while my Grandparents went to wait in the casino.

 

First off, Adventure Canyon. At one point, this was a somewhat fun log flume, but in its current state it is just scary. No, it's not the one small drop, it's the fact that nothing works anymore but all the figures are still present. During the ride, you'll pass all the old animatronics, but most of them are missing fingers, limbs, or in some cases heads, and since they are all static most give you a creepy stare as you float past. With the dark atmosphere of the trench, It seemed almost like a haunt maze gone wrong. From talking to the operators, it sounds like after the guns were permanently retired all maintenance on the show elements was discontinued and the ride is only kept running because it still turns a profit.

 

As for Desperado, the coaster is in a pretty sorry state as well. I did not see if they have a second operational train for the ride, but they were only using one train with four or five rows blocked off. Since it was deserted and they will not send the train with less than ten people, I had to wait a bit for more riders to show up. To my surprise, Desperado is still running fairly well. Yes, it is rough, but it's definitely ride-able in a middle seat and the ride still gives some pretty good airtime, plus it is really long (though the second half is dull). Even with El Loco, I still think Desperado is probably Nevada's best coaster (though still only a B- from me) and is the only one I think is worth the ticket price ($10).

 

As for the rest of the rides at Buffalo Bill's, all they've got left is the Frog Hopper and MaxFlight Simulator. The former motion theater attraction has been boarded up, and the guy at the ticket counter said Turbo Drop is no longer in an operational condition. It's sad to see the place this way, but with the lack of business I'm not surprised they have to make cuts to save money (or did the cuts come first and cause the lack of business, I wonder).

 

There is one good thing that came out of our Buffalo Bill's stop. Before leaving, I decided to use the rest of my $50 gambling budget for the trip. While playing a machine, I ended up spinning a jackpot and winning over $100. Yes, I came out ahead in gambling, one of only two in our group of around twenty to do so.

 

The rest of the drive home was uneventful, so there is little else to report. What I will say about this trip as a whole is this: It had its high points and its low points, but overall I'm glad I was able to do a road trip across the Western US. It didn't end up like I originally hoped it would, but I still had a good time and I'd definitely go back to some of the places I visited again. However, the fun of this trip was forgotten shortly after my return home as just three weeks later I left for my second summer trip: a two week TPR US trip (Mini New Hotness and Mini East Coast combo) and an add-on week with my family in New York and Boston.

 

Note: This particular update is a little lighter on photos because my phone was almost full by this point in the trip.

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The Gran Prix Track. Unlike most go-kart tracks, this one is a time trial.

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They do have a few rides here as well.

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The Super Fun Slide was somewhat fun. I only rode once, but a couple members of my group did it over and over.

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For the credit whores, there is a credit here as well.

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Unfortunately, the Dragon Coaster was closed. Credit denied.

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Tornado, Royal Flush Extreme, and Hoover Half Pipe on the far side of Red Rock Bay.

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Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas. Since my phone is not waterproof, I just took a couple pictures from our cabana.

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However, this was the reason for our visit today.

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They call it El Loco (The Crazy in English), and after riding, that name perfectly describes this coaster.

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The ride is pretty basic, but I believe this is still the largest indoor coaster in the US.

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Canyon Blaster doing what it's known for.

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A few members of my group on the carousel. I wouldn't fit on the ride if I tried.

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I've always liked the look of the Adventuredome's Ferris Wheel. I've done it before, but skipped it this time.

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The Adventuredome has the strangest drop tower I've ever seen. It starts with a launch about 3/4 of the way up (spine adjustments included), creeps to the top, then drops to the bottom and stops (2 for 1 deal on those spine adjustments). Unique, but not particularly great.

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It's now Saturday, which means time for the Adventuredome.

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Roughly 70% of the ride is visible in this picture. It is a very short coaster, but still a pretty fun ride.

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Adventuredome's other coaster is Canyon Blaster, an old-school Arrow looper.

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They also have an Inverter here, possibly the last permanent installation in the US (at least I haven't seen another one). Not a huge fan of these.

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A view from my hotel room at Bally's. Probably the best part of the hotel, to be honest.

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First stop in Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. This is the Turbo Track.

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The next day, I rode this. If you've got the credit, you know it's not worth it.

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On my last evening in Vegas, I decided to do the High Roller.

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The following shots were taken from the High Roller. First up is a view of Flamingo.

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Harrah's is also nearby.

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Looking north from near the top of the wheel.

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The view south from near the same point.

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There's the Linq right below the wheel. This seemed like a great place to hang out at night.

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One more shot from my hotel room, this time at night.

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I highly doubt Turbo Drop will ever run again.

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Desperado has always perplexed me, as it is a giant coaster in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, it's still a decent ride and a fun way to end the trip.

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On the way back to Southern California, we had to stop at Buffalo Bill's to ride Desperado.

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Once you get above 200 ft. it becomes possible to see the strip.

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If you look away from the strip, you'll see a sea of lights extending all the way across the valley.

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Cool update! Been enjoying it because I spent a lot of time living in national parks, and of course love roller coasters. So this report is a little of everything I like!

 

I know it's not the US, but as for another permanent Inverter in North America, there's one at Six Flags Mexico

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^ & ^^Glad you've been enjoying it. When I plan trips on my own, I definitely like to include some non-park stuff if there is anything worth seeing, and while my dad doesn't mind stopping at amusement parks along the way he won't go for an all-park trip. If I just want an amusement park trip, I'll opt for a TPR trip. Speaking of that...

 

Now it is time to begin the second trip of the summer: a three week trip including a visit to Cedar Point, two TPR trips (Mini New Hotness and Mini East Coast), and a family trip to New York and Boston.

 

Trip 2, Part 1: Cedar Point-July 22nd & 23rd, 2014

 

The first day of the TPR Mini New Hotness trip was Thursday, July 24th. However, since January I had been talking with some other trip participants about adding on a couple days at Cedar Point beforehand. I had been to Cedar Point before, but that visit was some time ago (2008) and I only had one day then, not enough time to fully explore the park. We talked for a couple months about potential ideas, then in April the trip finally started to come together as details were finalized. A group of five of us (myself, Rob, Caroline, Judd, and Hans) decided to share a car rental to get from Sandusky to Cincinnati on Thursday, and we'd all spend Tuesday and Wednesday at the park.

 

To do Cedar Point without breaking my budget, I ended up taking an overnight flight to Cleveland. Unfortunately, there was a 4 hour separation between my arrival and Rob's arrival (who was renting the car), plus my flight was early and his was delayed. In short, I spent 5 hours killing my phone battery and wandering around CLE. At about 10:30 A.M., I headed out to baggage claim and met Caroline. Rob's flight arrived shortly afterward, then we picked up the rental car (took some time) and headed for Cedar Point.

 

Cedar Point

 

The original plan was to arrive at Cedar Point around noon on Tuesday and have that day plus all of Wednesday. Of course, we ended up arriving about 2 P.M. due to various delays. With the aid of reasonable crowds and Fast Lane Plus on Wednesday, this was plenty of time for the park and we even ended up leaving a bit early.

 

Upon arriving at the park, we immediately proceeded to ride GateKeeper, and then met up with Judd (who had been there since opening). As I was the only one of the four of us to have visited previously, I somewhat acted as a tour guide and took everyone around the park. We decided to knock out as many coasters as possible on the first day, and by closing we managed to ride all of them except Millennium Force. The second day was spent re-riding our favorites, riding some non-coaster rides, and checking out a few of the diversions in the park. We also met up with some other TPR members and had to deal with a rain delay that shut down all but two of the park's coasters for a few hours. By the end of the second day, I felt that I had finally truly experienced Cedar Point, a feeling I didn't quite have on my previous visit.

 

Note: The following is the review format I'll be using for all but the smallest parks in the remainder of the trip report. It is similar to what I did for Elitch Gardens previously.

 

Coaster Reviews:

 

Cedar Point's coaster collection is somewhat interesting. On one hand, it contains three top ten coasters, a feat no other park has done. However, while it is a good collection overall I can think of a number of parks with a superior collection, as half of Cedar Point's coasters are average at best. In addition, the park is seriously lacking a notable wood coaster...hopefully their next coaster is a GCI or similar.

 

GateKeeper: I was excited to ride GateKeeper, as it was my first experience with a wing coaster. After riding, however, I can see why enthusiasts don't care for them. The ride wasn't bad, it just wasn't nearly as good as it looked like it would be. I do like the fact that GateKeeper is a long ride, but hate that the second half is almost worthless. It was somewhat like the Silver Bullet of Cedar Point; there's nothing wrong with the ride, and it is definitely worth riding, but it's not something worth going out of the way for. B+

 

Wicked Twister: I really like the impulse coasters, and to me Wicked Twister is the best of the bunch. The ride isn't the most impressive coaster out there, but it provides a quick thrill and is more intense than it looks due to the tightness of the twists. Capacity is relatively low on this ride and it isn't always on Fast Lane, so I'd definitely recommend doing this one early in the day. B+

 

Raptor: To me, Raptor is the worst of the best as far as inverted coasters go. It's a top tier ride, but not as good as rides like Afterburn or Alpengeist. The ride is a good length, is really smooth (with the exception of one or two transitions), and has great pacing. I do think it gets a little less exciting toward the end of the ride, but I still consider this the best non-Intamin at Cedar Point. A-

 

Blue Streak: Here's a ride that's significantly better than it looks. Blue Streak may be just a simple out and back, but it has a good amount of airtime if you're in the right seat and is really smooth for a 50 year old woodie. The ride is a little on the short side, but not enough to complain about. Plus, Blue Streak typically has a 10 minute wait or less as long as both trains are running. Overall, the ride isn't anything mind-blowing, but is worthy of a ride or two during a visit. C+

 

Iron Dragon: As of now, I have been on all the suspended coasters in North America. I can definitively say that Iron Dragon is the least impressive of the bunch. The ride is worth doing because it is a dying breed, but it's just a fairly short and relatively dull ride. C

 

Mantis: A lot of people hate Mantis. I don't love the ride, but I don't have a problem with it either. To me, it's pretty average for a stand-up. Although it's not the smoothest ride out there, it is a fun coaster with a good sequence of elements and is actually one of Cedar Point's most forceful coasters. I hope this ride isn't being permanently retired and is rather being transformed for next year, even though it isn't one I'd particularly miss. C+

 

Mean Streak: On my previous visit, Mean Streak was very rough. The coaster must have received some track work recently, because on this visit it was smooth. While this was a slight improvement, I still find the ride to be very dull and uneventful. There are a couple decent drops at the beginning of the ride, but pretty much everything after the mid-course brakes just drags out the coaster without adding anything. C-

 

