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Gillian's Wonderland Pier- The calm before the Gale Force

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Luna Park (Coney Island)

 

Opening day is usually a quiet day at most parks. Not Luna Park. When a park that usually charges $65 offers a “free wristband” (it technically requires a $5 donation), it’s understandable why it gets mobbed.

 

This time, I visited on a summer Sunday. Yes the wristband is pricey, but it keeps the ride lines reasonable. The boardwalks were packed, but the longest ride line I waited in was 15 minutes. Think of the wristband as a skip-the-line pass and it becomes a whole lot more palatable.

 

I parked by the Thunderbolt, so naturally I made Zamperla’s take on the Eurofighter my first stop. I know this ride gets a lot of hate, but I actually enjoy it. I’ve realized that’s how I feel about most rides people hate…except SLCs with the old restraints. Those rides deserve all the hate they get.

 

Maybe people hate the restraints? The restraints are very tight and the ops will staple you with all their might. No ifs, ands, or buts. However, I’ll take a tight lap bar over an OSTR any day of the week.

 

Maybe people find it rough? Sure it shuffles a bit atop the inversions, but without OSTRs I find the ride perfectly comfortable.

 

Think what you want since it keeps the line shorter for me. I enjoy the mix of hangtime on the inversions and great ejector airtime on the drop and bunny hills. 7.5 out of 10

 

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I know this isn't the most popular coaster, but I really like it.

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Even haters of the ride have to admit Zamperla packed a lot into a tight footprint.

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Admittedly the three across cars are odd and it leads to a lot of empty seats.

 

Speaking of coasters everyone hates but I enjoy, I wanted to ride Soarin’ Eagle. Yes it is possible for someone to actually like a Zamperla volare. The crowds thought the same as it boasted a full queue.

 

I decided to come back later, but the ride went down for the night shortly thereafter. Some would call it mercy. I deemed it unfortunate. At least I’ve ridden it before.

 

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What a shame this ride was down. I'm not even being sarcastic.

 

I was able to ride Steeplechase. Since I had limited time at Darien Lake and Knott’s Pony Express always breaks down for me, Steeplechase is the only motorbike coaster I’ve ridden in quite some time.

 

For a smaller coaster, this thing has a really sold launch. And then the compact layout has several tiny pops of air as it weaves around itself. Plus this is a rare Zamperla coaster people seem to universally agree is smooth. 6.5 out of 10

 

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I guess ponies in New York work harder than they do in California.

 

My wristband actually included the Slingshot, but there was no chance in hell I was waiting in that line. I counted at least 50-60 people in the queue.

 

So instead I rode another ride that typically isn’t on a wristband, the Zenobio (aka Zamperla’s take on the Skyscraper ride). I rode right before sunset so the view was stunning.

 

But I don’t ride Zenobio for the views. No, I ride it for the thrills. And it halfway delivered. On the backwards bit, we were flipping with each rotation. But on the forwards bit, our vehicle flipped as much as SFMM’s Green Lantern (aka 0 times). 7 out of 10

 

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I love how this is included with the wristband.

 

When you think of the most intense coasters in the US, what comes to mind? Intimidator 305, Skyrush, El Toro, Steel Vengeance, trimless Voyage? I’d also throw in the back row on the Cyclone.

 

However, it was challenging to get the back row. On the day I visited, they wouldn’t allow anyone to sit in the back car until all seats were filled in the front two cars. I’ve never come across this policy in the past, but it was disappointing since crowds were minimal.

 

But I did get a few back row rides and it separates the men from the boys. Getting ejector airtime on almost every hill with just a buzz bar is glorious.

 

Now mix in powerful laterals. Keep in mind, there are no seat dividers. There’s one hill in particular on the last lap that I want to highlight. After the turnaround slams you to the left, there’s a bunny hill that twists to the left. You will be ejected upwards and simultaneously throw to the right side of the seat.

 

Even the front row rides were wild, just in a different way. The airtime was still numerous, but it was a weaker mix of ejector pops and floater pops. The front compensated with stronger laterals.

 

The one flaw with the ride is that it’s bumpy. For me, it’s not a ride killer since you’re basically riding on a couch. But it’s the price I’m willing to pay for such an intense classic. 9 out of 10

 

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If you're wondering where I took this photo from, you'll find out on the next update.

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The airtime on this ride is terrifying. I love it.

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Often imitated. Rarely duplicated. And RMCed when they get rough.

 

The original plan was not for me to stay until closing (midnight). But I ended up doing that. What came back to bite me was ride inspections. At several points throughout the night, I saw the park close off a queue, cycle through the riders, and then take a ride down for 30-60 minutes.

 

I don’t have an issue with Luna Park closing rides for inspections. However, if they were scheduled for pre-determined times, I just wish the park shared that information with guests so they could plan ahead.

 

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Unfortunately the Zamperla drop tower was down all day.

 

The most notable flat for me was the one-of-a-kind Clockworkz. Offride, the contraption is mesmerizing. It looks like something straight out of a cartoon. I’d argue it’s more fun to watch than ride.

 

I was optimistic it would be a fast, airtime-filled ride. It was not. It was smooth, but it was that awkward speed where it’s not fast enough to be thrilling but too slow to be an observation ride. 5 out of 10

 

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Beautiful to watch. Just ok to ride.

 

The Atlantic Aviator next door was undoubtedly a thrill ride. Luna Park replaced their old Air Race with the next-generation tower version.

 

Was it any better? Marginally. The ride sensations were identical; however, the new visuals were a nice surprise. The versions on the ground feel pretty contained within themselves. This one was a dizzying display of the park’s lights. I definitely recommend this one at night. 7 out of 10

 

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Air Race has evolved.

 

Speaking of visuals, that’s exactly why I rode the Brooklyn Flyer. By star flyer standards, this one is a dwarf. However, this one has an awesome setting.

 

Luna Park looks incredible at night all lit up. Then when you mix in the distant New York skyline and the beach, you have a real winner. Plus it has some decent force too. 8 out of 10

 

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It's a cute little star flyer, but the views are still awesome.

 

The last flat I hit was Luna 360. This is one of those inverting frisbees and I sort of assumed it would produce some airtime on the swings leading up to the inversions like the Technical Park versions.

 

It did not. The swings leading up to the inversions didn’t do much for me. But the inversions sure did. They were loaded with hangtime and the downswings were really heavy on the Gs. 7 out of 10

 

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This is how you properly counterweight a frisbee.

 

After knocking out the flats, it was 11 pm. At this point, I was already so far down the rabbit hole that I decided to reach for the coffee, pull an all-nighter, and finish the night with some coaster rides. But first I wanted to try the flume.

 

On one hand, I appreciate how Wild River had a different layout than your usual carnival flume. On the other hand, it wasn't particularly good. The drops weren't very steep and both the turns and splashdowns were pretty bumpy. 3 out of 10

 

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Unless you count jackhammering turns and splashdowns as wild, this river wasn't very wild.

 

Next was a longer than expected ride on the Thunderbolt. As we approached the lift, we stopped. After about 5 minutes, a choir of “Are we going to die?” started.

 

A supervisor notified us we had been dispatched a hair too early, so the ride triggered a fault. After about 15 minutes and countless reassurances from the supervisor we were perfectly safe, maintenance reset the ride and I got another good ride on this often maligned coaster.

 

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Coney Island simply comes alive at night.

 

But the night ended with the Cyclone. Thankfully there was a family that kept riding over and over to perfect their on-ride photo, so I was able to get the back car a few times.

 

I probably got another 7-8 rides in a row. By the time midnight rolled around, I felt like I had stepped out of the boxing ring. Not even 3 hours of the Voyage at Holiwood Nights did that to me.

 

Oddly, the coaster was still accepting riders even after midnight. When I drove past it at 12:15, it was still cycling. While it was a bit painful to leave some rides on the table, I needed to hit the road or else the sun would rise before I made it home.

 

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In case your forgot the ride's name.

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I'm a sucker for neon signs.

 

Luna Park is the highlight of Coney Island. The legendary Cyclone alone is worth the trip, but the park has some decent steel coasters and an awesome lineup of flats.

 

And it also helps that you have an another amusement park next door, several other smaller attractions, and an electric vibe that few places can match.

 

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I may have needed a lot of coffee the next day, but it was worth it.

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Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park & Coney Island

 

Few parks are as defined by one ride as Deno’s. Heck, the park name literally has the star attraction in its title, the Wonder Wheel.

 

My previous two rides on the Wonder Wheel were at night, so I wanted to change things up. I wanted an elusive sunset ride. So I consulted the all-knowing Google and was informed I should board around 8:30.

 

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This ride defines Deno's.

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This wheel is still freaky today. Just imagine how terrifying it must have been when it opened.

 

And it was a gorgeous view. In the foreground, you had the beach and bustling boardwalk. In the background, you had the sun setting over one of New York’s many bridges. It was a view fit for a postcard screensaver (it’s the 21st century after all).

 

Now it was challenging to take photographs for two reasons. One, the swinging. Of course I chose the swinging gondolas. It’s what makes the Wonder Wheel famous. The instant your gondola starts swinging into the lattice superstructure is still one of the most terrifying moments of any ride.

 

The other reason were the cages and supports. I had to get creative with how I positioned my lens. I probably only had a 33% yield, but that 33% looked fantastic.

 

Yes it’s expensive, especially since it’s one of the few rides not part of Zamperla’s Luna Park empire, but it’s well worth it. The combination of views and thrills is why this ride is so iconic. 10 out of 10

 

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No sharks in sight.

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Now that's what I call a view.

 

Depending on your perspective, Spook-a-rama could be the most terrifying ride in the park. Offride, this doesn’t look like anything more than your typical, cheap, carnival haunted house.

 

That’s why it’s shocking when you enter the show-building beneath the boardwalk and see just how expansive it is. Beyond the sheer size, the effects are incredible. The set designs themselves are just ok, but the combination of sound and touch (yes touch) results in some big jump scares. 8 out of 10

 

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Do not underestimate this ride. It's actually well done.

 

But the surprise of my visit was the Eldorado Auto Skooter. When you pass this attraction on the street, it looks more like a night club than an amusement ride.

 

And you know what? It certainly feels like a night club when you’re on the attraction. The atmosphere is electric. You have strobe lights, laser lights, disco balls, and booming music not suitable for children. It’s fantastic.

 

The other thing that makes Eldorado so special is the employees. Some of the employees will literally ride along the sides of the cars standing up. It seemed unwise to hit them, so I instead tailgated them and watched their circus act in disbelief.

 

But then you had one employee in a super car. Picture a Lusse skooter in a field of normal cars. And the employee was taking no prisoners. Girl stuck in the corner? Smash. Little boy going backwards? Head on collision smash.

 

While the other cars weren’t as powerful, they were head and shoulders above your usual bumper cars. This atmosphere plus a super long cycle resulted in my favorite bumper cars. Yes I’d take the experience (not the cars) over the ones at Knoebels. 10 out of 10

 

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I certainly did bump my ass off.

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If you removed the cars, you could easily turn this into a nightclub.

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That's the employee who murdered us all. It's also worth noting his car kept on driving after all of ours turned off.

 

I was then planning to hit the independent 12th Street Amusements, but I must have missed the memo they all closed. Ghost Hole looked abandoned. Polar Express was in pieces. But there was an auto show on the street that seemed to be generating a sizable crowd.

 

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Looks like I missed my chance to ride these.

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There were also these interesting looking art walls nearby.

 

Another surprise amusement area was a beer garden with the most overpriced swinging ship I’ve ever seen ($8 per ride, didn’t see any takers) and some go karts. I don’t remember that being there last year unless I was oblivious (which happens quite a bit).

 

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Beer.

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I actually think the one at Luna Park may be cheaper. And those rides are expensive.

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It sure is convenient they put the go karts right across from a beer garden.

 

Luna Park and the Cyclone are the stars of Coney Island, but the other amusements can hold their own and offer some unique experiences. I know I’ll be forking over the $8 each trip to take a spin on the Wonder Wheel and Eldorado Auto Skooter.

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Great reports from my backyard!

 

The El Dorado actually did get turned into a nightclub, in a manner of speaking; that was the home base of operations for "fsociety" in the TV series Mr. Robot. Those new go-karts & pirate ship have been there since at least last season, but I haven't been able to justify dropping any cash there. 12th St has been on the chopping block for a while and I guess they finally pulled the trigger. Most likely for another Luna Park expansion (I thought there was supposed to be a ropes course coming this year? IDK).

 

Oh yeah, and fuck Soarin' Eagle forever.

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^ I can totally see El Dorado being used for that. I can't keep track of where everything is going, but isn't there a log flume coming too?

 

And again, one less person in line for Soarin' Eagle. I really must be immune to rough rides.

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Adventureland (Iowa)

 

Fun fact, in 2019 I visited all three parks named Adventureland. The last of the three was also the best, the one in Iowa.

 

Adventureland doesn’t get much attention. And I can sort of see why. How many enthusiasts make it out to Iowa? But those who make the drive through cornfields are rewarded with this charming family park.

 

From the moment you step through the gate, it’s clear the park was inspired by Disneyland. You have a train right in front of you and you have to pass under a tunnel (either on the left or right). That then leads to Main Street (yes it’s actually called that). The only thing missing was Mickey Mouse.

 

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Why do I feel like I'm at a bizarro Disneyland?

 

My first stop was the park’s star attraction, Monster. And it looks massive. It’s a supersized Eurofighter that’s twice as tall as most other installations. Most importantly, it had the incredible lap bar only trains. It’s refreshing to ride these with the added freedom and peace of mind that I won’t bash my head.

 

Like all Eurofighters, the beyond vertical drop was exceptional. It had some powerful ejector air and the added height sustained it longer than most. That’s followed by this bizarre banked top hat thing where you get a pop of air entering and exiting.

 

That leads into a dive loop with some great airtime and laterals. It leads into this prolonged vertical loop. Picture the hangtime on Full Throttle’s loop held for twice as long. After a decent camelback, there’s a second dive loop. This one is considerably whippier than the first.

 

You then pass through a trim. Most enthusiasts whine about trim brakes. However, the trim brake on Monster makes the ride. Yes you read that right, a trim actually improved the ride experience. It leads to some downright insane hangtime.

 

The next element is this funky wave turn/turnaround hybrid (if you haven’t noticed, this ride has a lot of funky elements). You will get this weird sideways hangtime and question if the ride is going to stall. That’s followed by one last corkscrew, which has a copious amount of hangtime thanks to the lack of speed.

 

I knew I’d enjoy Monster; I just didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy it. The whippy drops combined with the hangtime is a winning combination. This cracked my top 40 steel coasters. 9 out of 10

 

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This really is the monster of all Eurofighters. It's huge!

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I just love the cars on this one. Lap bars and beautiful.

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For all you who moan whenever you hit a trim, try Monster. You'll be singing their praises.

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The amount of hangtime on this ride is insane.

 

I then walked onto Tornado. With a name like that, you’d expect a twister layout. But instead it’s an out-and-back, albeit one curves along the perimeter of the park.

 

I was ecstatic to see buzz bars. There was a tiny bit of air though. The fourth drop had great floater anywhere in the train and the first drop had a good pop in the back. Outside of that, there maybe was one other pop on the return leg.

 

Thankfully the ride wasn’t too rough; it just had some shuffling in the valleys. But Tornado has one big flaw. Like Monster, Tornado crawls through the elements. Except where you get crazy hangtime on Monster, you get nothing on Tornado. 5 out of 10

 

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One gust of wind and I'm pretty sure you'll valley.

 

Up next was one of the most hated steel coasters in the world, Dragon. I absolutely loved Desert Storm earlier this year, but I immediately spotted one big difference with Dragon, OSTRs.

 

Most of the hate stems from the pre-lift. It looked innocent enough. Honestly, Dragon was doing the RMC pre-lift before RMC was. The first bunny hill was fine. As was the second. Then came the turn.

 

Admittedly, it sounded like the train was going to fall apart. But I didn’t find it uncomfortable as the shaking doesn’t cause you to bash your head. And surprisingly, the rest of the ride was quite smooth.

 

The drop didn’t do anything, but the two vertical loops were very forceful. The same could be said about the subsequent helix, especially since it started off unbanked and dished out some surprise laterals. Then the ride is pretty much over. Yes it’s short, but it’s a decent looper. 7 out of 10

 

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Maybe it was the fact the train was reduced from 7 cars to 5 cars, but this pre-lift wasn't as rough as its reputation suggested.

