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Photo TR: Andy's 2014 New Hotness / East Coast TPR Tour


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Holy moly, what a report. Nice to read, as I'll be visiting the park in May. Now you made me extra stoked!

 

JP

 

p.s. does anyone know if I'll need a fastpass on a weekday in May to get all rollercoasters twice?

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Banshee Bash was the best possible day that anyone could have at Kings Island, and Banshee itself was better than I'd expected. Beast nighttime ERT wasn't too shabby, either.

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Another excellent trip report! I was a little worried that 16 hours would be too much time for Kings Island, but with all that the park offers and all the perks arranged for Banshee Bash I enjoyed every minute of it. Banshee, Beast, and Diamondback are an excellent trio of coasters, and the rest of the attractions at Kings Island make it one of the best parks out there (it's my second favorite Cedar Fair park after Cedar Point). You're also one of the few who seems to think Vortex is at least decent...I liked it as well, but once per visit is enough.

 

Looking forward to the upcoming reports, and also looking forward to seeing how many times I end up appearing in your report. I always find it amusing when I randomly see myself in other's trip reports.

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You're also one of the few who seems to think Vortex is at least decent...I liked it as well, but once per visit is enough.

 

I just wanted to give it a courtesy ride, since it was something I really liked on my first couple visits to Kings Island. I'll do so next time I'm at the park. I know the Arrow (and Vekoma) multi-loopers have a nasty reputation, and I've been on a few on the 2013/2014 TPR trips that I did not enjoy, but I have to at least give Vortex credit for its layout -- it's a pretty full realization of what that style of coaster is capable of.

 

Looking forward to the upcoming reports, and also looking forward to seeing how many times I end up appearing in your report.

 

Probably at least once or twice more!

 

And after seeing your photos, I still can't believe I spent 16hrs there and missed a lot of stuff.

 

We just had too much on the agenda!

 

I'm shocked that you spotted the Cincinnati skyline from the Eiffel Tower. Great pictures man!

 

Not easy, with the way it's down in a valley and over 20 miles away. Usually the air just isn't clear enough to get a good look!

 

Amazing pictures! It's nice to see I wasn't the only one that went and credit whored the Great Pumpkin Coaster too

 

The best news is that you only have to do it once!

 

Banshee Bash was the best possible day that anyone could have at Kings Island...

 

This. A million times this. What an amazing day.

 

Agreed!

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  • 2 months later...

Two-and-a-half months since my last update, but I'm not giving up on this trip report. Time to keep it going with our first big travel day of the 2014 US tour.

 

NEWS: I'm participating in Coasting for Kids for my first time this coming Sunday. If you've enjoyed this trip report so far, perhaps a few dollars for Give Kids The World could be a small token of appreciation.

 

Day 2 Part 1 -- Kentucky Kingdom

Saturday, July 26, 2014

 

Scorecard:

 

Thunder Run (x2)

Lightning Run (x5)

Deep Water Dive (x2)

Deluge

-- Lunch --

Deep Water Dive

Roller Skater

Fearfall

 

The Report:

 

After a 16-hour day at Kings Island, we were all looking forward to getting a good night's rest before heading onward to our next park.

 

Just kidding. I was up before 5 AM, and the bus left at 6 AM to head southeast for a long two-park day in the commonwealth of Kentucky. It was a very quiet bus ride, eerily reminiscent of our Texas-to-Arkansas departure on the 2013 US trip.

 

Taking a two-hour trip down Interstate 71, we arrived at our first park of the day just after 8 AM -- the resurrected Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville. I'm sure everyone here is familiar with the story, but here's the very short version: Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom failed after the 2009 season, and the park sat dormant for several years. The park finally opened again in 2014 -- just two months before our visit -- now in the hands of CEO Ed Hart, who formerly operated Kentucky Kingdom from 1990-1997. Armed with a new lease from the land owners (the Kentucky State Fair Board) and some government incentives, Kentucky Kingdom began the next phase of its operating life.

