Kings Dominion, Doswell, Virginia, USA
There are those moments as a parent when you get to be there as your kid breaks through an emotional wall to discover a new level of fun, leaving an old era of thrills behind and stepping into a brave new world. For our 5-year old daughter, this trip unexpectedly was that moment, with most credit going to the role model she has in her 9-year old sister who tackled Millennium Force at 7, and Dragster earlier this Spring. Special thanks goes to the laid back staff at Kings Dominion, but more on that later…
This report includes some ride highlights and other random bits, not necessarily in chronological order.
Yes it’s July, but hot damn! Both Wednesday and Thursday it was about 98 degrees and humid. No worries, though; a little heat advisory cannot stop the Meyer clan.
We quickly learned that the middle of the week is a wonderful time to be at this park. There was not one ride that was not a walk-on. Literally.
I have always loved Kings Islands’ International Street. In fact, I think most times I played RCT2 years ago, 99% of my parks emulated that in some fashion. Kings Dominion, obviously, did not disappoint. I like the simple castle-themed entrance, and despite the heat the staff was extremely friendly, along with a nice 5-piece band playing up and down the street. The park felt very, very clean and meticulously landscaped. My lasting impression of this park really is those two things; beautiful to get immersed in with a friendly staff.
One of the first things that happened as we headed off to Planet Snoopy was my daughters getting measured for their wrist-bands. The 9-year old (barely) hit he 54” mark, while the 5-year old was just slightly (literally a millimeter) under the 48” mark. To my happy surprise, the worker gave my excited 5-year old her first 48” wristband. Now, being accustomed to Cedar Point, I was fully prepared for this to be only a decoration, only to have her turned away from all the new rides this opened her up to. How wrong I was…
Before we came on this trip, the girls watched daddy doing his homework, and Hayden (that’s the 5-year old) became obsessed with Avalanche, a rare bobsled-coaster. This would be a huge deal for her, as she has never ridden anything bigger than Woodstock Express at Cedar Point, and even that comes with a certain degree of fear. I was convinced she would get measured at the entrance and turned away, but not so much. We climbed aboard our middle-of-the-train sled without getting measured by anyone, and I had the pleasure of riding with my daughter as her fear turned into non-stop giggling through the twisting course. The final helix gives you a nice little pop of air before it rounds the bend into the brake-run, and Hayden had fallen in love with her first “big-girl” ride. Even better, with no one in line we got to re-ride about 3 times before getting off. I really enjoyed this ride. It brought me back to riding Avalanche Run before “the enclosure” happened. It’s neat how it is incorporated with Volcano, and I wonder if in some grand vision the mountain was planned to extend to embrace the course of this ride as well. Speaking of Volcano…
So, talk about a stroke of good luck. This ride was non-operational for 3 weeks before our visit, opened the day before we got there on Wednesday, and then shut down again on Thursday. Remember the 9-year old who got the 54” wristband? Well, we had done the same at Cedar Point, and of course at Raptor she missed the metal measurement by a hair (actually less than a hair), so they turned her away. And of course she was being measured despite having the 54” band on her wrist. Thankfully, Kings Dominion has a bit more common sense to their operations, and like her 5-year old sister she was not measured once for any attraction, including her trip with daddy on our maiden-voyage on Volcano. Beautifully themed, although I was expecting there to be some air conditioning inside the Volcano itself (wrong)…we lost about 15 pounds in water weight even with a walk-on, as it literally felt as if we were in a Volcano while we boarded our front-seat walk-on ride. I had never watched a POV of this ride before, so we were both equally surprised as the first launch twisted around into the second, shooting us out over the top before twisting our way home. We loved every second of this ride, which was non-stop action from point to point. While I was hoping to get plenty of re-rides the next day, we were thankful that we got our chance given its recent downtime.
OK, so self-disclosure; I have never experienced a grey-out or black-out on any coaster. That all changed on Wednesday as Kylah (that’s the 9-year old) and I got in line for our first ride on Wednesday.
