A theme park gift under $10? Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
My kids are now 9 (son), 7 (daughter), and 5 (daughter). My wife has no interest in thrill rides so these trips are generally focused on the family areas of the park. However as my kids grow older their taste for things extreme has begun to grow...."that's my boy!" :)
We always start out in the Nickeldoen Kids area of the park. There is a reason that KI has won the Golden Ticket award for the best kid's area 7 years in a row. I know some people don't put as much stock in the Golden Tickets and of course it's no TPI award ;) but that doesn't change the fact that they have an excellently themed and entertaining place for the kids.
The Nickelodeon theme is done very well. It's not too over the top but just enough to make the rides exceiting and get the kids attentions. The one last symbol of days gone by and the old Hannah Barbera land is the Scooby Doo haunted castle. We started our adventure here. In the past few years, my two daughters had spent the enture que time crying due to the scary nature of the theme and the haunting ghost howls (all done in a cartoony manner of course). this time around they handled it like troopers and we never heard a peep out of them. This ride is similar to the Buzz Lightyear ride at MK in that you ride through a cartoony, black lit with bright colors indoor dark ride shooting ghosts and helping the gang solve the mystery. Well ok, you just shoot ghosts. :) But the competition for the score is where the fun is at. Once again, Dad still has it where it counts finishing with the top score. The ride was fun but is starting to show it's age. one of the guns didn't work and I counted at least 10 sensors that weren't lit on the ride and therefore no score given. That was disappointing. I hope that they give it some TLC here soon.
The rest of the park is a real mixture of old HB land rides that have been rethemed and new attractions. All are enjoyable and fit well together. There is something for all ages from small swings, airplanes that barely get off the ground and little cars that go 2 mph up to two decent coasters, a log flume, and a really neat ride called Avatar I'll get to in a minute.
My son is done with the smaller rides and is immediately interested in only the coasters and larger rides they offer. So we split up and let the girls go find Dora, Diego, and the gang for some mild fun. My son and I head over to Avatar. Now I have never seen a ride like this other than at King's Island. It's been there for about three years now I believe. And it is a blast to ride. It's a large ride with capacity for about 36 riders, 18 a side facing one another and rides on two rails. The rails have one camel hump in the middle and then each end goes up about 30 feet in the air almost at 90 degrees. Using what I believe is magnetic propusion of some sort, the ride rocks back and forth in the first valley and then begins to spin on it's axis. After about 3 back and forths it begins to crest the camel hump and then the ride runs the full length of the track (about 150 feet or so I guess) spinning and moving at a decent clip. It's an excellent ride design and is perfect for the whole family. It's like a mix of a coaster, the viking ship type rides, and a spinner of sorts all in one. The kids just love it and we rode it at least three times that day. I never tired of it myself. I give this a 9/10 for repeatability, excellent design, smoothness of ride, and family fun!
Another great ride that is a classic and has been around forever but under many names is the Fairly Odd Coaster. Once the Scooby Doo coaster and also once called the Beastie (named after the ferocious woody at KI), it still has an old coney island charm about it and is great for young coaster enthusiasts. My son, daughter, and I rode this at least three times as well. The last few being great opportunities for them to learn where the camera was and "strike a pose!". It was like being a kid all over again for me watching them discover all the fun of coasters for the first time and seeing the excitement on their faces. I give it an 8/10 for charm and simple fun!
The biggest or scariest ride in the kids area is probably the Runaway-Reptar suspended coaster. It's way more intimidating than anything I rode as a kid but is still fun, short enough, and tame enough for the average kid. My daughter passed, not liking the "dangling feet" aspect of it but my son and I enjoyed a short wait and a nice ride on it. I think it's very well done, just a little too short. But understandably so. 7.5/10
We didn't do the Log Flume themed after the Wild Thornberry's this year but it's your typical log flume with very little theming outside of the que, boarding, and landing areas. 6/10
There are so many rides in the kids area that I can't get to them all but suffice to say we spent at least 4-6 hours of our day there with the kids never getting bored and still not having ridden all of the rides. Once again, KI lived up to the hype and wore my kids out leaving them with big grins. But that's not all that KI had to offer, we still had a water park and the rest of KI to get too!! :D
After lunch we headed to the water park. Free with admission thankfully. KI has invested quite a bit in the last 3-5 years redoing the water park and making many additions to it. Having three unique children's area each one catering to different age groups is a gift from heaven. The first being a simple pirate ship for toddlers with water fountains, small slides, and a good size splash pool is an easy place to relax and keep an eye on the kids.
The second area has a couple of bigger slides, a tube ride, and a smaller splash pool. Great for the 6-9 year olds that are ready for a little more adventure. I rode down the tube ride with my daughter as it was a two seater and even enjoyed it myself even though it was a short ride. Well themed area too with nice rock formations splitting up the slides and such.
