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USAirtime - Day 11/12: Chicago & SFGaM

I'll be sharing day by day trip reports from my recent adventure across the pond. It was a relatively short visit, but the priority was to visit the best of the best parks along our route, favouring quality over quantity. We love the US, but have only visited Florida previously so it was great to see some more traditional parts of the country.

Cedar Point was the main motivation for booking this trip, I've been wanting to visit ever since Dragster went up when I was 13, and Steel Vengeance finally gave me the kick up the arse to book. Also airtime. We don't have much of that in the UK.

I took around 2,500 photos on my phone, so this could be picture heavy.

Here's what we did...

5th August - Arrive NYC
6th - Full day NYC
7th - Six Flags Great Adventure
8th - Hersheypark
9th - Knoebels
10th - Kennywood/Pittsburgh evening
11th - Cedar Point
12th - Cedar Point
13th - Kentucky Kingdom/Louisville evening
14th - Kings Island
15th - Travel/Tippecanoe/Chicago evening
16th - Six Flags Great America/Flight home

Day One: Travel and NYC

We flew with Norwegian from Gatwick, taking off at around 10am and landing at JFK around 2ish. We took the air train and subway to our accomodation in Queens, and despite the tiredness we dumped off our stuff and headed straight out to Manhattan. Yeah... We didn't last long. Mooched around Greenwich and then Times Square for a few hours before heading to bed at around 10.

The hotel was ok for the price we paid, very basic but clean and modern. Woke up a few times due to our room being opposite the elevator, and again by the couple next door having what Alan Partridge would describe as 'hardcore super-sex'. It was located next to the Queensbidge Houses, once home to the likes of Nas and Mobb Deep. Pretty sketchy area but no different to parts of London that we are used to.

Day Two: NYC

We hopped on the subway heading towards Wall Street ready for our 9am sightseeing boat trip from Pier 15. Nabbed a good deal for this on Groupon, and a river cruise is always a great way to see a city.

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The second best way to embrace a big city is to walk, so we took our time walking 4 miles from the World Trade Centre down to Central Park, via Chinatown, Little Italy, Madison Square Park and the Empire State Building. We stopped for a few drinks and some shopping, but mainly for air conditioning as it was hotter than a pot noodle.

For the standard tourist observation deck experience, we opted for the Rockefeller Centre over the Empire State Building because of the central park view and lighter crowds. The view from up there gives an impression of just how huge the city is, it's unbelievable.

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The main event for the evening was Disney's Frozen on Broadway. This was all for Rachael, who's a huge Disney fan, but we both loved it - the physical effects were cool and there was some great use of projection mapping whenever Elsa went berserk. We were seated row 1 on the upper tier, so had a nice full view of the stage. $15 for a f*cking can of beer though.

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After the show we sat down in Times Square and watched the world go by. This was interrupted by what turned out to be the biggest adrenaline rush or the trip. I won't go into it too much but a terrorism scare caused a mass panic and stampede. Turns out a motorcycle backfired which was mistaken for gunshots. It somewhat killed the mood so we grabbed a final drink and got an Uber back to the gaff.

Heading back over the bridge to our hotel provided some stunning views of the Manhattan skyline under the moon, but NYC had absolutely battered the credit card and I was actually quite relieved to be out of the crowds and heading to our first park of the trip the following day.

So yeah, a mixed bag but we managed to cram a lot into our short stay in the city.
 

Hutch

Well-Known Member
Looking forward to this. You guys more or less did that same lot of parks as I did last month, so it'll be interesting to see how your thoughts compare with mine.
 
Looking forward to this. You guys more or less did that same lot of parks as I did last month, so it'll be interesting to see how your thoughts compare with mine.
Catching up on your report now bud, the Live looked excellent.

It's great hearing first time reviews of parks and coasters, so I'm looking forward to sharing my own.
 
Day 3: Six Flags Great Adventure

To the coasters. We picked up our Nissan Versa from just across the river in Jersey City, this was a tactical decision to avoid driving through Manhattan, but it also turned out far cheaper than picking up from JFK. We could have got a Jeep Cherokee for pretty much the same price, but went for the more fuel efficient option.

Parked up at Six Flags around half hour before opening and picked up our season passes ready to head straight for Ka and El Toro. This was my first ever Six Flags experience and first impressions were pretty good! The entrance area is pretty nice and we were greeted by Looney Tunes characters. Crowds seemed very low early on as storms were forecasted nearly all day, but the sun was shining for now.

El Toro opened bang on time which was a pleasant surprise. After a short SFLF (Six Flags Locker Faff), we walked straight onto the front row. This was one of my most anticipated coasters of the trip, in many people's top 3's with apparently legendary airtime. Our first ride was very, very good and the first drop was amazing on the front row. The ride op/stand up comedian was great and let us switch seats for repeat rides for as long as we wanted. Naturally after the front row, we headed straight for the back. I definitely preferred the back row as you really get hauled over that first drop and following hills, but it was a lot rougher than expected. As a bit of a fat bastard, the lap bar did begin to dig into the gut and cause quite a bit of discomfort, but it was well worth it. Overall it's an excellent coaster but not quite top 10 for me.

After a solid half hour of smashing the back row of El Toro, it was time for Kingda Ka. I must admit I wasn't exactly buzzing to get on this due to the restraints, and with Dragster coming up in a few days. I reaaaaally dislike the restraints on Stealth as they press right down on my shoulders, causing a claustrophic ride and uncomfortable ride. Anyways there was only a 5 min wait, but obviously waited an extra 10-15 for the front row. The restraints were fine much to my relief, completely unnecessary but ever so slightly more spacious than Stealth's. The wait to launch felt like an eternity, giving enough time to ensure that I was ****ting myself (forgot what this feels like on a coaster tbh). The launch takes a while to get going, but the speed you eventually hit before heading vertical is amazing. The tophat was ok, you're not up there long enough to appreciate it's scale before coming back down to earth and hitting the breaks. Again, not a top 10 but it's still delivers a powerful 128mph Intamin launch - which is always gonna be a good thing. Wish I rode it more tbh.

We then made our way over to the other side of the park for Nitro. B&M Hypers are quite possibly my favourite coaster type, and this was our first of 3 on this trip so I was pretty pumped. It was around midday now but there was no queue and we hopped straight onto the back row. It was becoming clear that crowds were going to be at a bare minimum today. Nitro was ok, I spent the first half waiting for some decent air but it didn't really happen. The second half was an improvement, and Christ on a bike that upward helix is intense and seemed to go on forever - definitely greyed out. Mako and Silver Star remain my favourite of these coasters, followed by Shambhala and then Nitro, but it's a solid 8/10.

Took a quick spin on the rapids, which was short and sweet. Stayed on for a couple of goes until getting moist enough to cool off from the heat.

Skull Mountain was up next, and I had no idea what to expect. In fact I thought it was a boat ride until getting to the station. This was pretty crap, quite rough and forceless but ok for youguns I guess.

For some reason we then headed back to the other side of the park via the cable cars, and went on the Runaway Mine Train. It's a decent length and pretty fun. We then went for a front row ride on Bizarro - this was a very pleasant surprise. All of these Six Flags B&Ms just seem to merge into one, so I had no idea what to expect in terms of a layout or theming. It's probably my favourite B&M sit-down/floorless, a good fun ride with nice compact inversions.

