Parks Visited: Knoebels, Dorney Park, Six Flags Great Adventure, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Six Flags America, & Wyandot Lake.
Note to readers: I do realize this is a novel, and many parts of it seem to be criticisms...but I must assure you that I had a wonderful time on this trip, and that what follows an attempt to truly try and express what my gut instincts were like...both things I really admired and things that could use some work. Read the following with an open mind, and enjoy!
After the 3.5 hour drive from our hotel in Akron, OH, we were pulling off the expressway onto the winding hill roads of Pennsylvania to Knoebels Park. This was the first time visiting this park, and so great excitement and anticipation was in the air. After reading so much about this park I had very high expectations, and overall left feeling satisfied, and only slightly below what I had anticipated. The park has a very nice charm to it that I felt after spending only a few hours there, although my first impressions were that the park was a bit too "carnival" like with all the portable rides. We had only a half day to spend in this park, as we were off to Dorney Park for the evening to spend the night in Allentown. The first thing we hit were the legendary Flyers. These truly are excellent...great speed, lots of near misses with the trees and plenty of snapping opportunities. Next was the Phoenix--a very intense ride (MUCH more than it looks/I had expected) and lots of ejector airtime. Perhaps it was just because I wasn't familiar with the layout of the ride, but I found it too rough for my tastes---believe it or not, I actually had more fun riding the Twister later! After a walk through the wooded park, we found our way to the Haunted House. WOW. This is a great experience. Lots of things popping out, and wonderful effects! Bravo, a well put together attraction...we rode it twice.
Next up was the High Speed Thrill Coaster. At first glance I was a bit skeptical of its rusted appearance, but this ride really packs a punch. We enjoyed riding it and actually got a double ride because halfway into the first ride a little girl started freaking out and wanted out. We got about 10 laps on the ride--what a cool little first drop. After looking under the coaster, we decided to try the motor boats--a fun little cruise. The goal of this trip was to try as many different and unique attractions as possible. As I mentioned before, I rode the Twister and thought it was a great little ride...a cool dual lift, a few awesome drops, great laterals and the helix was pretty sweet too. That pretty much wrapped up our visit there--it was onto Dorney Park. Thanks to someone who posted a shortcut on the Google Roller Coaster Group, the trip was pretty smooth between the two parks.
We arrived at Dorney Park about 7pm, giving us about an hour in the waterpark and 2 hours in the main park. Surprisingly, I was able to see and ride everything I wanted to. Overall comment about Dorney Park: The crowds were of a "rougher" type, it was a beautiful hilly park with some killer rides, although park operations are not as smooth as they should be (i.e. totally distracted lifeguards that horsed around, slow/uninterested ride ops, etc.) The lazy river was great with some of the largest waterfalls around, and the tube slide that jumped from pool to pool was a great old fashioned ride. The wave pool provided some nice rolling waves that were fun to crash around in. However, after we saw a kid vomit in the pool and the parents do nothing about it, we decided it was time to head over the theme park.
First ride up was the Talon. Holy Cow!! What an awesome, awesome ride in the front seat. This is by far my favorite inverted coaster bar none. It kicks Raptor and Alpengeist square in the behind. There's something magical about the swooping dives that give airtime, great pacing of the inversions, and sweet helixes so close to the ground you'd swear you could smell the dirt. A+ in my book. Next up was Hydra. Thank goodness all the rides were either walk-ons or 10 minute waits, otherwise I couldn't have done the entire park. Poor Hydra was a disappointment. It really is a tiny little beast with some breathtaking steep drops, but the whole layout just seems "off" and the cobra roll is a jiggly mess. Too much shaking for my tastes. The one saving grace was the jojo roll. I ate it up and so did the GP. Lots of screaming, and it is a unique start/feeling to a coaster. I wouldn't mind seeing more of these elements.