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I love the Dragon's location along the water.

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I don't love the rusted over paint-job though.

 

The next coaster was the CCI that tries to be a GCI, Outlaw. And go figure, the designer (Mike Boodley) went on to found GCI the following year.

 

Most GCI coasters running PTC trains are riddled with jackhammering. Those trains simply cannot handle the twisting layouts. Outlaw doesn’t have that problem. Why? It’s slow.

 

You still get some laterals and you still get one or two pops of air, but it lacks intensity. Of the two woodies, I probably preferred Outlaw for the layout, but there are far better woodies out there. 6 out of 10

 

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Outlaw is the CCI that tried to be a GCI.

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Rumor has it, this is the wildest ride in the wilderness if the brakes are disabled.

 

Since it was a bajillion degrees outside, I took a spin on Saw Mill Plunge. I never used to appreciate the uniqueness of these spinning raft slides since SFNE used to have one, but now I try to ride them.

 

As a spinning ride, it succeeds. From the moment you crest the lift, you spin non-stop. There are tea cup rides that don’t spin this much. But as a water ride it fails. I wanted to be cooled down. However, I wasn’t hit by a single drop of water. 5 out of 10

 

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It was 100 degrees. I wanted to get soaked. I didn't.

 

On the way towards the front, I hit Lighthouse. It’s the grandfather to Downdraft at Knoebels. While it can match Downdraft’s laterals, it can’t match its airtime. Still it’s a rare and solid flat. 6 out of 10

 

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Iowans have a different perspective what a lighthouse is.

 

There are several haunted houses out there that are debatable credits. Take Devil’s Den at Conneaut. Adventureland removed any ambiguity and had CCI build them a wood coaster for their dark ride.

 

It’s definitely a unique system, but unique isn’t always better. There were two drawbacks. One, the train traveled a bit too fast in several scenes. Two, the effects triggered when the front of the train passed them. This meant the back row couldn’t even see some of the effects when they activated.

 

It was much longer than expected and to the park’s credit, they have a few animatronics, but overall I found it a subpar dark ride due to the ride system and effects. 5 out of 10

 

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What kind of drugs is this dude on?

 

Falling Stars have been elusive flats for me. The “no single rider" rule usually makes this type of ride a thorn in my side. And since they’re starting to become extinct, I really wanted to finally ride one.

 

I was *this* close to riding the one at Indiana Beach, but I got screwed. I queued for the last ride of the night. After the previous cycle ended, they told those riders they could remain on the ride. Well the operator miscounted and there wasn’t enough spots on the ride for everyone in line. Indiana Beach’s solution? They told us to return the next day…

 

Did I get on Falling Star this time? I had to wait two cycles, but I finally found another single rider. The only problem was that it was a young child who rode by placing his head in my lap. It looked very wrong.

 

As for the ride, I definitely prefer the Huss versions. The airtime on those models is off-the-charts. Falling Star only had a pinch of air and instead focused on the laterals. Still it was a fun flat and I was excited to finally ride my white whale. 7 out of 10

 

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Rainbows > Falling Stars

 

I waited until later in the day to ride Phoenix, figuring their new for 2019 spinner may have a sizable queue. Turns out it was a walk-on. And I got a longer than expected ride.

 

When we returned to the station, my restraint wouldn’t unlock. Without asking us or calling maintenance, they decided to send us around again. When we returned to the station, the same thing happened.

 

After our third ride, the restraints finally released and I hurriedly escaped my Maurer prison. I tend to enjoy these spinners, but Phoenix was heavy on the brakes and light on the spinning. 5 out of 10

 

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Look what opened just in time for my visit!

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It isn't quite the Knoebels Phoenix, but it's a fine ride.

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And there's all sorts of Asian theming around the ride too.

 

2019 has seen S&S towers being retrofit with lap belts or ratcheting OSTRs. Somehow Adventureland was immune to this change. Their Space Shot still boasts the original restraints sans lap belt.

 

Unfortunately, it was quite weak. I prefer towers that shoot you down, but I can enjoy a shot tower if it has great air. Space Shot does not. And the view of nothingness around the park didn’t help. 3 out of 10

 

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Houston, we have a problem. We need more power.

 

That view is the reason Storm Chaser wasn’t as good as a lot of other star flyers. On the bright side, you could see for miles. But the view was just cornfield after cornfield. The views of Monster were quite nice though, but I preferred the Sky Ride for that. 6 out of 10

 

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Turns out cornfields aren't much more exciting from above.

 

Speaking of that Sky Ride, it is an absolute orgy for enthusiasts who love coaster photography. The shots of Monster are incredible. 8 out of 10

 

And it transported me over to Monster, so naturally I had a mini marathon. By now, the ride was a complete walk-on, so I got 6-7 rides in a row. Monster continued to blow me away.

 

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Now this is my kind of Sky Ride.

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Monster alone is worth the trip to Adventureland.

 

On the way out, I took a spin on their breakdance, G-Force. The most notable thing about this flat is its placement in the arcade. The cycle was your typical breakdance, which means it’s one of the better and more dizzying flats out there. 7 out of 10

 

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I wish my local arcade had this inside of it.

 

It would also be a crime not to mention the food at Adventureland. The food offerings are incredibly diverse and quite cheap too. But my favorite was undoubtedly the thick bacon on a stick.

 

One oddity is that the park charges guests 50 cents for cups of water. This was a bit of a nuisance on such a hot day, but they do have a few water bubblers scattered about.

 

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This was crack on a stick.

 

Adventureland is solid. It’s pretty and they have a true standout in Monster. The problem is the rest of the park’s lineup. It has quantity, but it was lacking quality. Monster was the only ride I cared to reride.

 

If Adventureland adds another standout ride, you can bet I’ll be back. If they don’t add another standout, I know I’ll be back since Monster is that good, but it may be a while because of its location.

 

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Don't forget to get your Jesus shirts on the way out.

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Nice trip report. You pretty much nailed Adventureland. Nice park, just needs another good coaster besides Monster. I wish more people could get out to this park to try Monster because it is so fun.

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Nice trip report. You pretty much nailed Adventureland. Nice park, just needs another good coaster besides Monster. I wish more people could get out to this park to try Monster because it is so fun.

 

Thanks! The hangtime on Monster alone is worth the trip.

 

I swear Canobie Coasters has the best photo trip reports.

 

Thanks!

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Arnolds Park

 

For some reason I had it in my head that Arnolds Park was going to be similar to Conneaut Lake Park. Both are old parks adjacent to a lake with a classic wooden coaster anchoring the lineup. I was also expecting the rundown, post-apocalyptic feel.

 

And to that I’d like to apologize to Arnolds Park. It’s actually a really charming, well-kept park bursting with energy. It also helps that it’s bordering a tourist hot spot in Lake Okoboji.

 

Like most boardwalk parks, Arnolds Park doesn’t have an extravagant entrance. You literally pass underneath the Legend’s station. And when the neon lights are on, it’s oozing that classic feel I love.

 

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Ironically, the parking lot entrance was nicer than the park entrance.

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Neon signs, chaser lights, and weenie dogs are my weakness.

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Now this is an awesome setting for a park.

 

Before giving my Legend review, I need to give this disclaimer- it was hot as balls. It was still 90+ degrees after the sun set. As you probably know, wood coasters in particular tend to run faster in those conditions.

 

So I may have stacked the cards in favor of Legend. The operators took turns filling in empty seats and even they were left breathless when the train hit the brakes. They confirmed it was indeed running fast.

 

In the front row, Legend is an enjoyable classic. It’s smooth and has a few solid pops of air thanks to the buzz bars. But the Legend needs to be experienced in the back. It’s just as smooth, but far wilder.

 

The first drop didn’t do much, but the second drop sure did. You are launched right into that buzz bar. When considering those restraints, it’s one of the wildest airtime moments out there in my opinion.

 

But wait, there’s more! The third hill gave a quick pop of air and then that leads into the finale. You whip around this lateral heavy turn and then fly over two drops bordering the Lake. Each drop gave some wonderful sustained floater air.

 

The Legend may be short, but it delivers a complete ride and tours the entire park. Just make sure to ride it in the back. You could say the airtime on the second drop is legendary. 8 out of 10

 

Little known fact, but the Legend also has on-board audio. WTF? On-board audio on an old woodie? You see, when the operators rode, they often brought a speaker with them. Sometimes they picked the songs. Other times they took song requests. If you haven’t noticed, the staff at this park is amazing.

