Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A 2011 Kings Island Trip Retrospective

How is that fancy title for this Trip Report?

Well, lately, I have been debating if I want to continue trip report writing. I mean, they seem to be out of fad, and when they get to the point I dread writing them, something is wrong. Yet, I love to look back and relive memories.

Also, the problem with Kings Island trip reports, is they fall squarely under the Home Park Syndrome. This means when I go I either do my usual pattern, and ride the same rides, in the same order, and have about the same experience as the last 20 visits. What is interesting about writing or reading that? The other option is I go to the park for about an hour, ride Diamondback for an hour and leave. Again not too much of note there.

But here goes.

You can read the opening day epic here:

Other visits include:

Father's Day 2011 - 6/12/11

On this day, Rideman and I had spent the day at Stricker's Grove, which closed at 8p. Being with Rideman, you know we weren't exactly out of the park right on time, and what with the travel time to Kings Island got there around 8:30-8:45, on a 10 pm close. I'm sure you see where this is going. So we entered the park, high tailed it to Diamondback, rode a few times, walked over to Windseeker to check out the construction, and the light show testing, then went back to Diamondback for another ride or two. You can see why I didn't go out of my way to write that TR.

Next visit: 6/26/11

The scene: Windseeker had just opened Friday for media day, and initial reviews were good.

After church, I headed up on a Metro bus to visit the park. It would be a solo expedition, which can be nice in its own way. The bus dropped me off at the drop off area, and I did the National Lampoon's Vacation "Chariots of Fire" dash to the main gate, and then back to Windseeker. Only to be confronted with a "Sorry, this ride will not operate today" sign. After sulking for a bit, I decided to make the most of my visit, and set off do to a lap around the park. I got to the park around 2:30, and had to leave by 8 to get home at a decent hour by bus.

Since I was already in deep Coney, I started the lap with a quick ride on Vortex. Minimal wait as usual, for the usual dependable ride. As you can see this report is going to also be a run of the mill TR, but keep reading, I'll find some noteworthy tidbits. I headed down Coney Mall and looked in X Base, but the usual long lines resulted in the usual skipping of the X-Base rides.

I next headed for Racer and took rides on each side, and while there were minor hints of air, there was nothing to write home about, the usual Racer Experience. I followed the usual Racer experience with the usual Adventure Express experience, and then headed in Action Zone. In Action Zone i snagged rides on Delirium, Drop Tower, and Flight Deck before heading back to International Street.

There I headed towards Planet Snoopy to score a ride on Boo Blasters, Woodstock Express and Flying Ace. Having gotten the Planet Snoopy stuff out of the way I went to Diamondback for a few rides.

Followed up Diamondback with a ride on Beast. It seems to me the track work on Beast does mean its running smoother than it has in a while. I needed to fetch dinner, so I stopped at Rivertown Pizza for beer and pizza.

I then decided to see what Dinosaur's Alive is all about. The park has really been agressively marketing the dinosaur exhibit, both outside the park in print and electronic media, as well as having a giant dino by the toll plaza, as well as in park signs and announcements. They have put Dinosaur's Alive in the woods behind Racer, I'm guessing close to where Trail of Terror was, except now you enter where Cinema 180 stood for several years.

The spot that held the Euro Bungy and then Euro Bobbles is now a dinosaur themed birthday pavilion, but its ticket booth is now the dinosaur exhibit ticket booth, along with some self serve kiosks placed nearby. Another dinosaur marks the start of the path. Ticket in hand ($5), I headed back the path, through a new cut through under Racer to the ticket taker. After the ticket taker, a crossing guard assists you over the parks service road into the exhibit.

The exhibit at its roots is a collection of robotic dinosaur models, if this sounds a bit familiar, its because these same types of shows have played science museums, natural history museums, and zoos for some time now. The park has laid a nice wide accessible concrete walkway through the woods, and even took the time to imprint a fossil pattern into the pavers. I noted they have gone all out but stopped just short of using the term Jurassic Park. I think the park guide dubs it a "Jurassic Adventure"

You are handed a special park guide for this park-within-a-park,and park rangers dressed in kahkis are present to answer any questions you may have, and even give tours. I entered the area around 6:30 so was one of the last admitted before the dusk curfew (no lights), as such, I had an enthusiastic 'ranger' also named David who was all too eager to give me the full tour experience.

