Friday, August 30, 2013

Park Review- Kings Dominion

Park Review- Kings Dominion


Day: Friday
Date: August 23, 2013
Weather: Scotland (Heavy Rain/Overcast)
Overall Rating: Good
Coaster Rating: Good
Flat Ride Rating: Good
Opinion: Visit if Nearby
Staff: Carrie and Kitsune


 To say our day at Kings Dominion was "wet" would be an understatement. Two very heavy thunderstorms moved through during our day visit, which while it kept crowds very low also created a rather odd atmosphere to review in. 

 Kings Dominion is located in Doswell, Virginia. It's about a 20 minute ride from Richmond, VA and about an hour from Washington D.C. which gives the park a pretty prime spot. It began life as a 'Family Liesure Center" park and opened to the public in 1975 with 15 attractions. Much like it's sister park 'Kings Island' it too switched ownership more then once, the second time too Kings Entertainment Company in 1983 and later to Paramount Parks in 1993 which made the largest expansions to the park. As we all know, Cedar Fair bought the Paramount parks in 2006 and is the current owner.  The park is now home to more then 60 rides, shows and attractions with 14 roller coasters and a large waterpark on property. 



 As we stated, our day was very wet and rainy. This proved to both be excellent for riding as none of the rides really had any type of line to speak up. Nearly everything in the park was either walk-on or a single ride wait. Although the weather was bad for soaked shoes. Our first stop was Grizzly, a wooden roller coaster built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1982.  Grizzly is an excellent wooden coaster which weaves all though the wooded area around it before breaking into a small clearing.  I'd love to tell you this ride is smooth but it really isn't, time has taken a bit of a toll on this woodie. It's not super rough but it's not as smooth as the previous years rides.


Up next on our list was Hurler, a wooden roller coaster built by International Coasters in 1994. Hurler has NOT aged well, while younger then Grizzly, it has nothing of 'smooth' to recommend it.  This ride is easily one of the roughest wooden roller coasters I've ridden, it left bruises on my left side from the huge jerking turns of the triple out-and-back design.  Kings Dominion seriously needs to either consider re-tracking this ride to iron out the roughness it has or consider putting new trains on the ride. Perhaps both of these options would help but something should honestly get done to improve this coaster! Don't remove it but spend some of that money that Cedar Fair is throwing around right now and show this ride some love!

In all honesty I'm going to tell you to avoid it unless your a very strong rider or you need to up your coaster count. I've only once had a ride leave me with a massive headache, after riding Hurler, I now have a second.  I'm unable to tell you if this coasters sister, also called Hurler, at Carowinds is any better but I hope so!


 A this point, someone must have done an excellent rain dance because the thunder began and the bottom fell out of the clouds. It began to rain buckets of water, so we opted for lunch. Since we wanted lunch and to be dry at the same time, we migrated to Johnny's. Getting there at the right time we managed to secure a dry place to eat and food before the rush began. Deciding on a Cheesesteak and Fries, we paid around $10. While a little pricy you did get a good amount of food, enough for us to share. I won't say it was the best cheesesteak I've ever had but for amusement park fare, it was pretty tasty. Not overly greasy and served hot. We found the employees working inside very pleasant to talk to and each one asked if we were having fun even in the rain. This was a nice touch for us and I'm sure other folks appreciated their thoughtfulness too.


 Up next was Volcano. We both were pleased to see they got the fire effects back on. Always a smooth but rather deceitful looking ride, it may look fast but that hang-time will surprise you! Still smooth and running well, Volcano has to be one of the best coasters in the park simply based on how innovative it was when it opened back in 1998.  I have to admit, I was rather let down by the lack of 'volcano' themed items in the gift shop. No girlie T-shirts and only a small selection of glassware.  After we jumped off, the clouds began to look slightly ominous again.


 I'd like to take a moment to address the "Intimidator 305" issue.
 As you can see, the ride is closed and it has been closed for a while now. The ride has completely blown out it's lift-hill motor, to the point I'm told the car was stuck on the track for weeks, later removed by crane. The latest report is the ride "may" re-open later this fall but as of right now no one is entirely sure if the ride will make it back up anytime this season.




 Avalanche wasn't back up yet from the first down-pouring of rain, we circled back around before the sky let loose again. We wound up over at Flying Eagles. Never folks to miss a chance, we jumped in a very short line and hopped on. While these are by no means 'original' flyers, they are made entirely out of metal rather then sail-cloth, they are still a very fun ride. Although we found you don't get much time to enjoy yourself, our ride was very short. Perhaps only about a minute at full speed before the operator began slowing us down for landing. So I wouldn't wait very long for such a short ride in other conditions.


