Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

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Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby rcdude » Fri Aug 22, 2014 3:30 pm

Through a combination of events, I ended up spending five weeks of my summer this year traveling on two separate trips. Some of that time was spent on my own. Some of it was a family trip. Some of it was traveling with TPR. Some parts good, some parts bad, but overall everything was a ton of fun. Not everything was theme park related, but over the course of the summer I visited two dozen out of state parks and got over 80 new credits. Since everything is somewhat mixed together, I'll just showcase it all here.

Before I get started, here's the plan: I'm going to try to do two updates per week, though sometimes I may only be able to do one. Each update will cover either one day or one destination (except the first and last, which will each contain two destinations). Although there will be other stuff mixed in, every update will contain some theme park content. And finally, a reminder of my coaster rating system:

A: A coaster worth traveling just for that one ride. One of the best coasters I've been on. In order to get an A from me, a coaster must be worth a 60+ minute wait, must be good enough that I want to ride multiple times per visit, and must be something I'd like ERT on.
B: A must ride if you visit the park, but not worth traveling to the park just to ride. These are rides I would typically ride every visit but may not ride again unless the line is short.
C: A ride that isn't bad, but isn't really anything notable. As a general rule of thumb, if I'd ride it again but wouldn't wait for it again it gets a C.
D: What would typically be considered a credit coaster. These are usually rides I'd do again if someone wanted to ride but would skip if I was on my own.
F: A truly horrible ride. I rarely use this rating, as it is reserved only for coasters that I never, ever want to ride again (and does not apply to kiddie/family coasters).

And with that, let's begin.

Trip 1, Part 1: FSAE Electric-June 15th to 21st, 2014

The first trip of my summer began on the day I graduated from UCI. Basically, we had our graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 15th and had to be in Lincoln, Nebraska on Tuesday, June 17th for a school-related event that started the next day, and we were driving. I went to the ceremony, went home, got changed, got lunch, drove back to school, picked up my traveling companions, and took off.

What was the event? FSAE is an engineering competition where student teams design, manufacture, test, and compete with Formula-style racecars. Since my chosen senior project was Racecar Engineering, the class ended with this competition. 33 members of the team chose to go, and that day all of us departed split among seven vehicles (two pickup trucks, four minivans, and my dad's car (he would be meeting me later that week in Lincoln and we were road-tripping back to California).

Each group was permitted to choose any route desired, as long as they arrived in Lincoln by Tuesday evening. Most chose not to stop anywhere, as the school was not providing hotels en route, and ended up arriving in Lincoln early Tuesday morning. I, however, chose a more scenic route. The first day, we drove to Phoenix. I was originally going to stop by Castles n' Coasters for a couple credits, but by the time we arrived it was a little too late (plus my traveling companions had no interest). The next day, we took a scenic route and drove through Petrified Forest National Park, then headed through Albuquerque (sadly, Cliff's Amusement Park was closed that day) and up to Colorado. Tuesday was a somewhat boring drive across eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska, until we arrived in Lincoln in the late afternoon.

Unfortunately, any excitement I had for the competition disappeared shortly after arrival. I found out the next day that our car had not been reassembled prior to departure, so we spent the first two days of the event (plus the night in the middle) just doing that. After our car failed technical inspection on Thursday, we were up until 4 A.M. in the parking lot of the hotel trying to get it up to spec, and by the close of inspection Friday we still hadn't passed and were disqualified from the dynamic events. Now, FSAE Electric has a notoriously difficult technical inspection (only about 20% of teams pass), but it was still disappointing to know that we likely had the best car there and couldn't compete. Add in the fact that about 1/3 of the team didn't really contribute and the hotel we stayed at was one of the worst I've ever been in (dirty, rooms leaked, elevator was a safety hazard, etc.) and this part of the trip I just want to forget.

The next day (Saturday, June 21st, 2014), I said goodbye to my racecar team and went to pick my dad up at the airport. We went and watched some of the endurance event at the FSAE competition (a 22 km race), got lunch, and explored downtown Lincoln a bit. The rest of the day was mainly a rest day, as he was worn out from an overnight flight and I was worn out from 20 hour days during the competition. Good that we did, because the next day the vacation really began.

Trip 1, Part 2: Denver-June 22nd & 23rd, 2014

On Sunday, we left Lincoln and made the 7 hour drive to Denver, Colorado. On the way, we stopped at a place called The Wild Animal Sanctuary. This place was a bit different from a typical zoo, as they take in rescued animals, typically ones that were mistreated at their former homes, and allow them to live the rest of their lives in a controlled natural environment. Instead of small cages, animals are kept in large enclosures (typically 10-15 acres), and there is minimal human interaction once they are acclimated to their new habitat. Visitors view the enclosures from an elevated walkway.

Overall, The Wild Animal Sanctuary was pretty cool, and I'm glad we went to see it. I'd definitely recommend stopping by if you're traveling through the area (it's about an hour from Denver and a little ways from I-76), but it's not the type of place I would make a special trip to.

Lakeside Amusement Park

Upon arrival in Denver, we headed directly to Lakeside Amusement Park. Lakeside is a smaller park without any big thrill rides, but what makes the park unique is that they retain a lot of old-school attractions that are not found in modern parks. Other than the drop tower, everything at the park looked like it was at least 30 years old. The park also has quite a bit of charm, and although we didn't stay until nightfall everything was lit up with neon lights. The staff at the park was great: operations were about as efficient as possible and every employee we encountered was personable. Lastly, the park is really cheap: rides were all $3 or less (most adult rides were $2), and even an all-day wristband is just $20 on weekends (cheaper during the week).

As far as the ride selection goes, Lakeside has four roller coasters (one of which is fairly notable) and a decent collection of flats. Of the flats, the best that I tried was the Roll-o-Plane. This was my first encounter with this type of ride, and it was great. The ride was more intense than I thought, especially when going backwards after the ride tilts. I didn't ride too many other flat rides, as we did pay per ride and quite a few weren't running, but I also tried the Whip and ZOOM, both of which were fun. As for the coasters...

Cyclone: Cyclone is one of two remaining Vettel woodies (the other is the Conneaut Lake Blue Streak). I wasn't expecting the coaster to be anything special, but this ride was really good. In fact, it was probably the best I rode on this trip. The ride is very smooth for a 1940s woodie, features quite a bit of airtime, and has a decent layout, though the ride does die out toward the end. Cyclone also still uses the original Vettel trains with only a seatbelt to secure riders. I've now been on both operating Vettel woodies, and I have to say this is definitely the better of the two. B

Wild Chipmunk: This is one of the two remaining Miler wild mouse coasters. This coaster reminded me of the former Tree Top Racers at Adventure City, but was a better ride overall. No restraints at all on this one...just get in, hold on, and watch your head. Fun ride, though this was probably the longest line in the park due to capacity (only three operating cars, and two adults would be a squeeze). C

Dragon: Standard Zamperla powered coaster with two helixes. Probably my least favorite of the three I've ridden due to an extra hard stop at the end, but otherwise nothing special about this one. No rating.

Overall, I enjoyed Lakeside quite a bit. The park is a bit different than most modern parks, but that is a good thing in this case. I would definitely recommend visiting if you're in the Denver area. I'd say 2-4 hours is about the right amount of time for this park (more if you're getting a wristband or going on a weekend). Just be sure to check the hours before visiting, as the park is typically only open in the evenings (they usually open at 6 or 7 p.m. on weekdays, noon on weekends).

After we left Lakeside, we headed to our hotel. The next day, we visited Denver's other amusement park.

Elitch Gardens

Elitch Gardens is one of those parks that I've always been interested in visiting, but didn't think I was too likely to get to anytime soon. I'd heard it wasn't the greatest park, so I visited with low expectations. What I found was a park that wasn't so good for the traveling enthusiast but perfectly acceptable for a local resident.

Elitch Gardens (the current Elitch Gardens) is not that old of the park, but it has been through several owners during its lifetime. The park was owned by Six Flags at one point, and Herschend managed it at some point after that. I'm not sure who's in charge now, but they seem to be doing a decent job with the park. Everything was operating except Half Pipe and one random flat ride, Mind Eraser and Twister II were using both trains, operations were reasonably efficient, and all the employees were friendly. The park does have some issues (most notably a confusing layout and low quality food), but neither of these are major enough to complain about.

Despite being the largest park in Colorado, Elitch Gardens is still a smallish park. There are six coasters here, though all but one are stock models and none are particularly notable. The park also has a dark ride, a decent collection of flat rides, two water rides, and an included waterpark (did not visit).

Coaster Reviews:

Twister II: I had heard Twister II was a below average wooden coaster, but the ride actually surprised me. It isn't that fast or that intense and has almost no airtime, but the ride was fairly smooth and it was just a fun wooden coaster. This was actually my favorite ride at the park, and while it isn't a ride I'd go out of the way for it was a coaster I'd definitely ride again (I rode twice on this visit...the only ride in the park I rode more than once). B-

Boomerang: As far as Boomerangs go, this one was right in the middle. Not too rough, but there was some headbanging. It wasn't the worst coaster in the park, but that doesn't say much. C

Mind Eraser: This was SLC number six for me, and based on my experiences it seems that they are all more or less the same: a decent layout that is too rough to enjoy. This one was fairly rough...not as bad as Flight Deck at Canada's Wonderland, but worse than Kong at SFDK, and definitely my least favorite coaster at the park (plus it had the longest line). C-

Sidewinder: This was my first experience with an Arrow Launched Loop, as only a couple of them remain in operation. I had heard the ride was decent, and several reports said it was the best ride there. I, however, thought it was just okay. The ride isn't rough, but it is uncomfortable to bang your shoulders on the restraint due to the small amount of airtime on the hill, and I really didn't care for the backwards trip since this was unexpected. It was certainly better than the average boomerang, and was the best steel coaster at the park by default (especially since Half Pipe was closed), but I much prefer the Schwarzkopf shuttle loops. C

Non-Coaster Summary:

Elitch Gardens has a decent collection of flat rides, several of which I did (Big Wheel, Dragonwing, Observation Tower, Shake Rattle and Roll, Tower of Doom, and Troika). None of them really stood out, as all were standard models, but for a basic amusement park they were fine. I did ride the park's Ghostblasters dark ride, a newer version of the attraction which was quite fun (though I prefer the classic version). I also rode Shipwreck Falls, the park's splash boat. The ride was wetter than I thought it would be, and due to the small size you actually get hit by the splash while loading in the station. I did not visit the waterpark due to time constraints, but nothing there looked particularly special.

Overall, I thought Elitch Gardens was a decent park. Unlike Lakeside, it's not somewhere I would probably go back to unless they added a major new coaster or I was certain Half Pipe was operating, but I did have a good day there and could see it being the type of park a local might visit for a few hours. I don't really have a strong recommendation either way about whether you should visit it on a Denver trip, but I will say it would be easy to do both this and Lakeside in one day...Elitch Gardens is a 6 hour park at most (we were there about 4, and if you were just getting credits you'd be done in 2).

After Elitch Gardens, we went back to the hotel and rested for a bit, then went and walked through downtown Denver, ending up at Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies game. I've been to five or six different ballparks, and Coors Field is probably my favorite of them. The stadium has a great layout, and there are some neat features, such as a games area for kids and a party deck on the roof above right field. The only issue I have with the stadium is the direction it faces; we were on the first base side and were staring into the setting sun for most of the game. I don't remember too much from the game other than that St. Louis shut out the Rockies (the St. Louis Cardinals are a much better team anyway) and that my dad caught a foul ball.

Nothing much happened after the game. We just walked back to the hotel and went to bed, since the next day was an early departure with lots of driving.
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UCI's racecar project builds vehicles like this. The car pictured is Epsilon, UCI's last FSAE vehicle (it competed in 2011).
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This is Zeta, the car we brought to Lincoln. It is UCI's first FSAE Electric vehicle.
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I spent a majority of my time in the program working on Savage, the school's 2015 competition car (specifically, I did suspension design).
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The only notable stop en route to Lincoln was Petrified Forest National Parks.
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I've been to a number of national parks, and this one is one of the least interesting. Most of the park looked like this.
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There weren't many visitors here, either. This was the only parking lot we saw with more than two cars in it, and we passed maybe a dozen during the drive through the park.
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Since we only had time for one hike, we chose Crystal Forest. Not much of a forest remains.
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Back in the Triassic period, this area was a forest, but now all the trees have become petrified wood.
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It is pretty to look at. I bought a couple souvenir pieces at a store just outside the park.
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The Crystal Forest trail is pretty much a 3/4 of a mile walk past stuff like this.
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One last picture of petrified wood for good measure.
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The Agate Bridge is a fallen tree that has become petrified and therefore connected to the rock, forming a natural bridge.
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Newspaper Rock was kind of neat, as the rock was covered in petroglyphs (though you needed to use the telescopes to see them).
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Our last stop in the park was Painted Desert. This is probably the nicest part of the park to look at, and you can hike down there. Unfortunately, we didn't have time.
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Fast forward two days, and we're now at FSAE Lincoln/Electric.
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The event takes place on an unused section of the Lincoln Airport. All that separated us from the active area was that orange fence.
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The event contains three team presentations (Business, Cost, and Design), along with five dynamic events (acceleration, skidpad, autocross, endurance, and efficiency).
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Most of the competitors were doing this.
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Our team, on the other hand, spent a good amount of time doing this.
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Fun Fact: FSAE is an international competition, and we were paddocked next to the Japanese Honda team. Surprising Fact: The Japanese Honda team didn't really do that well.
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Here's a shot from the endurance event the next day. I watched this event for a couple hours.
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The rest of the UCI team was on the way back home at that time.
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Saturday afternoon, my dad and I went and explored downtown Lincoln a bit.
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This appeared be the old part of town. When we were arriving, they were just cleaning up a morning street fair.
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I liked Lincoln, though I definitely wouldn't want to live there...it's too far from anything interesting to do.
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Enough with Lincoln, onward to Denver. En route, we stopped at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, where you can see lions...
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...and tigers...
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...and bears (oh my).
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All of the animals are kept in large enclosures (10-15 acres), such as this one.
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One of the bear enclosures, with toys for the bears to play with.
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Since most of the animals are rescues, however, they don't go straight into an enclosure. First, they are placed into a building like this until they get used to the sanctuary environment, and are then gradually introduced to other members of their species.
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Since we visited midday, a lot of the animals were just relaxing.
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There were rabbits running all over the place, and since they are free to enter the habitats I'm assuming the animals get them quite often (we saw the lions make a kill while we were there).
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Most of the animals are large carnivores people have kept as pets. In addition to the previously mentioned, they also had wolves, wolf hybrids, foxes, and a few other miscellaneous animals.
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Wolf exhibit.
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At one point, the sanctuary received nearly 20 lions at once, so they had to build a building specifically to hold them for the winter. The gates open to the outdoor enclosures.
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The end of the Mile into the Wild walkway. There's plenty of room to expand the sanctuary (the eventual plan is to have a 3 mile walkway), but it's all determined by money. If you like these animals and happen to be in the area, check this place out.
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Okay, okay, you came here for amusement park pictures. Welcome to Lakeside Amusement Park!
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I had heard Lakeside is the "ghetto park" according to locals, but it actually seemed like a pretty nice place.
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Almost all the signs at Lakeside were old neon lights. If I go back, I'm definitely staying until after dark.
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Cyclone is the star attraction of the park. Not only is it the best ride here, but it is the best roller coaster in all of Colorado and actually a really good wooden coaster.
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Wild Chipmunk is the other adult coaster at the park.
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Apparently a chipmunk is more wild than a mouse. This thing was quite fun.
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I love the old-looking ticket booths all the rides had.
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What in the world is that thing?
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Oh, it's a defunct Ferris Wheel. From the looks of it, this has probably been here since the early days of the park.
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This ride doesn't look like it's been working in a while.
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I guess they used to have a boat ride on the lake, but it appears long gone.
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Lakeside had a decent looking kiddie area.
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I've never seen a Whip before. Let's give this ride a try.
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This was more fun than I thought it would be, but was probably my least favorite ride that I did (other than the powered coaster).
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The back part of Lakeside looked more like this. I'm guessing the area around Cyclone was the original park and it expanded back along the lake.
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Yes, I rode this. Yes, I count it as a credit.
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Here's another ride I've never seen, the Roll-o-Plane.
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I wasn't sure if I'd like this ride, as I don't usually do backward spinning, but it ended up being great and more intense than expected.
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In my opinion, best flat ride in the park.
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At the end of the park was Heart Flip, a weird suspended teacup ride. Sadly, it was closed.
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This was the only ride in the park that looked relatively new. It's just a standard ARM/Larson tower.
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Fun ride, but it's a common model and the most expensive flat in the park (still only $3).
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The next day, we went to Denver's other amusement park: Elitch Gardens.
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Apparently it is mandatory that every visitor to Denver visits Elitch Gardens.
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The entrance area to the park was nice, but once you got past that everything else pretty much looked like this.
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Brain Drain, the park's new for 2014 ride. It wasn't running due to technical difficulties (I think it did open later).
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I rode one of the two coasters in this picture. Which do you think it was?
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Why did you buy a drop tower with only three cars, and then use only two, Elitch Gardens? At least buy the four car model, if not six. Okay, honestly operations were pretty decent at the park, with Tower of Doom being the lone exception.
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Twister II is the best ride at Elitch Gardens. It's not anything special, but it was a decent wooden coaster.
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I was surprised to see three-bench trains running on this ride, as those are usually only used on out-and-backs.
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Apparently Twister II is built on a swamp or something. Other than the area of the entrance and exit pathways, the ground under the coaster was wet.
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Oh no, they've got one of those here.
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Yep, Mind Eraser was pretty bad.
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I like the layout of the SLC, but all the ones I've ridden are pretty rough. I wonder if there's any SLC considered good.
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Dragonwing = discount SkyScreamer/Windseeker.
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Let's go check out the rapids ride.
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On second thought, I think I'll pass. I like rapids rides and don't mind getting wet, but I don't like the wetness being due to a fire hose.
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I guess I'll ride the splash boat instead.
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Oops. Should have watched that before boarding.
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One last credit to get in the park (since I'm not waiting for the kiddie).
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Which is the better ride, Sidewinder or Troika?
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Best name ever!
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Before leaving the park, we went up in the Observation Tower. From here, you can see that Elitch Gardens really isn't that big.
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The park is located in the middle of downtown Denver, right next to the Denver Aquarium and Mile High Stadium.
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Coors Field is somewhere down there.
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Nice views from the top of the tower.
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Plenty of people were having fun in the waterpark.
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The waterpark or the river, which makes a better day out?
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I've never seen a half-pipe slide exit into the lazy river like that.
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Goodbye Elitch Gardens. I had a good time.
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On the way back from the park we passed this mural under an overpass.
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Not sure if this has any significance or is just a beautification project.
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I guess some people chose the river.
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No need for a waterpark, just bring a tube and ride down here.
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Once you cross the bridge, there's a nice park to walk through before the city.
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Time to head to the game. From our hotel, we had to cross this bridge to reach downtown Denver (note: I think this picture is in the wrong direction across the bridge).
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WTF? I have no idea what this is.
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Walked by Union Station on the way to the stadium.
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Time for a ballgame. Tonight, we'll be watching St. Louis vs. Colorado at Coors Field.
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This is the fourth baseball stadium I've seen a game at, and it's probably my favorite.
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What's special about the purple row of seats? I'll reveal the answer at the start of the next update.
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And we'll end it here (both because I've got no more Denver photos and this is the limit). St. Louis dominated the Rockies, in case anyone is curious. More to come next week.
Last edited by rcdude on Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:53 pm.
Top 5 Steel: Bizarro (SFNE), Nitro, Apollo's Chariot, Maverick, Banshee
Top 5 Wood: Boulder Dash, El Toro, Thunderhead, Gold Striker, Lightning Racer
Top 3 Parks: Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point
TPR Trips: IntimidaTour 2010, North East Trip 2011, LeviaTHON 2012, Mini Tours 2014 (New Hotness & East Coast)

