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Great pictures! I only got around to visiting Fushimi-Inari and it was an incredible experience. One detail I will always remember is that there were vending machines on the way up the trail and the cost of a drink kept increasing as we continued. Also, there were no garbage cans, but also no trash anywhere. And this spot is mostly visited by tourists, so it is just an example of folks adapting to the culture they're immersed in. I know it is the most touristy of the options in Kyoto, but I only had a half day to spend. I am super grateful to have spent any time at all there.

 

I really loved Kyoto Station as well and it was certainly my favorite station. There will always be something memorable about some of the large stations in Tokyo and Osaka and how absolutely massive they are on the inside. I never really felt lost in them, but it was impressive how much walking you might need to do to transfer lines or just exit where you intend.

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I was going to comment on the lady taking your food photo. It happened to me in DisneySea, back in 2011.

 

I was taking a rest, sitting in the front of one of those "Main Street vehicles." They stay in place, but you can climb on or in them and just relax. This one was opposite Big Band Beat. A minute or so later, this little old woman climbs up next to me. She points to her and me - then to her friend taking the photo. Huh, I thought.

 

I oblige. Photo is taken. THEN she motions to me to STAY THERE. And so, every one of her FIVE friends got an indi-photo with me, LOL! I had a big smile on my face afterwards, and sort of when 'huh' at the cultural moment shared with them.

 

Wow that's the kind of thing that would be quite awkward if the Japanese weren't so genuine and friendly!

 

Great pictures! I only got around to visiting Fushimi-Inari and it was an incredible experience. One detail I will always remember is that there were vending machines on the way up the trail and the cost of a drink kept increasing as we continued. Also, there were no garbage cans, but also no trash anywhere. And this spot is mostly visited by tourists, so it is just an example of folks adapting to the culture they're immersed in. I know it is the most touristy of the options in Kyoto, but I only had a half day to spend. I am super grateful to have spent any time at all there.

 

I think Fushimi Inari was the right choice if you only had time for one thing. It's the most popular spot, but for good reason!

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Part 9: Nagashima Spa Land

 

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When you plan a long vacation like this one, it seems incomprehensible that’ll you’ll one day arrive at the end of it, yet here we were at the last park of our trip. This was actually the day before Kyoto and we started the morning by boarding a Shinkansen from Tokyo bound for Nagoya. From Nagoya Station we then took a bus direct to Nagashima Spa Land. Unlike the Fuji-Q bus, the Meitetsu bus we took did not require reservations. They leave for the park at regular intervals.

 

Nagashima doesn’t carry the bad rap that Fuji-Q Highland does so I was curious to see how they compared after enjoying Fuji-Q so much more than expected. Park grounds were immaculate and all but one of the coasters and most of the flat rides were operating. The only coaster not running was the jet coaster. Not that this was a credit I had been salivating over or anything, but none of the other parks we visited had a jet coaster so I was looking forward to experiencing at least one example of the type here.

 

Like Fuji-Q, Nagashima seemed smaller than equivalent parks in the U.S. As the pictures show, it’s far from a concrete wasteland, but rather than the park following a loop or a hub-and-spoke layout, it’s more of a free-for-all with coasters and flats plunked down wherever they fit with paths filling the gaps. It’s a park with a distinctly RCT feel to it.

 

The most surprising fault I found was the operations. Call me crazy, but from what I saw, Fuji-Q’s guest service and dispatches were better. Nagashima’s staff weren’t awful, but they were less courteous and professional than their Fuji-Q counterparts. I found it interesting that Fuji-Q’s slowness was not due to poor training or service, but instead the fault of their hyper-cautious policies and procedures. The Nagashima employees were more like what I expected Fuji-Q’s to be. Ride ops were quiet, withdrawn, and sometimes appeared to not be paying attention. They also made little-to-no effort to fill in empty seats with single riders, something both Fuji-Q and Yomiuriland did relatively well.

 

This is not to say we disliked Nagashima. We had another great day here, we loved the rides, and would both gladly go back. But if Fuji-Q greatly exceeded our expectations, Nagashima at best met them.

 

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On the bus from Nagoya Station I saw a pair of hotels that, as an enthusiast, made me chuckle.

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I’m genuinely curious how the name ‘Luna Park’ came up in Japan.

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In the distance, is that—yes I see it—the lift hill of the world’s most gradually sloping giga coaster!

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The ride up to the park sure did build up our anticipation.

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“Hey look! A whale!”

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The entrance the bus dropped us off at was certainly not busy.

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This should give you an idea of how close together many of Nagashima’s attractions are.

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Carlos hit his 400th credit on a coaster slightly grander than my 400th.

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Steel Dragon 2000 might not be the park’s alpha anymore, but it’s still a landmark, bucket list coaster that my younger self never imagined I’d get to ride one day.

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The first drop has exactly the same amount of airtime you get on Morgan’s hyper coasters… None!

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Despite notices about a maximum height limit I was right on the verge of, no one questioned me and I boarded without issue. The coaster itself is obviously massive. It spans the entire length of the park from Hakugei on one end to the water park on the other.

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But unlike Morgan’s hypers where you still don’t get any airtime on the return bunny hills, on Steel Dragon 2000 you do!

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I wonder how much the ride experience changed when it replaced the Morgan trains with B&M.

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The MCBR is usually the airtime death knell on Steel Force or Mamba, but not on this!

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This is an over 8,000 foot long coaster with a slow lift and only 2 trains. Even then, the wait never exceeded 45 minutes. The park wasn’t busy enough for massive queues on anything but Hakugei.

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The tunnels are very effective, just like those on Magnum.

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I had flashbacks to hitting my hand on Blue Fire’s first tunnel at Europa Park and with the fact that SD2000 has a height limit in mind, I kept my hands down in the tunnels.

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From some angles SD doesn’t necessarily look like a giga coaster. Without the steeper lifts and drops of the others, it doesn’t have the same awe-factor when looking at it in profile.

Steel Dragon 2000

I rate this coaster somewhere between Steel Force/Mamba on the low end and Superman: El Ultimo Escape on the high end, but closer to the latter. The three big hills feel just like what you’d get on Mamba. There’s no airtime or strong positive g’s so it’s all about speed and appreciating the views and scale. The first incline spiral is also a bit tame and has a slight vibration. Things improve starting with the second spiral. The B&M trains look like they ride slightly higher than the original Morgan ones and it made me wonder if it puts the rider’s heartline above where it would have been placed during the design process. I thought about this because the second spiral pulls some surprising laterals that just felt different somehow, though I can’t explain why. These mix with positives that mount first, then subside as the turn radius widens. It feels completely different than the first spiral.

 

The MCBR trims off a little speed but doesn’t grab you the way the two similar hypers do. This means you get good, strong, floater on every one of the bunny hills back to the station. They had a similar feel to the ending hills on Goliath at SFOG. You start to float as you crest, then get yanked down the descent. Steel Dragon is a very good coaster that would be great if the first half matched the tone of the second. Superman at Six Flags Mexico takes the good qualities of Steel Dragon and makes a full ride out of them. If we’re comparing Japanese coasters I also like Fujiyama and Bandit better, but the gap between them is not wide. 8/10

 

As for the gigas I’ve done:

1. Fury 325

2. Intimidator 305

3. Millennium Force

4. Steel Dragon 2000

 

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Arashi

I have not been impressed with the S&S Free Spin coasters Six Flags has built. Batman at SFFT gave me one good lap out of two and I found all of the Jokers to be pretty lackluster. Arashi is a different animal entirely. I could not believe how many inversions it pulls. The spinning on it is just so intense. However Nagashima calibrated or placed the magnets on Arashi is a model every other park who builds one should follow. I usually have to force myself to ride free spins for the credit when I see them while I thought Arashi was one of the most fun coasters in Japan. 8/10

 

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Hey buddy, hurry up and wait, will ya?

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Hakugei has presence just like Steel Vengeance does. But where Steel Vengeance is all about intimidation, Hakugei’s presence is majestic.

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It is truly the nicest of the RMC hybrids aesthetically.

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Footers remain from the old helixes. My dream version of Hakugei would have retained one helix out of the two White Cyclone had and would have included some insane outward banking.

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The 90+ degree drops RMC is doing are great, but don’t think the on-ride result is any better than an 80 degree drop like Hakugei’s. Once you get past 80-85 I don’t think the difference is even noticeable unless you do a B&M dive or Gerstlauer style profile with a holding brake.

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This section felt like an improved and enlarged version of the turnaround on the green side of Twisted Colossus.

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My favorite airtime moment on the ride.

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You don’t feel like you slow down over these hills at all as we’ve come to expect from RMC.

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Hakugei has my favorite stall out of the RMCs I’ve ridden.

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We got to the park slightly too late to beat the rush to Hakugei at opening, but we still got three rides on it with fast passes. The line was a consistent 60-90 minutes all day.

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The Hakugei crew’s dispatches were dreadfully slow to the point where I gave up waiting on trains for photos. It only broke down once that I was aware of, which is kind of impressive given my RMC experiences elsewhere.

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The track banks slightly past 90 degrees here. Another great moment on a ride full of them.

Hakugei

This is a really, really good coaster that surprised a lot of us this year, including me. During construction I recall posting that it looked like RMC was trying to reach a median between New Texas Giant and Steel Vengeance with it. The first reviews immediately put that idea to bed and I think most people have put it in the very top rung of RMCs. So do I. The only ones that I feel confident I prefer are Steel Vengeance and Medusa Steel Coaster. By the way, Medusa is Carlos’s home RMC, so he’d have as much pride in it as anyone and he actually liked Hakugei better.

 

This one isn’t the kind of blitzkrieg that SV or Twisted Timbers are. Hakugei has more measured pacing, but only slightly. You’re already going at a good clip when you plunge down the first drop, so you fly with more ejector airtime than Isoroku Yamamoto in ’43. From that point on, the next two-thirds of the layout reminded me of a grander, more finetuned Twisted Colossus. Every airtime moment hits with perfection. Even the section of track with the semi-wave turn in place of White Cyclone’s second helix manages ejector and that was a section many of us thought would be unexciting.

 

Only after the first barrel roll did it feel like Hakugei let its foot off the gas a little. There’s one more good airtime hill, then a pair of left turns that don’t really do anything, two good but not great airtime pops, and a second barrel roll which felt slower than the first. I am not saying Hakugei has a lackluster ending. It’s good from start to finish. It just goes from being all-out insane to a half-step below crazy. This may not be a trending opinion, but as great as Hakugei is, I don’t think it’s the best coaster in Japan. It slightly misses eclipsing Flying Dinosaur and Eejanaika for me. 9/10

 

My updated RMC list:

1. Steel Vengeance

2. Medusa Steel Coaster

3. Hakugei

4. Twisted Timbers

5. Wicked Cyclone

6. Outlaw Run

7. Railblazer

8. Twisted Colossus

9. Iron Rattler

10. New Texas Giant

11. Twisted Cyclone

12. Joker

13. Goliath

 

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It’s not often that a clone gets the kind of deluxe theming/landscaping job Acrobat did.

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Manta’s setting at Sea World Orlando is nicer, but this is great for a park like Nagashima that normally doesn’t flesh-out the areas around its coasters like this at all.

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It has a very Bahamas feel to it.

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I like Manta and Acrobat, but they aren’t in the same league as Flying Dinosaur.

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Nagashima has a very good big 3 with Acrobat, Hakugei, and Steel Dragon.

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If you ride in the front two cars you get the same surprise burst of airtime entering the pretzel that you do on Manta, something I haven’t found on Flying Dino, Tatsu, or the Supermen.

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Acrobat

I have always been a big fan of Manta at Sea World Orlando. I had it ranked neck-and-neck with Tatsu for years. But Flying Dinosaur may have changed B&M flying coasters for me. Tatsu still has the size and terrain to remain its own thing, but Manta’s clone, Acrobat, just did not excite me after riding its superior neighbor just a few hours west. It’s a good, comfortable, enjoyable coaster I simply had no real desire to ride again after getting the credit. Granted if it was a one-off and not a clone, I probably would have gone for a second spin, but for this visit I was content. This layout was designed in the middle of B&M’s “tame period” and despite this, it still manages to bring some unique qualities to the table. I’ll always enjoy it and its Florida brother for that. 7.5/10

 

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A quality Schwarzkopf is always good for a few laps, especially since they rarely build up queues these days. Looping Star was our go-to coaster once Hakugei and Steel Dragon’s queues closed 45 minutes early.

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It felt like a slightly bigger and faster version of Scorpion at Busch Gardens Tampa.

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I’m pretty sure Nagashima Spa Land has the only two operating Schwarzkopfs in Japan.

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Trees and shrubbery have grown in nicely around it. It’s like a quick, afternoon jog through a public park.

Looping Star

I was impressed with this. It’s not the most intense Schwarzkopf but it still pulls all of those weird, idiosyncratic g-forces that only Anton could design. There are some pretty tight clearances with supports that startled me on the first lap. Nagashima is lucky to have this and I hope they keep it for years to come. 7.5/10

 

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Shuttle Loop… Looping Star… Corkscrew… Wild Mouse… Jet Coaster… Ultra Twister… I guess Nagashima just went with catalogue names for all their coasters before White Cyclone.

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This was my third shuttle loop after Montezooma’s Revenge and Cascabel.

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Shuttle Loop runs alongside the park’s main entrance. This one is the “real” front gate. The bus dropped us off at what we now knew was a side entrance.

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Know how to tell if a shuttle loop is traveling forwards or backwards in a photo?

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Neither do I but tell me if you know.

Shuttle Loop

Hmmmm……… 7/10

 

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Sheriff Nagashima! The

John Wayne has played an Asian!

 

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The Hakugei sign is so cool. I can’t wait to buy a t-shirt, mug, or shot glass with that logo on it. Oh, wait, this is a Japanese park not named Fuji-Q, so that’s definitely not going to exist! (there’s a polo with a microscopic whale logo near the bottom no one will ever notice, but I’m not counting that)

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Jet Coaster was closed for refurbishment ahead of expected high ridership coinciding with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Okay, I lied. It’s not.

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Nagashima has a great selection of family rides. We rode one of the bigger swinging ships rather than this regular-size model. It was surprisingly dull with less “air” than the smaller ones.

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Children Coaster. It’s a coaster for children.

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Arrow corkscrew models usually make great photos at the very least. This one wasn’t too bad. There are certainly rougher Arrows out there. The original at Silverwood remains the smoothest.

 

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Corkscrew

Uhhhhh……… 5/10

 

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For some reason this is the only shot I took of Ultra Twister. It deserves better.

Ultra Twister

Some people really love this ride. I kind of get it. It has a breed of unique, clunky airtime and intensity you can’t duplicate on a conventional coaster. The steep first drop off the vertical lift has a nice, sudden pullover and the hill that follows is so much shorter it can’t help but deliver a crazy burst of airtime. The rate of rotation on the heartline rolls is as fast as I’ve seen on any coaster. You get a couple of serious jolts when the car brakes at the end of the forwards run though its easy to brace for them once you know they’re coming. It’s a good fun ride, but still chiefly a novelty for me. 7/10

 

Wild Mouse (no photos apparently)

So……… 5/10

 

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For our next installment of ‘Never in America’ we go back to the Nagoya Station bus that picked us up from the park. Once every seat was filled, they folded down additional seats that took up all the aisle space. I'm genuinely curious what an evac procedure is on one of these.

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Spirit Airlines and Ryanair should look into this!

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My only glimpse of Nagoya at night came from the Shinkansen platform back at the station.

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Our bullet-chariot to Kyoto awaits.

With all of our Japanese parks for this trip complete, here’s my Japan top 10:

1. Flying Dinosaur

2. Eejanaika

3. Hakugei

4. Fujiyama

5. Takabisha

6. Bandit

7. Steel Dragon 2000

8. Do-Dodonpa

9. Hollywood Dream/Backdrop

10. Arashi

 

And using my CoasterPoll list, here’s my overall top 20 and how other Japanese coasters rank:

1. Skyrush – Hersheypark

2. Steel Vengeance – Cedar Point

3. Voyage – Holiday World

4. Expedition GeForce – Holiday Park

5. Maverick – Cedar Point

6. El Toro – Six Flags Great Adventure

7. Medusa Steel Coaster – Six Flags Mexico

8. Fury 325 – Carowinds

9. Flying Dinosaur – Universal Studios Japan

10. Superman the Ride – Six Flags New England

11. Eejanaika – Fuji-Q Highland

12. Intimidator 305 – Kings Dominion

13. Millennium Force – Cedar Point

14. Kumba – Busch Gardens Tampa

15. Goliath – Six Flags Over Georgia

16. Boulder Dash – Lake Compounce

17. Hakugei – Nagashima Spa Land

18. Twisted Timbers – Kings Dominion

19. Wicked Cyclone – Six Flags New England

20. Outlaw Run – Silver Dollar City

(31). Fujiyama – Fuji-Q Highland

(58). Takabisha – Fuji-Q Highland

(61). Bandit – Yomiuriland

(62). Steel Dragon 2000 – Nagashima Spa Land

(77). Do-Dodonpa – Fuji-Q Highland

(93). Hollywood Dream/Backdrop – Universal Studios Japan

 

 

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Now I’ll jump ahead past Kyoto to my departure day. My flight home from Kansai was not until 5:45pm, so I had plenty of time to take a final Shinkansen trip west from Kyoto to the city of Himeji to visit Japan’s greatest surviving castle. Exiting the train station, you are greeted with the sight of Himeji Castle at the end of the main road.

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Unlike Osaka Castle, Himeji Castle is not a concrete reproduction. This is the real thing. The structure is built entirely of wood and has been maintained over the centuries using authentic 17th Century construction techniques.

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Much of the Himeji Castle complex was built in the 1530s and the main keep seen here was completed in 1609.

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Himeji Castle was a must-see for me. I was worried there wouldn’t be time since our schedule was packed and Himeji is further west than we needed to be for anything else. My flight was just late enough that I had the perfect block of time to make the trip and do the two-hour English guided tour.

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There was another castle from the 1300s, which our guide referred to as the “Black Castle” on the same site that predated the current castle. Much of its materials were reused including repurposing its roofing tiles into drainage gutters.

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The lower half of the stone foundation has received 400 years of rain and weathering the upper half was shielded from.

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After missing out on being able to enter Osaka Castle, I was glad to tour the interior of Himeji.

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Himeji Castle was used as an armory. The wall-mounted racks are for swords and muskets.

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This load-bearing pillar is one of two that extend from the foundation all the way to the top floor. It is made from a single tree.

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You may know Himeji Castle from the Bond film, You Only Live Twice… or—if you want to try to impress people who travel in pretentious filmgoer circles, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran!

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View from the top floor back down the main road to the train station.

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Himeji Castle goes through a full restoration every 50 years to keep knowledge of its construction techniques alive. Something tells me this beam might not be here after the next one!

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A wooden scale model of the structure used to aid in the 1960s restoration.

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Mothra sighting!

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A few lower portions of the structure are still undergoing work right now.

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Every Edo Period Japanese castle needs a hero.

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The grounds around Himeji Castle are vast. I only had time to see a small portion of them.

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I would visit Himeji Castle and take the tour again. Definitely another one of the highlights of the trip.

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Boeing 787-10 credit!

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But if Fuji-Q greatly exceeded our expectations, Nagashima at best met them.

The polar opposite of every single visit we've had to both of these parks over the past 16 years, but hey, parks are allowed to have their best days and their worst days. So maybe you just got lucky and experienced both of these in the opposite form of what we are used to.

 

I still stand by Fuji-Q having the worst most ridiculous policies like that time they made me taking something off my wrist, put it in a locker, and then handed me a key to the locker to put around my wrist.

 

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Great pics, and so happy you got to go to Himeji Castle (our tickets included the gardens too. . but we didnt' have a lot of time and so I bypassed the gardens to spend more time going all the way to the top of the Castle).

 

as to Nagashima Spaland- we actually had a fantastic day there, with some great ops on everything.

 

I agree with a lot of what you say (tho I got to ride Jet Coaster, but missed out on Shuttle Loop that was closed for maintenance on the day we were there. . ya didn't miss much, tho the gigantic fish in the pond under Jet coaster were amazing to watch when you dropped food to them. . think I grabbed some pics of that feeding frenzy).

 

I loved Hakugei, and rank it easily as my top RMC. while I really liked every element you listed (the double up, that incredible stall). . my favorite is something you also got a picture of: the overbank outwards after the double-up. . . I came *thisclose* to orgasm at that element on every ride. yeah, it's THAT good.

 

Steel Dragon 2000? I felt the same way you do about it - during the daytime rides.

