Kennywood, Kings Island, and Cedar Point. Three parks with three very different atmospheres, but each of them really unique and special in their own way. I was lucky enough to experience each of them in their (near) entirety. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy!
Day 1: Kennywood (here)
Day 2: Kings Island
Day 3: Kings Island/Cedar Point
Day 4: Cedar Point
Day 5: Cedar Point
Day 6: Cedar Point/DepartureIntro
Before I begin, I want to thank everyone that helped make this trip a reality and run smoothly. The idea for such a trip came about roughly 12 months ago after a buddy of mine and I made the short trek to Great Adventure for a weekend where he had much more interest in the park and coasters (particularly El Toro) than most people not nerdy enough to be active on an enthusiast forum. On the four hour drive home, we discussed the logistics and funding behind a trip of a much greater scale, and in the end decided to make a high school graduation trip of sorts to Cedar Point instead of the usual Senior beach week--neither of us had any interest in getting near-blackout drunk on the beach five consecutive nights.
In particular, I want to thank DirkFunk
for the in-depth planning tips and Boldikus
for steering us towards Kennywood as an add-on park. We'd get Cedar Fair Platinum passes for the somewhat nearby Kings Dominion as well as the two Ohio parks. Over the early spring months, the details were set.
Six days, three parks, 31 different roller coasters. Bring it.Day One: KennywoodMonday, July 11, 2016Trip Report
Not being one of the heavy hitters in terms of ride collection, Kennywood is a park that most natives to the NoVA/DC area have never heard of. Even on active forums like TPR it's rarely discussed in depth. To be completely honest I didn't know much about the park until Boldikus' report from last year. It looked like a quirky, fun little park that might be worth a few hours on the way to Kings Island to stretch out and ride a few coasters, but I hadn't seriously entertained the idea of stopping through after Kentucky Kingdom announced their new ride for 2016, or even with Holiday World, just a little more out of the way, operating a ride that's worthy of mention in the same sentence as El Toro--not to mention a brand new B&M wing coaster.
After contemplating a little more and trying to cut down some on travel time, we looked more into Kennywood. Phantom's Revenge looked decent enough and a few other notable rides tipped us towards West Mifflin. It would at least be something different than the corporate feel of the massive Cedar Fair parks we'd visit later on in the week, and with a leap day sale for $29 tickets, we pulled the string on Kennywood.
Leading up until departure, I was seriously regretting missing out on potentially my first RMC coaster. Boy, am I glad I was wrong.
Knowing we had quite a long week of riding ahead of us, we decided to depart after the morning rush hour to sleep in a bit before the four hour drive to western Pennsylvania. We pulled into the *free* parking just after 1pm and after a quick sandwich on the way down the steps and eventually through the tunnel to the main entrance, we threw any plan of attack out the window. We knew we wanted to get at least one ride on all six coasters, and as recommended, a few flats, Noah's Ark and Ghostwood Estate. I'll talk a little more in-depth about each ride later on, but our general route started at Sky Rocket, then continued counter-clockwise to Jack Rabbit, Racer, and eventually into the Lost Kennywood section. After riding all the must-rides by late-afternoon, we continued on for re-rides on our favorites and left the park much later than we initially planned before the three hour drive to our Motel 6 in Grove City, Ohio--just over an hour from our next destination, Kings Island.Review
Maybe part of it was the anticipation of the absurdly awesome week that was to follow, or maybe it was the sub-par expectations I had for this old, small park bordering an industrial Pittsburgh rural/urban surroundings, but Kennywood absolutely blew us away. We didn't need any $30 million attractions or shiny new midways and twenty coasters to have an absolute blast. Despite temperatures approaching 90 degrees and a few shadeless queues, Kennywood delivered some of the most raw excitement of any park I've visited. None of the coasters (besides maybe Phantom's Revenge) are big names, but each and every one of them was an incredibly high caliber ride that almost seemed too great for its own good.