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby BlahBlahson » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:37 am

Thanks for the excellent report. Lakeside looks a little more run down than I was thinking. Hope I end up in Denver for an Elitch's/Lakeside combo day sometime.
Remember: Get out there and RIDE!

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby rcdude » Wed Aug 27, 2014 4:30 pm

^Some parts of Lakeside are a bit run down, but a majority of the park is in decent shape. The are around the park, however, is not somewhere I'd want to stay.

Also, in case anyone is curious, the purple seats at Coors Field mark exactly one mile in elevation.

Trip 1, Part 3: The Drive to Vegas-June 24th-26th, 2014

Tuesday began the real road trip back toward California. Of course, we made several stops along the way. The first destination of interest along our route was the top of Mount Evans, located in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. While the peak is not the tallest in Colorado, the road up here (which ends about 100 ft. below the 14,265 ft. summit) is the highest paved road in North America. At this elevation, there is snow year-round, so even though it was summer we saw plenty of snow. While we didn't hike to the very top of the mountain (hiking at 14,000 ft. is not easy), there was still a great view from the overlook at parking lot level.

Our other main stop for this part of the drive was Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, located in Glenwood Springs, slightly over two and a half hours from Denver.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is an interesting place. It is located on top of a mountain, so you must take a gondola to get up to it. Once there, you'll find a couple dirt trails that lead to various attractions. You could call it an amusement park, but although they have several amusement rides that isn't really the main focus of the attraction. The park was started as a cave tour, and until about ten years ago that's all they had. Today, two cave tours are available. The Historic Fairy Caves Tour is the original tour at the park, and takes visitors on a 45 minute guided tour of a natural cave system. This tour consisted of walking through various caves and tunnels, including a section traveled by candlelight (the original way the cave was explored) and a brief walk along the rim of the canyon. The other tour is the King's Row Cave Tour, which is more strenuous and takes place inside one gigantic chamber full of unique formations. For those who want something more extreme, there is the up-charge Wild Tour, a two hour spelunking adventure in portions of the cave system not covered in either tour.

As far as the rides go, Glenwood Caverns has about a dozen rides. Half of those are kiddie rides that I didn't bother with, and the rest are anything but ordinary. In fact, Cliffhanger (the park's roller coaster) is the least interesting of the bunch, as it is a standard S&MC Hurricane. The ride is located at the top of the mountain and is the highest coaster in the world, but I found it to be rougher than the S.D.C. version of the ride. There is also the Wild West Express, a Zierer Tivoli coaster (that I didn't ride), and one other "coaster" in the park... the Alpine Coaster. This was the first alpine coaster in the US and the first ride at Glenwood Caverns. It is a pretty good ride, more fun than about 80% of the real roller coasters I've been on, and although the Park City alpine coaster is slightly better this one is much cheaper ($12 versus $20 or included with the day pass).

For the non-coaster rides, the park has a Soaring Eagle zipline over a canyon and the Glenwood Canyon Flyer, a swing ride perched on the canyon rim and swinging over the side. However, by far the most extreme attraction at Glenwood Caverns is the Giant Canyon Swing. This is an S&S Screamin' Swing located on the edge of a 1,300 ft. cliff. It may not look like much, but if you're in the downward facing seat when the ride swings over the canyon you'll find a new definition of insane. I'll admit it: theme park rides rarely scare me, but this one did.

Overall, I really liked Glenwood Caverns. The rides were fun, the cave tours were interesting, the guides and employees were all great, and you can't beat the location. I would call it the best amusement park in Colorado, but the place isn't a true amusement park. It is a little expensive and is a half-day adventure, but I definitely think Glenwood Caverns provides more enjoyment than either of Denver's actual amusement parks.

After Glenwood Caverns, we drove onward to Moab, Utah, where we stayed for the night. The next day was spent exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Arches National Park was great, with a variety of natural rock features to look at. Unfortunately, we were unable to do the hike we originally planned to do due to misinformation, but we still got to see some neat stuff. Canyonlands was pretty good as well, but there isn't much to get out of it from a half day visit. I would love to go back to Canyonlands and explore the park more thoroughly, in addition to seeing more of the Moab area.

On the way out of the park, we took a rough and somewhat unnerving dirt road to a back exit. We also stopped and hiked to a random arch in the Moab area. This hike was better than anything we did in either park, partly because of the hike itself and partly because there was nobody else around (I think we saw two other people on the entire three mile round trip). After this, we got dinner at the Denny's in Moab and then drove to Cortez, Colorado.