DADDY MOMENT: On a tangent, words cannot express how proud I am of this girl. I developed a full-blown roller coaster phobia (surprise!) at age 12 when Cedar Point opened Magnum in 1989, and here I am in line with my 9-year old for Intimidator, and she is filled with only excitement and a sense of adventure.
I started greying out on the pull-out, and was so mystified that it really jaded the rest of my ride. All I remember was relentless force, and of course Kylah laughing her head off as we made our way through the track. The second day, I gave this ride another shot with Kylah, and remembered the old trick of tensing one’s abs and butt muscles to help prevent greying out. It worked perfectly (or maybe it was just a placebo?), and I ended up having a blast. It’s amazing how completely different this is from Millennium. The first hill did not feel nearly as high, and while I do not like the restraints, I get their necessity as those turns snap you to and fro. Certainly left an impression.
This is purely a daddy moment. After riding Avalanche, the 5-year old decided she wanted to ride Grizzly with her sister. She held on for dear life, and said a simple “no thanks” when asked if she wanted to ride again later in the day. That said, the pride….oh, the pride! This was also our final ride at Kings Dominion, as I boarded with Kylah at around 9:30 on Thursday night. We rode in the second-to-last seat, and it was not as rough back there. This is a great night-ride, as the course is nearly pitch-black after the lift.
It’s coming along.
This is the Ferris Wheel, of course; something Hayden had never had the courage to ride before. She decided to ride with her sister while Mommy and Daddy enjoyed a draft beer on the sidelines. While boarding the gondola, Hayden started crying; clearly having second thoughts. From the queue, I was telling Hayden to come to daddy as Mommy and Daddy simply cannot ride because we have our beers. BUT WAIT! The ride ops said, “you know what, just go ahead and ride with her”. With your beers.
So, again, special thanks to Kings Dominion for not getting overly weird about being a millimeter short to reach a height limit, but an extra special thanks (that’s a thing) for letting mommy and daddy ride the ferris wheel with our drinks so that our 5-year old could enjoy her first ferris wheel. Of course after that initial ride all she wanted to do was ride, and ride, and ride…Cheers!
Some other random things…
Dinosaurs Alive: This works much better at Kings Dominion. The dinosaurs are actually not all falling apart like at Cedar Point, and they actually work! We actually all enjoyed this attraction here as a family, which was surprising since we are used to the really crappy version at the Point (if you haven’t been in awhile, it’s in sorry shape, regardless of your feelings behind the attraction itself).
Flying Eagles: Um, what was Cedar Point thinking? I was expecting the same ride that we find on the Gemini midway, but no….to my surprise this was a bigger and better version! 10 eagles, a broader flightpath, and simply more powerful and fun ride overall. At long last, I finally taught myself how to “whip” the eagle, much to the joy of my daughters. We had a blast on this ride.
48": Hayden fell in in love with Avalanche and Backlot Stunt Coaster (I failed to mention that daddy also eventually convinced her to get front-seat rides on these two), got to enjoy Wave Swinger, Grizzly, Flying Ace, and got an outside-seat on the Eagles. It was truly a brave new world for her and the rest of us. Heck, my wife and I actually got to ride next to each other!
Overall, we were left with a really positive experience at this park. We found it to be largely family-focused, easy to navigate, with a laid-back friendly staff and a beautiful atmosphere.
Oh, and of course there were those mushrooms…
Awesome. What adorable little ladies you have.
The Scooters at KD is one of my favorites as it is the much preferred, older Bisch Rocco model, like the Flyers at Knoebels or the Woodstock Gliders at Carowinds (which came from KI). I'm not sure where KD's ride came from, but I believe they opened with the park. They were originally called Parrot Troupers and were by the lake near the Safari. I believe they were moved when Diamond Falls splash boats went in. Or maybe Anaconda.
Anyway, I always take several turns on it whenever I'm at KD and my old flying skills come back immediately.
Tell Hayden that I love Avalanche too, and I'd be happy to ride it anytime. It really is a nice ride, and being that it's the only one in the US made by Mack, it happens to be the best. You know, before Volcano that mountain originally housed three rides and the bobsled came later. Your idea of extending the mountain to include and surround Avalanche is an excellent idea, but I don't think that was ever the plan. It would make for a more thrilling and "authentic" experience.
I'm glad Volcano was up and running for you, I know that was a concern before your trip. And I'm glad the staff at KD was happy to accommodate you- not only in the wrist band department but letting you have your beer on the ride? How many of us can say that? Sounds like an ideal situation that really should be the rule at all parks.
Thanks for the great report.
Nice report, Kevin. Glad you all had a fun time, nice family too. You make great contributions on here and Pointbuzz. Kings Dominion is a favorite park of mine, even though I haven't visited since 2000. It has a genuine relaxing and beautiful atmosphere. Volcano is a cool and interesting coaster to say the least. Didn't know drinks are allowed on the ferris wheel! Awesome. During my visit, I stayed at the former Best Western next door. It was nice to take a break and go back to the room mid-day, and change into swim suit and try the water rides. White Water Canyon is a fantastic water ride, with its layout carved into the woods. It was neat how the park made the ride so secluded, not sure if it's still like that. As a buckeye resident myself, maybe we'll meet on the midways someday.
I think KD is a beautiful park, too. With KI for my closest park it's fun to compare the two. In making the layout and building KD, Taft tried to fix what was "wrong" with KI. Turning the park 45 degrees from the freeway is an interesting choice. Both parks have grown into beautiful places, but KD seems longer on woodsy atmosphere, and trees in Virginia are taller than what we have in Ohio, anyway.
Once years ago at an ACE event at Kings Island I was sitting with friends who called KD their home park. They remarked how KI was such a fun place, how gorgeous and relaxing it was, and how they preferred it over KD. So.... I guess there's an observation in there somewhere, right?
Your kids are adorable. Glad you all had a great time!
Avalanche was also my first adult coaster. I ride it it's inaugural year after a two plus hour wait with my mom. To this day it's still the only coaster I've ridden with her (she loves spinny rides).
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
Thanks RCMAC; the girls take after their mom. ;) I was wondering if those scooters were a different model. What a blast we had on those. What sorts of rides were in the mountain? Was one of them a tiny boat ride? I noticed that part of Volcano's theming elements included what looked like a tiny boat on what was left of a small boat-ride course.
And thanks as well, jkpark & Tek! We stayed at the County Inn and Suites across the street, which was perfect for us.
Since you mentioned White Water Canyon, I'll highlight a few other things. White Water Canyon itself was wonderful. It was definitely secluded and utilized the natural terrain perfectly. There were moments when the raft was really moving at a great clip. I'm not a super-huge fan of these rides, but it was something we could all do together, and I'm glad we gave it a whirl.
The log flume next door was also just right. Pretty simple, but who needs lots of theming when you are already coasting through the woods?
Another little gem we discovered was the car ride (the old-fashioned cars) that wormed their way through the woods as well. We did it during the day and at night after the light show had begun. Speaking of those trees, they are now lighting the wooded path between the Eiffel Tower and the flower-clock each night in an ongoing show that starts at 8:30 - close...a very cool effect with all those mature trees. The Old Virginia part of the park was just beautifully shaded all-around.
Lost World Mountain opened in 79 featuring Time Shaft, which was an indoor Rotor (see the Rotor Thread for an argument about that awful ride), Voyage to Atlantis , later Haunted River, a scenic dark boat ride with a splashdown, and Journey to the Land of Dooz, later Smurf Mountain. That last ride was the most interesting, if not the least thrilling family ride. I think it was an Arrow ride, and was a short train of flat bed vehicles with benches. Riders were mechanically pulled through hills and valleys in the mountain and could observe cute characters in a cave-like setting.
Fans still bemoan the loss of the mountain rides (Haunted River was pretty good, actually, especially the dark ride portion), but having Volcano in its place is a more than fair trade to most enthusiasts.
There was talk of a similar mountain style attraction in the Safari section of Kings Island, but it never came to be.
