Trip Reports from our 11 Parks in 11 States Tour
Over the course of 22 days in June 2016, we traveled across 11 states and visited 11 of the best theme parks in the US. Here's where we were and when:
- Six Flags Great America in Illinois, on June 6
- Cedar Point in Ohio, on June 8
- Kings Island in Ohio, on June 10
- Kentucky Kingdom in Kentucky, on June 12
- Holiday World in Indiana, on June 13
- Dollywood in Tennessee, on June 15
- Carowinds in North Carolina / South Carolina, on June 17
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia, on June 20
- Six Flags America in Maryland, on June 21
- Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, on June 22
- Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, on June 24
We also made a bonus visit to Kings Dominion in Virginia, on June 19
Read all about our latest visits here, as we have updated this section throughout the Tour.
We visited Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey on June 25. It is the second largest theme park in the world, home to the legendary roller coasters Kingda Ka, El Toro and Nitro, an array of other rides plus a Safari Off Road Adventure. Here's our review of the day:
Nitro is ranked the fifth best steel roller coaster in the world and deservedly so, this brilliant 230ft tall hyper coaster reaches a top speed of 80mph and inclides a signature hammerhead turn. The airtime hills are wonderful and the forested surroundings as the ride seemingly leaves the park and travels off into the distance really adds to the experience.
El Toro is one of the tallest and fastest wooden coasters in the world, and due to an innovative prefabricated track it delivers a much smoother ride than most. The fast cable lift hill leads to the steep 76° drop, the train reaches a top speed of 70mph and navigates a series of large airtime hills, twists and turns.
We always enjoy a floorless coaster when riding in the front and Bizarro was no exception. The ride packs 7 inversions into its course and the trains pass through and around several themed features.
Kingda Ka began operating around midday and was our next ride. It's slightly taller and faster than Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, making it the tallest roller coaster in the world and the second fastest, but it's very shakey in places so less enjoyable to ride. The train also seemed to decelerate slightly before the top hat. Despite having a station able to load and unload four trains at once, only one bay was in use, dramatically increasing queue times.
We finally found a standup coaster that we like, GREEN LANTERN gives a thrilling but smooth ride. It's quite long with plenty of inversions and doesn't let up until the end.
It was nice to see some indoor rides in the mix too, with the fun Skull Mountain coaster and Houdini's Great Escape
The new 4D free fly coaster THE JOKER was proving popular with visitors, drawing a long line all day. After reaching the top of a 120ft lift hill riders are flipped over, forwards and backwards, around six times during the ride.
We enjoyed the Safari Off Road Adventure, a jeep ride though 350 acres of enclosures with 80 species. Highlights included the lions, tigers and bears as well as elephants, rhino, giraffe, zebra and buffalo.
The park has some of the same rides as Six Flags Great America including inverted coaster BATMAN The Ride, flying coaster SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight and also THE DARK KNIGHT Coaster.
Other notable rides include the Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom 415ft drop ride and SkyScreamer 242ft swing ride.
It's worth noting that the park had by far the worst ride operations of every park on the tour. Allowing line jumping, whole trains only for Flash Pass riders, empty seats on most trains, lots of breakdowns all day on many of the rides and some never opened. Lots of the rides looked faded, rusty or dirty, which gave an overall impression of the park being a bit tired.
We visited Hersheypark as well as Hershey's Chocolate World in Pennsylvania on June 22. "The Sweetest Place on Earth" offers rides and more in the heart of the town that's home to the world's famous chocolate producer The Hershey Company. Here's our review of the day:
Our first ride of the day was the excellent wing coaster Skyrush, a very underrated prototype ride that pulls riders really quickly up a 212ft lift hill before plunging down an 85° drop and reaching 75 mph before navigating a winding track packed with banked cures and airtime hills. The unusual trains feature two seats in each row that hang off the edge of the train, and deliver a very smooth but intense experience with rider's legs dangling above the track.
Next door, the Great Bear inverted coaster features a novel helix immediately after the lift hill and makes great use of the surrounding terrain.
