Friday, June 28, 2013

Park Review: Kings Island

Park Review of Kings Island

Day: Saturday
Date: June 22, 2013
Weather: Hot and Overcast with rain showers.
Overall Rating: Good
Ride Rating: Great
Opinion: Worth the Trip (Provided you ride)
Staff: Carrie, Kitsune, Alex and Tim

History: Kings Island is a former Paramount Park now owned by Cedar Fair. It was built in 1972 and covers an impressive 364 acres of land outside of Mason, Ohio. Home to an impressive number of rides (80) and 14 unique roller coasters as well as a water park called "Soak City". The park boasts 6 "themed" areas and has won the Golden Ticket award for 'Best Kids Area' for the last 12 years.

  We headed over to Kings Island on a rather sticky Saturday morning, arriving just as the gates opened. We picked up our media tickets from guest services and headed inside. Upon checking out the show schedule and general feel of the park at 10:15am we made the decision to each purchase their "Fast Lane Plus" ride bands, which allow you to skip the wait and re-ride as many times as you like. Considering how crowded the park was even this early, this was a very GOOD idea!  Since only two of our staff members have ever been to Kings Island in the past, we quickly checked with Alex and Tim on what they'd like to check out first. Since neither had much of an opinion on the matter other then "ROLLER COASTER NOW!" Kitsune and I decided to open our day up with a classic feel.

 We decided to make our first ride of the day "The Racer" which is a classic wooden coaster built in 1972 and was an original ride for park opening. This early in the day the line hadn't yet gotten long so with our Fast Lane passes we quickly jumped the small line and headed straight towards the back of the coaster. They where only running the 'Blue' side during the morning hours so it really wasn't racing per say but that never stops us! They did have the 'Red' side parked next door providing an excellent picture opportunity which is where we snagged the photo to the right.

 The Racer is an older wooden coaster and it does like to throw you around but it's still a classic. Having identical, flipped tracks you 'race' the other side, separate and then come back together as you approach the station. If you haven't ridden it, you really need to. It's worth the wait everytime! 

 Conveniently right next door was Adventure Express. Normally, we're not huge fans of mine train style coasters so in the past we've skipped this ride. Considering we had our full staff and one guest, we figured "why not" and jumped into the Fast Lane line. This is where our $65 each investment in the Fast Lane Plus passes began to pay off quickly, the line was easily 45 minutes long already around 10:45am.

This ride really surprised us, I didn't expect much when we jumped in line but I was happily shocked by the level of theming found in the various tunnels and lift hills. It was impressive and had a nice "adventure" feeling rather then just a simple mine-train through a wooded area. However, the ride is rough and rather painful for our group. While we enjoyed it, the ride will make you feel sore and slightly beat-up afterwards. 

  After a quick pit-stop at the Bier Garten for some adult-style refreshment, we headed towards one of my favorite rides, Flight Deck. It's no secret I absolutely LOVE suspended-swinging coasters, there was going to be a stop here no matter what! Flight Desk was built in 1993 and was originally "Top Gun" in the Paramount days of the park.  This year it celebrates it's 20th anniversary!

 These style coasters are a blast and Flight Deck is better then most. It's got a higher speed, single lift hill and the 'swinging' motion is much stronger then many of the surviving suspended-swinging coasters. Weaving through the trees at 51 MPH with the constant illusion your going to smack into something is a thrill that just can't be beat!  While not included on the Fast Lane system, Flight Deck rarely has a long line even during special events. So you have no excuse not to ride it, so just do it!

 Backtracking around from Flight Deck we headed towards the parks "X-Base" area and jumped into line for Flight of Fear. This ride is an indoor, LIM launch coaster built by Premier Rides in 1996 which during Paramount days was called "Outer Limits: Flight of Fear". While the queue line theming is excellent and very 'X-Files movie set' feeling, the ride its-self is simply dark and jolting.  This ride, while smooth on the track, somehow jolts the crap out of you and will smack your head around if not braced properly! So take precautions and brace yourself!  

