Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Saturday, August 28, 2010

TR: Kings Island - August 15, 2010

Trip Report: Kings Island
Mason, OH
August 15, 2010


"That sky doesn't look good at all"

The day felt perfect. After battling a month of 90 degree plus days, this day finally felt kind of cool and livable. Just the kind of day to go visit your local theme park. It's true that I didn't get to the park until 1:45, but such are the luxuries afforded the season pass holder, right?

So at around 1:45, I effortlessly made my way through the security checkpoint and the main gate and headed to International Street. For the majority of August, the park had teamed up with Komen, a cancer charity. To that end, Komen was selling discount tickets right off the parks web site, where Komen would get a donation for each ticket sold. More visual was the raffle for a new car. This wasn't some low key raffle. You entered the park and to one side of the fountain you saw a giant inflatable pink rubber duck, and on the other side a sales table where you could buy your own, much smaller, pink rubber ducks.

So, I went up to the sales table, and handed over a $20 to get 5 of the small rubber ducks. It's actually a pretty involved process, you have to fill out a registration card for your ducks, all the while the attendant pulls some pink rubber ducks out of a box, and affixes barcoded decals to their bottoms. The attendant then scans the barcodes into a computer system that acts as both a cash register and a tote machine. I say it acts like a tote machine as when the barcodes are scanned it prints out little tickets for the purchaser to retain that shows your duck numbers. The barcode decal sheets contain two copies of each barcode, the other is attached to your registration card. Presumably, the cards head to a data entry pool.

With the handling of cash, filling out of paperwork, and the ducks prepared, you are led through a gate and down a stepping stone trail. At the end of the trail, there is a railing separating you from the royal fountain. At this point you are expected to "chuck" (their term) your ducks one by one into royal fountain. Apparently these ducks are not allowed in the deep end of the pool as a swimming pool style rope has been installed restricting the ducks to the one end of the fountain. Oh, you also get a little pin to show you donated. Apparently, other things around the park also went pink, like the Kings Island flag at the top of International Street. I received a brochure that said to look out for special pink foods, but I didn't come across any, not that Particularly looked for them.

Okay, now I'm feeling good, I supported a charity, I'm at the park, the heat is under control. I turn around from chucking my ducks, look up into the sky and it is ugly. Life's just not fair. I sprint to Diamondback hoping to get a couple rides in before the skies break loose.

I arrive at Diamondback and all three trains are sitting there empty and the ride is closed. Not comprehending the sight in front of me, I start to dash towards Beast. It starts to dawn on me when I notice White Water Canyon is closed. I barely thought twice when I noted Crypt was closed, that's pretty standard anyway. I made it back to Beast and it was closed, and I got the news that all the rides were closed. Checking my watch, 1:52. There is a 2:00 showing of Snoopy on Ice, but that's way up by the main gate. I do a big sprint from Beast to the main gate, and why does there have to be that steep hill by Tower. I plop into a seat at the Kings Island Theatre right around 1:59. The show, of course, starts late as just about everybody in the park, it seems, it finding their way into the show.

I think I like Endless Summer better. Don't get me wrong, they did cover all the great Peanuts material, like the Great Pumpkin, Valentines Day, Charlie brown and the empty mailbox, being called a blockhead, and failing under the pressures of a little league baseball game, in a scenario closer to "Casey at the Bat". I think the scene that seemed to resonate the most with the audience was "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" where through a rope and pulley arrangement, Snoopy flies across the theatre on his doghouse, then glides across the stage riding atop his doghouse while the song is played. Ironic in that I think that scene has no skating whatsoever. Another favorite scene was the one that innocently starts out with Charlie giving Snoopy his dinner, and what follows is a scene that is pure Las Vegas showroom parody, Oh, and who could resist Woodstock riding on a miniature Zamboni.

When the show ended I headed to Action Zone and noted much better skies. I ended up skipping Action Zone after I noted that Delirium, Drop Tower, and Invertigo didn't have particularly long lines, but I wanted to get on a ride somewhere, with some instant gratification. I know where to head for that, Adventure Express it is.

The ride was a walk on, as usual, but I actually waited a couple trains to take a front seat ride. Paging the show department, I'm used to the effects in tunnels 1, 2, and the special lighting and fog in tunnel 3 to be out of service. What I thought was distressing on this ride is the sounds of the lift hill collapsing under you were not being played on the lift hill speakers. That's the one effect that works even when nothing else on the ride does. The big boss dudes eyes were lit up, but not the molten lava nor did he recite his lines. At least most of the drummers were drumming. The good thing, is that Adventure Express could stand alone as a great mine ride even without all the special effects.

From Adventure Express I headed over to Racer, and wound up taking back seat rides on both the Red and Blue Racers. They were running two trains on each side, and were only able to half fill trains at that. I was expecting them to close one side or remove trains, and maybe they did later. It's no surprise that I have been mentioning the weight loss. I was a little surprised when I pulled back on the safety bar on Red Racer and got three clicks out of it with no effort. Remember last year even getting the second took work. I took more care to stop at 2 on Blue Racer. I'm just glad to report that Racer has airtime this year. No, it won't be competing with Voyage anytime soon, but there were a couple good airtime moments.