Storm Runner was up next, a very fun coaster that launches 0-72mph in 2 seconds, up a 150ft tall top hat, through the first-ever cobra loop, a heartline roll and the first-ever flying snake dive. The only shame is that it's all over in less than a minute, as it's so enjoyable to ride we wanted it to go on for longer.
Another very good coaster located not far away is Fahrenheit, after ascending the 121ft vertical lift hill you hit a 97° drop and then a tight course with six inversions, airtime hills and banked curves. It rattles a bit about half way through but is otherwise a smooth and enjoyable ride.
Located at the back of the park are two classic wooden coasters, the fairly standard Wildcat, and Lightning Racer which is one of the best racing wooden coasters in the world. Riders choose to ride Thunder or Lightning which race throughout, with some sections running alongside, other parts diving over and under the other and some parts in mirror image. It's a pleasure to ride and remains exciting all the way to the finish line.
In the same area is the park newest coaster, Laff Trakk, an indoor spinning coaster through a giant funhouse with theming that glows in the dark. It's a good laugh, with every ride different, as is the hall or mirrors along the queue.
There are a few chocolate themed rides, although we would have liked there to have been more. Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge is a fun interactive dark ride, where riders are armed with shooters and compete to score the most points by hitting the targets throughout. The ride vehicles travel along an undulating track which really adds to the experience. Kissing Tower is the iconic 330ft tall observation tower where riders to pucker up and share a kiss whilst they are enjoying panoramic views of the park and of Hershey.
Admission to Hersheypark also includes access to ZooAmerica, where you can get up close to a variety of species native to North America such as the Black Bear, Bobcat, American Elk, Mountain Lion, Gray Wolf and many more.
Located next door in Hershey's Chocolate World, the recently updated Hershey's Chocolate Tour offers a brilliant simulated factory tour, using various technology including animatronics and projection mapping to bring to life how their chocolate is produced. Hershey's Chocolate World also offers some additional charge attractions such as Create-Your-Own Candy Bar, Hershey's Chocolate Tasting Group Experience Hershey's Great Chocolate Factory Mystery in 4D and Hershey Trolley Works. There's also a huge food court offering everything from Hershey's Chocolate BBQ Pork Pizza to Reece's Peanut Butter Cupcakes, and of course a giant shop selling lots of merchandise and all the chocolate you could possibly want!
We visited Six Flags America in Maryland on June 21, to experience the Superman - Ride of Steel, Virtual Reality Coaster. Here's our review:
Due to the complicated boarding process, the single train that seats 30 people is dispatched approximately every 15 minutes, reducing the capacity of the ride to a very low 120 people per hour. Consequently the queues are going to be massive, for what is only a 2 minute ride, but we arrived early in the day so didn't wait too long.
You are handed a Samsung Gear VR headset, with a Galaxy S6 smartphone fitted inside, and once in the train you are asked to put this on and use the velcro straps to attach it firmly to your head. This is somewhat fiddly but you get the hang of it and staff are available to help.
The graphics were perfectly synced in the station, a bit blurry in places and you could see the pixels but still acceptable. You find yourself seated in a Metropolis Tours helicopter awaiting departure, if you look down you even see a representation of your body.
Once the roller coaster leaves the station the virtual reality experience begins immediately, with Lex Luthor's Lex Bots attacking you and Superman coming to to your rescue. However, during the first turn before the lift hill the graphics went out of sync with the ride, so we were looking in the wrong direction. This corrected itself part way up the lift hill but as soon as we began the first drop the graphics spiraled out of control and we had to close our eyes to avoid the disorientation. About half way through the ride it had went to a black screen with an error.
Upon returning to the station it was apparent that it wasn't just us that had suffered from the technical problems and the ride operator didn't seem at all surprised. By this time the queue was very lengthy so we decided against giving it another go.
In comparison, Galactica at Alton Towers in the UK is a roller coaster that's fully dedicated to virtual reality, with a themed station, pre-ride video, photo opportunity, customized VR headsets that are fitted into the train, easier to put on and most importantly although the video quality is similar it is perfectly in sync throughout. This virtual reality roller coaster experience looks like a much cheaper version that has been bolted on to an otherwise pretty good hyper coaster.