Cedar Creek Mine Ride: While not the worst mine train out there, Cedar Creek Mine Ride isn't that great. To me, the ride just feels like an oversized kiddie coaster with uncomfortable trains. This one is smoother than some of the other Arrow mine trains, but I've got a feeling that is partially due to a relatively low-speed layout. This is one to ride just for the credit. D+

 

Maverick: To me, Maverick is almost the ideal coaster. The ride has a variety of elements, giving it moments with good airtime, strong forces, high speeds, and inversions. The ride is long, but there isn't a dull bit of track in the coaster. The first part of the ride is thrilling, but it isn't until the second half that you realize how intense this deceptively small coaster actually is. And even though the ride is intense, it isn't so intense that it can't be ridden again and again. If there is a fault of this ride, it is that you can receive some pretty painful neck chops if you aren't paying attention or don't know what to expect, but after one ride it shouldn't be too difficult to prevent this. I absolutely consider Maverick a top five coaster, and it is my favorite ride at Cedar Point. A

 

Gemini: Before this visit, I had only ridden one track of Gemini. For this trip, the ride was racing on Tuesday (one track was closed on Wednesday due to mechanical issues). When the coaster is racing, I consider this a must ride. Even if the coaster isn't racing, it is still a fun ride with a good amount of airtime and one of the best first drops at Cedar Point. Gemini isn't the smoothest coaster, however, so it might be a good idea to hold on. B

 

Woodstock Express: In addition to GateKeeper, this was my other new credit at Cedar Point. This is the larger version of Vekoma's junior coaster model, and while not as good as custom versions it is significantly better than the standard version. Even though it may just be a family coaster, I personally thought this was better than some of Cedar Point's bigger coasters. One word of warning, however...this is the most restrictive coaster in the park. Members of my group who fit on Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, and even Millennium Force couldn't fit on this, and I had to try several seats before finding a seatbelt I could buckle. C

 

Magnum XL-200: The original hyper coaster is still a pretty good ride, though I didn't enjoy it as much this time as I did last time. This ride is still the airtime king of Cedar Point, but I do not remember it being as rough as it was this time. Perhaps I made the mistake of sitting in a wheel seat on one of my rides, as two out of three weren't bad. Still a better coaster than Desperado and one I'd recommend, just not one to ride over and over. B+

 

Corkscrew: And the award for worst Arrow looper goes to...Corkscrew. Yeah, there's almost nothing redeeming about this ride. I doubt it will ever go anywhere, as the ride doesn't take up much space and is somewhat of a defining feature of the Gemini Midway, but I don't have any desire to ride this one again. D+

 

Top Thrill Dragster: Even though I've been on over 350 coasters, there is still one type of ride that gives me a rush every time I ride: the accelerator coaster. Top Thrill Dragster is my favorite of the type, as while the coaster is short it has a great launch, a very tall hill, and an interesting spiraling drop that isn't rough in the slightest. While not the best coaster at Cedar Point, it is a bit of a waste to visit and not ride once, even though Top Thrill Dragster can have huge lines due to capacity issues. A

 

Millennium Force: Millennium Force has been called the best roller coaster in the world (or at least in North America) and appears to be the favorite of most Cedar Point visitors. While I really like the ride, I do not feel it is the best coaster at the park. The ride is just too drawn out and focused on speed for my tastes. I will give it credit for the first drop, as Millennium Force may have the best first drop of any coaster, but after that there are two hills with floater airtime and a bunch of giant curves and straight sections. Absolutely worth riding, and still a top ten coaster, but just not the best ride ever built as some make it out to be. Despite this, I personally think this is the best giga coaster (sorry I305 fans). A

 

Cedar Point Coaster Ranking:

 

Must Ride:

 

1. Maverick

2. Top Thrill Dragster

3. Millennium Force

4. Raptor

* Gemini (racing)

 

Good Coasters:

 

5. Magnum XL-200

6. Wicked Twister

7. GateKeeper

8. Gemini (not racing)

 

Average Coasters:

 

9. Blue Streak

10. Mantis

11. Woodstock Express

12. Iron Dragon

13. Mean Streak

 

Credit Coasters:

 

14. Corkscrew

15. Cedar Creek Mine Ride

 

Non-Coaster Summary:

 

While Cedar Point is known for their coasters, they do have one of the best non-coaster ride collections of any major park as well. Due to limited time and a desire to get multiple re-rides, I only rode a handful of non-coaster rides at the park (most of which were on Wednesday when rain shut down all but a couple coasters). Of the flat rides I rode, the best was probably Cedar Downs, an old derby racer that is better than almost all other carousels. The ride has no seatbelts, moves about twice the speed of your average merry-go-round, is three times the size, and features horses that move forward and backward to simulate a horse race. Other non-coasters I liked were Witches Wheel, Skyhawk, and Power Tower (Turbo Drop only...the Space Shot side was weak). I did ride the new Pipe Scream, which I liked but probably wouldn't bother to ride again. In addition to flat rides, I rode the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, which is probably my favorite non-coaster in the park due to a series of scenes depicting a western town with animatronic skeletons (this is the closest Cedar Point has to a dark ride). I also rode Shoot the Rapids, which was thoroughly underwhelming and will give you wet shoes for the rest of the day.

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Cedar Point is often considered the greatest park in North America. There is certainly plenty to like about the park: several outstanding coasters, an excellent flat ride collection, plenty for the family to do, the most efficient operations you'll see outside of a Disney park, and an unbeatable location out on a peninsula, just to name a few. However, there is room for improvement at the park too: food quality and service is poor even compared to other Cedar Fair properties, the park needs a good wood coaster and some type of dark ride, some employees are a little too business-y and come off as less friendly, etc. Did I have a good time? Yes. Would I go back? Absolutely, especially if there was a major new ride. It is one of my favorite parks, but I'm going to amend the greatest park statement: Cedar Point is the greatest thrill park in North America. While I'd absolutely pick a trip to any Disney park over a trip to Cedar Point, I would definitely pick a Cedar Point trip over a trip to any other Cedar Fair or Six Flags park, all other things held equal.

 

Lastly, my opinion of Fast Lane, Cedar Point's skip the line system. If you are visiting Cedar Point and have only one or two days, I absolutely recommend buying Fast Lane for one day of your visit. It is expensive, but it will save you a ton of time and make your visit much less stressful. Unlike other parks, Fast Lane will not grant you instant access, but it should cut your wait to about 10-15 minutes per ride. Even though we got lucky and found waits of 30 minutes or less for all but the big three (with a fair number of walk-ons), there is no way we would have gotten several rides each on Maverick, Millennium Force, and Top Thrill Dragster without it. If you will be visiting for three days (the most I'd recommend for one Cedar Point trip), Fast Lane is optional, and I would advise against buying it for multiple days unless you've got plenty of money to spend.

 

Ride Totals:

 

Blue Streak: 2

Cedar Creek Mine Ride: 1

Corkscrew: 1

GateKeeper: 3

Gemini: 2

Iron Dragon: 2

Magnum XL-200: 3

Mantis: 2

Maverick: 5

Mean Streak: 2

Millennium Force: 4

Raptor: 2

Top Thrill Dragster: 4

Wicked Twister: 2

Woodstock Express: 1

Cedar Downs: 1

Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad: 1

Pipe Scream: 1

Power Tower: 2

Shoot the Rapids: 1

Skyhawk: 1

Witches Wheel: 1

 

Total: 44 rides over two days (~20 hours in park; 2.2 rides per hour)

 

On to the pictures. I didn't take all that many Cedar Point pictures simply because the weather was uncooperative and I wanted to ride as much as possible. Fortunately, Cedar Point is one of the most photographed parks out there. Also, all pictures were taken on Wednesday.

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As you can tell from the sky, we were in for a rainy day at Cedar Point.

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It wasn't long before we started to see sights like this. When it rains at Cedar Point, all coasters close.

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With all the coasters closed, lines for flat rides grew, as most of those remained open.

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Hey, look! Mantis is running in the rain.

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Millennium Force is open too. Since it was the only headliner open, Millennium had a 90 minute wait (45 with Fast Lane).

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This hill is one of the few airtime moments on the ride.

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We decided to go through the America tunnel to see if Maverick happened to be running, as the rain was now little more than a drizzle.

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Maverick is running. Just as we arrived, they were transferring the last two trains back on the track, so I assume it had recently resumed operation.

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Say what you want about the restraints, Maverick is still the best coaster at Cedar Point.

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Eventually the rain stopped altogether and even Top Thrill Dragster reopened.

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GateKeeper. Such a beautiful looking ride, but such an underwhelming experience.

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Late in the afternoon, all the clouds cleared and the sun came out. This was the first time I really dried after riding Shoot the Rapids just before lunch.

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I love the fact that Cedar Point can be accessed by water. It would be awesome to sail to the park just to say you've traveled to a park by car, train, boat, and plane.

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A sunset shot of the Main Midway. By this point, the park was pretty empty by Cedar Point standards.

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Iron Dragon's finale over the lake. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the next retired coaster.

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One last shot of Top Thrill Dragster before leaving the Point. I hope it doesn't take six years before I get a chance to visit again.

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I agreed with a lot of your coaster summaries, especially what you said about Maverick and Millennium Force. Hopefully I can re-ride I-305 again in the future, now with the hindsight of riding so many world class coasters. I really hope my impression of that coaster will be the same now as it was a few years ago and will stay in my top spot for favourite coaster.

 

Really enjoying your trip report, you're great at backing up your opinions. I forgot to mention the amazing Cedar Point railroad, which was one of the biggest surprises of the trip for me. I can't believe I hadn't heard about it before. I found it really bizarre but genuinely entertaining. Can't wait to read about the rest of the New Hotness tour.

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The next half-dozen updates are all about the TPR Mini New Hotness tour. This particular update is somewhat short, as the first day of the trip was a bonus day for anyone arriving early, but it did include two parks I didn't think I would ever visit.

 

Trip 2, Part 2: Coney Island & More-July 24th, 2014

 

July 24th was the official start date for the TPR Mini New Hotness trip. The tour didn't start until 4:30 P.M., but many participants (including our group of five) chose to arrive early and spend the day at Coney Island. This meant we had to be at Cincinnati airport by noon, roughly four hours away. We left Sandusky around 7 A.M., and even with a few GPS issues we made it to the airport a little after 11 A.M. There was already a small group of TPR members gathered in baggage claim, and slowly the group grew to somewhere around 20 people. Robb arrived early to help with getting everyone organized, and at noon the bus pulled up with the 20-something that had spent Wednesday night in Cincinnati. Elissa came inside, took roll to make sure everyone was there (I think everyone made it, though it's possible one didn't), then we all got on the bus and headed to Coney Island.

 

Coney Island

 

Coney Island is not a park I ever expected I would visit. I know the park has a lot of history behind it, but the current park is only a shadow of what it once was. Walking around the park, you can definitely tell that the place has been there for a long time, and the park does still have some historical attractions, but most of the rides now are of the carnival variety. The park itself is a pretty good size, as there are more things to do here than just ride the rides.

 

As part of the bonus day, we were given about 3 hours to explore the park, which was more than enough time to hit the few noteworthy rides. We also had a group lunch at the park, the first of a seemingly endless series of hot dogs and fried chicken. This one wasn't bad, but they did get better later on. For those not familiar with a TPR trip, this was a nice little introduction.

 

As far as the ride department at Coney Island is concerned, the park has three notable attractions. First off is the Python, Coney Island's only roller coaster. Python is a D.P.V. Rides Family Coaster or, in other terms, a knock-off Zyklon. It was not good. I heard this ride broke someone's rib on the 2007 Midwest Tour (TPR's previous visit to the park), and I can definitely see why. The ride gets a D- from me, and was the worst non-kiddie coaster I rode on the trip. Coney Island's second notable ride is the Rock-o-Plane. To a casual observer, the Rock-o-Plane looks just like a Ferris Wheel, but the ride is much more intense. Using a locking mechanism inside the cages and some muscle as necessary, skilled riders can get the car to do a 360 degree flip. Without a doubt, this was my favorite ride at the park. The only other notable attraction at Coney Island is Tempest, an old-school carnival ride. This attraction is a little difficult to describe: it has cars that spin like a teacup ride, moves like a scrambler, and is on an incline. It wasn't the greatest ride ever, and due to the operator having some difficulty the loading/unloading cycle took some time, but I'm still glad I rode the ride. In addition to these, I also did the Ferris Wheel and a kiddie drop tower. The most interesting of the remaining rides was Wipeout, a ride with the goal of inverting riders as much as possible (not my thing).

 

Overall, Coney Island wasn't a bad park, but I have serious doubts that I'll ever go back. There just isn't a compelling reason to return to the park. Of course, if I was traveling with someone else who wanted to visit, I wouldn't mind stopping by again (though I'd pass on Python), I just have no reason to return myself.

 

After leaving Coney Island, we headed back to the airport to pick up the small number of participants who opted out of Coney Island, then headed off to dinner at Carrabba's. Well, we thought we were going to Carrabba's, but instead we ended up at...

 

Stricker's Grove

 

I've known about Stricker's Grove for as long as I've cared about theme parks, and although I've wanted to check the place out for some time I'd somewhat written the park off as it is only open a couple days per year (used to be two but they've now expanded to four). The rest of the time, Stricker's Grove is used as a private picnic park for company and group picnics. On this particular day, there was a picnic by a church group going on, but thanks to a generous donation by Robb and Elissa (aka the most religious thing TPR has ever done) we were granted admittance to the park during the event.

 

We arrived about 45 minutes before the event was scheduled to start, so everyone hung out in the picnic area and/or took pictures of the place. Once the gates opened, we were given an hour to get the two credits, ride anything else we wanted to ride, and get back to the bus. This was pretty easy as Stricker's is a tiny park and almost all the rides are typical flat rides. I rode both of the coasters and then just spent the rest of my time getting a couple more rides on Tornado.

 

Stricker's Grove's two coasters are both wooden coasters built by the park's former owner, Ralph Stricker (his daughter now runs the park). The first coaster, Tornado, was built over the course of four years (1990-1993) and based on blueprints from the Rocky Glen Park Comet. This was actually a decent ride with a few fun drops and one or two airtime moments. It's not that intense of a ride, making it an excellent first "big coaster" for kids. C+ The park's second coaster, Teddy Bear, used the blueprints of the Coney Island Teddy Bear and opened in 1996. This was a fun junior woodie, and even though it is my least favorite wooden coaster I'd still pick this over about 20% of the steel coasters I've ridden (and it was much better than Python). D

 

Stricker's Grove was a nice park that would be fun to spend a couple hours at, but it's nothing more than the picnic park it's designed to be. The whole place does seem like it was built in the middle of someone's farm, and I can't imagine it can handle more than 300-400 people at a time very well. If you happen to be in Cincinnati on one of the park's public days, I definitely recommend stopping by, but I wouldn't alter my trip just to visit the park. I will say I enjoyed this park more than Coney Island, however, even though there are fewer rides.

 

Once we left Stricker's Grove (almost leaving someone behind to be converted...and I don't mean RMC), we headed off to our promised dinner at Carrabba's. I don't know what it was, but I didn't enjoy this particular Carrabba's experience as much as usual. It was still a nice dinner and a good time to get to know everyone, as this trip had a lot of new faces for me. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, Robb distributed TPR trip bags, shirts, and itineraries, Elissa gave out the room keys, I met my roommate (Evan), and then we went up to the room. The next day at Kings Island promised not only a very full day, but an early morning and very late night, so everyone wanted to be well rested for the real start of the trip.

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En route to Cincinnati, we went right by Columbus. After this trip, the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is the only park in the area I have left to visit.

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The Flying Bobs is a fun ride, but I'm not a huge fan of backward flats and it had a bit of a line.

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The picture doesn't show it, but the brakes at the end take you from about 20 MPH to stopped in 10 feet or so. I'm guessing this is where the rib crack occurred.

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Time for the Python. After spending two days at Cedar Point, I'm sure this will be exciting.

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I managed to completely flip my cage a couple times on the ride. I don't think most people were able to do it.

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Not sure who's in that cage, but our group was split between two cycles so this ride had several TPR members on it.

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Coney Island's floral clock. This is not really a clock, but it still looks neat.

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Scream Machine is the park's kiddie drop tower. It was okay.

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I've never actually been on a legitimate Zyklon, but this knock-off Zyklon was not good at all. Worst non-kiddie coaster of the trip.

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This, however, is a must ride. It's the rides like these that make smaller parks for me.

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Coney Island is a reasonably nice park. From what I heard, the park was somewhat ghetto in 2007 so this was much better than I was expecting.

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I can't remember the last time I've been on a Ferris Wheel like this, but it was a fun ride. Probably my second favorite ride after the Rock-o-Plane.

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Those look like the boats from Skipper School at LEGOLAND California. I'm surprised they work on an actual lake.

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There's Tempest, the bizarre teacup/scrambler hybrid. It was alright.

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Even though scramblers are one of my favorite flats, I didn't ride this one. You don't need to ride every scrambler, as they're everywhere (in fact, I think I only did one the entire trip).

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The midway leading back to the park center. I believe those buildings have been there since the golden age of the park.

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If you're not into rides, Coney Island has plenty of places where you can relax by the lake. They also have paddle boats for those who don't mind the work.

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Since we had time to kill and our wristbands included unlimited soda, we relaxed in the center of the park until it was time for the bus to arrive.

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I believe the Moonlite Garden used to be a ballroom of some sort back when Coney Island was Cincinnati's main park. Now the building looks mostly unused.

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In 1997, Coney Island was under water. I'm not sure exactly how much damage that did to the park, but I believe most of their rides are from after that flood.

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First park of the trip: Coney Island. The bus dropped us off on the far side of the park, so we had a bit of a walk to get to the coaster.

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Surprise! Stricker's Grove is included as a bonus park for everyone.

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Most of the park's kiddie rides are housed under the shed. Some of these date back to the 1950s.

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Outside is a mini turtle.

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There's also a kiddie whip. Stricker's Grove definitely has plenty for kids.

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Missed Scrambler #2 of the trip.

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If there is one flat I should have rode at Stricker's, it is the Tip Top. I thought it was just a normal teacup ride, but it turns out the ride tilts up during the cycle.

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Who cares about Scramblers? We're here to ride coasters.

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One last look at Tornado on the way out. Of the three coasters I rode on this day, Tornado was easily my favorite.

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Tornado isn't that big (probably around 50 feet tall), but it is still a fun family ride with a couple moments of air.

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Fun Fact: Six Flags Magic Mountain once called their round-up Electric Rainbow. The name lives on here (though I have a feeling there is no relation).

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Didn't ride these flyers, but they looked fairly weak. Elissa and KidTums looked like they were having a good time.

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I'm thinking most trip participants only rode this once, as the train was full of TPR people for 20 minutes and then I hardly saw anyone from the trip here.

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However, I'm happy to have gotten three rides on this elusive woodie.

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Teddy Bear is a junior woodie. It looked very similar to the PTC junior woodies.

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In addition to rides, Stricker's Grove also has a mini-golf course. I'm guessing this is an upcharge on public days.

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^^I used to use numerical rankings and got some flack for it, but haven't really heard anything since I switched to letters last year, so I guess people don't have an issue with the letter scale. I'm glad some people do appreciate that my trip reports are somewhat of a review as well (it is Theme Park Review, after all). Nice to have met you as well.

 

^It's difficult to tell from the outside if the building is still in use or not, but if it is it's probably only for a couple events each year.

 

Now for the real start of the TPR Mini New Hotness tour.

 

Trip 2, Part 3: Banshee Bash at Kings Island-July 25th, 2014

 

The first full day of the TPR Mini New Hotness tour was arguably the best (only one day really challenges it), as it was Banshee Bash at Kings Island. I've been to a number of TPR bashes throughout the years, and although some are better than others all have been great. Banshee Bash ended up being somewhere in the middle: it doesn't quite match the recent Knott's days of West Coast Bash or Leviathan Bash two years ago, but was definitely better than Bizarro Bash in 2011.

 

Although our hotel was not far from Kings Island (outside of walking distance, but within taxi distance), we still had an early departure at 7:45 A.M. We arrived at the park approximately ten minutes later, received our schedules, tickets, and Fast Lane vouchers, and then waited to enter the park.

 

Kings Island

 

Of all the parks on this trip, Kings Island was probably my most anticipated for several reasons. The park was the biggest park in the country I hadn't visited yet, as well as the last large park in the Cedar Fair chain. It also completed a number of sets for me, including the former Paramount parks and all associated duplicate coasters. However, I had heard from a lot of people that Kings Island really wasn't that great of park and only had a few noteworthy rides, plus crowds were nearly as bad as Cedar Point. Perhaps it was due to Banshee Bash, perhaps it was due to Fast Lane, or perhaps it was simply due to those I hung out with for the day, but I was not disappointed in the slightest.

 

Banshee Bash began with an hour of morning ERT on Banshee, Bat, and Delirium. During this time, I did ride Bat a couple times, but most of it was spent on Banshee. All the coaster reviews are below, but for now I'll say this about Banshee: Best new ride of 2014 and best new B&M since Tatsu. Following this ERT, we were given a half-hour on Diamondback before the park was opened to the general public and we were free to roam.

 

When ERT ended, I joined up with Caroline, Judd, and Nathan and we all decided to head to Beast, then see how many credits we could pick up before lunch at 12:30 P.M. We didn't quite get to all of the credits, but did manage to get on every major coaster except Invertigo, plus a couple minor ones as well. Lunch consisted of fried chicken and hot dogs once again. Not the worst of these on the trip, but not quite as good as Coney Island's. During lunch, we also had a Q&A session with park management and got to hear stories about Beast and Cedar Fair TV.

 

After lunch, it was time for backstage tours. The first tour was a basic photo tour of Banshee, not too interesting but it allowed everyone to get photos from some unique angles. The second tour took us out into the woods around Beast and Diamondback, and was much more interesting as those areas cannot be seen from within the park. It wasn't until doing this tour that I realized how hilly the terrain around Beast actually is (the base of the second lift is probably a good 50 feet below the station). Once the tours ended, we had free time for a bit, so we got the remaining credits out of the way, did a few re-rides, and tried out some of the park's non-coasters.

 

At 7 P.M. we had reserved seating for Cirque Imagine, Kings Island's new show for this year. I'm not much of a show person, and there are only two theme park shows I consider must-see attractions (Aladdin and Waterworld, excluding nighttime spectaculars), but this was actually pretty decent. There is no dialogue in the show, and it is essentially a 30 minute Cirque du Soleil act. We also got to talk with the cast of the show afterward, which was interesting. After the show, we grabbed dinner, then did a few more rides until it was closing time. After watching the fireworks from a private viewing area in the International Restaurant, we were released into the park for night ERT.

 

Night ERT began with an hour on Banshee. I wasn't sure how much difference the darkness would make, but it was best riding in the dark. Once Diamondback opened, we headed over there but only managed to get two rides in before the ride was closed for the night. Finally, it was time for Beast ERT. We had a full hour for the Beast, which was just the right amount of time. Once again, I don't want to spoil my Beast review, but I will say this: You have not experienced the Beast until you have ridden it under the cover of darkness.

 

Beast ERT ended at midnight. Once the final train returned to the station, everyone took a brisk walk/jog out to the parking lot to take the bus back to the hotel. It was a very late night after a 16 hour day at the park, and with a very early departure the next morning I doubt anyone got much sleep. However, though the day at Kings Island had been extremely tiring, I knew it would be difficult to top.

 

Coaster Reviews:

 

It is difficult to classify Kings Island's coaster collection. In terms of variety, only Six Flags Magic Mountain seems to have a more diverse line-up of coasters. In terms of quality, however, Kings Island's line-up is fairly average outside of their three headliners. There is definitely a skew at the park toward kiddie and family coasters, as half of the park's coasters fall into that category. In fact, Kings Island's collection contains a lot of the same issues Cedar Point's does, though due to the presence of an above-average wooden coaster and lack of anything truly awful I feel Kings Island has a slightly better line-up overall.

 

Banshee: It is a fact that B&M has lost their reputation with many enthusiasts. I, however, am a B&M fan, so when Banshee was announced I expected it to be a good ride, probably on par with Raptor. However, the ride blew me away. Not only was Banshee the best new credit I got this year and one of my top five coasters on the trip, it also became my favorite inverted coaster and one of my top five steel coasters (top ten overall). The coaster is just right in so many ways: long with no dull moments, good drop, good speed, good layout, good number of inversions, etc. and it has one of the fastest crews I've ever seen (seriously, 45 second dispatch on an inverted coaster). If there is one complaint I have about the ride, it is that the ride has a bit of rattle, but it is not enough to significantly detract from the coaster. Lastly, while Banshee is great during the day, it is absolutely a top ten ride at night. A

 

Bat: As far as Arrow suspended coasters go, Bat is somewhere in the middle. It is reasonably intense, yet tame enough to be a family coaster. The ride also has a good amount of swinging, definitely more than Iron Dragon. However, it is a short ride. This was the last Arrow suspended in North America for me, and I would probably rank it second (better than Ninja, not as good as Vortex). C+

 

Diamondback: Most people I talked to though this was the best coaster at Kings Island. While I really enjoyed the ride, I personally found it somewhere in the middle of the B&M hypers. In my opinion, the first half of the ride was good but the second half didn't really do much for me. Perhaps I had too high of expectations, as this is often considered the best of the Cedar Fair hypers, but although I still consider it a top tier coaster I do prefer Intimidator and Leviathan (and Nitro as well). Maybe I just need to ride it more, as I only got four rides total on Diamondback and didn't get to try everywhere in the train. A

 

Beast: I'll be honest...after my first ride on Beast, I thought it was just okay. Sure, the ride is unique and very, very, very long, but other than the first drop and the helix it felt more like a high speed train out in the woods than a roller coaster. After riding at night, however, I can see why the coaster is so highly regarded. At night, the Beast is, well, a Beast. In the dark, you can't see where you're going, so running out through the woods on an out of control train is a very thrilling experience. In fact, Beast is probably the second best night ride (after Boulder Dash). If the ride was more interesting, I would give it a higher grade, but just because the coaster is slightly above average during the day I have to take away some points. A-

 

Racer: Racer is not the most exciting coaster out there, but when the ride is racing it may be one of the most fun coasters. Who would think taking a simple out and back and adding a second track would make the ride so much better. Now, I did get the chance to ride both racing and non-racing, and while it is a fairly average family coaster with one train, this is a top five in the park with both trains running. The coaster probably has the most airtime in the park (excluding Diamondback), and while it isn't the smoothest ride out there, racing your friends on the other train is so worth it. B- in general, B+ when racing.

 

Flight of Fear: I expected this to be like the Kings Dominion version of the ride, and it more or less was. However, the Kings Island version is inferior for four reasons: 1. less dark, 2. rougher, 3. much stronger midcourse brakes, and 4. no Fast Lane. Other than that, it was the same short, intense, disorienting spaghetti bowl in the dark that Kings Dominion has. Also, this ride seems to have problems with overheating, as the crew was waiting two minutes between dispatches. Shame the 45 minute wait meant we could only get one ride. B

 

Firehawk: Many people will tell you this ride is terrible. However, I really enjoyed the coaster. In fact, I would take Firehawk over the Superman clones. While Vekoma calls this ride a flying coaster, it is really more of a lay-down coaster as you spend most of the ride on your back. This leads to some very interesting maneuvers, and for first time riders it can be a terrifying experience (seriously, the motion of the first drop totally feels like you are plummeting to your death). Maybe it's because I only rode in the first row, but I thought this was one of Vekoma's best rides and wish there were more of them. B

 

Vortex: Every coaster park has a dreaded coaster, and at Kings Island that is typically Vortex. However, I am one of maybe three people on the trip that didn't mind the ride. No, it is not great, but I didn't think the ride was terrible either. Yes, it is true that the ride has a good first drop and you more endure than enjoy the remainder, but unlike some others I'd ride it again on a return visit. C+

 

Backlot Stunt Coaster: Of the three Backlot Stunt Coasters, this was the best because most of the effects are still in use. Yes, the coaster is still just a short family coaster (almost like an outdoor Revenge of the Mummy, actually), but it's still a fun ride if you can get on with a short wait. B-

 

Invertigo: I'm not the biggest fan of shuttle coasters, so while this was better than a standard boomerang it was still my least favorite coaster at Kings Island. The ride wasn't too rough, but wasn't as smooth as CGA's version from what I remember. I do think the seats make the ride, however, and with a standard SLC train these wouldn't be much fun at all. C-

 

Adventure Express: Not the best mine train, but one of the better ones IMO. The ride is a total family coaster, but that's all it needs to be. I like that there is actually a bit before the first lift hill and the fact that the ride has a lot of tunnels (I think I counted four), but hate the ending as it seems to be building to something other than a brake run. In fact, this replaces Revenge of the Mummy for the most WTF ending. C

 

Flying ACE Aerial Chase: I've now been on four of the suspended family coasters. This one is the original, but I think it is the best. The coaster is a bit jerky, but the restraints are wide enough to prevent headbanging and for a family coaster the ride is mildly fun. I'm glad this coaster has Fast Lane as the wait looked quite long with only one train. As a side note, this was credit #300 for me. C

 

Woodstock Express: A family wooden coaster, and the last of four for me to ride. This one was probably my favorite of the four, as it was smooth (although not very memorable). Good family coaster, but not worth much of a wait (no Fast Lane here, either). C+

 

Kings Island Coaster Ranking:

 

Must Ride:

 

1. Banshee

2. Diamondback

3. Beast

 

Good Coasters:

 

* Racer (racing)

4. Firehawk

5. Flight of Fear

6. Racer (not racing)

7. Backlot Stunt Coaster

 

Average Coasters:

 

8. Bat

9. Vortex

10. Woodstock Express

11. Adventure Express

12. Flying ACE Aerial Chase

13. Invertigo

 

Non-Coaster Summary:

 

Like Cedar Point, Kings Island has one of the best non-coaster collections of any major park. Due to time constraints, however, I did not ride many of them, but I enjoyed most of those I rode. My favorite non-coaster ride at Kings Island is Drop Tower. It isn't the world's best drop ride, but it is an above average one and the rotation adds something unique to the attraction. The only other flat ride I rode was Windseeker, which is pretty much the same as all the others (though I do like that they still play film music at Kings Island). Even though we had ERT on Delirium, I did not ride as I am not a huge fan of this type of ride. In addition, I did try Kings Island's dark ride, Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. The ride itself was better than the other Boo Blasters incarnations I've tried, and thanks to a unique omnimover system the line seemed to move fast, but unfortunately we found the guns didn't work so well on this ride. I also rode Race For Your Life Charlie Brown, a fairly average log flume with an acceptable amount of wetness, and went to the top of the Eiffel Tower for some nice views.

 

In addition to what I rode, Kings Island has a number of other flat rides, two other water rides, and what appeared to be one of the best kids areas in any park. Now that I've been to most of the Cedar Fair properties, I would say Kings Island probably has the best non-coaster collection in the chain, excluding Cedar Point.

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

I went into Kings Island expecting to find it just okay, but after visiting I would say it's my second favorite Cedar Fair park and one of my top ten parks overall. For rides, the park has a decent coaster selection (including three top tier coasters), a decent dark ride, a great collection of non-coaster rides, and one of the best kids' areas in the industry. The park is also very well landscaped (with plenty of shady areas), reasonably themed, and has employees who are not only friendly but also fairly efficient as well. The only significant issue I have with the park is one I have with many Cedar Fair properties: food quality. While the lunch wasn't bad (probably the best group lunch I've had at a Cedar Fair park, Mrs. Knott's chicken excluded), the chicken strips I got for dinner were pretty mediocre with a side of slow service and my friends had a poor experience at an in-park Subway. The one food exception is the Banshee ice cream, which is quite good (though not the best ever) and is something I would probably get on every visit.

