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Photo TR: Password's Trek to the Midwest


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Kennywood, Kings Island, and Cedar Point. Three parks with three very different atmospheres, but each of them really unique and special in their own way. I was lucky enough to experience each of them in their (near) entirety. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy!

 

Day 1: Kennywood (here)

Day 2: Kings Island

Day 3: Kings Island/Cedar Point

Day 4: Cedar Point

Day 5: Cedar Point

Day 6: Cedar Point/Departure

 

Intro

Before I begin, I want to thank everyone that helped make this trip a reality and run smoothly. The idea for such a trip came about roughly 12 months ago after a buddy of mine and I made the short trek to Great Adventure for a weekend where he had much more interest in the park and coasters (particularly El Toro) than most people not nerdy enough to be active on an enthusiast forum. On the four hour drive home, we discussed the logistics and funding behind a trip of a much greater scale, and in the end decided to make a high school graduation trip of sorts to Cedar Point instead of the usual Senior beach week--neither of us had any interest in getting near-blackout drunk on the beach five consecutive nights.

 

In particular, I want to thank DirkFunk for the in-depth planning tips and Boldikus for steering us towards Kennywood as an add-on park. We'd get Cedar Fair Platinum passes for the somewhat nearby Kings Dominion as well as the two Ohio parks. Over the early spring months, the details were set.

 

Six days, three parks, 31 different roller coasters. Bring it.

 

 

Day One: Kennywood

Monday, July 11, 2016

 

Trip Report

 

Not being one of the heavy hitters in terms of ride collection, Kennywood is a park that most natives to the NoVA/DC area have never heard of. Even on active forums like TPR it's rarely discussed in depth. To be completely honest I didn't know much about the park until Boldikus' report from last year. It looked like a quirky, fun little park that might be worth a few hours on the way to Kings Island to stretch out and ride a few coasters, but I hadn't seriously entertained the idea of stopping through after Kentucky Kingdom announced their new ride for 2016, or even with Holiday World, just a little more out of the way, operating a ride that's worthy of mention in the same sentence as El Toro--not to mention a brand new B&M wing coaster.

 

After contemplating a little more and trying to cut down some on travel time, we looked more into Kennywood. Phantom's Revenge looked decent enough and a few other notable rides tipped us towards West Mifflin. It would at least be something different than the corporate feel of the massive Cedar Fair parks we'd visit later on in the week, and with a leap day sale for $29 tickets, we pulled the string on Kennywood.

 

Leading up until departure, I was seriously regretting missing out on potentially my first RMC coaster. Boy, am I glad I was wrong.

 

Knowing we had quite a long week of riding ahead of us, we decided to depart after the morning rush hour to sleep in a bit before the four hour drive to western Pennsylvania. We pulled into the *free* parking just after 1pm and after a quick sandwich on the way down the steps and eventually through the tunnel to the main entrance, we threw any plan of attack out the window. We knew we wanted to get at least one ride on all six coasters, and as recommended, a few flats, Noah's Ark and Ghostwood Estate. I'll talk a little more in-depth about each ride later on, but our general route started at Sky Rocket, then continued counter-clockwise to Jack Rabbit, Racer, and eventually into the Lost Kennywood section. After riding all the must-rides by late-afternoon, we continued on for re-rides on our favorites and left the park much later than we initially planned before the three hour drive to our Motel 6 in Grove City, Ohio--just over an hour from our next destination, Kings Island.

 

Review

 

Maybe part of it was the anticipation of the absurdly awesome week that was to follow, or maybe it was the sub-par expectations I had for this old, small park bordering an industrial Pittsburgh rural/urban surroundings, but Kennywood absolutely blew us away. We didn't need any $30 million attractions or shiny new midways and twenty coasters to have an absolute blast. Despite temperatures approaching 90 degrees and a few shadeless queues, Kennywood delivered some of the most raw excitement of any park I've visited. None of the coasters (besides maybe Phantom's Revenge) are big names, but each and every one of them was an incredibly high caliber ride that almost seemed too great for its own good.

 

The park itself was incredibly charming and felt like a day well before our time, but also had its fair share of modern amenities and thrill rides. There are no storage bins outside of the queues requiring a few dollars before every ride to hold your belongings, and there is ample shade throughout the park. The only negative I can recall is that Thunderbolt ran one train, which extended the line to around 20 minutes, though that's completely understandable. The ride collection itself is a very well thought out mix of classic wood coasters, a couple modern steel thrilling coasters, plenty of family rides scattered throughout along with a kiddie section we never step foot in. Not a single ride seemed "forced" in any way--they all blended in seamlessly with their surroundings as if they had been there for nearly a century, but only half of them actually have.

 

Just graduating high school, my buddy Matt and I have always been fans of the massive parks with excessive quantities of coasters and thrill rides. I'm really of the opinion that no ride should be validated as "good" just for the sake of nostalgia. From this description, it would be reasonable to think that Kennywood might not offer up all too much for us to do, but a game isn't decided by statistics, right? Kennywood proved me wrong and I absolutely fell in love with this park. If given the chance I would absolutely visit Kennywood again, and I would even consider it a worthy destination park for a full day visit.

 

One last thing I would like to note are the restraints on these coasters, in particular Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt. I was never a believer that some of these classic wood coasters could be anywhere near as extreme as El Toro, my favorite wood coaster, but my perspective is totally changed. Just a seatbelt and a grabbar that does absolutely nothing on Jack Rabbit, and a shared buzz bar on Thunderbolt... wtf?

 

Operations overall were incredibly impressive, with stacking the rarity instead of the norm. I'm sure the minimal restraints helped with this, but I think all day I only saw two instances of stacking for more than five seconds on everything with Sky Rocket being the lone exception (though the stupid blocking arrangement is a valid excuse on this ride).

