Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
We went after work last night, so we knew we would have a short trip. The hope was to hit a few of our top ride choices so they'd be covered and we could do other things on our next (longer) trip.
From this board, I already knew (sadly) that Volcano would be closed, and Volcano is the PKD ride I am far and away the most interested in experiencing. But with Volcano out, we headed straight for Hypersonic XLC, noting as we went past that Shockwave was running strong.
[Hypersonic]: Got to Hypersonic --- line is next to nothing but no trains are running. We hung around for a minute, then I went up to the line attendant, saying I knew he probably couldn't estimate when the ride would reopen, but wondered how long it had been closed at that point. The young man was Ukrainian and pleasant but his English must have been minimal because I could not make my question understood. He kept answering as though I were asking when the ride would reopen, not how long it had been closed. I was trying to confirm that it had been running at least some that day. Finally a lady in line took pity on me and said it had been running earlier in the day and closed down recently.
DH and I waited around for a while, because soon after we got there they started running some test trains through. And WOW it looks like a great ride, the launch and up and over that almost vertical hill, then very fast the rest of the way. But unfortunately, after I think 3 test trains went through, there were no more launches, so finally we left the queue but decided to stay in the general area to keep an eye on the ride in case it reopened (it didn't).
[Grizzly]: Went next to Grizzly and boy, either memory is faulty from my last ride on a woodie (the main woodie I've ridden would be the Cannonball out-and-back at Lake Winnepesaukah, but I have vague memories of other woodies), or I'm just too old, because this torture device was ROUGH ROUGH ROUGH. Could be a great ride, nice runaway mine train look and feel, good drops and felt very fast for a woodie, but darn my neck compressed coming off the first drop (we were in the second row of the 1st car, right behind the front) and it felt like I was being pummeled the rest of the way. Didn't enjoy it at all. I don't mind height and I LOVE speed but it's gotta be smooth for these almost 40-year-old bones, I guess.
So, that greatly dampened our enthusiasm for Hurler, reported on these boards to be rough, and I was having doubts about Rebel Yell, too, although that didn't prove an issue because we never got over to Rebel Yell.
[Ricochet]: Ok, so even though we walked on Grizzly, we'd spent a fair bit of time hoping for Hypersonic, so we were over an hour into our visit and had only had 1 very unenjoyable ride. We started walking, and after checking that Hypersonic was still out of commission, left that area of the park, and went to at least look at Hurler. Decided not to try it -- didn't want any more sore necks or backs -- but waited for Ricochet. Standard "wild mouse" type of coaster but certainly a decent ride. Line was slow and long, about 35-40 minutes. DH kindly pointed out all the chewing gum that had been spit/thrown onto the overhead screens protecting the queue lines, but he said that about the time I was noticing how lush and pretty the grass under the ride was, so I was getting positive and negative impressions of the park pretty much one on top of the other.
[General impressions]: Speaking of park impressions, generally I thought the park was okay but nothing spectacular or particularly appealing. The soundwaves around Hurler and Ricochet are dominated by the playing of various movie and TV themes. I didn't see a reason for the choices (other than I assume a Paramount connection, obviously), and some were okay, but really, do I need or want to hear the theme music from Dallas, or -- horrors! -- The Waltons when I'm waiting in line for a roller coaster or other thrill ride? For me, the answer is definitely NO. Some of the areas of the park are nice, like Congo, and the kids' areas also looked nicely themed, but there's no overall cohesion to the different areas -- what does Congo have to do with "Old Virginia" and what's the connection from them to the "International" area, etc.?
Also, the parking and first area you walk into, except for the nice "Eiffel Tower" and fountain (tho the resemblance to the real tower is minimal) has a real state fair feel to it. Maybe I've just been spoiled by my many visits since '99 to BGE, but I just didn't get too much of the excitement I usually feel at going to theme parks. Really, PKD is to me, despite some individual rides that are very well-themed, much more of an amusement park than a theme park.
Back to the rides. We got to the Congo area, and I really was leaning toward riding Tomb Raider, because that one is absolutely wonderfully themed and looks exciting -- the riders are being "sacrificed" to a fire and water god, the music is intense, and the africanesque statuary and themeing is topnotch for that ride. But DH was more interested in the new Italian Job, and I was more than happy to go along, although we'd spotted the line as we entered the Congo area and it looked long.
[Italian Job Stunt Coaster]: Got in the long line, but it was moving well. I noticed there are only 12 riders per train, but the trains depart quickly, and at least 3 were running. You can see a good bit of the ride from the queue line, spoiling any sense of surprise (which may not have been intended) when you reach the part where the helicopter flies at you to the sounds of automatic gunfire and the sights of roaring flames. Waited in line half an hour, were getting really close to the boarding platform, when -- you guessed it -- the ride shut down. It was after 9, the park would close at 10 -- there was no way we were going anywhere else at that point. If things didn't improve, I was ready to leave PKD without a backward glance and never come back.
Half an hour later, and line attrition brought us right up to the station when a test launch was announced to the cheers of the remaining crowd. A bit later, and we were in our little Mini Coopers. Smooth fast launch right into a righthand curve and up a spiral and into a fun, fun, fun fast and twisting little coaster ride. The stop at the 'copter (and again, I'm giving nothing away as it is very visible from the queue line) was brief but allowed for a second launch to the finish. Smooth, fast, never very high, but still fun because of the speed and the twists. Sweet little ride. Nicely done, good job PKD, and I think I'm now a launch coaster fan, if only they'll get Hypersonic and Volcano running so I can ride them.
Walked off Italian Job and race walked onto Anaconda for the last train of the evening. A nice old-style steel that reminded me of Loch Ness Monster at BGE. Long ride, 2 (or was it 3?) big loops, a change of direction that was a bit hard on the neck but not too bad, a cobra roll, and again, just long and fast and no doubt excellent for its time. Deserving of a higher rating than the 6 it had on the TPI boards last time I checked, IMO.
Ran hoping to catch a ride on Tomb Raider, but the line was closed to new riders despite my begging. Watched the last ride of it, though, and it really is neat to watch. Long walk out to the parking lot.
Ok, so now my report has been about as long as my trip. Summary: Unless the feel of the park changes under the new ownership, I would not think of going to PKD for a full day's trip, nor would I take my extended family when they visit, because it's just not that pleasant a place to hang out, as BGE most definitely is. BUT when I hear Volcano is up and running, and hopefully Hypersonic will be, too, I hope to go again just to hop on those rides, ride Italian Job some more, and then scoot right back out of the park. Just not a place I want to see over and over.
One last comment: The park still needs to work on the staff. There were plenty there, but we started on a slightly sour note when we drove up to the parking entrance. The older American woman just stood there, not saying anything or giving us any directions like, "That will be $10 please" or anything. DH finally had to say, "How much do I owe you?" Just felt a little odd -- were we supposed to play a guessing game, or what?
And the other staff, not just the young Ukrainian, seemed pleasant but uninformed about how to maneuver best around the park, any way to exit the park near the amphitheatre, and other basic questions we asked.
The crowd was young overall but not rough, and again there was definitely a fairly big staff presence.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort