Surprises and disappointments in the amusement world

I looked this up to see if we've ever covered this, and I am curious as to your thoughts:

What were some of your best surprises in the amusement park arena? What were some of the things you thought were great ideas or looked fantastic and really fell short of your expectations? For example, we all know how El Toro shocks people for its smoothness and airtime. It surprised the heck out of me, and I bet it did the same for tons of enthusiasts and the GP alike. However, a ride by B&M that I was fascinated by for years (Hulk) ended up being a head-bangy, dull mess after the launch and awesome cobra roll. Maverick looked puny and dull to me, and when I got off that ride, I wished I could turn around and ride it again immediately. I-305 was a totally different experience from Millie in aggressiveness and airtime and even in the new restraint system. Skyrush looked slow and devoid of airtime, but it both shocked in its ejector air goodness and let down many with its downright painful restraint system.

These are just some examples in the ride spectrum, but it doesn't even have to be about rides per se. What amusement developments have shaken things up the most in a positive or negative way for you?

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

OhioStater's avatar

The first that popped into my mind was Big Bad Wolf at BGW. At the time, the only suspended coaster I had ever been on was Iron Dragon, so that's where my level of expectation was when we were boarding. You can imagine our level of pleasant surprise when we were treated to that first ride, which also happened to be at night, which added to the fun.

ApolloAndy's avatar

I thought the first drop on X in the back was ridiculous. I have never been on anything like it since.

Edit: Oh, and another great surprise: NTG. Somehow even being an SFoT homer, I thought the rebuild would be boring like the original Texas Giant but just not kill my back. Boy was I wrong. Everything about this coaster is better and I couldn't contain my excitement after my first ride when I discovered that my home park had the best steel west of the Mississippi.

Last edited by ApolloAndy,

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."

rollergator's avatar

I'm going old-school with the best biggest surprise...the Premier/KI retrofit of the trains on Flight of Fear...

Vater's avatar

One of the biggest surprises for me was the announcement of Son of Beast, followed by one of the biggest disappointments: my first ride on it.

Biggest surprise for me was Millennium Force, from its announcement to following its construction to riding it opening year. I'd consider that year the peak of my enthusiasm for this hobby, and the year I visited the most parks. Second was finding out my home park Kings Dominion was getting the US's second giga a decade later.

My biggest disappointment will always be Drachen Fire's closing and ultimately its removal. Love it or hate it, it was still very unusual for such a large attraction to be such a colossal failure in such a short time.

I agree with every one of your examples, Bunky. Particularly Hulk and Skyrush.

One of life's greatest amusement disappointments for me was Son of Beast. We were so excited to know the world's biggest wooden coaster was coming our way and there was so much hype. The excitement started to fade when a bunch if us showed up for a tour and realized construction wasn't nearly as far along as we'd hoped. We got the tour but could only look up at those massive hills and turns and know real rides were a while off. Chagrin set in when reports of poor construction and an accident involving a worker surfaced. Then came true malaise when opening day finally arrived and we found the coaster to be, well, just unrideable. Hopes were dashed and nothing ever came along to improve that experience.

Kings Island also managed to deliver a delightful surprise with the installation of Diamondback. As I had already ridden several other B&M hypers I had a feeling I knew what to expect. But I went opening day and stood in that line that stretched halfway around the park hoping it would be worth it. It was. That coaster turned out to deliver the unexpected as far as I was concerned. There was speed, airtime, free flying sensation, and a splash.

Timber-Rider's avatar

I think the park changes that stick in my mind most, are the many faces of Geauga Lake. On my first visit under the original owners, I thought it was pretty much a dump, with annoying thug teenagers everywhere. I thought I would die on Raging Wolf Bobs, which is still the worst coaster I have ever been on. If it was not for Big Dipper, I thought it was pretty crappy.