I rode all three rides several times and I was always amazed how much was crammed into the mountain. The track rides had length to them. I suppose Haunted River was in the basement, and the Dooz people lived upstairs with Rotor stuck somewhere in the middle. It had to take some engineering with a pretty big show building hidden behind.
The thing I remember about the raft ride was that it was drenching. After dispatch the rafts gathered in a small lake and bumped around waiting for their turn to go down the river. Several times I observed a raft "stuck" in a corner there, while other ones scooted right by. I guess the people in that raft were treated to a nice (or not) long ride. There was a big barn at the end of the ride with water curtains on each side and scarcely a rider was spared from getting soaked. I wonder if it's still there?
White Water Canyon itself was wonderful. It was definitely secluded and utilized the natural terrain perfectly. There were moments when the raft was really moving at a great clip. I'm not a super-huge fan of these rides, but it was something we could all do together, and I'm glad we gave it a whirl.
The log flume next door was also just right. Pretty simple, but who needs lots of theming when you are already coasting through the woods?
Exactly. I usually skip a ride like WWC. But since you have to walk through the park to get to the water park, I figured why not? Very well done. It's like the only trees that got removed were just for the water trough. And yes, the log flume is great too!
I'm glad Volcano was open for you guys. When I went 2 weeks ago, I wasn't so lucky. I completely agree with you about how the park looks, it's absolutely beautiful, and very shaded. The only coasters that didn't feel super secluded were Fominator, Rebel Yell and I305. The eagles were great, and interestingly enough, I was able to get absolutely MASSIVE snaps on the CP ones after this trip, so maybe the older ones make you better. I thought Grizzly was very surprising and an amazing ride. Smooth and a lot of airtime. Avalanche is very unique, but the midcourse is awful. Glad you had a good time!
Hey, let's ride (random Intamin coaster). What? It's broken down? I totally didn't expect that.
I want to ride the Ferris wheel with my beer. Seriously, I'm rather surprised that was allowed; very cool of the staff to let you guys do that.
Great trip report. It's always nice to hear a newcomer's perspective, as KD is the park I've visited the most in my life, beginning at age 5 (I have vague memories of seeing the mountain under construction while riding the safari monorail). I've had an occasional day of walk-ons, which is a rare treat. I've also had days where I only managed to get three or four rides in due to the crowds.
Some random thoughts...
Regarding your grey-out on I305, I'm betting it was more intense due to the crazy heat. It definitely gets me every time (unless I buttclench (I just created this verb...you're welcome)), but it's not usually as disorienting or long-lasting in milder weather.
White Water Canyon, the Shenandoah log flume, and the Blue Ridge Tollway (or whatever the old cars are called now) are unequivocally my favorite rides of their type, anywhere. I blame those replica Model Ts, at least in part, for my love of driving cars.
When in line for Volcano, you can still see bits of Smurf Mountain track above, sticking out of the mountain. Not easy to spot when it's a walk-on, however.
Also, Mt. Kilimanjaro was a Schwarzkopf Bayerncurve nestled half-inside a smaller mountain that sat between the big mountain and Flight of Fear. I think the mountain is still there, though a bit off the beaten path, and is just decoration now with trees and a waterfall.
(Haunted River was pretty good, actually, especially the dark ride portion)
It was. But the final drop was really good, too, and had the most unreal head-chopper I've ever experienced on any ride before or since. There were times when I would tell myself on the way up the lift that I was going to force myself not to duck, and I still instinctively ducked.
There was a big barn at the end of the ride with water curtains on each side and scarcely a rider was spared from getting soaked. I wonder if it's still there?
As far as I know, the barn is still there, but I haven't seen those water curtains on in years. Which is unfortunate, because they were a huge part of what made the ride so much fun, and now the barn serves absolutely no purpose.
Once years ago at an ACE event at Kings Island I was sitting with friends who called KD their home park. They remarked how KI was such a fun place, how gorgeous and relaxing it was, and how they preferred it over KD.
