How far is too far to get to a park?

LostKause's avatar

Reading another topic somewhere on here, someone mentioned a long drive to get to a particular park. I'd love to discuss how far people are willing to drive to get to a park, both non-enthusiasts, and enthusiasts.

For me, ever since I moved to Huntington, WV, I've been a little bummed out (just a little) that I have to drive so far to get to a big park. Kings Island, which has always been one of my favorite parks, is 3.5 hours away, and is the closest to me, so I go there the most. Everywhere else is five hours or more. Other than KI, I sometimes drive six hours to get to BG, about 5 to get to Carowinds, and about 5 to get to Dollywood, among a few others.

I need to get to a few more close-to-me parks, like Holiday World (5.5 hours away), and SFoG (7 hours away), but, man, that sounds like a long drive for me, even though I have gone that far for BG.

How far gets to be too far for you all? How far might it be for non-enthusiasts?


"CoasterBuzz - It feels like home" :)

ApolloAndy's avatar

When I was single and in college or grad school, I would do one or two 4 hours each way day trips, open to close (NJ to PKD on opening day a few years in a row). It started getting painful pretty quickly as I got older.

Now that I have 2 kids, it basically doesn't happen by car. If I'm in a city alone on business, I'll maybe go 2 hours out of my way to do a nearby park if the schedule works out. If I'm with the family, it basically has to be less than an hour and we'll typically only do half a day.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

5 hours for me is the closest park - we used to do this once a year however we haven't been to a park in the last few years. Longest was 13 hours to Disneyland - drove it twice once before kids and once with kids, since then we have flown. All this driving without ever leaving the state.

I think I might win this one... :)

I've gone all the way around the world for parks, but if I had to list a single trip, I've gone from Dublin, Ireland to Guatemala for a weekend trip during which I hit two parks and a mall coaster. That involved connecting flights in London and Houston.

LostKause's avatar

Nope, Richard. You lose. :) The average person doesn't fly internationally on a regular basis for anything. You probably travel by airplane to get to the grocery store. I'm talking about driving.

When I get hungry for a Philly Cheesesteak, I call my pilot to have my private chopper ready in a half-hour, and I fly to Philadelphia. That's cheating when talking about how far people drive.


"CoasterBuzz - It feels like home" :)

ApolloAndy's avatar

I wonder if proximity to home park also has something to do with it. In college, I lived in Boston and my home park SFNE was 1.5 hours away. I was much more willing to travel to a park back then. Grad school I was 30 minutes from GAdv. and my desire to travel was still high but not super duper high. Now with a family, I'm 20 minutes from SFoT and I have very little desire to drive long (+2 hr) distances for parks.

That may also be because I'm getting jaded or just because there aren't that many "new to me" parks that I actually am interested in going to left.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

When I lived in Huntingron, I considered King's Island my "home" park. Those leave at 4:00 a.m, home at 4:00 a.m. trips were tiring (and then there was the one where I was so tired driving home that I almost plowed into a convenience store -- let's not forget that one!). So I get it.

But you do have one advantage most don't. When my former husband and I were both working in downtown Huntington, somtimes he would pick me up for lunch, drive me to Camden Park, and lunch would be a ride on the roller coaster and a corn dog. There are not many places where you can fit that in a lunch hour!

If I can go to a park, ride all the rides there, and still get home by 12 or 1 in the morning, the park is close enough. I'm about 8 miles from Dorney, so that is nice. Great Adventure is 2 hours, Hershey an hour and 20 minutes, knoebels two hours, etc. If I leave early in the a.m., I can get to Six Flags in Massachussetts or Kings Dominion or Six Flags in Maryland. However, those two are pushing the acceptable drive limits (about 5 hours). Any further than that and we're starting to talk hotel rooms, being away from the hubby and the animals...when my job wasn't so demanding in terms of hours, I would take two or more days and drive farther, but it just isn't possible anymore. So...I'd say five hours is my max at this time.

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

Lord Gonchar's avatar

It's 45.6 miles from my driveway to Kings Island and that's too far for us to feel season passes are a value. Although admittedly that has more to do with our feelings on Kings Island than the distance.

We've driven upwards of 2000 miles hitting amusement parks over the course of a week or two. I love amusement park road trips.

I guess the value proposition changes depending on the situation. The hour to KI never seems worth it. The 3 hours to CP always feels worth it. I wouldn't drive 4 hours to Kennywood, but I'd go an hour out of my way to hit Kennywood when we visit family in western PA.