 

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This way to the Point of No Return.

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The first drop is arguably the tamest part of the ride.

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Note how close the Legend gets to all sorts of things- trees, rides, dumpsters, etc.

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Do you like airtime? Legend has you covered.

 

Legend was the main course, but the newly relocated Wild Mouse was the dessert. Once Quassy removed their Mad Mouse, I never thought I’d get to ride one of these classic Herschell mice again. They really are dying breeds. And my dad would happily pay for their execution.

 

You see, Quassy had a no single rider rule on their’s (for reference, Arnolds does not). So little me dragged him along every time. He hated it. He felt like the ride was supported by toothpicks and was going to collapse. Whenever there was another single rider (usually an ACEr from Lake Compounce), he happily offloaded me.

 

While this one didn’t have the jumbo first drop (or any real drops for that matter), the hairpin turns were a bit faster and wilder than the more modern mice. It was nice to relive my childhood, but realistically it’s just an ok coaster. But it’s a perfect fit for this park. 5 out of 10

 

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The amount of sway in this structure is mesmerizing.

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I was thankful this one didn't have the ban on single riders like Quassy.

 

After the two coasters, I hopped aboard the Rock-O-Plane. It had a long cycle, so I had plenty of time to rock, flip, and stall. I just wish these things had more comfortable restraints. 8 out of 10

 

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I wish I counted how many times I went upside-down. It was a lot.

 

I also took a spin on the park’s Roll-O-Plane. The operator was bored out of his mind, so he was ecstatic to see someone riding. Unlike the version at Knoebels, this one stayed vertical. Since I’m not a masochist, I considered that a positive.

 

After the ride ended, the operator walked over. But instead of releasing my restraint, he just asked “Forwards or Backwards”. I guess this was the only action he was getting tonight and he wanted to keep it going as long as possible.

 

I told him to surprise me and he treated me to a long cycle in both directions. I felt bad to leave, but I had bigger fish to fry. 8 out of 10

 

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Look how bored the operator was when I wasn't riding.

 

The Boji Falls flume was a nice surprise on such a hot day. What wasn’t a nice surprise was the smell of the water. If that water was from Lake Okoboji, I sure am glad I didn’t go swimming there.

 

The flume had an elevated layout that provided a nice birds eye view of the park. The drop wasn’t anything special though. It wasn’t very tall nor steep. 4 out of 10

 

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Do you smell that? I think that may be Lake Okoboji.

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I think this is the first I've ever seen chaser lights on a flume.

 

I was intrigued by the Tipsy House. It looked like some sort of fun house sprouting from the Legend’s station. Turns out it was a crooked house. In retrospect, I should have guessed with the name.

 

The inside was bare and uncomfortably hot. It felt like an oven. But the ride did include this awesome observation deck at the top that provided spectacular views of the lake at sunset. 5 out of 10

 

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The inside wasn't anything special.

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But the view at the top sure was. Now that's pretty.

 

I finished the night with a Legend marathon. I’ve been in energetic coaster stations before, but what I saw at Legend was truly special. There may have only been 18 people in the station, but the operators had everyone cheering and high-fiving before every ride. The energy was infectious.

 

The operators were often giving double rides as well. And on the last ride of the night, they didn’t just give a double ride. No. They gave a triple ride! Now that’s incredible customer service.

 

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The Legend was flying.

 

The park also had a kiddie coaster. But under normal conditions, it’s off-limits to adults. I have heard that adults have been able to ride it in the past if they contact the park in advance. Just the thought of the email I’d send made that a hard no for me.

 

“Dear Arnolds Park, I am a sad and pathetic coaster enthusiast who flew from Boston to visit your classic park. My visit wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the Little Coaster. Could I please ride it?”

 

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I kept my pride on this one. A rare exercise in restraint.

 

Now, I only visited Arnolds Park, but the area around the park was quite nice. There were several shops, restaurants, go karts, and mini golf. If I were living in Iowa, I imagine this would be the vacation spot.

 

For that reason, I expected parking to cost as much as Six Flags. But low and behold, parking was free! That’s rarer than a Flight of Passage Fastpass when you’re in a scenic tourist trap such as Lake Okoboji.

 

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This must be the Jersey Shore of Iowa.

 

For those heading to Adventureland from Minneapolis, definitely consider hitting Arnolds Park. It’ll add three hours to your route, but this is more than just a credit run. Legend is worth the detour.

 

Again, I need to emphasize that I did ride Legend in the most optimal conditions possible, but they simply do not make places like Arnolds Park anymore. The charm and customer service is where the park thrives.

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Nickelodeon Universe

 

Indoor theme parks offer salvation from inclement weather. In Minnesota, that’s usually protection from a blizzard. But on this day, Zeus was pissed and throwing lightning bolts at the ground.

 

My original plan was to make a credit run at Valleyfair, switch to Nickelodeon Universe, and then finish with Valleyfair night rides. With thunderstorms in the forecast until the mid-afternoon, that plan made no sense. So I started at Nickelodeon Universe. And that turned out to be a blessing disguise.

 

I knew the Mall of America would be busy. It was a Saturday with cruddy weather. As a result, I knew Nickelodeon Universe would be busy. I just underestimated how packed this park can get.

 

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As Robin Sparkles would say, let's go to the mall!

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Spongebob, Dora, and slime. That about sums up Nickelodeon.

 

Nickelodeon Universe is located smack dab in the middle of the Mall of America. Having visited Dubai earlier this year, I’m no stranger to indoor theme parks. But Nickelodeon Universe is quite unique.

 

For the indoor parks that care to create an atmosphere, usually they do so with themed buildings and structures. Nickelodeon Universe has more trees than most outdoor parks! Combine that with the roof that admits natural light, I forgot I was even indoors.

 

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I love how this indoor park has more trees than a lot of outdoor parks.

 

I arrived right at opening and encountered a series of self-service kiosks. After purchasing my wristband, I tried to peel off the back like you do on 99% of the wristbands out there. But I couldn’t.

 

Everyone else was having the same issue. Could all of us seriously not figure out how to attach a freaking wristband? Turns out you need to bring your unattached wristband to your first ride. I wasn’t a fan of this.

 

For one, no one knew to do this until a staff member directed us to do so. But more importantly, it really slows dispatches. The operators spend an extra few minutes every cycle applying stickers.

 

I started with TMNT Shell Shock. That proved to be a wise decision. When I walked past it later in the day, it had a queue spilling onto the midway. That was the theme of the morning.

 

I’ve ridden my fair share of these crazy, flipping Gerstlauer sky rollers, but this version had these awkwardly wide restraints. This made it a bit harder to hold the paddles in place once you get flipping, but I was able to manage.

 

This was definitely one of the harder versions to flip, but once I got that all-important first flip, the barrel rolls didn’t stop. The flipping speed wasn’t quite as fast on this one as some of the newer models, but it was still very disorienting. 8 out of 10

 

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The key is patience. Both to flipping and making it through that queue.

 

I then walked onto Ghost Blasters. When I saw the ride’s placement tucked in the corner of the park below the ropes course, I figured it would be a short version. Much to my surprise, it was quite long.

 

I have no clue where they fit everything, but it was filled with 2D targets that reacted with each shot. The guns worked flawlessly and I didn’t notice any dead effects. Well the ghosts were dead, but you know what I mean. 7 out of 10

 

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I don't know where they fit the track for this thing.

 

My first coaster of the day was Rock Bottom Plunge. After loving Monster’s lap bar trains the day prior, it was a bummer to return to the Eurofighter OSTRs. But fortunately, this one wasn’t too rough.

 

The lift on this one is really cool. Per usual, it’s a vertical lift and as it nears the top of the roof, the car slows to a crawl. And then the car drops down, giving riders some incredible ejector air.

 

I wasn’t expecting the speed hill after. It gave a quick pop of air like the post drop speed hills on a RMC. The loop and cutback were just ok, but I loved the hangtime in the zero-G roll. There was a second half, but it didn’t do anything for me.

 

Rock Bottom Plunge is essentially defined by three great elements for me, but those three elements are excellent. 7 out of 10

 

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Those eyes.

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That's a lot of track in a little space.