This is exactly how I felt when I first visited KI in 2000. In hindsight, I think both parks are gorgeous in their own way, and my impression of KI was likely influenced by the fact that I was really, really used to (and at the time, a little tired of) KD.
Kings Dominion is the only major theme park where I can say I have ridden every roller coaster there, past and present. Looks like I'll have to visit again next year to keep that streak going.
Wonderful trip report! I think Vater got it exactly right about the heat. I'd ridden I-305 a dozen times without incident but on my last trip to KD, I came close to greying out on it after walking around the park in extreme heat and humidity all day. After getting food and hydration I rode it again and didn't have a problem. Anyway, I-305 is the most intense coaster I've ridden. Wish I could get back to it this season.
I told my wife that if she didn't get a pic with the beers on the Ferris wheel, no one would believe it. It was just a cool sweet moment. They could tell Hayden wanted to ride, but not without mommy and daddy, at least for her first time. I'm also certain it was good timing, as on a crowded day I doubt they would have been so easy-going about it.
I love learning about the history of these places and how they have evolved over time. One of my friends at work who grew up in VA asked me if Smurf Mountain was still there...now I know what he was talking about and the answer.
Mt. Kilimanjaro looks great! If only that was still around...that would be a sweet ride.
We sat under that waterfall to relax both days, and I remember wondering what the deal was with this nice little piece of scenery. I figured it had a story.
Thank you so much for sharing so much detail and memory making. With KD being my home park I go A LOT and it's easy to get jaded and spoiled by it. This tr brought back so much nostalgia from my childhood at this park.
Keep treasuring this time period with your kids. I'm in the same range with my youngest and it's magical to live vicariously through them when they're experiencing these huge thrills for the first time.
It's crazy to me that cp gives kids problems like that. If you were going to do that then why even hand out wrist bands?? That's just setting the poor kid up for heartbreak.
Anyway, y'all come back now.
The best of all the jokers is clearly Mark Hamill.
Really great report. I too find KD to be a very pretty, well-maintained, and clean park (except the one visit where the bathrooms were some of the most disgusting bathrooms I have ever seen in my life. Still don't know what the issue was that day, but I didn't want to set foot in any of them).
I grey out on I-305 every time I ride it. Buttclenching and all! I did on Millie as well, so I think it's just those sharp turns right after the drop. Heat is a factor, but I was cold my one visit to KD and still greyed out.
I'm jealous of your beer-included Ferris wheel ride, but after almost vomiting on jonnyecks after two beers at Dorney, I have not attempted any beer at a park, so it won't be something I likely get to even do if it was allowed. It's so cool though. NEVER heard of a ride op being that lenient.
Your girls likely will hit stops and starts during their coaster riding career, but it's so exciting to see the starts, isn't it? I took my nephews on their very first roller coaster, and I thought they'd be scared because they're kind of timid boys. Nope. They wanted to ride big people coasters the very next season, and I had to explain to them why they couldn't ride Storm Runner many times on this year's Hershey trip. They are absolutely fearless. They rode Laff Trakk, Trailblazer, Comet, and wanted to ride SDL (mom said no to that one due to how skinny they are...tall enough, but so skinny that you can tighten seat belts all the way on them and they still don't stay in the seats on Comet). I had such a sense of pride and continually told them how cool and brave they were. Your girls sound a little more cautious, but I'm still so excited for them (and for you). You're gonna eventually have to drag them OUT of the parks if this keeps up!
I liked the KD flyers. Flyers are a funny thing for me: I am one of the weird ones who don't like to snap at all, but I do like getting the tub high in the air and then forcefully coming down. Knoebels flyers are too easy to snap for me (blasphemy), but KD's were just right. I think I got a little tiny snap once, but I couldn't be sure because I've only ridden them twice.
Babbling again. I really did like your report, and I'm glad everyone enjoyed this park. I'm always wishing I could go back more often. I even love their kiddie coaster (thing's got some pretty beastly airtime for a kids ride). Hopefully you all get out here again soon.
"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band
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