 

Overall, however, I really enjoyed Kings Island and would definitely go back. If a few minor issues were fixed (excessive braking on some of the coasters) and the park received a couple needed additions (one or two new slide towers for the waterpark and one more top tier coaster), Kings Island could be the best thrill park in North America.

 

Ride Totals:

 

Adventure Express: 1

Backlot Stunt Coaster: 1

Bat: 2

Banshee: 5

Beast: 5

Diamondback: 4

Firehawk: 2

Flight of Fear: 1

Flying ACE Aerial Chase: 1

Invertigo: 1

Racer: 4

Vortex: 1

Woodstock Express: 1

Boo Blasters on Boo Hill: 1

Drop Tower: 2

Eiffel Tower: 1

Race For Your Life Charlie Brown: 1

Windseeker: 1

 

Total: 35 rides in 15 hours (2.33 rides per hour)

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Welcome to Kings Island, the better sister park to Kings Dominion.

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Unlike most inverted coasters, Banshee starts things off with a dive loop.

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Banshee is the first US inverted coaster built in 8 years and is possibly the best one yet.

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No other inverted coaster features a loop around the lift hill. It might not look it because the loop is so large, but this ride is intense.

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Drop Tower! Excellent ride, but the name could use a little work.

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When on a backstage tour, you have two options for your coaster photos: with or without enthusiasts.

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It's too bad the tour didn't continue down to the lower area of the ride, but I'm still happy with what we got.

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Cedar Fair may not go all out with theming, but it was nice that they scattered tombstones around the area and made the station look nice.

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I love it when inverted coasters get close to the ground, and Banshee does it more than once on the ride.

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One final shot of Banshee before leaving the tour area. Best new ride of 2014 for sure.

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Random slingshot picture. At this time, I'd never been on one, but that will change by the end of the trip.

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Unlike some of B&M's previous designs, the first drop on this one is great.

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The track itself is almost at ground level, so riders are just a couple feet from hitting dirt at this point.

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After the loop comes a zero-g roll, and then riders drop off into a valley. I won't say what happens next, but I will say this: the ride isn't even half over at this point.

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I heard a lot of people call Delirium an inferior version of MaxAir. I didn't ride it, so I'm not sure how it was.

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We're here for the new hotness: Banshee!

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Kings Island has a floral clock, and unlike Coney Island's this one is an actual clock.

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It's nice when you can find open empty areas inside of parks. Not every square foot needs to be occupied by a ride, game, or shop.

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Backlot Stunt Coaster doing it's thing. Of Kings Island's numerous family coasters, this is probably the best (excluding racing Racer).

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Splashdown. I believe this is still the only hyper with one of these (pretty sure Shambhala's is fake).

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I didn't mind Vortex, but according to most people it can go and die.

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Random Diamondback picture while walking to the second backstage tour.

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For our second backstage tour, we got to see a new haunt building.

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What do you mean that's all we get for the Beast backstage tour? I can barely see it from here.

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Just kidding. For the Beast tour, we were led deep into the woods to see this coaster from areas not accessible by the general public.

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The first drop on Beast is the only decent drop on the entire ride IMO. Yes, there's that drop into the helix, but it's more of a ramp.

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No, you don't get to see the legendary helix. The picture I took of it didn't turn out very good. Here's a shot of the train after the legendary helix.

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The train begins its plunge into the second part of the ride: the legendary helix.

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It's not very common that you can get this close to an operating coaster.

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From here you can see that there is quite a bit of terrain difference in the back of Kings Island. I'm guessing the lowest point on Beast is probably a good 50 feet below station elevation.

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The chain return for the second lift. On a similar tour on a previous TPR trip, we had to play limbo under one of these things.

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The next three pictures comprise the nerd section of this report.

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Following the drop, Beast runs out into the woods and doesn't come back until the second lift. This was the last we saw of the train for at least a minute.

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This is the mechanism that makes the lift hill work. You could always tell a train was approaching by listening for this to speed up.

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One of these days I'm going to skip a backstage tour just to ride the ride and see what it all looks like to the riders.

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Moving on, we got to go over and tour Diamondback as well.

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I like this picture. It would make a lot of GP think the ride is massive.

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Unlike some of B&M's other hypers, Diamondback features an appropriately placed midcourse brake.

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Floater airtime over this hill.

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Goodbye train. We'll be watching for the next one in about 15 seconds.

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It appears that Kings Island has suffered a massive infestation of coaster enthusiasts. Fortunately, these don't seem to be of the ACE variety.

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I honestly forgot Kings Island had a train ride until I saw this picture. On the map, the station appears to be near Diamondback but I never remember seeing it.

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I didn't take many pictures of Planet Snoopy, but it looked like one of the best kids' areas anywhere.

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I spy several enthusiasts on the train. Don't worry, Woodstock Express is not a credit whore coaster (Flying ACE Aerial Chase, on the other hand...).

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The biggest ride in Planet Snoopy is Woodstock Express, a family wooden coaster.

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One more random shot of Planet Snoopy. The building directly ahead houses Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, the best dark ride in the Cedar Fair chain not located at Knott's Berry Farm.

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I never rode Viking Fury, but it looked like a reasonably good pirate ship.

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And I'll end this update with an overview of Banshee. That's Kings Island. If you haven't been, tack it on to your next Cedar Point visit. You won't be disappointed.

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A view from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

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As you can tell from the parking lot, Kings Island was busy today. I doubt we would have got all the coasters in without Fast Lane and/or ERT.

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For some reason, an all blue wooden coaster doesn't look that odd to me, though I definitely prefer white or natural.

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An overview of Planet Snoopy. I believe everything except the log flume is visible here.

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There's one with the log flume. As a side note, the land is relatively featureless in the Midwest.

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Diamondback towers over the park. Kings Island does a good job of dispersing tall rides rather than clustering them together.

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Which is your favorite coaster in this picture: A. Backlot Stunt Coaster, B. Beast, C. Racer, or D. Vortex?

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I imagine Revenge of the Mummy would probably look something like this if placed outdoors. Probably not as compact, but still the same general elements.

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Oh no, I think Windseeker's stuck. Oh wait, it's a picture.

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Flight of Fear and Firehawk feel like the Kings Island rejects as they're all out on their own.

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A random picture of Coney Mall as a whole. I imagine this view was quite different in 1972.

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A view straight down from 300 ft up. If you're afraid of heights, this picture is not for you.

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I'm surprised that you liked The Bat more than Ninja. I felt that it was more intense for like 5 seconds, but all in all, Ninja was a better ride experience. I know the final 'lift to nowhere' throws some people off though.

 

Also, I agree that Vortex isn't all that bad. Not good, but not terrible

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  • 2 weeks later...
I'm surprised that you liked The Bat more than Ninja. I felt that it was more intense for like 5 seconds, but all in all, Ninja was a better ride experience. I know the final 'lift to nowhere' throws some people off though.

 

Bat and Ninja are very close in my rankings, and I think it is the strong finish that gives Bat the edge. On Ninja the ride seems to lose speed and intensity through the final few turns while Bat keeps up the pace all the way to the brake run. The final lift on Ninja has never really bothered me as it feels like a long return to the station and not a part two of the ride.

 

While Banshee Bash was definitely one of the trip's highlights, it was only the beginning. The next day of the trip was a roller coaster ride itself, with some high points and low points.

 

Trip 2, Part 4: Kentucky Kingdom & Beech Bend-July 26th, 2014

 

Nobody was fully awake on Saturday morning. I would be surprised if anyone had managed more than 5 hours of sleep (most probably got closer to 4). However, when the bus leaves at 6 A.M. and is going out of state, you do not want to miss it. The early departure combined with a helpful time change allowed for Saturday to be a two park day. Our morning began with a 3 hour bus ride to Louisville for a visit to the recently reopened Kentucky Kingdom.

 

Kentucky Kingdom

 

When Kentucky Kingdom closed following the 2009 season, I didn't think I'd ever get to see the park. There were attempts to reopen the park, but after they all failed (especially the Holiday World attempt) I was certain the park would become just a memory. Fortunately, I was wrong. Under the leadership of Ed Hart, Kentucky Kingdom has reopened to continue its reign as Kentucky's largest amusement park. It is clear that

Ed cares about the park, as he spoke with our group about the park and even asked for our opinions on the park's rides.

 

Our day at Kentucky Kingdom began with a two hour film shoot on the park's two main coasters. Originally we were to film on Lightning Run first, but due to technical difficulties we started with Thunder Run. After 45 minutes of riding (during which I rode three times), Robb had all the necessary footage and we moved over to Lightning Run. Four rides and one hour later, the park opened to the general public. I spent the morning riding the few rides I cared about. After the group lunch at noon I headed to the waterpark, Hurricane Bay, for the remainder of the visit.

 

Coaster Reviews:

 

Kentucky Kingdom's coaster selection is fine for the park as it is now, but is below average compared to similar sized parks. Lightning Run and Thunder Run are a great duo, but that's all the park has right now. For 2015, the park will be reopening T2 as T3, but given the reputation of Vekoma's SLCs it would surprise me if the ride is anything but average. However, with a Rocky Mountain treatment supposedly underway for Twisted Twins in 2016 the park is on the right track as far as coasters go.

 

Thunder Run: Thunder Run has received a re-track for the reopening, and the ride is now running better than ever. While not the greatest ride ever built, it is a solid coaster with some airtime, decent laterals, and a relatively smooth ride. The ride does get less and less thrilling as it goes on and it is a little on the short side, but I still enjoyed this coaster and it is absolutely the best Dinn ever built (at least in my experience). When Ed Hart asked, I told him 7/10, which translates to a B-.

 

Lightning Run: I wasn't expecting much from this ride when it was announced, but it turned out to be a top tier coaster. The ride is short, but it offers loads of airtime and is very smooth. The one issue I have with the coaster is the trains, which are highly uncomfortable and make it difficult for more than a couple rides in a row. If the trains were modified, this coaster would possibly make it on my top five list, but as it is I still consider it a top ten coaster. I'd give this 9/10, a score equivalent to an A on my scale.

 

Roller Skater: This is just a standard Vekoma Junior Coaster, and probably the worst I have been on due to a lack of theming and only one lap. If you count credits and there isn't a line, go ahead and ride, but otherwise it is just a waste of time. As usual, kiddie coasters don't get an official rating, but this one would be a 4/10 (D-). Surprisingly, it wasn't the worst coaster of the day.