When it was under the management of Six Flags, the difference in the park was amazing. Clean, fun, and with some awesome new rides, and obvious work done to make the older rides better. My only complaint would be the Villain. Being brand new, it was ungodly rough, and did not want to ride it again. Though I rode Batman Knight Flight, 5 times, and loved X-flight! Too bad it's no longer an amusement park. If it was still as it was under Six Flags. I would want to go back.

Biggest let down, was Cedar Fairs demise of Geauga Lake. It wasn't the same when they took over. Looked nice, and was clean. But, with it missing the "world" feel. It just wasn't the same.

The other huge let down, is not being able to ride De-Ja-Vu at SFGAM. Every time I went there it was closed, and it was removed the year that I planned to go back. The let down would be having to wait a couple years for just 3 rides on Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point for the same reason.

Best Park additions? Obviously Shivering Timbers at Michigan's Adventure. M-force, Raptor, Maverick, and Gate Keeper at Cedar Point. Batman and Raging Bull at Great America. Plus being able to go to La Ronde in Montreal. Which is the farthest I have driven for a park. 14 hours. Montreal is a beautiful city.

Last edited by Timber-Rider,

I didn't do it! I swear!!

Vater, I was just really starting to ride coasters when DrachenFire was around, and I really enjoyed it. That huge lift hill followed by a basically upside down drop was just so unique. No one really came close to that kind of layout until B&M's wingover drop. It is unfortunate that Arrow rides were typically so painful to the head that they didn't end up having longer shelf lives.

It was also interesting to hear about you being super enthusiastic the year Millie came out. I'm sure you remember me coming on this site originally saying I was looking for coasters smaller than 300 feet and I'd never ride Millennium Force or taller. I love seeing how far I've come and how everyone's interests have peaked and valleyed (pun intended?).

Keep 'em coming, guys! This is fun!

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

Having worked in this industry for over 20 years and going, my biggest disappointment is the corporate consolidation and buyout in the industry over the past 10-15 years. Wall Street shouldn't be running amusement parks and for the worse, some great parks have been transformed into commercial quarterly EBITDA machines.

Love me the few family run parks that are still surviving; and thriving, where the word "profit" isn't mentioned in every meeting...

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging,
slithernoggin's avatar

I was blown away by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. In fact, I was blown away, gathered back together and blown away again. Every last detail about that area of the park is perfect. And the ride itself -- amazing.

Gemini has always been a disappointment to me. Impressive to look at, but the ride itself....meh. Not exciting.

(Side note to T-R: if Geauga Lake was still under Six Flags, it would still be closed. Six Flags played the decisive role in the fate of the park.)

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Tekwardo's avatar

By the time I got to ride it, it's reputation was terrible, but I remember seeing Son of Beast and thinking how amazing it was going to be. Oh well... (at least I gots the credit, I guess).

Biggest disappointment of a ride I've ridden that I expected more was Superman at SFMM. I've yet to ride it since it was redone.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

LostKause's avatar

Two disappointments. Son of Beast in one, of course. I mean, it had Beast in its name. It was supposed to be like the Beast, but bigger and better. I rode that soul-crusher exactly twice. My first ride was about a week after it opened. I felt like I was going to need to go to the emergency room afterwards, and it somewhat affected the enjoyment of the park for the rest of the day.

Kinda Ka is my second disappointment. It had been closed for many months in its first season. As soon as it was announced to reopen, I checked my schedule and my bank account and drove many hours to the park for a ride on it, only to find that it was closed again because someone dropped a hat onto the track and it ripped itself apart. On top of that, the park was WAY to busy for it being a Thursday. Six Flags was a terrible disappointment that year, and I haven't been back since. I plan on a visit this year though.

Two biggest surprises. Dania Beach Hurricane is one. I lived in Orlando for a year, working at IOA at the time, in 2000 and 2001. I drove me and my buddy down to Miami to ride DBH, and was blown away. Maybe someday someone will recreate that masterpiece.

Second biggest surprise was, ironically, Batman: The Ride at SFGAdv, in 1993, I believe. The internet was not as popular back in those days, so all I had to go on was a few photos in the SF brochure that I got from my local travel agent to understand what the ride was going to be like. The first time I laid my eyes on it, I was in disbelief. How could a ride like that exist? Suspended coasters couldn't go upside-down. My first ride on it made me a fan for life.