Wandering around some more we found Rebel Yell without a line and nearly empty trains. Naturally we jumped on the very next loading, this time they didn't have the second side running but on such a slow and dreary looking day, I can't blame the park for not opening both sides. Opened in 1975 this Philadelphia Toboggan Company Coaster still delivers the fun and isn't out to maim you in the process. A fairly simple out and back design, we found is rather smooth and still plenty thrilling although Kings Dominion needs to invest in several thousand gallons of paint and show this ride a face-lift!


Shockwave was next. Now, I admit that normally I'd take one look at this old stand-up coaster and laughingly say "Hell No" but for some reason today I decided to say "Why not?".  Not one of my better ideas to be honest. This early Togo Stand-Up coaster isn't smooth and the restraint system is enough to make your eyebrows lift up in question. All was okay, the loop was still smooth and we had fun.. until we approached that helix, when the ride suddenly wants to remove your face and adjust your spine without the benefit of a chiropractor.  Even the old "wedge your head into one spot and don't move it" trick didn't work with this one, I'm not sure if any adjustment would help this ride. If your a sensitive rider, I'd suggest avoiding it.


Oh Backlot Stunt Coaster, what would we do if each park didn't have one? They're are simple but fun little rides, often obsessed with trying to remove your face during that first climbing helix but we still love them. The Backlot at Kings Dominion is running as smooth as ever with a great launch. However, we were very disappointed when absolutely NONE of the effects were working.  No soundtrack, No Fire, No helicopter moving around to shoot at us like a bunch of folks starring in 'The Italian Job'.  This made a fun ride rather dull, I'm hoping this is just because the weather was bad but I have a feeling they are often 'turned off' or perhaps even 'broken' these days.


 At this point the rain was still holding out so we hoped by now that Avalanche would be open. Stopping to admire the beautiful themeing around "The Crypt" which was formerly 'Tomb Raider' we began to wonder what the parks plans for this attraction are. In the years we've been going to Kings Dominion, we've not once seen it in operation. I'm told it's due to a motor problem but that wouldn't explain anything about the past visits. The effects for this ride were supposed to be amazing, perhaps not the equal to it's now-gone sister ride at Kings Island, but still amazing.  While I normally avoid top-spin rides this was one I'd have gone on but now I'm wondering if I'll ever get the chance?


Avalanche was running and my sad ponderings of 'The Crypts' fate were quickly forgotten. Today it even boasted a decent line! Bobsled coasters are one of my favorite styles of coaster and Avalanche in particular is one of my all-time favorite rides ever built.  The 'flying free' feeling you get while speeding around the steel track is something I can't put into words.  I've honestly come to believe that if Kings Dominion ever removed this ride I'd likely never speak to them or visit again, that's how deep my love goes.  It may be a simple ride but it has everything great to recommend it. Speed, Gravity, Hair-pin turns and even a little air-time. With it being wet she was running faster then normal, or at least it felt like it, lending the ride even more thrills. You simply have to ride this, bobsled coasters are a dying style of ride and some of them need to be preserved, Kings Dominion has done an excellent job at that!


Wandering around we took a break for a while, the rain was beginning to spit at us.  Once that little bit past we headed towards the front of the park, the weather was getting colder. Stopping for one last ride we went down to Dominator.  It took several minutes but it finally dawned on us why this B&M Floorless coaster was so very familiar.  This is a relocation from Geauga Lake where it was known as both "Dominator" and earlier still as "Batman Knight Flight".  Relocated in 2008 we found the ride to be smooth but a little jarring in some spots. When you look at it you can see in your mind that it really needs the water below it to add in that slight element of 'Oh Crap" because over land it just doesn't seem to feel right. Although I'm glad to see it landed a new home at Kings Dominion.



 By now it was getting dark and we had a pretty long ride, full of rain, ahead of us. So we headed towards are car and bid Kings Dominion a fond farewell.  Overall, it's a good park. The public areas are all clean, the employees are very friendly and the bathrooms clean.  I'd like to comment about their shows but none seemed to be running due to the rain, so I can't tell you about entertainment quality with this park.  Visit this park if you get a chance, the unique rides and friendly people are enough to make even a cold and rainy day a lot of fun!