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    • CommentTimeJul 19th 2017
    The last time I was at Kings Island, Son of Beast was SBNO and the loop was still up, so I was super pumped to get back. Because I was only spending one day there, I splurged on a Fast Lane Plus pass. Below, I'll go through the non-coaster rides I went on, the coasters, and then general park pros and cons.

    First the non-coaster rides, in no particular order.

    **Drop Tower: I'm a sucker for a good drop tower, and this one was great. At about 260ft tall, Drop Tower has a fantastic drop with plenty of anticipation at the top. The fact that the carriage turns around the tower as you go up also means you get an unobstructed 360 degree view of the park and surrounding area before plummeting back down to earth.

    **Wind Seeker: Since I rode this at Cedar Point and loved it, I couldn't wait to give it another go here at KI. Considering it was around 90 and sunny, the breeze up top was very welcome, and Wind Seeker became a go-to cool-off method. I also think they nailed the soundtrack, which fits the ride perfectly. What I find interesting about this ride is that some (like myself) consider this a gentle ride while for others, this is quite the white-knuckle experience. I almost laughed when a woman I rode with commented (at about 50 - 75ft up) that this was way higher than she thought ... as though the height was a well-kept secret until you got on. I mean, it's obviously one of the tallest rides in the park ... you couldn't tell it was going to be high?
    Needless to say, she did NOT enjoy her ride.

    **Grand Carousel: I'm so glad that, despite KI being relatively young, they sprang for a classic carousel with wooden horses and a real band organ. It's a bit small at only three rows, and their organ needed to be tuned up, but the horses looked great and it provided the necessary nostalgic ride I was looking for.

    **Dodgems: When I'm driving these, I do what the name suggests unless I'm chasing someone I know. This makes it fun to try and dodge around the young kids who just want to smash into every car they see. This particular version was very interesting as the floor was circular with a small island in the center rather than rectangular; and although there were signs to drive counter-clockwise, the operator wasn't enforcing this. Combine that with a relatively uncrowded pack of vehicles, and this was definitely one of the funner dodgem experiences.

    **KI & MV Railroad: I didn't realize when I got on that this stops at Soak City as well, which helped to explain why it was so packed when I rode it. It provided some interesting sights, including an exclusive view of Diamondback and Mystic Timbers, all narrated by a fairly unenthused conductor. The steam locomotives themselves are very attractive and well-maintained.
    • CommentTimeJul 19th 2017
    Next up, the coasters. I'll put these in ascending order of my own rating.

    Didn't ride -- Invertigo: I rode it last time, and that was enough.

    11 -- Vortex: I want so badly to love this ride. It stands impressively over the back of the park with its huge blue(ish) structure, and it's extremely photogenic. But I found out that this ride is much better experienced behind the lens of a camera on a nearby path. I spent the entire ride with my hands near my head, ready to cushion the frequent blows. I'll put a disclaimer at this point that I rode in the back car for the airtime on the first hill, so I imagine it might be less rough near the front, but I wasn't willing to ride again to find out.
    Suggestion Box: To save this ride from the inevitable chopping block, replace the OTSR with lap bars--perhaps the same conversion that was done on Steel Phantom at Kennywood when it became Phantom's Revenge.

    10 -- Backlot Stunt Coaster: Kind of an interesting ride with some above-average scenery. I enjoy the short dark section, but this coaster doesn't do much else for me. If I had to wait in the normal queue, I wouldn't even have bothered.
    Suggestion Box: Make the entire thing a dark ride and re-theme it.

    9 -- Racer: Should be more airtime, but there isn't. Its only redeeming quality for me is that it's a woodie. The white paint job looked really nice though, and creates a cool ambiance on the Coney Mall.
    Suggestion Box: Replace the lap bars with buzz bars. Remove the head rests. Remove the brakes just before the turn around that ruin the second half of the ride.

    8 -- Adventure Express: This is one of the better mine trains. Unlike a lot of mine trains, this one has a very dynamic layout where you don't have to wait for some "finale" helix to hit the top speed, and there's some great scenery interaction.
    Suggestion Box: Move the tunnel and theming to the first brake and lift; leave the second lift bare ... the ride is done at that point.

    7 -- Firehawk: This ride wins points on sheer uniqueness of experience. It's a hard one to describe for someone who hasn't ridden a flying coaster, but the perspective of facing away from the track is just very odd at first. Unfortunately, I don't like the restraints. I'd prefer to feel a bit more secure ... like still having contact with the seat when facing down. It was the only coaster where I felt the need to use the hand holds to secure myself. I'd like to ride a B&M flyer to compare.
    Suggestion Box: Find a way to improve the restraints a bit to feel more secure.

    6 -- Flight of Fear: The bad ... this ride has gotten rougher since I last rode (or I've gotten older and less tolerant). The good ... neat theming, solid launch, interesting and disorienting layout, aaaaaaand the indoor queue was air-conditioned. Other rough looping coasters should take note--the queue here was long all day because the lap bars don't leave you concussed despite the nature of the ride.
    Suggestion Box: Ride probably needs a tune-up, and maybe a bit more theming throughout the ride itself.

    5 -- The Bat: I know #5 seems a bit high on the list, but these swinging coasters are rare to find and this one is in good running condition. The layout is a lot of fun with some nice swinging moments and decent terrain interaction. An older arrow coaster that doesn't beat you up!
    Suggestion Box: Floorless cars with lap bars ... would double the great experience on this ride.