The park itself was incredibly charming and felt like a day well before our time, but also had its fair share of modern amenities and thrill rides. There are no storage bins outside of the queues requiring a few dollars before every ride to hold your belongings, and there is ample shade throughout the park. The only negative I can recall is that Thunderbolt ran one train, which extended the line to around 20 minutes, though that's completely understandable. The ride collection itself is a very well thought out mix of classic wood coasters, a couple modern steel thrilling coasters, plenty of family rides scattered throughout along with a kiddie section we never step foot in. Not a single ride seemed "forced" in any way--they all blended in seamlessly with their surroundings as if they had been there for nearly a century, but only half of them actually have.
Just graduating high school, my buddy Matt and I have always been fans of the massive parks with excessive quantities of coasters and thrill rides. I'm really of the opinion that no ride should be validated as "good" just for the sake of nostalgia. From this description, it would be reasonable to think that Kennywood might not offer up all too much for us to do, but a game isn't decided by statistics, right? Kennywood proved me wrong and I absolutely fell in love with this park. If given the chance I would absolutely visit Kennywood again, and I would even consider it a worthy destination park for a full day visit.
One last thing I would like to note are the restraints on these coasters, in particular Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt. I was never a believer that some of these classic wood coasters could be anywhere near as extreme as El Toro, my favorite wood coaster, but my perspective is totally changed. Just a seatbelt and a grabbar that does absolutely nothing on Jack Rabbit, and a shared buzz bar on Thunderbolt... wtf?
Operations overall were incredibly impressive, with stacking the rarity instead of the norm. I'm sure the minimal restraints helped with this, but I think all day I only saw two instances of stacking for more than five seconds on everything with Sky Rocket being the lone exception (though the stupid blocking arrangement is a valid excuse on this ride).
My only regrets from Kennywood concern time. We never got a chance to ride their Bayern Kurve or log flume, and we never had any food inside the park. All the more reason to make it back in the future.AttractionsSky Rocket
(2x): Although the launch is kinda tame, the airtime coming off the (heavily trimmed) tophat is much stronger than I anticipated in the back. The following overbank hints at intensity and is followed up by a surprisingly snappy zero-g roll that somehow manages to throw you out of your seat. The ride definitely peters out with a weak finale, but a few better than expected ejector airtime moments and a zippy ride course made this worth a re-ride later in the day. Anyone that says this ride isn't worth riding needs to try Sky Rocket in the back and if their opinion doesn't change be evaluated by a professional. I don't really care to lay out a list of all the coasters I've ridden but this is definitely one of the better ones, despite the lack of all-around intensity.Jack Rabbit
(2x): I knew going in that we wanted the back row but until we actually sat down to ride I wasn't really sure why. I don't know how insurance companies are okay with this still but I absolutely love it and it makes me dislike any old wood coasters running PTC's with individual lap bars that shouldn't. The ride starts out slowly circling around inside the queue line and dips into the ravine, then around through a tunnel up onto the lift. What follows makes this ride--that double down. The first drop is okay itself, but it flattens out for a split second then BOOM you're four inches above your seat for good 2-3 seconds secured only by a shared seatbelt and the potential for a grabbar, if by chance you're holding on which we luckily were. If you were to put an accelerometer on this ride I don't think it would be as strong as El Toro's airtime, but with these restraints it certainly feels more ridiculous and like it should be illegal. I still prefer El Toro but I think this is the most "wtf" moment of ejector airtime I've experienced. If you're trying to explain to someone the difference between floater and ejector, look no further. Holy crap.
The rest of the ride isn't really worth mentioning, it's all about that double down. There's some light floater on the last drop before the brakes but that's just icing on the cake. I wish I could've gotten more rides on this but I'm glad I was able to ride twice.Racer
(1x): This ride is by definition "unique" being the last mobius coaster in the states (I don't know if Twisted Colossus actually counts since there's only one station), but unfortunately that's really the most notable part of the ride. There's nothing particularly "wrong" with the ride; it seemed very popular among younger children. It just seems overshadowed by the two other wood coasters within eyeshot. The ride is obviously well maintained and rides rather smoothly, there's just not a whole lot to be had in terms of airtime or laterals until one good pop of air before the brakes at the end. This was the first of three racing coasters on the trip.Thunderbolt
(2x): This might have been the biggest surprise for the day. I've never really understood the appeal of laterals other than to add some quick variety to a coaster, but never as a selling point on a ride. You get a hint of what's to come before even boarding as operators instruct the smaller rider (in this case myself, though I'm still not a very small guy at just under 6' and 160 lbs) to sit on the right. The two instances of laterals are extreme, and force you to hold on to the lapbar with all your strength so as not to slam into the rider on your left. It's incredibly fun and it's amazing there are no seat dividers. The only similar experience I've had is on Wild One's helix at SFA, though the seat dividers and slight bank make Thunderbolt the superior example.
What I didn't expect, however, was the sustained airtime coming off the last drop before the brakes. While it probably wasn't quite as extreme as Jack Rabbit's double down, it was more sustained and resulted in me nearly standing up into the shared lapbar for a good 3 seconds. All things considered, I think I prefer Thunderbolt over Jack Rabbit simply for offering a wider variety of forces and a longer ride.Phantom's Revenge
(2x): Where do I start with this one... I had read about the history of the ride as Steel Phantom and had fairly high expectations, if nothing else just for that second drop into the Thunderbolt ravine. I was expecting a slow first drop even in the back, but I was forcefully pulled down the curving drop into the second hill. Not only was the second drop better than anticipated, but the buffet of ejector hills following makes this one of the best steel coasters I've ridden. After coming out of the ravine the second time encircling the Turtle, it takes on an entirely new MO. The ride itself definitely slows down in terms of technical speed, but the pace quickens immensely. This series of hills is what I wish the back end of B&M hypercoasters would be, and the ride takes full advantage of the relatively loose restraints. You can feel yourself being forcefully thrown upwards in a way that you would imagine Intamin tried to emulate with Maverick and El Toro on the RT hill.
My only complaint (and that's using the term loosely) is the length, but they maximized the space they had to work with and did an excellent job re-imagining the Steel Phantom into one of the best steel coasters ever built. I'll have to re-evaluate my top five.Exterminator
(1x): I believe this is the same layout at Ragin Cajun at SFA, but unless I had looked into that beforehand I wouldn't have the slightest clue. I'm generally not a fan of spinning rides, but this ride isn't just about rotating you quickly. It's fast and even sometimes intense, but nothing about it is obnoxious (other than maybe the theming which was more quirky and unique than anything else). The building/surroundings definitely add a lot to the overall experience of what would otherwise be a standard spinning mouse. The indoor air conditioned queue didn't hurt either. I would gladly ride again if time allowed but not with a 20-25 minute queue and limited time.Black Widow
(1x): This was the first of three giant frisbee (fine... "Giant Discovery") rides on the trip, and the third I've ridden in my life (the others being the HUSS at Cedar Point and the Mondial at Kings Dominion). I don't know exactly how much taller or steeper this model swings than the others, but it feels like quite a bit. The ride cycle feels very long and the views are spectacular down onto the midway below, and the ride can get very intense at 70mph through the swing. The only downside is the slow loading/unloading, but this is probably my favorite thrill ride above Great Adventure's drop tower. This is a must-ride at Kennywood and I hope more Zamperla versions are built.Noah's Ark
(1x): I had no idea what to expect going in, but this was another "wtf?" ride. It's a nice break from the coasters and thrill rides, and some of the classic effects are very well done. I don't know what was changed/refurbished for 2016, but it's a bit of a mystery to me how there's never been an issue with small children injuring themselves through the moving floors/tilting corridors. Worth one time around for the uniqueness if nothing else.Ghostwood Estate
(1x): We probably waited a little longer than I would have liked to knowing what the experience would be like, but it's essentially a grown-up Boo Blasters with a few decent props and effects. Certainly not a dud, but nothing to write home about and again a nice break from the hot sun. Kangaroo
(1x): We've kind of made it a thing to ride the most random flat ride we can find that's still age appropriate (Larson flyers and the bull-themed Breakdance at SFA, namely), but after getting recommendations to ride this and seeing what the ride does to some of the smaller children from the midway we had to get a ride. Children too small to be held secure by the lap bar were thrown violently upwards and to the right each time around, and the effect wasn't much different for us. It's repeated tiny pops of ejector air, and nobody can complain about that. I wish more of these were around and I'm glad we could get a ride.
Please excuse the poor quality iPhone 5 pictures, and bear with me as I've never done a formal trip report. Thanks!