 

Non-Coaster Summary:

 

Kentucky Kingdom's non-coaster selection is pretty bland without anything noteworthy, so this is where the park needs to focus their new additions in order to be competitive. Fortunately, 2015 will be bringing a few new flats and a refurbished water ride, so Kentucky Kingdom is going in the right direction.

 

As for their current rides, I did not ride too many simply due to time constraints and lack of interest. The best flat I tried at Kentucky Kingdom was Fearfall, a very good drop tower despite its short stature. In addition, I enjoyed both Breakdance (a standard model, though slightly less intense than some) and Professor John's Flying Machine (one of the better Larson scooters, though the cycle felt a bit short). The only other non-coaster I rode was Tin Lizzies, a fairly average antique car ride with some good views of Lightning Run. There were about a half-dozen other family/adult flat rides, while the rest appeared to be for children. In addition, Kentucky Kingdom does have one current water ride (Mile High Falls, a splash boat), but if you want to get wet you're better off at the waterpark. Speaking of which...

 

Hurricane Bay:

 

On its own, Hurricane Bay would be just okay as it is a medium sized waterpark with some redundancy in attractions (2 wave pools, 2 lazy rivers, etc). However, at Kentucky Kingdom it is the star attraction. I spent roughly half of my 5 hours of free time at Kentucky Kingdom in Hurricane Bay and if I were to go back I would definitely spend more time here as I missed out on several major slides, including Deluge (the world's first HydroMagnetic water coaster), Plummet Summit (the new family raft slide), and Tornado.

 

Slide Reviews:

 

Wikiwiki Wai: This is the park's new ProSlide tube slide tower, featuring a serpentine slide, a bowl slide, and a funnel slide. My favorite of the three was Kilawaya, a half enclosed/half open slide that featured three mini funnels. The ride was actually more intense than I expected and I ended up being flipped off my tube in the last funnel. Waikiki Wipeout was a standard ProSlide bowl, though the ride was made more thrilling by rubbing my foot on the flume, causing the tube to spin while going around the bowl. Calypso Run, the serpentine tube slide, was good but not great, as it consisted mainly of slow helixes. Overall, I thought this was a pretty good slide complex.

 

Speed Slides: Kentucky Kingdom's speed slide tower features the tallest slide in North America, Deep Water Dive. This is a trap door slide with a 12 story free fall. I loved this ride, and it is probably the best at Hurricane Bay, though it didn't feel any different from the standard sized versions. Wave Runner was great as well, as the slide was really smooth and gave some airtime.

 

Mt. Slide Hai: This is Hurricane Bay's original slide tower, featuring serpentine body and tube slides. By the time I made it over here the lines were getting longer and I was running out of time, so I only had time to try Vanishing Falls. Fortunately, this ended up being one of the best serpentine body slides I've been on, as although it's a bit short it does get going reasonably fast without going fast enough to blind riders with water. The tube slides all looked pretty standard, so I don't think I missed much.

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

I had a nice time at Kentucky Kingdom, but overall I thought the park was just okay. The ride selection is decent, but there needs to be more, as the place is only worth about 3 hours if you don't do the waterpark. There are landscaping issues, as many of the newer rides are simply on concrete pads with dirt around them. While none of the lines were extreme (Lightning Run looked to be 30-45 minutes), the park definitely would have capacity issues if it was much more crowded than it was on the day I visited (note: While the ride park was busy but not terrible, the waterpark was packed, but other than Deluge and Tornado nothing was more than a 20 minute wait). I'm not sure how food quality is in the park, but this was my least favorite of our fried chicken and hot dog lunches. The layout of Kentucky Kingdom is a bit confusing, though I'm not sure if that can be helped. Shade was a little hard to find, particularly in the front portion of the park. Finally, while operations were nothing to complain about they were a tad on the slow side and the employees were merely average.

 

Now, I may have a number of negative things to say about the park, but I will also say that those alone do not represent the whole picture. Yes, it was the park's reopening year and it did show. However, Kentucky Kingdom managed to exceed many of my expectations, and it was not the write-off park I expected it to be. Given all that the park had to deal with they were doing great. The guests seem to love the park, and based on what Ed Hart told us and next year's plans I have faith that Kentucky Kingdom will do nothing but improve. I doubt Kentucky Kingdom will ever be a major park, but who knows? Perhaps in ten years it will have grown enough to seriously compete with Holiday World and Kings Island. In short: Kentucky Kingdom as it is now is a 6/10 park, but after all the improvements are complete and everything is fixed up I could easily see it reaching an 8/10 or possibly higher.

 

At 4 P.M. the bus pulled out of the parking lot. Thanks to a favorable time change, we arrived at Beech Bend just an hour later. The good news: Beech Bend's management was very welcoming, perhaps the most of any park on the trip (though several other parks, especially Holiday World and Knoebels would give them a challenge for that). The bad news: We had less than 3 hours of free time here, and we happened to be visiting on the busiest day of the year!

 

Beech Bend

 

Beech Bend was the smallest official park of the trip, and it is not a place most would know of if not from the area. The park started out as the world's largest campground, with the ride park being added to attract customers. For the most part, rides are what you would expect to find at a typical carnival, but the park has a good balance between thrill rides and family rides. The park's employees are great as well, and for the most part operations were efficient.

 

Being with a group of coaster enthusiasts, we started off by collecting the credits. First stop in the park: Dragon. Dragon is a Wisdom kiddie coaster, specifically the double helix Orient Express model. The coaster is so small it can only accommodate 3 or 4 adults per train without a rollback. To put it bluntly, this was the worst coaster I rode on the whole trip, but now that I've got the credit I never need to ride again. The park's other credit coaster is Wild Mouse. a Zamperla spinning mouse. This wasn't the worst of this model I've been on, but still only gets a D since the ride didn't spin much. It did seem to be having operational issues, as the coaster broke down multiple times during the 45 minutes I waited in line.

 

Due to limited time, I only managed to ride three other rides at Beech Bend: the dark ride, log flume, and drop tower. Beech Bend's dark ride, Haunted House, was a good old-school dark ride that felt completely home-built. This ride also is the only dark ride I've ever seen operated as a cycle ride: all four cars are loaded, they all go through the ride, and then they are unloaded all at once. Beech Bend's Log Flume, White Water Express, is just a standard carnival flume with two lifts and two drops. Lastly, Zero-G, the park's drop tower, was virtually identical to Fearfall at Kentucky Kingdom. I really wish we had more time at the park, as there were several other rides I would have liked to try, including Vortex, Sea Dragon (which came from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch) and Scat 2, an insane looking flat that was broken down most of the night.

 

We had a catered dinner at Beech Bend, consisting of hot dogs and fried chicken once again. Of all the hot dogs and fried chicken, however, this was probably the best, and they also had fresh brewed sweet tea instead of soda (Fun Fact: Beech Bend is an RC Cola park). The park manager held a Q&A session at dinner, followed by a raffle of various park souvenirs (I won a T-shirt). They then announced that we were going to have two backstage tours: a tour of the Haunted House followed by a tour of Kentucky Rumbler.

 

After dinner I walked around the park to take a few pictures, then it was time for the Haunted House tour. Dark rides are my favorite type of non-coaster attraction, so I loved getting the chance to walk through one. This one felt like it was built inside an old barn and while the ride was quite simple it was good. The only negative is that everything must be hidden behind chicken wire due to disrespectful guests. Following the tour, I headed over to Kentucky Rumbler. Due to darkness our tour on the ride was cancelled, but the park made up for it by extending our hour of ERT to 90 minutes. Once the park closed and guests were cleared, ERT on the ride began.

 

Kentucky Rumbler: I am a fan of GCI coasters, so I've known about this ride for some time. It is probably the company's least known American project, but that's a shame as the ride is really good. Some went as far as saying Kentucky Rumbler is the best GCI in North America. In my opinion, it's right at the bottom of the top tier of GCI coasters, and just barely misses a spot on my top ten wood list. The ride is a little on the short side and isn't quite as crazy as some of the new GCI coasters (particularly Gold Striker), but it is still an excellent coaster that makes the trip to Beech Bend well worth it for any wooden coaster enthusiast. A-

 

Our ERT on Kentucky Rumbler was unlike almost any other ERT session I've done. On each run, the park manager would give us tasks to complete during the ride. These started out relatively simple (count the airtime moments, etc.) and got progressively more difficult with each run (we eventually got as far as count the nails). After about 30 minutes of riding, the coaster started to get faster and faster so we attempted something from TPR's Scandinavia trip a month before. Dubbed the "Fat Train," the goal was to load the train with as much weight as possible, get into an aerodynamic position, and see if we can break the speed record around the track. Despite our best efforts on several runs, the fastest time we got was 79.5 seconds, not a record but still pretty good for a ride that typically runs 81 to 83. One other game attempted was the coaster chain: Everyone links arms with the riders in front of and behind them and you see if the train makes it around without breaking the chain. The group that tried this was successful, though I heard it was a painful experience. As if all this craziness wasn't enough, toward the end of ERT it started to rain and lightning could be seen in the sky. Normally this would have halted operation, but we just kept going around and around. Yes, this is how TPR does an ERT session.

 

During the course of the 90 minutes of ERT I managed 15 rides. Eventually it was time to call it a night, so with the small group of people who made it the whole time I headed out to the bus and the tour headed off to the hotel. Overall, Beech Bend was a decent park, though with the exception of Kentucky Rumbler there isn't much worth traveling for here. That said, I did enjoy the park more than Kentucky Kingdom and wish we had more time to explore the park. I have a feeling three hours would typically be sufficient for the place, but we just had the misfortune of hitting the park on the busiest day of the year.

 

 

That night, an unpleasant TPR first happened. Our hotel for the night was supposed to be Santa's Lodge right next to Holiday World. Elissa had called them several times over the past few days, verifying all the details of our arrival and ensuring our rooms would be ready. Well, when she called the hotel after leaving Beech Bend, we discovered that due to a computer glitch the hotel didn't have rooms for us. Fortunately, we were able to find a Days Inn in Owensboro, Kentucky that had enough rooms for our group with a little creative rooming (Elissa managed to fit 26 rooms of people into just 19). Trust me, it could have been way worse. The owner of Satan's Lodge (as it was known for the remainder of the trip) was very apologetic for the incident and offered a substantial refund for the inconvenience, but I have a feeling it is unlikely TPR will use the hotel on any future tours.

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We're here at...what is this place again?

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Where is everybody? It's a Saturday in late July at Kentucky's largest amusement park and the parking lot is empty.

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That's right: Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay. The park Six Flags tried to kill, but just couldn't finish off for good.

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The flyers were reasonably good here. Their surroundings, on the other hand, were pretty uninspired.

