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Summer Coaster Trip Advice

HW, KK, KI, & CP

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Hello everyone,

So, my TPR friend (JJlehto) and I are planning a long-overdue coaster trip this summer (our last trip that we had planned to Cedar Point for summer 2020 got derailed by some pesky virus or something). To make up for that disappointment, we’ve gone bigger. We finally pulled the trigger and booked plane flights and a rental car. So, in preparation, I’ve got some questions for you fine, knowledgeable TPR folk. Any advice you all can give would be greatly appreciated.

 

To start, here’s our itinerary:

Wednesday, July 20 – Fly into Louisville Airport and drive to Santa Claus, IN

Thursday, July 21 – Holiday World (drive to Louisville, KY at night)

Friday, July 22 – Kentucky Kingdom (drive to Mason, OH at night)

Saturday, July 23 – Kings Island (stay in local hotel that night)

Sunday, July 24 – Drive to Sandusky, OH

Monday & Tuesday, July 25 & 26 – Cedar Point (staying at Hotel Breakers)

Wednesday, July 27 – Fly home out of Cleveland Airport

 

All of these parks are new to me, except for Cedar Point (I’ve been there a half-dozen times). JJLehto has been to all these places before. Here are my questions:

 

1. Do you have any suggestions for park strategies? Our goal is to ride roller coasters…as much as we possibly can. We’ll purchase skip-the-line passes where they are offered (which seems to be only KI and CP). We’re also curious to try the water parks at HW and KK (though, coasters are the definite priority). Any suggestions on maximizing our coaster rides? We’ll be gate-crashing all the parks. And, yes, we plan on waiting for a front row night ride on Beast at KI.

 

2. Any food suggestions? I’m a culinary traveler, and love to sample local cuisine. Are there any regional specialties and/or restaurants that you’d recommend? Do the parks offer anything tasty (I’ve got a soft spot for fudge)?

 

3. Any hotel suggestions? This isn’t as big a deal for us. I enjoy searching for hotels and putting the trip together. We aren’t looking for anything fancy, just clean and comfortable. We do prefer, however, hotels that offer substantial a breakfast (think eggs, meats, waffle iron, etc.). The goal is to stuff ourselves so that we’re not hungry until dinner (avoiding park food). While I’ve got no problems searching for suitable hotels, are there any suggestions or hotels-to-avoid to be aware of?

 

4. Any advice for our travel day on Sunday? Our plan is to use the off day to sleep in, enjoy a late breakfast/brunch, and take a leisurely drive up to Sandusky. However, since the drive isn't even 4 hours, we'll have some extra time in the day. We'll be either travelling on 75 north, or going through Columbus. Are there any attractions or interesting places (park or non-park) that you could suggest to kill some time? 

Thanks in advance for your advice.

 

-Doug

Edited by scooterdoug
Added question #4
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@teacherkim  who can give some great advice on all these parks (especially since we’re doing most of them in may) 

 

in particular?  She’ll tell you which water coasters at holiday world are not to be missed 

 

my best advice is FL+ at kings island. 
almost every fl queue drops you right in the station.  And you want the + for beast and Orion 

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Kentucky Kingdom - do not head to Storm Chaser if you're there at opening that's pretty much where everyone goes first. I would head to Thunder Run or Kentucky Flyer first and then check out the line for Storm Chaser or Lightning Run. Be Prepared for slow dispatch times on all rides and waterpark being very crowded anytime during the summer. I'm not a fan of SLC's but I've heard T3 can beat you up.... also another good coaster for the first one of the day would be Roller Skate.

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Park strategies:

Holiday World:

  • Avoid Halloween at rope drop. Head to Voyage then Thunderbird, instead.
  • Ask an employee if the back entrance to the waterpark will open right at 11. If yes, use that entrance to get a jump start on the water coasters. All will get very long lines. Wildebeest's takes longer to build up, despite having lower capacity.
  • Coaster queues will be empty mid-afternoon.

Kentucky Kingdom:

  • Unlike most parks, work front to back. Rope drop Lightning Run, as this will end up having a 30 minute queue most of the day. Thunder run only has one train, so get there early, as well.
  • I've never had to wait more than two trains for Storm Chaser, even on weekends. Enjoy!
  • The waterpark will be slammed. This won't be that big of a deal IF all of the slides are open.

