Gazza

2016 US Theme Park Trip Reports (SF Fiesta TX & ZDTs))

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So, another year, another pilgrimage to the US to visit family, visit theme parks, and visit cities I haven’t been to.

The past couple of years were about visiting a few big parks that are in locations difficult to access without a hire car (Which is expensive up until you turn 25, hence I had been to other places like the parks in SoCal and Orlando in visits prior.

This year was all about picking off the last few major parks in the US that I still had ambitions to visit....At this point now I’d say I’ve done all the ones I’m really interested in. I think its only really Lagoon and Kennywood that im somewhat interested in visiting, but I’m not falling over myself, and I think I want to start chipping away at parks in Europe and Japan next ;)

The first park however of the trip was Six Flags Magic Mountain. It was a bit of a crazy mission...My flight landed at 7am, and the park opened 10:30. I didn’t have any intention to do a full day since I figured I’d tire out (Which turned out to be true since I didn’t sleep on the plane) and I really just wanted to go in to ride Twisted Colossus and New Revolution. SFMM I’ve done a few times and I’m a bit lazy when I go (I think the last time I rode X2 was about 3 visits ago lol)...I should really pencil in a proper full day at some point.

Ended up staying till about 4pm.I had to get a sim card and shops only open at 10 in the US, which meant I couldn’t get to the park early and do a dash for the first couple of rides to avoid the queues.

I headed straight to Twisted Colossus.

http://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/ride-2444-Twisted_Colossus

Only a short wait. The queue is full of fanciful steam punk contraptions, faux steam pipework (In other words Home Depot PVC pipe painted bronze) etc.

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The duelling of the ride depends on how well guests load in, and operators will say “If you want to race the other train, you have 30 seconds to board”.

From the station to the lift you go over a trick track with several small humps and twists. The long train carries a bit of momentum and doesn’t lose speed, so you get bucked around a bit, and it sets the tone for the ride. Pulling onto the lift the other train completing its lap on the other track pulls in parallel, and the lifts adjust speed so you go over the top of the hill together.

The first drop is crazy in true RMC style, very steep, and keeps getting steeper so feels very out of control and you are flung out of your seat. From there is a low to the ground “speed hill” with a quick moment of airtime, and then you go uphill to the turnaround (more air again...a recurring theme basicaly at the top of any hill or drop or incline...they squeeze in moments of air wherever they can it seems) The high 5 that follows (the two track bank 90 degrees in towards each other) is pretty cool, but not that close together.

The track drops again, into a great visual moment where you go over an airtime hill, with the other track travelling upside down overhead...Sure beats the dueling moments they had on Dragon Challenge at IOA!

You then head into a zero g roll, with the other track underneath...again, another great dueling moment, with only a bit of low clearance netting separating the upside down and right way up tracks.

You then cruise up a double-up, and are flung around a wild outward banked turn that flings you out of your set. Awesome because its actually done at full speed, so completley different feeling to an El Loco.

The track drops around and changes colour from blue to green as you line up for the 2nd lift and round too.

Drop and hill are just as good the 2nd time around. The high 5 is even crazier because the track has to reverse bank back and forth to get itself lined up to be banking towards the other one, so heaps of twisting the train negotiates effortlessly. 

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After this is the top gun stall, which is probably my new favourite inversion, similar to a zero g roll, basically you twist over, and the track follows a long inverted arc that is just enough to hold you in your seat, before twisting back upright from the way you came. 

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One last airtime hill under the other track, the double up,and then you turn down into a 2 part brake run a bit like the one on jet rescue.

Wow, its easily one of the worlds best coaster, perfect mix of airtime, speed, inversions, and I really think racing coasters are great fun and there should be more of them.

I immediately went for another lap.

After that I did a quick single rider queue lap on Green Lantern . Just as limit pushingly intense as I remembered, with unusual forces because of the way it goes backwards, then immediately forwards down the drops. On the final hill I got a double flip too!

I then stuck out the 90 minute queue for New Revolution, to see what the fuss was all about with VR.

The wait sucked balls, a major humanitarian disaster with limited shelter and no water. SFMM were missing out on free money by not having a roving vendor selling cold drinks to people waiting, so they have no right to complain if their per cap figures are deficient. If you want to ride it without VR the quickest way would be via the single rider queue.

The trains are basically very patriotic. SF seem to be really playing to their local market with this sort of theming on a few recent additions.

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But dispatches are still very slow, and they give too much capacity over to Platinum flashpass users.

Once you are onboard, you loop a lanyard around your neck, rotate a click ring on the back of the plastic head strap to tighten, then tighten a cord under you chin. Each seat has a QR code in front of it, and you look down at your feet then bring your head up gradually till the camera on the samsung spots the QR code, and cues the correct footage for your seat (Since obviously the back seat will go over the top of drops faster than the front seat, so the footage compensates for that.

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The graphics itself were pretty PS2, but the concept itself wasn't bad. It was basically an independence day knock off, flying around a city fighting alien spacecraft, dodging falling skyscrapers, diving under freeways. In a nod/knock off of the original movie, when you do the vertical loop, you do it under the primary weapon of the mother ship, so have a chance to deliver a shot straight up when the track goes vertical.

VR is a cool concept, but i think they really need to work on a better way of doing operations, say with multiple preshow rooms where they can get guests sorted, rather than handing out headsets as you walk into the station and explaining individually in an ad-hoc manner.

Even TVs in the queue with instructional videos to hammer in the process over the 90 minute wait would help right?

I think VR could work on a purpose built coaster better too...You could basically build a kiddy coaster but make it feel like you are going 100km/h.

I was getting a bit tired and hot, so did one last lap on Twisted Collosus for the day, and got a perfect duel with both trains neck and neck.

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The only dampener was that the ride broke down whilst i was in the queue, and when it was up and running again they kept letting flashpass people through, rather than halting that temporarily (or at least holding them for a few minutes), they should have focused on clearing the people towards the front of the standby queue who had waited patiently through the breakdown.

Overall, both solid experiences (Though Twisted Collosus way ahead!). In future I'll have to make sure im well and truly early at SFMM to have a better day.

Edited by Gazza

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The next park for me was on the other side of the country.

Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta….When I get around to it I might put some pics up from the World of Coca Cola too, but for the time being…

http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Austell/Six_Flags_Over_Georgia/

Hot Atlanta Weather, combined with being a bit hung over, 4 hours sleep, and lingering jetlag is not necessarily the right conditions to be visiting a theme park, but I had a pretty good day, and stuck around from about 10:30 till 5, getting in everything I wanted to do, plus re-rides.

