Sunny skies would be at premium during my visit at Kings Island. The weathermen seemed confident a thunderstorm was on the way. However, they weren’t quite sure when it would start. Well after parking my car, it was hard not to miss the grey clouds hovering above the park. They seemed to be near.
My first stop was the FastLane booth. With only 8 hours on a Labor Day weekend Saturday, I was strongly leaning towards FastLane. My one question was whether or not Flight of Fear would operate during a thunderstorm. After a quick phone call, the attendant confirmed the coaster would operate. That made the decision a no brainer. One oddity was that the park didn’t offer any sort of discount with the Platinum Pass. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever had that happen at a Cedar Fair park.
There was little doubt where my first stop would be- Mystic Timbers. I find many of the GCIs I’ve been on to be pretty interchangeable. Usually they follow a predictable flow- airtime hill, turn, airtime hill, turn, rinse and repeat. But 3 stood out. Gold Striker stood out for being an awesome and relentless coaster from start to finish. Apocalypse stood out for trying to break my back. And Prowler stood out for having the best layout of the GCIs.
Riding Prowler earlier this year cemented a trip to Kings Island this year. I loved Prowler’s layout and setting. But it was quite rough. I could only dream of riding Prowler in its early days. Well Kings Island made that dream a reality. Mystic Timbers looked almost identical outside of the much publicized shed at the end.
And Mystic Timbers delivered the goods. The queue was posted at 30 minutes, but FastLane had me immediately boarding the front row. The coaster is a wonderful blitzkrieg of small hills and rapid directional changes. After the first two drops, I think the final drop may be the ride’s third largest. The coaster’s reliance on small hills is a positive as the coaster absolutely flies through the course delivering nice pops of air along the way. It’s also impressive how a coaster with a predominantly out-and-back layout manages to jam that many directional changes along the way. It really is one wild ride.
I totally understand why the park hyped up the shed. It’s something no other park has done. Usually the brake run is a boring bake in the hot, summer sun. But the shed fixed this problem. Yes it’s stupid, but that’s what makes it ingenious. The music is a complete WTF. You don’t know why, but everyone starts dancing awkwardly like they’re at their high school prom again. Then the little dance party ends with a brief jump scare. I was lucky enough to have gotten all 3 scenes. I ran into a local who runs the RMC Connoisseurs page on Facebook and he said the one with the tree was pretty rare.
I immediately rerode in the back and I thought it was a bit more intense back there. The directional changes had more snap to them. I really enjoyed Mystic Timbers. It took Prowler’s layout, removed all roughness, and added a funky shed in its place. This gave Kings Island the signature attraction I want to reride at the end of the night. Beast is the most iconic ride at the park without a doubt. And as much fun as it is to fly through the woods over straight track, I’d prefer to fly through the woods navigating an endless array of hills like Mystic Timbers. 9 out of 10
I was debating whether or not I should even ride the Beast during the day. Since I was passing by anyway, I gave it a whirl. The FastLane queue is a complete cluster as you have to navigate your way upstream through that narrow exit ramp, but I was rewarded with only a three train wait for the front. And I was lucky it was not a single train longer, as nearby thunderstorms then caused all outdoor coasters to close.
Beast’s first half is pretty lackluster in the day. There’s no airtime or really any hills for that matter. Worse, anytime you build up any appreciable speed, there’s a trim to slow you down. But the second half is always a thrill. That double helix is out-of-control. My day ride was really underwhelming other than that helix, but I think that’s a common consensus among coaster enthusiasts when it comes to the Beast.
Some of the flats were still open like the scrambler and the wave swinger, but it was quickly apparent none of the outdoor coasters were operational. Fortunately Kings Island has a solid indoor coaster in Flight of Fear. I wasn’t the only one with this thought and the queue line was spilling onto the midway. I shudder to think how long that wait would be, but with FastLane it was only 15 minutes.
As a whole Kings Island has fantastic operations. Flight of Fear is an outlier. Even Firehawk had faster dispatches, which shouldn’t even be possible when this coaster has just a lap bar. Yet 5 minute dispatches were the norm. Also does anyone else find the lap bars uncomfortable? While I imagine they’re better than the old OSTRs, especially considering how jerky the coaster is, my foot was painfully stapled between the floor and the lap bar on a few rides.