Also in Gotham City at Six Flags America, the flying coaster BATWING and launched coaster THE JOKER's Jinx.
The other roller coasters at Six Flags America include Roar, The Mind Eraser, Apocalypse and Ragin' Cajun.
We visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia on June 20. The best themed and most beautiful park so far, with the areas, rides, shows, shops, food and drink inspired by Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Germany and France. Here's our review of the day:
We started our day in Festa Italy, riding the hyper coaster Apollo's Chariot and the recently added launch coaster Tempesto. The park is laid out in a convenient loop so we continued around to Verbolten and Curse of DarKastle in Oktoberfest and Alpengeist in Germany, on to Griffon in France, Europe in the Air in Ireland, Loch Ness Monster in Scotland and then Escape from Pompeii in Italy.
is considered to be one of the top 10 steel roller coasters in the
world, sending riders into a ravine at 73mph, through a powerful upward
helix and over eight airtime hills. The majority of the ride is hidden
from view so until you're on the ride you don't get a sense of what to
expect which is good. We enjoyed the ride, but after experiencing
several other hyper coasters recently the second part of the ride felt slow and tame in comparison.
Tempesto is a short but fun new ride, blasting riders forwards and backwards through twists, loops and a roll within a tall narrow structure. It's been nicely themed so if there's no queue it's worth a ride, but the least impressive of the roller coasters at the park overall.
Verbolten is a thrilling multi launch coaster that's still family friendly as it's not that intense. Most of the action takes place indoors, in a 'dark forest' with sudden turns and drops, one of which really takes you by surprise. The queue is nicely themed and the racing car inspired rains look brilliant.
Curse of DarKastle is an hybrid 3D dark ride along the same lines as Spider-Man and Transformers at Universal, but with an original story. It's one of the best themed rides in the park and very immersive. Unfortunately the pre-show wasn't running so none of the backstory to the ride was explained which did make the plot hard to follow, and the 3D wasn't working on one of the screens, but it was still a great experience.
Alpengeist sits at the top of the park in an alpine ski resort setting, it's an impressive 195ft inverted coaster that uses the landscape brilliantly, and is definitely best experienced in the front row. It was one of our favorite rides of the whole day, packing in six inversions including a 106ft vertical loop.
Griffon is a 215ft dive coaster that despite not being quite as tall, long or fast as the record-breaking Valravn at Cedar Point is just as fun to ride. What it lacks in those areas, it makes up for with a great setting and an awesome splash down moment.
Europe in the Air is a lesser quality version of Soarin' at Disney with footage of a few famous European landmarks that you 'fly' over. The motion based ride is pretty good, delivering plenty of movement in front of a giant screen and equipped with big fans so that you can feel the wind in your hair, but the low resolution and poorly edited video let it down.
Loch Ness Monster, a classic looping coaster that originally opened in 1978. It's the only roller coaster in the world that features two interlocking loops, which look fantastic, and we especially liked the long spiraling tunnel in the dark.
It's always great to ride a properly themed shoot the chute that's more than just a ramp and drop, and Escape from Pompeii is a really good version of this. We loved the dramatic fire and destruction sequence before the drop. The queue line provides a nice build up to the ride, visiting an archaeological site and preparing to go on a boat tour Pompeii. Watching the city collapsing all around you and feeling the heat of fire erupting from the ruins is very exciting.
We enjoyed two shows in Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve on our visit, the animal presentations The Secret Life of Predators and Pet Shenanigans.
Both featured some very talented animals and their trainers, in
particular the wolves and majestic eagles, but not forgetting the
trained domestic cats!
With such a lovely setting, we decided to make the most of it and spend some time exploring the park on the Rhine River Cruise and the Busch Gardens Railway.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
is a wonderful place, the landscape of the park is lovely, the
attention to detail in the themed areas is impressive and there are
colorful displays of flowers everywhere. Ride operations were mixed,
with no staff to manage the queues and therefore lots of empty seats on
rides, often one or two on several rows in every train. The range and
quality of the food and drink available was better than at most parks,
and the value for money was fair. It's so different to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, don't miss out on visiting this park!