The third play area is a typical water play ground with towers, water guns, multiple slides, buckets to fill and flip, and the super bucket on top to spray everyone when it dumps. It's a little harder to keep an eye on teh kids at all times with this one, but is great for 8-12 year old that have a lot of energy. A few of the slides are even approved for adults so you can go and play with them if you like. I found a water cannon that just reached my wife...it was fun for about 10 secons then I got the look! LOL She laughed it off though. :)
The wave pool and lazy rivers were also great. The free life jackets for the little ones helped out immensely and allowed our entire family to enjoy these activities together. Life guards were passing them out regularly as well as properly marked storage containers through out the water park for easy access.
We didn't really get into any of the bigger water rides as most of them would have excluded my youngest daughter so we mainly did the kid's play areas, the lazy river, and wave pool. But that was enough for us and provided hours of entertainment. The time quickly passed. before long, it was nearing dinner time and we headed back to the main area of the park. After a few more of the Nick rides, we settled down for dinner. More on the food later.
After dinner, we hit the other areas of the park starting in the action zone. This area includes Invertigo (formerly Face Off), Son of Beast, Flight Deck (formerly Top Gun). My son wasn't tall enough for Invertigo or SoB so we rode Flight Deck. I don't know what it is about this ride but I still love it. It's so smooth and just is a great wind in your face feel like your flying suspended coaster. It's too short and has no inversions so it's not much of an extreme experience but it still holds a special place in my heart. My son balked as we hit the que. The sheer size of it while much smaller than Beat or Vortex still dwarfed the kid coasters we had spent most of the day on. He teared up a little and even chickened out enough to go sit in the kids' que. but before the thumbs up was given, he let out a yell and asked the operator to let him on. "That's my boy!!" I told him how proud I was of him to have the courage to overcome his fear and I promised him he would love it. He was upset the whole way up the first hill which I am sure felt like an eternity. But as we turned and began to drop, he let out a whoop and laughed the rest of the way! He then begged to ride it again...like I was going to say no. :)
After the action zone, we headed to the old coney mall and got in a ride on the classic Racers. The nostalgia of those rides is enough to warrant a ride and enjoy the old school experience. However age has begun to take it's toll and the ride is not a pleasant one. We were jerked around pretty well. Nothing too painful, but enough to keep us from getting a ride on the blue side. It was starting to get dark which is one of my favorite times to be in the Coney Mall area. The midway lights up, the games come alive, the coaster and flat rides shine brightly in their blinking and flourecent glory and I am reminded of 20 years ago enjoying that same site with my brother and sister. We enjoyed some games with the kids and they each won a prize to take home. Each so proud of their dollar store quality treasure! :)
We generally had always headed home about this time in light of the two hour drive back to Indy, but had decided to stay in Cincy this time and enjoy a visit to the Cincy Zoo (one of the top zoos in America). So we got to experience the nightly fireworks sitting in the shadow of the Eifel Tower (replica) off main street. Some glowing lightsabers added to the festivities as the show began. I don't think Fireworks ever grow old for kids. It wasn't anything above your average show, but the kids loved it and it was an excellent way to end the day. I hadn't gotten to get around to some of my favorites like Beast, Vortex, or Flight of Fear but I had a day full of fun memories with my kids. Another successful day at KI! Now on to some notes about the day...
Food - KI offers all the Cincy classics in Graeter's ice cream, Skyline Chili, LaRosas Pizza, and more! One of my faovrites is the Traught Blueberry Ice Cream. YUM! LaRosas and Skyline are unique tastes that not everyone is a fan of, but they offer enough other things like Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, and the typical grill type food that they have something for everyone.
Cleanliness - The park had some nice areas that I felt like Cedar Fair had improved up on KI's former management and then other areas that looked like they needed a lot of TLC or just someone with a broom. I did see plenty of people around picking up though. I just think CF is still figuring out what to do with parts of the park.
Security / Life Guards - Security was the norm. Checked everything on the way in. Eveidently snacks, waters, etc in diaper bags and purses are ok, just no coolers or packed lunches in the park. That upset a few folks, but worked well for us since we had a few snacks and juice boxes for the kids in my wife's purse. A real area of improvement I noticed were the life guards in the water park. Cedar Fair or whoever brought this about is to be congratulated. For the first time ever in a water park I actually really felt safe and that if something happened with my kids, that it would be responded to immediately. No more lazy sitting there just staring off to space kids wearing red and sunglasses. These kids were standing up, walking to and fro, looking side to side. Those in the wave pool were constantly moving their heads inspecting their site lines at 15, 30, 45, 60, and 90 degrees from their position. Only stopping when relieved by another team member. I was very impressed by this and hope to see more water parks doing the same.
Prices - Tickets were a great steal at $25 a piece at the any of the midwest Kroger stores. I remember them being as much as $40 just a few years ago. Food prices were reasonable considering. And even cheaper than the zoo was the next day.
Construction - I got to see the footings of the new coaster that people have been talking about. Looks like to be about average in length considering the footprint and number of pylons that were prepped for. But anything is possible once they get the base up. Will be nice to have another Coaster option there. Going to have to plan another trip without the kids to get my coaster fix. :)
When we drove to BGE in early June, we passed a ton of signs for KI, and even considered a stop. After reading your report, I wish we had taken a day and done just that! Oh well, there is always next year!
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