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Access to the park is simple, ride a MARTA train to the end of the line, then a bus runs to the park (Frustratingly only every 40 mins though)

I got there a bit before 10, so that was enough time for me to wander up the outside of the park and get a few difficult to get shots of rides, and still have enough time to be at the front of the rope drop (Good reason for doing this!)

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When 10:30 came around I moved briskly to Dare Devil Dive, a eurofighter. They’ve recently put VR on this, and coupled with already low capacity, they’ve ruined their investment and made things unpleasant for guests, which surely offsets any positives of the VR.

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I knew there was no hope of a re ride, so did a single lap, front row, no VR. In the few minutes during which I’d ridden the queue was already up to a posted 2h wait.

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Yes, that really takes them 2h to process this number of guests!

The ride itself is quite good, very smooth and nimble, though like most eurofighters lacks a bit of spark. But its enjoyable, and the 95 degree drop is as good as you’d imagine.

Moving along was Goliath, a B&M hyper coaster. Putting the Giga ones aside, this is one of the better ones, up there with Diamondback. Moderate amounts of air (But not crazy amounts like you get on some of the RMCs and Intamins), and the long spiralling helix is quite intense. But the sleeper hit moment is the tiny dip into the brake run that comes as shock because it passes over at speed so a sudden boost of airtime there! The only thing to take points off for is that it seems quite shaky for a B&M hyper. Straight away I did a second lap. I think front was a bit better than the back.

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Heading deeper into the park I did a quick lap on Joker Funhouse Coaster with no queue, which was interesting because the station was at the high point, and the track wrapped over./under some existing buildings. It felt like something you’d see in one of those parks where they are really pressed for space.

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Directly across was Monster Mansion, an extensive dark boat ride of similar scale to the old River Ride. Heaps of characters and things to see, and cool stuff like smoke ring cannons, fountains over the course and just general humour and “cuteness” which made it enjoyable. Very solid.

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Nearby was Acrophobia, the parks stand up tilting drop tower. People say these are painful to ride, and to an extent it was uncomfortable, but that’s more because for some silly reason the seat horn is a squarish shape rather than rounded, so it digs into your thighs.

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I should go back…basically you sit on a bicycle seat with your legs hanging down, and the seats tilt before dropping so you feel way more exposed, and get a good view of the ground as you free fall. It’s a brilliant concept and one of the best drop rides I’ve ridden. I’m keen to try the face first versions like Ikarus or Falcons Fury now.

Right along from this was the Georgia Cyclone. Was dreading this a bit because it looked a bit ramshackle, and hence I was expecting roughness, but it was really good! Unexpected airtime, well paced. I later discovered that it has had RMC topper track fitted to parts of the ride, so that explains why it ran so well.

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I headed over to Georgia Scorcher. It broke down for about 20 mins while I was in the queue, but I was actually a bit tired to go off and do anything else, and it was in the shade. As people progressively left I got closer to the front of the queue. B&Ms never break down for long so I was on shortly thereafter. It was a good ride, but felt a bit samey to the other smaller stand ups like the one at Californias Great America (But smoother of course). The ride shines at the end with the corkscrew and a near dizzying sequence of back to back turns. Check out that paint job on the columns though! Looks like an avocado skin!

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Doubling back, I had a very oily and bland tasting burger from Johnny Rockets, before I jumped on the Skyride to Lickskillet Square and tackled the three coasters down that end of the park.

First up was Blue Hawk, a Vekoma looping coaster that was reportedly once very rough, but has since had new trains fitted. They ran reasonably well…not perfect, but enough to enjoy the ride, which had tight inversions and lots of near misses, and felt similar in pacing and layout to SLCs like Arkham Asylum.

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Next up was Great American Scream Machine…Basically a big long line of airtime hills one way, and then a whole bunch the other way, in an out and back layout. It’s an older woodie, but because it has few turns it has no real chance to get rough. It was a good ride, with moderate airtime you could ride over the top of each hill, bottom slightly off the seat.

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Superman Ultimate Flight was probably a 20-30 minute wait. These days I reckon those flying coaster pretzel loops get harder to tolerate….Still a really cool element, but for some reason with me they trigger a coughing reflex. The ride is a “standard layout”, but its on a slight hillside, so theres  a bit more variation in the terrain, with swoops over the hillside, a short tunnel etc. It’s a well balanced layout that shows off what a flying coaster can do, but nothing quite compares to Tatsu or Manta really :) 

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Nearby  they were clearing land for the now just announced Justice League dark ride. Having two good dark rides is a real rarity for a SF park, and will do especially well in Atlanta, with guests looking for air conditioned rides to escape the heat. If they are smart they’ll put the whole queue indoors too.

I ambled around to Dahlonega mine train. Overall, these pervasive arrow mine trains are a bit bleh. Awkward turns and tight transitions that bang you up despite the slow pacing. Lots of lift hills, and they never really “get going”. Though this one had a drop into an underground tunnel at the end that went under another ride, so there’s that.

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To sit down for a bit and get some photos I did a lap on the Six Flags Railway. If you are short on time, the half of the track from the French section station is probably the most interesting in terms of getting back views of rides.

The last two coasters were in Gotham City, which I had walked past repeatedly till now because it’s its own little dead end area off the main “loop” of the park.

Batman is the standard layout B&M, so that’s code word for really good and intense (But possibly dangerous territory if you are feeling poorly lol) Waited about 30 mins, which was a bit unpleasant because the queue line is in friggen sheds and metal pipes, which just get hot in the Georgia summer. They had made an effort with fans and misters, but it still wasn’t fun.

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A bit annoying when there a big section of less claustrophobic shaded queue (with AC???) they could have had open, but instead the queue was spilling out into the sun.

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Mind bender was the last coaster to do. It had a giant “?” over the queue, which made it seem like they wanted it to be Riddler themed to fit in with the Gotham City area, but they didn’t want to pay the licensing fees. An old Schwarzkopf, so that’s a code word for really good and intense too! Nice lap bars meant a free feeling ride, and the layout was plain good, dropping in and out of a small valley, with intense loops at the bottom. Ride these things soon, because I imagine they will all start reaching the end of their life in the next few years.

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With all the coasters done, I finished off with a couple more laps on Goliath (Because the queue was short and fast moving) Lots of fun.

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Overall, SF over Georgia is a well rounded park, but has those rough edges in terms of presentation that SF seem unable to truly get on top of. The new Justice League dark ride should round off the park nicely, and the kids seem well taken care of with the new DC super friends area. I think the one thing lacking at the park is a launch coaster.

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Also, heres a few more pics from Monster Mansion that were too blurry to upload to the Parkz gallery.

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Edited by Gazza

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Cool report. Mind Bender is my fave Schwarzkopf, marathoned that when I was there. 