We visited Kings Dominion on June 19. It wasn't originally intended to be part of our 11 Parks in 11 States Tour, but we had such a good time at Kings Island that we took the opportunity to make a bonus visit! Here's our review of the day:
The two theme parks share many similarities, from the charming International Street with its water fountains and the one-third replica of the Eiffel Tower, to having many of the same rides including Flight of Fear, Backlot Stunt Coaster, Drop Tower, Planet Snoopy, Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, Delirium, WindSeeker and a Soak City water park.
Dominator is the world's longest floorless roller coaster, and it was our first ride. We opted for the front row, a must on this type of ride, and found it thrilling with five inversions including the fourth tallest vertical loop in the world. However, it's completely devoid of any any theming and just plonked down on a flat grassy area next to the car park, so consequently it can't compete with the fantastic Rougarou at Cedar Point.
We really enjoyed Volcano, The Blast Coaster. We had a long-ish wait due to a breakdown, which is very common on this ride, but by not leaving the queue and having to start again we saved time. The duel launch sections inside the volcano are great and shooting out vertically from the top is a lot of fun. The multiple inline twists above the volcano are very smooth and deliver quite the thrill. Overall it offers a unique experience that was worth visiting for alone.
Having never experienced a 'grey out' before, Intimidator 305 made quite an impression. This roller coaster is a sort of mash up between Millennium Force and Maverick and Cedar Point. It has the big airtime hills and banked curves of the former and the tight twists and low to the ground turns of the latter. It's stunning to look at, and we loved the second half of the ride but the intensity of the first part as your body is put under strong g-forces, blurring your vision, was too much even for us! It's also a very different roller coaster to Intimidator at Carowinds and given it is located in the Safari Village area of the park it should have been called something else to help distinguish them better and to fit in.
There are wooden roller coasters here too, the racing Rebel Yell is very similar to The Racer at Kings Island, but The Grizzly is no match for The Beast. An interesting addition is the classic bobsled Avalanche, well worth a ride.
The staff were mostly friendly and helpful but the ride operations weren't the best, with all the roller coasters going out with lots of empty seats, including plenty of vacant front row seats as the ride operators failed to identify the many single riders waiting in line. Kings Dominion also has some shows, although not to the same extent as Kings Island, and the Cirque Imagine acrobatic performance that we caught was entertaining enough.
We visited Carowinds on June 17, the only theme park that is actually in two states, with many rides crossing the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. It prides itself as being "Where the Carolinas come together!" for the rides and shows. Here's our review of the day:
Fury 325 has instantly become one of our all time favorite roller coasters, a gargantuan ride that is the tallest and fastest giga coaster in the world and the fifth tallest overall. It reaches a top speed of 95mph, and despite not featuring any inversions this ultra smooth ride is a truly exhilarating experience. The huge swooping curves, hills and dives are so stunning to look at and really incredible to ride.
Intimidator is one of the world's best roller coasters, delivering an airtime filled ride and it's themed nicely with a NASCAR look and feel. However, with the recent addition of Fury 325 it is essentially a smaller, slower and shorter version albeit with more camelbacks. At another park this could be the star attraction and deservedly so, but at Carowinds it is overshadowed by the similar and better Fury 325.
Afterburn was a surprise hit, on paper it's just another inverted B&M roller coaster with an unremarkable specification, but we loved this ride. The theming is done really well, with a huge jet plane among the track and an aircraft hanger for a station. It's an intense ride with some great low to the ground moments and a tight tunnel.
Nighthawk is pretty much the same ride as Firehawk at Kings Island, the flying coaster that we rode last week. However, at Carowinds it has an attractive setting, set among trees and over two lakes which adds to the experience and so gives it the edge.
The new Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena is a brilliant interactive 4D attraction based on the popular game. It is well themed inside and outside. Players join either plants or zombies teams and battle each other in a live game on seats that move in sync with the action on the screen. It's easy to play, the graphics are good, and points are awarded to individual players and teams then displayed on screens during the game and on scoreboards after.