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Can you say inversion?

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Rock Bottom Plunge doesn't do much after the MCBR unfortunately.

 

Next I rode the park’s Zierer monorail coaster, Pepsi Orange Streak. If you want forces or airtime, this is the wrong coaster for you. This coaster is all about the visuals.

 

It’s basically a high speed tour of the park. It weaves above, around, and under rides. At one point, it even goes through a dark ride bit by the Log Chute. Plus it’s a capacity monster, which was a major help later in the day. 7 out of 10

 

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This truly is a high-speed monorail.

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This won't be the last of Pepsi Orange Streak in this report. It's really good at photobombing.

 

Back in April, I rode RC Racer at Disneyland Paris. And I enjoyed that coaster more than I thought. It had some decent kick on the launches and nice floater air. For that reason, I was looking forward to trying one of these spinning half pipes.

 

Enter Avatar Airbender. The spinning was quite intense at the base of the halfpipe. This spinning combined with the ride’s proximity to the ceiling made it super disorienting. Plus it had a longer cycle than RC Racer and just as much air. 7 out of 10

 

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Avatar was better than the live action movie.

 

At this point, I still thought the park was dead. But then I saw the queue for the Fairly Odd Coaster. It was spilling onto the midway. Considering these Gerstlauer spinners always have painstakingly slow queues, I should have known better.

 

I always thought SFNE’s Pandemonium was the original layout that other parks cloned. The ride fits that spot so well. Turns out, Fairly Odd Coaster was the original. As tightly packed I thought Pandemonium was, Fairly Odd Coaster takes it to the next level.

 

If you’ve been on any of these Gerstlauer spinners, you know what to expect. It’s a smooth ride with some solid dips and if you get an unbalanced car, nice spinning too. 6 out of 10

 

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I thought this layout was custom for SFNE. I was wrong.

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Helix of death.

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I still can't get over how gorgeous this park is.

 

Whenever someone asks what the best flume is, most people say Splash Mountain or Ripsaw Falls. Other times you may hear Chiapas or the one at Knott’s. But once in a blue moon, someone will say the Log Chute at Nickelodeon Universe. Is this flume really that good? In a word, yes!

 

For one, the layout is incredible. You go through a cave, up a Knott’s Berry Farm themed lift, past the top level of the mall, past the memorial for one of Harmon Killebrew’s home runs, through a dark ride portion, down a sizable drop, past Paul Bunyan, and down an even bigger drop.

 

Those dark ride bits were the biggest surprise. I figured this flume may just have some tunnels. I didn’t realize it would be filled with animatronics and this much detail. This ride would fit in at Disney if you took away the Hooters you pass at one point.

 

I also expected to come off this thing relatively dry. Who would want to walk around a mall dripping wet? I was in for an evil surprise up front. Before re-entering the cave, there’s this unassuming rapid that drenches the sucker up front. And of course that was me.

 

The only downside with the Log Chute was the queue. There seemed to be a pretty large gap between logs, so the line moved at a snail’s pace. I think I waited 45 minutes for my first ride and an hour for my second ride. But it was totally worth it!

 

Outside of Splash Mountain, this just may be my favorite flume. It had everything I could ever want- great drops, theming, and a super unique layout. I’d even place it above most coasters I’ve ridden. Log Chute is that good. 10 out of 10

 

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I still can't believe how incredible this ride was.

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The Log Chute does some normal things like dropping and splashing.

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But then it weaves its way through a cave and a freaking mall.

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I love how the Mall pays homage to what was once here.

 

I got my last short wait of the day on Shredder’s Mutant Masher. For whatever reason, this frisbee never had a queue. And I don’t know why since it was one of the stronger ones out there.

 

It had no force on the downswing, but it had some nice floater on all the max swings. Plus I enjoyed the science lab/experimental theming in the queue. 7 out of 10

 

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Maybe this had no line due to those accidents overseas.

 

I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to ride a drop tower in a mall, so I had no qualms waiting a half hour to try Splat-O-Sphere. This is basically a jumbo Moser tower and that’s fine by me.

 

I find those towers to give a surprisingly strong, ball-tingling drop. But this one had a view to accompany it. There is so much kinetic energy in the park and the surrounding mall. It’s a sensory overload. 7 out of 10

 

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Sweet! A multi-train shot.

 

Brain Surge didn’t have too many people in the queue, but it loaded slower than a coaster with VR. I think I had to wait a half hour, but all was forgiven once I got my hands on the joystick.

 

I alternated between doing front flips, back flips, and stupidly long stalls. While I do appreciate the Knoebels Looper for what it is, I’m an American. I’m lazy. Why rock when I can use a joystick? Plus it’s nice not having that burlap sack of a seatbelt for a restraint. 8 out of 10

 

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I'm surprised this didn't have a tie-in to Jimmy Neutron.

 

Since everything had a queue, waiting 15 minutes for one of the saddest kiddie coasters in existence didn’t seem *quite* as bad. It had no drops and barely any speed, but I’m glad I rode it.

 

On the first lap, I felt something glance over my head. I thought someone may have thrown something from a balcony above. On the second lap, I realized what it was. A tree branch was scraping against my head. Remember, we’re indoors. 2 out of 10

 

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I felt a little dirty riding this one. So it fit in with the barnyard theming.

 

Usually I skip wave swingers, but the Backyardigans Swing-Along was unique. This one had backwards facing seats. I can’t think of another swing ride with that gimmick.

 

I’m sad to say it wasn’t that good. For one, it was a very slow swing ride. In retrospect, that makes sense since the park markets this as a kids ride. But the bigger issue was the swing spacing. Once per rotation, one of the forward swings would bash against my knee. I had to ride defensively. 4 out of 10

 

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Backwards swings was an interesting concept. Too bad it was a knee-banger.

 

Pop quiz. What’s the tallest ride at Nickelodeon Universe? You’d think it would be one of the coasters, the drop tower, or the Ferris Wheel. But you’d be wrong. The tallest ride is actually a slide.

 

The Anchor Drop slides were a $3 upcharge on top of admission. The view of the whole park was fantastic at the top, but the slide portion was a bit disappointing. You glided smoothly thanks to the mat, but it twisted around itself so many times that it never built up any major speed. 5 out of 10

 

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This looks like something straight from Europe.

 

I contemplated trying Fly Over America. It was pricey, but I was willing to give it a try based on the positive reviews. However, the queue was a complete showstopper. They estimated it was over an hour. That was my cue to leave for Valleyfair.

 

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You can fly over both America and Canada, if you so choose (and pay).

 

But before leaving, I made a lap of the mall. I saw a lot of mall staples (GameStop, Forever 21, Wetzel’s Pretzels, etc) on the lower floors, but on the top floors I saw some bizarre specialty stores. This included a cheese store and an alpaca store.

 

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I think the mall's Wisconsin is showing.

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I didn't go to the Lego store, but these looked awesome.

 

The most intriguing place I found was Smaaash. It appeared to be a mash-up of a sports park and a VR park. It was super busy, so they must be doing something right.

 

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Smaaash is basically DisneyQuest with beer.

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Finger Coaster just sounds dirty to me.

 

While the Mall of America wasn’t as impressive as the West Edmonton Mall or several of the ones in Dubai, it was still quite nice. It’s refreshing to see a mall this lively. Maybe one day that American Dream mall will finally open so I have one of these super malls in the Northeast…

 

But undoubtedly the crown jewel for me was Nickelodeon Universe. None of the coasters are stand-outs, but they compliment each other well and are all very reridable.

 

The real stars of Nickelodeon Universe are the atmosphere (I’m still in awe at this park’s natural beauty), strong flat collection, and that otherworldly flume. I just can’t get over how amazing that flume is.

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Adventureland and Arnolds both look charming and would get more visitors among enthusiasts if they weren't so far from other parks

 

At least Adventureland is off a major highway if you're going cross-country and by the state capital. Arnolds Park is in the middle of nowhere. It's unfortunate because it really is a charming place.

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The real stars of Nickelodeon Universe are the atmosphere (I’m still in awe at this park’s natural beauty), strong flat collection, and that otherworldly flume. I just can’t get over how amazing that flume is.

 

Indoor trees and a kick a** flume are my favorite parts of the park also. Having the flume in NU really helps make up for the removal of the one that VF used to have. Glad to hear you enjoyed the park which I think is only second to Disney in theming per square inch.