As we made our way to the back of the park, I hopped on the Laser. Ah yes, another crazy German ride. All I can say about this one (as I rode it in the dark, and it's lit up by white lights) is expect everything to be a neon yellow and purple blur. The G-Forces on the Laser are so intense in spots, your vision is distorted! The longest wait of the night was 10 minutes for Steel Force. Wow. My comment here is that Steel Force is everything that Magnum should be...*ducks*...waits for CP fanboys to settle down... ;) This ride was smooth, comfortable, and full of gentle yet exciting airtime. Don't get me wrong, I love CP and used to get a charge out of Magnum, but as of late, I've found Maggie to be rough and provide plenty of thigh bruises from ejector air--Steel Force really delivered.
To finish up the park, we rode the Krazy Kars (a very unique type of bumper car controlled by levers---something I hadn't been on for years!) and the log flume, which was very unique with an old fashioned Chute-the-Chutes type gradual drop at the end. We hopped on the Wild Mouse, which was a decent little ride, although my favorite mouse still resides at Michigan’s Adventure. I caught a few more rides on the Talon (the front is 10x better than the back) and then it was off to our hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton in Leigh Valley. It was a very nice room booked through Priceline and the Four Points beds are truly something to marvel at.
The next day was spent traveling to the New Jersey coastline and stopping at Seven Presidents beach. This was a truly wonderful and serene beach (the waves were 9 ft that day, so only wading was allowed...but that was still a blast!) That night was spent at the Harrison in Princeton, NJ...a great resort, peaceful type setting. The following day we set off to do Six Flags Great Adventure, a park new to us.
The weather was perfect in the 80's all day, but unfortunately this is one of the few separate Hurricane Harbors, so our SFGAm pass wouldn't get us in there. We spent all day in the park, so this report won't necessarily in order as we covered so much. Here are my major thoughts on the park: Similar to Dorney Park, this park could be so much more with a little TLC. While it was much more wooded and beautiful than I originally pictured it, it still suffers from lack of coaster care, and in general is just not run well. Nitro is a superb ride that to put it lightly, looks like junk. The station sign drips with rust, the track is dull and worn, supports are flaking, and the train restraints were worn to all heck. Despite the appearance, the ride was delightful! Full of airtime and great laterals--this ride is floating somewhere in my top 10 steel. I decided to skip a few clone coasters in this park, since the lines were a bit outrageous.
Rolling Thunder was terrible. They were only running one set of trains which proved for a grisly long wait in the sun. The ride itself was very lackluster, uninteresting, and the trains really separate and don't "race" with barely any air. Medusa was down while I was in that back section of the park, and the last tram had left for the safari park---too bad because I would've liked to see that (only $5 for season pass holders) as I drive a Sebring convertible---thus if a monkey decided to hop on top...well you know the rest.
Anyways, we got in line for the Spongebob 4-d show, which seemed to load at a painstakingly slow rate. The doors to the theater opened once every 25 minutes. Despite this bizarre wait, the show was actually quite humorous and the ride itself was enjoyable. However, I must say that after seeing Disney and Busch Gardens 3-D shows, this animation looked flaky. Plus the pre-show must have been designed by someone on drugs. I've never seen so many people frown in confusion!
Skull Mountain....hmm....very interesting. Yah. That's about it--fun, but it could be so much more than a corny "HUH HUH HUH" in the dark--especially with that elaborate entryway. My concerns and complaints started to heighten when we went to see the stunt show on water, mixed in with some extreme skateboarding. The crowd behind us was extraordinarily rowdy--a camp group chanting their songs during the start of the show, and crawling all over the railings. Not only was it dangerous, but it was distracting. I really felt sorry for the one kid they sent up there to calm things down. He obviously couldn't handle it so he called security. Twenty minutes later, 3 officers show up and what they do amounts to nothing...this situation should have been handled more timely, and in a better fashion...the show was almost over and was pretty much ruined. On top of all this, at the same show, there was a terrible accident. One of the skateboarders did a jump off a wooden ramp, missed his landing and cracked his leg onto a metal bar. It was obviously broken. He struggled to crawl behind a ramp to hide from the audience and it was evident he was in a lot of pain. How was this situation handled, you ask? Terribly. The hosts of the show chuckled and said "Ahh, he'll be ok!"--and on with the show for another 5 minutes, while this poor kid sat there crying, trying to hide. No medic of any kind came out to get him, and at the end, an audience member hopped over the fence to him to lift him up and walk to help. Unbelievable. I know there's the whole "on with the show" plead, but this incident left a sour taste in my mouth on how this park was run.