Riding at night? kicked it up a few notches, and I would put it slightly above most other Gigas I've been on.

 

if we consider the night rides? my list would be:

Millennium Force

Steel Dragon 2000

Fury 325 (close to a tie with night rides on SD2K. . .but at night that's SLIGHTLY better)

I305

large gap. . . Steel Force (LOL)

 

Arashi was amazing. . I loved it so much, I bought an Arashi shirt! (like the Hakugei one, the logo is only on the lower portion of the shirt. . but couldn't pass it up, as I loved the coaster so much).

 

I did NOT like Acrobat (which is strange, as I love Manta). . it may just be where we were placed? but I only rode it once, even with skip the line passes, I didn't go back, as it almost made me pass out in the Dive loop.. .I seriously felt the Gs and did not like it.

 

if you get a chance to go back, the Haunted House walkthru, and the Shooting Dark ride were both incredible.

 

thanks for sharing the pics, and glad you had such a great trip!

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Great report! I found Nagashima's staff friendly on my lone visit, but I do agree dispatches were slow mostly due to the loose article policy.

 

I actually found the first half of Steel Dragon to have some floater (I find most Morgans do). But I agree wholeheartedly it's the airtime of the second half that makes the ride.

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I find myself on the opposite end of folks on Arashi. I got a bit ball-busted on my ride and it was a one and done despite having the opportunity for some more rides.

 

I ended up really loving Nagashima. The bobkarts were a blast, loved getting on an Ultra Twister finally, the two Schwarzkopfs were solid as ever, and the place had a better vibe than Fuji Q. I would say that Fuji Q had a real solid day when we were there, but the place just stressed me out a bit. Announcements over the loud speaker about rain and wind shutting rides down, announcements warning people they may not get to ride things even if they are in line. BUT. They had Auntie Anne's at Fuji Q. Which was neat. And it was cheaper than any of the ones in the states.

 

I loved seeing all your pictures and am glad to see you got to experience a good bit of culture mixed in with the parks. When I return, I would likely only visit Disney plus maybe a first time visit to Yomimuriland and maybe a return to Hirakata or Nagashima (whichever made more sense for us). My girlfriend likes her amusement parks, but ultimately, going and visiting parks was the ultimate thing for me to do once. Now I feel like I could easily go back and spend multiple full days just taking in the culture a bit more.

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I was able to spend an afternoon/evening in the far west side of Kyoto in the Arashiyama area. You can find a ton of monkeys at the Arashiyama Monkey Park. It is basically a mountain that you climb that has a bunch of monkeys at the top. You do get a nice view of Kyoto. The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is nearby as well and worth the visit. Thanks for your photos.

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I really like the way you are reviewing Japan, because it's not just about the parks but also about the cities.

 

As for Kyoto, I much prefer it to Tokyo as it is busy, but still manageable, and has plenty of traditional shrines. I also did the Fushimi Inari tori trail but it was mid-summer and it was exhausting and had me completely dehydrated! I also agree that Arashiyama is a nice area to visit while in Kyoto: I visited the bamboo forest and got to experience hot springs (I seemed to be the only foreigner venturing them lol). If you are into railways, Kyoto had a very large and interactive railway museum some 20 minutes away from the main station.

 

Regarding Nagashima Spaland, I completely agree: FujiQ exceeded my expectations too and Nagashima just met them. The park was nice but a bit too bland, perhaps. Operations were much better at FujiQ than Nagashima in my case. As for Arashi, it was completely insane. I had been on Joker at SFGAdv but nothing could prepare me for the sheer madness Arashi was. It was like being on a top spin on an insane German-run cycle on wheels. In my case, they did something really weird: they were running 3 trains BUT only loading one side (so they still had a ride op checking empty restraints on a side which was roped off to the public), just to make the line for Arashi appear longer than it was, thus fostering FP sales...

 

Thanks for your pictures and detailed descriptions!

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I was in Japan over Christmas just now, and yeah I was quite surprised too that Fuji Q was better than expected and Nagashima seemed worse in terms of operations.

 

 

 

When I arrived at Fuji Q, the park was under a blanket of snow, and coasters didn’t start opening till 1pm (Though sadly Eejanaika never opened, I got a couple of laps on the rest, plus the minor rides like Fuji Airways, the Naruto dark ride, the hospital, Duncan, the Thomas treasure hunt, rapids etc) But I was impressed how hard they worked to clear snow from the tracks and get rides testing.

 

 

 

At Nagashima, I barely got 1 lap on each coaster (Except Ultra twister because it was closed), and that was relying on express passes, because of silliness like only running 1 side of Arashi (so 4 seats per dispatch!), 1 train/station on Acrobat etc.

 

The park closed 5:30 but queues shut for SD2000 and Hakugei before 4, so frustratingly only 1 go on each….I sprinted to Acrobat and got a 2nd lap on that at least, using an express pass just before they closed the queue for that one too.

 

 

 

On the other coasters, ops were slow, eg on the Corkscrew, the op would get in a couple of people, they’d deposit their items, take their seats, then the next couple of people would follow and so on. So what looked like a 10 min wait ended up being 30.

 

 

 

The park, was alright, tidy and good rides, but the staff seemed lethargic.

 

 

 

Surpisingly, outside of Disney and Universal, I thought the quickest and most courteous ops were at Legoland Japan!

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Pennsylvania & Maryland July 2020

 

You’re never going to believe this, but my 2020 theme park itinerary did not work out as planned.

 

Way back in January I made plans as follows: (1) a ten-day, seven park road trip from Indiana to Virginia in July, and (2) a seven-day, seven park retreat to Orlando in October. The summer trip gradually eroded and morphed into a four-day weekend to Pennsylvania and Maryland in late July and I’m currently cobbling together a trip to Tennessee and Texas for the fall.

 

Hersheypark was already one of my favorite parks in the country and is among the fortunate few to debut their new for 2020 coaster, so it was an easy choice to anchor my trip. And while in the area, there was simply no way I could pass up a visit to Knoebels, even with two of their coasters closed for the season. I flew into Washington Dulles on Thursday and had a late afternoon return flight that Sunday, which seemed like the perfect amount of time for my first visit to Six Flags America on the way to the airport.

 

The whole thing turned out pretty well. Hershey and Knoebels had the lightest crowds I’ve seen, but still felt lively enough to not seem too far out of the ordinary, and SFA was practically empty for two of the three hours I spent there. I won’t comment much about mask-wearing and social distancing. I work in the hospitality industry so I’m already used to wearing a mask all day and being around throngs of people who either won’t wear one or wear them incorrectly. Seeing it at a theme park made no difference to me. At no point at any of the three parks did I feel at greater risk than I do every day at work.

 

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Hersheypark now has an entrance befitting a park of its stature.

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The new plaza fits so naturally it feels like it's always been here. I'm always a fan of seeing a park's skyline from the the front gate.

Day 1—Hersheypark

 

I have long felt that Hersheypark had the second best coaster collection in the United States after Cedar Point. They are the only two parks with lineups I enjoy enough from top to bottom to spend two full days at without resorting to extended marathons on just one or two coasters. I don’t think Candymonium makes Hershey’s collection any qualitatively better, but as the saying goes, “quantity has a quality all its own.” After four rides on it, I’d rank it in the middle of the pack among Hershey’s adult thrill coasters. What it does is add yet one more perfectly enjoyable and visually striking coaster to spread the day out even better.

 

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Soaring over the midway makes Candymonium's finale more exciting both on and off-ride.

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The Brothers Hyper.

I think Candymonium and Skyrush are a superior complementary pairing than the B&M hyper + B&M giga duos Cedar Fair has been going with lately. You can really see the Cedar Fair influence on the park’s new entrance plaza, “Chocolatetown.” The placement of the B&M is different, set farther back from the gates than Fury 325 or Gatekeeper, but the effect is similar. I might even like Hersheypark’s approach better. While I like seeing the CF coasters soaring over the entrance as much as anyone, Candymonium’s distance from it creates a picturesque vista that will only improve as the landscape around it fills in. So how do I think it rides?

 

Candymonium

I waited twenty-five minutes for my first backseat ride at opening, the longest queue I waited in all day. While I avoid judging a major coaster on a single ride, let alone before it has warmed up, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Excluding the gigas, I have two B&M hypers I really like (Goliath @ SFOG and Nitro), two I really don’t (Sitting Bull and Intrimidator), and all the rest are grouped together somewhere in the middle. I’m much too sardonic in most situations to dare call myself an optimist, but I kind-of-sort-of expected Candymonium to be in that upper tier and it just wasn’t. The first and second drops were great and that was about it. The rest of it felt a lot like Diamondback, like it was just going through the motions in typical late B&M fashion. But I’ve done a complete 180 on new coasters before and that’s exactly what happened.

 

I came back to Candymonium in the afternoon and rode once up front and twice more in back, and predictably, giving it time to warm up made a noticeable difference. First the hammerhead whipped a little harder. There’s nothing that can be done about the trim that follows—it kills the subsequent cammelback no matter what. On the speed hill after the camelback is where I really noticed a change, feeling for a moment like I was back on SFOG’s Goliath being vaulted up into my clamshell. The upward helix pulls just hard enough to be interesting and the banked drop and bunny hop had strong floater air, though not as strong as the speed hill. Candymonium is still not an elite B&M to me, but I ended the day a much bigger fan of it than I started. It feels the most similar to Mako, but Candymonium finishes strong whereas Mako kind of meanders through the final third of its layout. 8.5/10

 

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The first drop is very good. It feels exactly like Mako's.

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It's a minor touch, but I'm glad to see B&M tinkering with their established formula even in small ways like the extra banking here.

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The trim on this hill never harmed it much, something that cannot be said about the first trim earlier in the layout.

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Real men ride the Reese's train.

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There's lots of room for Chocolatetown to grow or landscaping to fill in around Candymonium. Hersheypark could probably relocate some of its older, smaller attractions here to free up more water park space in the back.

B&M hypers ranked:

1. Goliath (SFOG)

2. Nitro

3. Candymonium

4. Mako

5. Silver Star

6. Diamondback

7. Apollo’s Chariot

8. Hollywood Dream

9. Raging Bull

10. Intimidator

 

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The hillside behind the railing at left leads to what used to be the Skyrush path along the creek. There is still space to pave and reconnect it if the park chooses to do so in the future. Hopefully they do.