I wouldn't drive the distance from Dayton to Hershey, Dorney, SFGAdv, SFA, BGW, KD, etc. But taking a week and driving to hit a bunch of them is a favorite road trip.

How far is too far?

It all depends.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,

LostKause said:

Nope, Richard. You lose. :) The average person doesn't fly internationally on a regular basis for anything. You probably travel by airplane to get to the grocery store. I'm talking about driving.

Nah, I use online grocery delivery :)

Seriously though, short of boarding a ferry there are no parks of consequence that I can drive to; I've got to fly.

Nevertheless, I've got a valid driving story too. I was doing a trip a few years ago that had one day in Worlds of Fun and the next in Silver Dollar City. After I finished WoF unexpectedly quickly, I slipped in a quick side trip to Holiday World between the two. And yes, I did know how far it was :-)

Timber-Rider's avatar

When I made the long trip to Canada's Wonderland, and La Ronde, the total drive time was somewhere around a day and a half. I would not have made the trip if I had to bring my own car. We rented a really nice Dodge Stratus at the kent county airport outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, and drove straight to Toronto, which was a 6 hour drive. We stayed in Toronto for 2 days, spending a whole day at Canada's wonderland til close.

The next day we drove another 8 hours from there to Montreal. My friend tried to convince me that Montreal was just two hours from Toronto, but since I mapquest all my trips, I knew a one-way non stop trip was 14 hours, so I knew he was wrong ahead of time. We then stayed in Montreal for 3 days, which was a very nice experience. We spent one day at La Ronde. It was pride weekend, and there were 60,000 in the park. 2 million at Montreal pride. So it was well worth the trip. Being in Montreal felt like we were in Europe, it's very different from the US. I loved it there!!

We liked the trip so much, we went back again and brought along a friend. Unfortunately, they did not want to do both parks. We just went to La Ronde, and spent the rest of the time at pride. Which was lots of fun!

I have also driven 7 hours to Geauga Lake, under all 3 owners. (3 trips) Plus, we drove 8 hours to Kings Island. But, it's not the driving that bothers me. My main reason for not making long distance trips is the price of gas, and wear and tear on my car. I drove my Shadow to an early grave with all of my park trips. But, when we did the double trips to Canada, Clinton was president, and gas was only $.98 a gallon. So you could drive a long ways on just $10.00. Too bad those days are long gone.

If I could afford it, and I had a newer car. I would have no problem driving 10 hours or 12 hours to a decent park. But, if I did, I would also look for other things to do in the area. And stay a day or 2. I used to drive to Cedar Point and back on every visit. But, I have been getting a motel lately, and doing 2 days. It's more fun to go twice anyways!

I really like this question, LostKause. I live in Grand Rapids, MI on the west side of the state. I consider my 'home park' to be Cedar Point which is four hours away even though Michigan's Adventure is only one hour away from me. I realized that I do have a limit with this enthusiast hobby, however.

In 2009, I planned a trip to visit the various parks in Pennsylvania from west to east so my first stop scheduled was Waldameer. I made it all the way out to Erie but I couldn't believe how long it took to get there. I arrived at the park and took one lap on Ravine Flyer II and the drop tower ride and I believe that was it (it was a busy Saturday night visit in mid-June). I realized at the end of that night that it was dumb to drive 6.5 hours from home for two rides.

Putting this thought into the back of my mind, I decided to continue on with the plan as scheduled and visit Kennywood the next day. I enjoyed my time at this park but the thought that I was now about 7 hours from home for the sole purpose of riding amusement park rides seemed rather silly. To continue on any further for rides that were similar to those that were closer to home seemed ridiculous to me. For example, could Raptor really be *that* different from Great Bear or Raptor? Or can one wooden coaster be that much different of an experience from other wood coasters (barring differences in maintenance of the ride)? This forum will have to let me know as I decided to end my PA road trip after my visit to Kennywood (no fault to the park though).

I did stop at Cedar Point on the way back home as I had a Platinum Pass that year and I realized that I'm content to stay in the upper Midwest for my amusement park thrills if I'm only going to be driving. The situation changes, however, when I decide to fly to a location as I have visited BGW and Kings Dominion on a trip after flying to Washington DC for a week along with flying to Orlando last year to visit SeaWorld and BGT. I also attended the Fall Affair at Holiday World back in 2007 but I avoided the long drive and opted to fly to Louisville from Detroit Metro (I lived in the Detroit area at that time) and rented a car in Louisville. 