The ride itself is enjoyable, although I prefer the outdoor spaghetti bowls. The indoor lighting results in a superior first half as the first three inversions are extremely disorienting. But the second half is ruined by the MCBR. I think the second half is the highlight on Joker’s Jinx and Poltergeist. You are flung around like a ragdoll on each turn and that culminates in a snappy corkscrew. Meanwhile Flight of Fear crawled through each turn and didn’t regain its speed until the final corkscrew. I can only dream what an untrimmed Flight of Fear ride would be like, but until then it’s still a solid coaster. 7 out of 10
The thunderstorms must have drifted just outside the park’s range, as all the outdoor rides reopened for no more than 15 minutes. That gave me enough time to grab a ride on Firehawk. After a miserable and rattly ride on Batwing earlier this year, I was sort of dreading this coaster. But it was actually enjoyable and at the time, I had no idea it would be removed.
Firehawk has a really strong layout and was smooth for the most part. The inversions are really good with the vertical loop in particular standing out. I love how it rapidly transitions from being floaty atop the loop to pretzel loop intense at the bottom. I still prefer the seating arrangement on B&Ms since it’s incredibly awkward lying on your back, but at least the Flying Dutchmen are superior to Volares. It’s the small victories that count. 7 out of 10
With streaks of lightning visible in the distance, all outdoor attractions closed. Before returning to Flight of Fear, I decided to give Boo Blasters a whirl. The main queue was spilling out into Planet Snoopy, but I was able to walk right on.
Of the Boo Blasters rides, Kings Island’s is without a doubt the most technologically complex. Instead of using the individual ride vehicles like 90% of the Sally dark rides out there, this one has an Omnimover system complete with rotating vehicles. However, I shot worse than a Stormtrooper. There was no shot feedback and I could only seem to hit a quarter of the targets I took aim at. If a ride is difficult due to small or fast moving targets, that’s fine by me. I’m up for the challenge. But when I spend half the ride questioning if the gun even works, that’s not exactly a positive. 6 out of 10
I’m sort of baffled why Kings Island did this on one of the busiest weekends of the year, but the park was celebrating Dollar Days. Various food items such as pizza, popcorn, and ice cream cost (you guessed it) one dollar. As you’d expect, concession lines were long, but the pizza line never took more than 5 minutes. Obviously it’s no Cesari’s, but for $1 I was very satisfied. And because of how busy the food stands were, it guaranteed the pizza would be fresh and piping hot.
As the rain worsened, I scurried on back to Flight of Fear. I was prepared to marathon this coaster for 3 hours if needed until the outdoor attractions reopened. But after my third ride, the sky was starting to clear and I saw Racer cycling some empty trains. So that seemed like a good next stop.
FastLane wasn’t even necessary for Racer. I snatched two rides in a span of 15 minutes. I had no preference between the red and blue side, but I definitely had a preference for the front and the winning side. The victor is decided almost entirely by the dispatch (the exception being if you have a trainload of ACErs riding next to a train of girl scouts) and I lucked out both times. The coaster had some really solid airtime. Most hills gave nice little pops of air. It was a bit bumpy, so I can only dream of the coaster getting a restoration a la Rebel Yell (err Racer 75). 6 out of 10
I bypassed a sizable queue for Adventure Express and walked onto the back. Seeing the individual lap bars was a welcome upgrade over the mine trains earlier on the trip. It was nice not having a junior rider constantly yanking down on the bar for the duration of the ride. Along with the superior restraints, it’s quickly apparent this was one of Arrow’s later mine train designs. The transitions are much smoother and this one holds its speed much better. Being located on a hill probably helps with the latter part. I even recall there being a surprise pop of air during a twisting transition.
When coasters finish with a lift hill, the ending is using anti-climactic. Not with Adventure Express. The lift hill is clearly the predecessor to the shed and the amount of WTF is off-the-charts. I thought this ending was a sausage tease the first time I rode, but now I revel in that level of trolling. It’s my favorite part of the ride. I think SLCs are the only other coaster where the lift is the best part. 6 out of 10
I remembered Banshee being one of the best inverts out there. But since I last rode Banshee, I have ridden some of B&M’s acclaimed older designs like Nemesis, Montu, and Pyrenees. While Banshee may arguably be the most imposing invert out there and is incredibly fun, it just can’t match those others in terms of intensity. I also found Banshee pretty rattly if you rode towards the back of the train. Fortunately those awesome B&M vest restraints prevented any headbanging.
