Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
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Cedar Point--If you want coasters, this is the place, including the tallest fastest operating roller coaster in the world.
Paramount's Kings Island--The unofficial "king" of regional theme parks with a great mix of coasters and other attractions that are aimed at just about every type of person.
Geauga Lake--A decent park that was one great advantage, price. It's hard to beat a gate price of $30, not including any discounts.
Kennywood Park--It's not really a "traditional" amusement park anymore, but has a great mix of the old and the new with an excellent collection of wooden roller coasters and the incredible Phantom's Revenge.
Hersheypark--The sweetest place on earth also has some of the sweetest rides on earth including a diverse coaster collection. Lightning Racer is easily a top 5 wooden coaster, and the historic Comet and Superdooperlooper are sure to please any coaster fan. Throw in the newer Great Bear and the one-of-a-kind Storm Runner, and you've got a really "sweet" park.
Dorney Park--A smaller park that looks more like a carnival, put possesses some of the best smaller coasters you'll find anywhere. Talon is great for it's size, and the brand new Hydra: The Revenge is at least worth a check. Add Steel Force, an excellent Morgan hypercoaster and Thunderhawk, a classic wooden coaster with one of the more unique wooden layouts, and you have a park that is easily worth the $35 gate price.
Knoebells--It may be a little out of the way being way up in northeastern PA, but it has two of the best wooden roller coasters on the planet, Phoenix (the smoothest woodie you'll EVER ride) and the wild Twister. There's also a great dark ride, The Haunted Mansion, that dark ride enthusiasts think is the best dark ride in the world.
Six Flags Great Adventure--It's Six Flags, and it's big, which means that it's always crowded, but the coasters in Jackson, NJ cannot be missed. Nitro, Superman: Ultimate Flight, Medussa, Batman: The Ride are just they're great B&M coasters. They also have Batman and Robing the Chiller which is great when both sides are actually running, Great American Scream Machine, if you feel like getting thrown around a bit, and Kingda Ka, if it ever gets up and running again. If you can bear the crowds, it's definitely worth the trip.
Six Flags America--A smaller Six Flags park that doesn't have the greatest coasters in the world, but a diverse collection that could keep a coaster fan busy for a least a couple of hours. Superman:Ride of Steel is a pretty good hypercoaster, and ROAR is a really good wooden coaster. Mind Eraser, Two Face, and Batwing are Vekomas, and hence are not the greatest, but all decent coasters. Jokers Jinx is a good spagetti bowl coaster, but another identical coaster down the road is better.
Paramount's Kings Dominion--Speaking of a park down the road, PKD has the inside version of Joker's Jinx called Flight of Fear here that has a ton more themeing and an enclosed track that makes for a little more exciting ride. Hypersonic: XLC and Volcano add two more launching coasters, and Anaconda (Arrow Looper), Shock Wave (Togo Stand-up), and Avalanche (bobsled) diversify the steel lineup a bit. A collection of three decent woodies, Hurler, Grizzly, and Rebel Yell, and a couple of good other non-coaster attractions like Drop Zone (270' drop tower), Scooby Doo and the Haunted Mansion, and Tomb Raider Firefall add to a well-rounded park.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg--The most highly themed of all the parks on the list puts guests in old Europe with a good line-up of coasters including Apollo's Charriot, an awesome hypercoaster, Alpengeist, one of the best inverted coasters, Loch Ness Monster, a classic Arrow with interlocking loops, and Big Bad Wolf. Curse of DarKastle, the newest attraction, is an excellent experience that you cannot get outside of a Universal park, and a lot of great show and incredible food round out a near perfect experience.
There are other parks in the area if you're interested in coaser counts, but these "biggies" are a good starting point.
Thank you again
If I were planning a trip, the parks I would probably skip out of the ones I listed would be...
(4) Six Flags America--This park has a number of "stock" rides that you can ride at other parks. Mind Eraser and Batwing you can ride at Geauga Lake (Thunderhawk and X-Flight), and Jokers Jinx you can ride at Paramount's Kings Dominion (Flight of Fear). That leaves only Superman: Ride of Steel, Two Face, Roar and Wild One. Roar is a decent GCI woodie, but Wildcat at Hersheypark is better. Wild One is pretty good, but not a MUST ride coaster. Two Face is OK, but if you go to Geauga Lake, they have Headspin which is similar to Two Face, only not inverted. That means only Superman would be the only real reason to hit this park, and in my opinion Nitro, Apollos Chariot, Phantom's Revenge, and Steel Force are all better hypercoasters.