Based on this history, I would imagine my barrier lies around 6 hours of travel time (both air and driving combined) as that is the amount of time it takes for me to drive to Kings Island which I consider worthy of visiting once a year. I suppose you could take back my enthusiast badge but there is a point to me where the ride experiences start to blend together in my mind and the product/park differentiation disappears. Thankfully, I have a handful of nice parks with a variety of rides that are within my tolerance bubble in CP, KI, SFGam, MiAdv, and Indiana Beach (although IB is questionable as of late).

LostKause's avatar

Now that you mention it (Timber-Rider), I do have what I call car-break-downa-phobia. It's not that I fear my cars wouldn't make a long trip. It's that I fear that my trip would be totally ruined if something happened and I had a break down.

I understand that no one should allow fear to dictate their actions, especially fear of something that is unlikely to happen, but it did happen to me once, and that's why I have this stupid fear.

I was living in State College, PA, with one of my best friends in a very nice apartment about ten years ago, and didn't make a lot of money at the time. I owned a very old Chevy S10 pickup truck. I saved up a few hundred dollars over a few paychecks and decided to travel to Dorney Park. It was only a short 3 hour drive.

Halfway there, my truck broke down. A Police officer kindly called a tow truck for me, and the local mechanic took all day to look it over and replace some burned out wiring. This guy charged me about $400, so I had to call my Mom, who was on vacation in Florida at the time to add to the money that I had saved for the trip to pay the mechanic.

You can imagine how disappointed I felt driving home that evening. I was pretty ticked off, at myself mostly.

But now that I have a few decent vehicles to drive, and am pretty well off-financially, I still have that fear that my whole trip will be ruined if the transportation breaks down.

I often offer people advice to let go of fear, but I do know how difficult that is.

I do have a cousin who I trust 100% to work on my car with a shop near my home. That's a plus. I take whatever vehicle I am going to take on a trip and tell him to look it over and get it ready for a long drive. It feels good to get that taken care of.


Now that I am getting older (but not NEARLY as old as Gonch lol), I have trouble driving to and from a park without staying overnight. Kings Island is the closest park to me (3.5), and I need a hotel for a trip that far.

I don't think I have reached my limit on how far I am willing to drive for a park visit yet, although BGW is getting pretty close at 7.5 hours.

EDIT - I just realized that I once drove almost 8 hours from Sandusky to Allentown for a park trip, so BGW was not the furthest. I also drove from Altoona, PA to Akron OH to pick up a friend, to Tampa FL to visit BGT (about 22 hours), but that doesn't count because the main purpose of the trip was to move to Orlando.

Edit again after accidentally deleting this post lol - arw84, I like to visit new parks not just for the rides and attractions, but because each park has it's own layout and feel (or charm, if you will). Every park I have been to is unique. Similar rides or not, each park has it's own history and theme. They have all been built at different times by different people. I go to see what makes them all different from each other.

I am in no way knocking your opinion about visiting different parks. I find it interesting that different people who have the same enthusiasm for this hobby like it for different reasons.

Last edited by LostKause,


"CoasterBuzz - It feels like home" :)

The farthest I've ever ridden in a car to an Amusement Park was in 1970 when my Folks drove me from Redford, Michigan to Disneyland, which was a blast.

The furthest I ever drove to a park was about 1,000 miles from Redford, Michigan to Valleyfair! to attend the ACE Summer Conference at that park and Arnold's Park in 1970.

If you are traveling by yourself, 1,000 miles is approximately the "Break Even" point for driving vs flying. If the distance is less than 1,000 it is probably cheaper to drive, while greater than 1,000 miles it's cheaper to fly.

Answer my Prayers, Overbook my next Flight!
Timber-Rider's avatar

Hey lostkause:

My fear of car breakdowns started on my 1991 trip to Kings Island, we took my friends Chevy Nova to Kings Island. We only intended to visit the park for one day and drive back home. We made it to our hotel, and were not far from the park, when we got a flat tire. Of course we were pretty scared being so far from home. (Grand Rapids, Michigan) But, I was determined to get to the park, so I left my friend with his car, and walked through horrible pricker bushes, to get to a near by office complex. So, with my legs covered with blood from the bushes, I found a man in a truck with a mobile phone, and he called us a tow truck.

It took an hour for the tow truck to arrive, and he took us to Sears, where they proceeded to totally screw up my friends car. And, because it was a weekend, it would be 4 days before they could fix the mess they made. Taking off the tire, they broke the lugnut stems, and had to replace the rim, and everything. $285.00!! The good news is that they got us a very nice rental car, and we were still able to go to the park for the rest of the day. And, when the hotel heard about our car problem, they let us stay for 3 nights, and only charged us for two. They also gave us discount coupons for park admission to Kings Island which was very cool. We also had 3 days at the park, instead of one. So I was very happy! My friend not.

