Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Impression: Kings Island

Kings Island really is one of my favorite amusement parks. While Cedar Point is my true home park, Kings Island is as good as such, and I often wonder which of the two I like better. While I love Cedar Point's humbling history, there's something about Kings Island's "big park" attitude that I really like. I like that it was built from the ground up to be, in many ways, an impressive park. What has emerged is an atmosphere that is perfectly suited to the park, yet I can't describe it. To me, it simply feels right.

We set out for Kings Island on Memorial Day weekend, as I was itching to get my Platinum Pass and to get back to the park. Despite the fact that I live only three hours away, I had never visited Kings Island until last year. I was very impressed with the park, mostly because of its atmosphere. Their ride collection is, honestly, nothing to rave about - besides maybe the Beast and Diamondback, it's a pretty average collection of rides.

We left very late in the day on Sunday, and just made it into the park for about an hour before it closed. We knew that we'd only have time for about one ride, and we decided to hit up Diamondback. We had originally planned on the Beast (night rides are the best), but it has a bad habit of closing for the park's fireworks show. We got out of line and ran back to Diamondback, to find a half-hour line that we hopped in immediately.

Not wanting to prolong our wait, we hopped in any row - somewhere in the middle, I think it was. We ascended the lift, and away we went. My thoughts: a very good ride overall. I love the airtime on these hills, and the drop over the midway is exhilarating, to say the least. My favorite part of the ride, however, is the splashdown. There really shouldn't be anything particularly exciting about a long straight stretch of track, but I love the feeling of speed as we fly over the water. This is what every coaster should feel like: unrestrained, nothing but a lap bar holding you loosely in your seat as you glide over the track with the wind whipping past you. I have yet to find another single moment on a coaster that feels as good to me as this does.

That said, the ride is really starting to get a bit of a rattle. Coming down some of those hills, it starts to get quite bad. Last year it was noticeable, but it could easily be overlooked. This year, however, it is much more intense. Also, the trims after the hammerhead seem to slow the train down even more than last year. I'm sure all of this is natural for any coaster as it ages, but I did not expect to see this so soon.

Cut to the next morning, we got to the park around 11 am, and headed into the "Action Zone" section of the park. We started the day on Flight Deck (I don't know who made that decision), which fortunately had no line. It was not bad for an Arrow Suspended, much better than Iron Dragon at Cedar Point. It had a few nice drops, and a lot of fast turns, which I really enjoyed. I found myself riding for a second time not long after I got off my first!

We walked right past Invertigo, Drop Tower, Delirium, and Adventure Express, all of which we had just ridden at the end of the last year. We instead headed to The Racer, where I needed to ride the second of the two tracks. It was surprisingly fun, and not too rough either, which made for a good ride. There wasn't much airtime, but it was still a pleasant little coaster.

It was into the X-Base next, as I wanted a ride on Flight of Fear, and
maybe Firehawk if I had time. It turned out that Firehawk had a ridiculous 90 minute wait, so we hopped into Flight of Fear's more moderate 40 minute line. It went fast enough, and the building was nicely air conditioned, which helped a lot. The ride itself was as good as ever. The launch was very forceful, the maneuvers just how I like them - fast and intense. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's one of my favorite roller coasters in the park.

We started to get hungry at that point, but we put off lunch until we had stopped by Windseeker. We got a quick look, and enjoyed watching the workers take a very long lunch break. You would think they'd be a bit more eager to get the thing open, seeing as it had already been delayed for more than a month, and didn't end up opening until just a few weeks ago...

Anyway, we decided to skip the walkthrough portion of Dinosaurs Alive!, instead opting to watch the 3D movie. The movie itself was kind of fun, but nothing extraordinary. Anyway, we needed to keep moving, so we headed to LaRosa's Pizzeria after that. It was good, but nothing that exceptional. After refueling with some pizza and breadsticks, we headed back to find a 30 minute wait for the Beast, which we joined promptly.

Although I truly love Diamondback, the Beast really is still the reigning champion of the coaster collection. Simply put, there's no other coaster like it, and it's not all because of the ride itself. The ride experience is so amazing because it doesn't start when you board the train, or even when you enter the queue. It began in 1979, when the coaster opened to mass media attention. At that point, coaster enthusiasts across the country began anticipating this ride. I myself heard about it at a young age from friends and through books. This anticipation helps gives the ride the reputation it has, and it is part of the reason I was so excited to ride it.

Back to this trip, the line moved quickly enough, and we soon boarded the train. I didn't bother to wait for the front row, and instead I opted for the middle row of the second car - not too far back, and not over a wheel. One thing I really like about the Beast is how the chain speed varies. Again this builds the anticipation, by speeding up near the top but slowing down again as we crest the lift. The ride takes off, straight into what seems like the most impossible tunnel, before we once again speed out of it and to the left, up a small hill. From there, we take on the ride's biggest drop, before hurtling to the right through a series of turns and maneuvers. At this point, my mind starts hurting as I try to figure out what we've just done at the same time as I try to figure out what's coming next. Before I know it, we fly halfway up the second life before the chain takes over. The trim brakes on the following drop can be forgotten due to the unique feeling of a drop that seemingly never ends. You rush into the helix, somehow completely banked at this point, struggling to keep yourself in your seat while also trying to protect your back from breaking. Soon enough you're out of the helix and flying into the break run.

The Beast currently sits near the top of my favorite wood coasters list, second only to Knoebels' Phoenix. The Beast may be a little rough, but the experience is what really makes the ride in my mind. Back in the forest, there's nothing like that feeling of total helplessness. On any other coaster, you can look back and see where you came from, and look ahead to see that you'll return to the station safely. On the Beast, you have none of those assurances. All of these factors make this a truly excellent ride.

I suppose I should stop rambling about the Beast and move on. We headed towards Diamondback after that, as we wanted one last ride on it before the day was over. The measly 20 minute wait flew by, and before long, we were "clear and out-of-here". We made sure to take the front row for our last ride, and we were not disappointed. Dangling over the drop, I pondered my sanity before we plunged to the ground, straight towards the midway. It was up and over the next hill, and then the next, and it continued like that until we hit the splashdown. Front-seat rides are the best on Diamondback - there's nothing like flying across that pond for me.

We ran up back towards International Street after we paused quickly to look at our pictures. We decided to end the night on the Eiffel Tower, because I really wanted some good overhead pictures. We didn't stay up there long as it was pretty windy. I got my shots and we headed out. From there, it was off to IKEA, which is another adventure entirely...

Overall Park Rating: 7/10 Stars
Click here to view all Kings Island photos.


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