 

Our arrival was a little early, so we waited outside the gate for our welcoming crew to meet us. That group included Ed Hart (Kentucky Kingdom CEO), John Shanrock (Kentucky Kingdom general manager), and Joe Draves (Ride Centerline engineer and the designer of Lightning Run). Combined with the TPR group, that was a lot of intelligent, strong-willed, and opinionated people in one place! For someone a little more on the outside of things like myself, it was just a treat to listen to all the conversation, and imagine where the park (and the industry) might be several years down the road.

 

We proceeded to a filming / ERT session on the park's two full-size coasters -- Thunder Run and Lightning Run -- although a brief mechanical issue forced us to flip the intended order and ride Thunder Run first. Our ERT session on the refurbished woodie lasted from 930 AM to 10 AM, with a slightly longer session on Lightning Run from 1015 AM to 11 AM. The park opened to the public at 11 AM, leaving the TPR group to split up and explore the rest of the Kingdom.

 

Although the two coasters were the clear focus for most of the TPR members on the trip, I was one of a few who had another attraction at the top of the list. One of the brand-new additions to Hurricane Bay was Deep Water Dive: the tallest body slide in North America. Fearing lines later in the day, my group (with Stacy G and Mark K) made Deep Water Dive our first priority. As it turned out, we were the first park guests of the day to scale the 121-foot tower at the south end of the park. With no line, Mark and I went on twice -- proof also that the experience was worth the lengthy climb. Before lunch, we also had time to ride Deluge -- the park's magnetic water coaster -- with just a minimal wait.

 

Our lunch break was from 12 PM to 1230 PM, and consisted of roast duck, chorizo empanadas, and kale salads. Actually, it might have been fried chicken and hot dogs, but all that deep water diving was starting to get to me.

 

After lunch, we had another few hours to explore the park and try a few more rides. Mark and I went for one more drop on Deep Water Dive (with about a 5-minute wait), and then began a photo tour of the entire Hurricane Bay water park. Along the way, we found time for the third coaster credit (Roller Skater). At about 2 PM, the rest of the group split off to check out the 5D theater (showing clips from the movie Rio), but I had other plans in mind. I headed back to the Deep Water Dive tower one more time, and trudged up to the top with my camera, collecting an awesome aerial photo set from a spot with a most impressive view. Several other TPR members rode the Ferris wheel, but I think I was the only one to bring a camera to the top of the Deep Water Dive tower. That was the fourth (and final) time I climbed the tower in a span of about three hours, and this time I didn't have the option of sliding my way to the bottom! To note -- the line had increased to about 20-30 minutes by this point, so I was certainly glad to get multiple rides earlier in the day.

 

I met back up with the rest of my group, and we headed to Fearfall (Larson drop tower) for our final ride in Louisville. We departed Kentucky Kingdom at 4 PM, heading even further south to our next stop: Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green.

 

So, how did the park stack up in its "first" year of operations? Not bad. My thoughts immediately after the visit were that things were on the right track, but with a ton of work yet to do, and no expectation of an easy job ahead. The park was left to rot for years, and what had already been accomplished for the 2014 operating season was really impressive. The two adult coasters were a pleasant above-average surprise (Thunder Run) and an absolutely remarkably accomplishment in a small package (Lightning Run). The landscaping was still a work in progress. My interactions with park employees were about average to a little above average, with the exception of the attendant at the top of Deep Water Dive -- she was fantastic and very friendly.

 

In its current state -- and I doubt the 2015 additions will change my opinion on this -- Kentucky Kingdom is a half-day park. That could be stretched a little by spending more time in Hurricane Bay, which is a rather nice water park (buoyed by two spectacular attractions in Deep Water Dive and Deluge). The dry side, at this point, is still mostly forgettable. I'm just not sure how easy it will be to get excited for T3 as a star addition for 2015. Two big coasters were removed from the park after the Six Flags days -- Chang and Greezed Lightnin'. Interestingly enough, I'd eventually get both ride experiences later on -- Chang as Green Lantern at Six Flags Great Adventure just eight days later, and a similar Schwarzkopf shuttle loop in Cascabel at La Feria Chapultepec on the 2015 Mexico trip. With that said, I did keep myself busy with photography during the entire 7-hour visit, and didn't even get all the pictures I wanted. I was hoping to get more pictures of Lightning Run from the ground and from the Tin Lizzies car ride, but simply ran out of time.

 

Ultimately, is Kentucky Kingdom worth a visit? Yes, it is, and that's an easy question to answer. Lightning Run and Deep Water Dive are fantastic rides that would be top-tier attractions for thrill-seekers at just about any park in the country. I sincerely hope that the park has success moving forward, and is able to fill out the dry side of the park with additional attractions. We didn't learn much about the expected Twisted Twins refurbishment on our visit 10 months ago (or whether it would be a large-scale conversion or just a refreshing) -- but the rumors everyone's aware of are enough to want to keep an eye on the situation. The water park is clearly the bigger attraction at this point, and as I mentioned, it's a pretty good one.

 

I admit that the visit to Kentucky Kingdom was one of the selling points of the 2014 TPR trip (even though I live within easy driving distance). I knew I wanted to get to the park sooner rather than later, just in case things don't work out as expected. There's no doubt that Kentucky Kingdom has some very tough competition in Holiday World and Kings Island, two well-respected parks that have added major attractions in 2015 and 2014, respectively. If you peruse the wrong dark places of the internet, you might convince yourself that Kentucky Kingdom's just a part of a financial shell game, or otherwise on a fast track to ruin. My advice: forget it and have fun. No one's going to doubt that Kentucky Kingdom's rise from the grave is going to have some significant challenges. No one can reasonably expect that it'll succeed without very hard work. All I can say is that after our visit last July, everyone I talked to was pleasantly surprised by the park, and sensibly optimistic for whatever's coming next.

 

Well, maybe except the SLC.

 

The Attractions:

 

Lightning Run (

): Lightning run is the world's first Chance Morgan Hyper GT-X coaster, and I sure hope it's not the last. This ride was a clear hit with the TPR group, and is proof that a coaster doesn't need to be large or imposing to pack in a substantial amount of fun. If you're looking for snappy negative-G and lateral forces, Lightning Run is for you. Like Maverick, some of the transitions are abrupt or even deceiving, which makes it a fun coaster to learn how to ride and anticipate. The transitions are quick, and the forces are brief but intense. It's impossible to not crack up laughing on the run back to the station -- the world's shortest ejector airtime hills. This is easily a top-15 steel coaster for me, and possibly top-10. A few TPR members had some discomfort with the trains and restraints, but I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

 

Thunder Run (

): Oh, so this is what Hurler is supposed to feel like! The off-season refurbishment to Thunder Run was a clear success, as the ride was quite smooth and running very well. With several airtime hills and some lateral forces, it's a good layout, though not a great or particularly inspired one. Overall, it's a slightly-above-average wooden coaster, and certainly worth a few rides.

 

Roller Skater: It's a small family coaster, but let me just point out that Vekoma actually does a pretty good job with these. I'll ride fifteen Roller Skaters to just one of the lousy Zamperla kiddie coasters we'd see ad nauseam throughout the rest of the trip.

 

Fearfall: This was my first Larson drop tower, and my first chance to see why people talk about them so much. It's pretty simple -- the small ride vehicle lends itself to abrupt changes in motion (a snappy drop at the top and a short braking distance at the bottom). I enjoyed it!

 

Deep Water Dive: At 121 feet, Deep Water Dive is the tallest body slide in North America, beating Blizzard Beach's Summit Plummet by one foot. The bigger advantage for Deep Water Dive, however, is the drop-capsule launch to start things off. I had high expectations for Deep Water Dive, and they were met. The first 2-3 seconds are a near-perfect feeling of free-fall, with a much more prolonged sensation of falling than some of the shorter drop capsule slides. I also found the pull-out transition to be very smooth, with the pooled water at the bottom of the slide acting as a gentle brake. It's a shame that Deep Water Dive was vastly overshadowed by Verruckt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City. According to Mark K, who rode both slides within a month or two of each other, Deep Water Dive is the better ride by a significant margin. I can't make the same comparison, so I'll just say this: Deep Water Dive might be my favorite traditional water slide on the planet. A final note: I may have gotten too much water in my eyes, but I'd swear the top-of-the-tower and bottom-of-the-tower lifeguards were twins.