Kings Island:

  • FL+, 'nuff said

Cedar Point:

  • Fast lanes are not available during ERT. Head to Millennium right at the start of ERT to experience the wonders of the magic gate.

 

Food/Drink:

  • Kentucky Kingdom has a bourbon bar with very reasonably priced flights.
  • If you try Skyline chili (and you should), do it outside of the park (KI). Be sure to let your server know that it's your first time having it.
  • Head to Sonder Brewing, right in Mason, for some dessert beers.
  • Melt in Cedar Point is a chain local to Lakewood (Cleveland area). It's still not the full menu but much improved in recent years. Sit at the bar for quicker service.
  • I highly recommend Barra tacos in downtown Sandusky!
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23 hours ago, bert425 said:

my best advice is FL+ at kings island. 
almost every fl queue drops you right in the station.  And you want the + for beast and Orion 

Thanks, Bert! We absolutely plan on getting FL+ at both KI and CP.

20 hours ago, mikeykaise said:

Kentucky Kingdom - do not head to Storm Chaser if you're there at opening that's pretty much where everyone goes first. I would head to Thunder Run or Kentucky Flyer first and then check out the line for Storm Chaser or Lightning Run. Be Prepared for slow dispatch times on all rides and waterpark being very crowded anytime during the summer. I'm not a fan of SLC's but I've heard T3 can beat you up.... also another good coaster for the first one of the day would be Roller Skate.

Thanks. I appreciate the words of wisdom from a local.

10 hours ago, adamico2 said:

Park strategies:

Holiday World:

  • Avoid Halloween at rope drop. Head to Voyage then Thunderbird, instead.
  • Ask an employee if the back entrance to the waterpark will open right at 11. If yes, use that entrance to get a jump start on the water coasters. All will get very long lines. Wildebeest's takes longer to build up, despite having lower capacity.
  • Coaster queues will be empty mid-afternoon.

Kentucky Kingdom:

  • Unlike most parks, work front to back. Rope drop Lightning Run, as this will end up having a 30 minute queue most of the day. Thunder run only has one train, so get there early, as well.
  • I've never had to wait more than two trains for Storm Chaser, even on weekends. Enjoy!
  • The waterpark will be slammed. This won't be that big of a deal IF all of the slides are open.

Kings Island:

  • FL+, 'nuff said

Cedar Point:

  • Fast lanes are not available during ERT. Head to Millennium right at the start of ERT to experience the wonders of the magic gate.

 

Food/Drink:

  • Kentucky Kingdom has a bourbon bar with very reasonably priced flights.
  • If you try Skyline chili (and you should), do it outside of the park (KI). Be sure to let your server know that it's your first time having it.
  • Head to Sonder Brewing, right in Mason, for some dessert beers.
  • Melt in Cedar Point is a chain local to Lakewood (Cleveland area). It's still not the full menu but much improved in recent years. Sit at the bar for quicker service.
  • I highly recommend Barra tacos in downtown Sandusky!

Wow, this is a ton of great advice. Super helpful, thank you.

3 hours ago, coasterbill said:

What are your other plans on Sunday? You definitely don’t need a full day for that drive.

I get if it’s not a theme park because you want a break, but you should plan something. 

This is a good point. The plan was to sleep in, have a late brunch, and slowly meander our way up to Sandusky. We want to use the day to recover a bit before our 2 days at CP. We'll still likely have a few hours to kill, so I'll amend my original post to include Sunday. 

Thanks, everyone. All of your advice is really helpful. Ill take all the wisdom the TPR community has to offer.

-Doug

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For an extra stop between KI and CP, I've heard good things about the Columbus Zoo, and they have a wooden coaster.  I've never managed to make a detour there work for me, but it might for you.

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The Columbus Zoo actually has 2 coasters now, but more importantly it's just a great zoo. I could see not wanting to do that since it's another day with a ton of walking when you want a break, but if you're up for that I had the exact same suggestion.

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Everyone gave you good advice! I would add that for HW it looks like you will drive there after your plane lands on Wed and spend the night before doing the park on Thursday. Be aware, if you aren't already, that there is only one extremely mediocre roadside motel near the park and NOTHING to eat nearby but a Subway and an even more mediocre restaurant in the motel. So depending on your flight time you should eat in Louisville (I'm sure the locals can give you a thousand recommendations) or there is one really good restaurant just outside of Louisville in Indiana called the Overlook  http://www.theoverlook.com/, it's only about 3 miles off the highway but not open very late so keep that in mind. We're gonna make Bert eat there in May so you can look for his review 😜 Also, be aware that HW is in central time while all the other locations are eastern time and you won't hit that time change until almost at the park. There is no reason to get there early, there is nothing to do outside of the park unless you want to peruse the Santa Claus hardware store or pick up chicks at the Subway 🙄 HW is in the middle of a corn field and when you are in line for Thunderbird you will see that I am not kidding.

The big water coasters at HW in their waterpark have single rider lines. Totally worth it unless getting a little too close to strangers in swimsuits freaks you out.

KK is that rare front to back park. T3 is only for people that are complete credit whores or enjoy concussions/feeling like a truck ran over you. The water park there is not as good as HW but the extreme wave times in the pool are VERY entertaining especially with one of the Bourbon flights in you and the noodle heavy lazy river is unique fun. They have a water coaster but it has never been open when I have been there. Not. Once.

IF you do get to CP early, since you are staying at the Breakers you can easily relax for a few hours at the pool/beach/bar. 

And I absolutely echo getting FL+ at KI specially with just one day there!

Have fun, I have done that exact HW/KK/KI/CP run more than once and it's a nicely space out little road trip.

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I loved the TRU by Hilton hotel near Kings Island. It is literally a 5 minute drive from the park. PLUS there is a Skyline Chili across the parking lot that you can walk to. I usually end up eating there at least once when I go to the park.

The drive from Kings Island to Cedar Point is about 3 1/2 hours, but there is no straight shot to get there. Lots of 2 lane roads. If you end up going to Columbus Zoo, it is about 2 hours from KI and a straight shot up I-71.

I usually do a search for good food in each city online. I really like trying places that were on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and I am sure all of those cities have a few that were on that show. In Sandusky, Tofts Dairy is a must. HUGE portions and about a 15 minute drive from the park. I would suggest going there on Sunday rather than leaving the park on Monday or Tuesday.  And check the hours. If they close at 8, you HAVE to be in line by then. 

I also really like Cameo Pizza, also in Sandusky. You could hit Cameos for dinner and then head to Tofts.
Have fun!!

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I will mirror ALL of adamico2's advice. I agree with all of it.

My one piece of advice: Don't miss the water park at holiday world. Even if you HATE water parks, do the 3 water coasters at minimum, and then do all the dry stuff. Seriously. Just trust me. No, really, just do it. No excuses. Literally if it's the only water park you enter in your lifetime, this is the one.

Oh, one disagreement with this thread, skyline chili (and that other chain as well... lone star? Or something?) is absolute trash. There I said it.

Barra tacos is great. If anyone suggests Chet and Matt's for pizza in Sandusky, they have clearly never had good pizza. It's CHEAP but that's about it. Not sure why everyone raves about it, other than the fact they also have a buffet, but the quality is very eh.

Hey... I met my wife at that Santa Claus subway. (insert a joke about a footlong here). Sorry. (Booo.... groooaannn... Etc.)

Sounds like a fun trip for a first timer! Ready for summer to be here.

Edited by anonymouscactus
PS: do the water coasters at HW
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13 hours ago, anonymouscactus said:

I will mirror ALL of adamico2's advice. I agree with all of it.

My one piece of advice: Don't miss the water park at holiday world. Even if you HATE water parks, do the 3 water coasters at minimum, and then do all the dry stuff. Seriously. Just trust me. No, really, just do it. No excuses. Literally if it's the only water park you enter in your lifetime, this is the one.

Oh, one disagreement with this thread, skyline chili (and that other chain as well... lone star? Or something?) is absolute trash. There I said it.

Barra tacos is great. If anyone suggests Chet and Matt's for pizza in Sandusky, they have clearly never had good pizza. It's CHEAP but that's about it. Not sure why everyone raves about it, other than the fact they also have a buffet, but the quality is very eh.

Hey... I met my wife at that Santa Claus subway. (insert a joke about a footlong here). Sorry. (Booo.... groooaannn... Etc.)

Sounds like a fun trip for a first timer! Ready for summer to be here.

I didn't say there was anything wrong with meeting people at that Subway.  Just listing that it was one of just a couple of very limited options of things to do in the town, lol 😜

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1 hour ago, teacherkim said:

I didn't say there was anything wrong with meeting people at that Subway.  Just listing that it was one of just a couple of very limited options of things to do in the town, lol 😜

??