 Having a line already at two hours plus, our Fast Lane Plus bands got us inside quickly with only a 15 minute wait total. While watching the queue line I feel inclined to warn you, it moves slowly because the line is pulsed.  Allowing only enough people into the loading area to fill a single train. This system works but tends to make it feel like the line is much longer than it truly is.

 Since we where already in 'X-Base' it would be silly to skip Firehawk, which is one of the 'premier' rides included only on the Fast Lane Plus ride band.  It was moved from Geauga Lake in 2007 where it was once known as "X-Flight". It's a Vekoma 'Flying Dutchman" style coaster which lowers you backwards and later flips over to give you the feeling of 'flight' while riding. 

 Firehawk is great ride and we affectionately call it "Rip-your-face-off fun" because that last helix is damn intense! Neither Alex nor Tim had ever ridden a 'flying' coaster before so listening to their screams of shock, excitement and some minor terror made this ride even more fun then normal. I must admit this ride made me very proud of Alex, who halfway through (while screaming/laughing) got the guts to stretch her arms out in front of her (while clutching my hand) and really fly!  Personally I prefer the B&M style flying coasters but Firehawk is still an excellent ride.

 By this point we'd already covered five rides and our small breakfast was wearing thin, so we plopped down and consulted our map.  Deciding it was time for lunch before we went any farther, we searched for someplace indoors as by this point it was around 1:30pm and the humidity had spiked. Heading over we picked 'Red's Hall of Fame Grille' right near Diamondback.  Apparently everyone else also had the same idea on indoor dining because the wait was easily 40 minutes for a table, we opted to sit at the bar where we could be served quickly and have adult-style drinks in the process! 

 Food Report
 Red's has a pretty standard 'grill' fare with things like chicken, burgers and ribs. The prices aren't too crazy ranging from $10-27 per plate, with $27 being for a full rack of BBQ ribs.  It's themed for the Cincinnati Red's baseball team and I'm told by the boys, a pretty impressive collection of memorabilia included.

 Each of us decided to order something different to really test this restaurant out.  We found you got a good amount of food for your money and it was all rather tasty. Kitsune and I split a grilled chicken sandwich, Alex got the chicken fingers (pictured left) and Tim got the BBQ Bacon Cheese Burger.  You have your choice of either fries of home-made potato chips with your meal. 

  It took about 20 minutes for our meals to appear, while good we only had a few minor complaints. The burgers only come in "Well done" variety and they where a little cheap on the BBQ sauce. The home-made potato chips are supposedly BBQ flavored but we noticed very little flavor to them (other than potato chip). Our bartender/server was friendly and handled requests as quickly as the very busy and full bar would allow but we never had to wait long. For a sit-down quick service style restaurant, it was a good deal and had the excellent benefit of air conditioning!

 After lunch we relaxed for a few then, as you would guess, headed straight for Diamondback since it was right next to the restaurant. However, we found it closed due to an incoming storm. When questioned the staff wasn't sure when they would be re-opening and told us most of the major rides would be going done shortly if not already closed. The storm was around 20 miles out according to them, so we debated on our course of action. Looking around we found that several rides didn't appear to be running and we'd already enjoyed another adult-style drink with lunch so we did what anyone would do. We headed towards Planet Snoopy and several of the non-major rides in hopes they were still operational!

 Since we wanted another coaster before a flat-ride we jumped into line for Woodstock Express in Planet Snoopy. It was built in 1972 by Philadelphia Toboggan Company and went through a number of name changes in it's life. It's another surprising kiddie coaster that packs a decent ride in an unassuming package! While labeled as a 'kiddie coaster' we found more adults in line then small kids. The cars aren't really built for adults so it's not exactly a "two butt model" but they allow single riders for adults.  

Let me tell you, this little sucker has some speed on it. Topping at around 43MPH according to our self-tested speedometer phone app. So while you might laugh at the idea of riding this little coaster, just do it. It's fun and you get decent air-time!

 After exiting we found it to be sprinkling rain, so we headed towards Boo Blasters. Another ride which had a good 45+ minute line so we jumped into the Fast Lane line and sped through. Built in 1992 Boo Blasters is a family dark-ride shooter where you target ghosties and ghoulies from an omnimover vehicle. 

 While not the most exciting shooter style ride ever built, these things are just fun for everyone even adults. So if your in the mood for a little cool (and non-rainy) fun and some relaxing you should hit up this attraction. We here at ISI generally tend to be rather competitive over them as they give you scores, this time we went with "Girls vs. Boys" and I'm sorry to say the boys won this one. Never fear, revenge shall be had later! 

 Since it was raining we took a break, both Beast and Diamondback were down until the threat of 'storm' passed. So we grabbed another adult-style drink and chilled for about an hour. Finally around 5pm things began to open back up, so we jumped in line for Diamondback!

 Diamondback is a B&M Hyper coaster built in 2009 with a top speed of 80MPH. Unlike some it features the "V" or stadium style seating arrangement on the ride trains. Like all these style rides, it's smooth as glass and meant for speed. It delivers on both! 

 However,  there is one thing I HATE about Diamondback at Kings Island. They have a very stupid rule that pertains only to this ride. Shoes must be worn at all times, even flip flips which always run the risk of flying off on rides like this where most peoples feet don't reach the floor of the ride train.  When asked staff wouldn't answer me on why this was required, nor would they allow you to ride with your shoes under your butt (like many others). The best I can figure is this rule is for when ride evacuations happen but wouldn't it be smarter to allow riders to remove sandels/flip flops and ride with them tucked under their butt in the seat? This way they can slip them back on if they need to evacuate but can still enjoy their ride without worrying about loosing shoes?  Damn, there I go using logic again!

 So if your like me and wear flip flops EVERYPLACE this rather stupid and unexplained rule kind of kills half the fun of rides like Diamondback. You're worried about keeping the shoes on your feet and not able to really enjoy the speed or air-time the ride delivers.  

  After being slightly annoyed with Diamondback and silly rules we went right for the top, to the real jewel of Kings Island.

 The Beast is a wooden coaster built in 1979 by Charlie Dinn and Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It's one of the tallest, fastest, longest,  and maddest wooden coasters in the world. This ride is pissed at humanity and you know it just by looking at the tiny bit of the ride you can see, her real anger isn't known till you hit that first drop and she growls at you. The longer Beast runs doing the day, the madder she gets and by the end of the night she's screaming at you and trying to buck you out of your seat. 

 I can't tell you in words how much I really love this coaster. Her son might be dead but the old girl lives on. She delivers you a one-two punch that will spike your adrenaline and bruise your sides but all you can think is "MORE. I Need MORE!" like some kind of a coaster drug addict when you exit.  We used our Fast Lane Plus bands for Beast as it's the other 'Premier' ride which you can only skip the line with if you buy the 'plus' option. It was worth it as Beast easily had an hour and a half wait all day long. At this point we rode twice then vowed we'd return to as many night rides as possible before park closing!

  Since we hadn't yet ridden it, we went down to Backlot Stunt Coaster. It began life as "The Italian Job Stunt Track" in 2005 which as you can see from the picture, some of this name still lingers like on the control panels!  It changed names in 2008 and was built by Premier Rides. 

 These rides aren't something I'd wait in line very long for but they are simply fun. At this point in the early evening the line was about an hour long, we used the Fast Lane Plus band again here. The theming is pretty universal around the various old Paramount parks for these rides and they are all the standard LIM launch. This one has the typical 3 launch sections, the attack section and LA river cop-dodging area.  For some reason this one has always seemed shorter then the other versions out there, perhaps that's just me though. 

