I am a new poster to this website, and this is my first trip report, so please bear with me.
My partner Greg and I left the Philadelphia area and visited Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (first visit to SFKK) on July 19, Holiday World (first visit to HW) on July 21, Paramount's Kings Island (second visit to PKI) on July 23, and Cedar Point (fourth visit to CP) on July 25. Rather than describing everything that we did, I thought I'd share with you some lists that I came up with based on what we did during this trip.
Top 5 wooden coasters
Raven - I didn't think that this ride would live up to my expectations but it did. Just as everyone says, the rides on Raven got better as the day went on. I was initially a little surprised that the ride was as short as it was, even though I knew prior to riding that it was less than 3000 feet long. However, the transition from one element to the next was as perfect as any coaster that I've ever been on, and the length of the ride seems to suit it perfectly.
Beast - We did the ACE walk-back, and had a yawn-inducing first ride of the day on the Beast. It was a true disappointment, and not at all like the ride I remembered from my last visit to PKI in 1994. Not wanting to give up on her, we rode again later in the day, and this time had a great ride, with a much more out-of-control feel to it. This was the Beast I knew and loved. Our attempts at a night ride were foiled by a thunderstorm, but I can only imagine that it would have been even better than our second ride of the day.
Legend - I was truly surprised by the intensity and length of this ride. I loved it, but unlike the Raven, I didn't think the transitions from one element to the next were quite as fluid.
Racer backwards - I've ridden coasters backwards before, and haven't been overly excited by the experience. Something about the Racer backwards was different though, and the ride was pure fun.
Thunder Run - We were only able to ride this once due to our short stay at SFKK, but it was a fun ride that seemed well-maintained, with nice pops of airtime.
Top 5 steel coasters
Millennium Force - I just love the quick trip up the lift hill, the first drop, and the speed and intensity that is maintained throughout the entire ride.
Magnum - I sometimes wonder if Magnum is still highly regarded because of its reputation as the first hypercoaster, and not because of its current performance. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Magnum still delivers an incredible ride. Rides near the front of the train at the end of the day were nearly perfect.
Top Thrill Dragster - I was happy just to get a ride on this based on its performance so far this year. We got in line at 9 AM because of our early admission, it opened at 10 AM, and we were on the ride by 10:30 AM. The anticipation of the launch and the launch itself were the greatest coaster moments of this trip. I think the downward spiral takes away from the sensation of hurtling straight towards the ground, so I wish it didn't have this element. I rank it third based on the criteria that this is the order I would choose these coasters if I was faced with a two-hour wait for each of them.
The Flight of Fear - I love the disorientation that this ride creates. Even though the launch isn't as intense as those on other coasters, I still love it, as well the scary feeling of hurtling straight forward, not knowing when you're going to be thrown up into the first inversion.
Raptor - It was nice to see that this ride continues to age well, and that the mid-ride brake seems to be non-existent.
Top 3 non-coaster experiences
Delirium - This was awesome. Enough said.
Splashin' Safari - I haven't been to a waterpark in about 15 years, but Splashin' Safari reminded me why I used to like them so much. The highlight was Zinga, both riding it, as well as watching it from the platform at the funnel. We had a great time seeing people's reactions as they dropped down into the funnel, and comparing how high each raft soared up the funnel (depending on the size of the riders).
Liberty Launch - We didn't hit this ride until near the end of our day at HW. I wasn't even going to ride it. How can an 80 foot launch compare with others that I've ridden that are more than three times as tall? I am very glad that I decided to ride it. It was so much fun, with a ton of airtime at the top. What perhaps made the ride though was the unexpected thrust back to earth after the initial launch.
Top 5 disappointments
Son of Beast is a rough ride. I've ridden other coasters that many other people think are rough, but have enjoyed them anyway. I was hoping beyond all hope that I would love Son of Beast. After all, how can a ride this beautiful be a bad ride? Well, after two rides on it, my worst fears were confirmed. We rode in both the front and the back, and each ride was rough, although in weirdly different ways. The front seemed to have a lot of lateral motion, and the rear had some bumpiness that I've never really experienced on a coaster before.
Kentucky Kingdom needs a lot of improvement. We were only at the park for two and a half hours, since it was only intended as a short pit stop from the Cincinnati airport to Jasper, IN, and that was enough time for me. I will only comment on the ride crews at this park. They were totally inefficient, and seemed to have no interest in what they were doing. This was in such contrast to the ride crews at the other parks, that I don't understand why the management team at SFKK hasn't been more proactive about improving this.
Mantis. I couldn't wait for this ride to be over because my ears hurt so much: not from the B&M "roar" but from the constant whacking of my head against the restraints. I will never ride this coaster again.
Thunder Canyon was a rapids ride during which no one on our raft got wet. How can this be? Isn't this the opposite of what's supposed to happen? Compare this experience to the absolute soaking that riders get on White Water Canyon at PKI. This ride was more of a lazy river ride than a true rapids experience.
The end of Adventure Express. Its been said before, but its a lengthy lift hill with Disney-worthy theming all building up to…the station! Gee, thanks!
Top 3 motels/hotels
Baymont Inn, Mason, OH - cheap, clean, quiet, and close to PKI (5-10 minute drive).
Days Inn, Jasper, IN - cheap, clean, quiet, but not-so-close to HW (30 minute drive). It was across the street from a correctional facility, which adds some weird character to it.
Breakers, Sandusky, OH - We were in a room without a view (of anything!), with a window-unit A/C that took several hours to cool the room, and that hadn't been renovated in many years. It only makes the top 3 list because of its location at the park, and the fact that we only stayed at 3 hotels.
Top 3 park snack foods
Soft pretzel from the Bakery & Pretzel Shop on International Street at PKI. Fresh, warm, and delicious.