 

My only regrets from Kennywood concern time. We never got a chance to ride their Bayern Kurve or log flume, and we never had any food inside the park. All the more reason to make it back in the future.

 

Attractions

 

Sky Rocket (2x): Although the launch is kinda tame, the airtime coming off the (heavily trimmed) tophat is much stronger than I anticipated in the back. The following overbank hints at intensity and is followed up by a surprisingly snappy zero-g roll that somehow manages to throw you out of your seat. The ride definitely peters out with a weak finale, but a few better than expected ejector airtime moments and a zippy ride course made this worth a re-ride later in the day. Anyone that says this ride isn't worth riding needs to try Sky Rocket in the back and if their opinion doesn't change be evaluated by a professional. I don't really care to lay out a list of all the coasters I've ridden but this is definitely one of the better ones, despite the lack of all-around intensity.

 

Jack Rabbit (2x): I knew going in that we wanted the back row but until we actually sat down to ride I wasn't really sure why. I don't know how insurance companies are okay with this still but I absolutely love it and it makes me dislike any old wood coasters running PTC's with individual lap bars that shouldn't. The ride starts out slowly circling around inside the queue line and dips into the ravine, then around through a tunnel up onto the lift. What follows makes this ride--that double down. The first drop is okay itself, but it flattens out for a split second then BOOM you're four inches above your seat for good 2-3 seconds secured only by a shared seatbelt and the potential for a grabbar, if by chance you're holding on which we luckily were. If you were to put an accelerometer on this ride I don't think it would be as strong as El Toro's airtime, but with these restraints it certainly feels more ridiculous and like it should be illegal. I still prefer El Toro but I think this is the most "wtf" moment of ejector airtime I've experienced. If you're trying to explain to someone the difference between floater and ejector, look no further. Holy crap.

The rest of the ride isn't really worth mentioning, it's all about that double down. There's some light floater on the last drop before the brakes but that's just icing on the cake. I wish I could've gotten more rides on this but I'm glad I was able to ride twice.

 

Racer (1x): This ride is by definition "unique" being the last mobius coaster in the states (I don't know if Twisted Colossus actually counts since there's only one station), but unfortunately that's really the most notable part of the ride. There's nothing particularly "wrong" with the ride; it seemed very popular among younger children. It just seems overshadowed by the two other wood coasters within eyeshot. The ride is obviously well maintained and rides rather smoothly, there's just not a whole lot to be had in terms of airtime or laterals until one good pop of air before the brakes at the end. This was the first of three racing coasters on the trip.

 

Thunderbolt (2x): This might have been the biggest surprise for the day. I've never really understood the appeal of laterals other than to add some quick variety to a coaster, but never as a selling point on a ride. You get a hint of what's to come before even boarding as operators instruct the smaller rider (in this case myself, though I'm still not a very small guy at just under 6' and 160 lbs) to sit on the right. The two instances of laterals are extreme, and force you to hold on to the lapbar with all your strength so as not to slam into the rider on your left. It's incredibly fun and it's amazing there are no seat dividers. The only similar experience I've had is on Wild One's helix at SFA, though the seat dividers and slight bank make Thunderbolt the superior example.

What I didn't expect, however, was the sustained airtime coming off the last drop before the brakes. While it probably wasn't quite as extreme as Jack Rabbit's double down, it was more sustained and resulted in me nearly standing up into the shared lapbar for a good 3 seconds. All things considered, I think I prefer Thunderbolt over Jack Rabbit simply for offering a wider variety of forces and a longer ride.

 

Phantom's Revenge (2x): Where do I start with this one... I had read about the history of the ride as Steel Phantom and had fairly high expectations, if nothing else just for that second drop into the Thunderbolt ravine. I was expecting a slow first drop even in the back, but I was forcefully pulled down the curving drop into the second hill. Not only was the second drop better than anticipated, but the buffet of ejector hills following makes this one of the best steel coasters I've ridden. After coming out of the ravine the second time encircling the Turtle, it takes on an entirely new MO. The ride itself definitely slows down in terms of technical speed, but the pace quickens immensely. This series of hills is what I wish the back end of B&M hypercoasters would be, and the ride takes full advantage of the relatively loose restraints. You can feel yourself being forcefully thrown upwards in a way that you would imagine Intamin tried to emulate with Maverick and El Toro on the RT hill.

My only complaint (and that's using the term loosely) is the length, but they maximized the space they had to work with and did an excellent job re-imagining the Steel Phantom into one of the best steel coasters ever built. I'll have to re-evaluate my top five.

 

Exterminator (1x): I believe this is the same layout at Ragin Cajun at SFA, but unless I had looked into that beforehand I wouldn't have the slightest clue. I'm generally not a fan of spinning rides, but this ride isn't just about rotating you quickly. It's fast and even sometimes intense, but nothing about it is obnoxious (other than maybe the theming which was more quirky and unique than anything else). The building/surroundings definitely add a lot to the overall experience of what would otherwise be a standard spinning mouse. The indoor air conditioned queue didn't hurt either. I would gladly ride again if time allowed but not with a 20-25 minute queue and limited time.

 

Black Widow (1x): This was the first of three giant frisbee (fine... "Giant Discovery") rides on the trip, and the third I've ridden in my life (the others being the HUSS at Cedar Point and the Mondial at Kings Dominion). I don't know exactly how much taller or steeper this model swings than the others, but it feels like quite a bit. The ride cycle feels very long and the views are spectacular down onto the midway below, and the ride can get very intense at 70mph through the swing. The only downside is the slow loading/unloading, but this is probably my favorite thrill ride above Great Adventure's drop tower. This is a must-ride at Kennywood and I hope more Zamperla versions are built.

 

Noah's Ark (1x): I had no idea what to expect going in, but this was another "wtf?" ride. It's a nice break from the coasters and thrill rides, and some of the classic effects are very well done. I don't know what was changed/refurbished for 2016, but it's a bit of a mystery to me how there's never been an issue with small children injuring themselves through the moving floors/tilting corridors. Worth one time around for the uniqueness if nothing else.

 

Ghostwood Estate (1x): We probably waited a little longer than I would have liked to knowing what the experience would be like, but it's essentially a grown-up Boo Blasters with a few decent props and effects. Certainly not a dud, but nothing to write home about and again a nice break from the hot sun.

 

Kangaroo (1x): We've kind of made it a thing to ride the most random flat ride we can find that's still age appropriate (Larson flyers and the bull-themed Breakdance at SFA, namely), but after getting recommendations to ride this and seeing what the ride does to some of the smaller children from the midway we had to get a ride. Children too small to be held secure by the lap bar were thrown violently upwards and to the right each time around, and the effect wasn't much different for us. It's repeated tiny pops of ejector air, and nobody can complain about that. I wish more of these were around and I'm glad we could get a ride.

 

 

Please excuse the poor quality iPhone 5 pictures, and bear with me as I've never done a formal trip report. Thanks!

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Here we are at Kennywood!

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Hangin' out by the front

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Sky Rocket awaits us for the first ride of the day

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Short trains mean low capacity, but solid operations and no seatbelts kept the line moving

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Jack Rabbit plaza with the crazy short front half of the queue

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The pond across Jack Rabbit and Racer--Kennywood is a very quaint park

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Big stars rolling through

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Didn't get a ride on Auto Race, no big loss

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This frozen lemonade was surprisingly good, especially being near 90 degrees

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Racer's station looks really classic. Getting pumped for our (only) ride.

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Phantom's Revenge calls to us in the distance

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But first... WOW! That is f*cking awesome!

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Sure you've never seen this shot before... such a badass entrance sign though

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I love the bright (faded) green, and that first drop isn't too shabby either!

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Back at Thunderbolt, where everyone seems to lean to the left...

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Ghostwood Estate's queue took around 20 minutes with this length

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Queuing for Phantom, these are my kinda lines! And what's with the super slow lift chain?

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Some slight trims, but nothing too noticeable

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Black Widow is a legitimate thrill. Awesome ride.

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I love they way these rides interact with the terrain and each other.

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Phantom's entrance into the station

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We didn't want to walk around soaked, but I love how this ride is presented along with the fountains at the far end. It looks really nice and keeps the entire area a little cooler.

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Exterminator is really tucked away, but it looks much nicer than the Dark Knight clones in the open daylight

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This is just such a messed up ride. I love it. More.

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I think this accurately portrays the experience of Jack Rabbit

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Overall a good ride but HOLY CRAP that double down!

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Taken from the top of Noah's Ark

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I love the way Kennywood is landscaped. The entire park has a really nice, old fashioned feel to it. Very welcoming.

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Phantom looms overhead. What an awesome ride.

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Back for another round on Sky Rocket. Some really unexpected moments of airtime here.

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One moment, calm... We passed on Turtle, we're not quite ready to have our man cards revoked.

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The next... Hairtime!

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Beautiful view from the motel in Grove City that night, ehh? The room smelled like someone smoked a pipe and let it burn inside of the mattresses for a few days, but it got the job done. Can't complain at $50/night.

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Little known fact: my name isn't actually Password. I'm in the blue (bad picture, sorry).

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It's tall, it's fast...

Edited by Password121
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great read thus far!

 

and so glad you got a ride on Kangaroo. . you have to go back for Bayurn Curve, and the train!

try to stay past dark too, as the park is absolutely GORGEOUS at night with all that neon on Racer in particular looking fantastic.

 

(and by skipping kiddie land, you didn't get a picture with the mascot that hangs out in there. . LOL. . when we swung thru Penn. we made a point of finding and taking pics with the park mascots at every stop).

 

great report thus far, and look forward to reading the rest!

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:)

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:)

Edited by bert425
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I only recently noticed Phantom's restraints while watching an off-ride video, but holy crap those things put this up there with El Toro and Fury for my bucket list (OK maybe not quite as high as El Toro or Fury). I saw some ridiculously high locking positions and I absolutely love minimal restraints where strong airtime is involved.

Can't wait to see more of the TR!

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^That's one of the only things I regret not getting to. We walked by it once in the evening and I suggested riding it but by that point we really had to get going on our last couple of rides before the three (became 4.5 hours with traffic+food) hour drive to the motel in Ohio. A second spin on Phantom's Revenge took priority but if/when I ever get back I'll be sure to ride it.

 

Thanks for checking it out, more to come early this week!

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Great report, you have a great writing style. I cracked up at your use of the phrase "the following overbank hints at intensity". Kennywood is one of those parks that takes a little bit of maturity and nostalgia to fully appreciate - like you said, it isn't a giant 20+ coaster mega thrill park - but it's great to see you guys had such a good time. My wife is from Pittsburgh, and Kennywood was our first 'date'. Phantom's Revenge blew me away (I can be a bit of a B&M/Intamin snob), and the old woodies are great fun. Looking forward to the rest of this!

 

Also, I've heard people from Western PA consider themselves the midwest. Growing up in Chicago, we still considered Ohio part of the midwest for sure.

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Great report, you have a great writing style. I cracked up at your use of the phrase "the following overbank hints at intensity". Kennywood is one of those parks that takes a little bit of maturity and nostalgia to fully appreciate - like you said, it isn't a giant 20+ coaster mega thrill park - but it's great to see you guys had such a good time.
Thank you, I appreciate that!

 

Kennywood to me is the textbook definition of providing a quality experience over being flashy or in your face. A ride doesn't doesn't have to be 223 feet tall or break records to be world class--and Kennywood shows that. For having only six coasters, this is one of the most well rounded (in terms of ride experiences) and high quality collections. The park itself is very charming and a nice change from the corporate attitude of trying to drop every penny out of visitors' pockets.