    4 -- Banshee: I know this coaster is a great one, but I'll admit that it's not really my cup of tea. For those that ride for the inversions, this coaster has some of the best, including a really interesting center-of-rails inline twist at the end. Unfortunately, it's missing some non-inverting elements in my opinion. I would say it suffers the same critique of a lot of new-age B&Ms in that in needs stronger forces--with Raptor's helix finale in mind. The vest restraints are a huge improvement though, but you still need a front-row seat for the best experience.
    Suggestion Box: Remove an inversion (perhaps the second vertical loop) and add in one or two unique non-inverting elements.
    • CommentTimeJul 19th 2017
    The next 3 are the coasters that I re-rode to the point of losing count.

    3 -- The Beast: aka Brakes the ride. The fact that I can say that and still rank it #3 should be an indication of the ride's further potential. There are brakes on the first hill the ruin the drop; there are brakes before the second hill that ruin the second drop (and any hope for airtime); there are brakes ... well on the original backwoods brake-run; and there are brakes on the long drop between the second lift and the helix. That being said, the run through the woods is still a lot of fun and unique, and the finale helix is one of the best moments on any ride and supremely redeems The Beast that feels as though it's been otherwise tamed. Bonus - it's not nearly as rough as I'd expected. Night ride ... 3rd best after Boulder Dash and Voyage; I love the tunnels that add some auditory drama to the experience.
    Suggestion Box: Grow a pair and remove all the brakes. You have a world-class wooden coaster, so prepare to spend the money to maintain it and let it run wide open.

    2 -- Diamondback: A new-age B&M hyper coaster with those long, open cars. I love airtime and this coaster had it in spades. Every hill had lengthy bouts of floater air, but I was missing some ejector air mixed in there somewhere. I do prefer Intamin's more recent takes on hyper/giga coasters; I'm thinking Skyrush compared to this, as the airtime and general out-of-control feeling is just infinitely better. Even so, this ride is so much fun.
    Suggestion Box: Remove the trim brake because it might allow for some ejector air on that hill and also some better positive's/lats on the following turn. Run some misters over the splashdown pond on especially hot days.

    1 -- Mystic Timbers: Name sucks; ride does not. Seriously ... This exceeded my expectations in every way. There was some serious dedication to relentless pacing here. This is hands-down the best GCI I've ridden. It tosses you all over the place, and there are pops of air mixed in with gusto. THIS ride is why people are even still bothering to build with wood. Simply perfect! As for the shed ... it's neat.
    Suggestion Box: Be prepared to maintain this ride. I fear what it will feel like in 5 years without the proper TLC. Also, close the rapids ride around 9 so that the lights near the back of the ride can be shut off for an even better night ride.
    • CommentTimeJul 19th 2017
    Now for overall pros and cons of the park experience.

    **Fast Lane Plus was more than worth it. I felt a bit guilty while doing it, but getting to just walk up to every station made for an incredibly relaxing and easy-going day. No need to coordinate with eating, bathroom breaks, crowd patterns, maintenance issues, etc. You just walk up and ride.
    **Food at the park was very expensive (to be expected) but otherwise pretty tasty. Chicken from the Chicken Shack was fantastic, the cheese Coney from Skyline was tasty (if you like Skyline Chili) and the blueberry soft-serve was quite good.
    **Pretty much every ride was running at full capacity, even on rides that probably didn't need it (Adventure Express, Vortex, Racer, etc). This created a lot of walk-ons for those that didn't have a Fast Lane pass.
    **Their coaster line-up is very good and has a bit of everything.
    **Most park employees were very friendly and positive. I was asked several times how my day was going and if I was enjoying myself, told to enjoy my ride, etc. Ride ops were doing their best to move quickly and keep dispatch times at a minimum.
    **The park was very clean and well kept. Scenery was beautiful and well-groomed. Likewise, facilities such as bathrooms and eating areas were well-maintained. It

    **Just a small general gripe that Cedar Fair unsurprisingly has found many ways to make you spend as much money as possible.
    **Assigned seating on coasters is a big no-no to me, and KI was using it on several of the most popular coasters. I tried to justify why this practice would be used ... ever. It does make it easier to keep large parties together, it gives ride-ops an opportunity to pair single riders, and it keeps the platform uncrowded. I assume they do this to try and make sure every seat was filled, but this was not the case. I saw several empty seats on some cycles, one memorable case where an entire 4-seat car on Diamondback because the ride-op couldn't assign people quickly enough before the gates opened and closed. I witnessed several people look disappointed or downright upset having been assigned a seat they didn't want after waiting 30+ minutes for a ride; in fact, this seemed to occur way too often where the ride op was too indecisive at where to place patrons, leading to empty seats. One patron verbally accosted a ride-op about being assigned a seat ... as the ride op explained (I couldn't hear his explanation), a half-empty train left the station on The Beast. If you're that worried about filling singles up, have the greeter pair up single-riders rather than assigning every seat, and let the station lines fill up so that every train is at least mostly full. If someone can clarify the upside to this method of assigning seating, please inform me.
    **So I guess they run a fireworks show every night at closing. Great ... it's a nice way to signal to everyone that the park is closing and bring some closure to the evening. Here's the problem ... the fireworks are set off at the back of the park near the woods that The Beast runs through. Therefore, they have to shut down the ride several minutes before the fireworks show, and they can't open it back up until the fire crews on the scene confirm that the forest hasn't been set ablaze. So, you set off a totally unimpressive fireworks show that causes you to shut down the park's best night ride for 30+ minutes when it finally gets properly dark out? Cmon ...

    Overall, my experience was very positive. I can't wait to visit again in a few years! I will say, without the Fast Lane Plus pass, being assigned seats on the best coasters would have put a considerable damper on the day; this needs to be addressed.