Theme Park Insider Summer Roadtrip: Kings Island
Is it possible for a roller coaster to be too
That's what popped into my mind as the train hit the brake approaching the station on Diamondback, Kings Island's new Bolliger & Mabillard mega-coaster. Diamondback's all about natural speed - a celebration of the vertical drop, the element Theme Park Insider readers selected last year as their favorite on a roller coaster.
We rode in the front row of the second car, allowing us a peek over each hill before a burst of acceleration kicked in as the train crested. And what acceleration it was - up to 80 mph of pure, natural, gravity-driven power, sweeping us into the next element on the track. Natalie declared, "It's so smooth, it didn't even mess up my ponytail."
She's right. Diamondback is pure Bolliger & Mabillard butter - smooth, silky and satisfying.
I didn't find it exhilarating, the way the greatest coasters can be. Maybe it was the lack of inversions. Maybe it was just... too smooth and two-dimensional to really fire up a coaster pro like me. But I didn't have same giddy feeling that I enjoyed when I got off The Voyage last weekend. Don't get me wrong - it was very good, just not an all-time, world-class great like The Voyage.
And that's the way I felt about the rest of Kings Island. It's a good regional amusement park, with some moments well worth recommendation, but little these days to elevate it to "must visit" status for folks outside the U.S. midwest.
I brought the wife and kids to KI today, both so that I could experience Diamondback and so that I could show the kids one of the parks that I spent a great deal of time in as a kid.
Goal one: accomplished within 15 minutes, thanks to arriving at the front gate 10 minutes before the park opened. Goal two, though, initially appeared to be a total failure.
This isn't the same park I last visited on grad night in 19*coughcoughcough*. The half-scale Eiffel Tower, The Beast and the Racer are still here - otherwise Kings Island's various owners over the past decades totally have remade this park. The safari is gone, as are coasters such as The Bat, The Screamin' Demon and the King Cobra. The Hanna-Barbera land was consumed by a much larger Nickelodeon Universe. And what little Disney-esque theming once existed is slowly giving way to a more generic iron park, much the same as I am seeing at its Cedar Fair-owned sister park, Knott's Berry Farm in California.
None of that makes Kings Island worse than it was when I frequented it as teenager living in Indianapolis. Just different. Heck, if Kings Island were the same park it was in the Brady Bunch episode that my kids have committed to memory, fans would have abandoned this park years ago, and justifiably so. Parks should change.
Diamondback's a great addition to a line-up of solid coasters that offer an impressive variety of experiences, from the indoor coaster Flight of Fear to the heels-over-head fun of the six-inversion Vortex. Heck, today's Kings Island coaster line-up knocks the smack out of what it offered when I was a kid.
The Beast used to tower over the other rides in the park. Today, it stands meekly in the shadow of Diamondback, barely clearing the treeline of the surrounding woods. I'd forgotten how much this once-pathbreaking wooden coaster emphasized straight-line speed over airtime, unlike more modern, world-class woodies.
As we stood in the gate, waiting to board, I told Natalie that I was her age, 12, when I first rode The Beast, as she would be doing today. The Beast was the coaster that turned me on to a world beyond kiddie and family rides, a love that became a lifelong passion when I rode the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg later that year.
Natalie took her first step into that world with a ride on Knott's Ghostrider earlier this year. And I could see her apprehension as she agreed to try The Raven with me at Holiday World last weekend. She was game for The Legend, after that, but not yet ready to tackle The Voyage.
She said she'd give Diamondback a go, after watching the YouTube video of it yesterday. As we came back to the station this morning, while I was wondering if the ride was too smooth for me, Natalie yelped.
"I love big drops!"
By the time we got off The Beast, I could see the coaster fever in her eyes. A week ago, she wasn't sure about thrill rides. Now, she's a dedicated fan.
These were the perfect next coasters for her, for where she's at as a roller coaster fan. So while my daughter didn't see the same park as I did when I was 12, she saw today a park that did the same thing for her as it did for me back then. So I guess goal number two was accomplished after all.
That's the value of Kings Island. You can't drag most kids straight onto an extreme coaster and expect those kids to become coaster fans. More likely, if you put a kid on a coaster that's too advanced for them, you'll turn 'em off coasters for life. Regional parks like Kings Island give kids (and some grown-ups) the opportunity to experience a variety of coasters and thrill rides, attractions that can help give them the fever to chase the most unique thrills all over the country, and the world, as they grow older.
Our next stop on that path? C'mon, can't you guess?
Join us next week on Theme Park Insider's Summer Roadtrip, as we visit... Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
You're gonna love it, Nat.
I really want to ride Diamondback now, after reading.
I have to agree with you on Cedar Fair's de-theming. CF is an amusement park company and it seems they really believe in as little theming as possible. I really wish, however, that they would do something more than nothing. In my opinion landscaping would be better than open space if they do not want to do theming. But it is highly disappointing that they do not do theming!!! My trip to Kings Island and Cedar Point August 10-12 is coming up soon! I plan to ride Diamondback! I am really excited! Is Son Of Beast re-opened yet? Any updates on that? I have not seen anything online anywhere.
I agree with Adam. The only US companies in the theme park business that seem to care about theming are Disney, Universal and Anheuser-Busch. Robert, I hope you enjoy Busch Gardens. I would like to hear about Curse of DarKastle.
So, what did you think of some of the other coasters? Specifically I was looking forward to your comparison of Flight of Fear vs. Rock 'n Roller coaster. I know the layouts are different, but the ideas are similar, so what did you think? Also, as far as your kids thought, how did the theming and ride selection of the Nick area compare to what they are used to at Fantasyland? After all, Amusement Today rates King's Island as having the best kids area in the world - not that I put much stock in the Golden Ticket awards, but I am curious to get their review. Also, was the park crowded? How was the food? Any customer service details worth sharing? I appreciate the report, Robert, but do you have any other details for us? Inquiring minds want to know! ;)
I don't want to get off on a rant here but I went to Kings Island over the 4th of July weekend and I was able to ride every coaster and thrill ride there in a single day...some rides more than once...including Diamondback. Diamondback is a very smooth coaster but it had great air time, some great drops and hills, and I loved the splashdown at the end. While they have lost a bunch of the themeing that they used to have, the park still has a lot to see and do. Most of the themeing that has been at Kings Island belonged to its former owners, Paramount. Cedar Fair was not able to keep the themeing past 1 year after purchase of the park due to Paramount not selling rights to use the themeing that was a major portion of what the park was.......During my trip there I did find myself calling alot of the rides that had previously had movie titles and themes associated with them under Paramount but since had to be renamed, by the names they had under Paramount. I think Cedar Fair has done a great job of keeping the park as close to what it was as they have done, and adding to the park 2 great coasters in 3 years. I see Cedar Fair attempting to expand this park into another record holding , massive park like Cedar Point. While there are various things that they can do to add some theaming to it I dont think it really needs a lot of themeing as the coasters and rides speak for themselves. It is a great park and while i do miss alot of the old coasters that have left the park I welcome the changes and hope to see more great rides added to the park soon. Thats just my opinion...I may be wrong, the balcony is now closed and The Beast is still the best wooden coaster of all time. Thank you and goodnight!!!
I will always prefer thrills AND theme (story + decoration) to thrills alone. However, if the park is clean, fun, well maintained, well managed, and continually updated, then I have no issue with it. Not every park has to be like Disney or Universal, and honestly, there are times when I too just want the no-nonsense thrills of a good 200 ft drop and a 75 mph helix.
I do like your observation of the "de-theming" of the park. One could say this is a Cedar Fair Phenomena, but let's face it, there has never been a lot of theming. It seems to me that what lures me to a place like Disney is that it is all theme which is different than my local park - Kings Island. Cedar Fair and Cedar Point seem to be more about the ride experiences.
Oh, James - totally agree with you!