 

Deluge: I was pleasantly surprised by Deluge! It was my second-ever water coaster, having been on Master Blaster at Schlitterbahn New Braunfels in 2013. While Master Blaster uses water jets to propel the raft, Deluge is magnetic, resulting in a smoother and faster ride. I was shocked by the air time on all of the drops, and had a lot more fun than I was expecting. With that said, it's clear that Deluge is overshadowed by its siblings (Wildebeest and Mammoth) at Holiday World just to the west. Deluge is a step below those two rides, but that's like comparing a very good roller coaster to El Toro or Skyrush. Deluge holds its own quite well, and deserves more credit than it receives.

 

Day 2 Part 1 -- Pictures

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We arrived at 8 AM, about an hour early, so there was plenty of time to explore the front gate. Exciting.

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At 9 AM, we met up with our hosts for the morning: Joe Draves, John Shanrock, and Ed Hart.

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Here's the sign at the front entrance! Not quite Kings Island with the fountain and the Eiffel Tower, but not bad.

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First on the agenda? ERT and filming on Thunder Run. A solid ride, though not a destination attraction.

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Next on the agenda? ERT and filming on Lightning Run. An outstanding coaster, and one of the park's two "must ride" attractions.

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Our next order of business? Lunch. Admittedly, some of those other groups sound more interesting than Theme Park Review. Hope they enjoyed their chicken and hot dogs...

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...as much as we did.

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The next order of business? Get ready for a lot of pictures of Hurricane Bay's star attraction: Deep Water Dive. From the end of the run-out, it's imposing, especially as all the people in the area look up to watch the next victim take the 121-foot plunge.

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Deep Water Dive is a red/yellow capsule drop slide. The blue slide, a triple-down slide with a standard platform, is called Wave Runner.

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A picture with clouds and tree-tops, just to emphasize how stinkin' tall this slide is.

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Who rode three times? These guys. A wave hi from Mark and I. // Photo Credit -- Stacy G.

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Mark takes the plunge...

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...and splashes a mighty splash.

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Surely, Freud could come up with some sort of birth-related metaphor for this one.

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Enjoy the ride? "Beats the crap out of Verruckt" says Mark, very generously paraphrased.

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I didn't get a chance to ride Wave Runner, but it looks like a fun (if typical) triple down slide.

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It also produces a photogenic splash.

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Here's one of the park's rivers, with this one near the newer development at Hurricane Bay's southeast corner.

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Spraying water jet things to get you wet, in case the rest of the three-and-a-half foot deep water hasn't already taken care of it.

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This river passes under the Deep Water Dive and Wave Runner slides.

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The river also connects to a little cove area, which wraps around into a pool near the bar area.

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Here's a nearby tube slide tower.

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The huge Ferris wheel is visible from just about anywhere in Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay.

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Lightning Run makes an appearance over a waterfall.

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Like most parks, there's a large play structure...

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...with a giant bucket, sponsored by the world's most awful cheeseburgers.

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Deluge was a pleasant surprise, and my third favorite ride at Kentucky Kingdom behind Deep Water Dive and Lightning Run. Bonus points for the pineapple cutout on the ride sign.

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The line was long by early afternoon, but it's well worth the wait.

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Why? Airtime. That's why.

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Even the smaller hills near the end of the course provided some good pops of air!

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On the west side of the water park is another river -- this one is filled with tubes.

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It's also connected to the exit point of another slide complex near Thunder Run.

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Speaking of Thunder Run, there's a pretty good view of it from this part of the water park.

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Hands up! The little guy in the front row makes the shot.

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Here's a view of the main wave pool. It's not among the bigger ones I've seen, but it's themed pretty well.

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Boring artsy shot of the 10 FT 6 IN sign. Now you know how deep it is.

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As the waves crash in on the western shore...

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There's a large seating area around the entry area of the wave pool, and the Ferris wheel is just behind it.

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Some people will look at this picture and say "yup, it's a wave pool." Others will say "what the heck is an ugly SLC doing in a water park?"

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Any good amusement park needs a carousel.

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This one has strange animals and German text. "Largest and most efficient factory with power operation" or something along those lines.

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Oh, let's go get the kiddie credit.

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It's not a bad coaster! Why? Because it's not a Zamperla!

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Heading back to Hurricane Bay, I believe this was part of the old entrance to the water park. The building's a little crooked.

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Day 2 Part 1 -- Pictures (continued)

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Time to head back over to Deep Water Dive for some more pictures.

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The landscaping was still a work-in-progress in this area.

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Going down?

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Fluid dynamics.

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There's the splash.

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Like I mentioned earlier, Deep Water Dive draws a crowd of spectators.

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NSFW.

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A sense of scale against the people waiting in line on the tower steps.

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Having already climbed and dropped three times, I wasn't necessarily looking forward to a fourth trip up the stairs...

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...but the hike to the top was worth it for the pictures!

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Let's stop for a break at the middle platform, for a view of the east half of the water park over Wave Runner.

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Here's the section of the river that traverses underneath Deep Water Dive.

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Deep Water Dive has a weight limit, though I'm not sure if that was ever mentioned anywhere at ground level!

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Made it, TPR! Top of the Kingdom!

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A view over the east end of the park.

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I'm just going to call this the east river.

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Here's the smaller pool that connects to the east river.

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A wider view of the center of Hurricane Bay, with the main wave pool in the middle.

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That's a lot of Kentucky.

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Just west of the Deep Water Dive tower is a shell of an amphitheater. Will this be refurbished and used for anything in the future?

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Here's T2 (now T3) and several nearby slides.

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The top of the platform for the rather ironically-named Plummet Summit.

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This is the crest of the lift hill on T2/T3. It just looks fantastic, doesn't it? Right up there with Millennium Force on the "photogenic coaster" list.

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The top (loading) platform for Deluge...

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...and the bottom (unloading) platform for Deluge.

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Giant funnel things are not among my favorite water park rides -- they look more interesting than they actually are.

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Raftin' on by.

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Now for some shots of the star attraction! If this picture doesn't give you an idea of the height, the angle of descent, and the potential vertigo, nothing will.

 

Also, I don't think that kid is doing it right.

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Sometimes the dispatches are timed just right to catch the run-off from both slides at the same time.

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Red vs. Blue.

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Nowhere to go but down on Deep Water Dive.

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By this point, things are moving pretty quick, and the braking effect of the water is just starting to kick in.

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It's quite the splash at the bottom!

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There's a person in there somewhere.

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Disappearing below the drop.

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Time for a look at the other rides in Kentucky Kingdom. Here's the SBNO Twisted Twins coasters.

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Who knows what's coming next for these two rides? Not me.

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Thunder Run passes in front of the University of Louisville Cardinal Stadium.

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The trains are very orange.

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Judging from the horizon, the Ferris wheel is probably close to 150 feet tall.

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Because America.

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Fearfall is very purple.

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Here's a series of shots from the park's newest roller coaster: Lightning Run.

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Climbing the lift hill.

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Cresting the top.

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Awesome airtime in the back row!

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Heading for the first guaranteed ejector air of the circuit.

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Up and over.

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The overbanked turnaround, aka "the place where Lightning Run squeaks like a mouse on crack."

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Small hill, big airtime.

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Entering the run back to the station. Oh, that run back to the station.

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Here's what things look like from the top of the Deep Water Dive tower.

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The capsule is pretty high-tech for something that basically just pulls a floor out from under your feet.

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Remember the 300 pound weight limit? Here's where you'd presumably be checked if there was any doubt.

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What else can we see from the top of the tower? Let's start with downtown Louisville. If this isn't close enough...

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...we can zoom in a little further.

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Cardinal Stadium, just off to the northwest.

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A slightly more famous venue: Churchill Downs!

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See the billboard? The Newport Aquarium in northern Kentucky (on the Ohio River across from downtown Cincinnati) is worth a visit. The best part? Owned by Herschend!

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To the south of Kentucky Kingdom is Louisville International Airport.

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Among theme park fans, this airport is probably best known for necessitating height restrictions at Kentucky Kingdom.

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I hope these pictures make it clear just how close the airport is to the park!

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If you're willing to appreciate plane spotting -- and let's face it, no theme park fanatic should be honking off at another esoteric hobby...

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...the views from the Deep Water Dive tower are pretty nice!

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Landing on Runway 17L.

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Oh, there's a fire truck, filling up a bunch of barrels.

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Oh, there's the TPR bus!

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Oh, there's about half of the TPR group at the bar!

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Back down to earth, and just enough time for a couple pictures of Lightning Run before it's time to head out.

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Everyone needs a few minutes to catch their breath while sitting here on the brake run.

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This shot was taken from the bridge that connects the north half of Kentucky Kingdom to the south half and Hurricane Bay. It's kind of an awkward arrangement, but it's pretty much unavoidable.

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Another view of the Lightning Run station.

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Here's the bridge across the road known as Circle of Champions, looking north.

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If you want some more angles of Lightning Run for your photography desires, there are probably some good shots to be had from the Tin Lizzies.

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A landscape view over the Tin Lizzies, with Fearfall in the background.

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Here's the entry plaza to Lightning Run.

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I guess this counts as the ride's official nameplate sign!

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Fearfall (stylized FearFALL) is a rather jolting drop tower, which is what makes it fun.

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It's small, but it loads quick -- perhaps its biggest advantage over the huge gyro drop towers.

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That's it from Kentucky Kingdom. Thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Still a long way to go for this park, but it's very hard to argue against Deep Water Dive and Lightning Run, with Deluge and Thunder Run also easily worth a couple rides. If Kentucky Kingdom is going to be able to expand to the extent that they'll become a full-day park, it's going to take several more Grade-A or at least Grade-B attractions, and several more years at a minimum. Lots of hard work ahead, but I certainly wish them the best!

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Excellent photos. Lightning Run is one of the most insane "little" coasters in the U.S. More parks should install this ride (along with Mega Lites).

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Great trip report. I love your photos and the amount of detail you went into. I never paid much attention to KKs waterpark, but after seeing your photos I'm just as excited about the water slides as I am about getting on Lightning Run! You perfectly captured the park and it's surrounding area beautifully.

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Thanks for the comments!

 

Lightning Run is one of the most insane "little" coasters in the U.S. More parks should install this ride (along with Mega Lites).

 

Definitely. I don't know where exactly it will rank on my steel coaster list, but I'd almost guarantee it's smaller and cheaper than every single ride I will end up ranking above it.

 

I wish we'd been able to do the 1st half of this trip, but it was still fantastic to get in on the 2nd half .

 

I can't wait to get to the pictures from the second half, particularly the Knoebels day. Still a ways to go.

 

I never paid much attention to KKs waterpark, but after seeing your photos I'm just as excited about the water slides as I am about getting on Lightning Run!

 

Yup, they have some good ones. Not to mention the interesting rumor Screamscape just posted about Twisted Twins...

 

Great update on KK. I loved Lightning Run.

 

Really? Me too!

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Wow. I had no idea deep water dive was so tall. That's one of those water slides that would really get my heart racing as I stepped into the capsule. Looks like we will be making a new Theme Park road trip this summer. The drive will be worth it just for that slide... and Lighting Run. Thanks for the on going report. It's great! Great photos too!

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Excellent photos. Lightning Run is one of the most insane "little" coasters in the U.S. More parks should install this ride (along with Mega Lites).

 

How does Lightning Run compare with a Mega Lite? Conceptually, looks like the same idea, by a different company... which is great, as Mega Lites have sadly gotten no respect here in the US.

 

Also, Deep Water Dive: Unsubscribe. I'm crazy, but I'm not that crazy. Full respect for Kentucky Kingdom for building that, and it IS sad they haven't gotten more press about it, but not way am I getting on that thing.

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