Summer Break Finale - Knoebels Grove (8/20/2013)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 3:52 PM

Liz and I wanted to do something fun for our son Jake before he starts 2nd grade tomorrow, so we picked Knoebels. He just turned 7 a few weeks ago, and I was stoked because he measures well over 48" now. Looking at Knoebels' website it was suddenly apparent that there were absolutely zero rides he would be too short for. We'd discussed the possibilities of Kings Dominion and Hersheypark, but he's already been to KD and the last time Liz and I visited Hershey was more recent than Knoebels. Plus, it's a little closer to home after our move to the Eastern panhandle of WV in June, so a day trip was certainly feasible.

Liz and I wanted to be free of having to watch our 3-year-old daughter the whole day, so she stayed with my folks. Next time, Katie.

Knoebels has been an interesting topic of conversation recently. Who "gets" it, why Flying Turns is or isn't a waste of time and money, charm, non-immersiveness, business sense, comparisons to the corporate parks, etc.

I dig it. A lot. Here's why...
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Going in, we priced out the pay-one-price option vs. individual ride tickets, and soon realized that buying tickets for 3 of us would save us money. Saving money is important because, well, this year alone we sold a house, lost a job, found a job, bought a house and moved into it, in that order. Many, many expenses have been made in the process. That said, I was willing to pay the POP for the added convenience of not having to do math and rip tickets while queuing up for rides. Upon seeing the sea of people waiting to buy the wristbands, however, we ultimately decided that waiting zero minutes to buy tickets and spending less far outweighed what looked like a 30+ minute wait in a throng of people to buy POP wristbands.

Here's the quick pricing breakdown:

Ride all day basic rids w/wooden coasters: $41.50
Tickets: $20 book for $18.

Results:

We bought three $20 books up front, and only needed one more by late afternoon. We ended up using all our tickets before we left. So instead of spending $124.50 for 3 POP wristbands, we spent $72. Plus food and stuff. I think we spent right around $100 total at the park. That's ridiculous. And adding up tickets for the three of us really wasn't the pain in the ass I expected.

The highlights:

Haunted Mansion was our first ride of the day, and it took a little coaxing to get Jake on. He wasn't impressed at all, got scared at the loud noises and closed his eyes the whole time. It seemed to me this had been updated some since Liz and I last visited in 2004. It was neat, but I still don't see why this ride is revered as one of the best dark rides in the country. Jake probably would have been ok if this hadn't been his first ride of the day.

The Flume was one of the better ones I've been on. I was really impressed. Jake loved it, which wasn't a surprise as his very first "big" ride was Le Scoot, the flume at Busch Gardens, just last year. He and I took a second trip later in the day.

I was surprised that adults were allowed to ride the Sky Slide. I'd always wanted to ride it and missed out on it 9 years ago. Jake and I rode together and Liz came down afterward. What a fun ride; the acceleration never let up until it spit us out at the bottom.

Liz sat out while Jake and I rode Kozmo's Curves. The only other coasters Jake had ridden prior to this were Hey Arnold's Lucy's Crabbie Taxi Cabbie Chase Jam at Carowinds, whatever its equivalent at Kings Dominion is called, and Grover's Alpine Express at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. He liked this as well. I thought it was better than most kiddie coasters, but not as crazy as the ride it replaced, High Speed Thrill Coaster.

Jake expressed interest in riding the "big wooden coaster," which was one of my hopes when we first planned the trip. We queued up for Phoenix and Jake and I sat in the first seat of the second car, while Liz sat right behind us. Despite my paranoia of keeping Jake from flying out of the car and making sure he wasn't scared out of his mind, I enjoyed my ride. Turns out, Jake was ecstatic. We all rode this again later in the afternoon, and I was able to relax and enjoy the ride more, this time right up in front. We all absolutely love this ride. It's just about the most fun I've had on a roller coaster in my adult life. And what a great first full-sized coaster for my little guy...he made his dad proud.

After our first ride on Phoenix, Jake wanted to try Twister. I gave him fair warning that it would be rougher and more intense, but he wanted to try it anyway...right until we were about to board. Liz took him down the exit while I rode alone, and I don't blame him a bit for his decision. It's still a solid ride, but I'm not sure if he's ready for it just yet.

It was cool to see Flying Turns and its new trains. There were a few guys working on it. It's too bad I likely missed its opening by a few days or weeks, but I won't lose sleep.

The Skooters were incredible; we all agreed they're easily the best bumper cars anywhere. Similarly, the Whipper (classic Mangels Whip) was a blast. Liz sat that one out while I declined on the Italian Trapeze, one of Jake's favorites. The kid was grinning ear-to-ear the entire ride.

I took Jake on the Flyers, and while I failed to get a good bounce, it was still great fun.

Jake drove one of the Antique Cars, and I sat in the back seat for probably the first time since I was a kid. His driving lacked finesse. We zig-zagged throughout the course, hitting the center rail frequently. Thankfully he won't be getting his license for another 9 years.

We hit up Black Diamond, and I was underwhelmed. Probably my own fault, because while I believe Knoebels describes it as part coaster, part dark ride, I think I expected a little more coaster than there was. I don't know, I must have misinterpreted the pictures I'd seen of Golden Nugget, because I thought there were more drops, albeit small ones (think the Wild Mouse kind), than there were. And all the drops were heavily trimmed (but rightly so, as they all pretty much descend into flat, unbanked turns). The theme was ok, if not a bit hokey, but I appreciate the level of effort a family-owned joint like Knoebels put into it. Fortunately Liz and I supressed our reactions as we exited until we got Jake's take: he thoroughly enjoyed it.

A day at Knoebels wouldn't be complete without a ride on the Grand Carousel, and while Jake didn't quite understand the hoopla of grabbing for the brass ring (and unfortunately couldn't reach the dispenser), he really enjoyed himself, and the ride ops, recognizing his inability to grab a ring, were handing him rings as he passed them. That really made him--and his parents--happy. Well done, Knoebels.

The Motor Boats somehow became the most eventful experience of the day. First, while queuing we saw a father get into a boat and place a whoopie-cushion on the seat next to him while his unsuspecting teenage daughter sat on it. The subsequent reaction by her (and her father, and everyone in line who witnessed it) was stellar. This dude wins Father of the Year award in my book. Then, when it was our turn, Jake wanted us all to ride together, and he wanted to drive. Logistically, the only way to do that was for him to sit in either his mom's or dad's lap. I volunteered to be the uncomfortable one, and it became a great challenge to take over steering because it quickly became abundantly clear that Jake was an abysmal motor boat driver. Similar to the Antique Cars, he used the entire width of the canal, slamming the boat into the sides; however, unlike the cars, he wasn't trying to do this. He scrubbed off so much speed that the lady and her daughter in the boat behind us not only caught up, but nearly passed us as we rounded the last turn before the station. The channel was barely wide enough for two boats at this point, and were it not for the attendant on shore who hooked onto their boat to let us pass, we may have gotten stuck. This resulted in our apologies for our son's wreckless driving and much laughter from all parties.

We ended the day with a ride on the Scenic Skyride, and I tip my hat to the ride op who let all three of us ride despite the fact that I was 50¢ short on tickets. Jake loved the view and my legs turned to rubber as I kept my arm across him to keep him from leaning forward, since there was a large gap from which he could easily slip out.

We left feeling completely satisfied with the day, yet in the back of my mind there was still a lot we didn't have the time to do. With Knoebels only 3 hours away, it's not inconceivable that we'll be back next year, perhaps with both kids.
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This was undoubtedly one of the best trips to an amusement park that we've had in recent years. As to why some people don't get Knoebels, I'm not sure what there is to "get." And I'm one who typically sides with the proponents of good business sense, technology, tiered pricing and big profits the large corporate theme parks endorse that many enthusiasts reject. Fact is, I also don't see anything inherently wrong in not making decisions strictly based on profiting. Flying Turns, for example. Lower pricing; free admission; the obvious beaming pride taken by the owners in the old rides that, in some cases, are far better than their modern variants... I recognize and appreciate all of that; and even knowing that, I also recognize that there are so many opportunities that aren't taken that leave money on the table. And you know what? Even taking myself (the consumer who's paying less) out of the equation, I'm cool with that. Especially with the idea that, presumably, the Knoebels family is aware of those opportunities, and are cool with not taking them, presumably because they value the customer experience, and being in business doing what they love, over strictly generating potentially larger profits. Presumably.