Thursday was a long drive day, as we were driving all the way from Cortez to Las Vegas, an eight hour drive with no stops. Our route, however, included a few detours. From Cortez, we went to the Four Corners National Monument and stopped there for a few minutes just to get pictures. We then drove past Canyon De Chelly after my grandfather kept saying it was a must see. It was neat, but if we weren't already going by it I don't think I would have detoured for this. Our third stop was Meteor Crater, a 3/4 of a mile wide crater a little outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. This was quite interesting. If I remember correctly, the crater is the best preserved impact site on Earth. There's not much to do here other than view the crater from the rim, but I'm really glad I we went to see it. Probably the most impressive thing on this day.

The remainder of the drive was relatively uneventful as we drove west through Arizona, then north to Hoover Dam and onward to Las Vegas for the final portion of the trip.
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Once you get west of Denver, the drive through Colorado becomes a lot more scenic.
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Mount Evans is directly ahead. It is one of two easily accessible 14,000+ ft. peaks in Colorado.
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This is the top of the highest paved road in North America.
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Good view from up here.
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The actual summit of Mount Evans. We decided against hiking it.
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The Crest House used to be a restaurant and gift shop, but after it was damaged by a fire in 1979 the building was abandoned.
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At this elevation, you can find snow year-round. Perhaps Olaf should consider moving here.
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There were a bunch of Bighorn Sheep wandering around the area. I guess they like this climate.
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Even in June, the lake is still partially frozen. I wouldn't recommend walking out on it, however.
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Back on the road again. Fun Fact: At just over 11,000 ft., Eisenhower Tunnel is the highest point in the Interstate Highway system and one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world.
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Colorado has a number of ski areas right next to I-70. I remember passing Keystone, Loveland, Copper Mountain (pictured), Vail Mountain, and Beaver Creek, as well as seeing signs for several others.
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Colorado really is a beautiful state.
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Before arriving in Glenwood Springs, we stopped at a point along the Colorado River.
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If you've ever wanted to try river rafting, this would be a good place. There are some rapids, but nothing too extreme.
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Yes, this update does contain an amusement park. Today, we'll be visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
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You must ride the Iron Mountain Tramway to access the park. There's no other way up the mountain (well, there is a dirt service road, but that's only if the Gondola can't operate).
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The Iron Mountain Tramway, a Leitner-Poma Pulse Gondola, is 4,400 ft. long, gains 1,300 ft. in elevation, and has a ride time of 9 minutes. The top tower in this picture is only about 1/3 of the way up.
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You can't actually see the park until you're almost at the top. For most of the ride, your view is much like this.
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There are some good views from the top of the mountain.
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Glenwood Caverns is famous for their cave tours. Two different tours are available, and both are included with admission.
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The caves are full of many formations, including Stalagmites, Stalactites, and Columns.
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That's a long way down. I wonder if there's an organist at the bottom.
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King's Row is the single most impressive room on either tour. When the lights are off, it is pitch dark in here, but once the lights come on you can see all the formations built up over millions of years.
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There are rides here too. This one, the Giant Canyon Swing, may be the world's scariest flat ride.
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Yes, the swing is beyond 90 degrees, and it is hanging off the edge of a 1,300 ft. cliff.
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That is a very long way down.
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A look down the canyon toward Glenwood Springs.
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More of the natural beauty of Colorado.
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The Glenwood Canyon Flyer is new this year. It's a fun ride, but after the Giant Canyon Swing it's pretty tame. I like the theming, however.
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Hey, they've got a credit up here.
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Cliffhanger may be the world's highest coaster, but it is the least interesting non-kiddie ride at this park.
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I think they do some type of show here, but I didn't stay to find out.
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The park was smart to install two Soarin' Eagle ziplines right next to each other. You can't see it in this picture, but just behind the platform is a gorge and the other tower is on the far side.
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Since the Alpine Coaster is all below the park, it's hard to get a good ride. This was the most popular attraction at Glenwood Caverns, and probably the best as well.
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Time to head back down the mountain.
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It started to rain a little as we rode down. Good timing on our part.
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We've now crossed the border into Utah and left the interstate. Pretty desolate out here.
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As you get closer to Moab, typical Utah scenery begins to appear.
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This somewhat reminds me of Big Thunder Mountain, but it's not quite the same.
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Random rest area along the Colorado river.
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I have no idea why there is a boat launch out here. Rafting tours, perhaps?
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The Colorado River runs through Moab, then cuts across Utah to Lake Powell. From there, it heads into the Grand Canyon.
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The next day was National Park day, which means hiking.
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There weren't many people on the Delicate Arch hike when we started. On the way back, however, we encountered tons (including Asian tour groups complete with a flag).
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There is the Delicate Arch.
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The famous shot of the arch. There was a line, so I never went under to get my picture.
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However, this was a good enough improvisation.
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On the way back, we took a detour to see some Petroglyphs.
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We also went by this old house. Not sure who lived here.
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Balancing Rock is another popular feature of the park. Since there was no parking, we just took a picture and moved on.
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We only had time for one other hike in Arches, so we took the short hike to Double Arch.
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This arch looked like it could collapse at any time.
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One last look at the park before heading out.
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Part two of National Park day: Canyonlands. Due to time, we only visited the Island in the Sky portion of the park.
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Island in the Sky is a large plateau in the northeast section of the park.
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Most of Canyonlands looked more like this.
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The park is much bigger than Arches, definitely more than can be seen in a single day. Even in a week, most people would only see about half the park.
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If I ever go back to Canyonlands, I definitely want to do this.
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One of the hikes we did was to Upheaval Dome. It was somewhat neat.
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The trail continued along the ridge, but we decided to turn back at this point.
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Mesa Arch was pretty neat. It is on the edge of a cliff.
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Seriously, it hangs over the edge and there is no idiot protection around it. You could even climb on top of the arch if you wanted to.
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However, a fall from here would be game over. (note-I have no idea why the picture came out sideways)
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This is the road we took out of the park. It is a one lane dirt road that winds down the canyon wall. No guard rails, no pull-outs, nothing. If you don't have 4 wheel drive, don't attempt this one.
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Out of the park now. I believe that rock outcropping is part of Dead Horse Point state park, but I may be wrong.
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I'm pretty sure this was the last time we saw the Colorado River on this trip.
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One more hike for today. For this one, we had to cross the train tracks.
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Someone built a lot of cairns out here.
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Lots of arches out in this area. Most of them form caves.
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This was the best hike of the day, partly due to location and partly because there was nobody else out here.
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There's the destination, Corona Arch. We didn't actually go under it, as getting out there required climbing ladders and traversing areas with the aid of chains.
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One last look at the area before heading back to the car.
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The next day began with a stop at Four Corners.
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Hey, I'm in four states at once. (Spoiler alert: Not really. The marker is slightly off from the actual four corners and is all in New Mexico).
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In case you forgot what the four corner states were.
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We then went to check out Canyon de Chelly, as my grandfather claimed it was really good.
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It was a pretty neat canyon. You can actually drive in the bottom if you have a guide with you.
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Yeah, it was overhyped by my grandfather, but I still think it was worth seeing.
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Next stop: Meteor Crater. This was cooler than I thought it would be.
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Pictures don't always give a true sense of scale. This crater is huge.
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I think it's something like 3/4 of a mile wide and 500 ft. deep. Too bad you can't go to the bottom.
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There was a mining operation down there at one point to prove the crater was the result of a meteoroid impact. The operation is long defunct, but the equipment remains.
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I discovered my iPhone has a panorama function on this trip. Here's a view from the middle observation deck.
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One last picture, this one from the lower observation deck. From here, we headed onward to Las Vegas. That will be covered in the next update.
Top 5 Steel: Bizarro (SFNE), Nitro, Apollo's Chariot, Maverick, Banshee
Top 5 Wood: Boulder Dash, El Toro, Thunderhead, Gold Striker, Lightning Racer
Top 3 Parks: Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point
TPR Trips: IntimidaTour 2010, North East Trip 2011, LeviaTHON 2012, Mini Tours 2014 (New Hotness & East Coast)

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby rubysparkles » Thu Aug 28, 2014 4:27 am

This is going to be an awesome trip report. Can't wait to follow along.
Twisted Colossus, I305, Skyrush, Iron Rattler, Phoenix, Maverick.