Interesting on the definition of Midwest. You'd think that something should at least be in the middle before getting that classification but that's neither here or there. Perhaps more Mideast?
Unless a history or geography buff can chime in, maybe this is a question that will remain unanswered.
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Nice job on your first TR! It was a great read and I'm excited to read the upcoming installments!

 

Between your and Boldikus' trip reports, I'm seriously considering stopping here next year. It looks like a great park with an awesome mix of Steel and old fashioned wooden coasters.

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I was always taught in my Ohio History classes in jr high, that we were the start of the midwest. Being that we lived east of Cleveland it was very confusing because we were also told we were the foothill region of the Appalachians. Where I lived had tall steep hills. No wonder us Ohio bred boys are a bit screwed up. Btw, the western end of Ohio is flat as a pancake, very midwestern.

Also, Love your TR on Kennywood. One of my favorite parks.

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First, thanks for the kudos. If people can use what I offer and it makes their lives better in some way, that's a pretty damn fine award. That's what I really hope to accomplish here more than anything.

 

Second: Ohio is the start of the midwest. Yes, there are hills there. There's hills in southern Indiana, the upper peninsula of Michigan and many other places throughout the "midwest". The only people confused about it are probably those who have been told otherwise by individuals trying to will it into part of the East Coast. It is not. Culturally it is worth noting that Buffalo has a lot more to compare with Cleveland than Albany, which is probably in part why those living upstate and in NYC as so quick to dismiss it.

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Nice job on your first TR! It was a great read and I'm excited to read the upcoming installments!

 

Between your and Boldikus' trip reports, I'm seriously considering stopping here next year. It looks like a great park with an awesome mix of Steel and old fashioned wooden coasters.

Do it. Absolutely do it. Every single ride exceeded my expectations, especially Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt (with Phantom's Revenge being my favorite). I haven't ridden hundreds of wood coasters like some here, but I'd put Thunderbolt maybe just one tier beneath El Toro. These aren't great rides because they're classic, they're great because they're seriously world class rides.

Great TR. You described Kennywood in the exact way I was hoping it would be. I can't wait to see it for myself sometime soon.

I would definitely consider making a day trip (3.5 hour drive) out of Kennywood and would be more than happy staying open to close. There's something really attractive about the experience this park offers that's hard to describe--maybe it's because it's so unique and a change of pace from feeling like you're being taken advantage of every time you visit a corporate park. On top of that, Kennywood has a collection of rides I'd take every day of the week over the majority of large chain parks.

Also, Love your TR on Kennywood. One of my favorite parks.

Thanks, and as it should be!

First, thanks for the kudos. If people can use what I offer and it makes their lives better in some way, that's a pretty damn fine award. That's what I really hope to accomplish here more than anything.

Absolutely the least I could do. I know it can be frustrating answering such questions to someone who has no idea what they're getting into (especially someone my age). Hugely appreciated.

Second: Ohio is the start of the midwest. Yes, there are hills there. There's hills in southern Indiana, the upper peninsula of Michigan and many other places throughout the "midwest". The only people confused about it are probably those who have been told otherwise by individuals trying to will it into part of the East Coast. It is not. Culturally it is worth noting that Buffalo has a lot more to compare with Cleveland than Albany, which is probably in part why those living upstate and in NYC as so quick to dismiss it.

That makes a lot of sense. Glad this pressing issue could be cleared up

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Day Two: Kings Island

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

 

Trip Report

 

After a longer than expected drive to our Motel 6 the previous night, we hadn't checked into our room until a few minutes before one o'clock in the morning--a rather questionable time to be checking into an outdated Motel 6 with exterior facing doors and a plexiglass check-in window. However, this didn't phase us too much, as we had just one thing on the agenda: Kings Island.

 

Up and out the door by 8:30 with just a strawberry smoothie from the nearby Starbucks for breakfast, we were on the last 75 minute leg of our journey to the park. We pulled into the lot, sprayed on some necessary sunscreen, and made our way down the long entrance walkway to the strangely familiar looking entrance facade and International Street. At this point it was too late to bother participating in the morning ERT for passholders in July on Flight of Fear and Firehawk, but these are clones of rides we've ridden to death at Kings Dominion and Six Flags America, so we really didn't sweat it. We were able to sneak through the security checkpoint holding back the general public from entering beyond the fountains with our platinum passes giving us a head start to our first stop of the day: Banshee.

 

As Kings Island does not allow loose articles in the queue, we made a quick stop by the two hour storage units, and made our one risky decision of the day--putting the orange sports bottle behind a bush. After our first ride, we returned to find the bottle just six inches over, but behind the three foot tall fence with crossbars too skinny to fit the cap of the bottle. Although I was able to reach over the fence (not a lock-out zone or anything, just a landscaping fence) to retrieve the $30 bottle, I took this as a hint to not attempt these shenanigans again. We'd be ponying up the $2 the rest of the week.

 

From here, we continued onto nearby attractions in Action Zone, then over to Vortex, Diamondback, and The Beast. Originally we had considered not riding The Beast before the nighttime hours to reserve our first impressions for the highly anticipated night ride, but with crowds as light as they were and risking the possibility of the ride going down or rain coming through, we decided to take the safe route and get a daytime ride in 6-2.

 

We had lunch at Reds Hall of Fame Grill--a very nice restaurant, especially being on the dining plan. The remainder of the day was spent riding what we didn't get to before lunch, re-riding Banshee and Diamondback in the evening, and grabbing a round trip ride on the train. To our surprise, Kings Island was incredibly light on crowds this certain day. Sure, it's a Tuesday, but it is a beautiful warm day in mid-July, and we had budgeted for Fast Lane. Luckily, we never pulled the string on that as the midways seemed more crowded than the queues would indicate. We had so much spare time, in fact, that we actually took a 90 minute break in our Microtel Inn a mile and a half from the park in the late afternoon, coming back around 6:30 before the sun began to set on our day.