As many know, the park has a very "state fair" vibe to it, albeit nestled in some beautiful woods up in the mountains and although the rides are impeccably maintained, there is no feeling that they are remotely dangerous when riding them. And considering how old some of them are, that's truly remarkable. The food is reasonably priced and very good. Despite the fairly large crowds, lines for rides were very reasonable, with the longest being for the Motor Boats at around 25 minutes. I guess if all you're used to are the larger theme parks and are expecting the same immersive, themed experience, you could be setting yourself up for disapointment, but for our group of three, and for my son's last hurrah before school begins, this was exactly the experience we'd hoped for.

My only complaint is that I had to wipe down my brand new shoes with a wet cloth because they were grey with gravel dust. Stupid Knoebels.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:06 PM

I don't "get" this trip report.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:07 PM

Ass.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:19 PM

Vater said:

Saving money is important because...

No one should ever have to justify saving money, or am I just being a tight ass?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:29 PM

My intent was not really to justify it, but rather to illustrate that, while saving money is always good, I typically don't have a problem spending more if there's a convenience associated with it. And in this case, even though I really should be saving money because of all the expenses we've made this year, I was willing to spend more for convenience, but ironically the convenience of POP had a significant inconvenience associated with it: a crazy wait. Thus, we bought tickets with absolutely no wait at all, and saved money to boot.

Last edited by Vater, Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:30 PM
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:30 PM

Enjoyed the report immensely, Vater. I'm with you on Kozmo's Kurves vs. HSTC. I got more air time on the latter than I do/did on some rides 20x its size.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 4:56 PM

This particular TR had all the charm I expect in a trip report about Knoebels.

I want to come back to this later. It's 5:00 and I'm leaving....

Screw you guys, I'm going home....

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:06 PM

Good read!

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Thursday, August 22, 2013 4:27 AM

Yeah, I enjoyed this, Vater. It took me back to my first trip to Knoebels last summer, and many of our moments were comparable.

I did the math during the drive to Knoebels, and I also found the tickets to be a better deal, especially because our visit was going to be split with a couple hours at night of one day, and a few hours the next day. I used my phone and found a grocer on the way called Weis, where the $20 ticket books were $16. Upon arrival, there was similarly a huge line for wrist bands that we got to bypass.

It was nice seeing Jake's perspective. I was excited for Black Diamond and appreciated its uniqueness, but I similarly felt a little "meh" about the ride experience (because I was also expecting it to be Wild Mouse-like). What I didn't realize at the time was that it's great for kids and families, as you've shown here.

I definitely "got" Knoebels. It was my last stop in a road trip with 3 other parks (Hershey, Great Adventure, & Dorney), and it was a breath of fresh air for me. It was so unlike the corporate feel of the other parks in the trip, where I tended to view people as obstacles.

At Knoebels, I felt more unified with others. It was like we had all met at this bizarre place in the mountains, and we were all having fun together. It just felt more relaxed, void of crowded midways and obnoxious teenagers. I could be happy sitting on a bench, sampling some treats, talking with friends, and taking in the sights and sounds...and shuffling in a ride or two on Phoenix.

Last edited by Jeph, Thursday, August 22, 2013 4:39 AM
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Thursday, August 22, 2013 8:35 AM

I'm confused. Where are all the numbers? How many rides did you get on stuff?

This trip report sucks.

(P.S. it was a fantastic read)

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Thursday, August 22, 2013 2:00 PM

Another epic moment I forgot to mention: as we headed toward the Whipper, I saw a father run up to his kids (young, like 4 or 5) yelling, "Does anybody know what a f*#kin' ear is?!"

My jaw hit the floor as I stared at them, thinking, "good lord, my kid doesn't listen sometimes, either, but who the hell talks to their kids that way?" Granted, all of this occurred in a fraction of a second, and everything became clear as my wife, seeing the incredulous look on my face, said, "'Buccaneer,' hon. 'Buccaneer.'"

Suddenly I realized what seemed like blind, misguided rage toward his kids was actually over-the-top enthusiasm as he pointed them towards the big statue in front of the Galleon swinging ship ride...

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Thursday, August 22, 2013 2:46 PM

When we at KD once a few years ago, one of my friends said to his daughter..."Wanna go ride the Blue B@st@rds?" Now this is one of my more religious friends mind you, so my head spun pretty quickly...