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby rcdude » Wed Sep 03, 2014 4:10 pm

Perhaps two updates per week was a little ambitions, but I can definitely do one every week.

Trip 1, Part 4: Las Vegas-June 26th-30th, 2014

When planning this road trip, there were always two constraints. The first was that I could not leave Lincoln, Nebraska, before Sunday, June 22nd. The second was that I had to be in Las Vegas, Nevada, by the evening of June 26th, as we were having a large family reunion with my mother's side of the family that weekend. Had it not been for that constraint, the trip would have probably turned out differently.

Upon arriving in Las Vegas, I did not go directly to our hotel (Bally's), but instead met up with my cousins at the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. This place is mostly about go-karts, with four different go-kart tracks. They did have a few rides, including a kiddie coaster, but I didn't ride any of them (plus the kiddie coaster was closed). Of the four go-kart tracks, we did three: the Turbo Track, a basic go-kart track that seemed a little better than average; the Sprint Track, a semi-slick track that was somewhat underwhelming; and the Gran Prix Track, where you raced against the clock in larger cars capable of speeds over 30 MPH (driver's license required for this one). The place was fun and wasn't too expensive, as $20 got you an hour of unlimited rides and nothing had much of a wait. We did each track twice (except the Sprint Track) and got dinner here before leaving.

After the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix, I said goodbye to my dad (who would be headed home the next day) and went with my cousins to Bally's, where I met the rest of the family. Some of them had just arrived on this day as well, plus it was getting very late for those who came from the east coast, so we didn't do much that evening.

Vegas Day 1: Wet 'n' Wild-Friday, June 27th

I had originally planned to check out the new Cowabunga Bay Waterpark while in Vegas, but as the opening was delayed until July we were forced to visit Wet'n'Wild instead. I was visiting with my aunt and one of my cousins from Northern California, so at 9 A.M. we met in the lobby and headed to the park.

Wet'n'Wild has gotten a lot of complaints from the locals, especially regarding its size and its lack of attractions compared to the original. In addition, I had heard the park was typically really crowded. To my surprise, we didn't find it to be too bad, and were able to do every attraction (some of them twice) in about 4 hours. I don't remember the old Wet'n'Wild too well, but it felt like there was more to do at this one than the old park. I will say the new Wet'n'Wild does lose points for blandness, however.

Slide Reviews:

Hoover Half Pipe: This was our first ride of the day, as the no single riders rule makes it difficult for groups of three. The ride begins with a short enclosed section before dropping through a wall feature. It wasn't a bad ride, but I did find it a little underwhelming and is probably my least favorite wall slide. Two rides.

Royal Flush Extreme: An innertube bowl slide, this was one of my favorites at the park. Although the ride is practically the same, it did feel faster than the ProSlide version, though both times I rode my tube got stuck and I had to push to the exit of the bowl.

Tornado: I love Tornado slides, and despite being smaller this one was just as good as any of them. One of my favorites at the park. We rode this twice despite it having the longest wait in the park.

Constrictor: I don't know what to think of this slide. On one hand, it felt just like any innertube slide, but at the same time the large tube sections were something different. I guess the fact that I only did this one once says something about the ride.

Rattler: This is a WhiteWater Mega Tube slide, the first in the US I believe. Basically it is a family raft slide, but there are two points where you enter a giant tube and oscillate back and forth like in a funnel slide. In my opinion, this is the best ride at the park, as not only is it the longest, it also has some extreme moments in the second Mega Tube (I thought I was going to fall out at one point). I just wish you didn't have to carry the raft to the top, as those are a lot heavier than innertubes (even the CloverLeafs). Rode this one twice. I definitely recommend doing this slide early, as it quickly got a 30 minute wait that never got any shorter.

Desert Racers: Fairly standard mat racing slide, though this one felt a little steeper and faster than most. Rode twice.

Canyon Cliffs: Six story freefall slide, not the best I've been on but still fun. This one was really smooth and didn't have any of the back scratching these rides are known for. Rode twice.

Zipp, Zapp, Zoom: This attraction is a trio of standard tube slides. One of the slides is open the whole way down, one is fully enclosed, and the third starts out enclosed and then opens up for the second half. None of them were that great (in fact, this may be my least favorite serpentine tube slide complex), but of the three the half enclosed/half open slide was the best. We rode each slide once.

Overall, Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas was a pretty average waterpark. It was a fun thing to do in Las Vegas, and I'm glad I got to check it out, but it's not somewhere I would go out of my way for. The park isn't big enough for a full day yet (I'd say it's about a 5-6 hour waterpark), though I am sure it will continue to grow over time. That being said, I don't get all the negativity surrounding this place. It isn't any more expensive than a typical waterpark, has enough to do for at least a half day, decent employees, decent food, reasonable crowds, long hours (they're open until 10 P.M. some days)...if I was a local I would be here all the time. The only complaints I have about the park are the lack of shade, the bland atmosphere, and the fact that every slide ends in a shutdown lane instead of a pool, but those wouldn't affect my ability to have a good time.

We left Wet'n'Wild at around 3 P.M. to head back to the hotel, as tonight was the big reunion dinner. One of my uncles had made reservations at Todd English's Olives restaurant in Bellagio, so we had our big dinner there. It was really nice to see everyone, but I'm going to be 100% honest about the restaurant: it isn't that great overall and is horrible for large parties. Service was slow (the entire dinner was about 4 hours), the food was pretty average (certainly not of the caliber I'd expect from an upscale restaurant), and we were split up at separate tables, making it difficult to talk to each other. After dinner, I joined a few others in the casino, but the party didn't last long as some of the group had an early morning flight the next day.

Vegas Day 2: Adventuredome-Saturday, June 28th

Sometimes the best made plans go to waste. That was the case with this day, as while the Adventuredome wasn't the only thing planned it was the only thing we did (until evening). Due to reluctance by some to get out of bed, we ended up waiting until after lunch to head to the Adventuredome. By the time we got there, it was packed, though fortunately we didn't encounter any lines over 20 minutes.

I'm not a huge fan of the Adventuredome, but I don't dislike it either. I wasn't necessarily planning to visit on this trip, but El Loco made the park a must visit. The ride had about a 15 minute wait with four cars running, which I hear is pretty typical for a weekend. It was my first experience with an El Loco, so I had no idea what to expect. How was the ride? Well, I liked the ride, but I didn't think it was worth going out of your way for and probably wouldn't pay $10 to ride it on a future visit. The first drop is great, and the rest of the ride is interesting, but to me the coaster felt somewhat repetitive by the end, as it more or less did the same sequence of elements twice. It was also a very short ride and I got nothing from the audio. Fun ride, definitely the best at the Adventuredome, but possibly a bit overhyped by the locals (I'd give it a B-).

The Adventuredome's other coaster, Canyon Blaster, was running just as good as ever. This is one of the better Arrow loopers that I've been on, and despite the short length it does quite a bit. Not worth the $10 they charge for it, but definitely worth a couple rides if you buy the wristband. This one gets a C+ by my rating scale.

After doing two rides on each coaster (we bought wristbands), we played a game of Laser Tag, then we did a few flat rides before leaving (I only did Sling Shot, but other members of the group did the Carousel and/or Ferris Wheel). We were originally planning to try out the Voodoo Zipline over at the Rio, but nobody was that interested and it was almost 5 P.M. so we skipped it.

That night, I went with most of the remaining family to hang out in Downtown Las Vegas for the night. I'd never been to this part of town before, but after going I will say that everyone should check out Fremont Street at least once. It is just a totally different atmosphere down there, and feels more like a street party than anything. We also found casinos here with coin-play slot machines, a novelty that has disappeared from most of the Vegas casinos. It was a fun evening, probably the best of the ones in Vegas.

Vegas Day 3: Miscellaneous Random Stuff-June 29th, 2014

The third day in Vegas began with breakfast at Serendipity over at Caesar's Palace. I'd never heard of this place before, so I was interested to try it out. It wasn't the greatest breakfast place ever, but the portions were huge (you do pay for it, however) and the frozen hot chocolate was a great treat.

After breakfast, we headed to the south end of the strip to visit Coke World and check out the new Hershey Store. Some of the group drove, while others (including me) decided to give the Las Vegas Monorail a try. The Monorail is a good concept, but poor execution, as it is located way behind all the hotels and is very expensive ($5 per ride). Upon arrival at MGM Grand, we walked over to New York and checked out the Hershey Store, which I found a bit disappointing. I was expecting it to be a combination exhibit and gift shop, but it was just a two story store selling everything Hershey. Since I wasn't interested in browsing, I decided to go play slots with my grandmother instead. I ended up winning $10, so what did I do with the money?

Ride the Roller Coaster. Yes, I have the credit. Yes, I've been on it a number of times. No, I was never planning to ride it. The only reason I decided to ride was because I last rode the coaster when my credit count was under 100, and wanted to see my opinion now that I've been on over 300 (actually, I was a little under 300 at that point). The ride...yeah, it's not good. No, it's not the worst ride ever (now that SkyRider is gone, it's probably my favorite Togo), but it's about on par with the average SLC for roughness and although it's a long ride, everything after the dive loop is completely pointless. If you've only been on a handful of coasters, it's probably a good ride, but otherwise it's just an epic rip-off at $14 and easily Nevada's worst coaster (I give it a D).

After the ride on the Roller Coaster, I met up with everyone at Coke World and got a float, then we all headed back to the hotel. Everyone not headed back to Southern California was departing this afternoon, so we said goodbye to them and then I (and a few others) headed out to the Pinball Hall of Fame. For those that haven't been there, this place doesn't look like much, but it is probably the biggest hidden gem in Vegas. It is little more than a warehouse full of pinball machines and arcade games, but they've got everything from old 1930s wooden machines to modern pinball games, and most of them are still in working order. I think I probably spent about $40 here playing a variety of games, and other than perhaps Wet'n'Wild this was probably the best thing I did in Vegas.

For dinner that night, we decided to venture away from the strip to a Carrabba's, as they don't exist in California and the food is really good. As expected, the food was really good. After dinner, my grandfather and I went and did the High Roller, Las Vegas's new giant observation wheel. You get a great view from the top of this thing, but unfortunately while on the lower half of the wheel you really can't see much. I'm glad I did it, but I would never pay the price they charge ($30+) to do it again. The rest of the evening was spent packing, as we were headed home the next day.

Vegas Day 4: Departure Day-Monday, June 30th, 2014

This was the final day of the trip. I wasn't sad that it was ending, as while I did have a good time I was ready to go back home. Just before 11 A.M., we headed down to the valet, retrieved our car, and headed out.

I was traveling home with my Grandparents, as they needed someone to drive them (my uncle had done it on the way out, but he was extending his trip). On the way, we decided to make one final stop at Buffalo Bill's, as I wanted to see how Desperado was running. Now, last time I had been to Buffalo Bill's, the place was at least acceptable, but in the five years since it has become a total dump and ghost town. The casino was deserted; I saw maybe ten people gambling in there, and in the food court only three tables were occupied. We grabbed lunch while we waited for the rides to open, and once they did I purchased tickets for Adventure Canyon (the log flume) and Desperado, then headed off while my Grandparents went to wait in the casino.

First off, Adventure Canyon. At one point, this was a somewhat fun log flume, but in its current state it is just scary. No, it's not the one small drop, it's the fact that nothing works anymore but all the figures are still present. During the ride, you'll pass all the old animatronics, but most of them are missing fingers, limbs, or in some cases heads, and since they are all static most give you a creepy stare as you float past. With the dark atmosphere of the trench, It seemed almost like a haunt maze gone wrong. From talking to the operators, it sounds like after the guns were permanently retired all maintenance on the show elements was discontinued and the ride is only kept running because it still turns a profit.

As for Desperado, the coaster is in a pretty sorry state as well. I did not see if they have a second operational train for the ride, but they were only using one train with four or five rows blocked off. Since it was deserted and they will not send the train with less than ten people, I had to wait a bit for more riders to show up. To my surprise, Desperado is still running fairly well. Yes, it is rough, but it's definitely ride-able in a middle seat and the ride still gives some pretty good airtime, plus it is really long (though the second half is dull). Even with El Loco, I still think Desperado is probably Nevada's best coaster (though still only a B- from me) and is the only one I think is worth the ticket price ($10).

As for the rest of the rides at Buffalo Bill's, all they've got left is the Frog Hopper and MaxFlight Simulator. The former motion theater attraction has been boarded up, and the guy at the ticket counter said Turbo Drop is no longer in an operational condition. It's sad to see the place this way, but with the lack of business I'm not surprised they have to make cuts to save money (or did the cuts come first and cause the lack of business, I wonder).

There is one good thing that came out of our Buffalo Bill's stop. Before leaving, I decided to use the rest of my $50 gambling budget for the trip. While playing a machine, I ended up spinning a jackpot and winning over $100. Yes, I came out ahead in gambling, one of only two in our group of around twenty to do so.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful, so there is little else to report. What I will say about this trip as a whole is this: It had its high points and its low points, but overall I'm glad I was able to do a road trip across the Western US. It didn't end up like I originally hoped it would, but I still had a good time and I'd definitely go back to some of the places I visited again. However, the fun of this trip was forgotten shortly after my return home as just three weeks later I left for my second summer trip: a two week TPR US trip (Mini New Hotness and Mini East Coast combo) and an add-on week with my family in New York and Boston.

Note: This particular update is a little lighter on photos because my phone was almost full by this point in the trip.
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First stop in Las Vegas: The Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. This is the Turbo Track.
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The Gran Prix Track. Unlike most go-kart tracks, this one is a time trial.
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They do have a few rides here as well.
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The Super Fun Slide was somewhat fun. I only rode once, but a couple members of my group did it over and over.
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For the credit whores, there is a credit here as well.
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Unfortunately, the Dragon Coaster was closed. Credit denied.
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A view from my hotel room at Bally's. Probably the best part of the hotel, to be honest.
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Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas. Since my phone is not waterproof, I just took a couple pictures from our cabana.
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Tornado, Royal Flush Extreme, and Hoover Half Pipe on the far side of Red Rock Bay.
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It's now Saturday, which means time for the Adventuredome.
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The Adventuredome has the strangest drop tower I've ever seen. It starts with a launch about 3/4 of the way up (spine adjustments included), creeps to the top, then drops to the bottom and stops (2 for 1 deal on those spine adjustments). Unique, but not particularly great.
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They also have an Inverter here, possibly the last permanent installation in the US (at least I haven't seen another one). Not a huge fan of these.
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However, this was the reason for our visit today.
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They call it El Loco (The Crazy in English), and after riding, that name perfectly describes this coaster.
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Roughly 70% of the ride is visible in this picture. It is a very short coaster, but still a pretty fun ride.
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Adventuredome's other coaster is Canyon Blaster, an old-school Arrow looper.
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The ride is pretty basic, but I believe this is still the largest indoor coaster in the US.
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Canyon Blaster doing what it's known for.
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A few members of my group on the carousel. I wouldn't fit on the ride if I tried.
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I've always liked the look of the Adventuredome's Ferris Wheel. I've done it before, but skipped it this time.
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The next day, I rode this. If you've got the credit, you know it's not worth it.
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On my last evening in Vegas, I decided to do the High Roller.
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The following shots were taken from the High Roller. First up is a view of Flamingo.
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Harrah's is also nearby.
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Once you get above 200 ft. it becomes possible to see the strip.
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Looking north from near the top of the wheel.
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The view south from near the same point.
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If you look away from the strip, you'll see a sea of lights extending all the way across the valley.
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There's the Linq right below the wheel. This seemed like a great place to hang out at night.
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One more shot from my hotel room, this time at night.
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On the way back to Southern California, we had to stop at Buffalo Bill's to ride Desperado.
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I highly doubt Turbo Drop will ever run again.
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Desperado has always perplexed me, as it is a giant coaster in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, it's still a decent ride and a fun way to end the trip.
Top 5 Steel: Bizarro (SFNE), Nitro, Apollo's Chariot, Maverick, Banshee
Top 5 Wood: Boulder Dash, El Toro, Thunderhead, Gold Striker, Lightning Racer
Top 3 Parks: Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point
TPR Trips: IntimidaTour 2010, North East Trip 2011, LeviaTHON 2012, Mini Tours 2014 (New Hotness & East Coast)

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby WFChris » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:30 pm

Cool update! Been enjoying it because I spent a lot of time living in national parks, and of course love roller coasters. So this report is a little of everything I like!