Tried to get on the log flume, but it had closed due to the incoming storm - uhoh. After 20 mins of solid rain and some thunder, most attractions were back up and running so we went on Batman: The Ride. I'd only ever heard good things about these Batman clones and it was great to finally get on one. It was ok, I like the loop-roll-loop combo but it lacked the intensity of Nemesis and understandably couldn't match the sheer scale of Montu. Those two remain in a league of their own from the inverts I've been on so far.

The Dark Knight was decent, the fact it's indoors and there is some theming makes it pretty re-rideable compared to other Wild Mouse's/Mice.

The weather took another turn for the worse, so all the rides went down again and we took shelter in what turned out to be a hidden gem - Justice League: Battle For Metropolis. Fair play to Six Flags, this was an impressive dark ride with some fun twists and turns.

After an overpriced Cheesesteak and Corndog, we headed over to ride Green Lantern. The initial drop and first couple of inversions would have been pretty boring, but standing up makes it pretty fun. As the ride goes on though, it gets a bit too uncomfortable to fully enjoy.

Superman Ultimate Flight was nothing special, I'll accept a pretzel loop if the overall ride is good, otherwise just no. The highlight here was spotting a Groundhog on the grass a few feet away from the queue.

The heavens opened once again and all rides went down, we headed back towards El Toro which eventually reopened - got a few more back row rides and it had warmed up significantly. It got me thinking they should send some test dummies round with the restraints up and see where they end up after the first hill... Possibly the moon?

Kingda Ka was seemingly not going to re-open, and we had a fairly long drive across to Hershey so we decided to leave a few hours early. Turns out we didn't miss much, we drove through a seemingly never ending thunderstorm shortly after leaving which would have been game over anyways.

So overall we missed a few rides, but got on everything we wanted to including double figure rides on El Toro. Great Adventure is a top tier park with a very strong top 5 coasters, we had an excellent day here and I'm sure I'll return eventually.

Coaster Ranking:

1. El Toro
2. Kingda Ka
3. Bizarro
4. Nitro
5. Batman: The Ride
6. Green Lantern
7. Superman
8. The Dark Knight
9. Runaway Mine Train
10. Skull Mountain

Park Rating: 7.50/10

Took barely any pics here due to that pesky grey sky.

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Day 4: Hersheypark

The drive from New Jersey was textbook stuff despite the raging storm and we arrived at our Motel around 9pm. This was our favourite accomodation of the trip, it was very dated but comfortable. Kind of like staying over at the home of your favourite ederley relative but without the smell. We headed to a nearby bar for a quick drink, then Chipotle for a burrito and went to bed. Oh and the room had a Skyrush view.

In the daylight, we quickly fell in love with the town of Hershey. Apart from Chipotle and the one Starbucks we didn't spot a single fastfood and or chain restaurant. Just farmland and small businesses. We decided we need to live here, I will operate Skyrush and Rachael can waitress at the Hershey Pantry (best breakfast ever).

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The park was open til 10 and we arrived at the gates around 12.30pm, it was heaving with people so we expected some big queues inside. We waded through the crowds and stumbled across the monorail, which is always a good place to start and was only a 5 min wait.

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The monorail gave some great views of Storm Runner in action, so we then decided to get in line for our first coaster of the day. There was only a 10 minute wait but we decided to wait for the front, adding another 15 mins or so. I'd completely forgotten that this coaster existed, but it was very impressive. The launch was the highlight, but overall it's relentless from start to finish with some unique elements thrown in. Again, the restraints are completely pointless, just whack Taron trains on it and you've got a world class coaster right there. Also, why on earth is Rita even a thing when this opened a year before? Idiot machine. We went straight back round for a back row ride.

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Next we headed deeper into the park, battling through the swarms of people until stumbling across the Boardwalk area. The huge waterpark was completely rammed all day, soaking up (lol) a lot of the crowds. We ended up on Wildcat, and as the very keen ride op pointed out before every dispatch - this is the very first GCI coaster. Given its age it's harsh to compare it against the newest GCI's but this was pretty crap, probably made worse cos we were sat at the very back.

We opted to skip Laff Trak as it was on a 45 minute wait, not worth it for a spinner. Next up was Lightning Racer, which was brilliant. After a short 10 minute wait we boarded the back row of the 'thunder' train. This thing delivers from start to finish and it's almost the perfect wooden coaster. It's really long and the layout provides some great interaction between the two trains. There are a few nice airtime moments during the twisty layout, and it's pretty smooth too.

I was becoming keen to get on Skyrush by this point, so we made the trek over to that side of the park. Hersheypark is actually a lot bigger than expected, it's a fair old distance from the entrance down to Lightning Racer. It's a bit of a weird layout too with no real shortcuts. We stumbled across some live entertainment in the form of dancing chocolate bars with a marching band... Absolute scenes. I had a go on the Hershey Tower, the tallest of the three drop towers. So much more forceful than it looks, an excellent ride.

Skyrush was a walk on, and after watching it charging up the lift hill from the hotel room the previous night, and again throughout the park during the day - I was buzzing to get on it. You can tell from just watching it that it's bonkers. The first hill looks far too small compared to the first drop, maybe a third of the size? Again we went on the back row, and were soon rocketing up the lift hill. That first drop is something else, the speed you go into it gives a good kick over the top, but then half way down it gives you a scary ejector moment. The turns are very forceful, one in particular is very intense. All of the hills give strong ejector airtime, but the first one is a particular highlight. What I also loved is that as you head back towards the safety of the brake run, there is one final airtime moment that tries one more time to murder you. This thing starts and ends on a high... Perfection. Rachael wasn't a fan, but was happy for me to jump straight back on for another 5 back row rides.

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We then went to mop up the remaining coasters, starting with Sooper Dooper Looper. Again we walked straight on, and this was really good fun. There's a lot of fannying around moments but the layout gives some good views, and a lap bar loop is always good.

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Great Bear seems to be the most popular ride at the park with a 20-30 min line all day. As with all B&M Inverts, it was a solid ride but with a pretty unique layout. The helix before the main drop seems unnecessary, but it's quite fun. The rest of the ride is forgettable with no real standout moments, it's not very forceful however it does give some nice views in a good location.

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The daily thunderstorm began to roll in and half the visitors run for the exit back to their cars, lovely stuff. It was around 5pm now and we joined the queue of people waiting for Fahrenheit to reopen. The cattlepen of doom began to fill up and we ended up waiting around 30 mins or so in the slowest moving line of the day. I'd imagine this coaster was pretty fun when it opened, and I remember thinking that back in the day. But a lot has changed since then and this thing is just dull. It kind of made me appreciate The Smiler a bit more, which rides quite similar but it's a lot more fun. These padded Intamin restraints were growing on me, giving hope for the upcoming Maverick. They seem to be built a bit bigger in the States.

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We had another couple of goes on Lightning Racer after getting the biggest iced coffee in the Western Hemisphere from Dunkin Donuts. Went on the Whip which was cool. Skipped Laff Trak again due to the long wait. Skipped Sidewinder and Trailblazer in favour of more Storm Runner rerides - that launch is up there with the very best.

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Regrettably we didn't get on Comet, which looked awesome lit up at night. It only had a 20 minute wait in the evening, but Skyrush was a walk on and time was running out. Skyrush had definitely warmed up, and it got better and better each ride. The lack of stapling from the staff was ideal, sending me flying over that first drop on multiple occasions. Got around 10 rides in total, all on the very back row. I completely get why some people aren't so keen on Skyrush, it's brutal and relentless. For me that's what makes it so good. The thighs and backs of my knees were aching big time, but it was so worth it.

We ended the night with a back row ride on the last Great Bear train of the day. We loved Hersheypark, and took our time leaving the park. Looking around the shops and soaking up the last of the atmosphere.

It was an ideal park day, buzzing with crowds but pretty short queues on most coasters. Skyrush stole the show, with Storm Runner and Lightning Racer making up a very strong top 3. Hersheypark has a real family feel to it, and despite the obvious chocolate branding everywhere, there isn't a money grabbing, empty your pockets kind of vibe. We will 100% return here someday, it's up there with Europa Park for me.

The following morning we got up earlyish to visit Hershey's Chocolate World. The dark ride tour was ok, and we didn't bother forking out for the other experiences. We purchased plenty of Reece's in the huge gift shop, grabbed a milkshake and then hit the road to Knoebels.

Coaster Ranking:

1. Skyrush
2. Storm Runner
3. Lightning Racer
4. Great Bear
5. Sooper Dooper Looper
6. Fahrenheit
7. Wildcat

Park Rating: 9.5/10
 
Last edited:

Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
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It's nice to read someone have such a genuinely good day in the park. It's not always about smashing out all the creds with tons of rerides (although it sounds like you did alright), but you sound like you had a great day.

I think Hersheypark is pretty fab too, definitely one of the better ones.
 
It's nice to read someone have such a genuinely good day in the park. It's not always about smashing out all the creds with tons of rerides (although it sounds like you did alright), but you sound like you had a great day.

I think Hersheypark is pretty fab too, definitely one of the better ones.
Yeah we were keen to prioritise the things we know enjoy on this trip, and not rush around too much despite not having much time.

I'm halfway through typing up Knoebels, forgot how much we loved it there too.
 
Day 5: Knoebels

Another easy peasy drive led us to our next park - Knoebels. We took it slow in the morning and arrived just after 1pm to a very busy, and very grassy car park.

The main reason for this visit was Phoenix, but we could tell instantly that the overall atmosphere of Knoebels was something special. Walking through the car park, past all the picnic benches, through the trees, you kind of stumble into the park by accident. Where are the perimeter fences? Where's the entrance? Where's the security? Bag check? Ticket booths? Lines to get in? Parking payment? **** that, Knoebels just invites you straight into their house and puts the kettle on.

I opted for the wristband option, whilst Rachael purchased $20 of ride tickets considering she's not into marathoning coasters. The plan was to head straight to Phoenix, which we hadn't even laid eyes on yet. We navigated our way to the back of the park using the paper map, the old fashioned way, which always adds to the fun. It took us a long time to get there cos there are so many 'cute' distractions around every corner of the park.

Anyway, Phoenix! The line was poking just out of the entrance, giving a chance for the standard photo opportunity in front of the golden ticket award sign. I love how proud they are to show this off, then proudly displaying the full list of other coasters below it in the top 20. People notice this too, guests were always taking an interest in the signage. It was running on one train, and we waited around 20 minutes in total for the back row. Despite the blazing sunshine, we were soon plunged into the pitch black tunnel and up the pretty small lift hill. The first drop was ok, but that's when you realise how minimal that lap bar is. Then you're straight back up into that slow turnaround and down another good fun drop, then another turnaround and then there it is - your first real taste of that famous airtime. But it's after that final turnaround when the fun begins, every single one of those last bunny hills delivers. So our first ride was excellent, and we would return in a few hours once it had warmed up.

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We were pretty hungry at this point so went for our first dose of Knoebels Food Porn. $5 for some loaded pulled pork nachos and $3 for a rib sandwich?! Shut up and take my money. Sat down and ate this next to the water mill which powers the rotating roof of the seating area, next to a lovely local couple. That's another thing, Knoebels has to be the friendliest amusement park on the planet - staff and the general public.

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Next up was the famous Haunted Mansion, and it did not disappoint. This was perfection. It's got the vintage fairground ghost train vibe, but completely action packed from start to finish. There are so many jump scares in here, and not a single moment is wasted. It's not included in the wristband (anyone know why?), but it's well worth paying extra for.

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We then took a ride on the chairlift up the hill and into the forest. I assumed you could get off at the top and have a mooch around, but nope straight back down. This offered some great views of the park and surrounding area, and it's a great way to chill out for a bit.

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Out second coaster was Impulse. You can probably tell by now I'm not a huge fan of pointless restrictive shoulder restraints on coasters, so I was excited to get on this. This ride was perfectly fine, it's smooth and packs a decent amount into a fairly short layout, but lacks the force of the similar Gerstlauer models. Stick these restrsints onto Saw, Speed etc and they would be much higher in my rankings. We planned to return later but stuff got in the way, so this was our only ride on Impulse.

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We then decided to check out a few of the many flat rides on offer at Knoebels, with one in particular being a hell of a lot more evil than it looks off ride. I cant remember what any of these were called so *checks Google*... Downdraft you absolute bastard. Power Surge was the opposite, looked menacing but wasn't too bad. Regrettably, 1001 Nachts was down all day - I really wanted to get on this after seeing old photos of the one at Alton Towers from years ago, but it wasn't to be. There are *so* many rides at this park, all crammed into a fairly small space. The throughput isn't great on a lot of the older rides and it was packed, so we didn't even get on half of them.

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Twister was up next, and I had no idea what to expect from this. No one ever talks about Twister, which is understandable with Phoenix just around the corner. We joined the queue passing under the cheesy but quite cool looking entrance sign, and waited around 5 minutes for the front row. It's a pretty weird start, straight up a lift hill and down a small drop, turning round into another lift hill. You get some incredible views from the top, particularly into the campgrounds. Anyway, once it gets going, it's a really fun coaster! It doesn't have enough airtime to be top tier, but it feels pretty wild throughout with some good headchopper moments. It's pretty smooth too. We went straight back round for another couple of rides at the back. Big statement from Rachael: it's better than Phoenix.

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We then headed back towards Phoenix, stopping off to mop up some more flat rides. We walked past the huge swimming pool which was rammed, but looked very tempting in the heat. Apparently they have a popular annual event where you can bring your dog for a swim - yep Knoebels is basically the happiest place on earth. Sorry Disney.

Our second ride on Phoenix was on the front row, and we were now both in agreement that this thing is world class, and of course better than Twister. We tried out the mythical row 3, but it wasn't noticeably better. Row 1 is where it's at, well worth the extra wait. The airtime is a lot more violent towards the front of the train, pushing you up and over the many hills.

Knoebels Food Porn Part II: Turkey Leg and Corn, again very reasonably priced. I had no idea how good the food options were here, but have since read about the multiple industry awards they've rightly earned. Theme parks are supposed to serve you overpriced burgers and lukewarm fries, not this stuff. Obviously it's not Michelin star fine dining, but it's all top notch freshly cooked comfort food, served with a smile.