(3) Knoebells--sadly I would have to steer you away from this park if you're on a mission. It only has two coasters, a few flat rides, and a couple of dark rides, but definitely nothing to go out of your way for. Phoenix and Twister are both awesome wooden coasters, but the lack of density makes it easier to put this park on this list.
(2) Kennywood--It hurts to put this one on the list too, but like Knoebells, this park doesn't have the flash of some of the major park chains. A coaster fan only comes to Kennywood to ride Phantom's Revenge and maybe Thunderbolt. They also have Jack Rabbit, Racer, Exterminator, and some good flat rides, but if you have to skip it, you won't miss too much. If you can even grab a twilight visit to this park while driving through Pittsburgh, it would be worth it.
(1) Six Flags Great Adventure--I may skip this park just because it's an annoying park with crowds that can drive you nuts, and some of the most oblivious ride ops in the history of theme parks. They've got some great coasters, Nitro, Medussa, Superman:Ultimate Flight, Batman The Ride, etc.., but you never know if the coasters are going to be running, and the ones that do run may only be running one train causing incredible lines. I have never visited this park on a weekend and been able to ride every coaster in the park because of lines and broken coasters. If you're not able to get on Dragster for some reason at Cedar Point, hit this park if Kingda Ka is running. You'll spend you're entire day waiting to ride it, but if you're really serious about coasters, a 120 MPH+ experience is a MUST for any coaster fan.
If you cannot skip Great Adventure, I would skip either Geauga Lake or Dorney Park.
I agree with Russell on the "skipability" of Six Flags America, and of course, I agree with the fact that he didn't omit - hence recommends - Cedar Point and King's Island...
Cedar Point (Sandusky Ohio)- Most rides at any single park, and most roller coasters as well. There is not only a lot of rides, but a lot of really good rides, and the Lake Erie setting is great.
Paramounts Kings Island (Cincinatti, Ohio) - Amusement/quickly turning theme park with great rides for absolutely everyone. Great kids area, good thrill rides, and one of the best waterparks anywhere.
Busch Gardens (Williamsburg, Virginia)- A good, well run amusement park. There really isn't a bad ride in the park, and their coasters aren't many, but all great. The scenery is unmatched.
Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)- More great roller coasters at this one. Russell said that Wildcat is better than Roar, and I say that Lightning Racer, which is right across the park, is better than Wildcat. Another well rounded park that leans towards the thrill side, but has something for all, plus the whole place smells like chocolate.
Geauga Lake- The best bang for the buck anywhere. The admission price is 25 bucks. For that you get 10 roller coasters (5 great ones and 5 ok ones), a brand new waterpark, and hardly any crowds at all. Certainly not as good as some of the others on this list, but worth a visit nonetheless.
Other alternatives are Knoebels and Kennywood, and Holiday World in Indiana, which is another family owned charmer. Again, not as many rides here, but a great experience. Another up and comer is Dollywood in Pigeon Forge TN. If you like the down home country vibe, that it's the place for you. Morey's Piers has a ton of rides in a carnivalesque, seaside setting. Also, if you are into history and vibe, than I would be a fool if I didn't mention Coney Island in New York. Today Coney Island is a shell of what it was years ago, but there is so much history and so much character to this place that it can be magical...that is, if you are into history. Ridewise, it isn't really in the same league with most other parks on my list, but it's has just as much charm and personality....if not more than any of those parks.
I wouldn't waste my time with any Six Flags parks. There are so many other better places to go that have the same kind of rides, and you can never really count on their top rides being open on any given day. Paramounts King's Dominion is the sister park of King's Island, but it's not nearly as good. They have many similar rides and are a whole lot alike, but when compared, PKD lacks the waterpark, the great kids area, the thrill ride quality, and the overall charm and ambience. Believe me when I say that a trip to Kings Island is worth far more than a trip to Kings Dominion
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort