A theme park gift under $10? Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
This summer has been a strange and busy one for me...so strange that only last week was I finally able to get to my home park for the first time this summer. A few times this year I had made plans to go to Paramount's Kings Island, only to have to cancel the plans for some reason or other. I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes. August 22nd was the last Monday that the park would be open for this year, so my wife and I decided to drop everything and just go. We couldn't possibly miss a trip this year, and with all the crazy rumors about the Vortex being removed, I had to go, lest I possibly miss one last ride
Another good thing about end of the season trips, pass prices. This time of the year is the best time to buy season passes for next year. In PKI's case, they give you a discount price, free parking for next year, and free access and parking to the park for the rest of this year including Fearfest and half price Winterfest tickets. Not a bad deal, so we bit and bought them.
The Eiffel Tower and Royal Fountains welcomed us into the park like normal. I've always thought that PKI's park entrance was one of the best around. The ambience around International Street is fantastic, rivaling anything that Disney or any of the other big boys offer. We made our way back to Old Coney for a new pair of sunglasses (forgot ours), and a ride on the Racers. It's a classic wooden racing coaster going both forwards and backwards. I've been riding it for years, so there's nothing new I can really say other than it was in great shape. The line for Flight of Fear, an indoor launch coaster, was a little too long for our liking at the moment, so we bypassed that one and moved on to the Vortex
I remember when the Vortex first came out. It was the first six-looper in the world, and boy did the people come for it. The ride is in the back of the park, and I can still recall the lines that stretched all the way to the front for it. That was nearly twenty years ago, when the Vortex was lean, mean, and smooth as silk. Of course age has caught up with this beast, and nowadays the ride isn't as smooth as it used to be. It's always been a great fun ride, but this year it seemed a little rougher, a little more harsh than usual. PKI has done their best to keep this ride up, and they've kept it in much better shape for longer than its peers such as the Viper at Magic Mountain. Still, even if it doesn't come out this winter, its years are numbered. The smoothness that it had left last year is nearly gone, and honestly...I would rather see it go than to see it become a complete migraine machine...to remember it as a good coaster, and not one that played the game longer than it should have. After a spin on the Vortex, we moved on to the new ride for 2005...Italian Job Stunt Track.
My review on this ride is a bit mixed, probably because of my penchant for coasters, but mixed nonetheless. First off, I'll give props to PKI for creating their best themed ride yet. The theming is what I would term real world theming...meaning that the set pieces aren't manufactured. Quite honestly it looks like they looted an old warehouse for set pieces and stole a few police cars to boot. In a nutshell, the ride looks good. The sorta-slow 40 mph launch is magnified a bit by the spiral helix immediately afterward, and the second launch brings the ride into a pitch black tunnel...fun stuff. The shooting helicopter and explosions were a nice touch as well. On the flip side, the ride was pretty short. I would have expected a coaster like this to last a little longer for more immersive effect, but it was over almost as soon as it started. Also, the trains were in a bit of disarray. The speakers in the cars would have probably added to the ride, the only problem was that they had been destroyed by some inconsiderate moron and were quite simply not working. My final verdict... It's a good ride...for what it is. The theming is great, the kids will love it, and most adults will as well. The coaster nut would probably be disappointed because of speed and height, but it's a great addition, and mostly worthy of the hype it received last winter.
From there we decided to have some lunch back at International Street. To us, that means LaRosas Pizza by the fountain. LaRosas is a local Cincinnati pizza chain, but it’s a darn good one, and to many visitors who aren’t local, it’s one of the best pizzas around. A ride up the Eiffel Tower followed lunch, where we took a view of the park and surrounding areas. Next door, they were clearing out land for the new Great Wolf Lodge Hotel/indoor Waterpark.
We then took a stroll to Hanna Barbera Land (soon to be entirely Nick Central), and had a ride on Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. There was a bit of a wait for this one, as it’s popular with the kiddies. This “Men In Black” style shooter dark ride was another good piece of theming and fun for the family. I don’t know what they will do with this ride when Hanna Barbera leaves, but hopefully it sticks around in some form or other....wait a minute...ride removal perhaps? That building has housed 3 different dark rides in the last 20 years.While on the subject of this rumored ride removal...PKI has a bit of a history of announcing the removal of rides, only for the "removed" ride to be a retheme job. Scooby Doo's Haunted Castle was transformed from a ride called Phantom Theater. The King's Mills Log Flume was "removed" for the Wild Thornberries River Adventure. These guys like to play with technicalities, so I also wouldn't be surprised if something like a retheme of Scooby Doo is the case.