For some lovely views across the theme park and the two states that it straddles, we took to the skies on the 262ft Carolina Skytower rotating observation deck and the wonderful 301ft WindSeeker thrill ride, not to be missed.
Carowinds isn't on the coast, so they've brought the coast to Carowinds, with the water park Carolina Harbor. It's included in general admission and following a major expansion looks really fresh, most of the areas and slides are either completely new or as good as new.
Not all of the rides at Carowinds at up to the same high standards. The standup coaster Vortex is terrible, it's not very tall, long or fast and is uncomfortable to ride. After being quite disappointed with Boo Blasters on Boo Hill at Kings Island we gave it another go here, but it has the same poor sets, broken targets and dodgy laser blasters. There are also plenty of carnival type rides and rickety old roller coasters best avoided.
The park was surprisingly quiet so we had minimal or no queues for all of
the rides, allowing us time to re-ride the best. The
staff were some of the friendliest and most efficient so far and the park was very clean and tidy. Although there is very little in the way of area theming, a few of the rides are done quite nicely. There are also a selection of live shows on offer.
We visited Dollywood in Tennessee on June 15. Dolly Parton’s theme park is nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and features rides and shows along with traditional crafts and even a Dolly Parton Museum. Here's our review of the day:
We didn't ride Lightning Rod until the afternoon as technical problems kept the ride closed all morning, but when we did, the world's first launched wooden roller coaster didn't disappoint. It is also the world's fastest wooden roller coaster, reaching a whopping 73mph, and really felt it. With nearly all of the ride located in the hills beyond the park, riders wait with anticipation as each train themed as a hot rod car zooms off into the distance only to return a short time after at incredible speed into the final huge overbanked turn. The highlight of the, which majors on intense tight turns and steep drops is an exciting quadruple-down. The ride's entrance, queue, station are all really well done, sitting perfectly in the 50s themed Jukebox Junction area.
Our first ride of the day was the dark ride / indoor roller coaster Blazing Fury, it's a classic ride from the pre-Dollywood days in 1978, and whilst the sets certainly look their age and not all the original elements are now there, it's still a fun experience and the roller coaster elements are quite thrilling.
Wild Eagle is a 135ft B&M wing coaster, the first in the US, that's cleverly built atop a hill above the park giving it added height and keeping much of the layout a unknown to riders before the ride. Not our favorite wing coaster but it's a solid ride with some enjoyable inversions and the Eagle themed trains do look brilliant.
The huge Mystery Mine looms over Timber Canyon, an unusual indoor and outdoor roller coaster themed around haunted mine, which features various sets and special effects. There is a lot to take in during this frantic ride, the indoor sections are really effective with a few scares but the outdoor sections are quite rough.
The family-friendly launched coaster FireChaser Express was again impressively themed, launching riders out of a fire station to respond to an emergency at a fireworks factory. It's a long ride with multiple sections including a backwards part, and there are special effects too, so it's a great ride for families.
Thunderhead is the park's traditional wooden roller coaster, with an impressive 22 turns and 32 crossovers making it one of the best in the world. Thanks to the articulated and cushioned trains it delivers a smoother ride than most.
Not to be missed, the Dollywood Express offers a lovely 5 mile train ride with views across the park and of the Great Smoky Mountains, pulled by a genuine 1930s steam locomotive.
During our visit we also rode classic looping coaster Tennessee Tornado, charming log fume Daredevil Falls and thrill ride Barnstormer which is by far the best themed Screamin' Swing ride we've seen.
There are a huge array of live shows at Dollywood, with no less than 8 theaters on site a choice of 11 performances on the date of our visit, and we enjoyed the live illusionist show Brad Ross' Unbelievable. There was however a long gap with no entertainment in the late afternoon until the fireworks at the end of the night, so with all the riding done and many of the shops and eateries closing the majority of guests were leaving before the fireworks display.
What's so wonderful about Dollywood is the beautiful setting and the special features like the Chasing Rainbows Museum, the replica of Dolly Parton's childhood home, Dolly's Home on Wheels, the Craftsman's Valley with blacksmith, foundry, pottery, glassworks, water mill and and even a chapel!