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Black Diamond was a suprise, as in I didn't know it existed. After a short wait and just enough time for that Turkey Leg to go down, we took our seats. It's half coaster half dark ride, with some of that charming old school, tacky theming. It was ok, but quite uncomfortable in places and generally forgettable. One and done kind of thing.

If I wasn't into coasters, I'd probably be a log flume enthusiast. And this one looked like a real classic. We got a boat to ourselves and off we went into the trees. I was surprised at how short this was, it's a shame really because of the parks location, a long flume ride through the woodland would have been nice. Oh well, it was good fun and nice to cool down.

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It was getting late now, and as the sun began to set we joined the longest queue of the day, 30 mins for Flying Turns. "They told us we couldn't build it, but we did anyway". A hell of a lot of effort has gone into this coaster, and they're quite rightly very proud of it. There are some nice signs in the queue line explaining the history of the ride, building the anticipation. After being weighed on the scales like pieces of sunburnt fruit in a Walmart, we were assigned our seats. Overall it's a pretty fun family coaster, and some of the corners are taken very high up the track similar to Bob at Efteling. It's nothing special, but the fact that it even exists is pretty cool. We would've liked to get on a few more times as it's so short, but it wasn't to be.

It was pretty dark now, and I didn't think it was possible but suddenly Knoebels became even more charming. We took a lap around the park, soaking up the atmosphere. You get a feel for just how isolated the park really is at night, you're surrounded by dark forest, with the multicoloured fairground lights lighting up the park. There is no pop music playing, all you can hear is the screams and laughter from the rides along with the vintage fairground music. A beer would have gone down nicely, but couldn't find one anywhere. There were so many more food options we wanted to try too, but that turkey Leg had finished me off.

The last hour or so was spent on Phoenix, we just couldn't stay away from it. This is another corner of the park that gets a second wind at night, the atmosphere is cranked up another notch with the lights and sounds. Phoenix was now kicking all sorts of arse, and we racked up double figure rides. Every single train that came back into the station was filled people laughing and comments of how much time they spent out of their seat. There were queue line high fives with the train as it went up the lift hill and smiles all round, and everyone seemed to go back round for one more go - again and again. Phoenix is pure fun.

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They kept it open for another 15 mins after the park closed at 10pm, no idea why but fair play. We then headed back towards the car park, but the lights were still on and Carousel music still playing. At the front of the park, all food outlets were still open and the Ferris Wheel still running. We had a go on the frog hammer arcade game thingy and won a prize. As we eventually got to the car, it seemed strange leaving at almost 10. 30pm with the park still buzzing, but we had a long drive ahead.

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Our hotel for the night was 2 hours away in Altoona, bang on halfway between Knoebels and Kennywood. This drive was brutal, we were absolutely shattered and just about made it with the help of a rather large coffee.

After this whole trip, we both agreed Hersheypark was our favourite. But after typing this out I'd say our day at Knoebels was possibly better - it was just perfection.

Coaster Ranking:

1. Phoenix
2. Twister
3. Flying Turns
4. Impulse
5. Black Diamond

Park Rating: 9.5/10
 

X: Uknown

Member
The Haunted Mansion isn't on the wristband because they don' want teens riding it so much they get bored, get off mid ride, and vandalize it. Giant Flume was bought from a defunct park, that's why it's longer.
 

TilenB

Well-Known Member
What a lovely report! I really hope Knoebels doesn't lose its charm by the time I get around to visiting. Sounds like a really great place!
 
The Haunted Mansion isn't on the wristband because they don' want teens riding it so much they get bored, get off mid ride, and vandalize it. Giant Flume was bought from a defunct park, that's why it's longer.
That's a very specific reasoning, I guess they must have had a fair few vandalism incidents previously.
What a lovely report! I really hope Knoebels doesn't lose its charm by the time I get around to visiting. Sounds like a really great place!
Thanks! I wouldn't worry about it losing the charm any time soon tbh.
 
Day 6: Kennywood

After leaving Knoebels late into the evening, we began a 2 hour drive to Altoona for a short motel stop over. We were completely exhausted and it was a struggle to stay alert. Caffeine and having the windows wide open seemed to help, as well as discovering my new favourite song on the local country music radio station: Luke Bryan - Rain Is A Good Thing.

"Rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey
Whiskey makes my baby, feel a little frisky"

Incredible lyrics.

Got to the hotel which stunk of stale cigarette smoke and got some sleep. We hit the road at 9am, for another 2 hour drive on to our next park, Kennywood. Approaching the park we could see that Steel Curtain is absolutely *massive*, it really dominates the skyline. It was going to be a very busy day, the main road was rammed and we sat in traffic for around 45 minutes before reaching the car park.

Ideally we wouldn't have visited here on a Saturday in August, but it was better than not visiting at all I guess. We headed straight over to the very recently opened Steel Curtain, and were met with a 2 hour queue. The queue line looked absolutely vile, and was only going to get worse throughout the day. At this point we realised all the coaster lines were at least 1 hour + and I decided to get a fastpass valid for one ride on each coaster. It was very hot, we were shattered, crowds were everywhere ... Let's get the coasters done and get out of here, check into the hotel and get out into Pittsburgh for some drinks.

So, Steel Curtain. Skipped the line and waited for the back row. Front would have been ideal as this was my one and only ride, but that would have been another half hour or so. First of all, I loved the theming. It's pretty basic but it works, especially the trains. Most of the area was still a building site so it would be good to see the finished article someday. Tbh I don't remember much about my ride on this, the layout is a complete blur. Its glass smooth and very comfortable with the restraints providing an excellent feeling of freedom, there's some nice airtime and it maintains a solid pace right up until the breaks. The only downside is that it's a bit tame. The ride lacks any force, and just feels a bit too nice and floaty. Overall, it's an excellent addition but not quite intense enough to be a top tier coaster IMO. Still bought a T Shirt, cos the merch selection is cool as.

Next up was Phantoms Revenge. Rachael understandably didn't want to fork out for a fastpass, but fortunately we managed to catch this on a 30 min queue so I saved the pass for later. Again, headed straight for the back row (definite theme going on this trip), and we headed up the lift hill. The first drop is nothing special, obviously the mayhem starts on the second big drop, diving straight down into the huge valley.... Wow, absolute madness. But it just gets better and better. The bunnyhills at the end provide some of the strongest ejector airtime out there, and was a complete suprise. I'd heard good things about this coaster but was not prepared for how fun those final airtime hills are, it had us creasing every ride.

Thunderbolt was the next coaster to tick off the list, by now the park was completely rammed with crowds everywhere. So we were kind of rushing to get out tbh, it was too busy to fully enjoy the day. I must have missed the single rider rule on this, but fortunately the ride op found someone to sit next to me. The sharp turns on this coaster made for a very cosy ride with my new buddy. It's a very good ride, with a unique and interesting layout. The setting on the edge of the park and interaction with Phantom's definitely adds to the fun. Considering how old this thing is, it's very impressive!

Then had a go on Racer, Kennywood's very own Grand National. I'm a big fan of Nash, and this did not disappoint. It's so smooth, which again is very impressive for a ride this old. It's probably the weaker of the woodies here, but still a solid ride. The operations were absolutely shocking on here, so so so so slow even with a fastpass. Dread to think how long the main line would have taken.

Jack Rabbit, my memory is a bit fuzzy here but enjoyed it a lot. There's some pretty violent airtime but again, it's a pretty smooth old coaster. The airtime on here just gives it the edge over Thunderbolt for me. Would have loved a few more goes on this.

Time for a go on the recently reopened Sky Rocket, this was a nice suprise as I didn't expect it to be open when planning our visit. Managed to nab a front row ride as there was a spare seat which was nice. Again, I only rode this once so I don't remember much. This thing definitely packs a punch into a relatively short ride, it's great fun from start to finish. A huge positive is the minimal lap restraint, once again rendering 'comfort collars' completely pointless. The launch was excellent and there's some strong airtime moments. This thing punches well above it's weight, another solid Kennywood coaster.

Finally, we headed back to Phantoms Revenge where the main queue was still only 30 mins or so, result! We opted for another back row ride which cemented it's place well into the top 3 of the trip so far. Up there with Skyrush and Phoenix. Used my fastpass for one final ride in the middle of the train, where the airtime was seemingly just as a strong as the back.

Exterminator was down, and we didn't fancy hanging around for it to reopen so gave it a miss.

So that was Kennywood. We missed a lot of attractions, but apparently it was their busiest day of the season so far and the car park was the busiest they've seen it in years. I was looking forward to this park but it was far too busy to fully appreciate. It would be unfair to fully judge the park based on our experience and hopefully I can return at some point in the near future on a less crowded day. We were only there for 4 hours, so it's a shame we didn't get to see the park after dark as I'd imagine it really comes alive with a classic amusement park atmosphere. It's clearly one of the best parks in the world for consistent quality in its coaster line up.

We checked into our next hotel just outside of Pittsburgh, I'd done some extensive Chicken Wing based research and found a place called Bigham Tavern, so we headed there in an Uber. Lots of wings and beer, accompanied by multiple sports screens provided a nice evening and some much needed downtime. We then walked up to Grandview Overlook, which provides stunning nighttime views of the city.

Tomorrow would be the big one, Cedar Point.

Coaster Ranking:

1. Phantoms Revenge
2. Steel Curtain
3. Jack Rabbit
4. Sky Rocket
5. Thunderbolt
6. Racer

Park Rating: 7/10









 
Day 7/8: Cedar Point


Bounced out of bed and raided the breakfast buffet using last night's takeaway box and hit the road just after 9.30am. Kind of underestimated the drive from Pittsburgh to Sandusky, it took just under 3 hours but felt a lot longer. Felt a bit groggy but we were going to f***ing Cedar Point so who cares.


We had two days booked here, with Fast Lane Plus for the second day to ensure we would get on everything we wanted to. The first day would be more chilled, get the main coasters in and enjoy the atmosphere, the second day plan was to marathon our favourites using Fast Lane.


Day 1... Parked up, took the basic skyline/entrance/gatekeeper snaps and picked up our tickets. We started the day on the cable car, and that's when we realised the sheer size of Cedar Point - it is huge and we were in for Glastonbury levels of step counts. It was also clear that crowd levels were very high, with all the decent coasters 1 hour + waits. We planned to head towards Steel Vengeance via the left hand side of the park. Skipping most coasters due to stupid queues and spending far too much time playing with baby goats in the farm. Tried getting on Iron Dragon but it broke down and we didn't hang around.


After an hour with only a cable-car-cred, we went on Cedar Creek Mine Ride. This thing is not very good. I don't mind a painful ride if it does something but the layout doesn't really do much. Oh well at least we got a ride in and only waited 10 mins. I'd worked up a right sweat in the queue so cooled down on Snake River Falls with a nice drenching.


Maverick and SV were on 90 mins and 120 mins respectively, so we'd come back later. This corner of the park is brilliant, the Wild West theming is done to a very good standard and as a fan of Western films the music is unreal. There's nice bits taken from Once Upon A Time In The West, and from the final dual scene in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.


Next up was Gemini. Again this was a short 10 minute wait and we went for the back row. It's a bit rough in places, but really good fun. There's some nice airtime moments and the interaction between trains makes for one of the better dueling coaster experiences.


We then headed for Magnum XL 200 which was on a surprisingly short 20 minute wait most of the day. Operations were top drawer on this, the staff were working very hard and running 3 trains all day which was good to see. This is such a weird coaster and I absolutely love it. We had a few consecutive rides on this, all on the last 3 rows. Any hyper coaster is gonna have a pretty good first drop, and this is no exception - not amazing but very good. The turnaround is bizzare giving you a real jolt to the side, and then what follows has cemented Magnum well into my top 10. The brutal triangle airtime hills completely kick your arse all the way back into the station. Didn't expect to rate this so highly, so it was a very pleasant surprise.


Top Thrill Dragster was down for maintenance all day, they'd Tweeted a week before our arrival that they were waiting on a part. Gutted. Should've got more Kingda Ka rides in in hindsight but oh well. They were working on it that evening getting my hopes up for the next day, but it never opened.


Corkscrew was a walk on, so we waited a few minutes for a front row ride. This was perfectly fine, riding exactly as expected. Slightly rough but a decent old coaster with surprise airtime thrown in.


Gatekeeper, Valravn, Wicked Twister, Rougarou, Millennium Force, and Raptor all had huge wait times so we decided to stay toward the back of the park and save these for tomorrow. Tried and failed again to get on Iron Dragon. Went on the train and played with toddler goats again.


We finally bit the bullet and got in the 90 minute line for Maverick which turned out to be a front row sunset ride. Taron was always my top coaster but I hadn't been overly hyped for Maverick because Intamin shoulder restraints are evil. Storm Runner was superb though so that did give me hope. Turns out the padded restraints are fine. A bit tight, but not uncomfortable at all. But anyway, Maverick is world class. Completely relentless from start to finish, cramming so many elements into a very long layout. It's a perfect mix of fun and intense. It takes the inversions at a good pace and the airtime hills are superb. Rachael in particular loved it and it was her favourite coaster of the trip, lovely stuff.


It was getting late now, and Steel Vengeance was calling. We *could* swerve the 2.5 hour queue and come back with Fast Lane tomorrow, but didn't want to risk it incase it didn't open. We emptied the bladders and got in line. We ended up waiting slightly under 2 hours in total, in a very slow moving queue due to Fast Lane being over an hour and spilling out the entrance. The queue gives some great views of the ride, especially the final bunny hills before the break run. Watching that part of the ride trying to undress people wearing T Shirts definitely built up the anticipation. Eventually we took our seats slap bang in the middle of the train and off we went. This was my first ever RMC and what an introduction it was, in fact this ride was my best single ride on any coaster EVER. I'd seen videos before but not to the point where I'd memorised the layout, so this ride in the pitch black was a complete assault on the senses. It's so, so good. Not much more to say really, instant numero uno.