1024x1024.0.0.jpg

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On 3/16/2022 at 7:49 AM, Mike240SX said:

For an extra stop between KI and CP, I've heard good things about the Columbus Zoo, and they have a wooden coaster.  I've never managed to make a detour there work for me, but it might for you.

 

On 3/16/2022 at 8:07 AM, coasterbill said:

The Columbus Zoo actually has 2 coasters now, but more importantly it's just a great zoo. I could see not wanting to do that since it's another day with a ton of walking when you want a break, but if you're up for that I had the exact same suggestion.

Thanks. While this makes sense, we're thinking that we'll want to avoid walking and crowds that day. Lounging a couple of hours by the Breakers pool sounds just about right. If there happen to be any tourist traps that pique our interest on the way, we might do that.

On 3/16/2022 at 9:37 AM, teacherkim said:

Everyone gave you good advice! I would add that for HW it looks like you will drive there after your plane lands on Wed and spend the night before doing the park on Thursday. Be aware, if you aren't already, that there is only one extremely mediocre roadside motel near the park and NOTHING to eat nearby but a Subway and an even more mediocre restaurant in the motel. So depending on your flight time you should eat in Louisville (I'm sure the locals can give you a thousand recommendations) or there is one really good restaurant just outside of Louisville in Indiana called the Overlook  http://www.theoverlook.com/, it's only about 3 miles off the highway but not open very late so keep that in mind. We're gonna make Bert eat there in May so you can look for his review 😜 Also, be aware that HW is in central time while all the other locations are eastern time and you won't hit that time change until almost at the park. There is no reason to get there early, there is nothing to do outside of the park unless you want to peruse the Santa Claus hardware store or pick up chicks at the Subway 🙄 HW is in the middle of a corn field and when you are in line for Thunderbird you will see that I am not kidding.

The big water coasters at HW in their waterpark have single rider lines. Totally worth it unless getting a little too close to strangers in swimsuits freaks you out.

KK is that rare front to back park. T3 is only for people that are complete credit whores or enjoy concussions/feeling like a truck ran over you. The water park there is not as good as HW but the extreme wave times in the pool are VERY entertaining especially with one of the Bourbon flights in you and the noodle heavy lazy river is unique fun. They have a water coaster but it has never been open when I have been there. Not. Once.

IF you do get to CP early, since you are staying at the Breakers you can easily relax for a few hours at the pool/beach/bar. 

And I absolutely echo getting FL+ at KI specially with just one day there!

Have fun, I have done that exact HW/KK/KI/CP run more than once and it's a nicely space out little road trip.

Oh, I didn't realize the lack of hotels (and most other things) in Santa Claus, IN. Thank you for that. A quick Kayak search showed that there are plenty of options in nearby Ferdinand. Thanks for alerting me to that very important fact (and the time zone one as well). 

On 3/16/2022 at 1:34 PM, pianojohn said:

I loved the TRU by Hilton hotel near Kings Island. It is literally a 5 minute drive from the park. PLUS there is a Skyline Chili across the parking lot that you can walk to. I usually end up eating there at least once when I go to the park.

The drive from Kings Island to Cedar Point is about 3 1/2 hours, but there is no straight shot to get there. Lots of 2 lane roads. If you end up going to Columbus Zoo, it is about 2 hours from KI and a straight shot up I-71.

I usually do a search for good food in each city online. I really like trying places that were on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and I am sure all of those cities have a few that were on that show. In Sandusky, Tofts Dairy is a must. HUGE portions and about a 15 minute drive from the park. I would suggest going there on Sunday rather than leaving the park on Monday or Tuesday.  And check the hours. If they close at 8, you HAVE to be in line by then. 

I also really like Cameo Pizza, also in Sandusky. You could hit Cameos for dinner and then head to Tofts.
Have fun!!

Thanks! I'll definitely check out the TRU hotel. Tofts has also interested me, so a stop there might be in order.

On 3/16/2022 at 6:44 PM, anonymouscactus said:

I will mirror ALL of adamico2's advice. I agree with all of it.

My one piece of advice: Don't miss the water park at holiday world. Even if you HATE water parks, do the 3 water coasters at minimum, and then do all the dry stuff. Seriously. Just trust me. No, really, just do it. No excuses. Literally if it's the only water park you enter in your lifetime, this is the one.

Oh, one disagreement with this thread, skyline chili (and that other chain as well... lone star? Or something?) is absolute trash. There I said it.

Barra tacos is great. If anyone suggests Chet and Matt's for pizza in Sandusky, they have clearly never had good pizza. It's CHEAP but that's about it. Not sure why everyone raves about it, other than the fact they also have a buffet, but the quality is very eh.

Hey... I met my wife at that Santa Claus subway. (insert a joke about a footlong here). Sorry. (Booo.... groooaannn... Etc.)

Sounds like a fun trip for a first timer! Ready for summer to be here.

Yep, we were definitely thinking of hitting HW's water park. We'll have a full day there, so it only makes sense. And, I do lean towards your sentiments regarding Skyline chili. I've had it once. I didn't think it was bad, just very mediocre. 

On 3/17/2022 at 9:22 AM, bert425 said:

??

1024x1024.0.0.jpg

Now I'm in the mood for Subway 😝

Thanks, everyone, for the really useful advice. Oh, we were also thinking of having a meal at Bay Harbor at CP. Anyone dined there and have opinions? Thanks again, all.

-Doug

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<sighs> I miss the old days, where nobody knew where you were really going for holidays.  Now, it's like a Massive Project to be planned for. And executed. Online.

Just saying.

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1 hour ago, Nrthwnd said:

<sighs> I miss the old days, where nobody knew where you were really going for holidays.  Now, it's like a Massive Project to be planned for. And executed. Online.

Just saying.

I'm not doing this to advertise this trip or to get attention. Aside from Cedar Point, I've never been to any of these places. I reached out to the TPR community to get advice from people who have been to these places. The advice I've received has been really good, and it'll help me plan the trip more effectively. I'm pretty grateful that this community exists, and that people are so open to sharing their wisdom and experience with me. Yeah, I used to plan trips without getting this type of input in advance, but that frequently resulted in all sorts of "I wish I knew this beforehand" moments. I created this thread to avoid that. 

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16 hours ago, Nrthwnd said:

<sighs> I miss the old days, where nobody knew where you were really going for holidays.  Now, it's like a Massive Project to be planned for. And executed. Online.

Just saying.

But on the other hand I've always planned stuff out. The internet just makes it easier. I mean when I was 10 we took a big road trip and I actually wrote letters to the Chambers of Commerce in all the towns and cities we were driving through to ask about things to see and do. Got a crap ton of brochures mailed back to me. It was fabulous. Sometimes the anticipation of planning is half the fun.

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On 3/15/2022 at 11:07 AM, scooterdoug said:

 

 

2. Any food suggestions? I’m a culinary traveler, and love to sample local cuisine. Are there any regional specialties and/or restaurants that you’d recommend? Do the parks offer anything tasty (I’ve got a soft spot for fudge)?

 

 

I recommend Berardi's in Sandusky. 

 

http://www.sanduskyberardis.com

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Having done this trip in reverse (outside of Kentucky Kingdom) I'd strongly recommend staying on the west/northwest side of Louisville. Not only do you get two nights in the same hotel, but the time change is much simpler as you can kinda pretend to stay on Eastern Time.

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For Kentucky Kingdom there's a Tru by Hilton practically in the parking lot of the park, should be a pretty easy walk to the main gate. I haven't stayed there during a park visit but on another trip to Louisville recently and it was nice and fairly cheap, there's also a bowling alley next to the hotel that's open late if you're into that kinda thing. 

Also on the drive from Kings Island to Cedar Point, depending on which way you go the old Ohio State Reformatory Prison where they filmed Shawshank Redemption isn't too far off the route. I've never toured the place but they do have several options for tours, and it's also kinda cool just drive by and see the place.

 

https://www.mrps.org/

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12 hours ago, ALT2870 said:

Having done this trip in reverse (outside of Kentucky Kingdom) I'd strongly recommend staying on the west/northwest side of Louisville. Not only do you get two nights in the same hotel, but the time change is much simpler as you can kinda pretend to stay on Eastern Time.

The central time zone doesn't start until you get 30-40 miles south and west of Louisville, the whole city is on EST year around with Daylight Savings Time. I don't recommend going too far west of I65, around the airport is fine but the NW/West side of Louisville are rougher parts of town.

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