Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
To me, this has been a park that has seen the greatest changes throughout the years, or at least a park that I’ve been able to notice these changes. I remember this park from its Hanna Barbera days. The Scooby Doo Coaster was my first roller coaster. Growing up, I elevated to the Rebel Yell and Grizzly. The Shockwave, Avalanche, and Anaconda. High school season pass summers allowed me to get rides on new Wayne’s World The Hurler, The Outer Limits Flight of Fear, and Volcano: The Blast Coaster.
I’ve also seen rides disappear: the sky ride gondolas, the train, and the action theater losing Days of Thunder and James Bond. But it was still great to see the International Plaza, Berzerker, and the Old VA Tollway.
Kings Dominion is a park that would fall between Disney and Six Flags when it comes to themeing. When I heard about Dominator being added to the park and saw where, I thought, “Oh no, it’s like Scream at SFMM. They built it in the parking lot.” But, the grass has grown in and you can barely tell the loss of the parking spaces. A few commented on the lack of grass and foliage around Intimidator, but Russell pointed out, with a few months time, green landscape would surround that ride. I want to say the grass has grown in, but I can’t be so sure, everything went by SO fast.
We entered the park prior to the “rope drop” and decided to spend our time attempting to enjoy Sponge Bob Squarepants 3D in the Action Theater. A contrived storyline and antiquated 3D technology begs for an upgrade. “Days of Thunder” and “James Bond” films both provided for great entertainment without 3D. I know 3D is a big gimmick now (that is poorly used is many films, but that’s a different discussion) but the technology that is available is far superior to what KD is still using.
With the entire park open now, we headed down to Grizzly and The Hurler. Forgetting how jolty these coasters could be, I nearly lost my sunglasses. The first turn at the bottom of The Hurler slammed my wife’s head into my shoulder. This hurt her more than me. That found us looking for smoother non-wooden coaster. Rebel Yell, albeit an out-and-back, was off the immediate list due to its wooden nature.
With a beaten body, I figure it would be a good time to further the damage and take on the Intimidator 305. A long walk across from “The Grove” to “Congo” brought me to a line that was entirely in the sun. Really? The decision to build a new ride with less than adequate shade is mind-boggling. Unsure of the wait-time and wanting to avoid the sun, we left this for later in the day. (Later in the day, are you crazy?)
Over to Flight of Fear, which my wife would say has been my most talked about coaster at Kings Dominion since we met. When this ride first opened, its themeing level was excellent. Now, forget it. The entire interior queue is ready for Halloween, boarded up into some sort of maze. (Dodgems, the bumper cars, is also closed as they are building a Halloween maze) The coaster has made a huge difference with the removal of the shoulder restraints. Having been on this coaster before and knowing it’s layout, I was still caught off guard after coming out the loops. My mind was still wondering if we were upside down or not.
Next was Volcano: The Blast Coaster. One point I want to bring up is that this is the only coaster that has retained its Paramount name. I guess you can’t call this The Blast Coaster. Recently on TPI someone stated that this coaster is their favorite at the park. The wait time of nearly an hour proves this rides popularity. This on a day when the average wait time was 0-15 minutes for most coasters. Intimidator was at 30 minutes. Although this ride has great movement and smooth rolls, it’s just too short. The first launch is still amazing, and the swooping turn is wonderful. Another acceleration and BAM, you’re out the top.
Over to Avalanche. Here’s my thought on what would make a great bobsled coaster. Take the La Vibora cars from SFoTX and put them on the Avalanche track. I don’t like the long train of Avalanche.
Next the backlot stunt coaster. This coaster would be nice if all the effects would work. But I guess on a day where the high is 98, no explosions would be happening. The real problem I had here was the seat and lap bar. Now, I’m a tall guy of average weight and have never had a problem with restraints. But here, the seat felt low sitting and the heavy lap bar was right in my gut, which I felt hard on every braking and airtime.
From there it was about 1:30pm, and we went to the water park. Two parks, one ticket!
Following the water park is back over to Intimidator. The break in the queue before the loading platform to separate those who wanted the front row from the rest of the train is great. Provides for better movement and less crowding/blockage on the platform. I finally made my way into the platform and found a row, which had a single rider, since I was going solo on this ride. I was able to skip ahead 3 trains. Standing at the gate with my new friend, I eagerly awaited our train. I’m not sure how to describe this feeling, but there is a great feeling when waiting to ride a new coaster for the first time knowing that the next train is going to be your trip.
The train leaves and returns with its riders mildly damp from the rain that has started to fall. And that’s when the announcement happens. “Intimidator is being temporarily shut down due to inclement weather.” Bummer, yes. Expected, yes. Questions amongst the waiting crowd were raised about why other coasters were running. Rain at 80+mph is not comfortable. But the reaction of the guests coming off the train to this announcement was quite displeasing. They cheered and whooped like a 16-0 football rubbing a championship in your face. Within five minutes, the clouds had passed, and the train was going around empty for a test. Total wait time: 30 minutes, after getting in line at 3:30pm.
After some difficulty finding which restaurant served the veggie burger (which is more than “vegetables and a bun” as one employee though) we realized that we could’ve shared a meal. The portion sizes are large. The fries that came with the burger are enough for two. It was standard fare. The only complaint was that they served my wife’s veggie burger 10 minutes after my cheeseburger came out. Why couldn’t they be at the same time?
After this we took it slow with Boo Blasters. We are both fans of these interactive attractions. Although not as well themed as Buzz Lightyear or Toy Story, it was still fun and provided the challenge will enjoy amongst ourselves.
The final ride of the day was left to Dominator. This ride was like Scream but with two less elements, better scenery and a little more pizzazz. I enjoyed the banking turns out of the first loop that bring the train around to the cobra roll. And one of my favorite elements of a coaster is here, like in Scream, the interwoven corkscrews.
Overall it was a great day at the park. We stayed hydrated by drinking plenty of PowerAde from my Intimidator souvenir bottle ($10.99 + $5 unlimited refills for the day), which I think is the most expensive unlimited drinks in the park industry. The park was giving out plenty of free cups of ice water to guests without complaints. And the brief shower around 4pm cooled off the temps going into the evening.
I look forward to returning to my home park in another few years with the addition of new attractions.
Well, this year we replaced Volcano with I305, but we'll go back to Volcano now, since I305 moves people so fast the line rarely gets over 30 minutes, while Volcano simply loads too slow and is too short to move people fast enough, and as you noticed, still has 1-hour lines.
Plus, having ridden I305 on the front and the back, I don't feel it's THAT much different from the center, while Volcano is a completely different ride in the front.
I think the Avalanche is one of the most interesting rides in a theme park (next to the Exterminator at Kennywood).
The other thing we've noticed is Flight of Fear has much longer lines now that they opened I305, since people notice it and ride it after I305. It's not worth the extra wait, although it's still a cool ride.
Normally, we also do Avalanche and the Italian Job (we don't accept the name change). Then we do Drop tower and Comet, followed by ricochet and Hurler, and finish up with Grizzly (sometimes my son will do the stand-up coaster but I don't like it). We also try to do the raft ride, since it's one of the better ones in the park.
Sorry to hear the bumper cars are closed again, we do that whenever we are at the park, there are two or three cars that will actually drive backwards with full steering control, and my son and I love driving around backwards and seeing the looks on people's faces.
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