Banshee is up there with Alpengeist for the best drop on an invert. I love how steep the drop is. Unfortunately the Immelmann and bowtie were taken so gracefully that they were lacking in the force department, but the other four inversions compensated. Both vertical loops had me seeing some grey and the two inline twists had some incredible hang-time, particularly on the final one which seemingly lasts forever. 8.5 out of 10
American Eagle may have topped the Bat for the most ridiculous and unnecessary queue line out there, but the Bat still has a pretty freaking long queue line in terms of length. In terms of wait time, I’ve never seen this coaster with more than a 10-15 minute wait, which is awesome since it isn’t on FastLane. Bat is right up there with Vortex for the best suspended in my opinion.
The first drop supplies all the speed the Bat needs to deliver a wild ride through the woods. With each progressive turn, the swinging gets wilder and wilder until you go beyond horizontal entering the brake run. I sort of regret not getting a night ride on the Bat, but that’s something I can look forward to in a future visit as I suspect it’d be awesome. 8 out of 10
Drop Tower seemed like the last ride to reopen after the storm. Once I saw the ride cycling, I immediately queued up in the event the ride were to suffer another breakdown. Drop Tower feels massive. I mean a 250ft plus tower alone will do that, but I just love how the tower dwarfs the adjacent Sky Coaster. That’s something not many rides can accomplish.
Even better, there’s no warning when the drop will occur. As much as I love Larson towers, there’s that tell right before they drop. Not on Drop Tower. The drop may not have been as intense as the Larsons, but the drop was longer and had good float the whole way down. This is definitely one of the better drop towers out there. 9 out of 10
While I successfully made it on Drop Tower, I wasn’t so lucky with Invertigo. As I approached the coaster, I saw the queue line emptying. But there was no train in the station. Then I looked up and noticed the train was stuck on the lift. Being no stranger to unreliable Vekoma inverted boomerangs, it was no major loss for me.
I only had another hour of light, so I returned to Rivertown to ride Diamondback. I had every intention of only riding in the back row, but I was assigned the front and wasn’t going to shoot a gift horse in the mouth. I immediately looped around for a second ride in back and it’s still unequivocally a back row ride.
I love Diamondback’s setting through the woods. Then the first half is outstanding. Those tall drops never end and you float the whole way down. However, the coaster does peter out in the second half due to the MCBR and trims. There’s still some airtime, but it lacks the strength of the first half. Ultimately I’d say Diamondback is firmly in the middle of the pack of B&M hypers. 8.5 out of 10
I missed Backlot at Kings Dominion earlier this year since it was only running one train, so I made sure to give it a ride at Kings Island. Most of the ride isn’t too fast, but that initial helix is one of the most sneakily intense elements out there. For the most part, all of the effects were working which was a major plus as well. This is the perfect family coaster. 6 out of 10
I rode Vortex in 2016 fearing the worst. I expected for my skull to be beaten to a pulp. But then something miraculous happened; I enjoyed Vortex. Maybe it was a fluke, so I rerode it with some apprehension.
The first drop has some fantastic airtime and the two vertical loops are very forceful. I also love how the two corkscrews are different in that they’re placed in the middle of the ride and have some solid hangtime. But my favorite inversion is that batwing. It starts off with a bit of hangtime, but that rapidly transforms into positive Gs at the bottom of the element. Call me crazy, but I enjoy Vortex. 7 out of 10
Most parks have 1-2 coasters that give notoriously strong night rides. Take Prowler at Worlds of Fun or GhostRider at Knott’s Berry Farm. Kings Island is absolutely loaded in the night ride department. Because half their larger coasters are isolated in the woods, there is very little light out there. This turns great rides into excellent rides or in the case of Beast, a mediocre ride into a great ride.
Due to time constraints, I had to cut out Banshee and Bat at night. I remember both of these giving fantastic night rides back in 2016. I may have been able to cram them in, but I deemed the time I’d spend walking between Rivertown and the Action Zone too valuable to waste.
