Kings Dominion, 5/25/13; the good, the great, and the ugly

Sunday, May 26, 2013 1:39 PM

I have so much to say about this park, employees, the travel, the expense, and the rides that I kind of don't know where to begin. Please forgive me if I begin to ramble.

I'll start off with the drive. Many of the map sites I looked up the drive on said that KD was 5 hours away, which I knew was not to be the case. I finally just plugged in the destination into my Garmin, and it said about 4-4.5 hours, which sounded more familiar to me in terms of what I remembered from my last trip.

The drive was a nightmare. About halfway through our journey (the husband actually went, and we brought a friend as well), we got lost and ended up in DC. We got out of DC, had smooth sailing for a few more miles, and then stopped dead in traffic. We listened to traffic reports which said 95 was backed up for miles due to a fatal accident. Plus, with everyone heading to Virginia Beach, we figured the backup to be about 20-30 miles. We took a backup route, which was filled with cops, traffic lights that went on forever, and eventually still took us back to 95. Luckily, at that point, traffic on 95 settled down, and we made decent time. Still, between traffic, construction, and bad directions through every single GPS system we had, our 4-4.5 hour drive turned into a 6-6.5 hour drive. Blech.

We got to Kings Dominion around 11:30 AM, and the park was jam packed. All the regular lot was filled at the first section. The back section of the main lot was about half full already as well. As we all debated on whether or not to take our jackets in (the weather was a little chilly, but we knew it would get warmer, but it was windy, making it chilly again), we watched swarms of cars continuing to pour into the lot. Would we even ride anything?

My friend Jaya decided to buy us FastLane Plus passes that would allow us access to Volcano and Intimidator 305. I am spoiled by these systems, but I had thought perhaps we'd go without to save money. After all, we planned on spending the day there, so we'd still get to ride everything even if the lines were atrocious. However, since she was buying, I was in. Who turns that down?

FastLane Plus ended up being absolutely necessary. Dominator's line was through all the queues, down the sidewalk, and almost to Berserker. Volcano was through the whole building, outside, and spilling out onto the midways. I-305 was almost to the Intimidator sign in the front of entire ride section. Flight of Fear was out onto the midway. It was nuts. Quite a difference from my trip a few years ago when the park was empty. I don't know that we would have ridden much at all before pooping out if we hadn't gotten the FastLane.

The park itself: The park is beautiful. When you walk in and start walking around and there are all the trees and fountains and everything, you're (dare I say it) charmed. This is another park that you don't necessarily see every ride when you walk into the park, which I like. It is not as pretty as BGT or anything, but I was impressed. In fact, except for a few things that I will get to in a moment, I was much more impressed with everything about Kings Dominion than I was on my last trip a few seasons ago. Also, Windseeker (down for the day due to wind...I always find the Windseeker name kind of ironic because it shuts down when there are winds, but Jaya said, "Well, it found wind, and now its job is done") looked really cool. I won't ride those things, but it was an attractive looking ride.

A few things I noticed: The ride ops were for the most part FANTASTIC. They were making a lot of jokes, pumping trains out left and right (except when you got the prerequisite morons who thought they could take drinks and stuffed animals on roller coasters and things like that), and really checking (not hand tapping) people's restraints. Even re-checks were thorough.

Every bathroom in KD that I noticed was disgusting. Perhaps they spent all their housekeeping money on good ride ops. But really, the worst amusement park bathrooms I've ever seen. I was afraid to walk on something that would seep through my shoes and touch my feet. Ewwww!

Good stuff to eat is not hard to come by, especially if you like Boardwalk Fries and ICEES, which I do. The popcorn is also delicious (I like movie theater style popcorn, no butter, lots of salt, and this fit the bill). The sodas and bottled waters seem like they went up in price though, as they were $4 a bottle (I remember $3, but I could be thinking of another park chain). Food and drink stand employees were efficient but not overly pleasant. I felt this was about average for a park.

Ok. Onto the rides:

Dominator (2 rides, back seat): I nearly hated this coaster a few years ago. It disoriented the crap out of me, was rough in spots, and was plunked down in what appeared to be a parking lot. Now grass has grown in prettily, the ride seems to have mellowed a little, and I LOVE it. The first loop is still extremely screwy for me, but in a good way. Also, the airtime hill after the mid-course brake run is fantastic. Floorless B&M's just aren't my favorite type of coaster, but this is a fantastic, well-paced ride that was loved by me and my group. 9/10.