I know it's not the US, but as for another permanent Inverter in North America, there's one at Six Flags Mexico :lmao:
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My MEXICO adventures with TPR and MORE!!!!
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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby bert425 » Fri Sep 05, 2014 5:30 pm

Fantastic report.

I loved the Painted Desert, and the Cavern pics.

this is the kind of trips we take. . rides and fun, but also a lot of culture stops!
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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby rcdude » Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:56 pm

^ & ^^Glad you've been enjoying it. When I plan trips on my own, I definitely like to include some non-park stuff if there is anything worth seeing, and while my dad doesn't mind stopping at amusement parks along the way he won't go for an all-park trip. If I just want an amusement park trip, I'll opt for a TPR trip. Speaking of that...

Now it is time to begin the second trip of the summer: a three week trip including a visit to Cedar Point, two TPR trips (Mini New Hotness and Mini East Coast), and a family trip to New York and Boston.

Trip 2, Part 1: Cedar Point-July 22nd & 23rd, 2014

The first day of the TPR Mini New Hotness trip was Thursday, July 24th. However, since January I had been talking with some other trip participants about adding on a couple days at Cedar Point beforehand. I had been to Cedar Point before, but that visit was some time ago (2008) and I only had one day then, not enough time to fully explore the park. We talked for a couple months about potential ideas, then in April the trip finally started to come together as details were finalized. A group of five of us (myself, Rob, Caroline, Judd, and Hans) decided to share a car rental to get from Sandusky to Cincinnati on Thursday, and we'd all spend Tuesday and Wednesday at the park.

To do Cedar Point without breaking my budget, I ended up taking an overnight flight to Cleveland. Unfortunately, there was a 4 hour separation between my arrival and Rob's arrival (who was renting the car), plus my flight was early and his was delayed. In short, I spent 5 hours killing my phone battery and wandering around CLE. At about 10:30 A.M., I headed out to baggage claim and met Caroline. Rob's flight arrived shortly afterward, then we picked up the rental car (took some time) and headed for Cedar Point.

Cedar Point

The original plan was to arrive at Cedar Point around noon on Tuesday and have that day plus all of Wednesday. Of course, we ended up arriving about 2 P.M. due to various delays. With the aid of reasonable crowds and Fast Lane Plus on Wednesday, this was plenty of time for the park and we even ended up leaving a bit early.

Upon arriving at the park, we immediately proceeded to ride GateKeeper, and then met up with Judd (who had been there since opening). As I was the only one of the four of us to have visited previously, I somewhat acted as a tour guide and took everyone around the park. We decided to knock out as many coasters as possible on the first day, and by closing we managed to ride all of them except Millennium Force. The second day was spent re-riding our favorites, riding some non-coaster rides, and checking out a few of the diversions in the park. We also met up with some other TPR members and had to deal with a rain delay that shut down all but two of the park's coasters for a few hours. By the end of the second day, I felt that I had finally truly experienced Cedar Point, a feeling I didn't quite have on my previous visit.

Note: The following is the review format I'll be using for all but the smallest parks in the remainder of the trip report. It is similar to what I did for Elitch Gardens previously.

Coaster Reviews:

Cedar Point's coaster collection is somewhat interesting. On one hand, it contains three top ten coasters, a feat no other park has done. However, while it is a good collection overall I can think of a number of parks with a superior collection, as half of Cedar Point's coasters are average at best. In addition, the park is seriously lacking a notable wood coaster...hopefully their next coaster is a GCI or similar.

GateKeeper: I was excited to ride GateKeeper, as it was my first experience with a wing coaster. After riding, however, I can see why enthusiasts don't care for them. The ride wasn't bad, it just wasn't nearly as good as it looked like it would be. I do like the fact that GateKeeper is a long ride, but hate that the second half is almost worthless. It was somewhat like the Silver Bullet of Cedar Point; there's nothing wrong with the ride, and it is definitely worth riding, but it's not something worth going out of the way for. B+

Wicked Twister: I really like the impulse coasters, and to me Wicked Twister is the best of the bunch. The ride isn't the most impressive coaster out there, but it provides a quick thrill and is more intense than it looks due to the tightness of the twists. Capacity is relatively low on this ride and it isn't always on Fast Lane, so I'd definitely recommend doing this one early in the day. B+

Raptor: To me, Raptor is the worst of the best as far as inverted coasters go. It's a top tier ride, but not as good as rides like Afterburn or Alpengeist. The ride is a good length, is really smooth (with the exception of one or two transitions), and has great pacing. I do think it gets a little less exciting toward the end of the ride, but I still consider this the best non-Intamin at Cedar Point. A-

Blue Streak: Here's a ride that's significantly better than it looks. Blue Streak may be just a simple out and back, but it has a good amount of airtime if you're in the right seat and is really smooth for a 50 year old woodie. The ride is a little on the short side, but not enough to complain about. Plus, Blue Streak typically has a 10 minute wait or less as long as both trains are running. Overall, the ride isn't anything mind-blowing, but is worthy of a ride or two during a visit. C+

Iron Dragon: As of now, I have been on all the suspended coasters in North America. I can definitively say that Iron Dragon is the least impressive of the bunch. The ride is worth doing because it is a dying breed, but it's just a fairly short and relatively dull ride. C

Mantis: A lot of people hate Mantis. I don't love the ride, but I don't have a problem with it either. To me, it's pretty average for a stand-up. Although it's not the smoothest ride out there, it is a fun coaster with a good sequence of elements and is actually one of Cedar Point's most forceful coasters. I hope this ride isn't being permanently retired and is rather being transformed for next year, even though it isn't one I'd particularly miss. C+

Mean Streak: On my previous visit, Mean Streak was very rough. The coaster must have received some track work recently, because on this visit it was smooth. While this was a slight improvement, I still find the ride to be very dull and uneventful. There are a couple decent drops at the beginning of the ride, but pretty much everything after the mid-course brakes just drags out the coaster without adding anything. C-

Cedar Creek Mine Ride: While not the worst mine train out there, Cedar Creek Mine Ride isn't that great. To me, the ride just feels like an oversized kiddie coaster with uncomfortable trains. This one is smoother than some of the other Arrow mine trains, but I've got a feeling that is partially due to a relatively low-speed layout. This is one to ride just for the credit. D+

Maverick: To me, Maverick is almost the ideal coaster. The ride has a variety of elements, giving it moments with good airtime, strong forces, high speeds, and inversions. The ride is long, but there isn't a dull bit of track in the coaster. The first part of the ride is thrilling, but it isn't until the second half that you realize how intense this deceptively small coaster actually is. And even though the ride is intense, it isn't so intense that it can't be ridden again and again. If there is a fault of this ride, it is that you can receive some pretty painful neck chops if you aren't paying attention or don't know what to expect, but after one ride it shouldn't be too difficult to prevent this. I absolutely consider Maverick a top five coaster, and it is my favorite ride at Cedar Point. A

Gemini: Before this visit, I had only ridden one track of Gemini. For this trip, the ride was racing on Tuesday (one track was closed on Wednesday due to mechanical issues). When the coaster is racing, I consider this a must ride. Even if the coaster isn't racing, it is still a fun ride with a good amount of airtime and one of the best first drops at Cedar Point. Gemini isn't the smoothest coaster, however, so it might be a good idea to hold on. B

Woodstock Express: In addition to GateKeeper, this was my other new credit at Cedar Point. This is the larger version of Vekoma's junior coaster model, and while not as good as custom versions it is significantly better than the standard version. Even though it may just be a family coaster, I personally thought this was better than some of Cedar Point's bigger coasters. One word of warning, however...this is the most restrictive coaster in the park. Members of my group who fit on Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, and even Millennium Force couldn't fit on this, and I had to try several seats before finding a seatbelt I could buckle. C

Magnum XL-200: The original hyper coaster is still a pretty good ride, though I didn't enjoy it as much this time as I did last time. This ride is still the airtime king of Cedar Point, but I do not remember it being as rough as it was this time. Perhaps I made the mistake of sitting in a wheel seat on one of my rides, as two out of three weren't bad. Still a better coaster than Desperado and one I'd recommend, just not one to ride over and over. B+