Because of the impending fireworks closure, I started with the Beast. Earlier in the day, my FastLane skipped a modest queue. This time I skipped a full queue. I guess the Beast’s legendary night rides are as well known among locals as they are among coaster enthusiasts. Even if I had to wait 10 extra trains, there was no doubt I was going to ride in the front. Luck was on my side, as there was another single-rider coaster enthusiast already waiting for row one. So we paired up and went off on our adventure.
I cannot think of a single coaster whose ride differs so much between day and night. Yes there are better night rides like Outlaw Run or Boulder Dash, but both of those coasters are also incredible during the day. Beast transforms from a forgettable wood coaster to one of the best experiences out there. The moon tried its best to illuminate our path, but for the most part, the first half was in total darkness. Yes it would be better with drops, but there’s something undeniably fun speeding about in total darkness.
And then the double helix happens. How Dinn managed to pull this element off without cracking our ribs is a mystery to this day. The plunge into the tunnel is climactic. You know that turn is coming, but you can’t see when. And then it hits and you’re slammed to the side of the train. This double helix at night is one of the most memorable coaster elements out there for me.
Beast is an incredibly challenging coaster to rate. In the absolute best conditions (front row, night), it’s a stand-out coaster. By day, it feels like a glorified mine train at best. But in the wrong seat, it could have you reaching for some Advil. No visit to Kings Island is complete without a night ride on the Beast. It may not be a top 10 coaster for many enthusiasts, but there’s a reason so many of us prioritize night rides on this coaster. 8 out of 10
But personally, I don’t think Beast is the best night ride at Kings Island anymore. That honor now goes to Mystic Timbers. It absolutely came alive at night. After that first drop and plunge past the river rapids, the rest of the layout is shrouded in darkness. It felt twofold faster. The airtime felt stronger. The laterals felt stronger. Everything about the coaster seemed better. I loved the coaster more with each ride. So much so that it came close to knocking Cornball Express out of my top 10. I thought about it, but I will amend the rating to a 9.5 out of 10
as a consolation.
I was also extremely grateful for FastLane. Mystic Timbers dropped down to two train operations in the late afternoon. This resulted in the posted wait eclipsing 90 minutes. Meanwhile I was able to rack up 6 rides with nothing more than a one train wait.
It was hard to pull myself away from Mystic Timbers, but I decided Diamondback warranted a night ride. I was so close to a fireworks ride, but I missed it by one train. While Mystic Timbers felt like an untamed beast, Diamondback felt fairly controlled. Still, it was an enjoyable way to end the night gracefully plunging through the woods.
I returned two days later for Platinum Pass Early Entry. The plan was to get a few rides on Mystic Timbers, but I was thwarted by the admission process. I made it through the metal detectors just fine and the turnstiles opened early. The only problem was that the turnstiles opened for everyone and not just Platinum Pass holders.
This led to a terrible chokepoint on International Street. The 10 turnstiles were funneled down to one employee. Those who didn’t have Platinum Passes clogged the front of the line, refusing to yield their spot for rope drop. It was like having 10 highway lanes merge into 1 with an accident in that single merge lane. People were shoving their way to the front, indiscriminately pushing over adults and kids alike. This resulted in me spending 80% of Early Entry in the middle of an angry and disorderly mob.
Eventually I was freed and encountered a 10 minute wait for Mystic Timbers. I knew the ride wasn’t going to be as wild as my night rides, but it was still a rip-rollicking fun time through the woods. I tried to get back in line, but the park had already opened and the line was already snaking through quite a few switchbacks.
Fortunately Diamondback was nearby and an absolute people eater, so I was able to get a back seat ride with no more than a 15 minute wait. I then thought I could get one last ride on Beast, but the coaster had yet to open. And from posts on this forum, it doesn’t appear that the Beast opened at all that day. I then tried to hit the Eiffel Tower on the way out for some aerial pics, but that was also down. Admitting defeat, I decided to head out for Coney Island.
Kings Island is an excellent park. It’s clean, well run, and has a very strong coaster collection. My gripe from my 2016 visit was that they lacked that signature attraction you wanted to reride at the end of the night. Mystic Timbers filled that void nicely, but it’s hard not to notice the 2020 permit with B&M’s name on it. I’m hoping for another Fury, but we’ll see what the future brings!