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The Giant Wheel is actually in the back half of the park, on the far side of the road. Turn the clock back 15 years to the days of Chang and Vampire and this park resembled a certain RCT scenario (if you've played Corkscrew Follies, you know the one).

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Time to head out. A second park awaits this day.

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Let's check out some other attractions. Here's the Himalaya, a returning attraction from the Six Flags days.

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I forget what movie was playing in the 5D cinema. I think it was Rio, but that may be incorrect.

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Enterprise was down for the count this season. For fans of this classic, check back in 2015.

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Half of the new rides were kiddie rides, including this teacup attraction.

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The front half of Kentucky Kingdom actually looked pretty good (aside from the area around Lightning Run). The back half, which I don't have pictures of, is where most of the neglect shows.

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These always look like fun kiddie rides.

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Spontaneous crowd explosion! Okay, I didn't take any of these until after lunch, but the park did fill up very quickly after opening.

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Lightning Run is the most prominent of Kentucky Kingdom's new hotness for 2014, so of course everyone was riding.

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The world could use more breakdances. They are excellent family attractions.

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The ride isn't huge, but it is more fun than most coasters twice its size.

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If you've never experienced true ejector airtime, ride this coaster. Every hill had some amount of airtime.

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I would not recommend one of these for a major park, but for mid-size parks it's a great fit.

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On this particular day, Kentucky Kingdom was actually using both trains on Lighting Run. That meant 800 riders per hour experienced a large dosage of negative forces.

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Even the tiny hills at the end of the ride provide ejector air. One warning, however: This is the most uncomfortable part of the ride.

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That's right, we're here for the kiddie coaster.

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Credit whores! (who am I kidding, I rode it too)

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This coaster is somewhat less whorish, but waiting 45 minutes for it is still pretty low.

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Okay, did the park run out of money for a second story or is this simply a joke? Discount Winchester Mystery House, perhaps?

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Oh my, this can only mean one thing. That's right, it means...

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That this is thriller, thriller night.

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I think I see some TPR members taking a ride on Michael Jackson's Sea Dragon.

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Kentucky Kingdom may have a Himalaya, but here it's all about the Flying Bobs.

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We're now at Beech Bend, Kentucky's only other amusement park.

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New for this year is Vortex. It's certainly better than the Kings Island version, but we're not here for this.

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Jitter bug is an interesting swing ride. I've never seen anything like it before.

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How about Zero-G? Nah, we've already rode one of those today.

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Time to go inside the Haunted House. If you don't want to be spoiled, do not look at the remaining pictures.

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OMG it's windows! The horror!

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Glad we didn't have that for dinner.

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This is what controls the entire ride. Several of these are mounted at various points inside the attraction.

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Beware the hitchhiking skeletons.

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Beware this random guy.

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Beware the dead dude in the coffin. He's got blood all over his face.

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"When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake..." Okay, I'll stop now. This is merely a house, not a mansion.

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Every corner of this attraction has a different figure. Most are simple animatronics, but unlike some rides practically everything works.

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It's a shame everything has to be behind chicken wire, but other than that this is actually a good old-school dark ride.

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In the dark, you don't realize how homemade everything looks. I mean, it isn't any different from a mainstream dark ride other than the power strips and extension cords.

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I half-expected one of these doors to be several feet off the ground.

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So are these things vampires or bats? Perhaps they're both.

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No comment on this guy.

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Thanks for checking out our house. Now get out of here, ERT is about to start.

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But for us, there's 90 minutes of ERT to go. Okay, TPR, let's get ready to rumble! (sorry, no ERT pictures...read the report for details)

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The sun sets on another day of the TPR Mini New Hotness trip as Beech Bend's busiest day of the year comes to a close.

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Great TR so far. Kings Island looks like nice landscaped park with the rides spread through out instead of clustered in one location. I'm glad to see that B&M built a kickass invert again and I've always been curious about The Beast. Kings Island and Cedar Point are definitely on my park bucket lists but they'll have to wait a bit longer as I want to try to go to the Land of the Rising Sun in the Far East next year. I've would have definitely joined you at Cedar Point had I chosen the New Hotness trip over the East Coast trip but that's decision I had to make and I do not regret it one bit. I'll try to post my own TR of my East Coast Trip in the coming weeks.

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Great report--always nice to see another perspective on a TPR trip.

 

Thanks. Although I don't always comment, I do read every Mini New Hotness/Mini East Coast report to see how similar (or not) my thoughts are to others with the same experience. Your report is great as well.

 

Great report, AJ! I remember Beech Bend being an okay park when I was there last year, and your TR really captures its mediocrity. However, Kentucky Rumbler is an excellent coaster that shouldn't be missed.

 

Thanks. If it weren't for Kentucky Rumbler and the Haunted House, Beech Bend would definitely be little more than a permanent carnival. There were things to like there and Kentucky Rumbler is a must ride for any wooden coaster enthusiast, but it is one of those parks I'm glad I visited but probably wouldn't go out of the way to visit again.

 

Great TR so far. Kings Island looks like nice landscaped park with the rides spread through out instead of clustered in one location. I'm glad to see that B&M built a kickass invert again and I've always been curious about The Beast. Kings Island and Cedar Point are definitely on my park bucket lists but they'll have to wait a bit longer as I want to try to go to the Land of the Rising Sun in the Far East next year. I've would have definitely joined you at Cedar Point had I chosen the New Hotness trip over the East Coast trip but that's decision I had to make and I do not regret it one bit. I'll try to post my own TR of my East Coast Trip in the coming weeks.

 

Thanks. At Kings Island, I thought Coney Mall was a bit saturated but the rest of the park had a good spread of attractions. There were certainly areas with nothing but above-average landscaping, but at the same time it wasn't a huge trek between rides. If you get time I highly recommend a Ohio trip to Cedar Point and Kings Island, as both are among the best coaster parks in the country. Add Holiday World and one or two other parks and you've got a really nice one week trip. I'll definitely give your Mini East Coast report a look when it's posted...I'll be on that part in a month or so here.

 

Great TR so far. No Satan's Lodge pictures?

 

Thanks. Sorry to disappoint, but I don't have any. We did see it from the bus the next day, with a majority of people booing the hotel as we passed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, I'm overdue for an update. Remember how I said only one day challenges Banshee Bash for best day of the trip? Well, it was this one.

 

Trip 2, Part 5: Holiday World-July 27th, 2014

 

Unlike the other days of the trip, our day at Holiday World had been kept a closely guarded secret. All we knew was this: 8 A.M. departure, group lunch, very late night, and bring a swimsuit. If I remember right, it was about a 45 minute drive to the park, so we still got there plenty early. After a group booing of Satan's Lodge, the "66 Minutes of Sleep Tour" (as Paula Werne of Holiday World dubbed us) pulled into the parking lot. We got to the front entrance, met Paula, and were given our schedules, admission tickets, group meal tickets, meal vouchers, and discount coupons. Now, before I reveal the schedule, note that Holiday World generally isn't able to offer any type of ERT in July and August, and I believe previous TPR tours to the park have included other perks instead (such as backstage tours). So, here's what the schedule said (quoted directly from lanyard):

 

9am Voyage walkback and first rides

12n Lunch at Good Old Days Picnic Grove

1pm Thunderbird tour

7pm Gather at Bahari River Island for water-coaster ERT

8pm Change/empty lockers and head back to Holiday World

8:30pm Park closes; gather north of Plymouth Rock Cafe

As soon as the pesky GP leaves, Coaster ERT!

All times are Central. We know. It's embarrassing.

 

Yes, you are reading that correctly. We got ERT on all three wood coasters AND on both water coasters, plus a backstage tour. Yeah, this day could top Banshee Bash.

 

Holiday World

 

Unlike most of the parks on this trip, Holiday World is a park I had visited before. On my previous visit (July 2011), I had a great time and really enjoyed the park. Since that visit, little had changed at the park. Yeah, several new slides had opened in the waterpark and Pilgrims Plunge was gone, but other than that Holiday World was pretty much how I remembered it. However, there was one big difference between this visit and my previous one: this time, I was with TPR, and we were essentially receiving a VIP experience.

 

The day began with a walk to Voyage, but we never went through the park entrance. Instead, we were treated to a tour under Raven, along the lake, and under Legend to get into the park. Once inside, we weren't taken to Voyage, but instead we went to the Plymouth Rock Cafe for a surprise breakfast (nice to have something other than make-your-own waffles for a change). At 9:30 we were taken to Voyage and let in the line before all the GP who had sprinted to Thanksgiving to ride the first couple trains of the day. Voyage was just as I remembered it...the best traditional wood coaster I know of as long as you can endure the ride.

 

After getting off Voyage, I joined up with Caroline, Judd, and Nathan to tour the rest of the park before lunch. Due to Holiday World's traffic patterns, this meant some lines (especially for Legend, which only had one train), but we still managed to do everything but the kiddie in 2 hours. I'll let you guess what we had for lunch (if you've been following the report it should be pretty easy). During lunch, several members of Holiday World's management came out to discuss Thunderbird (which had just been announced a few days prior) and hold a Q&A session. I don't remember any specific questions, but based on what was said I'm confident Thunderbird is going to be a win for Holiday World even if enthusiasts don't care for it, and while I wouldn't travel all the way to the park just for the coaster I definitely will ride it at least a couple times next time I visit.

 

After lunch it was time for the backstage tour. Before departing the picnic area, however, we were all given Thunderbird souvenir cups, apparently not yet released at the park (at the time). These came in handy as it was a hot day. Once everyone had their cups full of their beverage of choice, the tour began with a walk along Voyage all the way back to the spaghetti bowl area of the ride. Normally this area is impossible to access, so it was neat seeing what it looked like when you're not flying through it. The tour then continued over to the Thunderbird construction site, where footers were being poured. We were shown where the station, equipment room, queue line, access pathway, restrooms, and Pepsi Oasis would be located, then taken back into the park through a gate near Hyena Falls. At this point, my group decided to do the remaining rides of interest in the ride park (they all needed the Howler credit and we wanted to ride the "RMC log flume"), then head to the waterpark for the rest of the day.

 

It's not hard to find stuff to do in Splashin' Safari, so I had no problem spending several hours there. I ended up doing all the slides but Bakuli and Zinga (both of which I did on my previous visit), then just hung out until it was time for ERT. Water-coaster ERT was probably the highlight of the day, as both Mammoth and Wildebeest are outstanding rides that could beat 90% of the legitimate coasters out there for fun factor. I ended up doing three or four rides on each during ERT thanks to a lack of lines.