We visited Holiday World in Indiana on June 13. It's a unique theme park, the only place in the world that celebrates Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July for 365 days a year! Here's our review of the day:
Our first ride of the day was the 140ft tall Thunderbird, the world’s first launched wing coaster, that rockets 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It's a fantastic ride, with an impressive 3000ft of track, 4 inversions and lots of near miss illusions thanks to the nice woodland setting and some well placed barns. It's the best themed ride in the park and the smoke and light effects before you launch are a nice touch. We rode it in the front for the best experience and found the left side slightly better.
The Voyage was rated the best wooden coaster in the world for 5 years, and is currently still ranked 4th. The huge 163ft lift hill leads into an incredibly wild ride with more air time than any other wooden roller coaster in the world. The banked turns are really extreme, the ride has a ton of tunnels and it even goes underground. An absolute blast!
The Legend has just been upgraded and now this wooden roller coaster is better than ever, with some new re-tracked sections which are pretty smooth versus the older sections. We loved the little touches like the ringing of the bell as you leave the station and the howling sound effects before the first drop.
The Raven is the smallest wooden roller coaster at Holiday World but still packs a punch, with a thrilling course through the trees and a great fly over the lake. It is however the roughest of the 3 wooden roller coasters at Holiday World.
We beat the heat in the afternoon by riding the water coasters in Splashin' Safari. Make sure that you take your swimming gear as you don't want to miss out on these great rides that are absolutely thrilling and the perfect way to cool down on a hot day.
The largest ride, Mammoth, is in fact the longest water coaster
in the world. It takes up to 6 riders per raft along a very fast and
intense journey through multiple uphill launches powered by linear
induction motors, down a series of steep drops and though lots of tight
turns. A very exhilarating experience.
Wildebeest was previously the world's longest water coaster, and uses the same technology as Mammoth. This time sending up to 4 riders per boat along an equally intense course which also includes various dark tunnels.
The park was spotlessly clean and beautifully landscaped but the themed areas are actually surprisingly subtle. Signs and music are used to identify them but there could be much more theming. Beyond the 4 big roller coasters and the 2 water coasters the other theme park rides are mainly small carnival type attractions. Holiday World may may not have the same range of rides as other theme parks, except for a very extensive water park, but all of its roller coasters are top notch, there's no filler. It also has some notable benefits over most other theme parks including free parking, unlimited free drinks, free sun cream and free WiFi.
We visited Kentucky Kingdom on June 12 to experience Storm Chaser, one of the best new roller coasters in the US, and check out some of the other attractions at the park.
RMC's IBox track is put to great use on Storm Chaser, a roller coaster that features 12 airtime moments and 3 inversions, including a thrilling 10-story barrel-roll drop from the first lift hill. It's a steel roller coaster, but has the speed and feel of a wooden roller coaster, except for being wonderfully smooth. An excellent new ride for the park and made the visit really worthwhile.
Thunder Run is a classic wooden roller coaster that originally opened in 1990, it has a decent circuit with some exciting banked turns but it is fairly rough.
The suspended looping coaster T3 packs 5 inversions into a tight and unpredictable course. Unfortunately it suffers from an unexpected jerkiness throughout, possibly because it was a prototype model and the first in the US, which makes for a slightly uncomfortable ride.
We didn't get to ride Lightning Run rather ironically due to lightning strikes in the area that forced the park and all rides to close early. This steel roller coaster is the first Hyper GT-X model in the world, which opened in 2014 as part of the relaunched park. Despite its modest size and classic appearance, the ride is positively reviewed by casual riders and enthusiasts.
We enjoyed the entertaining and educational Sea Lion Splash live show, starring 3 rescued sea lions, adding something extra to the range of other rides.
A major component of the park is Hurricane Bay, which unlike at most theme parks is not a separate water park, and is instead interwoven with the main park.
We visited Kings Island in Ohio on June 10. It's the 16th most visited theme park in the world, in addition to a great collection of rides it features an array of live shows to entertain visitors.