Skyrush

Still my number-one coaster. I’ve expounded at length about Skyrush in past installments, so I won’t break it down element-by-element here. It’s the kind of coaster that screams in your face, “There are two kinds of riders in this world—those who work out their quads—and those who don’t!” There are however several ways to improve your comfort level with a little practice. For one, I scoot forward a couple of inches in my seat as I go up the lift to position the lap bar higher up on my thighs. Second, I place my hands on my knees and lean forward during the low-ground turns. Skyrush can vibrate and this mostly alleviates it. And if you’re a real Skyrush masochist like I am, you can sit on a wing seat and plant your inside foot on the floor of the seat beside you on the pullouts to keep the lapbar up. Getting a good, comfortable ride on Skyrush is like a game and while some may hate that, it’s part of why I love it. There aren’t many coasters out there that can make seasoned enthusiasts brace and hold on for dear life, and of those that do, Skyrush is king. That’s why it remains my favorite. 10/10

 

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Skyrush is like the last of Intamin's old guard. The last major coaster they built that alarmed people with its intensity. After 2012 they still built plenty of excellent coasters, but seemed to dial the aggression down a notch, probably the right move for them.

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The lack of the Skyrush path has turned what used to be one of the most photogenic, easily photographed coasters into one that is now especially difficult.

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My favorite airtime moment in the world.

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Candymonium's banking transitions have nothing on Skyrush's.

Fahrenheit

Another coaster I found underwhelming the first time I rode it, but over time my esteem for Fahrenheit has steadily risen to the point where I now consider it the second best coaster in the park, even when Storm Runner is operating. While I think the general enthusiast opinion of it has similarly risen, it still occasionally gets a bad rap as a rare blemish on Intamin’s record from the 2000s. “If Intamin built a B&M,” is a phrase you might see crop up every so often. It’s certainly not Intamin’s most intense work, but it might be their most well-rounded from that period. Ejector air beyond-vertical drop? One of only two Norwegian loops in the world? More airtime on the exit of said Norwegian loop? A uniquely forceful cobra roll? Snappy, actually worthwhile corkscrews? An ejector air bunny hop finale? Check the box for them all please. 9/10

 

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Fahrenheit looks like a small child's drawing of a roller coaster from some angles.

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I appreciate it more and more every time I visit.

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The Norwegian Loop is a great inversion. A little side-to-side shimmy at the top, positive g's on the bottom, and airtime on the way back down. I'd like to see more of them.

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Most corkscrews are usually duds, but not Fahrenheit's.

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It packs a diverse set of elements and forces into a tight layout. This ejector airtime hill is the perfect finale for an inversion-focused layout.

Great Bear

To any Pennsylvania enthusiasts who like to complain that Great Bear’s layout is incomplete, I’d like to propose a trade. I’ll give you Silver Bullet for it, straight up… Any takers? Okay, I’ll also throw in your pick of Sierra Sidewinder, Coast Rider, or Pony Express. Any takers now…? Didn’t think so. Sure, the bear’s layout could be more fleshed out than it is, but I argue its myriad idiosyncrasies are part of what makes it special, it’s mimicry of IOA’s Pteranodon Flyers at the end included. A brief stretch of track to admire scenery and reflect on the ride experience can actually be a meaningful element not enough coasters take the time to include. It helps too that Great Bear’s big moments are pretty intense in the old school B&M way. The helix, first drop, and four inversions all deliver and I think the swooping drop/turn between the zero-g-roll and corkscrew is an underrated airtime moment if you catch it at the right time in the back row. 8.5/10

 

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Great Bear is an excellent example of how space constraints can lead to some very creative solutions.

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I would have loved to see the elevated helix into a drop duplicated at Knott's Berry Farm.

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Great Bear was built after several big 1990s inverts like Montu and Alpengeist, but to me it feels most like one of the earlier, smaller ones, Flight Deck.

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Great Bear will gladly accept all of your favorite camera angles Skyrush was forced to give up this year.

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I enjoy the low-to-the-ground straightaways on Great Bear and Raptor. Some might see it as wasted track, but to me its adds character and an instant to take in and appreciate what you're experiencing.

Lightning Racer

I apparently took no photos of Lightning Racer, which actually makes a lot of sense given that it’s a coaster I’ve long felt completely indifferent towards. In terms of ride experience, I’ve always seen it as the point where GCI began the switch from its original formula as shown by Wildcat, Gwazi, and the Roar twins, to its later design philosophy starting with Ozark Wildcat and Thunderhead, and still being continually refined up through Texas Stingray today. Lightning Racer seems caught in the transition phase between the larger, more drawn-out elements of first group and the lower to the ground, quickly paced elements of the second. If Lightning Racer was firmly in group two, I’d probably like it a lot more. As it is though, I always enjoy it once, but never feel compelled to re-ride. 7/10

 

And the coaster with the second longest wait of the day was… Wildcat! The ‘every other row’ socially distanced seating is not friendly to the Millennium Flyers’ capacity. The duel tracked Lightning Racer mitigated it, but Wildcat was helpless. It felt exactly the same as I remembered it from two years ago. Rough, but not brutal, and lacking airtime or forces of any kind other than jackhammering. Speculation of eventual RMC treatment isn’t going away unless Hersheypark actually goes through with it, but doing so would ironically rob the ride of its one redeeming quality—its aesthetics. 4/10

 

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Rule #1 of GCI aesthetics - the better they look to the eye, the worse they actually ride!