Monster Mansion is such a colourful, interesting, dark ride, I really liked that - surprising to find a ride like that at a six flags park.

And you brought back not-so-fond memories of ball breaker the ride lol.

If I recall correctly, the rapids ride there was absolutely insane. Lucky I was staying walking distance from the park so I could change my clothes.

 

Edited by downunder

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After another day in Atlanta I took the drive about 3.5 north into Tennessee, through Knoxville and up into Pigeon Forge for Dollywood

http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Pigeon_Forge/Dollywood

Theres heaps of photos beyond that link. Dont forget you can also search for specific phrases like "dollywood food" etc for specific photo filtering.

 

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This is the sort of park that speaks to me, it is a high quality park with a pleasant natural setting, good thrills, good theming and good secondary attractions (Much like places such as Alton Towers, Busch Gardens Williamsburg etc)

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It's basically mostly an old time 1880s theme, with lots of craftsman displays and old buildings, as you'd see in a historical park like sovereign hill, but there is a 50s themed area and a country fair zone at the bottom of the park too. Quite hilly and leafy, with lots of modern rides mixed in too.

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In the lead up to my trip their newest coaster, Lighting Rod had been having persistent reliability issues, with many enthusiasts who planned trips being spited by the ride and missing out. I’d resigned myself to the ride being closed, but looked at the upside of it being a good park with or without the ride, and one that had been on my hit list probably since they built Thunderhead. The ride had been closed for close to a month in the lead up to the start of my trip.

 

However, upon checking the website on the morning of the drive it had gone into technical rehearsal again! OMG please don’t break, please don’t break! So things were looking up!

 

The park has a  great deal where if you have a one day ticket, you use it from 4pm on the day prior. I got there around 5pm and was able to stick around till 10pm. A thunderstorm had just blown through so most rides were shut, including lightning rod. But they had staff on, and were allowing guests to wait in the bottom of the queue.

 

I stuck around for about 15 mins before deciding to seek alternative activities, starting with some food.

 

First thing I tried were tater twists...Basically natural cut curly fries. They were ok, maybe could have had a bit more crunch.

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Continuing further up into the park I stopped off at the Grist Mill for some cinnamon bread. It basically tastes like the best churro ever...Fresh bread so a bit of stretch and very soft, the outside was crusty and covered in cinnamon and sugar. Very rich but very nice. I finished maybe 1/3 of it, so it’s better to share.

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Turns out Blazing Fury operates in all weather (well, it is indoors) so that was my first ride. Basically you leave a fire station themed loading area, and it’s a powered coaster at the start, going uphill at a steady speed through dark ride scenes of a burning mountain village (With the typical fire effects where they have sheer cloth with lights and air being blown in the windows)

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There’s  the odd bit of amusing hillbilly dialogue (“put your damn pants back on Chester” etc). Towards the end there are three big dips, including one where the bottom falls out of a covered bridge, and another where a “train” is coming towards you at a crossing.

It is an older ride, so I’m not allowed to be too harsh, but this really does seem like something  the park could/should be plussing to bring up to the standard of the rest of the park.

Basically, the burning village part was just way too quiet, apart from the occasional bit of dialogue so you’re riding in silence so there’s no atmosphere. Where’s the burning/crackling fire sounds? Dramatic music? Fire wagon sirens?

Some of the scenics seemed a bit half hearted, e.g. the “train” you collide with is a single spotlight shined at you, with no train body.

They should look at relaunching this with some better SFX (e.g. fire projection mapping, smoke, heat etc....maybe even pyro if the building is suitable for it?) Basically, it’s a cool concept for a theme, but misses the mark a bit.

 

Just further up is Tennessee Tornado, an Arrow looper, which was the last one they ever built, so the track is different, and the supports look like what S&S build. It was just re-opening as I got up there.

It was good, ran pretty smoothly and made good use of the terrain, with a lot of the ride back from the main park.

The queue building is a big wooden structure with random bits of olden paraphernalia smashed into/ through the walls. Does the job.

The lift hill runs up a hillside, and a u turn leads into a steep straight drop that goes through a tunnel through the hillside. When you reach the bottom there’s a large loop, which has had the entrance and exit stretched quite far apart (much more and you could probably call it a corkscrew)

From there, it’s an overbanked turn, a loop, then a sidewinder (imagine the last bit of cyclone in reverse) You rise up into a high banked turn, and then hit the brakes. It’s a fairly short ride, but lots of action and does the job well. If only Arrow had started building better engineered coasters a few years earlier, the company might have survived a bit longer. Night and day in terms of quality between this (1999) and say Big Dipper/Cyclone/Hot Wheels (Originally 1995)

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Next up I hit Wild Eagle, a B&M wing rider built on a hillside. Like a lot of Dollywoods coasters, it’s in a bugger of a location to get photos, which is great for creating surprise, but a bugger for the photographer. This was another reason to be happy with Dollywood had Lighting Rod not opened....I love wing riders, and Gatekeeper is one of my favourites.

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The theme is a bit looser, but the ride is very attractive, with an elaborate contemporary mountain building as the station, with detailed stonework at cut metal screens etc. There’s also an enormous eagle sculpture built of stainless and corten steel. Herschend is a Christian company, so there are a couple of bible verses on plaques in the queue too. The trains are of course themed like eagles in a sort of avian version of the human centipede.

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From the station you make a turn and head up the lift hill to the top of the mountain, part of which has to cut through the hillside. It’s great they have used the terrain, but unfortunately they’ve had to strip the mountain bare a bit to allow construction, and it hasn’t revegetated. I’d love to see some fast growing trees and plants on the hillside to get it back to how it was / to match the surrounding countryside.

The first drop is straight, followed by a fun loop, and a zero g roll which generates all sorts of strange feelings due to hanging off the sides so far. There’s an immellman, but the best part IMO was the corkscrew, which came very close to some tree branches. The ride finishes off with a floater hill and a figure 8 helix. It’s a solid, and very enjoyable ride. I reckon every park should have an “enjoyable” thrill coaster like this (or a flyer or something) in conjunction with your extreme forceful rides (Like your RMCs, Intamins, Mack loopers etc)

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The only faults I could find were the aforementioned lack of trees, and the fact that the vest tightening cylinder seemed a bit overactive in its calibration, so it was pulling very tight on your collarbones by the end of the ride and stacked on the brake run.

I also would have liked to have seen the trademark wing coaster “inline twist through obstacles” on this ride (maybe could have been in the middle of the figure 8)...Would have been cool to fly between two trees or something.

The next ride up was the excellent FireChaser Express.
Now while Disney probably wouldn't build a ride like this with standard track and exposed supports, the rest of the ride felt quite Disney to me in feel.

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You head into a wilderness fire station with lovely ornate Timber detailing and plenty of other fire fighting theming like hoses, smoky bear posters, an old fire truck etc.

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Checking the train is quick and you are on your way, launching out of the station around a few turns, before joining the lift hill and getting up quite high. You a few back to back turns in the air (one of which is unbanked, wild mouse style)
A drop leads into a few more hills with a moderate amount of airtime (it is a family coaster after all) before you head back around through a fireworks testing range with random fireworks stuck in targets at odd angles.

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Eventually you reach a dead end in a sketchy looking "gas/propane station" which sells fireworks (a surprisingly common sight in some southern US states actually!)
The place is burning, you feel the heat, and the flames spread along to the pride of the store, a huge "big Bertha" firework, which tips over and points towards the train.
With sparks and smoke the cracker goes off and you are launched backwards through a shroud of smoke, and a few more turns and hills to around to the front of the station.
A track switch allows the train to move onto the intital lauch track to reverse into the station (so you get the realism of driving out of, and backing back into the station)... didn't seem to harm capacity, because the trains seem easy to check quickly.

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Basically as a family coaster its difficult to fault. Of course you could always add more theming along the main track to make it feel less like an exposed coaster, but that would be unnecessary....its a great ride...more parks need high quality family coasters like this, beyond your standard rollerskaters.
The one thing I think they should do is open up the old elevated ropes course starting platform....its there, and would make a great observation deck for the ride, and the top of the park in general.

Checking the wait time app, Lightning Rod still wasn’t open, so i continued around the main loop of the park to Mystery mine.

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This is an indoor/outdoor/indoor/outdoor eurofighter with a spooky mine theme.

The station seems set up for huge crowds, with about 4 load points from memory (So maybe a bit longer than GLs station)

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This is one of the older eurofighters. The older ones basically are like wild mouses with loops and odd turns, while the newer ones are basically scaled down versions of full sized looping coasters, so this had a very different feel to dare devil dive from a couple of days earlier.

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From the station its a small steep drop into the mine, with an odd outward banked turn past some equipment. A few more turns in the dark and theres another drop under a rock crusher. You are brought around to the base of a mine shaft, where some untrustworthy crows sit on one of the levers and send you up a 90 degree lift. When you get to the top I was semi expecting a beyond vertical drop, but it’s just a small dip and turn, and a couple of humps as you go through a  wooden bridge structure. On the other side the wild mouse feels continue, with what i called in my head a “skateboard  u turn” and a couple of tiny helices. The big 8 person car takes these quite slowly. You then cross back over the bridge with a couple of weird mini Stengel dive type thingys and re enter the mine. From there the music becomes dramatic as you are hauled up another 90 degree lift. There appeared there should have been a projection at the top, but all there was, was a blue screen. At the top theres a ledge with boxes of explosives. As you can predict it all goes up in flames right in front of you, with heat on your forehead, you start to drop, but rather than going straight down into it, it’s like the one on Takabisha with a short 45 degree section with mag brakes, but then you finally drop  and at the bottom emerge from the building. For the end of the ride you go all green lantern, with a fast barrel roll, and a dive loop before you hit the brakes.

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Overall, quite good. I found the back seats smoother than the front, and you get thrown around a bit in the outside seats. Euro fighters are definitely more comfortable with lap bars! It’s a strange one, with lots of time at low speed doing odd manoeuvres, and only really is fast for a few seconds right at the end where the drop and inversions are. They need that projector working too, was broken both days I was there.

 

Heading back down hill was Thunderhead, the parks GCI with an utterly confusing layout that looks like it was designed by a drunk. It’s a typical GCI, so fast pacing and nonstop turning, and deafeningly loud, but for this reason they all feel quite similar once you’ve done a few. They’re also best ridden in their first or 2nd season, beyond that they settle into a certain level of roughness that never seems to be shaken despite the efforts of the various parks maintenance crews. So solid, and I did about 2 or 3 laps during my total stay.

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Passing back around to the front of the park Lighting Rod was still not up, so it must’ve broken down during the rain.

So I ambled back up the hill to do some more rides on Wild Eagle and Firechaser Express.

Heading back downhill I paused to take this photo, but saw a train run, so instantaneously stopped what I was doing and headed for the entrance of Lightning Rod, the worlds fastest woodie, and the only one with a launch.

This is the world’s best coaster. I mean that. It gets everything perfect.

The initial 30 minute queue wound through a glass garage door fronted mechanics workshop, with a hot rod on a hoist, before heading out back into a four storey factory built of brick. The queue loops up and back along each floor, past typical workshop theming like oil drums, tool chests, workbenches with car parts etc etc. Anticipation grew because out the windows you have a clear view of the launch, and the final quad down and turnaround. Lots of excited faces as each train hit the brakes, and the whole time I was just hoping it wouldn’t break down!

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Finally I was in the station and was allocated 2nd back row. RMCs are great, and the trains are very comfortable, but they have that issue of the hydraulic harnesses being difficult to open and close (Like how GL was when it first opened), so a lot of station time is chewed up with staff and guests straining to get the harnesses open at the end of the ride.

From the station you turn, and accelerate quite briskly uphill , with the forces amplified because you are on an incline. Strong airtime on the first hump, which makes you realise what you are in for, and the another strong dose at the top of the huge first drop. In RMC style its stupidly steep, and holds you out of your seat, triggering that real primal “I’m gonna die” reflex as you drop off the steep hillside. From here on, you are in a valley hidden from the rest of the park. You turn and bank up into this giant sideways hill that bulges out, so you are being thrown out sideways and upwards. Train then drops down and into a reverse banking stall turn (like on the Twisted colossus high 5), where you bank right-left-right...really powerful twisting!

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A couple more crazy airtime hills follow that are much smaller than the proceeding elements, so heaps of negative gs, before you turn to head up hill again through a double up. Heaps of air at the apex before things get even more crazy on the quad down.

Basically it’s like one of those humpy playground slippery dips or those wavy slides you see at shows/aussie world. So as you can imagine with each progressive dip it gets faster and with stronger air, almost to that point where it’s hurting your thighs! You’re blazing along at this point, as you pass the station building, bank up through a climbing u turn and drop again into the brake run with heaps of speed...No sense of slowing down at any point of the ride! Back seats are best for sure.

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Basically, it’s got all the thrills, power and intensity of something like Skyrush, but in a far more comfortable package. Couple that with a rugged terrain setting, hidden from view, plenty of trees, and a nicely themed queue and cool looking train, and you have a recipe for  the perfect coaster.

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Things become even better at night, because the back part of the ride is very very dark...no bloody spot lights spoiling it like the beast at Kings Island, so this ride takes the crown for the best night time coaster too I reckon.

My strategy for Lighting rod was to keep riding it till it broke down (though this meant foregoing night rides on the other coasters), since there was no guarantee for its reliability for the length of my stay, so I stuck on it till closing time, with the queue progressively getting shorter and shorter with each lap, till it was a walk on and I was on the last train of the night.

Wandering out of the park you can appreciate the nice lighting on the buildings.

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It was 10pm, but I wasn't done yet. About 15 minutes away are two alpine coasters. There are four all up in the Pigeon Forge area, but I stuck with these two given the time I had, Goat Coaster and the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster are literally 1.5km apart, on the same road on the same hillside. 

Goat Coaster shut at 11,

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And the Smoky Mountain one at 12.

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A Wiegand alpine coaster is like those sled runs at Jamberoo, Magic Mountain, Thredbo, Big Banana etc, except its locked on a stainless steel track, and the carts have a backrest, and there is a control handle for each hand.

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(goat coaster)

Both rides were fairly similar, the goat one a bit faster, and the smoky one much longer. These rides were in darkness too, other than a bit of LED strip lighting at points.

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(Smoky mountain alpine coaster)

They are pretty fun, but the backrest does actually dig into your back a bit (especially on the turns) because its just a U shaped pipe with shadecloth on it, with no padding. Also,the cars have a centrifugal brake, so once you hit top speed the car feels like its catching on something, and brakes slightly. Hitting top speed is no effort, especially because I gave the cars in front a bit of extra time so I could do an unrestricted run.

The rides are lengthy, with a lift hill that takes several minutes. On the way down you do multiple helices, little bumps and lots of turns.

On the balance, I prefer the normal Weigand bobsleds...more control, a bit more fear of crashing, and more comfortable.

So that was day 1.

Day 2 had the park open till 7, but I started off with brekky at DreamMore resorts buffet, where the best feature was an ommelette bar where you could pick various veges and bits of ham, cheeses etc to mix in.

So I took the day at quite a relaxed pace, doing all the coasters a few times again, and picking up a lap on the diminutive Sideshow Spin Coaster (whose claim to fame is that it used to be themed to the religious cartoon VeggieTales)

I tried Daredevil Falls...same boats as wild west falls, but fairly conventional, with none of the backwards drops or turntables or airtime hills etc that MWs has. The top bit had a giant moving buzzsaw however, but otherwhise the theming was more just nice stuff to look at rather than story driven.

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Mountain slidewinder was awesome...Basically a water slide, but you ride in your street clothes in this 5 person inline boat that is made out of moulded foam rubber rather than the typical inflatables you might see. This allows it to twist and flex a bit, and pick up a fair bit of speed, so you bank high on the walls, and cop some decent splashes, and fear the whole time that you are going to tip over. A great gem.

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The Dollywood Express takes you up to the back end of the park, but there's not a lot to see in terms of unique views of the rides, other than the back of Thunderhead. They do some fun stuff like make jokes about the various bits of scenery and theming on the way out, like the "lemonade stand they made us shut down" (spoiler: it's a moonshine still)

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Some more from the rest of the park.

This rapids looked a bit too wet for my mood at the time.

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Likewise, splash battles are cool, but very wet so nobody seems to ride them at any theme park.

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I had one of the fried chicken sandwiches. It's just a fillet like in a KFC burger, and bread, nothing else. Would have liked pickles at least, like the chicken sandwiches you get at Chick-Fil-A in the US.

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The skillet steak sandwich was nice too, but southern food is very heavy going considering how hot it is...While I'm here, and interesting fact about the park is the average staff age is over 60, and you see plenty of seniors working away dilligently...a contrast to the teenagers that staff most theme parks. I was two minds about this, on one hand its great they aren't discriminatory in their hiring. On the other hand its a bit of a reflection on the US that many older people cannot enjoy a relaxed retirement after a lifetime of working.

The park is very pretty.

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I rounded out my 2nd day at the park with one last lap each on Wild Eagle, Mystery Mine, and closed out in the front row of Thunderhead.

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Overall, its an excellent park all around, with great theming, great rides, immaculate upkeep and a pleasant atmosphere. The coaster collection is pretty well rounded, and they have built a few in recent years....I'd love to see a major dark ride as their next addition. Everyone should try to visit this place if doing a US theme park trip!

 

 

 

Edited by Gazza

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Onwards.

After Dollywood I took a bit of a rest day in Knoxville, drove a bit of the blue ridge parkway, and stayed the night in Asheville.

But the following day it was only another couple of hours in the car to reach Charlotte in North Carolina for Carowinds.

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http://www.parkz.com.au/parks/US/Charlotte/Carowinds/

The park is another one of the ex paramount properties, and much of the original IPs in the place were taken away in the transition to Cedar Fair ownership. The parks occupy a strange space…Mostly “amusement park” in feel, but with themed rides mixed in.

But as I said, all that theming is gone now, so it’s very much your big US park with big coasters and all the other expected attractions.

In typical Cedar Fair style, the park is tidy and well presented, the operations are painless, and the food is fairly good.

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I spent $125 on their all inclusive ticket, which includes admission, all day dining, fastlane, parking, and an unlimited refill bottle. It’s a good deal, but I probably did my dough a bit because fastlane was utterly unneeded, with no real queues, and also because I left my bottle in a toilet somewhere late in the afternoon so didn’t quite drink “all day”. No queues is a great problem to have!

 

The park has recently redone their entrance to incorporate the new Fury 325 coaster over and under it, with new buildings similar in style and colour to the new entrance Cedar Point got for gatekeeper.

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I started off on Intimidator, thinking I’d do the smaller B&M hyper before doing the big one for fear of being jaded if I did the big one irst, but the ride managed to do that itself anyway. It just wasn’t very good, and battles with Apollos Chariot for being a bland B&M hyper (Though Apollos Chariot probably wins between the two due to the nicer setting it has) . Basically it seemed to labour over the hills, particularly at the end before the helix, with minimal airtime, the long train was sluggish to pick up speed, so there wasn’t that pulse pounding excitement you should get. I’m not sure what went wrong with this one, because the other cedar fair hypers, and Goliath at SFOG are all really solid rides.

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Next up I did Nighthawk, a Vekoma flying coaster. I’d really enjoyed the ones of these I’d ridden at SF America and Kings Island, very smooth exciting coasters. This one was the original, with the main difference being the final inversions are corkscrews rather than inline twists.  Hate to be negative a 2nd time in a row, but this one was very rough, which you just can’t have when riding strapped in a flying position. Once was enough!

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I think at the time I grabbed a quick go on Flying Ace Aerial Chase because it had no queue, was right there, and wasn’t included on fast track. It’s a family suspended coaster. We’ve all been on Escape from Madagascar? Yes? Great, don’t need to describe it then.

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The weather was clear, so took the chance to go up Carolina Skytower and get some nice aerial shots of the park. Seems not many riders by that point, so the windows were nice and clean.

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So after that brief procrastination was the superb Fury 325. This B&M giga coaster is the newest in the park, delivering a very long, and fairly intense ride compared to every other B&M hyper, and a bit more punch than Leviathan at Canadas Wonderland.

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The station is “flavoured” rather than themed like all the newer stuff Cedar Fair is doing, with hexagonal motifs to suit the hornet theme, and a rather impressive 3d sign with flickering hornet wings formed with lights.

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The huge, steep first drop leads into a series of multiple side banked turns across the park that weave over and under each other. It’s all very fast, with so much wind you can just about do the “dog with flappy cheeks out the car window” thing. The  turnaround is a curved incline meets Stengel dive type thing, with sideways airtime at the top (I think the only other rides ive gotten that is the new texas giant) More sideways turns follow, as well as a drop under the park entrance bridge.

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The ride has three airtime hills, which actually seem to get into proper negative G territory rather than just floating over the top, and they twist a bit too. Feels very intamin, and a great finish to the ride.

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There’s also a big helix too, which was cool because it goes under another support right on the borderline of the clearance envelope, so feels like your hand could strike the column.

I also liked how they had a screen in the station showing how fast the crews were working in terms of dispatch intervals etc. Seemed to help crews work quickly / encourage them to do so.

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After a couple of laps on fury in the front and back I moved onto Ricochet.  A wild mouse coaster with an efficient continuously loading station. The station building looked really nice too, and fitted with the Boardwalk theme of the area.

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Following from this I worked through the three “Carolina” named coasters in the park.

Carolina Cobra is a Vekoma Boomerang. Not much to say here other than it was better than most due to having the same trains Dreamworld has on sidewinder, so no headbanging. This is probably the only time where the fastlane queue was longer than the main queue. Basically when I arrived they let through a whole trainload of normal riders which emptied the queue, and took none from the fastlane side, so we waited an extra cycle. Totally inconsequential of course, because the whole queue was so quiet there was only one train worth in the first place, but more funny than anything.

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Carolina Cyclone is an Arrow loopscrew, and I think the “next model up” from what sea viper was. Basically there’s 2 loops in a row at the start, and a helix at the end after the corkscrew instead of just a U turn. Like most arrows of its time, its not at all a bad ride.

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Carolina Goldrusher is a mine train. If you’ve read my trip reports, you probably know I don’t think much of them. This one wasn’t particularly offensive, but wasn’t that long either.

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Next I did Boo Blasters on Boo Hill for whatever reason. “Cardboard Cutout” sets and frustrating to hit targets made this more booring than boo.

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The other shooting attraction, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 3Z was much more fun. The bright queue with a fun centrepiece of caravans for the zombie and plant team set the tone well, as did the well produced instructional video before you go in.

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Once inside, you sit on a bucking mechanical bull type seat (albeit only gentle rocking) equipped with a laser gun. Holding the gun in one hand and hanging on with the other. Rows and rows of these face onto a a screen that basically is just a 3d run through of a level in the game. But its very fast paced so you have to work pretty hard to hit targets, and this is made challenging because your crosshairs are like one among 24 on the screen, so keeping an eye on where you are shooting can be like a needle in a haystack.

I continued around the park to Afterburn, the parks B&M inverted coaster. This is the 2nd best coaster after Fury 325 in the park IMO. Heaps of sustained speed, a cool near miss as you do a floater hill over the station, and the last bit with the corkscrew and helix through trees is nice.

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Basically it’s a steep drop into a big loop, then you blaze along a trench in the ground, do an immelmann, zero g, then around a batwing element that actually drops under the parks secondary entrance path. A floater hill, helix, and tight corkscrew round out the ride. Did about three laps, and liked the front best.

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Having completed a lap of the park, I got a serve of my beloved orange chicken from panda express, then  started a bit of a 2nd lap, trying out Vortex and Hurler.

Hurler is a wooden coaster with a unique layout, basically it’s a big long oval shape, with a lift, u turn and drop being the main high point in the ride. From there, everything is low to the ground, with a few smaller hills. Because the scale of these is much shorter than the main first drop, you get good speed and air, but its also pretty rough too.

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Vortex I liked. It’s a B&M stand up coaster with a couple of inversions and lots of “in between” turns and slalom transitions that make stand up coasters good.

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The last remaining coaster was Woodstock Express…one of those small wooden coasters like Beastie. A pleasing ride that was well maintained.

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I did another lap on Intimidator, trying the back this time. Still uninspiring.

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The weather turned a bit bad so I took cover in Harmony Hall, which is basically like a german food fall, with a food court type thing like what you see at a Stadiums / Ikea (Basically go up to counters and get food on a tray, then pay at a checkout) Using the dining pass I got some ribs. Had about half and binned the rest. They were good, but just don’t have the capacity to eat so much! I actually really like this sort of arrangement and wish more parks did them, comfortable and out of the weather, and you dont have to muck around looking for different food options, and having plated dishes is a bit more satisfying. They tend to be high capacity too so you get served fast.

When the weather cleared I headed into Carolina Harbor. The main aim for going in was to ride the “turbo tunnel” type slides. A slide type I have wanted to try for ages, but the closest I’ve gotten would be the Wedgie. Consider it a $17 upcharge though, ouch!

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No trap door here on Storm Surge though, just endless spirals in the dark that toss you around and feel super quick. It’s the most insane slide I’ve done. Not painful, but it does instill a bit of fear because of how fast and dark and relentless it is. Did a couple of goes.

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On the other side of the waterpark are the Pirates Plank slides. Again, these are like the wedgie, but with extra turns, and three of them. I think the green one was the most intense, less turns and steeper. So much unavoidable water I was holding my breath for the length of the slide.

On the same complex was Cannonball drop, which was a few enclosed turns, finishing off with a double dip drop like on the breakers at WnW Syd. The main thing of note was that the tunnel had those translucent “rainbow rings”. They are a cool feature, but the effect would be so much more if the whole slide was made out of those segments.

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I didnt really try the other slides because they are standard ones I have ridden before (though in hindsight should have reacquainted myself with the TornadoWAVE slide they have (ridden in single tubes rather than cloverleafs like Bombora at WnW Syd)

I think that sums up what I did in the park. It was a quiet day, so managed to get through everything fairly quickly. Ieft the park for about three hours to take a break, but came back in the evening to do night rides on Fury, which are cool because of the illumination on the ride and in the tunnel.