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^ I'll still take Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi for the best indoor park by far, but I really liked how different Nickelodeon Universe's feel was. While Warner Bros tried to teleport you to different lands, Nickelodeon Universe tried to make you feel like you were outside in an indoor park, which is no small feat.

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Valleyfair!

 

The forecast called for a 100% chance of thunderstorms through the afternoon. As I approached Minneapolis, I saw countless lightning strikes in the fields adjacent to the highway.

 

This is the type of weather that would keep a family park closed. This is the type of weather that would cause a corporate park to close early.

 

Much to my shock, Valleyfair opened. Not only that, but they waited out the storm and stayed open until 11 pm! People may mock Valleyfair’s new additions, but good god is that some great customer service.

 

I met up with RCjunkie. He was a cool guy and shared all sorts of facts and history about Valleyfair as we made our way to the back of the park. If you ever come visit Canobie, I’ll be happy to return the favor!

 

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On this day, Snoopy got very wet.

 

Our first stop was Excalibur. Unless a park has a ride whose capacity is so prohibitively bad, I always make it a point to start with the most unique or most anticipated attraction. Since Excalibur is perpetually on the chopping block and Valleyfair closes the back section 2 hours early, I wanted to knock it out ASAP.

 

Calling Excalibur’s layout bizarre is an understatement. In no way should this layout work. It has a bunch of low-to-the-ground, coat-hangery transitions. But somehow they don’t hurt and pull some nice Gs.

 

The only flaw with Excalibur is that it’s short. The first drop may be trimmed, but it still delivers a strong burst of air. And the first S-hill delivers a powerful burst of ejector air. It reminded me of one of the S-hills on SFNE’s Superman. 7 out of 10

 

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Apparently the chain is there because some moron tried to pull the sword from the stone.

 

We then took a spin on Renegade. And I have to applaud the Minnesotans, you guys are pretty hearty. Despite the cruddy weather to start the day, Renegade had a half hour wait (admittedly with one train).

 

Most GCIs blend together for me. They’re a fast paced flurry of turns and quick pops of airtime. Renegade felt distinctly different. Sure it has some instances of both (GCI just can’t help themselves), but there are a lot of straight hills with sustained floater air. The second hill in particular is pure bliss.

 

I’m always a bit nervous to ride an older GCI, but Renegade tracked quite well. It hauled through the course and only had a bit of a rattle to it. I’d say this is my favorite GCI after Mystic Timbers. 8.5 out of 10

 

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Renegade twisted and turned like most GCIs.

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But these hills with sustained floater differentiated it from other GCIs.

 

RCjunkie needed to leave, so I took a spin on Thunder Canyon. Usually I skip river rapids rides, but it had a short queue. It still ended up taking 20 minutes though since the park only loaded every third raft.

 

Thunder Canyon has a solid layout. It has a nice mix of waterfalls and rapids. Plus the layout alternates between the woods and a field with awesome views of Renegade. But can we talk about those water cannons?

 

The PSI on those things is through the roof! It felt like I was being stung by an army of bees. The force of the water was so strong that it ripped the sunglasses off the face of the woman next to me. It would have done the same to me had I not been wearing a glasses strap. 7 out of 10

 

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These waterfalls were child's play. It was the water guns that were lethal.

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They were oddly filling every third raft.

 

It had been a while since I had ridden an Arrow mouse, so I was happy to give Mad Mouse a whirl, especially since it was a walk-on. And I have to say, I forgot how good an Arrow mouse is.

 

The first two turns have some powerful laterals. Then the final sequence of drops has some nice pops of airtime, better than anything on a Mack or Maurer mouse. Plus you have all that funky banking too. I wish there were more of these mice around. 6 out of 10

 

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It's my understanding I lucked out that the queue was this short.

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Now that's some serious stacking.

 

Up next was Wild Thing, one of the least talked about hyper coasters anywhere. I know enthusiasts jokingly call it Mild Thing, but please have respect for the park’s deceased kiddie coaster.

 

The first drop is stellar. The floater air in the back is top notch thanks to the Morgan profiling. But the highlight was the second hill. Instead of a towering camelback, it was more of a speed hill with some serious sustained floater airtime.

 

The turnaround wasn’t particularly forceful, but it was cool to fly above the Route 76 area. Then that led into the moment of truth- the MCBR. This can either make or break a Morgan hyper.

 

*Screech*

 

Well, crud. Needless to say, we were braked hard. As a result, the bunny hills back to the station had barely any airtime. Wild Thing may be the weakest Morgan hyper, but it still has a great first half and is a super smooth and reridable coaster. 7 out of 10

 

One of the operators was a super friendly enthusiast who joined me for night rides on Renegade later in the day. I guess most guests to Valleyfair don’t wear Copperhead Strike t-shirts.

 

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Wild Thing lives up to its name in the first half.

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This camelback had some incredible sustained airtime.

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Little do these people know just how bad the trim will hit.

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Once that trim hit, I totally understand why people call this Mild Thing.

 

Since I was making good time, I decided to start hitting some flats. The first was the Xtreme Swing. By now, I know exactly what to expect from these screamin’ swings. They’re super fun rides but they’re over in a flash. All 3-4 of the max swings had some great floater air. 7 out of 10

 

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S&S land would make Stan Checketts proud.

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Looks like a car full of happy riders.

 

Next was Power Tower. Since I had yet to see the Minnesota River, I figured this would be my best chance to see the river that is a thorn in the park’s side. Not only did I see the river, but I rode during sunset so the views were fantastic. As for the drop, it was your average S&S turbo drop. 7 out of 10

 

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I'm not used to seeing multiple towers run at once. Thanks SFNE...

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I love how you have to cross this suspension bridge to reach the ride.

 

Three oddities about the ride. One, was sporting ratcheting restraints. I guess that’s a way to avoid the new S&S lap belts. Two, the ride did this odd thing where it paused about 9/10 of the way up before continuing to the top. Three, the ride is located on an island so you have to cross a rickety bridge to ride.

 

The last flat I hit was Northern Lights. I used to like these Disko/Skater coasters a lot more, but I’ve been riding them a lot recently so they’ve started to lose their uniqueness. I definitely prefer the disko for the seating arrangement, but I did at least get an end seat. 5 out of 10

 

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God, that sunset is gorgeous.

 

It pained me to skip Delirious, but darkness was descending upon the park I wanted to knock out the final four coasters so I could get back to Renegade. I waited two trains for the front and it was well worth it.

 

The visual of careening up the spiral was quite terrifying and the subsequent floater was good too. But the highlight was the holding brake. It’s an absolute mindbender. 7 out of 10

 

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Kings Dominion sure wishes it had a launched Intamin invert.

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The holding brake makes this ride.

 

Corkscrew was a complete walk-on. I was stunned it was running two trains, but that’s Cedar Fair for you. They do a great job maximizing the capacity of their rides even if they don’t need it.

 

While Excalibur had jerky transitions that weren’t actually bad, Corkscrew had some jerky transitions that were bad. Thankfully my head was above the OSTR. Otherwise this would have been painful. As a result, I was able to enjoy the forceful vertical loop and surprise pop of air on the speed hill. 4 out of 10

 

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Corkscrew certainly did its fair share of screwing.

 

High Roller is a coaster I almost never hear anything about. I figured that was one of two things. Either it was a boring snoozefest or it was a brutally rough ride. It was neither.

 

High Roller wasn’t fast, but it was smooth. And the outward leg actually had 2 surprising pops of airtime in the back. In the front, the ride gave what I like to call bouncy airtime. Then the finale gave strong pops of air throughout the train. 6 out of 10

 

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I love chaser lights.

 

The final coaster, much to the amusement of the operator, was Cosmic Coaster. As far as kids coasters go, it was a comfortable fit for an adult and the helix actually had some decent laterals. 3 out of 10

 

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I'm glad the old Mild Thing kiddie coaster was removed. It was too easy to confuse that ride with their hyper.

 

I had about 45 minutes before closing, so I kicked off the Renegade marathon. I heard Renegade was an excellent night ride and it delivered. There is hardly any light through the first 3/4 of the ride.

 

I can’t decide if I prefer the front or back. The front has the better airtime, but the speed and whip is better towards the back. These night rides are why I place this GCI above the likes of Gold Striker, Prowler, and Wodan.