So that was the end of our first day and we made the trek back down to the car park at 10.30pm. We checked into our hotel but I was still on a high from Steel Vengeance so went for a celebratory beer at the Thirsty Pony. I can't say a coaster has made me want to go boozing before, high praise indeed. Also the wings here were unreal.


Day 2... Set off early for a full day on park and despite being a monday, it seemed even more busy than the previous day. Fortunately we were armed with Fast Lane Plus.


First up was Valravn, where we were on one of the first trains of the day. The heavens opened just as we took our seats on the front row, leading to a very painful eyes-closed ride. This coaster ranks pretty low for me, it looks the part but how can something this big be so forceless? The drop is ok but that's it. Sheikra is still streets ahead of the other dive machines I've done.


Tried to get on Blue Streak but it went down due to the rain, same with Iron Dragon again. We eventually ended up on Rougarou and again waited for the front row. Wow this is very rough for a B&M and must have been very painful as a stand up!l. Still, it's a pretty good ride overall and very forceful in places.


Time for Millennium Force, which I'd been very much looking forward to. We waited around 30 mins which was better than the 90 mins standby line but still not ideal. Went for the back row on this and we were blown away, it's a great coaster and very underated. Sure there's not much airtime, but there's plenty of that on offer elsewhere in the park. 300ft is very, very high and it picks up some serious speed which is maintained throughout. I'd take this all day over Goliath at Walibi Holland.


We then headed over to Wicked Twister, which I'd heard good things about. Again we waited around 30 mins via Fast Lane. I don't really remember much about this tbh, it's a decent coaster for what is, really packing a punch with the launch.


Had a quick spin on Max Air which was good fun, checked out Gatekeeper but didn't fancy a 45 minute wait for a wing coaster. Will try again later.


Raptor was nearby so we got in line, only waiting 10 mins for the front. This thing is very good and very very intense. Nemesis and Montu are streets ahead of the other inverts I've done (not including Anaconda at Gold Reef City), and this isn't too far off of those two. Classic B&M.


Fannied about with some Crab Fries and beer in Chickie's and Pete's. Avoid the buffalo chicken Cheesesteak, gross. Tried and failed AGAIN to get on Blue Streak andIron Dragon. Bastard rain. It was getting late and SteVe was calling so we headed in that direction via Magnum XL200 which was just as brilliant as it was the day before. Went on this a few times in half an hour all on the back row again. It delivers unique 'laughing airtime', similar to Phoenix.


Steel Vengeance was on a consistent 1 hour Fast Lane queue, Maverick 40 mins. It was getting late and we decided to spend the rest of the day in this corner of the park, getting as much Vengeance action in as possible. We managed two rides on Maverick, and then four on Steel Vengeance up until park close. I must admit, paying $100 dollars each and still waiting an hour each ride in a slow moving queue was a pretty annoying. We rode front row which was great, but the back is where it's at on SteVe. I think the best thing about this ride is the duration, it goes on and on and on. I can't see any other coaster coming close to this anytime soon. It's kind of like Zadra/Untamed/Storm Chaser all crammed into one ride. Madness.


So that was Cedar Point! We missed Gatekeeper, Blue Streak, Iron Dragon and the very spiteful Dragster but had a great time. It's simply a must v


Controversial opinion: Cedar Point is absolutely not the best park in the world. It ticks most of the boxes - charm, tradition, great staff, atmosphere, coasters, flats. However, much like my main gripe with the Merlin Parks back home - Fast Lane is a complete rip off and causes unnecessarily big queues all over the park. I don't regret purchasing these because it essentially doubled our ride count at a bucket list theme park, but everyone's day would be a lot more pleasant if the system did not exist. Europa Park is the prime example here where busy days are perfectly fine, you can wait 45 mins to an hour for a coaster but the queue doesn't stop moving which makes it a lot more bearable.


Having said all that, if you could teleport me to any park in the world - it would have to be Cedar Point because the coaster line up is unbeatable.


Coaster Ranking:


1. Steel Vengeance
2. Magnum XL 200
3. Maverick
4. Millennium Force
5. Raptor
6. Gemini
7. Rougarou
8. Wicked Twister
9. Corkscrew
10. Cedar Creek

Park Rating: 9/10

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Day 9: Kentucky Kingdom and Louisville stuff


Hit the road straight after the final night rides on Steel Vengeance and hit the road heading to Motel 6, Troy just off the I75. Equidistant between Cedar Point and Kentucky Kingdom, another brutal drive after a full theme park day but we got there in once piece. We got some rest and were on the road again by 9.30am.


We hadn't initially planned Kentucky Kingdom but it's not too far from Kings Island and we wanted to check out Louisville. Holiday World would have been nice but it was closed mon-fri. KK was closed weds-fri, so we had to squeeze it in on the Tuesday before going back on ourselves towards Kings Island for Wednesday.


Anyway we arrived just after 12 to a completely dead car park which was ideal considering how busy Cedar Point and Kennywood had been on the previous few days. First impressions of the park were as expected - zero theming and a fairground atmosphere. Kind of like a bigger Fun Spot. Not a problem, we are just here for the coasters, heading straight to the back of the park towards the RMC.


There's a lot of hype about Storm Chaser, so I was looking forward to this. It was never going to top Steel Vengeance due to the scale of the ride but it's clear to see a lot is packed into a compact layout. This thing was a walk on literally all day, and we certainly took advantage of it. Storm Chaser is relentless, but kind of awkward? It delivers decent airtime in a quite uncomfortable fashion like it was designed by someone on RCT2 after 12 pints of Stella. It's also pretty vile to look at, kind of just plonked on the rough grass like scaffolding. I really enjoyed Storm Chaser but the airtime wasn't as strong as expected *at this point in the day* - we would return later!


Had a quick go on the rapids which was a tad dull, got a light spraying but nothing more. T3 was our next coaster which was surprisingly good. It's amazing the difference a sensible restraint system can make to a ride, if only all SLC's out there could upgrade to these. I've always believed Infusion should be ripped down and thrown into the Irish Sea but all they need to do is whack vest restraints on it. A very enjoyable coaster but we didn't rush back around for another go.


The parks newest coaster is Kentucky Flyer, a gravity group family woodie. It's not a thrill coaster but I was surprised at how small this is, the lift hill looks no bigger than a bungalow. I'd place it closer to kid cred than family, however it's surely the best kid's coaster in the entire world. Every single park in the world should have a Kentucky Flyer clone tbh. It's a great ride with one particularly good airtime moment thrown in. It's not fast or forceful, just fun and bouncy. They nailed it with this one.


Had a beer at the beach bar just outside the waterpark overlooking Kentucky Flyer, a much needed break from the sun. We then had a quick spin on the Ferris Wheel which gave some great views of our next coaster...


Lightning Run was another reason for visiting this park, I'd heard good things about this pinching well above it's weight. Woooow I did not expect it to be this good! Again there was no line so we went round 5 or 6 times and it seemed to get better each ride. This is what I wanted Storm Chaser to be, but this wasn't an RMC, this was a *checks RCDB* Chance Hyper GT-X? Another one in the exclusive 'laughing airtime' club. It's got a bit of everything really, a long ride with intense turns and a relentless barrage of ejector. Build more of these please @themeparkowners


Our final extreme-weather-named coaster to tick off was Thunder Run, which I didn't even know existed. Should have learned by now to stop riding these old woodies on the back row tbh. It was very rough but not the worst coaster in the world. Filed under bang average.


