As a Kiwi planning his first trip to Kings Island and Cedar Point next year, I really loved your trip report... Unfortunately, I couldn't join the TPR trip, due to bad timing on my part, but planning a solo trip, your trip report makes me look forward to it even more. I pray for the coaster gods for short queues and great weather...
Hope you get on a trip sometime soon but enjoy Kings Island and Cedar Point - both parks we visited all by ourselves too. You'll find lots of great advice on this forum about how to hit them up.
We bid a sad farewell to our fellow trip participants in Cleveland as we flew to our next destination - Virginia. We chose Virginia as we had a couple of days before we were due to meet some friends in Florida, and there are two very well-known theme parks that live here in close proximity - Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion.
We heard that Intimidator 305 was down for the count the day we left New Zealand and would have re-considered our plans entirely based on this one factor alone. But when you plan international trips you can't bank on everything going your way, so we had to swallow the very bitter pill of Intimidator's closure and pray to the Intamin gods that the ride would open on time... But it did not!
This was our first missed credit due to the dreaded 'Intamin cable'. Intimidator 305 looks absolutely amazing, and we'd heard multiple reports that its a contender for best steel coaster on the planet. Needless to say we are determined to get back to Virginia some day...
So what is Kings Dominion like without its best ride? It's hard for me to judge in a way as I'm skewed toward being a little bitter about it, but we were impressed right away when the park refunded part of our Fast Lane Plus tickets due to Intimidator's closure. That was nice. But customer service petered out a bit after that, mainly due to the lack of staff. As we discovered, the park was pretty dead the day of our visit, which was quite late in the season, and numerous rides didn't open until midday. I'm in two minds about this as I can understand why parks would reduce staffing depending on crowds, but it's annoying to have to wait around for rides to open when you don't have too much time on your hands.
Kings Dominion has some very good attractions apart from Intimidator, especially Volcano, a very fun inverted coaster with an amazing launch, and Flight of Fear (though it was heavily braked on the midcourse unlike its outdoor cousin in Texas). The park has some unique coasters like Avalanche, which was our first Mack Bobsled coaster, and Shockwave, which was terrible but one of the last remaining Togo coasters in North America. There are also a couple of 'not bad' coasters at Kings Dominion like Dominator and Grizzly, but when you add it all up you have a pretty long list of mediocre credits.
Balacing out some of the cruddy coasters are some great flat rides, especially the breathtaking Drop Tower: Scream Zone. I love an Intamin gyro drop tower, and this one really delivered the goods!
One last point I'd like to make is how beautiful we thought Kings Dominion was. Like the rest of Virginia it just seemed blanketed in trees. But I'll save my praise for Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which was truly STUNNING - and totally made our Virginia excursion worthwhile. In the meantime here are some photos from our visit to Kings Dominion. A definite 'mixed bag' but by no means a mere credit run...
We hit the road in our rental car in Virginia. It's scary enough driving in a different country, but it's terrifying when you're not used to driving on the righthand side of the road. (But we did OK!)
We stayed at a cheap motel in a room that smelled like beer and cigarettes and immediately started to miss the Alvey's better judgement on things like this...
Well, if we're going to slum it, we may as well go nuts!
While in Richmond, we had to visit a local eatery we'd seen on Man vs Food.
Buz and Ned's offers a little taste of 'real barbecue'.
It was wonderful! (And cheap!)
The next day it was time to stop by Kings Dominion on what turned out to be a very quiet Monday for the park.
Well-trained by TPR we rushed straight for the best coaster in Intimidator's absence. (Which turned out to be totally unnecessary today.)
Volcano is a coaster I've wanted to ride for a very long time and it did not disappoint.
It is an amazing and totally unqiue experience being blasted out of the park's old Lost World/Smurf Mountain structure.
The queue was pretty snazzy too!
I also enjoyed the heartline rolls high in the sky. But I do agree that it's a bit of a shame you then take an 80 foot drop straight into the final brake run. It would have been cool if there was a final helix over lava or something like that!