 

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You know a coaster is a great night ride when it's impossible to get a clean photo of it once the sun sets.

 

Valleyfair is definitely one of the weaker Cedar Fair parks, but that doesn’t make it a bad park. I’d still take it over a lot of Six Flags parks. As with most Cedar Fair parks, it’s clean and incredibly well run. Just look at how they stayed open despite a major storm keeping the rides closed for the first third of the day.

 

And it doesn’t hurt that Renegade is great too. I highly recommend planning a visit when they have a late close like I did so you can try it at night.

 

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Look at this cute Ferris Wheel behind the sculpture of a Ferris Wheel.

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As always, quality reports, Mike! Finally getting caught up here after not popping in for a while.

 

Fun fact about that Boji Falls flume - it used to reside in Wildwood on Hunts Pier (now Moreys maintenance pier, next to Surfside), which also featured Golden Nugget, which we all know is now known as Black Diamond @ Knoebels.

 

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more photos of it here: http://www.funchase.com/Images/LOGFlume/LogFlume.htm

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Much to my shock, Valleyfair opened. Not only that, but they waited out the storm and stayed open until 11 pm! People may mock Valleyfair’s new additions, but good god is that some great customer service.

 

We then took a spin on Renegade. And I have to applaud the Minnesotans, you guys are pretty hearty. Despite the cruddy weather to start the day, Renegade had a half hour wait (admittedly with one train).

 

Minnesotan's experience everything from -30F to +99F degrees with sun, rain and snow in a given year so we are a hearty bunch and get 'out' whenever we can because it seems winter is always on its way.

 

 

I met up with RCjunkie. He was a cool guy and shared all sorts of facts and history about Valleyfair as we made our way to the back of the park. If you ever come visit Canobie, I’ll be happy to return the favor!

 

It will happen someday so be ready! Been to 37 of the 50 states and Massachusetts is still one I need to step foot in. Along with all those tiny upper eastern states. And if anyone else visits VF and wants to meet up just drop me an IM and I can bore you with all the VF history you want or if you just want to do a few laps. The park opened when I was 7 years old and I can tell you stories how High Roller in its first couple years had 90 minute to 2 hours waits and how the entrance/exit for the ride switched after the ACA went into place. It was fun to meet you, I wish it hadn't rained all morning so I could have had more time to ride but in Minnesota you take what you can get.

 

I know enthusiasts jokingly call it Mild Thing, but please have respect for the park’s deceased kiddie coaster.

Some serious coaster history for a park that is not your home park. Major kuddos for that but also....this shows how much of an amusement park geek you are. (not there is anything wrong with that, just stating fact).

 

Next was Power Tower. Since I had yet to see the Minnesota River, I figured this would be my best chance to see the river that is a thorn in the park’s side.

If anyone visits in the fall this is a must ride to see all the changing tree colors in the Minnesota River Valley.

 

 

I can’t decide if I prefer the front or back. The front has the better airtime, but the speed and whip is better towards the back.

You nailed it, this is how this GCI runs. I prefer the back with speed and the whip but both are solid.

 

Valleyfair is definitely one of the weaker Cedar Fair parks, but that doesn’t make it a bad park. I’d still take it over a lot of Six Flags parks. As with most Cedar Fair parks, it’s clean and incredibly well run. Just look at how they stayed open despite a major storm keeping the rides closed for the first third of the day.

A fair assessment of the park. I would give it a C on a grade scale but because it is so clean and operations are usually very good so I give it a C+. I think with a water park expansion and a modern steel looping coaster it could hit the B- level. Glad you enjoyed your visit to VF, a 3 Arrow coaster park.

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^ I wholly admit I'm a coaster nerd. I'm pretty sure I had that Guide to Ride 2000 book memorized at one point and that's where I remembered Mild Thing from.

 

I think New Englanders are hearty, but our parks will close if it rains. Meanwhile, Six Flags New England will open in single digit temperatures and Santa's Village stays open in the snow. But rain is a no go for us.

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On my only trip to the Mall of America when I was 8, I went to the theme park inside and it has changed a lot since then. The only two rides I remember riding on my trip were the Pepsi Orange Streak (with a different name at the time) and the log flume (which I still remember how wet it made me).

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Noah’s Ark

 

Mt. Olympus is what drew me to the Wisconsin Dells. I had to experience that infamous park firsthand. Figuring that park hadn’t conducted their early morning tests, I figured a visit to Noah’s Ark would be a more pleasant start to my morning.

 

Noah’s Ark touts themselves as America’s largest water park. And I believe it! The slide collection at this park was top notch. And it seems like the masses agree as the park was packed.

 

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A water park of biblical proportions.

 

Admittedly, I visited on a sunny Sunday. And the day prior had a biblical rainstorm. I cannot emphasize this enough, but make sure you get there for opening. Had I not done this, it would have been costly.

 

In the first hour, I rode every slide I cared to experience. By 11 am, all tube slides had queues to the bottom of the towers. I know water parks get busy, but I’ve never seen one fill up this quickly.

 

Pro-tip, make sure you enter through the correct gate. I believe the park has three entrances. All the park’s top slides are in one corner of the park. The first general parking area is on the opposite side of the park and you will burn 10 minutes walking across the park. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’ll cost you 2-3 walk-ons. I recommend either the preferred lot ($5 more) or the second general parking area.

 

I also want to note that parking was pretty steep at $20 and it’s cash only.

 

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Park and enter as close to these slides as possible. I cannot recommend this enough.

 

Once inside the park, I made the new-for-2019 attraction my first stop, Raja. This is one of those cool-looking King Cobra water slides that Great Adventure recently removed.

 

Before the picturesque plunge, there was a slow twisting section that built up anticipation for the drop. And what a drop it was. I think I got a teeny bit of airtime. Then the visuals of the giant snake are simply suburb. 9 out of 10

 

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When I rode Raja, there was no one on that slide tower.

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Few slides are as visually stunning.

 

Raja was basically an upgraded halfpipe slide. That’s why I found it sort of funny that the park had dueling half pipe slides adjacent to it.

 

Stingray was only a 1-2 person wait. Maine’s Aquaboggan has spoiled me. On their version, they allow you to ride backwards. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to go backwards down a super steep drop in a little tube.

 

Unsurprisingly, a corporate park like Noah’s Ark required all single riders to face forwards. But it was worth asking. The drop was like reliving Raja without the top section or the snake head. 8 out of 10

 

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Double riders could go backwards, but not single riders.

 

I then decided to hit the two speed slides- Scorpion’s Tail and Point of No Return. In retrospect, I probably should have done the water coaster first but hindsight is 50-50.

 

Scorpion’s Tail was a walk-on and I think it still was when I left. The same could be said about Point of No Return. Scorpion’s Tail was the first speed slide I’ve ever seen where they banned riders from crossing their legs. They required everyone to ride with their legs spread apart.

 

The initial plunge was a rush. It always is one these drop pod slides. The rest of the slide was an intense blur. It had the potential to be one of the best body slides in the world. However, it did a number on my back. I felt every single connection. 7 out of 10

 

For that reason, I was a bit apprehensive to ride the older Point of No Return. The drop wasn’t quite as intense as Scorpion’s Tail, but it was still very thrilling and perfectly smooth too. 8 out of 10

 

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I'm not surprised one of these slides hurt my back. I'm just stunned it was the newer one of the two.

 

I probably did those slides in 15 minutes. All that was left was the water coaster, Black Anaconda. It also happened to be the park’s best and most popular slide.

 

I ended up waiting almost a half hour. When you reach the tower, the line splits into separate queues for groups of 3 and groups of 1-2. The line for groups of three was half the length of the other, so I joined up with a group of two so we could board faster.

 

Black Anaconda was long. I think it was as long as Wildebeest. However, it wasn’t nearly as intense. Every single hill gave a tiny pop of air, but it never gave the OMFG pops of a Wildebeest. It was also one of the conveyor belt versions. I much prefer the water jet or magnetic versions for the added intensity.

 

Ultimately, it was a well above average water coaster thanks to the sheer length. I would have loved to ride it again, but the line had tripled in length. 8 out of 10

 

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Black Anaconda was insanely long. As was the queue.

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It was one drop after another. And that was fine by me.