Turned out we were heading to the Sally-brand Interactive ride....Boo Blasters. Quite the ummm, revelation. I'll get my hearing checked one of these days...

Last edited by rollergator, Thursday, August 22, 2013 2:47 PM
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Thursday, August 22, 2013 3:02 PM

Vater said:

Another epic moment I forgot to mention: as we headed toward the Whipper, I saw a father run up to his kids (young, like 4 or 5) yelling, "Does anybody know what a f*#kin' ear is?!"

My jaw hit the floor as I stared at them, thinking, "good lord, my kid doesn't listen sometimes, either, but who the hell talks to their kids that way?" Granted, all of this occurred in a fraction of a second, and everything became clear as my wife, seeing the incredulous look on my face, said, "'Buccaneer,' hon. 'Buccaneer.'"

Suddenly I realized what seemed like blind, misguided rage toward his kids was actually over-the-top enthusiasm as he pointed them towards the big statue in front of the Galleon swinging ship ride...

One of my favorite jokes:

8-year boy is out trick-or-treating on Halloween dressed in full pirate regalia. Rings a neighbor's bell, lady answers the door, takes a look, and says: "Oh, how cute! A pirate! And where are your little buccaneers?"

Boy says, "They're right under my little buckin' hat, lady!"

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Thursday, August 22, 2013 3:27 PM

lol ^^^ That reminds me of a hilarious moment I had on my Knoebels visit.

We were in line for Looper, and I said to my friend something like, "Isn't it just nice to be around people that are happy and having fun? This is one of the reasons why I enjoy parks."

In a perfect-timing comedic moment, a boisterous mom yelled to her daughter in front of us, "DAMMIT GINNY! YOU'RE GOING TO RIDE LOOPER WITH YOUR BROTHER, OR YOU'RE GOING STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM WHEN WE GET HOME!" The daughter started crying.

My friend then responded, "Yeah, everyone is so happy."

Last edited by Jeph, Thursday, August 22, 2013 4:40 PM
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Thursday, August 22, 2013 3:29 PM

I always think lowly of the parents that force their kids on rides

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Friday, August 23, 2013 1:15 AM

Very nice job on this report Vater. Weather was perfect too - sorry I missed you.

Tyler - - -> I agree. In my opinion, a parent should NEVER force any child to take part in any amusement park attraction that they don't want to. A parent's role should be to encourage not to force. A child (especially a young child) can be traumatized for such a bonehead move.

Re. Tickets vs. Wristbands...My wife only went on one ride at the park. (Train ride) She would have had to pay 50 bucks or more just to get in at the major parks and it would have been a financial waste to do so. I love the flexability that this park offers. I on the other hand would be bleeding tickets.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013 10:34 PM

The Golden Nugget was also pretty heavily trimmed and more dark ride than coaster IMO. I think where the BD suffers is the timing of the things, and the fact that only seat positions 3 and 4 are any good for actually seeing a lot of the stuff. Also, they don't backlight the things that are happening enough, so you cant even see them as they occur... barrels tipping over, mine timbers cracking, etc... these are all tricks lifted directly from the golden nugget, but it's difficult to even see the stuff unless you are looking for it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO7P3SS4ZTM

at about 3 minutes you get a POV.. POV of the old Hunts Pier Flyer in the beginning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rV24fyeY8VI

Hokey 70's commercial for Hunts Pier, with a peek at the GN at the 28 second mark, that really gives you a sense of how fast it was going.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013 10:40 PM

Everything in your eyes seems to be hokey or dopey or silly or easily dismissed.

Nothing really to add, just find your adjective choices to be very interesting.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013 10:56 PM

I've seen the old 1988 Hunts Pier video before, but I gave Billb a vote up because I like the video and enjoyed watching it again.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013 11:11 PM

I remember my first laps on Black Diamond thinking that some of the scenery was harder to see and thinking it might be due to JMM Studios being more dark-ride oriented, where the cars move relatively slowly. Thinking it might be fixable by slowing the train a little here and there...that KG had gotten the ride up and running JUST in time for PPP and that the following season it would be a much better dark-ride in terms of the timing of the "stunts"/visual effects. It was improved on my next visit, but still not to the extent I had hoped.

Ah well, guess I could go back and check again... :-P

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