From Racer, I headed down and saw that Monster was a walk on, hey maybe the storm cleared the place out. Not only was it a walk on, but they were just finishing up a ride cycle, so I really did walk right in. Monster seems to have been the subject of a performance improvement project. What they have done is paint 4 dots on the ground just inside the ride fence. The way it used to work is the ride stopped, they opened the exit gate (which is right next to the entrance gate) then unloaded the sweep, walked back over closed the exit gate, opened the entrance gate, counted and grouped riders, closed the entrance gate, loaded the tubs, then walked back to their station. This meant they had to visit each tub twice. Now they open the entrance gate first, count off and group riders, have them wait on the dots, then they unload the tubs, and as they unload the new riders load in. That way they only have to visit each tub once. It also saves an extra trip back to their station to close the exit and open the entrance.

From there I headed to X-Base, otherwise known as long line Base. Both coasters were advertising 45 minute waits, and I apparently chose wrong. I went with Flight of Fear first. The wait was entirely inside the hangar, with the room about 75% full. This is opposite the way they had been running the ride earlier this year by holding people in the outdoor queues first. You know, I don't mind waiting 45 minutes for a ride, but it's sometimes the people around me that I have to wait 45 minutes with. Line jumping is rampant, and the people around me had maturity levels about half of what I would guess their age to be, and that might be an insult to 8-9 year olds all over the place.

Whatever, I was much later, in the back seat of Flight of Fear, with a working seatbelt buckle. This is key in that I was able to get it to glide quite easily over the latchplate, and actually latch before the ride operator got to me. That meant I was able to ride with the loosest safety bar I can remember on this ride in a long time. Accordingly, that made for one of the best Flight of Fear rides in a long time, well except for the whole complete stop on the mid course brake nonsense.

I next bought a Lemon Chill, and the Dippin Dots stand person was unable to tell me about WindSeeker. I headed to Firehawk, and I noted that only about a third of the large queue maze was in use, both stations open. So far so good. About halfway through the line, the announcement came that the park was suspending ride operations for weather. We wait it out a bit longer, after most people have left. A second more stern anouncement is made that we really should be moving to Festhaus due to a severe storm on its way. We quickly exit Firehawk's line, and just as I am reaching the greeter booth for Firehawk, the skies open up big time. There is no way I am dashing all the way back to Festhaus, particularly when Flight of Fears outside queue area is right here. I duck under shelter and wait out the storm staying nice and dry. It wasn't even that great a storm for storm watching.

After the rain subsides to a dull trickle, I make my way back to Firehawk when I overhear the greeter comment that their ride is usually one of the last to be cleared to reopen. I decide to head towards Vortex. With the rides still closed, I admit I did roll a few bowling balls, and toss some wiffle balls into goblets. Did you know with a season pass discount, you can get the cost per play of the Goblet Toss down under 50 cents a ball. Mind you the prizes I received reflect a price under 50 cents a ball.

I notice Troika is running, so I head down that way, and after surviving the flooded out queue area, have a 1 cycle wait for Troika, such is the life of being the only open ride in the area. Troika is a steady performer, it's not a bad ride, but I still miss the ride that used to sit opposite it on the midway.

By this time Vortex had just reopened, and I took advantage of the fact Troika exits right next to Vortex entrance to snag a walk on front seat ride on Vortex. Vortex is, of course, another solid consistent performer. I continue the walk on coaster tour with a stop at Backlot Stunt Coaster. Okay, for this one the line was just over the bridge, and the bypass gate was open, so a real short walk to the greeter to get stuck with a crappy seat assignment in row 5. Wait, a seat assignment, I don't recall this ride using a grouper on my earlier visits this year! Backlot is holidng up better than Adventure Express in the show department. At least the major show scene and the police car lights work. Of course, every other bit of show has been stripped from, or was never really installed on the ride. How long till they 86 the show scene, go down to two trains, and just have the trains fly right through the show scene brake?

Continuing my way around the park, I stop at Beast. After all these years, it is so nice they figured out a way to totally shunt off the first queue house. The line was just back to where you decide front or back half of the train. Mind you, that split point is at the top of the big ramp this year, instead of the bottom. So, a short time later and its the second to back seat on Beast. You really thought I was going to ride the back of Beast in a wheel seat? At least I was not, apparently riding Beast in "Old Square Wheels" as we dubbed one of the trains back in April. Beast is still mediocre, but it still feels like no trip to the park is complete without at least one ride on it.

Okay, enough foolishness, time to head to Diamondback. For my first three trips on Diamondback, I employed the single rider line. It wasn't that the regular line was long, it was just back to the greeter using the shortest possible path, it was just that the single rider line was being ignored. The first time there were three people in front of me for single rider, the next two times I literally walked right up to the seat assigner. The seat assigner apparently had me pegged for a Row 13 kind of guy, I swear it was either Row 13 or Row 6 on every ride, with all but one in row 13. On Diamondback Row 13 is perfectly acceptable, you could do far worse. (say rows 7-12). I think the black marker lines on the lap bar columns have been removed or have just worn off, I just don't see them anymore. I pull the clamshell down to what feels right, and I didn't have them need to push down on it once. This is where the airtime is at in the park. It really is once of the best coasters Kings Island has installed in quite some time. On ride 4 the single rider line got long again, as it tends to do. By ride 5 I used the main line queue. Seriously when the main line is that short, and the single rider line is down the stairs and rounding the corner, its not worth it.

After that, I decided I was hungry. I was right next to Rivertown Junction Dining Hall, and they have these LED panels outside the restaurant which were advertising that it is a great place to eat late. Figuring that with the season pass discount, it's just as much as any other place in the park, I headed for the door. To bad it closes at or before 7 on a 10 o clock close. So much for being a great place to eat late.

I looked at Snoopy's Flying Ace, but with a 20 minute wait, I skipped it. Surf Dog was closed, Woodstock's Express (Beastie) was closed. I found it interesting that after 35 years they needed to put a sign at the split between the paths for Beastie and the adjacent car ride telling which path is for which ride. I mean it's pretty straightforward there.

I headed to Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, the sign said it was a 30 minute wait but something didn't look right. From a distance the ride looked to be closed, but when I got closer to it, it was just the rail blocking the old speed lane entrance. I walked down into the indoor queue, passing the 3D glasses vendor, and walked into an empty lobby. Not only that, I walked right up to the ride entrance. I think there were maybe 5 people ahead of me in line. I noted they did put better lighting on the safety signage that I commented was unreadable due to light in my prior trip report, so maybe they do read these things.

It's so easy to just say they merely did an overlay of Scooby Doo by removing any Scooby characters or associated intellectual properties (like Scooby Snacks), and you may recall that Scooby Doo was merely a custom theme overlay to their existing Ghost Blasters ride, One might assume that Boo Blasters is really Ghost Blasters, but it's not. The big change is the ride takes a change of character from being light and funny, lie the Disney Haunted Mansion, into something a bit darker and scarier. A lot of skeletons have been added, and the Ghoul on the fog screen really steps up the fright level of the attraction, but its still kind of kid friendly with no guts, gore, or violence depicted.

I started getting those hunger pangs again. I went to International Street Pizza, and nothing there really turned me on. Particuarly when they want $6 for two slices when I can get a loaded 4 toppings LaRosas pizza outside of the park. The hoagies in the case looked even more depressing than the ones in an actual LaRosas, and I thought those have gone downhill. Didn't really want Skyline either. I wound up grabbing an insanely overprices burger and fries basket from Festhaus ($9) but when they tried to get me for $4.25 for a soft drink, I put my foot down. I asked for the ice water, which they were glad to give me, in a 5 oz. medicine cup, just like Six Flags St. Louis did last year. I just ordered $9 worth of food, and you can't give me a full size cup of ice water. It's not like I'm trying just getting a drink on the midway.

Anyway, thanks to the free toppings bar, the burger was actually pretty good, and I ate it while watching Too Much Television. It's your typical theme park hand waving musical revue, this one set, as you might guess to television theme songs. TV's around the room also played clips from the show being depicted. Yes, they did include some Brady Bunch Kings Island episode clips.

After the show, I headed to Action Zone just in time to see Delirium close down. I headed to what would turn out to be a two cycle wait to ride Drop Tower. I got lucky when I was about 6 from the gate and they called for a single rider. This is another ride it was nice to ride with a loose safety harness, so I could better appreciate the free fall part of the ride. I noted the construction going on at the Son of Beast station, rumored to be for some kind of Haunt.

I finished up Drop Zone,just in time to walk onto Delirium. What timing, and what a great ride on Delirium. I then headed back to Firehawk, where I noted Adventure Express was closed, the old Rock Shop seems to have been significantly cut down in size, and I got a surprise at Firehawk. The park is being deceptive about their queues. I get to firehawk and the queue area right inside the gate that is usually only used when the main queue house is full was in use. I walk around the ride a bit, and can see the main queue house is, in fact, empty. I think Disney calls this tactic at the end of the night stacking. So with only about a 15-20 minute wait, I was on Firehawk. Firehawk at night is a great ride, or as Eric would say "Vertical Loop on Your Back!"

From Firehawk, I took a look around the Snoopy Starlight Spectacular. This time the flowers were open, but they didn't close,so I never have seen them open and close like I have seen depicted in some videos. After that I couldn't help but end the night with two more rides on Diamondback, with the second ride being during the fireworks. Forget riding Beast to end the night, Diamondback is where it is at!

I did make one last stop at Graeters on the way out of the park, who were clearly not staffed for the after park close rush. Then I headed out. Next park, who knows!


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