Corkscrew: And the award for worst Arrow looper goes to...Corkscrew. Yeah, there's almost nothing redeeming about this ride. I doubt it will ever go anywhere, as the ride doesn't take up much space and is somewhat of a defining feature of the Gemini Midway, but I don't have any desire to ride this one again. D+

Top Thrill Dragster: Even though I've been on over 350 coasters, there is still one type of ride that gives me a rush every time I ride: the accelerator coaster. Top Thrill Dragster is my favorite of the type, as while the coaster is short it has a great launch, a very tall hill, and an interesting spiraling drop that isn't rough in the slightest. While not the best coaster at Cedar Point, it is a bit of a waste to visit and not ride once, even though Top Thrill Dragster can have huge lines due to capacity issues. A

Millennium Force: Millennium Force has been called the best roller coaster in the world (or at least in North America) and appears to be the favorite of most Cedar Point visitors. While I really like the ride, I do not feel it is the best coaster at the park. The ride is just too drawn out and focused on speed for my tastes. I will give it credit for the first drop, as Millennium Force may have the best first drop of any coaster, but after that there are two hills with floater airtime and a bunch of giant curves and straight sections. Absolutely worth riding, and still a top ten coaster, but just not the best ride ever built as some make it out to be. Despite this, I personally think this is the best giga coaster (sorry I305 fans). A

Cedar Point Coaster Ranking:

Must Ride:

1. Maverick
2. Top Thrill Dragster
3. Millennium Force
4. Raptor
* Gemini (racing)

Good Coasters:

5. Magnum XL-200
6. Wicked Twister
7. GateKeeper
8. Gemini (not racing)

Average Coasters:

9. Blue Streak
10. Mantis
11. Woodstock Express
12. Iron Dragon
13. Mean Streak

Credit Coasters:

14. Corkscrew
15. Cedar Creek Mine Ride

Non-Coaster Summary:

While Cedar Point is known for their coasters, they do have one of the best non-coaster ride collections of any major park as well. Due to limited time and a desire to get multiple re-rides, I only rode a handful of non-coaster rides at the park (most of which were on Wednesday when rain shut down all but a couple coasters). Of the flat rides I rode, the best was probably Cedar Downs, an old derby racer that is better than almost all other carousels. The ride has no seatbelts, moves about twice the speed of your average merry-go-round, is three times the size, and features horses that move forward and backward to simulate a horse race. Other non-coasters I liked were Witches Wheel, Skyhawk, and Power Tower (Turbo Drop only...the Space Shot side was weak). I did ride the new Pipe Scream, which I liked but probably wouldn't bother to ride again. In addition to flat rides, I rode the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, which is probably my favorite non-coaster in the park due to a series of scenes depicting a western town with animatronic skeletons (this is the closest Cedar Point has to a dark ride). I also rode Shoot the Rapids, which was thoroughly underwhelming and will give you wet shoes for the rest of the day.

Overall Thoughts:

Cedar Point is often considered the greatest park in North America. There is certainly plenty to like about the park: several outstanding coasters, an excellent flat ride collection, plenty for the family to do, the most efficient operations you'll see outside of a Disney park, and an unbeatable location out on a peninsula, just to name a few. However, there is room for improvement at the park too: food quality and service is poor even compared to other Cedar Fair properties, the park needs a good wood coaster and some type of dark ride, some employees are a little too business-y and come off as less friendly, etc. Did I have a good time? Yes. Would I go back? Absolutely, especially if there was a major new ride. It is one of my favorite parks, but I'm going to amend the greatest park statement: Cedar Point is the greatest thrill park in North America. While I'd absolutely pick a trip to any Disney park over a trip to Cedar Point, I would definitely pick a Cedar Point trip over a trip to any other Cedar Fair or Six Flags park, all other things held equal.

Lastly, my opinion of Fast Lane, Cedar Point's skip the line system. If you are visiting Cedar Point and have only one or two days, I absolutely recommend buying Fast Lane for one day of your visit. It is expensive, but it will save you a ton of time and make your visit much less stressful. Unlike other parks, Fast Lane will not grant you instant access, but it should cut your wait to about 10-15 minutes per ride. Even though we got lucky and found waits of 30 minutes or less for all but the big three (with a fair number of walk-ons), there is no way we would have gotten several rides each on Maverick, Millennium Force, and Top Thrill Dragster without it. If you will be visiting for three days (the most I'd recommend for one Cedar Point trip), Fast Lane is optional, and I would advise against buying it for multiple days unless you've got plenty of money to spend.

Ride Totals:

Blue Streak: 2
Cedar Creek Mine Ride: 1
Corkscrew: 1
GateKeeper: 3
Gemini: 2
Iron Dragon: 2
Magnum XL-200: 3
Mantis: 2
Maverick: 5
Mean Streak: 2
Millennium Force: 4
Raptor: 2
Top Thrill Dragster: 4
Wicked Twister: 2
Woodstock Express: 1
Cedar Downs: 1
Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad: 1
Pipe Scream: 1
Power Tower: 2
Shoot the Rapids: 1
Skyhawk: 1
Witches Wheel: 1

Total: 44 rides over two days (~20 hours in park; 2.2 rides per hour)

On to the pictures. I didn't take all that many Cedar Point pictures simply because the weather was uncooperative and I wanted to ride as much as possible. Fortunately, Cedar Point is one of the most photographed parks out there. Also, all pictures were taken on Wednesday.
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As you can tell from the sky, we were in for a rainy day at Cedar Point.
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It wasn't long before we started to see sights like this. When it rains at Cedar Point, all coasters close.
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With all the coasters closed, lines for flat rides grew, as most of those remained open.
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Hey, look! Mantis is running in the rain.
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Millennium Force is open too. Since it was the only headliner open, Millennium had a 90 minute wait (45 with Fast Lane).
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This hill is one of the few airtime moments on the ride.
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We decided to go through the America tunnel to see if Maverick happened to be running, as the rain was now little more than a drizzle.
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Maverick is running. Just as we arrived, they were transferring the last two trains back on the track, so I assume it had recently resumed operation.
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Say what you want about the restraints, Maverick is still the best coaster at Cedar Point.
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Eventually the rain stopped altogether and even Top Thrill Dragster reopened.
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GateKeeper. Such a beautiful looking ride, but such an underwhelming experience.
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Late in the afternoon, all the clouds cleared and the sun came out. This was the first time I really dried after riding Shoot the Rapids just before lunch.
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I love the fact that Cedar Point can be accessed by water. It would be awesome to sail to the park just to say you've traveled to a park by car, train, boat, and plane.
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A sunset shot of the Main Midway. By this point, the park was pretty empty by Cedar Point standards.
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Iron Dragon's finale over the lake. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the next retired coaster.
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One last shot of Top Thrill Dragster before leaving the Point. I hope it doesn't take six years before I get a chance to visit again.
Top 5 Steel: Bizarro (SFNE), Nitro, Apollo's Chariot, Maverick, Banshee
Top 5 Wood: Boulder Dash, El Toro, Thunderhead, Gold Striker, Lightning Racer
Top 3 Parks: Holiday World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point
TPR Trips: IntimidaTour 2010, North East Trip 2011, LeviaTHON 2012, Mini Tours 2014 (New Hotness & East Coast)

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby rubysparkles » Thu Sep 11, 2014 6:57 am

I agreed with a lot of your coaster summaries, especially what you said about Maverick and Millennium Force. Hopefully I can re-ride I-305 again in the future, now with the hindsight of riding so many world class coasters. I really hope my impression of that coaster will be the same now as it was a few years ago and will stay in my top spot for favourite coaster.

Really enjoying your trip report, you're great at backing up your opinions. I forgot to mention the amazing Cedar Point railroad, which was one of the biggest surprises of the trip for me. I can't believe I hadn't heard about it before. I found it really bizarre but genuinely entertaining. Can't wait to read about the rest of the New Hotness tour.
Twisted Colossus, I305, Skyrush, Iron Rattler, Phoenix, Maverick.

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Re: Photo TR: An Epic Theme Park Summer

Postby cfc » Thu Sep 11, 2014 7:06 am

^Cedar Point's train ride is good--especially all the random "ghost town" scenes.
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