 

One other attraction worth noting is Flash Flood. It’s your average shoot-the-chutes ride, but it has the advantage of being in a water park. That means you can ride shirtless and shoeless. In addition, it had this adorable exit platform.

 

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Looks like God got angry and wants to flood the Earth again. I love the Old Testament.

 

As for the overall feel of the water park, I’m sad to say it felt a bit soulless. The employees weren’t very outgoing and the general atmosphere felt like a generic concrete jungle. I’m taking a wild guess this is the fault of Parque Reunidos, but I’d love to hear from someone who visited before they took over.

 

Noah’s Ark has a top notch slide collection. They have both quality and quantity. It just may have the best slide lineup top to bottom of any US water park. For that reason, it wasn’t surprising the park was packed. I enjoyed all five slides I rode, but I’m just not keen about waiting 30-60 minutes for a water slide.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mt. Olympus

 

Is there any US park with a worse reputation than Mt. Olympus? From brutally rough woodies to piss poor operations to lackadaisical employees to questionable safety practices, I never hear anything good about this park.

 

How can a park that costs $20 with four wooden coasters suck so bad? I decided I had to experience Mt. Olympus for myself. And I’m proud to say I made it out alive.

 

Mt. Olympus is awful…awfully decent! Keep in mind, I went in with the lowest of expectation. I expected Clementon Park levels of badness with the dispatch speed of Fuji-Q Highland. It wasn’t hard to top that!

 

Before I even entered the park, Mt. Olympus kicked me in the nuts. For years I always heard how cheap this place was. For that reason, I wasn’t expecting it to cost $20 to park. At least it was worth it for the views of Hades 360.

 

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9 foot waves? A Trojan Horse? A big wooden coaster? This sums up Mt. Olympus quite well.

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Here we go.

 

Before I touch on the rides, I want to discuss some generalities about the park.

 

Dispatches- They were slow, but not legendarily slow. I found them on par with most Six Flags parks. The lone issue was the one train ops on a ride as long as Hades.

 

Employees- None of the employees were rude or mean. They were just sort of there.

 

Bathrooms- The one by Pegasus was perfectly fine.

 

Atmosphere- The park had a really odd feel. It felt like a mash-up of a FEC and a water park with a bunch of random wooden coasters slapped onto a hillside. But it was clean.

 

Safety- I never felt unsafe, but I also know not to stick my hand in front of a moving roller coaster. Honestly, the minimalistic fencing allowed for some amazing coaster shots so I’m not complaining.

 

Clientele- It was mostly families. I did witness a lot of line jumping and unfortunately the employees didn’t do anything about it.

 

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It's so close, I could actually touch it. However, I'm not a moron, so I kept my hands off.

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Now this is a classy queue. A train decorated with gum and a few shirtless dudes.

 

If you’ve read any of my reports, you know I have a pretty high tolerance for rough rides. For that reason, I was really intrigued by Hades 360. The layout is universally praised, but people say it tracks like Hell.

 

Going into my visit, I was sort of nervous Hades 360 would be closed. The fact that it needed a full train to dispatch makes it a gamble on a lighter day. For that reason, I was never so glad to see a 30-45 minute wait. For reference, the other coasters maxed out at a 15 minute wait.

 

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This way to Hell.

 

Even by my standards, Hades 360 was rough. However, I found it quite ridable thanks to the Timberliners. Those trains are absolute godsends. The cushioning allowed me to absorb every shock without any pain. I shudder to think what this coaster was like with the PTCs.

 

Hades 360 begins with a sizable (50 foot?) plunge out of the station. Kennywood’s Thunderbolt does the same thing, but it doesn’t offer the ejector air of Hades 360. That’s immediately followed by a small twister section with three other pops of airtime. The last in particular is very strong. The pre-lift of Hades 360 alone is better than a good chunk of the wood coasters I’ve ridden.

 

After a long climb, riders plunge into the depths of Hell. That first drop is incredible. It has some wonderfully sustained airtime and it leads into the famous underground tunnel. What happens in the tunnel, stays in the tunnel. It’s pitch black and a complete WTF. One moment I was out of my seat. Another I was sideways. Yes it battered you around, but I thought it added to the intensity.

 

You then see light at the end of the tunnel and rocket through the inversion. And it took me by surprise. The inversions on most wooden coasters are heavy on hangtime. The corkscrew on Hades 360 was not. Honestly, that was my lone disappointment with the ride.

 

Then there’s another sizable drop back underground. It’s one of my favorite parts on the ride, as this drop has some really strong and sustained airtime. The return trip through the tunnel is almost identical to the first. I had no idea what it was doing to me, but I liked it.

 

When you emerge, you go down this funky double down, again getting some good air. That leads into a finale that admittedly isn’t the best. I now understand why it needs a full train. Remember how you start off with a big drop? You need to work back up to the station. There are a few pops of air along the way, but they’re pretty weak compared to everything else on the ride.

 

Hades 360 is basically a ghetto version of the Voyage. Yes it beats you up a bit, but I’m willing to forgive it because of the ambitious layout and comfortable Timberliners. Without a doubt, this is a back row coaster for me. The yank on the drops back there is simply superb. 8.5 out of 10

 

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On what days isn't Hades 360 riding aggressive?

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Oh my god, they sent a train out with *only* 23 riders. It's a Mt. Olympus miracle.

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You wouldn't think an inversion on a wood coaster would be the smoothest part of the ride, but it was.

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Time to go back into the BDSM tunnel.

 

Since I survived Hades, I decided to test my luck with Zeus. This is unanimously considered one of the roughest wooden coasters in existence. So I started with the shallow end and boarded the front row.

 

Did I ride the same Zeus as everyone else?

 

I found the coaster (dare I say) smooth outside of the first bunny hill on the return trip. I know they did some trackwork this offseason, but I only spotted fresh wood on the turnaround. As a result, I liked Zeus. It was a fast-paced out-and-back coaster with pops of air on pretty much every hill.

 

Like a moron, I decided to test my luck towards the back. It was the equivalent of giving the finger to a police officer. You’re just asking for trouble. I braced for impact at the bottom of the first drop, but guess what? It never happened. Zeus was smooth even towards the back. It just had less air on the return leg.

 

For anyone who rode Zeus pre-2019 and this year, I’d love to know if you think the ride improved. If it hasn’t, please never trust my judgment if a ride is smooth or rough ever again. 7 out of 10

 

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I guess Mt. Olympus knows better than estimate how long a dispatch will take.

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I'd actually contest that point. Zeus didn't seem to be that aggressive today.

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This shot sums up the safeguards at Mt. Olympus perfectly.

 

It was now time to experience the “drop of death” on Cyclops. I know it was reprofiled, but I was still expecting Raven 5th drop levels of airtime with buzz bars.

 

Needless to stay, I was a bit dismayed to find individual ratcheting lap bars. However, the employees barely lowered the restraints, so it was pretty much a non-factor!

 

I know everyone talks about the famous drop, but how come no one talks about the first or second drops? Both those drops gave crazy standing ejector air as well. In fact, I’d say they gave as much air as the drop of death.

 

Cyclops is short, but those three moments of airtime are incredible. Plus, it tracked as well as the Raven (I know that’s a pro for some and a con for others) and mixed in a pinch of laterals. 8 out of 10

 

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Even in its reprofiled state, the "drop of death" was incredible.

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As were the hills at the start of the ride. Why doesn't anyone talk about these hills? I mean, you get a nice, close view of them.

 

The final coaster was Pegasus. I was expecting a snooze-fest, but I should have known better. This is Mt. Olympus after all.

 

There’s no airtime, but there are turns. There are tight, unbanked turns everywhere on this ride. I rode in the front, so I appreciated the violent laterals. However, I heard a choir of profanities behind me. 5 out of 10

 

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Pegasus may look cute and cuddly.

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But it has a mean streak on these turns.

 

Since I needed to make it back to Minneapolis for my flight home, I only had time for the coasters. Even if I had a full day, it’s debatable if I would have done anything else. I really liked the woodies.

 

Would I return to Mt. Olympus? Believe it or not, but yes I would. Again, I went in expecting the worst. So it would have taken a true dumpster fire to fail to exceed those expectations.

 

Mt. Olympus felt like what would happen if Six Flags bought a FEC. The coaster lineup felt like a bizarre Holiday World. For me, that’s far from the worst park in the world and it’s a place I can enjoy.

 

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