Theme Park of the Week: Kings Island

April 10, 2022, 9:28 PM · Kings Island returns for its 50th anniversary season this Saturday, April 16. So what better reason can there be to celebrate Kings Island as our Theme Park Insider Park of the Week?

Kings Island opened April 29, 1972, designed as a replacement for Cincinnati's Coney Island amusement park, which had suffered flooding in its location on the banks of the Ohio River. Owned by Taft Broadcasting Company, Kings Island featured characters from Taft's Hanna-Barbera Inc. as well as a soon-to-be iconic double-track wooden coaster, The Racer. The Racer was an immediate hit, inspiring similar rides at other parks and helping to fuel renewed interest in roller coasters nationwide during the 1970s.

The Racer
The Racer and Coney Mall, back in the day. Photo courtesy Kings Island.

Long before Disney became the master at media synergy, Kings Island was getting national airtime on ABC, thanks to deals that brought popular sitcoms The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch to film episodes in the park. Kings Island also hosted national broadcasts of stunts by Karl Wallenda and Evel Knievel, helping promote the park to a generation of fans across the country.

Kings Island continued to lead in coaster development with the debuts in 1979 of The Beast, which remains the world's longest wooden roller coaster, and in 1981 of The Bat - Arrow Dynamics' pioneering suspended coaster. (Today, the park uses The Bat name on the former Top Gun coaster, which opened in 1993.) In 1992, Paramount bought Kings Island, making it part of the Paramount Parks chain, where it remained until Cedar Fair bought the Paramount parks in 2006.

Today, Kings Island is home to 14 roller coasters, including its most recent addition, 2020's Bolliger & Mabillard giga, Orion. Our reader's top pick in the park is the 2009 B&M hyper Diamondback.

To commemorate its anniversary, Kings Island will kick off "A Golden Celebration" on May 28, with new shows, themed food, a new fireworks show, and a "Club KI" dance party - as well as a "50 Years of Fun Street Party" parade that starts June 18.

Thinking about visiting? Out travel partner has one-day tickets for as low as $48, as well as discounts on hotel packages, on its Kings Island tickets page.

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Replies (6)

April 10, 2022 at 11:05 PM

When I first visited Kings Dominion I liked Kings Island better, but after visiting both again in recent years I think with all of the cosmetic improvements made to KD pulled ahead just a bit. If KI spends the kind of money KD did a few years back to beautify the park that would definitely make KI one of my favorite parks.

As long as KI has the Beast it will always be a must visit park, Beast at night IMO is still one of the best coasters anywhere and is a must do for any enthusiast. Mystic Timbers when it gets cooking is a really good GCI i'd rank it in the top third, though you have to ride it later in the day when its warmed up (this is not a park where you can knock out the two best coasters early and consider them done you have to stay until late).
After those two and Orion (which I have not ridden) the parks lineup dropoffs in quality quite a bit. Diamondback i'd put in the middle to lower of the pack of B&M hypers, the rattle at least on the train I rode was very pronounced. Banshee is one of the weaker inverts and also had a bad rattle i'm also the perfect height to be choked by the vest restraints (to be fair I have this problem with most vest restraint coasters). Racer is alright though doesn't really have a special spot in my heart because American Eagle, which is a lot better IMO, occupies that spot for old wooden racing coasters. Its good that they have an indoor launch coaster that can stay open in weather and its still a decent ride. I really liked Adventure Express when I was younger but now its just a rough old Arrow they could do without and I felt the same way about Vortex and the Bat/Top Gun/Flight Deck, BLS is a decent family thrill coaster, Face/Off is garbage at this point, the drop tower is okay. That area where the Bat, Invertigo, and drop tower are badly needs to be renovated (just take out the Bat and Invertigo and start from scratch IMO). The Coney Mall area is old and worn out and could use renovations as well.

I feel like most people that have KI as their home park have been to CP and may even go there on a somewhat regular basis so its bizarre that 20 years after MF they built a giga coaster with blue track and gray supports, and not only that but one that seemed mailed in and not that special. I think it would have made sense to give them something more unique.

April 11, 2022 at 11:13 AM

Was only there twice in 1988 and '89. '89 fun as they had just opened their Water Works water park (back when a water park right by theme park was a new thing) and enjoyed that. Kept wanting to get back, never did but remember it as fun, especially the Beast.

April 11, 2022 at 3:01 PM

Always will have a soft spot for Kings Island. This was the first, regional (non Disney / Universal) park I ever visited!

April 13, 2022 at 11:07 AM

King's Island is an amusement park, not a theme park.

I have no problem with this site covering amusement parks, but I do find it annoying that amusement parks are lumped into the same category as places like Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom. I'm sure that Robert Niles knows the difference.

We get season passes to our local Six Flags park, La Ronde, and we enjoy going. But there's no way that can be categorized as a "theme park."

April 13, 2022 at 1:51 PM

I think that's an unfair assessment Still a fan. While some regional parks lack the intricate theming and budgets of Disney and Universal to consistently offer highly themed experiences, many have gone through stages where they have committed to high levels of theming. If you consider Kings Island an "amusement park", what do you say about many Sea World parks that have dramatically cut theming from recent installations? How about different eras of Kings Island that saw the park add highly themed movie-based attractions under the Paramount Parks umbrella?

I feel it's more than fair to include large regional parks on this site that draw millions of guests per year. While there's no argument that many attractions at these smaller parks are not as themed as those at Disney and Universal parks, that doesn't mean they don't compete for the same audiences and shouldn't be included within the pantheon of "theme parks".

April 14, 2022 at 9:14 PM

Love Kings Island and grew up with it as my home park. That entry onto International Street with the Eiffel Tower is still one of the greatest theme park views.
I really hope they bring back the ‘Safari Village’ type theming like they did at Kings Dominion.

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