One last shot of the best ride in the park in Intimidator's absence.
Nearby Avalanche was not open yet...
Neither was The Crypt. In fact, I don't recall seeing this operate at all on our visit. It looked beautifully themed, though.
We may as well get this over...
Curse you Intamin gods!!!
How long does it take to ship a new freakin' cable from Switzerland?! (I'm sure the issue was more complicated than that - I'm just bitter.)
Anaconda was probably even worse than usual today with Intimidator sitting idly next door...
Can't complain about the queue though.
This was a definite ear-basher. I liked the underwater tunnel...
...but that was a small mercy for one of the worst Arrow coat-hanger layouts I've ever seen!
Arrow coasters are at their best when they go in straight lines.
The area around Backlot Stunt Coaster was one the most generic at the park.
The ride (still closed at this point...) was originally themed to The Italian Job, but this kind of reminds of me LA - soulless and ugly!
Wow, quiet day...
Shockwave was also closed for now.
It was nice to see Geauga Lake's old Ferris Wheel operating here.
Rebel Yell was next. I do enjoy an old out and back racing woodie, and this one is a childhood memory for me courtesy of the 1977 movie Roller Coaster.
But we were very disappointed to see only one side operating the whole day.
That's another missed credit. If this was purely down to low staffing - then boo!
Rebel Yell had great views of Intimidator...
Every Cedar Fair park has to have at least one large area of asphalt.
We gave WindSeeker a whirl. I do like these rides for what they are.
Hurler was still closed...
But next door was an open and very nice Wild Mouse coaster.
This was a 'large park' Mack model with some pretty decent drops.
At one point all the trains stopped on the blocks, but it was a temporary glitch. (Probably a slow guest in the station or something like that...)
Dinosaurs have come to Old Virginia courtesy of Dinosaurs Alive!
We were in search of another coaster I've always wanted to ride...
Another empty queue.
Grizzly was fun, hidden away in the trees and featuring some nice pops of air. It screeches around the track at some points but I'll join the Grizzly fan club for sure.
We came across this really beautiful corner of the park.
Structures like these are great in the summer heat and look very pretty too.
The park's carousel...
Shockwave opened on schedule.
It featured trains with restraints that looked like torture devices.
Is this even safe?!
Shockwave has a nice circular loop.
You then race over this hill...
Into a really terrible helix!
Kings Dominion features this long walkway from the Grove area to the Eiffel Tower.
We rode the Blue Ridge Tollway, which must be one of the most scenic car rides in any theme park.
Looking back over our photos, I'm still impressed by the beauty of the park!
The Eiffel Tower had ride attendants at the entrace all day long with no idea if it would open or not. It did not, alas.
It's just an elevator, right?
Andrew and I LOVE Intamin Looping Starships.
This was a really good one with no netting above you. Not a comfortable ride by any stretch of the imagination, but always scary fun!
We finally got round to riding Dominator.
It was a very solid B&M coaster.
With a BIG loop!
The coaster had some funky inversions tightly interwoven around itself. Almost as if it had been designed for a different location...
Geauga Lake's loss is a definite gain for Kings Dominion.
B&M's kind of pointless interlocking corkscrews were a feature here too.
We had to get a spin on Woodstock Express, the park's original junior woodie (that can also be seen in the movie Roller Coaster at one point).
It was a fun little ride!
We saw Boo Blasters on Boo Hill and thought "why not?"
I don't remember thinking very much of anything about this ride, but here's a photo of the cool building.
Avalanche finally opened.
This was another fun coaster at the park.
While the Intamin version of the bobsled coaster is more authentic (using just the one car), I enjoyed Mack's version too.
It seemed to pick up some decent speed.
In this other rather generically-themed area we finally got on Flight of Fear.
I love Premier launched coasters and this was awesome!
Backlot Stunt Coaster opened to some of the only queues we saw all day. I almost felt bad bypassing everyone via Fast Lane, but not quite. We paid for it, didn't really need it until now, so tough!
The karaoke show attracted a bit of a crowd, which was nice to see on such a quiet day.
Drop Tower: Scream Zone is the park's other ride that tops off at 305 feet.
It may not have quite made up for Intimidator 305, but we loved it. The drop seemed to go on and on. Top-notch thrills from Intamin!
Hurler also got round to opening...
After a heavy trim brake on the first drop the train jackhammered around the rest of the quite interesting layout. I WISH Cedar Fair would look after their coasters better rather than just using trim brakes and hoping for the best. It is certainly not just an issue for Kings Dominion.
At this very nice theater...
...we found a show just for Jared! (Alas it was closed, but nice to see this craptacular spectacle has travelled beyond Cedar Point!)
We saved the log flume for last, but it didn't turn out to be a wet one.
So that wraps up our visit to Kings Dominion. Final thoughts...?
After riding Tornado at Särkeniemmi I think Intamin inverts are the surpreme species of inverts but sadly there are so little numbers around. Also love Looping Starships - mostly when its already breaking and makes an ultra-sloooooooooow last flip. On the one hand they dont have lapbars only like Ranger or Traumboots but on the other hand they have no closed cabins like the before mentioned...
Wow! I didn't know too much things about KD except for i305 until just now! The park is so beautiful. Fantastic TR!
Bad, I would be crying if NTaG, iRat, Shockwave, i305 and Xcelerator were all closed during my international coaster trip. I already felt totally frustrated knowing NTaG was closed and I said really inappropriate things during the trip about the three closed big coasters. How did you overcome this? Seems like Intamin god and RMC god were not on your side... But positively, you did not planned to go to SFGAd and see a closed El Toro
Sorry to see that you missed out on I305 on your trip. The ride did have a major issue; but, it was not due to a snapped cable. We think it was the lift motor drive and/or the transmission. In any case, it took over 2 months to get the coaster back up and running.
I am not a fan of the delayed opening of rides at the park. I assume it is part of the budget measures to control costs. Cedar Fair does seem to keep a tight grip on expenditures at their parks; given the debt load it is carrying. Kings Dominion seems to be walking the razor's edge when providing decent park operations and customer service. Sometimes they succeed and other times they get a black eye by the park visitors. I can't solely blame the park; the budget directives are coming from corporate in Sandusky.
During the Paramount years of ownership, Kings Dominion became a patchwork quilt of rides and attractions. We lost quite a bit of the cohesive themeing of the 5 areas that make up the park. That is why some areas of the park are very beautiful and other areas have the charm of an abandoned industrial complex.I do agree that the "Stunt Coaster" is one of the most undesirable themed rides in the park. I am not sure what KD/Cedar Fair could come up with to re-theme it; but, at least get rid of some more of the gravel and replace it with grass & bushes. The minimum track work on some of the wooden coasters, (Hurler), leaves a lot to be desired. Wood coaster maintenance appears to be a problem across the whole Cedar Fair park chain. They are going to have to throw more money into the wood coaster maintenance or come up with an alternative solution like a Rocky Mountain treatment for some of the coasters. Right now, it appears they are doing just enough to keep them up and running safely.
Cedar Fair is trying to restore some of the charm and bring back some of the themeing to the park in 2014. The old Grove area and the Congo section are going back to their original names; those sections are getting back some of their theme elements from before the time of Paramount. I think we will see more asphalt disappear in favor brick pavers of some sort and more landscape islands to break up the large open expanses. Given what the park did for the kid's area makeover in 2013, I look forward to the changes coming for 2014. I can see the restoration process continuing into 2015 and beyond.
Nice pictures. Sucks you visited when i305 was down, especially when it's in plain site from almost anywhere in the park. I did enjoy Grizzly this year, I remember it being terribly rough a few years ago.
Yin: Fortunately I have been on El Toro, which is my no. 1 coaster.
mhuffva: Thanks for the info. I could definitely see the 'patchwork quilt' coming from the Paramount years, much the same as at other former Paramount parks. Great to hear some of the old themed areas are returning for the park's 2014 anniversary, I wish them the best.
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