On a lighter note, I spotted a Spongebob plush in a crane that was easily gettable, so I hurried over to change a dollar. Well, during this time a kid walks over to it and lands the crane on top of him. Rats! A Spongebob rescued for a thin quarter! It must have been the heat, but this really upset me ;)
We ate at Wok and Roll, which was delicious and well worth the money. General Tso's chicken was a delight, and the service was great...I take it this is an independently owned franchise? We went to see the Tiger Show, which was well done and provided more action with the tigers than I was expecting---they are really wonderful creatures. Kingda Ka was down all day, although they were testing it throughout the day. This really wasn't a big disappointment, since I've been on Dragster multiple times...
I went on the Chiller; only the red Robin side was open today...this ride was pretty fun. I was glad I got to ride the red side, since the blue is so similar to Mr. Freeze at SFStL, although it is an interesting inversion. That last twist before the spike really got me though...it's a real "dangler" with only lapbar restraints! That was pretty much the whole day...lines ranged from 15 to 60 minutes. Next up, Busch Gardens Williamsburg--but first a few stops along the coast.
We stopped at Jenkinson’s boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ for a bit and had a blast. I've never seen so many crane machines in my life! The big highlight was the candy game here...for a quarter you can place a bet on this wheel that spins---it has about 200 pegs, and you pick a set of four for it to land on for a quarter. I couldn't believe it, but I won on my very first spin! The prizes are excellent--just about any kind of candy you can think of for the prize...and a huge box of it at that! Most candy prizes came by the caseload...I picked a 2 lb case of Sour Patch Kids...my favorite! We've been enjoying them our whole trip. The funhouse looked decent, but a violent storm was approaching that even had locals stirring so we decided to hit the road. The next day was spent driving through Delaware, with a stop at Rehoboth Beach. The shopping is great around here, and the Disney Outlet is outrageously fun and reasonable. Rehoboth is a beautiful and free strip of sand that stretches for miles. It's certainly a little more commercialized than I pictured it, but nowhere near a Virginia beach type. On the boardwalk there was a fun haunted mansion ride that was very reasonable at $1.25 per ride...it used really interesting cars that swung from the top, like an inverted coaster. Anyone know anything about these rides? There were some fun screams to be had in there.
Despite it being really crummy that Virginia doesn't allow radar detectors, they certainly have one of the finest theme parks in the nation. I had visited BGW when I was about 10, but unfortunately got very ill and we lost 2 of the 3 days on our passes. This time around we got the 2 day hopper pass...and used both days to the maximum...seriously, we couldn't get enough of this park! I have nothing bad to say at all about BGW...I could just gush and gush about how wonderful a park it is...whoever has this as their home-park is a really lucky soul. This is about as close as it comes to Disney, folks...right down to the efficient trams from the parking lot to the front gate. Everything about this park is top notch, from the employees, to the attractions, to the scenery, and to the food. You certainly get what you pay for...and more.
Up first was the new attraction: The Curse of DarKastle. Hooray for this ride! They truly pull it off well. The more you ride it, the more you'll love it---it really grows on you. The opening movie is convincing enough, along with the chilling temperatures inside the castle. The "Golden Sleighs" that transport you through the ride were comfortable, smooth, and provided a great view for every rider. The ride itself is spectacular. The 3-D scenes are very fluid, clear, and packed with detail. Even after four rides throughout our stay, something new was seen each journey. This ride has so much re-rideablity, it's amazing. The theming of the castle is immense, the music superb and Disney-esque. Now for the famous comparison to The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: I'd call it a tie. I think that Spidey holds a sentimental value for blowing me away that first ride, and also because the characters are more familiar. However if you enter DarKastle with an open mind, it will impress you just the same.
Alpengeist delivered as usual, and was just as good as I remembered it years before. The one thing that really blows me away is how well BGW keeps up their rides. I could swear that Alpengeist was a new ride---it looked that good. The same goes for everything else as well. However, riding Talon on the same trip, I cannot rank Alpengeist above it. Apollo's Chariot was a new one for me this year and I had heard very good things about it, so my expectations were very high. Although I don't think it lived up to all the hype, I agree it is a wonderful ride full of smoothness, speed and airtime. Those last bunny hills are a real thrill. For what they are, Big Bad Wolf and Lochness Monster are decent rides, but certainly not the highlights of the park. The best part of Lochness is certainly the helix in the dark--very well done for an Arrow.
Outside of the coasters, the other attractions are extraordinary, as well. One of the best 4-D simulators I've been on is certainly Corkscrew Hill. A fun little story, superb motion coordination and fluid 3-d imaging. We just had to go on that one twice. R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse was enjoyable, and it was enhanced by a live performance of the Busch Gardens "Boogie Band" preceding the presentation! Other rides included a few trips on the train (which provides some beautiful glimpses of the park, including a bridge over their stunning blue river) along with a voyage on Escape from Pompeii (an Intamin Spillwater with some great fire effects---getting wet never felt so good after a room ignites on fire!).
The wild animal exhibits were outstanding...getting a close look at gray wolves and close encounters with Lorikeets on your head was a special treat. More importantly, the shows were ALL out of this world. The "Imaginique" show at night was incredibly imaginative and just as entertaining as Cirque d'Soeil (sp?). The Pet Shenanigans show was extremely well organized with lots of laughs...very talented animals. The American Jukebox show was rockin’, and the Irish Thunder show was well done. I especially liked how Busch Gardens salutes our soldiers in Iraq with special dedications--Bravo. While eating, the Oktoberfest show was very interactive and exciting, and the Jazz band in the evening was super--complete with a killer first trumpet player. I love to eat delicious food and be entertained at the same time. That leads me to my next topic: food.
Outstanding. All the food we had was restaurant quality, served in LARGE portions very quickly, at a VERY reasonable rate. I can't remember the last time I ate so much good food in a theme park. The German food was very authentic from the potato salad and sauerkraut mixed in special spices...and the sausages were outstanding. The smokehouse was just delicious with barbequed ribs, chicken, and smoked beef brisket. Even the country potato fries served with it were phenomenal--a crunchy outer coating and soft potato filling. The Irish Stew was very hearty with large chunks of sirloin, carrots, potatoes, onions, and peas--all served in a tasty Hoska sweet type bread bowl. The chicken parmesan with mozzarella sticks in Italy was tasty as well. Most all entrees were under $10, with the exception of the smokehouse--yet that was even reasonable as well...certainly cheaper than the same food I could find in Chicago restaurants.
It was on-and-off rain both days we were there...but that didn't spoil a thing....didn't seem to bother the "Cast Members" either...all were friendly and helpful. We took advantage of the service in the shops where you can buy items during the day, and after 6:30 they will transport them to the front Emporium shop in the front of the park so you can pick 'em up on the way out. It worked great, and saved lugging around a bag all day. Prices in the gift shop in France were outstanding: only $6 for a sporty black BGW hat!