Fried Oreos from the Funnel Cake Factory at HW. This was my first venture into the 'we'll fry anything' trend in park and fair food. It won't be my last.
Chicken fries from Hot Diggity Dogs at HW. Are they chicken fingers? Are they French fries? Who knows?
Top 6 random observations
The 'kiddy cages' at PKI. These are fenced in areas on the exit platforms of several rides at PKI, for children who are too small to ride to wait for their parents to get off the rides. It's a great idea for the park to provide a safe place for the kids to wait, yet it was both funny and sad to see some of these kids staring out from the cages. Then there was a boy we saw twice during the day who was too old for the kiddy cages, but too scared to ride the rides. We saw him get out of line of Son of Beast just as he was about to board the train because he had to 'go to the bathroom' and then again at Delirium we saw him as 'mommy's little purse-holder' as he waited for her to get off.
The Raptor crew at CP is awesome. Everyone who's ever been to CP already knows how efficient the ride crews at CP are, but it still never ceases to amaze me. On this trip it was the crew for the Raptor who stood out, zipping through 3-train operation, and keeping the line almost constantly moving.
HW felt much more like a corporate theme park than I was expecting. This is not meant as a complaint, just as an observation. What I was expecting to feel more like a family-run park like Knoebel's, instead felt more like a small corporate theme park. Of course, it's an incredibly well-run park, with great rides, employees who are friendly and care about doing a good job, and tons of free perks that we all know about (including free ponchos upon entry, as we had to wait out a sometimes intense hour-long thunderstorm). It's just that the atmosphere was a little different than I was anticipating.
PKI has done some interesting things with theming their recent rides, some better than others. Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle was very well done, and is an excellent family ride. Tomb Raider: The Ride is a beautiful ride to look at, and I think the theming does rival things that you'd see at Disney or Universal. Unfortunately, the ride experience itself didn't live up to the effort that was put into the theming: hanging riders upside down for 18 seconds does not a pleasant ride experience make. After riding these two rides, I was surprised and disappointed by the minimal theming on The Wild Thornberries River Adventure: other than the sign out front, you would not have guessed this ride was based on the popular series.
PKI has more midway games than I thought possible for a park to have. Seemingly everywhere you looked, there was another person trying to guess your weight, next to a Whack-a-mole, next to a ring toss, etc. One primary result of this huge number of games was every other park attendee wearing the newest (or at least to me) prize: the fuzzy, floppy, oversized, brightly colored, top hat. Midway games at CP were not as abundant, but (thank God!) you could still purchase these hats at souvenir stands.
On the nit-picky side of things, CP needs to get an appropriate fountain. PKI has the amazing entry fountains which suit its size and caliber. HW has a simple fountain that has nice lights at night, and is appropriate for the setting. Meanwhile, at the "Best Amusement Park in the World," their fountain is the same one taken out of my mall's food court twenty years ago. It's out of place and a bit sad.
Top 5 tips for visiting these parks
For ACE members. the details about the ACE walk-back at PKI posted on the ACE website are not quite right. The website says to visit Guest Relations no later than 9:15am to arrange the walk-back. When we did so, we were told to simply meet at the ACE plaque on International Street at 9:45 to be walked back to a ride of our choosing by a staff member. The extra half-hour was nice to have to do some preliminary souvenir shopping and get a cup of coffee, but the extra half-hour of sleep might have been better.
SFKK has an apparently unadvertised special of a $19.95 admission after 3pm; you may also want to grab a can of Coke on the way in, as many park visitors received discounts using this promotion as well.
The Freeway system at CP works fairly well, but plan ahead. Most Freeway booths do not open until 11am or noon, and the stamps for the most popular rides are gone fairly quickly. We only got a stamp for Millennium Force (which was worth it), but didn't get other stamps because even on a Friday, the lines for other Freeway rides (Magnum, Raptor, Wicked Twister) were bearable and even quite short (Magnum was almost a walk-on).
If you feel like taking a break from the park for dinner, the park with the best options nearby is PKI: within 15 minutes sit almost every chain restaurant on earth, as well as a great Chinese buffet that was reasonably price and served good food. HW has some options within a half-hour (we went to a decent place called the Chateau in Mariah Hill), but CP is something of a world unto itself. That being said, we had an enjoyable and decently priced dinner at The Boathouse, which is just outside of the marina entrance. TGI Friday's at The Breakers may seem like a great option, but be aware that it was mobbed with people when we were there. They also have a strange system where patio seating is seat yourself, with only appetizers available, and bar seating is seat yourself, with the lunch menu available: the dining room had a 90-120 minute wait for two people on a Thursday night at 7pm.
Before going to CP, send away for their vacation planning brochure, which contains some good coupons--while we couldn't use the hotel discounts, and the ticket discount was no better than what we received as resort guests, we did use the 2-for-1 coupons to drive the go-carts and play miniature golf at Challenge Park.
Overall this was a great trip, with the positives far outweighing the negatives. It was an exhausting week, but I drove away from Cedar Point on Saturday morning wanting to stay longer.
Please feel free to comment on any of my observations, or add your own. Thanks for reading.Rick
Laugh your troubles away at Riverview, the world's largest amusement park.
If you feel like taking a break from the park for dinner, the park with the best options nearby is PKI: within 15 minutes sit almost every chain restaurant on earth, as well as a great Chinese buffet that was reasonably price and served good food.
The reason there are so many restaurants around PKI is becuase the in-park food absolutely blows! :)
Seriously though, the trip sounded like an overall positive. It's just too bad that you had to visit one of the worst SF parks as opposed to the higher calibur ones like SFGAm. You'd think with the competition around, SFKK and SFWoA would try extra hard to be good...
--still an SFBrat
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