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What I mean is that GCI's oldest coasters had an almost poetic flow and symmetry in their structures. You can't really say that about Goldstriker or Mystic Timbers.

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But I'll the the function over form approach of Goldstriker any day!

Comet

This was running brilliantly in 2018. I even stated it was Hersheypark’s best wooden coaster at the time. I could still probably find a way to make that argument in 2020, but Comet was not running nearly as fast this year and I couldn’t tell why. Maybe it needs a full train to properly hit its mark and leaving every other row empty left it too light? Maybe it was helped in 2018 by the fact that it was blazing hot that day? Were portions of it retracked two years ago and the PTC trains have spent the last couple of seasons chewing it up again? Hard for me to say. It has a great layout. It reminds me of a longer, more spread-out, terrain version of Phoenix, a fellow Herb Schmeck design. The on-ride experience just wasn’t there this time. 6/10

 

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Comet isn't the easiest ride to photograph either.

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The other end of the now-closed Skyrush path.

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Inside the new two-story retail space at Chocolatetown. The upper level was not yet open when I visited.

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Overall, Chocolatetown and Candymonium are a win for Hersheypark.

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I made the obligatory stop at Troegs Brewery after the park. As a SoCal craft beer guy, my standards for breweries are high and Troeg's is one of the best.

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Interior seating was sparse and socially distanced. The patio was full.

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Nice report! Shame about the fate of Skyrush path. Oddly enough, the park maps on the website still include it! I wonder if that means they plan to reopen it or that it's so much of an afterthought for them that they forgot to remove it. Glad the new additions seem to be a success!

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Wonderful report on Hershey, Condor! I have known about this place since years and years ago,

when it originally opened! Always wanted to visit it. Timing and budgeting, were always 'wrong.'

 

Thanks for a really great, thorough tour of the Park!

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I don't understand criticisms like this of Lightning Racer. Yes, if was only a single coaster, it would be a 7 or maybe only 6. Racing, and especially my first ride in a while, it's at least 4 times better, and the best surprise in the park -- even having been there twice before and knowing how good it is.

 

I also love Wildcat, especially with retracking since my last visit. Comet was running great too; it was at least 4:00 by the time I rode it ... 3 times. I also found my later ride, front row, on Candy far better, very good.

 

Unfortunately I rode the hypers least of any with reasonable lines. Warning, any rain at all and they close them. Would have been doing me a favor but it was still light at that time and I was next to ride. ~Everything else still open.

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wonderful report, and great pics

 

(tho I disagree with you on Skyrush, and HATE Wildcat. . but that's one less person in line when you're there )

 

thanks for posting.

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I did enjoy Wildcat when I rode it... in 2016... at 12 years old.

 

I also find it hard to like Lightning Racer. The dueling is the best part, but even with that, I don't find it to be a great wooden coaster.

 

Man, after reading all of these reviews I wish that I had gotten another ride on Candymonium! But I did enjoy myself more at Knoebels that same day, so what's a guy to do?

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Getting a good, comfortable ride on Skyrush is like a game and while some may hate that, it’s part of why I love it.

 

I'm thankful to be part of a TPR Skyrush hour ERT and I 1000% agree with this. I was pretty intimidated after my first and second ride, it was so wild. But then each ride you can learn how to take the turns, even put your arms up, and then after a dozen rides you are figuring it all out.

 

There aren't many coasters I stop and think, Oh shit. I haven't been on ____ in a year. I need to get back asap. And Skyrush is definitely one of them. Oh and then there's the entire buffet of amazing coasters and flats Hershey sets out. Nice.

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I don't understand criticisms like this of Lightning Racer. Yes, if was only a single coaster, it would be a 7 or maybe only 6. Racing, and especially my first ride in a while, it's at least 4 times better, and the best surprise in the park -- even having been there twice before and knowing how good it is.

 

My review may have come across a little harsh, though my 7/10 was meant to show it's a quality coaster that has simply never made a big impression on me. I've noticed racing/dueling makes a bigger difference to some enthusiasts than others. For me it has never mattered much, with Dueling Dragons as the lone exception. Generally if I don't enjoy it as a single coaster, dueling isn't going to change that, but I understand why it would for others.

 

I'm thankful to be part of a TPR Skyrush hour ERT and I 1000% agree with this. I was pretty intimidated after my first and second ride, it was so wild. But then each ride you can learn how to take the turns, even put your arms up, and then after a dozen rides you are figuring it all out.

 

One great thing about Skyrush is that it often has a one-train wait at most in the evening. So unless you're there on an especially busy day, almost any evening can become a Skyrush ERT hour!

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I only rode Skyrush once its opening year. Painful. Beyond painful since I have big quads. The sitting on the brake run at the end was pretty much the worst moment I have ever had on a coaster. I could feel the blood clots starting. Why oh why did they design these lap bars so horribly? I've been on tons of other Intamins with no problems whatsoever.

 

Has it gotten any better? I really will probably never ride it again if they haven't modified their restraints.

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Don't ride on a wing and you can sort of brace the restraint with your legs if your feet are on the floor and stop it from closing as tight as it otherwise would. Once I learned how to ride it I started to really like it. I'm on team Skyrush at this point.

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