Thanks, Andy...that has never happened to me before! =D
I have to agree with other that it is a shame that Cedar Fair does not do Theme. Theme parks set themselves apart from others by offering a unique experience only available at that park. The former KECO parks did a nice job of trying to theme and then Paramount wiped that out and CF is just totaly destroying their individuality they once had. Such a shame to only focus on Thrill.
As a follow-up to James' question above (compare Flight of Fear to Rock and Roller Coaster), I'm curious: I think Flight of Fear is basically the same track layout as Poltergeist at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, which is certainly similar to Joker's Jinx at Six Flags America. Does anyone know? A big difference is that Poltergeist is outdoors and JJ is sortof outdoors (roof but no walls if I remember correctly).
Great trip report, Robert.
Rhys, FoF is exactly the same layout as Poltergeist and Joker's Jinx. Rock 'n Roller Coaster is the same layout as Xpress at Walibi World (Netherlands).
The detheming isn't necessarily a bad thing in this case. Paramount's attempts at theming started off well when they took over the park in the early 90's (Top Gun, Flight of Fear, Nick Central), but towards the end of their occupation, the themed rides they were building were falling short of the mark. My belief is that they simply weren't spending the money to push these rides over the top. The park was headed nowhere under Paramount by the end. That being said, I would much rather have a company like Cedar Fair come in, build great thrill rides, and bring an element of service and great management ...than have Paramount continue a path of mediocrity and strip the park of it's personality.
Derek is right. A good theme (again, that's decoration AND story) costs money to implement, and if you don't have the dough, don't waste the time (ya hear that Six Flags?). Thrills are cheaper than theme.
I'm going to write about kids' areas, but I'm going to wait until later in the trip. You'll see why when I write it.
Ah the International Street Restaurant. I remember it being a pretty nice place. We used to have breakfast there in the morning during our trips and the Hanna Barbera characters would make an appearance and take some pictures. In the evenings it was the best dinner spot, primarily due to it's location overlooking the fountains and it's view of the fireworks...and the bar. They should seriously reopen it and give the park a really good restaurant option.
I really enjoyed hearing how it was a while ago. My mom always talks about the Racer. Flight of fear is about the only themeing and that stuff is collecting so much dust. The scooby doo ride however is themed pretty good. I suggested going to the Rivertown Hall buffet, sure beats the gassy chili!
Ah, Robert, sorry you don't like skyline! It must be an acquired taste I suppose. I love Skyline chili, but finding it here down south is a challenge. But yeah, it definitely isn't your normal chili. And if you like hearty, bean-y chili, you won't like skyline.
Hmm, that's wierd that Larosa's would be that bad for you. It's usually extremely good. At least it was when I had it last year...
I went to KI ages ago, but from the description, it sounds WAY differnt. Of course I was like 8 the last time I went there.
Another great report.
I look forward to riding Diamondback, but I suspected it to be exactly as you described. Living in Louisville, KY I'm filled with pride to be only an hour away from the best little theme park in the middle of nowhere, Holiday World, and its family owned and operated charms. The Voyage is the best wooden coaster in the world.
I was telling my kids about Enchanted Voyage while we were waiting in line for Scooby Doo, and they refused to believed that the building once was a Small World-style boat ride. I'll have to dig out an old picture to prove it to them, I guess.
I agree with the comment Robert left about the food at the park. My sister and I went for the 4th of July weekend and decided to try LaRosa's pizza because of the ratings it had received on here. Gross. We were both incredibly disappointed. I understand that you have to pay more for food in an amusement park, but to pay THAT much for THAT pizza? No thanks.
To each his own, Robert -- that's the glory of diversity. And it's no wonder that Skyline is diverse -- the more you eat, diverse it gets...
First time visit on July 9. I liked LaRosa's pizza. Dimondback was a fun coaster. I went to the park with Cincinnati natives. They called the rides by the old Paramount names. If you all think that Cedar Fair has no themeing at their parks just look at Cedar Point. It is the second oldest park in the US, but you can't see hardly anything that is old.
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