The exhibit is much the same as I have seen at the Cincinnati Zoo, Indianapolis Childrens' Museum, Cincinnati Museum Center and the like, maybe just on a larger scale. The larger plot of land does add to the experience, and having the dinosaurs spread out instead of just a row of them one after the other does help with the immersion, and also artificially makes the exhibit seem longer than it is.

Just like in the past incarnations, thee are a couple interactive dinosaurs you can control, and I see they went with the vandal proof heat sensitive buttons instead of the joysticks and mechanical buttons that really take a beating in this kind of an environment. While I think they may have played fast and lose on the science, I bet children will probably love it. I do think its a one time gig, I mean who is going to pay $5 each visit to see it. Well that is unless the park stoops to putting its trick or treat trail back there during Halloween, prompting a second visit for a lot of families.

The trail is dotted with snack carts, and signs advertising an upsell of a 3D companion movie. I think they recycled the Laura Croft jeep from Tomb Raider as a 'not so subtle' Jurassic Park jeep knock off, and they have the kids sandbox fossil dig, just like any good dino exhibit. At the end of the trail, you can either go around again. (It's a one way trail), or cross the service road again, where you reenter the main park by way of a large tent that is the exhibits gift shop.

One really neat thing I noticed, is they have really managed to isolate Dinosaurs Alive. While you are out on the trail, there are only a couple spots you might catch a glimpse of one of the rides, likewise while in the main park, you can't see into the dinosaur exhibit, and that includes from the top of Tower. That really helps with the whole feel of the experience. I may even say the new Dino exhibit may be one of those places you can go to just have a relaxing half hour or so, just like you used to be able to do on the Wild Animal Habitat monorail.

I then headed for the companion 3D movie. It's $4 if purchased separately or $2 as an add on to the walk through. The movie is back in the Action FX Theatre. Due to Windseeker blocking the old Action FX Theatre entrance, you now enter via what was the exit. At one of the tunnels under Racer the ticket taker takes your ticket. When you are almost down to the building a new entrance can be found that connects via a path that runs alongside the Racer to the back of the old queue, so in a sense they have actually extended the queue. They wasted no time breaking up the old queue path, instead of leaving the remains.

The movie is in the left theatre, and up until you enter the theatre, it seems the same as Action FX Theatre: you get your glasses, you are assigned a row, you wait for the automatic doors to open. You go inside, and you first notice the motion bases have been removed, and replaces with what can loosely be called bench seating. There is no motion or 4D effects in this show. The show is a bit longer than a theme park movie, and is more documentary in tone, at least the 3D effects are good enough to keep you from nodding off. Upon exiting the theatre, they collect the glasses, and you can see the walls from Urgent Scare, which means the arcade is gone and the exit path a lot narrower than it used to be, at least until you get outside.

At that point I knew I needed to head home, but that's a long ride. I wisely decide to stop by the restroom building next to Vortex to learn it is closed due to no water. A park rep suggests I go to the restrooms near Rivertown Pizza, but at just about that time, a family comes up and I gather that the person blocking that restroom had sent them up here. Walking down Coney they had hastily put up some yellow caution tape near the Skeeball building, so I'm guessing the broken water main resides around that part of the park. Luckily for all, the restrooms near Racer were open, even if they were sporting a larger than normal line, Having that taken care of, I headed home.

Next Visit: July 3, 2011

Kings Island has long been known for doing something extra special for their Fourth of July fireworks show. It's a night where the crowd gets larger as the night progresses, and people have been known to come and park their car only to watch the fireworks from the parking lot. This perhaps got to its zenith during the Paramount years with their "Nights of Fire" which involved at least 2 fireworks shows going off simultaneously to ensure total park coverage and then packing the Eiffel Tower with fireworks to create a spectacular centerpiece. Sure, it was also a logistical nightmare with them having to shut down parts of the park, but it was worth it.

So, I arrived at the park around 2pm, knowing I was looking at a midnight close, and also knowing my trusty colleague Rideman would be coming later, this sounded to be about a good time to arrive. Repeating last week's entrance, I did the "Chariots of Fire" dash once again back to Windseeker, with the big difference that the ride was open. Now, I also knew Rideman wanted to ride this ride, and I could do the polite thing, go ride some other rides, and wait for him, or I could sieze the moment and ride now. I opted for the ride now option.