 

Knowing how critical the timing would be to get our front seat night ride on The Beast, we had to plan our evening and night carefully. We began at Banshee for back-to-back sunset rides around 8:30, then got in the 15 minute ling for Diamondback by 9. The B&M hypercoaster went down just a few minutes later when we were crossing under the base of the lift and the crew turned away Fast Lane users--not a good sign. We waited a few minutes longer, getting a little antsy knowing we wanted to hop in line for The Beast by 9:15. After a few minutes with no test runs and most of the line bailing, we followed suit and made the short walk to the quiet back end of Rivertown for The Beast (although I should note, I did grab a salad from a restaurant adjacent to the entrance on for my second dining plan meal to consume while queuing for our night ride). Everybody else had the same item on their agenda, but this is what I've been waiting for--The Beast at night.

 

Review

 

Kings Dominion is one of my local parks, so I've been lucky enough to visit the park numerous times over the last several years. It was easy to draw comparisons between the two parks--a few clones shared between the two parks, the forested backdrop both in the park and as the setting for a few of the coasters, and the overall feel of the parks. The vibe was very reminiscent of its Virginia sister park, if not slightly more generic in some parts (front gate plaza, Action Zone, Coney Mall) with large slabs of walkways and unshaded areas.

 

However, there were some things I thought Kings Island does better than Kings Dominion. Rivertown itself was very nicely done, and I'm sure with the new addition in 2017 will make it even better. The park overall is very clean feeling, has a decent selection of restaurants and refill stations, and am expansive kids area. The newer additions (Diamondback and Banshee) are very nicely presented. There's something about just a subtle hint of tastefully done theming, complete with clean lines and pleasantly landscaped areas that can be more inviting and create a "sense of place," in Rob Decker's words, that is very appealing about Kings Island. To top it off, the collection of rides and roller coasters is very solid. Banshee, Diamondback and The Beast round out a notable big three, along with a large collection of mediocre to above average coasters to round out the collection. Of the two parks, my favorite coaster is at Kings Dominion, but overall I give the slight edge to Kings Island's lineup.

 

I do feel the need to mention the stellar operations we witnessed while at the park. Banshee never accumulated a line beyond the bottom of the steps. Even then, the Banshee crew was rolling out trains at am impressive clip. We were able to grab nearly ten rides between the two days, and never waited more than five minutes, even for the front. At one point, I heard the operator mention over the spieler "24 in 30. Keep it up." which I assume means 24 dispatches in half an hour, which with perfect grouping translates to over 1500 riders per hour. That's incredibly impressive, especially on a day with minimal waits. The Diamondback crew is also worth mentioning, and although their numbers probably weren't quite as impressive, they usually dispatched a train before the previous train entered the final helix. With the added seatbelts, not bad at all. Vortex and The Beast also rolled out trains rather quickly, with a Beast attendant grabbing loose articles from riders before the airgates opened.

 

Overall, Kings Island is one of the better parks I've visited. The atmosphere is very pleasant and inviting despite portions of the park feeling a bit generic or outdated. It's absolutely worth a full day visit, especially considering how quiet the park was the day we visited. I do think the park could benefit from one more standout attraction, as although the current big three are all solid rides and worthy of re-rides, none are really worth traveling for individually, and the quality really drops off after you've ridden those three multiple times. The overwhelming majority of visitors are not traveling hundreds of miles to ride coasters, however, so this is more of a selfish desire. Both B&M's are under Cedar Fair's ownership, so I'm sure the upwards trend will continue over time. All said and done, While I may not go out of my way to revisit, I do think I prefer Kings Island over its Virginia sister park by a small margin, if nothing else for a higher caliber selection of rides on the top end.

 

Attractions

 

Banshee (7x): After following the announcement and construction of Banshee a couple years back and being really intrigued by the massive scale of this ride (combined with my love of B&M inverts), I had really high hopes. For our first ride we opted for the back. Our restraints were quickly checked and I could already tell I wasn't a fan of the new style restraints on this coaster as the vest pressed down on my collarbone. Pushing that aside, we rolled out of the station and made the hard left onto the lift. This was one of the more "Wow it's actually happening!" moments for me, after watching the POV so many times and seeing the ride come to life over time in pictures. We headed up the steep lift (far steeper than other inverts) at a quick pace and before we knew it, the Banshee scream howled in our ears. Suddenly, almost reminiscent of Phantom's Revenge first drop in terms of shaping and forces, we were forcefully yanked down to the right to the bottom of the drop. The first dive loop is large and intimidating from the ride plaza, but rather slow and uninspired on-ride. The views of the midway are really nice though, and the loop encircling the lift quickly approached. We cruised through the loop and through the zero-g, which while is nowhere near as snappy as those of Batman or Raptor, has a different element of excitement being so tall and leading up to a 100+ foot drop into the ravine. The massive elements below grade are really fun and slightly more intense than the first half of the ride, though nothing overwhelming. It really feels like you're in the middle of nowhere if you look out away from the park at this point, which is a weird feeling.

 

All in all, Banshee is a really fun, exciting, fast ride, though I can't say I fell in love with it. While the technical speed is faster than Raptor, the pacing is considerably slower as the ride has a number of very large inversions and high off the ground segments. I don't know if I prefer the front or the back, though I can say the front is glass smooth while the back is just "good." There is nothing rough about Banshee at all, I should say, and it is a really good coaster to ride multiple times. Kings Island has a winner on their hands with Banshee, and I hope more new inverts are built in the states before long.

 

Diamondback (5x): Nitro and Apollo's Chariot are the other B&M hypers I have to compare with, though I've ridden Nitro the most so I'll use that as reference. To be honest, I don't know if I could say with certainty which ride I prefer, though I would definitely put both rides in the same "tier" of rides as some of the best I've ridden, though not my absolute favorite coasters considering the lack of intensity or diversity of elements. With that said, Diamondback has one goal in mind and it executes very nicely--floater airtime.

 

We rode the very back each time except once, so my experiences are almost exclusively from there. The first drop has sustained floater airtime all the way to the pullout, and being slightly steeper than Nitro with longer trains is probably the better drop. The following two hills are good, but not amazing. It feels maybe slightly more powerful than Nitro, though not quite as sustained. Interestingly, the third airtime hill before the turn into the mid-course may have had the strongest air, despite the incredibly obnoxious trim over the top. The two bunny hops are a little taller than the series of finale hills on Nitro and sustain longer than I expected. The final helix is fun, but has no intensity whatsoever, especially compared to Nitro's double helix earlier in the course.

 

Maybe this is just me, but there is something I can really appreciate about the "biggest" coaster in a park with such a massive and diverse collection of rides being *only* in the 200 foot range. Using Kings Dominion as an example again, Intimidator 305 completely dwarfs every other coaster in the park, including those that emphasize their height as a selling point (such as Dominator). As a result, it becomes more difficult to appreciate the scale of the smaller, though still tall, coasters nearby. Another perfect example is Great Adventure--after the addition of Kingda Ka, Nitro's height just doesn't seem quite as impressive. A hypercoaster's height should be appreciated, not just seen as the necessary height required to complete the course. That said, it was obvious in my visit to Kings Island that visitors still see Diamondback's height as impressive, but without taking away from the stature of surrounding rides.

 

All in all, Diamondback is definitely a worthy standout coaster at Kings Island. I don't know that I loved it as much as some seem to as I generally felt that it was a slightly modified Nitro with less intensity and fewer moments of airtime--though I don't want to come off as though I didn't really enjoy it as it's one of the best coasters I rode on the entire trip and I'm glad we could ride it multiple times with minimal lines.

 

The Beast (2x): I'll separate this into two separate reviews as I feel this is one of the only coasters that's almost unrecognizable between day and night.

 

Beast (daytime): I didn't have the highest expectations for this ride during the day which definitely helped make this not such a let down in the early afternoon. There's no airtime to be had, some mild laterals here and there (nothing compared to Thunderbolt the day before), and lot of meandering. The sense of speed is worth noting, but the trims are really noticeable and take away from the ride's potential. I knew going in that The Beast really doesn't have many elements that make wood coasters popular today, but the sense of travel and speed, combined with an exciting helix finale make The Beast during the day a slightly above average ride.

 

Beast (nighttime): This ride is what we were anticipating the most about our day at Kings Island, and we got in line promptly at 9:20 to wait out the front seat. We boarded the train and prepared for one of the most memorable single rides on a coaster I've ever had--and it didn't disappoint. I'd love to experience this after a midnight closing or during the fall even later when it's darker, but at 10:15 it was plenty dark to make it difficult to discern the movements in the track, and impossible to see anything at all in the tunnels. What resulted was the most out of control, unexpected ride with an incredible sense of speed and senseless excitement. There are really no words for how The Beast comes alive at night, and this experience alone puts up quite an argument for the best coaster experience I've had.

 

Vortex (2x): We took the advice here to ride seat 5-1 for our first ride and thought it was one of the more comfortable rides and one of the more unique layouts of the Arrow megaloopers. It really wasn't anything special, but the layout was fairly fast and exciting with a really nice setting. We re-rode later in the day in the front seat (walk-on all day) and found the ride much more uncomfortable... so I guess we should've stuck with the advice to ride in the middle. I'm definitely not in the camp of "kill it with fire," but it's not a favorite and I wouldn't be in the least bit disappointed to see it replaced with something superior.

 

Racer (1x): We walked onto the red side in the afternoon and rode the middle seat of the last car. Not a whole lot to say here, just some decent floater airtime here and there and more comfortable than Rebel Yell. Not a standout ride by any means but it has its place in history and I'm glad the ride is still standing.

 

Firehawk (1x): We've ridden its clone, Batwing at Six Flags America, and thought Firehawk was an inferior ride. Firehawk may have slightly better operations utilizing the dual load station, but this was still the longest line of the day until The Beast at night. I don't know if I could point out any real differences in the ride experiences, but something made Firehawk a little more disorienting and overall less enjoyable. Like Vortex, I don't hate the ride like a lot of people seem to, but it's nowhere near as good as the B&M flyers.

 

Invertigo (1x): This was actually my first boomerang of any style, and if what I've heard is true that the inverted boomerangs are the superior model, I have no desire to ride a standard boomerang. The ride itself probably wasn't any more rough than Vortex or many Arrow loopers, but the layout, especially traversed backwards, combined with trains that seem just a little longer than the course was engineered for, is a little too disorienting for my taste. If the transitions in and out of the cobra roll could be smoothed out somehow maybe it would be worth a re-ride, but as it stands the only redeeming factor is the view over the entrance plaza facing the first lift. I wouldn't be disappointed to see this ride removed for an Action Zone expansion in the future.

 

The Bat (2x): This was the first of two Arrow suspended coasters on the trip, and is definitely the better ride. I would've loved to see how The Bat compares at night given its location in the woods, but even during the day, this ride is quickly paced, relatively intense, and has some very exciting moments of beyond horizontal swinging. I should've activated my fitness app beforehand because holy crap this ride is in the middle of nowhere. The operator wasn't lying when she said "over the river and through the woods, to The Bat't lift hill we go." Despite the lengthy walk, the ride seems well received among those who bother to ride it and looks great sporting the fresh paint. Worth a re-ride in the front seat, and again in the back the following morning.

 

Adventure Express (1x): Had the lines not been so short all day we may not have bothered with this quirky new-ish mine train, but I'm glad we rode it once. I have no idea what the purpose of this ride is whatsoever and I really don't think I could point out a single defining feature of Adventure Express that makes it worth riding at all, but it's just one of those things that you accept and move on with your day. As for the ride itself, the transitions were a little jarring considering the elements (or lack thereof) present on the ride and I really have no idea what actually occurred between lift hills, but the final lift hill was utterly laughable and I absolutely love that it was designed to be so anti-climactic. I can only hope that was done intentionally because otherwise...

 

Woodstock Express (1x): Yes, we rode a coaster in Planet Snoopy, and no, we don't care about "credits" or anything of the sort. We rode this because it's completely badass and there's way too much airtime in the back seat for a kiddie wood coaster (not that two guys our height could both sit in a single row). Kings Dominion's version may still be our favorite wood coaster in Virginia, but Kings Island's wooden collection isn't quite as embarrassing so it'll have to take the third spot (KI's wood coasters are actually top notch and will only improve next year... we just had an awful ride on Rebel Yell last month and the other two don't make up for it).

 

Delirium (1x): We were a tad reluctant to ride this model after being blown away by Black Widow the previous day at Kennywood, but frankly these rides are too good to pass up at any park and we were running out of things to do before the sun began to set. I can comfortably say this takes number three of the four I've ridden (also behind Cedar Point's slightly larger version). A very exciting ride with a decently long cycle and some unique views of Banshee screaming nearby.

 

White Water Canyon (1x): I really haven't ridden enough of these to know which ones are actually good, but this was one of the wetter versions I've been on. We almost regretted riding after deciding to hold onto our phones and wallets in our pockets as the storage units had no cover or locking mechanism, but all ended fine and we were cooled off. There were some obnoxious geysers at the end that really didn't need to be there, but I'm sure without expensive electronics and credit cards we would've loved it.

 

Boo Blasters (1x): We wanted to get in some air conditioning. Our "blasters" (guns) didn't work the majority of the ride, but we really didn't care.

 

Kings Island & Miami Valley Railroad (aka choo choo) (1x): We rode this for two reasons--one, to get off our feet for a little while and maybe grab some pictures, and two, in honor of our past physics professor, who used to be a mechanic on The Beast back in the 80's and is a "registered train enthusiast" who gets paid annually to submit a picture with a quote to an enthusiast magazine. If that isn't reason enough to ride something that otherwise doesn't serve any purpose as we had no intentions of going to Soak City, I don't know what is.

 

Eiffel Tower (1x): This was actually really fun for me as I've always seen these views from the webcams (yes I'm a nerd) so seeing the park in person from the same perspective I've always seen in pictures was really cool. Serious deja vu comparing with Kings Dominion.

 

 

Again, please excuse the poor quality iPhone pictures. Enjoy!

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A beautiful day for Kings Island!

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Invertigo does look pretty nice hanging around the front gate, though it's nothing like GateKeeper's effect.

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This is an eerily familiar sight for Kings Dominion locals like myself

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It's always a strange feeling being one of the only ones on the midway. It either means the park just opened, or you're at Six Flags America. Lucky for us, it was the former.

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First glimpse of the massive new-for-2014 ride, Banshee!

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It's obvious that Banshee has generated a lot of excitement with a large group rushing to get on the first rides. At this point we were pretty certain Fast Lane would be a necessity, but fortunately we waited before we made the decision not to.

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Banshee's zero-g roll is incredibly impressive looking. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as impressive to ride (though still a really good element).

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After our first ride and the sports bottle fiasco, we grabbed out hiking sticks to begin the trek to The Bat

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Invertigo looks a lot nicer than it rides, which is rarely, if ever, a compliment. I'll remember to never say that to a woman.

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I really like how the midway approaches the track and gives a nice overview of the layout

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One of the most well presented ride signs anywhere, IMO. The mist is a really nice touch.

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And I really can't complain about these lines, even approaching noon at this point

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Vortex *looks* nice, I'll give it that

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This dive loop is massive and looks impressive and really graceful from the plaza--kind of epitomizes new B&M's, actually

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I really do like the layout and how it doesn't start with just "inversion-->inversion," and the boomerang inversion is very thoughtfully placed

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I also love the way the lift and drop interact with the midway below in Rivertown

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The splashdown is a unique finale to a hypercoaster, though I can't say for sure if it really adds anything too exciting for the rider experience. Visually stunning, however.

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Diamondback has a really massive presence throughout the back end of the park

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Approaching the opposite end of the lift towards Planet Snoopy, we see the supposed site of the yet to be announced 2017 attraction

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And another look up to the imposing lift structure

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Is 2016 the final year for the obnoxiously named log flume?

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Up the steps approaching the station, getting pumped before ride number one

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I really do appreciate the light theming, landscaping, and clean lines Kings Island sports in the more recently done areas of the park, including the Diamondback plaza

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The new queue created for White Water Canyon allows for some fantastic views of the first drop and pullout. Take note, Great Adventure. This is how it's done.

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Similarly to the ride itself, The Beast's entrance is really tucked away and hard to find

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Full view of the airtime filled drop on Kings Island's tallest coaster

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This is what construction looked like on July 12th, because dirt is just way too exciting

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It took longer to walk to the entrance itself than to actually queue up. The same thing cannot be said for night rides, understandably.

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Coney Mall is one of the more generic sections of the park

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Exiting The Beast you get a nice view of Vortex's first drop. There's something about having two classic, iconic rides adjacent to one another like this that I really like and makes me want Vortex to stick around awhile longer.

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Nice views of Banshee are one of the better parts of Adventure Express

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It's evident here how Diamondback takes advantage of the terrain, allowing the second drop to be nearly as tall as the first. A very similar effect as Nitro, though it is more pronounced here.

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The train approaches. choo choo

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I'm really glad we didn't have to wait in all these switchbacks because we would end up incredibly disappointed and sweaty

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I'm not sure I can say I'm a fan of the placement of these two coasters, similarly to the dead end tunnel to Intimidator 305 next to Flight of Fear. A poorly placed dead end and mismatched theming, but that's what you get with multiple management teams.

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Kings Island puts on a clinic with how to properly maintain grass, and the train isn't afraid to flaunt it.

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Not really sure what to think of this

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Over in some other direction towards Rebel Yell and Anaconda... wait...

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Up at the top of the Eiffel Tower, I got really excited to see these views in person

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All jokes aside, this really is a large clearing and I hope the new ride makes the most of the space available.

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Some more construction for fresh grass. They make a big deal about that here in Ohio.

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It feels like I'm on visitkingsisland.com again! Oh the excitement!

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No matter what you think of these two rides, it's quite a sight to see and really iconic

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The back end of Banshee really looks like it's nowhere near any hint of civilization. A very different vibe than Raptor up north.

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Diamondback really covers a good chunk of land. Interestingly, I recall reading on some in-depth coaster review site that just beyond the hammerhead is a major drop off, and had the station been placed back where the pullout is Diamondback could have been something more similar to Phantom's Revenge in terms of terrain usage instead of just adding 30 feet to a valley. I don't know much about the topography of the park, so I'd love to hear more about this.

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We skipped on Backlot Stunt Coaster not because it's a bad ride, but it held a rather lengthy line and we've ridden its clone in Virginia.

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I wonder how this view will differ by this time next year

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A closer look at the construction site, along with a look at the longest Diamondback's queue spanned all day.

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The splashdown really is a unique finish, but I wish they could've found a way to connect a midway nearby to take advantage of the effect.

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I always love getting overhead views of parks like this. Really gives a new perspective.

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After a few more spins on Banshee, queuing up for Diamondback just as the sun sets

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Even if Kings Dominion might do it just *slightly* better, it really is a great entrance to a park

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Feeling refreshed after a short break at the motel late afternoon

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But unfortunately that ride wasn't meant to be, and it didn't open back up until much later in the evening.

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Approaching the intricate station before our last ride of the day

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Almost surreal walking through a quiet, empty park well after closing, especially after a ride like we just experienced. Thanks for a great day, Kings Island!

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And The Beast at night did not disappoint!

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Super exciting moment of infinite anticipation

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I agree with everything you said about Kennywood - from Black Widow, to Jackrabbit, all across the board. It's a great park and I love to talk to the quality of their rides whenever I get the chance. Glad you enjoyed KI as well! The Bat is one of my favorite rides at night since it's tucked away in the ravine it gets pretty dark, and like the Beast it feels like it's going much faster than it actually is. Did you get any blue ice cream? Did you sit in the first car on Diamondback? I prefer row 2 to the back seats

-Zach

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I agree with everything you said about Kennywood - from Black Widow, to Jackrabbit, all across the board. It's a great park and I love to talk to the quality of their rides whenever I get the chance.

Kennywood really was the biggest surprise of the trip. Kings Island has a larger collection of rides and coasters overall, but I have to admit they're not all spectacular. Kennywood really has one of the highest quality collections I can think of despite only having a handful of coasters.

Glad you enjoyed KI as well! The Bat is one of my favorite rides at night since it's tucked away in the ravine it gets pretty dark, and like the Beast it feels like it's going much faster than it actually is. Did you get any blue ice cream? Did you sit in the first car on Diamondback? I prefer row 2 to the back seats

-Zach

I would've loved to ride The Bat at night had time allowed it, but 10pm closings in July make night rides really limited. We didn't get any blue ice cream, but I have heard it's really good.

 

We actually did get one ride in row two on Diamondback exactly to see how the front compares. I'm generally a back seat rider on most coasters so I might be biased, but I found the back to have stronger airtime. A great ride either way though.

 

Thanks for checking it out!

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Loving this report. I don't have much of a desire to visit K.I. but they have a couple rides that look fun, nice to hear a fresh take on the park. I meant to ask did you only ride Phantom in the back? We did the back first and while that was awesome on our 2nd ride I sat close to the front (3rd or 4th row?) and the airtime was even crazier. Didnt have that yank that the back does down the two big drops but the 2nd half of the ride is far superior up front.

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Loving this report. I don't have much of a desire to visit K.I. but they have a couple rides that look fun, nice to hear a fresh take on the park. I meant to ask did you only ride Phantom in the back? We did the back first and while that was awesome on our 2nd ride I sat close to the front (3rd or 4th row?) and the airtime was even crazier. Didnt have that yank that the back does down the two big drops but the 2nd half of the ride is far superior up front.
Glad you're enjoying it! And no, actually, we were so impressed with Phantom the first time that we didn't want to miss out on that experience again so we rode both times in the back. I thought the bunny hops were crazy fun and intense even in the back so I can't even imagine those being any better--but it's another reason to get back to the park in the future.
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Another great review. Out of my 20+ visited parks, KI is still one of our favorites, especially considering it's within about a four hour reach from home. I'm of the rare opinion that Banshee's overall package, including it's size, speed, and aesthetic value, makes it probably my favorite inverted coaster. Although I don't rank my coasters, I'm interested to see how it will stack up against Montu, when I return to Busch in a few weeks. I remember Montu being awesome, but it's hard to compare Banshee with a coaster I rode fifteen years ago. My most recent old school comparisons to Banshee are Afterburn and Raptor. Raptor didn't do much for me, but Afterburn is very close competition for Banshee in my book. Had Afterburn been longer, it would be tough to choose a favorite.

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Banshee is, IMO, actually an underrated ride. The lack of a block brake and the fact that it keeps up speed so well during the ride puts it over almost all the more vaunted rides in the US. It's been years since I've been on Nemesis to compare fairly, and that is what I've ridden which I see as its closest competition. Afterburn, Montu, Alpengeist, Raptor, Katun, Black Mamba....I'd put Banshee over any of those.

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