This was planned as a brief visit as we had things to do in Louisville, so we ended the day here with a marathon Storm Chaser session. In the 2 hours or so since the initial rides, this suddenly went from a 7/10 to a 9/10. The airtime which had been slightly lacking earlier on was suddenly absolutely brutal. The back left seat is the best on this, you really get dragged around through the first drop/inversion. The nitpicks from earlier were still there, some of the transitions seem needlessly uncomfortable - but it's so worth it when a coaster is running as good as this was. Storm Chaser completely kicks your arse and I love it. I've ranked it slightly above Lightning Run due to the first drop/inversion but that's it, there's not much in it between the two.


I'd definitely recommend popping into Kentucky Kingdom, we only spent 4 hours here which was plenty of time.


Warning, non coaster stuff ahead...


We checked into Econo Lodge, Downtown Louisville - a real bargain within walking distance of all the touristy stuff. We walked 10 minutes to Slugger Field for our first ever live Baseball game. Tbh I find Baseball incredibly dull, but appreciate the history and tradition of the game so was keen to check it out. This happened to be an evening when dogs are allowed in the park, which is always a bonus. Also it was $1 Hotdog night. I have no idea what happened but Louisville Bats won, ate 5 hotdogs, drank several beers and their mascot is fun. We had a great time and will definitely get another ball game in next time we are in the states.


We then ended up at Howl At The Moon, a fun cocktail bar featuring a duelling pianos show throughout the night. You can get huge buckets of strong cocktails for $30 which get you absolutely battered. We'd previously been to one of these in Orlando and had a great night, song requests are encouraged and lots of ours were performed. One of the guys absolutely nailed our ambitious request of Five Years by David Bowie, and another even played some Disney classics.


Can't remember much else but woke up too hungover to visit the Muhammad Ali Centre, but not enough to stop us from visiting the penultimate park of our trip - Kings Island.

Park Rating: 6/10

Coaster Ranking:

1. Storm Chaser
2. Lightning Run
3. T3
4. Kentucky Flyer
5. Thunder Run

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Day 10: Kings Island


After a large coffee and larger breakfast, we made the trek back into Ohio heading for Kings Island where we arrived around midday. The skyline is pretty impressive, with most of the parks 13 coasters visible over the car park. We were in luck once again, with a very empty car park and not many people around.


I wasn't particularly looking forward to this park in the build up to the trip, in fact I'd kind of forgotten about it. On paper they've got a solid line up of coasters but all pretty average looking. With no particular coaster to marathon we decided to finally put a shift in and get around all the creds.


First up was Diamondback. I love B&M Hypers and had heard good things about this so was keen to see how it ranked amongst the others I've done. We waited 5 minutes and went for the back seats. It's a great coaster and I really wanted to love this but there is a hugely distracting rattle toward the back of the train. These are usually one of the smoothest models out there so I was surprised that it was a bit rough. Still though, the airtime was solid and the splashdown finally is a nice touch.


We trotted over to the park's nearby GCI, Mystic Timbers. Again I was excited to see how this compares to the other GCI's, especially since recently becoming a massive Joris fanboy. And what could be in the shed? I was hoping for a few bicycles, tins of paint and a bag of hardened cement. We went for a back row ride to start with and thoroughly enjoyed it, it's really fun. The twisted first drop is a great way to start off and then comes a nice low to the ground out and back layout with millions of small bunny hills. There aren't any major airtime moments, just lots of snappy kicks up the arse. The shed finale is a nice way to end , but would perhaps work better before the lift hill as a pre show.


Next up was The Beast, and it had only just hit me how famous this is when approaching the entrance. Unfortunately the park was closing at 8pm, so we wouldn't get a night ride in. Tbh it rode exactly as expected... Weird. This is most definitely not a back row coaster, it really was a bit too uncomfortable. I was not at all prepared for the banked helix drop after the second lift hill, which is hilarious. It's a very long, flat layout - kind of like Test Track in the woods, but we very much enjoyed it. The front row is ten times better than the back as you see the whole long, straight track ahead of you surrounded by forest. A really cool ride but nowhere near the top tier.


Backlot Stunt Coaster was a short stroll away so we got that out the way. This was a one and done kind of ride. The launch was fun and the tight turns were quite forceful, a solid family coaster but nothing special.


Vortex looks cool as f**k off ride. It's absolutely huge, taking up a silly amount of space tucked away toward the back of the park. It's no suprise that they're now closing this tbh as did not ride well at all, really showing its age. I want to praise the ambitious layout but it just prolonged the discomfort tbh.


Had a quick spin on Windseeker and then stumbled across Flight Of Fear. This turned out to be the longest queue of the day at a whopping 15 minutes. Upon boarding the coaster I was buzzing to see a lap restraint but it turns out this is possibly the only coaster out there that could actually be better with OTSR's. It's really rough but the lack of upper body support leads to a very uncomfortable ride. Although I can imagine this must have been brilliant when it first opened tbf. Would probably skip this next time.


The Racer looks class off ride, a real classic looking wooden stretching across the whole back end of the park. We walked straight on for a back seat ride and it was ok, smoother than expected and perfectly fine. Overall it's a lower to mid tier woodie.


Just around the corner lies Adventure Express. This was another one I didn't know much about and it's your average mine train coaster with a cool fully themed lift hill at the end, a pleasant suprise. Again, wouldn't rush back around for another go.


Banshee was another one I'd kind of forgotten about. This trip was booked for RMC's and big bastard Hypers so its easy to forget how good a B&M Invert can be. This one tends to split opinion but we absolutely loved it! The best restraints aren't an issue for me, if you push into them slightly they're barely noticeable. It's up there as one of my favourite layouts on an invert with an excellent mix of inversions thrown in, especially the slow inline twist. It's got the old school feet-tingling force in places too. We had 5 or 6 goes on this in total - lovely stuff. It's not cracked the Nemesis/Montu tier but it's very close.


The Bat is annoyingly far away from everything else, a longish walk into a quiet corner of the park. Vampire at Chessington is an all time favourite but it's never been the same since losing the original trains so it was a nice blast from the past. It's a pretty short coaster but good fun with a brilliant first drop through the trees down into a valley. It's a shame it's over so quick, the lack of length stops it from being a memorable coaster. Another average one.


Invertigo... The less said the better tbh. Delete it.


We went up the iconic Eiffel Tower which was one of the days highlights, amazing views up there on a beautiful day. We followed this up with Boo Hill Blasters, which was crap, and Woodstock Express, which wasn't crap.


With only a couple of hours til park close, we ended the day with repeat rides on Diamondback and Mystic Timbers. Diamondback redeemed itself with a couple of top notch front row rides, with no noticeable rattle whatsoever - a completely different experience to the back row. Also I was massively star struck when queueing at the air gates. They let some guests on through the exit, four of them went for the front 4 seats, with one very familiar looking sports superstar opting for the back row on her own. Nah, it couldn't be. They filled up the remaining seats and dispatched the train and one of the ride hosts pointed out that the lady on the back row is Serena Williams! I noticed she pulled out of a match a few days later, Flight Of Fear will do that to you.