 

Once waterpark ERT ended we all got changed and headed back into the park for coaster ERT. Our ERT began with a half-hour on Voyage, which I rode twice (more than most of the group), then we headed to Halloween for a half-hour on Legend and Raven. I spent most of my time on Raven, though I did give Legend a ride as it was running well at night. Eventually the last train returned on Raven and it was time to head out, so everyone slowly headed out to the bus for a long drive to our hotel (we didn't get in until after 2 A.M.). It had been a great day, in my opinion the best day on the trip, but this was the point where the lack of sleep was starting to take its toll, as evidenced by a group vote to shorten ERT at Indiana Beach the next day in favor of a later departure.

 

Coaster Reviews:

 

Holiday World arguably has the best wooden coaster collection on the planet, as their three woodies all rank in the top 50. Unfortunately, that is all the park has as far as coasters go. Next year's Thunderbird is a very good addition to the park's coaster lineup, and will give them an above average coaster collection, but Holiday World really needs a good family coaster to give kids under 48" something to ride.

 

Voyage: There are plenty of people who do not like Voyage. I will not argue that opinion, as Voyage is a rough and aggressive ride that truly pushes the limits of traditional wooden construction. However, I absolutely love this coaster. It is tall, fast, seems to go on forever, and never lets up. The first drop is great and the whole entire out run is full of airtime while being reasonably smooth. The run back to the station, on the other hand, does give you a bit of brain rattling and focuses more on twists than airtime, but I would much rather ride a wooden coaster that tests you than one that is perfectly smooth but not overly exciting. Would I like the ride better if it were smooth? Absolutely, as I can't ride more than twice consecutively in the ride's current state, but I don't have a problem with the ride as it currently is. Whatever everyone else says, Voyage is my second favorite wood coaster (favorite traditional), my favorite ride at Holiday World, and the best coaster I rode on this leg of the trip. A

 

Legend: Other than only having one train, Legend was running better on this visit than in 2011. The ride has a good amount of airtime and some of the most intense laterals on any coaster anywhere. It is also a long ride, but not so long that dull spots start to appear. Lastly, while not glass smooth Legend is not as rough as you might expect it to be. It's a shame the ride only had one train available as I would have liked to ride it more, but I'm glad I got two rides on the coaster. B+

 

Raven: While Raven may be the least intense of Holiday World's coasters, it is still a really good ride (though overrated). The coaster is full of airtime and, like Legend, takes advantage of its surroundings, incorporating a surprisingly large drop half-way through the ride. Additionally, while it's the oldest of Holiday World's woodies Raven is the smoothest of the three by far, probably due to its lower speed and smaller size. My main issue with Raven is that it's a short ride, about half the length of Legend and 1/3 of Voyage. So which is better: Legend or Raven? Most people say Raven, but I say it depends. During the day, I like Legend better, but night rides on Raven are tough to beat (3rd best night ride after Boulder Dash and Beast...Voyage is 4th). I personally have them both right next to each other outside my top ten woodies but inside my top 25. B+

 

Non-Coaster Summary:

 

To be completely honest Holiday World's flat ride collection is below average and is probably the worst aspect of the park, though it is satisfactory for the park's family audience. For flat rides, Holiday World's best may be the new Mayflower swinging ship. While it's not an outstanding ride, it is fun and is an excellent fit in the Thanksgiving area. I only rode a couple other flat rides in the park, namely Liberty Launch (a good double shot tower, but weaker than most others) and Sparkler (great family ride, not at all scary like the taller swing on a stick rides). Many of the park's other flats are of the standard variety. The rides are geared mostly toward families and those not interested in the coasters, with attractions such as a chair swing and antique cars, as well as numerous kiddie rides. Holiday World also has two decent water rides: Frightful Falls, a short but fun log flume, and Raging Rapids, an above average river rapids ride that doesn't get you too wet.

 

There is, however, one standout non-coaster attraction: Gobbler Getaway. Gobbler Getaway is an interactive dark ride where you have to round up the turkeys for Thanksgiving by shooting...er, calling them. While not the best of Sally Corporation's dark rides (I'm partial to the Lost Kingdom Adventure and original Ghostblasters attractions), Gobbler Getaway is still a very good and unique ride with some Holiday World humor thrown in.

 

Splashin' Safari:

 

It doesn't matter that Holiday World's non-coaster collection isn't anything special as that's not the reason most people visit. Aside from the coasters, Splashin' Safari is the big draw at this park. The waterpark here is the best I've visited and is large enough to be its own attraction. In fact, I could probably spend about 80% of a Holiday World visit here and not be disappointed. In fact, I don't recommend going out of your way for Holiday World if you won't be doing Splashin' Safari as the ride park is really only worth a half day.

 

Slide Reviews:

 

Hyena Falls: New since I last visited, Hyena Falls consists of a Tornado Wave (Laughs) and three serpentine tube slides (Chuckles, Giggles, and Tee Hee). I personally found the Tornado Wave slide a little underwhelming, though the standard tube slides were fun (as long as you have two rides...don't do these single). This complex is placed in an odd location as it is quite a walk from the rest of Splashin' Safari, so you'd definitely want to come out here, do everything you're going to do at once, then head back.

 

Otorongo: Another standard tube slide complex, but these slides are completely dark. I personally liked the Otorongo slides better than Hyena Falls, as all three gave different experiences: Otto (my favorite) is a single helix followed by a drop, Ron is a serpentine slide, and Go is a straight double drop (beware of this one as you can be launched from your tube at the bottom). Fun slide with excellent capacity leading to short waits.

 

Jungle Racer: A 10 lane mat racing slide, this is more or less the same as others. These rides are fun when you race against your friends, but are not very exciting to do by yourself.

 

Watubee: This one was a fairly average family raft slide, and was the only slide I skipped on my previous visit. While this slide typically gets huge lines, we got lucky and rode with less than a 10 minute wait. It was fun, though nothing special and not something I'd want to wait too long for, especially when right next door you've got...

 

ZOOMbabwe: Some say this is the world's best family raft slide. I'm not sure that I'd go that far, but it is a very good ride. The ride is dark with random light figures on the walls, and it just seems to go on and on. Try to get as close to the weight limit (600 lb per raft) as possible for the best ride.

 

Mammoth: My thoughts when this was announced: "Looks like fun, but they've got Wildebeest next door and that's a lot better." My thoughts after riding: "Holy crap that was awesome." Yes, Mammoth is an amazing ride, better than 90% of the roller coasters out there and better than almost any other waterslide. The ride just has the right combination of elements and is intense enough to be thrilling yet tame enough for families. You'll also get your boat turned into a pool at the end of the ride, and depending on your group's weight you may even sink it. Even if this ride has its usual 60+ minute wait, DO NOT MISS IT! There were people in the group who normally don't do waterparks but were very, very glad they did waterpark ERT on this ride.

 

Wildebeest: I'll be honest...Mammoth may be a nearly perfect waterslide, but I still slightly prefer Wildebeest. Wildebeest is just slightly more intense, but it has significantly more airtime and a larger number of drops. Wildebeest definitely feels less like a traditional waterslide than Mammoth, but I still love it and consider it the best waterpark attraction out there.

 

Overall Thoughts:

 

Holiday World is a great park in many aspects. They've got a pretty good coaster selection and an outstanding waterpark. Some of the food options are unique (especially the Thanksgiving dinner at Plymouth Rock Cafe), and if nothing else it is reasonably priced compared to other amusement parks (a burger, fries, and a cookie was less than $8). Parking, soft drinks, and sunscreen are all free throughout the park. The landscaping of Holiday World is great, and the theming is reasonable (although a little limited). Every employee I met at Holiday World was great, from the upper management down to the ride ops, and efficiency in ride operations rivals parks like Cedar Point and Dollywood. There are only two significant drawbacks to Holiday World: the lack of good non-coaster rides and the fact that it's difficult to spend a full day at the park without visiting Splashin' Safari. Despite this, Holiday World is one of my favorite parks, and while I don't know that I'd make a special trip to visit on a regular basis I can't think of anywhere I enjoy more while I'm there (except the Disney parks).

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Welcome to Holiday World, one of the few independent major parks in North America.

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There's a coaster back here, so it must be a park. Now, guess the coaster.

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This is not the park entrance for most people, but we got to go through the special entrance.

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Are you sure this is an amusement park? It looks more like a hike in the wilderness to me.

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If you guessed Raven, you are correct.

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After walking under Raven, we had to walk along the shore of Lake Rudolph to get to our next destination.

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Holiday World is one of the few parks that has their coasters buried in the woods. It definitely adds an extra dimension to the ride.

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Coasters enthusiasts on parade.

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Legend's helix of death almost seems like a Beast imitation, as it has two tunnels, lots of laterals, and is buried in the woods.

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It's not too often you can walk right underneath a massive wooden coaster.

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Frightful Falls, aka the "RMC Log Flume."

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In my opinion, Legend is one of CCI's best creations. The ride has a great first drop, an interesting layout, and a long ride without a dull moment anywhere.

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Holiday World has a thing for taking the tunnel.

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Voyage, the star attraction at Holiday World. This is one of only a few rides that is actually a challenge.

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Voyage's first drop is outstanding. It's not the biggest or the steepest, but it's still great.

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The ride begins with three massive hills, then descends into a mix of small airtime producing camelbacks, high speed turns banked up to 90 degrees, and high speed twists and turns, all designed to provide the ultimate thrill.

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Riders making the return trip on the far side of the steel structure.

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This is part of the area that will be occupied by Thunderbird next year. If I remember correctly, this is where the barn will be placed.

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Regardless of what the rest of the coaster holds, most people will agree that the first three hills on Voyage are great. It's what comes after that gets poor reception.

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Voyage plunges into the first of its many tunnels. I believe this ride still holds the record for most time spent underground.

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Riders on Thunderbird will literally fly through the forest for over half the ride. While it doesn't look like the most intense wing coaster, I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being the best.

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It's now time to head down to Thunderbird's construction site. This opening is the very end of the ride.

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Back to Voyage. This is the spaghetti bowl turnaround at the end of the coaster. I was not able to get closer than this, but it is still neat to see it from the ground.

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While not the original 90 degrees woodie, I've got a feeling Voyage is more well known for it than Hades 360.

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One last shot of Voyage as we cross the tracks.

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Back in July, the construction site looked mostly like this. A lot of change has happened in just 3 months.

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Once you get to here you'll begin slowing down as you enter the final brake run.

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Take a guess what these are used for. I'll give you a hint...these gave away the make of the ride.

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I'll end with an overview of the construction site. The station is on the left, the Pepsi Oasis will be on the right. Given Holiday World's past history, Thunderbird should be ready to go opening day 2015.

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A field of footers. These are the most important part of any ride, even if nobody cares about them after the fact.

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This was the only building on site at the time. It will house components of the launch system.

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How to build a footer: dig a hole, put up a frame, install rebar, and pour concrete.

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