The ride, not surprisingly had a full queue and was just starting to overflow out of the potable queue area out onto the midway. Signs had this posted as 45 minutes but I don't think it takes that long. The portable extension is not that long, just sort of helps direct the line. The queue area runs in a semi circle around one half of the ride, as is common for flat rides. It is three lanes deep, and taking a trick from Disney, you start with the lane nearest the ride and work your way out, at least for the first quarter circle, then on the outermost lane, you walk about halfway around the ride. The inner two lanes in the back half of the queue area is the bullpen for the next ride. At the far turn a grouper assigns seats. Now, I made fun of the grouper at Kentucky Kingdom who used a device that looked to be inspired by an abacus, or one of those kids beads-on-a-track toys to keep track of seats assigned in their motion theatre. At Windseeker the park has given the grouper a dry erase clipboard and they mark off seats assigned much like the host marks off tables at a restaurant. It seems weird, but then there are 32 cars each seating 2 to keep track of, and many odd party sizes.

So I get my seat assignment, and they direct me to one of two lanes, for front half and back half of the ride. The park learned from Delirium and Drop Tower - this time there are two entry gates, but also two exit gates. Windseeker is one of the trendy new high altitude circle swing rides. It's essentially much like Zephyr, only the swings go up to just shy of 300' in the air. The height really does make the ride, and its also what makes peoples phobias get the better of them.

I think by now Zamperla, Mondial, and FunTime have versions of this ride to market, and I would not be surprised if its on the drawing boards at other manufacturers. I have not yet ridden the Zamperla version, but I have a feeling I may get that experience with Sparkler next year (see the benefit of writing these trip reports so late), but I have some experience with the Fun Time version both in Orlando at Magic Midway, as well as Oktoberfest in Munich. Kings Island has the Mondial version, and the main difference here is the seat attachment is much more rigid than on the Fun Time. Don't get me wrong the swings still swing, but the main attachment is tubular piping instead of just chains or steel cable. The Mondial also has a fantastic LED light show that gives it some carnival midway flash that Coney Mall sorely needs.

I take my seat, drop down the overhead lap bar, which is similar to the kind used on a chairlift. A safety strap connects the lap bar to the seat base, as a back up to the bar lock. I can tell you, as a larger rider, the rides computer is more demanding than the seat belt, so just because the belt is fastened, doesn't mean you are good. A rule of thumb is to look at the stub end of the lap bar, it it isn't lower than the armrest, your in trouble. Mondial did something dumb here. They mounted two lights on the outboard side of each seating unit. When the lap bar locks, the light goes out. Seems simple enough except the light is red, on a red background, and once you add the sun into the equation the loaders can't really see them. The advice from the control booth isn't much better "You've got a bar open" Gee, thanks. Warning to larger riders, even if your bar is fine, you will be the first ones they target, and will staple you in the hopes that you are the culprit. This is more annoying when they find out you weren't the problem. They really need to add some kind of box around those indicator lights so the loader can see them easier. This ride loads much faster at night than it does during the day.

So once they have spent 10 minutes playing "Which bar is loose?" the ride starts. At first the cars raise straight up for awhile, before the ride starts turning. The ride does offer on board audio by means of speakers mounted to the ride gondola, so the speakers raise and lower with you. At the top the ride spins for a while, and even speeds up. Not too fast, it just gives a slight hint of laterals. It would be a perfect family ride, if people would get over that whole 300' up thing. You also learn Coney Mall is not that interesting to look down on. But that is a problem parks have had for awhile since they use "movie set" style construction that says "If the guest can't see it, it doesn't have to be finished" In this particular case, just adding chaser lights to Racer would do a world of good.

So, the ride then slows down to its slower spin setting, and then lowers down. Again once it hits some magic point, the rotation stops, and you lower straight down. That was great, in fact I rode it again. This time in the outside seat instead of the inner seat. No, it's not a thrill ride, but it scores high on the just pure fun meter.

After that, I started my tour of the park. First I walked over to Vortex, but alas Vortex was closed. Rumors on Facebook indicated the ride ride had broken a lift chain, so I won't be expecting this to open anytime today. I didn't even bother walking back to X-Base and its long lines. Instead of snagged a ride in the Schmeck seat of both Racers, with their usual near walk on waits. I followed that up with a ride on Adventure Express. By that time I was within 15 minutes of my meet up time with Rideman. I did stop at what was Lt. Dan's Bar to have a Sam Adams. It seemed a patriotic thing to do.