Anyway, the kid’s area looked great. PKI has won the Golden Ticket for this area for a few years in a row now, and I can see why. It’s a great mixture of themed and carnival style attractions, food, and scenery. Next up was my personal favorite in the park…The Beast
Most of us who follow the industry know about the Beast. For those who don’t, It’s the longest wooden coaster in the world….one and a half miles of nothing but speed and power through the woods. One of the things that puts this coaster over the top is the fact that there is absolutely nothing around it except for trees and thick forest…it really does feel like riding a wild animal through the woods. It has the perfect mixture of roughness that comes with a wooden coaster and speed and power of a 65 mph runaway train. The double helix at the end is still the best. PKI continues to keep its crown jewel in tip top shape. We rode, and then got back in line for another ride. After that, and a session at the White Water Canyon Observation deck in which we popped in a few bucks and soaked bypassing riders, we then headed over to the Paramount Action Zone.
This particular area boasts quite a few of the parks biggest and best thrill rides. Two of particular note are Drop Zone, a 275 foot freefall tower, and Delirium, a Huss Giant Frisbee. Non coaster thrill rides don’t get much better than these. No high tech virtual reality thrills here, just extreme gravitational forces at work. Also in this area was the suspended coaster Top Gun, which was conspicuously closed. The sign said temporarily closed, but for quite some time now this ride has seemingly been left to deteriorate. The paint looks awful, and the station house looks nothing like the well themed queue it used to be. This leads me to at least suspect that Vortex may possibly be sticking around for at least a little while longer.
We then moved to a ride that I’ve considered as little more than a giant pile of wood…Son of Beast. This ride was built only a few years ago, touted as the tallest, fastest, only looping wooden coaster. What it actually turned out to be is one of the biggest flops this side of the latest Ben Affleck movie. It delivered little more than headaches and for those of us over six feet tall, extremely painful knees. Over the last two years, PKI has invested a chunk of change on this ride by doing a total retracking of the ride. I have to say that it was money well spent, because Son of Beast has significantly improved, and is now actually worth taking a ride on,
It was about time to leave, but not before some French fries at the Potatoworks, some fudge from the fudgery, and a vanilla waffle cone from Graeters. You know its good ice cream when you can still find bits of vanilla bean in the cone. These are three eateries at Kings Island that aren’t to be missed. Unfortunately, most of the shows that ran all year were now shutting down for the season, so we missed the School of Rock show and the Nickelodeon Celebration Parade...although friends who had visited the week earlier had nothing but good things to say about them.
A great day at a great park came to a close, and so now does its regular season… a place I was only able to visit one time this summer. It certainly won’t be the last time this year, as both Fearfest and the long awaited return of Winterfest are still to come. I’m still waiting for that next big coaster, but until then, I will happily sample everything that this wonderland has to offer. I see nothing but good things in the days ahead for PKI. Quite simply, anybody who’s never been has missed out. Put this park at the top of your list for the future
Main reason for going was to observe Son of Beast, clearly an attraction with problems - whole park has 1 hour or so lines and this ride is walk-on all day. The public knows something is up with this attraction. Even the comments from people coming off the ride is consistent with the complaints we get, "that was rough, no more rides for me."
Not spoken like a fan boy, but as a member of the paying public.
After going to Cedar Point twice this summer, I have to agree with Ryan in that I will not go back to PK, especially after reading the review here that confirms how it has gone downhill. We had coupons for $34.95 to PKI this summer, yet we received other coupons for CP that got us in for only $29.95. (And there's sooooo much more to do at CP!)
I really hate to have that attitude toward the park where I was introduced to the wonderful world of coasters, but you gotta admit that it just doesn't compare anymore. It isn't just the lack of giga-coasters as much as it is the lack of coasters, period, and the fact that the audience they market toward is ten and under. I was ticked when I went one year and the Cobra was gone; didn't anticipate Top Gun going for several more years, either. And I'm mortified to hear that even the Log Flume is gone--that was a classic!
It is no wonder the lines are longer for the bigger rides since the options are limited.
I'll probably eat my words and end up taking my son to PKI someday for old time's sake, but we're pretty spoiled by CP. Three days later and we're still having a hard time getting over how much fun we had.
I will be at Cedar Point this week for a couple days. Surely I will return home with a glowing review for them as well. Thrillseekers paradise.
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