The second day we headed over to Water Country USA with our hopper pass, and that turned out to be a blast. A bit hilly, but all the attractions were a terrific. There were a lot of old fashioned slides...but they were a long ride for the walk up. The most unique attraction though was the "Hubba Hubba Highway". This is no ordinary lazy river...no tubes here--only life vests. Strap one on and float through the strong current. You can flip and spin around freely...it really is a blast, a smile-cracking one-of-a-kind experience!! That pretty much sums up our two days spent at BGW...as you can probably tell, it was definitely a highlight of the trip, and I can't wait to get back there!
The following day would be spent driving up toward D.C. to check out SFA for a short while, and then the long voyage to our hotel in Worthington, OH. To put it honestly, thank Heavens that I hadn't planned anymore time in SFA. Yuck. This park was a horrible experience, especially after the fantastic Busch Gardens. Good thing we got in free on our SF pass...I can't imagine feeding this park anymore of my money--the $10 parking was enough. That's where the problems began--the parking lot attendant was disgustingly rude...she just sat there in her chair, forcing me to stretch my arm crazily to hand her a $10 bill. She could see me struggling and she did nothing but stare, forcing me to open the door, get out and give it to her. No thanks, no nothing. Unbelievable!!! I felt like turning around there, but she had already claimed our money. As we entered the park, I was greeted by a frowning lady at the entrance taking tickets, with a "gimme that pass & move along" attitude. Finally, once we were in the park it started to show some promise. The park was more wooded and pretty in front with the street facades.
We trucked on over to Roar for a spin. I sat in the front, (once again another rude ride op shouting at people in line to walk through the turnstile--unnecessary when it truly was confusing around the entrance to Roar which had a pathway that did bypass the turnstile...they need to put a rope up and stop the shouting) and the ride was just ok. Not as rough as I had been preparing for, but certainly nothing to write home about either.
After exiting we saw a boat headed up the Typhoon Sea Coaster. I was very excited to see this running and thrilled about taking a spin on this unique ride. Here, not surprisingly, comes another problem. The line wasn't more than 20 people long in the station...but the boats were stacked and empty. The ride ops just sat there lazily staring either at the guests blankly or out into space. After a few minutes of this nonsense, I called over to them to ask what was going on. "duh ride's broked" was the reply. Ridiculous. They certainly could have made an announcement like any other normal park does, but instead they make the guests wait in fierce curiosity as to what the heck's going on. I was really getting fed up with SFA and began planning to voice my complaint to guest services (although peeking in there later at the scene, I decided my plea would fall on deaf ears and I'd be better off writing a letter).
I was determined to get my credits on the coasters and get the heck outta here. We headed back into Gotham City.
I picked up a ride on Joker's Jinx (meh, I thought…better when in the dark, like FoF) and headed back to Superman. This ride was pretty good. It was not well taken care of and could have used a new set of wheels to smooth it out (actually felt dangerous at parts)...but other than that it was a fun ride. The first helix was exciting, the second one kind of "old hat", but all the hills were full of some nice floater airtime. The only ride that got me really smiling though was the Penguin's Blizzard River. Make sure you get a chance to ride this unique slide. I found it fascinating how the rough patches on the edge of the slide caught the raft and gave it a good whip! Finally to end this stay, we found that Typhoon Sea Coaster had opened up. A short line of 50 people took a half hour in the hot sun to get through. Horrible capacity, and again the ride ops were no better...just rough-housing and jumping across the loading canal for fun. To be honest, I would be very scared trusting these ride ops if the ride broke down. OK, enough ride op rant...you get the picture! The ride itself was enjoyable and long, but it could be SO much more. I don't know how some of the scenes were supposed to be, since I'd never ridden it before...but most of the tunnels were dark, with the lights burned out that were supposed to shine on all the skeleton props...oh well. The backwards drop and turntables were fascinating little contraptions. The water park was bustling, but we decided to hit the road instead. I can assure you that we won't be visiting SFA anytime soon...poorly run and mediocre rides at best. Sorry to be such a downer, but I had to get that off my chest!
Our final visit would be a visit to Wyandot Lake after some quality shopping at the high class Easton center in Columbus, OH (an excellent visit for anyone in the area!). This is the first time we'd be going to Wyandot lake, so I was interested to see what it was like. My impressions: Thumbs up, Wyandot! We had a really enjoyable stay...I'm so glad I attend college in Ohio...it's really a friendly state, as I experienced here and at Geauga Lake on this trip. The ticket takers were very welcoming, and wished EVERY single person a good day in the park. Outstanding. The atmosphere was clean and cozy, and although the park doesn't have much in attractions to offer, it still provides some good clean fun. A nice addition to the midway was the huge grills with guys cooking up mini hamburgers and hotdogs for 50 cents each! The changing facilities were spotless, and the gift shop offered reasonably priced merchandise. The wave pool was a nice treat...it's rare to find wave pools today that reach 8 feet deep (although it was roped off at the 6 foot mark, that was plenty deep to jump around). It was neat to see a big movie screen they set up in front of the wave pool certain nights, so people can float around and watch a flick! The Shark Attack slide was a nice cruise and the lazy river was very relaxing...a nice option to either swim through it or take a complimentary inner tube. (Still, nothing touches Hubba Hubba Highway!) We took a spin on the Sea Dragon coaster, which was a great last ride to end this trip on. Very cool to see a lever operated coaster still in operation. We hit the road around 4:30, stopped at a Ryan's buffet for dinner (these are outstanding for the price!) and continued on our drive back to Chicago. All in all, a superb trip and a great education. Thanks for reading, and I welcome all your comments!
As I think back on the trip I decided it would be interesting to make a list of the bests and worsts encountered, so here goes:
-Best Attractions: 1. Curse of DarKastle 2. Talon 3. Nitro\Apollo’s Chariot (tie) 4. Alpengeist
-Worst Attractions: 1. Rolling Thunder 2. Big Bad Wolf 3. Joker's Jinx
-Ranking of Parks from most favorite to least: BGW, Geauga Lake, Knoebels, Wyandot, Dorney, SFGAdv, SFA.
-Best Shows seen: 1. Spirit of the Tiger (SFGAdv) 2. Pet Shenanigans (BGW) 3. Imaginique (BGW)
-Favorite Drive: Strip of Delaware between Rehoboth Beach and Ocean City--just amazing! Also, West Virginia and New Jersey are nice.
-Most Un-favorite State to Navigate: Pennsylvania.
-Friendliest People\Parks found in: Ohio.
-Favorite 4-d show seen: Corkscrew Hill (BGW)
Thanks to all for reading! Hope you found pieces of this report useful. All hotels were booked using Priceline, which was helpful...but here's a tip to all: Avoid selecting downtown\city center areas. Although the hotels are nice, many do not offer parking for their guests, and in areas such as Norfolk, we were forced to park in city-run garages, charging steep rates! For those planning similar road trips, I also recommend putting together a binder full of maps printed out from Maps.com, Mapquest.com, etc. and also all hotel confirmation sheets...I found this to be a useful tool, and a neat memento to keep after the trip ends. Happy coasting all!
Dorney to me was the same way. Although i did get an early ride on Talon it was running slow the first time. But the later ride was much better, i would say that its still a second in my books behind raptor. To each their own is all i can say. Hydra was disappointing way behind Dominator. I think the bad thing is that it runs its course twice and needs to keep something in the middle of it, all the elements are on one side or the other. Steel Force is a great ride, now i have heard people rip it before but it is super comfortable to the magnum, i just wish they would have gotten those morgan trains.
All i can say is that you got my ear when you talked busch gardens though, and i truly wish i could go this year, that is the big one for me next year, or knotts for that matter. It seems like you had alot of fun there and hope for an experience like yours, and hopefully my first B&M hyper. I wish i was in your shoes this year lucky dog.
oh yeah someone else actually though the Dorney flume was good. Cause i loved that thing. *** Edited 8/4/2005 12:27:30 AM UTC by MagnunBarrel***
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