I enjoyed my Sam Adams while looking at the patriotic decorations on International Street. I also noticed the Komen Cancer fundraiser is back, but this year instead of just chucking generic pink rubber ducks into Royal Fountain, the park came up with Snoopy in Pink Innertube toys for you to toss into the fountain. Who said Cedar Fair could not theme something, I also got word that Rideman was delayed. I walked over to Planet Snoopy and scored rides on Boo Blasters, Woodstock, and Surf Dog. For once, I hit the seat selection lottery on Surf Dog and got a back row end seat. The ride is much better back there, and it does seem the park is running a slightly better program on this ride, not as good as when it was first installed, but a bit better than what it had been running. The line for Flying Ace was excessive, so I headed back towards Tower as I got the word to head to Windseeker.

This time Rideman and I both ride Windseeker together. He evaluated the ride in his own special way, but I think we both give it a positive review. We then headed to Rivertown to get some Diamondback rides in. After Diamondback we started making our way around the park, picking up a ride on Flight Deck. Flight Deck is noteworthy in that they have done something really inexpensive to the ride that really helps the theming. What they have done is marked up the floor under the final brakes to look like a runway, and you are landing. In slightly more costly upgrades it looks like they are starting to bring a tiny but of the lower queue area theme package back to life. Credit where credit is due.

We proceeded to rides on Delirium and Viking Fury. We got a ride on Adventure Express and instead of heading into Coney, we took a trip to the top of Eiffel Tower to get a look around. After Tower we headed back to Diamondback for some more rides. As it was getting late, we decided the new plaza by Windseeker would probably make a good fireworks viewing area. However, instead of standing around for an hour, we got in line, which by now was back to the Dino's Alive entance. Bad timing as the fireworks started going off just as we were two cycles to load, and the shade canvas over the queue area and the structure of Racer does not give great viewing from the queue. We advance to the bull pen, even worse. The ride cycles, we board, we get to watch part of the extra long show while riding Windseeker. This is a pretty cool view, to be even with, and maybe even looking down on the fireworks. We exited the ride, and the show continued for some time longer.

I can't fault the length of the show, but it had no single elements that really stood out. No tower pyro, only 1 staging area doing one show, and it was more like they just ran the normal show 3 or times with some patriotic music backing it up. Maybe one of the lamest 4th of July fireworks shows I have seen at the park.

At the end of the show, we wound up being with a bunch of other enthusiasts, some who claimed they started the day at Cedar Point, and it had gotten so crazy that by 1, the left Cedar Point and headed to Kings Island. Before we knew it our strange coasternut behavior group found themselves swept up into the Windseeker queue, not a bad thing at all.

After Windseeker, we were going to head to Beast and then finish the night at Diamondback. Well, that was the plan before we ran into the sluggish Beast crew. The line didn't even look that long, but it sure took long enough. Midnight struck as we were out on the course ending the night on Beast.

Next Visit: Some time in 2012. I have a 2012 pass ready to go. I didn't mean for my Kings Island season to end after July 3rd. I even had the curiosity to want to check out the parks new express program, Fast Lane. It wasn't unusual not to go anymore in July as the park is just too crowded, and August was roasting hot, as if to balance out the washed out spring we had. September the park is mainly closed for park buy outs, and what was left? On Labor Day weekend I was at Cedar Point, and on the only other September weekend I was on the East Coast doing my non coaster vacation. October just had too many things going on, and the one day I was planning on going, I decided not to. Good thing, as I was awarded with numerous Facebook posts and Twitter tweets telling me about the insane crowds I was missing, and these posts were from people I know well enough that when they say the park was insane, it truly was. Oh, I did make it to Universal Florida, but that is the subject of another trip report.


Anonymous rcslone said...

I hope that you continue to post your trip reports. I greatly enjoy reading about my favorite park, King's Island as well as other parks I may never get to visit, but sure enjoy hearing about. They may not be as "hip" as in the past, but you and Dave Althoff are both great writers when it comes to all subjects amusement park related.

8:19 PM  

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