I still did not get to ride the mini wooden coaster due to the ridiculously long line.

Volcano (one ride, towards the front): Another one that felt better, faster, and more forceful than my previous trip. My husband hated this one (He has a previous shoulder injury that makes him kind of irritable about hanging upside down by a shoulder harness through barrel rolls), but we all agreed that the launch out of the volcano was completely cool. I wish this ride had a different layout to include some more interesting inversions though. 7/10.

My new favorite steel? Intimidator 305 (two rides, one in the middle of the train, one in the back seat): The theming on this coaster is extremely well done. I loved the separate section from the Congo area, the placards and pictures, and the raceway flags and stuff. It was very cool, and I will say: That hill just beaming red and yellow IS intimidating. I'd ridden Millie many times at Cedar Point, and I was still shaking in my boots as I walked past the huge line to take my seat on the next train. I don't punk out of rides though, so I did it...and WOW! The drop is great, the first airtime hill is reminiscent of Toro's back-half "b*tchslap" hill, and the twists and turns are quick, agile, and disorienting. I was irritated by the trim on the one airtime hill (why? Was this necessary?), but other than that, this is a blast. The back seat is especially (and for me, perhaps a little TOO) intense, and the feel of the ride reminded me of Maverick. I give this a 9/10 only because I would like to have more airtime over twists and turns, but I still loved everything about this ride.

Flight of Fear (two rides, back seat): I honestly think I was in a bad mood or not feeling well when I last visited KD because I know I remembered all these coasters being more "blah". Flight of Fear is awesome. Solid forceful coaster. I'm a fan of Premier, I think. Everyone loved this coaster and made it a must re-ride, which we did later in the day. 8.5/10.

Rebel Yell (one ride, second seat of last car): Got to ride the blue side this time (I rode red last visit). Still a lovely, classic wooden coaster. Our side lost to the red train running beside us. I didn't get as much airtime as I did on the red side a few years ago, but I got one nice pop of ejector air about halfway through the course. Also, this was super smooth for an old wooden coaster. I adore this wooden coaster and it ranks approximately at #4 in the wooden category for me. Also, did they retrack RY? It appeared to have some new sections, and I couldn't get over how well it ran. 8/10.

I refused to ride Hurler although it was on FastLane. I'm glad I did. Apparently, my husband and Jaya butted heads on four separate occasions during the course of their ride.

Ricochet got stuck while my group was waiting in line. Actually, ONE car got stuck on the final brake run, and the other cars were still running. I was just about to freak out and go running towards anyone who could help, but I froze. Apparently, the people in the stuck car saw the same disaster imminent because they got very very scared and started waving at the ops and yelling for help. Then everything DID brake in time, and I felt foolish for thinking there was going to be a problem. But sometimes you just don't know, and I thought there was really going to be an accident. That was a little freaky.

BooBlasters (one ride): Okay, so this isn't Disney or Universal, but I thought outside of the major players in the kid entertainment industry, this was well-themed, adorable, and just all around nicely done. Plus, the guns are a little more sensitive than MIB's and Buzz Lightyear, so I scored some points and came in second out of three people (Jaya in first).

Avalanche (one ride): I don't know how to rate this because of a few things. I didn't like not being on "rails". It scared the crap out of me, but I found the ride to be smooth and fast. However, the lapbars not staying in one position ended up being a problem because my husband thought that that's where you hold on, and he pulled the bar tighter and tighter until I couldn't breathe before we realized our mistake. I was extremely uncomfortable, and towards the end, we sat and waited for quite a while (felt like an eternity). When we got off, I was nearly in tears because the bar had gotten THAT tight. I think riding this as a single rider would have been much better, but I don't know that I'd ride it again. 4.5/10.

My husband won a ring toss game on a total fluke. We bought 100 rings for 10 bucks (if you lost, you still got a small pillow pet as a special promotion). He tossed 3 rings and one squarely landed on a bottle. Everything STOPPED DEAD. The girl was so surprised, she didn't know what to do at first. She jokingly told my husband that he couldn't play anymore. They had to call security to bring us a shrink wrapped GIGANTIC green turtle pillow pet. Here is where Kings Dominion could have shined, but they kind of dropped the ball on this: They have options for you to pick up purchases at the front gate on your way out. They do NOT have this option for ginormous stuffed animals that weigh about 30 pounds. We had to lug the green beast all the way to the parking lot through throngs of people (although my husband inadvertently knocked a few walkway-blocking idiots out of the way, which I couldn't help but chuckle at--don't stand in the middle of a crowded park and block everyone up, doofuses!!), drag the turtle to the car parked out in the back section of the lot, and try to stuff it into my trunk (it barely fit, it was so big), then walk all the way back and re-enter the park. I understand they don't have the space for all those toys, but there should be some sort of prize booth at the front of the park where you just give them a proof of win ticket or something, and you can pick up your animal.

All in all, we had a great day. Due to more getting lost, the need for multiple stops for food and bathroom breaks, and my crushing fatigue that was getting the better of me as we drove home, the drive home took about 5.5 hours, and I think we'll stay overnight next time we do KD. However, I had a blast, and I can't believe this park wasn't more on my radar before this trip. I can't wait to get back there!!!

Last edited by bunky666, Sunday, May 26, 2013 1:43 PM
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Sunday, May 26, 2013 1:57 PM

Ah, yes....the subtle pleasures of traveling 95 through DE/MD/DC/VA. Doesn't get any better than that.

You skipped Rebel Yell and Grizzly..unless I missed something? How dare you??

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Sunday, May 26, 2013 2:04 PM

bunky666 said:

Flight of Fear (two rides, back seat): I honestly think I was in a bad mood or not feeling well when I last visited KD because I know I remembered all these coasters being more "blah".

No. It's just that every ride is better when you don't have to wait in line for it.

Due to more getting lost, the need for multiple stops for food and bathroom breaks, and my crushing fatigue that was getting the better of me as we drove home, the drive home took about 5.5 hours, and I think we'll stay overnight next time we do KD.

Laughing at the idea of getting lost on 95...with a GPS even. How is that even possible? Too great. (winky)

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Sunday, May 26, 2013 2:09 PM

Gonch, I didn't wait in lines last time either because KD was absolutely dead. I walked on to nearly every coaster, and I still didn't like them as much as I did this time.

One would think 95 would have been the easiest way to go...the GPS kept telling me to take other ways though, and so I took different routes that would get us off 95, put us back on 95, etc. It was stupid. Should have just stayed on it the whole time.

Mike, I did Rebel Yell but not Grizzly. Grizzly was not a FastLane coaster, and although I wanted to ride it anyway, no one else wanted to because of the Hurler hate. Besides, my boob smacked me in the face last time I rode Grizzly. I was concerned about the repeat. Hehehehe...

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Sunday, May 26, 2013 3:17 PM

I can appreciate enjoying some of the coasters differently this time around. That's the very reason I keep standing against the rating, debating, and comparisons of coasters among Cbuzzers. There's so much that impacts how we experience them. Even to the point of having different experiences for ourselves at different times.

Who knows what makes the difference? Better moods, better company, different order, full stomach, empty stomach...the list goes on.

I'm just glad you enjoyed I 305. It's one of my favorites. ;-)

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Sunday, May 26, 2013 6:08 PM

Grizzly is one of the best "chain" woodies out there. The Beast-like setting it used to have pre-Hurler was exceptional, but it's still a great ride. The tunnel is amazing. At night, the re-ride gate is very welcome.

That horrible stretch of I-95....you drive between midnight and 5am or you pay a price way worse than a toll...

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Sunday, May 26, 2013 6:14 PM

I live right off the stretch of 95 that almost always has traffic, whether northbound or southbound. I avoid it like the plague unless it's absolutely necessary.

I'm moving to the eastern panhandle of WV next month. I won't miss living here at all. I'll still have a commute into northern VA every day, but at least I won't be anywhere near 95.

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Monday, May 27, 2013 10:11 AM

Carrie, I kind of agree with you on the pointlessness of rating systems. I mean, if 99 people say a ride is great and 1 says it is horrible, I'm probably more likely to check out the ride with the 99% approval rating. I also find if I am worried about a ride and how rough/high/disorienting it is, multiple opinions on what the ride is like sometimes help me. However, versus threads and discussions have gotten way more useless to me when talking about just "what is better".

I loved Intimidator, although I didn't feel it had the same re-rideability that Millennium Force does. I found myself graying out at least at the first helix from the middle of the train and for about half the ride from the back of the train. I don't necessarily like that aspect, but it is otherwise an amazing ride. Plus, the restraints made everything that could have been painful just ridiculously fun. Maverick could benefit from the soft collar restraints. I can see where it could be a very polarizing ride though, as my husband didn't like the feeling of "having a bad nosebleed for the whole ride", and he would not re-ride. I'm of the opinion we need more gigas closer to the Dorney/Hershey area. Then I don't have to drive to KD to ride my favorite steel (though now my favorite floorless and indoor coasters are at KD).

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Monday, May 27, 2013 11:35 AM

No Grizz?! How dare you ;).

Vater, where you moving to, Martinsburg area?

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Monday, May 27, 2013 11:47 AM

Tekwardo said:

No Grizz?! How dare you ;).

Stealing my material, huh? :)

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Monday, May 27, 2013 12:52 PM

Nope. Had my group not ridden Hurler, I would have probably been able to talk them into Grizzly, but everyone was pretty against wooden coasters after Hurler. So yeah...I missed Grizzly. >:(

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Monday, May 27, 2013 1:07 PM

Grizzy runs great, though. At least it did last year. It was by far my favorite coaster in the park. Hurler was average at best as well as the other woodie there.

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Monday, May 27, 2013 1:14 PM

Both Grizzly and Rebel Yell ran great in April, although I only took one ride on the latter. Hurler was OK at best, but even THAT's an improvement.

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Monday, May 27, 2013 4:36 PM

bunky666 said:

I always find the Windseeker name kind of ironic because it shuts down when there are winds, but Jaya said, "Well, it found wind, and now its job is done"

Ha! I said the same thing to my friend last week when WindSeeker was closed. "Well, its job is to *seek* wind. Now that it's windy, the wind no longer needs to be sought."

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Monday, May 27, 2013 5:36 PM

Tekwardo said:
Vater, where you moving to, Martinsburg area?

Pretty close; Kearneysville. About 5 minutes from Summit Point racetrack. :)

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 11:48 AM

Hey bunky, how long did you have to wait for the rides with your fastlane pass? I am curious because I am planning on taking a trip to Kings Dominion on a Saturday in June and will most likely be buying a FL pass. I have never been to Kings Dominion and would like to get some rerides in on the coasters.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 12:11 PM

I would like to know too, because if all my plans fall into place, I will be visiting Kings Dominion in September, and am planning to get a FL pass too.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 12:55 PM

Well, we bought Fastlane Plus, which is the only one that allows access to Volcano and Intimidator. Apparently they can limit Volcano rides to a certain number a day as well, so keep these things in mind.

On average, we had station waits on all the FastLane rides. Usually a train or two. With how crowded it was, I'm glad my friend bought us passes. Rebel Yell was shockingly empty, and it wasn't a FastLane option. Grizzly was also not FastLane. Shockwave also. Anyway, it was totally worth it since it was a trip we normally wouldn't take, and I'd recommend it.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 2:06 PM

bunky666 said:

Well, we bought Fastlane Plus, which is the only one that allows access to Volcano and Intimidator. Apparently they can limit Volcano rides to a certain number a day as well, so keep these things in mind.

On average, we had station waits on all the FastLane rides. Usually a train or two. With how crowded it was, I'm glad my friend bought us passes. Rebel Yell was shockingly empty, and it wasn't a FastLane option. Grizzly was also not FastLane. Shockwave also. Anyway, it was totally worth it since it was a trip we normally wouldn't take, and I'd recommend it.

When I was there last Labor Day weekend and had to get a Fastlane pass to make the trip worthwhile, I got on I305 repeatedly with almost no wait and anything else with a short wait. The pass limited me to 2 rides on Volcano (this struck me as odd, because the number of rides on I305 was unlimited and I find I305 to be by far the better of the 2 rides) and I seem to recall that I had to stand near the gate at the Fastlane entrance for several minutes before getting access to the loading area.

What a great trip you had! I would love to go back to KD because I305 is #3 on my all-time list of favorite coasters, after El Toro and Millie.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 2:18 PM

Bobbie1951 said:
The pass limited me to 2 rides on Volcano (this struck me as odd, because the number of rides on I305 was unlimited and I find I305 to be by far the better of the 2 rides) and I seem to recall that I had to stand near the gate at the Fastlane entrance for several minutes before getting access to the loading area.

It's because of Volcano's limited capacity. If they didn't cap the number of Fastlane riders, no one else would ride.

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