Here's our review of the day:
Diamondback - a brilliant 230ft B&M hyper coaster with so much airtime and a great splashdown. It's a long ride, racing off into the woodland surrounding the park, soaring up high and plummeting down again over and over. We loved it.
The Beast - this certainly lived up to its name, one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world, incredible. Until you reach the top of the lift hill you have no idea of what awaits you, how long it is (over 4 minutes!) and how intense the speed (65 mph) feels as you hurtle though woodland and tunnels.
Banshee - the world's longest inverted roller coaster is fantastic, especially in the front row as it feels like you can almost touch the winding track as it rushes past above you. The loop around the lift hill is an iconic feature, just one of seven inversions, and the ride entrance is themed well.
Two surprise highlights of the day were located in X-BASE, flying coaster Firehawk and indoor coaster Flight of Fear both with a technological theme. Firehawk sends you up a lift hill laying on your back looking up to sky and then flying through an intense course of inversions. Flight of Fear starts with a powerful launch section then plummets through an exciting course into the darkness, it's an thrilling ride.
Eiffel Tower - a one-third replica of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, offering panoramic views of the park and for miles beyond. It's a wonderful centerpiece to the park and together with the impressive fountains along International Street looks great.
We also tried a variety of other rides such as the Backlot Stunt Coaster, Adventure Express, The Bat, Kings Island & Miami Valley Railroad, White Water Canyon and Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. These were a mixed bag, and most were fairly standard versions of their ride type.
There are some excellent live shows at Kings Island, so it's well worth taking a break from the rides to enjoy these. We were lucky enough to see all of them on our visit including music shows Let It Rock and Hollywood Nights, the animal feature JUMP! The Ultimate Dog Show and acrobatic spectacle Origins: A Cirque Experience. To finish off the day we enjoyed the Off The Charts live music performance, but the Fireworks were disappointing, which didn't utilize the Eiffel Tower or fountains as promoted, but were launched from a site further back in the park so difficult to view.
We visited Cedar Point in Ohio on June 8. The Roller Coaster Capital of the World has a world-record 71 rides including 17 roller coasters, and although there is easily enough to justify a couple of days we were able to enjoy all the best.
we were staying on site at Hotel Breakers we could take
advantage of Early Entry, which should have included access to 4 roller
coasters for an hour before park opening, but unfortunately only 2
were ready in time.
We went straight for Maverick, which has a low capacity so draws some of the biggest queues, and were able to walk straight on. The stats completely undersell this ride, its a 105ft high launch coaster that's one of the best at the park. Similar to Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay but far more intense, accelerating, twisting and rolling through a tight and windy course low to the ground, through canyons and over water.
Millennium Force and GateKeeper were both down so with only Valravn working a huge line formed through the park, so we opted to join a line for one of the other rides opening with the rest of the park, Wicked Twister. Unfortunately when opening time came, the ride had broken down so we went in search of another ride.
We headed to Top Thrill Dragster, an incredible launch coaster, which does a breathtaking 0 to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds before flying 420ft into the sky and back. The ride delivers an incredible rush and is set in a well themed raceway setting, complete with grandstand viewing. It can be seen from miles away, standing tall in the middle of the park.
With GateKeeper now open, we returned to this spectacular 170ft high B&M wing coaster that forms the entrance to the park. It's a solid version of this type of ride, with some very effective chopper effects.
Wicked Twister was now
working. It's the tallest amd fastest inverted roller coaster in
We then headed over to Raptor, which stands at 137ft tall and is a good version of a B&M inverted coaster, with an eye catching paint scheme.
Magnum XL-200 is a 205ft tall hyper coaster that sends you off along the peninsula beside the beach, taking you over a series of airtime hills and through multiple tunnels. It has a real 1980s Star Wars vibe and is now pretty rough to ride, being an older coaster it had no queue at all and was still a lot of fun.
One of our favorites, Rougarou is a reinvention of the former Mantis standup coaster, now a floorless coaster standing 145ft tall. Riding front row is a must, seeing the track rushing under your feel as they dangle above, swooping along a sprawling course above a lake.
After an hour of queuing we had reached the Millennium Force station only for the ride to breakdown with riders on board. No updates were given to those in the queue until half an hour later when the riders were released from the trains. At this point the queue was evacuated but unlike at every other park that we've experienced this no passes were issued to return once the ride was fixed.
Valravn is a new 223ft tall B&M dive coaster, the world’s tallest, longest and fastest. A visually impressive ride that is a dream to ride, an intimidating first drop leads into a series of sweeping curves and dives.
Now working, we returned to Millennium Force, the 310ft tall Intamin giga coaster voted the best steel coaster in the
During the course of the day we had time for many of the other roller coasters, ride the charming Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad and also spent time exploring the well themed Frontier Town and Frontier Trail areas.
To finish off the day we took flight on WindSeeker, the 301ft swing ride provides spectacular views of the whole park and across Lake Erie. A chilled out on board soundtrack enhanced a surprisingly relaxing experience, considering that you are flying through the air at a potentially vertigo inducing height.
Cedar Point has a world class collection of incredible roller coasters and has a beautiful setting surrounded by water. Reliability is an issue, during the course of the day most of the main roller coasters in the
park suffered breakdowns for varying periods of time so there was a lot
of walking back and forth across the park. Unlike at many theme parks, there aren't wait time updates along the queue and most are just
unthemed concrete zig zags which does make your time queuing feel long and
boring. There aren't any single rider lines either, so on many of the
roller coasters there are often empty seats on the trains reducing the
capacity of the rides. Despite this, with some forward planning and plenty of walking, you can have a great day at this unmissable park.
We visited Six Flags Great America in Illinois on June 6. The park was spotlessly clean, the staff were really friendly and despite being a surprisingly busy midweek day we managed to ride everything we wanted and a few extras too.
Here are our highlights:
Goliath - what a way to start the day, a brilliant experience featuring the longest and steepest wooden roller coaster drop in the world. The impressive ride from RMC delivers two intense inversions and a thrilling course of exciting maneuvers. It's also super speedy, in fact until Lightning Rod at Dollywood opened this year it was also the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world, and boy does it feel it. We only wish it could have been a bit longer.
Raging Bull - this somewhat underrated 208ft B&M hyper coaster is packed with bursts of airtime and pulls some decent Gs. It's ultra smooth, has moments of great speed but some lovely pauses, and you get a lot of ride time.
X Flight - another wonderfully smooth ride from B&M, this 120ft wing coaster is well themed and has a neat letterbox element as it passes through the air traffic control tower.
American Eagle - the tallest and fastest racing wooden coaster in the world, but only running the blue train on our visit so we missed out on the racing bit. It's pretty rickety in parts but we loved it, a lot of fun.
BATMAN The Ride - a signature Six Flags ride that was the world's first inverted roller coaster when it opened in 1992. The B&M ride is fast and intense, packed with inversions and also has a well themed entrance, queue and station.
SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight - the B&M flying roller coaster, with a show stopping pretzel loop that delivers a very unusual sensation and strong Gs. The flying position is perfectly matched with the theme, which is well executed and still looks fresh.
THE DARK KNIGHT Coaster - random cartoons were playing in the pre-ride area, the pre-show wasn't running and ultimately it's just a standard wild mouse in a warehouse with some basic sets. The franchise deserved better.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis - this brand new interactive 4D dark ride from Sally Corp premiered at two other Six Flags parks last year and scooped an award for the world's best new ride. It didn't disappoint, fusing the motion based ride, real set and 3D screen type experience offered at Universal's parks in their Spider-Man and Transformers rides with the laser shooter type interactivity of rides like Men in Black. The implementation is superb, you really feel part of the experience with your actions having an immediate impact on what you see. We did have to ensure a grueling 2 hour 20 minute queue, with capacity limited to just 6 riders per car, that's only half of what Universal's rides can handle. The outdoor queue is also one of the worst we've seen, which is a shame because once you eventually get inside the building it has been really well done, so on busier days the queue could prove to be the downfall of an otherwise excellent addition to the park.