We ended the day with two rides on The Beast... perfect. Overall we were very impressed with Kings Island. The staff were very friendly and enthusiastic, every coaster was running at maximum capacity with fast dispatches which was completely unnecessary considering the lack of guests. They really didn't need to do so but fair play to them, great service. It's a well landscaped park which bridges the gap nicely between Amusement Park and Theme Park. The layout is perfect as you can walk around in a circle ticking off all the coasters. It had a real European park feel to it in terms of atmosphere, similar to Europa Park but without the theming. I wouldn't wish to return any time soon because there's not a world class coaster there, but they do have a very solid foursome of Banshee, Timbers, Diamondback and The Beast. I'm not convinced Orion is the right choice especially after seeing the layout but hopefully it turns out to be a hit.

Coaster Ranking:

1. Mystic Timbers
2. Diamondback
3. Banshee
4. The Beast
5. The Racer
6. The Bat
7. Woodstock
8. Flight Of Fear
9. Backlot
10. Vortex
11. Adventure Express
12. Invertigo

Park Rating: 8.5/10

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Day 11/12: Chicago and Six Flags Great America


We woke up feeling fresh after a rare early night and hit the road heading to Chicago. This was to be a travel day due to the 5 hour drive drive but we done some last minute research and planned a stop off half way in Tippecanoe.


I've always been interested in Native American history and had been reading Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (still not finished tbh, it's a difficult read) so we decided to visit the Battlefield Museum. It was pretty interesting and has been updated to give a more sympathetic view toward the Indians rather than a celebration of wiping them out.


So we continued on to Chicago and arrived at our accomodation on the Southloop. Tactically booked to avoid driving into the city centre and with free parking. Also there are some crazy drivers around Chicago, it was like Mario Kart at times. We headed out in an Uber toward the north side of the Magnificent Mile, planning to walk towards the River Walk. It was around 6pm so we didn't have much time to explore the city but we were very impressed. In fact we much preferred Chicago to NYC all things considered.


Anyway, the main event of the evening was of course Lou Malnati's Pizza, recommended by some CoasterForcers in a trip planning thread. Easily the best Pizza we have ever had and a huge portion size too. It's just a shame we don't have anything remotely close over here in the UK... It's completely ruined Dominoes for me. We cut the evening short due to the food coma and headed back to bed for another early night.


Six Flags Great America:


It was now the final day of the trip, with our flight home from Chicago O Hare scheduled for 7pm. But just because we are flying home wouldn't stop us from squeezing in some more creds. The plan was to arrive for opening and leave at 2pm and squeeze in as much of the parks 12 coasters as possible. We packed up our luggage and hit the road early stopping at IHOP for breakfast and arriving at the park gates just before opening.


We got off to a bad start when I was forced to pay $30 for parking due to a misunderstanding with our Six Flags Gold Passes. I'd booked these in the sale but apparently I'd missed a cut off time to redeem free parking despite this being perfectly fine at Great Adventure? Bull**** but we didn't have time to argue. For a theme park operator Six Flags are proper fun sponges.


The main priority was the recently opened Maxxforce so we got in line for this first. We waited around 45 minutes for this and due to our time constrictions this would be our only ride so we waited for the front row. This ride is all about the launch but they clearly tried to cram a lot into a very short layout. The launch is an incredibly unique feeling but over too quick, I much prefer the launches on Kingda Ka, Storm Runner and Stealth tbh. The rest of the ride is fun but again, it's over far too quick. I think I would have appreciated this more with some re-rides but it wasn't to be. Overall we did really enjoy it though due to the sheer speed.


That 45 minute queue took a large chunk out of our time so we had to choose our coasters wisely. First we went for Viper which I knew nothing about but turned out to be a pleasant suprise. It's a fun layout apparently based on Coney Islands Cyclone, pretty relentless from start to finish with some decent airtime. Not a top woodie but very good.


Raging Bull was a short walk away, this gets slated a lot but I wasn't going to miss out on a B£M Hyper. We went for the back row and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first drop is incredible especially on the back row where you get whipped over the top at a good pace. There's excellent airtime throughout and the trims were barely noticeable. I can't split Raging Bull, Diamondback or Nitro - they're all equally great but Silver Star and and Mako reign supreme.


The star attraction at the park is Goliath, the RMC. Expectations were high after Steel Vengeance and Storm Chaser being sh*t hot. This thing is huge and the drop looks incredible off ride. The line was around 20 mins but frustratingly slow moving. Our first ride was on the back row and unfortunately this was a real let down. I mean, the drop is superb but that's about it. The length of the ride wasn't an issue, I knew it was a short ride but none of the elements delivered as expected. The dive loop is fun and unique but not particularly intense. We then rode front row and again at the back but still came off slightly disappointed. Don't get me wrong it's obviously better than your average coaster but the famous RMC airtime and general beserk-ness just wasn't there. In fairness this was only around 1pm so I'm sure it improves later on in the day much like Storm Chaser and Untamed.


The Goliath sesh had taken another big chunk out of our day so there was only time for one more coaster and the last of this incredible trip and we went for The Joker. Turned out to be a good choice and one of the most enjoyable rides of the trip! It's the first one of these I've done and made us laugh hysterically the whole way round. You get thrown around like a ragdoll from start to finish. I guess it's more of a flat ride than a coaster so it's difficult to rank it but I'd much prefer a ride on this than 75% of coasters out there.


So overall a very rushed day and hopefully we didn't miss anything amazing. We skipped all the Great Adventure clones we done there for obvious reasons. Wizzer and American Eagle looked decent. Demon and X Flight looked a good decision to swerve.


We had a good time but I see why people don't rate the Six Flags parks, they're very basic and have that corporate feel to them. They're a bit like Thorpe Park but with better coasters, they just feel a bit dead and not somewhere you'd want to spend a whole day. Still, we got some good rides in and enjoyed our short visit.


So that was it, we stopped off at Walmart to stock up on snacks, headed for the airport and dropped off the car.


I'll do a summary post soon to breakdown favourite parks and full coaster ranking etc.

Coaster Ranking:

1. Raging Bull
2. Max Force
3. Goliath
4. Joker
5. Viper

Park Rating: 6/10

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Howie

Active Member
I almost didn't give this a like simply because you ranked Raging Bull, that's Raging Bull!! over Goliath, but apart from that, great report.

Re: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - agreed, a ferocious book that I too was unable to get through. Mrs Howie too. We bought ours from Monument Valley which, if you're a Native American nut, is somewhere you totally need to go. :)
 
I almost didn't give this a like simply because you ranked Raging Bull, that's Raging Bull!! over Goliath, but apart from that, great report.

Re: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - agreed, a ferocious book that I too was unable to get through. Mrs Howie too. We bought ours from Monument Valley which, if you're a Native American nut, is somewhere you totally need to go. :)
I wanted to love Goliath but it wasn't to be. Biggest let down of the trip! Must have caught it at a bad time.

Every chapter of that frigging book has me raging but I'm so far into it now it would be silly not to finish it.

Thanks for the recommendation will bear that in mind for a potential future trip. There's similar places we would like to go but they're all in barren, credless lands so it may not be for a while.
 
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