I also blew a tire on my Shadow on the way back from Cleveland, and Worlds of Adventure. Worse than The kings Island episode, we were in the middle of nowhere. So I drove for many miles with a flat tire, in fact the tread was totally gone. But, we managed to find a small town with a car garage. But, the garage was closed. It was on a Sunday, and pretty much nothing in that little town was open. So, we sat in the lot of the garage and decided that we would sleep in the car until morning, and hope the garage would open!! But, our luck got a little better.

There was a house across the street from the garage, and a lady came out about an hour after we stopped there, and came over and asked us what we were doing there. Well, long story short, her husband just happened to own the garage, and was out shopping. She told us that she would call him, and he would help us get back on the road. The problem was the lugnuts again. They were on too tight, and we couldn't budge them.

So, her husband showed up with a tire iron and a sledge hammer, and he instructed me how to remove the tire. (My first time doing it) He held the tire iron, and I whacked it with the sledge hammer, and we finally had the tire off, and put on the spare. I offered to give him $10.00 for helping us out, but, he said...Na, you did all the work. Have a safe trip home. That was very nice of him. Any grand rapids mechanic would have charged us.

So, those stories are part of the reason I don't like driving on long trips.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Touching on everything with this one. Bear with me:

Regulus said:
If you are traveling by yourself, 1,000 miles is approximately the "Break Even" point for driving vs flying. If the distance is less than 1,000 it is probably cheaper to drive, while greater than 1,000 miles it's cheaper to fly.

Interesting because...

You know how we always talk about paying for things in either time or money - I measure the value of Driving vs. Flying in time spent first. Money becomes a secondary influence.

I find my break even point for our family of four considering the time/cost ratio to be roughly 9 hours. That's around the 600-mile range.

Seems like less than that and getting to the ariport, checking bags, boarding, flight time, getting off, retrieving bags, getting a car (the whole process of flying) takes almost as long and costs a lot more.

More than that and the drive becomes tedious. 9 hours is a do-able day of driving.

From there it's a judgement call between the cost/time benefit of a drive vs a flight. But I've found that the flight isn't even worth considering until we reach the 8 or 9 hour mark in driving.

We have driven further a few times, but it involved other reasons (visiting family usually) and tied parks into the trip. But we've never flown a distance we could drive in under 8 hours just for park visits.

arw84 said:
For example, could Raptor really be *that* different from Great Bear or Raptor? Or can one wooden coaster be that much different of an experience from other wood coasters (barring differences in maintenance of the ride)?

Another interesting observation.

I'd say yes - to a point of diminishing returns. That is to say, I think the smaller your track record, the more value you'll find in seeking similar, but different, rides.

As your experience grows, you'll fill in more points across the spectrum and the gaps will get smaller and smaller.

But yeah, Great Bear is very different from Raptor and they're both totally different from Talon. And none of them is like Alpengeist. Montu and Afterburn give wildly different rides as well. And then there's the Batman clones...

...and that's just a few of the B&M inverted coasters. :)

I think the experience can be *that* different, but I also think the value of the difference diminishes as you get more experiences under your belt.

LostKause said:
Now that you mention it (Timber-Rider), I do have what I call car-break-downa-phobia. It's not that I fear my cars wouldn't make a long trip. It's that I fear that my trip would be totally ruined if something happened and I had a break down.

I only have one experience with breaking down on the way to an amusement park. It happened 20 years ago and as a direct result I ended up meeting the woman who would become my wife.

That is to say had my buddy's van not broken down on the way to Conneaut and set a chain of events into motion that all hinged on the fact that the van broke down in the first place, I literally would not have ever crossed paths with my wife.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,

Time-wise 500 miles is the break even-point for flying vs driving. My calculation was based on the cost. I found out the time-wise angle in May of 2003. I stood to lose 18,000 Frequent-Flyer Points because it had been three years since I had flown on a certain airline. I didn't want to lose those points so I looked for a relatively cheap flight to purchase. The Florida Coaster Club had a gathering at Boomers, I found a Airfare from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale for about $100.00 I purchased the Ticket, saving those points, but I figured it took me about 90 minutes longer to fly the 148 Miles from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale than it took for me to drive from Daytona Beach to Ft. Lauderdale. It also cost me almost twice as much to fly vs drive, but there was a "Method to my Madness", it was either do this or lose those points.