Overall, Carowinds is a decent park, albeit suffering from that generic feel you get at places like Dorney Park, but Fury, Afterburn and Vortex are pretty cool, and the other secondary coasters aren’t too bad either.

I would have liked to have checked out charlotte for a day, but had to settle for just a drive through downtown around 9pm and heading to bed for an early flight.

 Dont forget there are heaps of pics of every other ride in the gallery

http://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/park-189-Carowinds

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Edited by Gazza

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8 hours ago, Gazza said:

 

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Once inside, you sit on a bucking mechanical bull type seat (albeit only gentle rocking) equipped with a laser gun. Holding the gun in one hand and hanging on with the other. Rows and rows of these face onto a a screen that basically is just a 3d run through of a level in the game. But its very fast paced so you have to work pretty hard to hit targets, and this is made challenging because your crosshairs are like one among 24 on the screen, so keeping an eye on where you are shooting can be like a needle in a haystack.

Great review as always @Gazza. I'm curious about the above attraction - have you been to the Timezone at Surfers? I think they had something similar (but smaller) to this in there for a while, although i'm not sure that it's still there - is this the same thing?

I must admit - targeting in Timezone was woeful also - (with only about 12 guns) so if it is the same ride system, I feel your pain.

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^I quite like Flight deck at CGA...Its not a big invert, but its forceful, and gets to the point without mucking around. The sort of coaster that is fun to reride.

 

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I’m actually going to break order a bit and fast foward to the last park on the very last day of my trip, Universal Studios Hollywood.

Partly because it’s still a fairly new attraction so it makes sense to be topical , and partly because I went to several “amusement parks” in a row after Carowinds, so i’ll break it up a bit better by doing a themed one.

 

I haven’t been to Universal Hollywood for about 9 years, and a lot has changed, and some stuff was a bit hazy from my memory, so it was good to reacquaint myself.

I think new for me were.

-Transformers

-Harry Potter

-The modified SFX show.

-Numerous changes to the studio tour such as Fast and the Furious and King Kong

-Despicable Me

-Springfield / The Simpsons ride

 

Not bad…

 

The previous day was a travel day from San Antonio to my parents place in Visalia near Fresno, with a lengthy stopover in Salt Lake City (Sadly not long enough to get to Lagoon though) The highlight of the flights was this lady.

 

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We got in late, but it was up again around 6:30 for the 3h drive down to LA. The park opened Harry Potter early at 8:00, but we didn’t arrive till 10, which was absolutely fine, with no queue longer than about 10 mins.

They really have been busy here...The new multi level car parks are enormous!

 

I took Mum along for the day (Dad had to work), and we had a great day! Wasn’t sure about how much she’d do, but we went on everything.

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Heading in it was straight towards the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Just like the one in Florida, there is immense attention to detail, plenty of fun foods to try and expensive souvenirs to buy. I do find it odd with both here and Orlando they went for the snowcapped village look, which feels strange since both parks are in warm climates.

 

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So, onto Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, initially riding alone via the single rider queue. If you want a run through of the queue theming, check out the galleries. The ride is a definite improvement on the Orlando version. More detailed, better lit sets, particularly in the chamber of secrets, brighter, sharper projectors in 3d, seemingly more arm movement, and better dementor movements.

 

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Basically, I think the issue with the orlando one is that the projectors are low power flight simiulator ones, and the rest of the scenes are also dark to match. The dementors on that one also just moved a bit like they were something you’d see in a ghost train.

 

 

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Onto the ride. For those unfamiliar, it’s a robocoaster on a track, which is basically a robotic arm with seats that can flip you around in any direction. This means they can really move you around in the scenes, have you on your back, and have motion simulator type sequences where you are in front of a screen being tilted around slightly.

The robotic arm is deliberately well hidden….The station has a long slot in the back wall that allows the seats to poke through, with the arm hidden behind.

 

 

The cars move through continuously, and you board via a moving walkway. Once you are seated an operator with an armful of 3d glasses hands you a pair, and another op checks your harness and uses an RFID band to  tap your car to signify you have been checked. Those ops must get a lot of exercise effectively being on a treadmill.

 

 

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From the station you are lifted up, Hermione dusts you with floo power, and in a puff of green smoke you travel up a chimney to the astronomy tower in the castle past a projection wall. (Another change to the orlando one, you are basically just floating through a green vortex, rather than the brick chimney on the old one…didn’t like it as much, a bit out of focus)

You then emerge in the astronomy tower, floating from side to side, and eventually fly out the window into the first projector bit, where ron and harry are flying on their brooms next to you. A dragon comes along and gives chase, culminating in it breathing a fireball right at you in 3d.

 

 

At that point you peel away into a real life set and float through a charred section of the castle with the dragon clawing around the outside. The dragon attacks again, this time an animatronic that breathes a cloud of steam at you.

 

 

The issue of the disjointed storyline still stands. All of a sudden you are down in the forbidden forest, with spiders dropping down around you. Next you flip onto your back and a huge animatronic whomping willow swats very close to you (looked like it had rubber skin a bit like a dinosaur animatronic)

 

 

From there, you fly sideways into the middle of quidditch match on a projector dome. Dementors decide to swarm in and chase you and harry,and eventually you and harry are knocked down a ravine into the secret entrance of the chamber of secrets.

 

 

This is the main place that seemed better than the original. The dementors moved a lot more realistically, the sets were more detailed, with more depth (vaults and arches continuing into the distance etc) The main thing missing is the bit with the fog screen and the photo of your face floating away when a dementor tries to suck your soul out.

 

 

The finale of the ride is another projector dome, where the chamber begins to collapse, with you dodging bits of falling rock. You then escape the cave, and fly quickly across the lake to the great hall of the castle (why the rush though? Odd storytelling)

You peel away from the screen seamlessly into the great hall, with crowds of students  and dumbledore congratulating you, and then go through another fireplace to get back to the station.

 

 

Odd storyline aside, it’s a great, very immersive ride, with impressive technology and sets. Between this and Transformers, it’s the best 1-2 punch of dark rides in the world.

 

 

Next I did a lap on Flight of the hippogriff, which is a mack family coaster. If you tell the attendant at the entrance you are a single rider you get sent up the VIP queue, so no wait if you just want to try the coaster. Mack make great family coasters, very smooth and comfortable, and a touch more zip than a vekoma family coaster. The layout is very similar to roadrunner, except that the first drop is downhill all the way, and the helices seemed a bit steeper. Visually, its just as much of a treat as the main area.

 

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We grabbed one of those lovely frozen butterbeers and poked around a couple of the shops (So many interesting interiors!)