  By this point in the evening we'd done mostly everything we'd wanted too except Vortex. Moving back towards it we were rather dismayed to find it was closed, staff told us that something had broken and they really had no idea if it would be re-opening that day. As an Arrow Custom Looper these rides aren't know as the smoothest rides ever given (a few exceptions exist though) so Alex and I didn't really find this to much of a loss. We headed back towards Flight of Fear as Alex and I had a sudden craving.

  At this time we wanted a corn dog, it's kind of a tradition plus it had been a long time since lunch! So as we ate we re-made our game plan. Tim and Kitsune grabbed another ride on Flight of Fear while Alex and I (having already gotten our daily beating for this ride) waited outside.

 Since Racer now had both side running we jumped in the Fast Lane line and decided we'd have a real race this time! We're still not entirely sure which side won at this point, we where a bit more concerned when we heard the announcement that a heavy storm front was moving in (again) and racer was going down for weather. The ride staff was nice enough to warn everyone in line that by this point, 90% of the other rides would also be going down. Since the Festhaus was close we went for another adult-style drink plus it had the benefit of being enclosed! 

 The promised "storm" never really happened but it did rain a little with a very dark sky just a few miles off to the north, it still managed to close down nearly every ride in the park for at least 45 minutes. At this point it was nearly 9pm and we had a night-time date to keep with The Beast with a stop for a second ride of Diamondback. 

 It took us about 25 minutes to cross the park with swimming upstream from the people leaving and relocating to watch the night-time fireworks. 

 Oh, Beast at night is a lovely wicked thing. With the cooling temperatures she contracts and begins screaming. This was also the night of "The Super Moon" and we had to get a picture of a huge moon rising over an angry coaster. 

 We managed to get three rides on Beast before another announcement happened. Beast would be closing down for the Fireworks. This made ZERO sense to us, the staff never explained that the fireworks are set off from between Beast and Vortex so it was a safety matter. The staff did manage to make the entire line want to murder them and by management's orders!  

 When this happens, the management makes the staff of Beast (and probably Vortex) 'entertain' the crowd in the most embarrassing and stupid ways possible.  Rather than chatting for a few and telling us either ride or park facts, they tell jokes not even a kid would laugh at and (badly) sing songs and something stupid about Oprah. The entire line was ready to revolt and lynch these staff members. We know it isn't their fault, it was managements for expecting them to entertain us in the worst way possible but it was also theirs for not stopping when the crowd demanded it.

 Seriously, most of us are used to waiting. We can entertain ourselves, we don't need your staff to mortally embarrass themselves nor do we need some stupid Oprah song sung multiple times to us in attempts to keep us busy.  Stop this stupid practice! If anything have them tell us facts about the rides and the park, let us chat among ourselves without being constantly subjected to staff yelling into a microphone! 

 At 10:15pm after the fireworks got done and the ride staff finally shut up, we closed out our night in first and second row rides on Beast.  Overall this ride is even better at night, with the dark woods you can barely see which way your going. With the cooling temperatures the up-stop wheels begin to scream in the helix and the ride just intensifies. 

 The perfect end to a mostly great, if weather plagued, day.

 Overall, Kings Island is an great ride park. We didn't notice many problems during our single day visit there. The bathrooms are mostly clean, as clean as they can be on a very busy day. We found the staff tends to be friendly, honest and knowledgeable (except for at Beast, they annoyed everyone). The park is mostly clean but we did notice some trash littering the far sides of some pathways.  The food is decent and not too overpriced for an amusement park and they have some good adult-style drink options outside of the standard fare.

 I can't say it's the best Cedar Fair park I've ever visited, but it's good. The rides are excellent and worth the admission. However, if you visit during a very busy day like we did I'd suggest getting the Fast Lane or Fast Lane Plus ride bands. These cut your wait times down severely and allow you to really enjoy all the park has to offer rather then missing many rides due to long wait times.

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