First I had to drive from Daytona Beach to Orlando, Park my vehicle at a parking lot at the Airport. Take their Shuttle to my Airline's Check-In, Go through Security. Wait for the Flight to Board, The Flight itself. Pick up your Baggage, get your Rental Car, and finally, drive to Boomers.

As for the Points I spared in 2003, I redeemed them in 2005 to go to the ACE Spring Conference in Tennessee and Georgia and the ACE National Convention at Great America in Illinois and Three Wisconsin Parks. :)

Answer my Prayers, Overbook my next Flight!

Gonch -- First off, I loved your positive spin on the car break down phobia. It's so true; a bad event like that can be the key to unlock something stellar in your life. On that note, maybe I should go drain the oil in my car and mindlessly drive somewhere... ;) Secondly, out of curiosity, why are you so down on Kings Island? In the past few years, I have visited several new parks, but CP and KI are still my favorites. Maybe it's my long history back to childhood and how close I live to both parks, but I feel like they're hard to top.

Interesting topic, Travis. I was debating this myself the other day. First off, I'm not going to count Disney or Universal parks, as I don't consider them coaster enthusiast parks but more of a family vacation experience.

So, the farthest I've driven was last year to Kings Dominion to experience Intimidator 305, which was a 9-10 hour trip. To make the trip more bearable, I stopped at Kennywood, which was about half way there. I personally loved the whole experience. I was just happy to be driving with friends, taking in the mountains and changing landscapes. I kept telling my best friend that I'd pay for the hotels along the way if he could get us in something nice under $50. He kept delivering nice 3-star places by placing bids and using tools, and I found it highly entertaining (maybe I'll re-think this game and up the budget goal after reading the bed bug thread lol).

I was totally amped to experience Kennywood and Kings Dominion for the first time, so this made the 9-10 hours of driving feel like nothing, more like a break from all the excitement. The straight shot of driving from KD to home kind of sucked though -- that feeling of wishing the whole trip could just reset.

So, I'd also say that I haven't reached my limit yet. If I had some people with me that were excited to be going places and I could break up the drive by visiting several parks along the way, I'm not sure I'd really have a limit. Now if we're talking about driving alone or doing a straight shot to 1 place, that would completely change things.

Last edited by Jeph,
LostKause's avatar

I wish I could "Vote up" your post more than once, Gonch.

The ending of your post reminds me of a belief that I hold close. Everything happens for a reason.

EDIT - This edit has been brought to you by the letter R!

Last edited by LostKause,


"CoasterBuzz - It feels like home" :)

This is so timely.

I love to drive and just Thursday got back from a 5 day coaster trip. On Sunday I left Columbus and made the 10 hour drive to Williamsburg for Busch Gardens and Verbolten. Down I77 to I64 through West Virginia and Virginia has to be one of the prettiest drives in America, and every time I make the trip I'm awestruck by the scenery. (We don't have so much as a hill here in central Ohio.) I spent all day Monday there and on Tuesday went through Richmond to KD. I spent a few hours there, (nothing new for me this time, save for my third Windseeker and the improved Intimidator.) I left there about 2p, headed up to Hershey and got there about 6. So lets call that another 5 hours on the road. I had a full day there and left for home on Thursday, another 7 hour drive from Harrisburg back to Columbus. My grand total was about 1200 miles.

Did I have truck trouble? Yes. My 2003 Dodge Dakota has never been a problem, but I usually rent a car for trips such as this to save on gas if nothing else. Not this time, and I finally realized when I got to the Eat n Park in Wheeling that those oil spots I had been seeing in parking spaces all week belonged to me. Sheesh. I pulled into the Jiffy Lube in Zanesville and they determined it was a leak in my rear differential. So I worried all the way home, dropped it off at the shop on Saturday and tomorrow I get the call letting me know how much of a bill I can add to my vacation expense total.

I'll be working at Columbus Pride this weekend and as soon as it's over I'll be climbing back into, well, SOME vehicle on Sunday to make the 6 hr drive to meet my boys for a day at Dollywood while they're at the ACE convention. Tuesday I'll be driving back home.

My point? I LOVE to drive, and if I see a great park or a new coaster out there within a day's driving distance I'll make the trip. This will be my second visit to Dollywood this year.

Somewhere on my trip last week a woman said "You're from Ohio? Why would you come here, when you have such good parks up there?" I told her I visit those places too, but now that this topic has come up it's made me think - it may wear me (and my little truck) out, but I love to go and will continue to do so as long as I'm able.

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