"CoasterBuzz - It feels like home" :)

sirloindude's avatar

Batman - The Ride was actually a surprise for me as well, although interestingly enough, the surprise came when I rode what I believe was my fifth of the bunch. It was the one at Six Flags St. Louis. I'd been waiting for over an hour for it and finally grabbed my front row seat, and I was surprised by how much I'd never really appreciated it before. I'm sure that it being at the end of such a long wait had a good bit to do with the situation, but I developed an appreciation for the ride far beyond what I'd ever had in the past. To this day, it is still one of my favorite (if not my outright favorite) inverted coasters.

On the subject of inverts, though, Flight Deck at CGA was another huge surprise. I'd always expected it to be one of the more generic of the bunch with a seemingly basic layout, but wow, that ride packed a punch. The swooping post-loop turn was arguably the ride's highlight, although the low-level turnaround over the lake was noteworthy as well. It's also very near the top of my invert list.

Silver Star is the last one I can think of at the moment ride-wise. I never really heard much in the way of reviews and the few I had read described it as good, but perhaps a bit average. That was not so, my friends. Possibly the best B&M megacoaster behind Leviathan, Silver Star was solid from start to finish with some of its coolest maneuvers also being some of it's very last. The airtime was stellar but there were a lot of great turns that used the speed of the ride well. I love that thing.

As far as parks go, the most stand-out in my mind is Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Looking at its coaster collection, it always exuded a sort of second-tier feel amongst the chain's parks and it dropped pretty low on my priority list. After finally making it out there last year, though, I can safely say that I was terribly wrong about it. As far as overall quality went, it became one of my favorite Six Flags parks, period. I could easily have taken two days to really see and experience everything I wanted to do as I spent my entire day just scooping up my coaster credits. There were so many animal activities that I would love to go back and experience, and honestly, a few more Medusa and Vertical Velocity laps never hurt anyone. ;)

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

delan's avatar

My biggest surprise was Tokyo DisneySea. After doing all the Orlando/Anaheim Parks I thought it was just another Disney add-on. Not so. The theming at DisneySea is better than any park I have ever been to. Even though I was tired and jet lagged I stayed there until closing, then got up early the next day and did it again. Amazing!

Last edited by delan,

I have heard tale after tale about Tokyo Sea being completely unexpected and pleasing. I've never had an interest in Japan, as much as my husband harasses me about someday going there, but I may have to change my view on that in the next few years or so.

A few more surprises and disappointments: actually, a lot of rides surprise me. Manta at SeaWorld was truly enjoyable and absolutely beautifully themed. Plus, getting to ride on the same day as the people who worked so hard to build it was unexpected and pleasing. Montu at BGT was not something I was all hyped to ride, but it was easily my favorite coaster in Florida, and it wiped the floor with all other inverts. While I love my home park's Talon, Montu is intense and something I've missed riding over the years.

Disappointments: Volcano. It is not that this ride isn't fun (because it IS), and I like rolling so close to the mountain upside down. However, couldn't there have been some other element besides barrel rolls? The idea is great, but the execution was a bit of a letdown, especially after seeing so many old thrill ride specials featuring it.

Universal hotels, or at least Portofino Bay. While it was beautiful and service was very excellent, the inconsistent shop and restaurant hours, sneaky charges, and very itchy bedding made for a slightly disappointing stay (for 225 a night, yeah, I do expect a lot). When you're paying more to park at your home away from home for a week than you are to park daily at the amusement park, someone is doing it wrong.

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

Bakeman31092's avatar

Biggest surprises:

Viper at SFGA. Had no reason to expect it to be anything special, but I think it ended up being right up there with Raging Bull as my favorite coaster at that park.

Avalanche at KD. Again, no reason to think it would be anything special, more of just a credit ride. Of course, I ended up loving it and I think I rode it 2 or 3 more times.

Biggest disappointments:

The Raven. I wrote about this on here about 10 years ago when I first went to Holiday World; basically, I was underwhelmed with not only the ride but the whole park, though part of it might have been heightened expectations. Then again, when "#1 Wooden Coaster" is displayed on a giant banner on the side of the ride, I expected to be blown away. I understand its appeal, and I'm sure that had I gotten a night ride I would've felt differently (much like The Beast).

SoB is an obvious choice, though I will say that I liked the ride quite a bit during its first few years of operation.

slithernoggin's avatar

Tokyo DisneySea was amazing. Perfect in every detail. If you look Tokyo Disney up on Google Maps, DisneySea is smaller then Disneyland, but inside the park it doesn't feel crowded at all.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Tekwardo's avatar

Viper at great America is underrated in my opinion.

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Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Surprises - Dragon Mountain at Marineland. Not usually a big fan of Arrow loopers, but this coaster was a nice surprise. Long ride, the layout cannot be seen until ridden, and probably the best tunnel experience ever in the finale.

Thunderation at Silver Dollar City. Probably the best mine train ever built. A great surprise because another coaster where you cannot see the layout until you ride it.

Biggest disappointment - Gwazi in its current state. This coaster was carefully designed to provide the best dueling experience (with 6 fly-bys), by GCI which produces great riding, twisting coasters. It should also be a capacity eater. But due to the neglect of Busch Gardens, none of these aspects exist. It rides as bad as a wooden coaster can, with only 1 train out of 4 in operation.

My biggest surprises over years of traveling I will break it down into parks first and then rides.


Holiday World- Still to this day love it more than any park. It just felt right and not wanting to go home and taking it all back with me that first time in 2006. Truly one of the best and great parks out there.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg- The theming alone could get me to come back. I enjoyed the rides, but the atmosphere is unlike most traditional theme/amusement parks that I have been to. BTW they own my favorite food as well.


Afterburn- One of the few inverts that wowed me since I have started traveling, not to say there aren't others included in this list, but smooth and just loved the layout.

Batman the Ride- Now I have only rode the original, but I think that was where to start. 20 years after it debuted I rode it in 2012 and just sheer intensity.

The Voyage- Ok so maybe not a surprise to most. However, back in 2006 when it opened I argue to find a better roller coaster that most of us have rode at the time. Subsequent visits have shown its age, but still that ride really does a lot for what wooden coasters have become in the 8 years after the Voyage debuted.



Hersheypark- One park I have never really got. Maybe its the crowds when I have been there or the insanely hot days I went. However, I am left wondering how I don't like the park as much as I should. I cant explain it but it leaves me wanting more especially some of the rides, excluding Stormrunner and Lightning Racer.

Kings Island- A number of times going there. My major gripe about it has always been one thing. Operations, not meaning Son of Beast was down for a few visits and such, I mean just the sheer wait for rides has always been unbearable at times. I haven't been back in 3 years since 11 and the lines were out of all of the queues just not my idea of fun, btw my visit was in June. My food there has been undercooked a few times as well. I mean cold burgers and such. So they have been under my expectations in a few spots, however they do have a solid lineup, but they miss the mark for me in other areas.


Italian Job Stunt Track- Ok, I know you're all thinking what did he expect from a family coaster? However, I rode it after its soft opening when it first opened to the public and the sound effects promised and other visual pleasantries were taken out from almost the get go and didn't work.

X-Flight/Gatekeeper- Ok maybe here is where you all turn on me. X-flight to me was very boring I mean the wing coaster not the Geauga Lake flyer. Gatekeeper and I have never agreed. Not to say that its not a great ride by any stretch, but either I land in a bad seat or I ride it wrong somehow. On media day I rode three times and had a headache. Same came a few months later with a passholder ride night. It gives me headaches. I want to enjoy it but so far its a no go for being a great ride for me. However, maybe with more rides on it I can find a happy medium.

Resident Arrow Dynamics Whore

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