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 before heading down the starway to the lower lot. Half the park is at the bottom of a big hill, so there are several banks of escalators (Imagine about double the rise as when you are coming out of Parliament in Melbourne or KX in Sydney, except it’s a ballache because nobody stands to the side, so you just have to ride at escalator speed for several minutes.

 

 

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At the bottom  Mum and I worked through the rides in level of intensity, starting with Jurassic Park. I think I wrote about this one in my old trip report. Basically you ride in big boats past some nice tropical dinosaur scenes, but go off course into a back of house area where dinos have escaped. For those familiar with the ride, the dropping car effect is gone L You then head into the water treatment plant, go up the lift hill inside, and at the top a giant t rex lurches his head at you, but you drop underneath and down the main drop to the splashdown. It’s still a good ride, but I reckon they could plus the ride by replacing the dinos with more modern animatronics. Overall however, its one of the best boat rides out there.

 

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They had the nice feature of a kids play area next to the ride, which more parks should put next to major rides IMO.

 

 

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Next was revenge of the mummy. Again, a good ride, and I reckon people are too harsh on it in terms of it supposedly being bad compared to the Orlando and Singapore versions. Quick and to the point, but again, with current projection mapping tech they could surley replace those cardboard cutout elements in the main coaster section.

 

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Basically the first section is a slow ride through a tomb, with skeleton arms clawing from the ceiling, a big projection of some sort of sand god raging at you. From the tomb you are launched into the ‘underworld’, just a few quick turns in the dark, with some cheesy cardboard cutouts of underworld gods. You come to an abrupt stop against a brick wall, where projections of beetles swarm around, coupled with leg ticklers under the seats. You then launch backwards through a bit more track, and then come to a stop on a turntable. Shrouded in CO2 fog, and a bang, a door opens and you are back in the station.

 

 

It was onto another favourite of mine, which mum described as “awesome”….Transformers. Its neck and neck between this and Potter for the worlds best dark ride. A queue line through the halls of a military base, with a cool aesthetic and plenty of monitors and techno shit leads you to the loading station where you grab some 3d goggles, and board the rotating, motion based vehicles.

 

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The story goes that Decepticons are attacking earth trying to get the allspark, and you have to help the Autobots move it to safety by riding in the newest member of the team, evac.

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Perhaps the one thing I missed from the Singaporean version was the bilingual aspect of the queue videos (Basically the would alternate between English and Chinese, subtitled in the opposing language, so the Chinese one would have a few unique jokes….anyways)

The ride keeps the blowtorch on the whole time, with quick progression between scenes and nonstop action. It is to dark rides what hypers are to roller coasters. You’re just being dragged along for the ride.

 

 

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Like potter, it’s a tracked ride running through a combination of real life scenes and immersive 3d projected sequences, with the transitions between scenes done quite cleverly.

For instance, one part has you being chased under a bridge on screen, but you reverse out, and as you move out from the projector screen you pass under the same bridge in real life that you passed under in the footage.

 

 

Highlights include a bit where Grindor chases you into a rail tunnel, but is decapitated by a passing train. Theres another great bit where you get picked up by Starscreams grapple hook, and are towed wildly through the air around skyscrapers, eventually fishtailing and smashing through into a level of an office building, hitting computers and filing cabinets. There’s great attention to detail, like a hole that gets blown in a concrete wall, and as you pass through the hole, the tips of the exposed reo bars glow red hot but fade as they cool down. Love that kinda stuff.

I was hoping to try the Energon drink they apparently sell in the area…It has been discontinued :(

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We then headed up the hill and got lunch at Cletus’ Chicken Shack in Springfield. Being adventurous we tried the waffle chicken sandwich, which had fried chicken, tomato, lettuce and I think some sort of maple mayo…on waffles. It was odd, but kinda nice.

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Normally I’m good at not missing stuff at theme parks, but I admit I dropped the ball here, and forgot to try a Flaming Moe at during my visit :( 

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You could also get enormous doughnuts that were the size of a Whopper burger.

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The whole Springfield area looks great, with places like the DMV, police station, duff brewery. This could totally be fleshed out into an area of scale of  the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, for example with walkthroughs through the Simpson House or Springfield Elementary. They could even have rides, like bumper cars themed  to Crazy Vaclavs Place of Automobiles, where the little cars could be themed to Zagragev Minzlotnyk Diev, and you have to put them in H on a single tank of kerosene.

 

 

 

 

After lunch we went on the Studio Tour. All the usual stuff is there like the Psycho house, Wysteria Lane, Whoville, Jaws, the Earthquake subway etc, so some things don’t change. They have deleted the dancing cars on robotic arms in an old Fast and the Furious scene (Which has since been replaced by another F&F sequence ill get to) . I think there used to be a mummy themed scene with a spinning tunnel. Even without any filming going on, the multiple staged scenes make it quite fleshed out. 

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The two new additions are two enclosed sections that have 3d projection tunnels and motion bases that your vehicle parks on.

The first is King Kong, where you are basically in a fight between Kong and some Dinosaurs, with you being jostled around, and even falling off a ravine but landing in some big vines.

 

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The other is a Fast and the Furious one which was utterly confusing because I only ever saw the first one. Basically theres some shit about a deal and secret agents, and I couldn’t tell who was good or who was bad or why we were in trouble or why we had been brought to a party in an abandoned warehouse.

But it comes good in the final scene, where your tram is being towed by two very powerful tow trucks along a freeway, with cars and shooting happening around you, culminating in a big jump across a half built bridge, in true hollywood style.

 

 

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So what else?

 

The Simpsons ride. It’s a big simulator with a giant dome screen and multiple motion bases that replaced back to the future. My only criticism would be they animated it in Simpsons hit and run style (Or like that Treehouse of horrors where Homer was trapped in 3d world) with smooth edges, rather than the way they do newer episodes and Futurama (Still 3D animated, but with the black outlines)

A few laughs, the humour seemed a bit more like early 2000s episodes than newer ones.

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The other simulator is Despicable Me: minion mayhem. Same sort of idea as the Simpsons, but on a smaller scale, without a dome screen, but it is in 3D! I was expecting to be meh about this one because Facebook ruined minions (apparently adding a picture of a minion to a meme makes it relatable) But it was actually funny! Basically you are shrunk to minion size and sent on a training course, so it feels like you are in a computer game level, with minions falling over a d being knocked over by obstacles.

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The exit of the ride is a random disco room where you can party with the minions.

 

Nearby is the newly opened Walking Dead attraction. Universal used to have the “Universal House of Horrors” which was a great permanent maze, quite dark with good scares.

This has replaced it, and has well detailed sets, and a few more theme parky type features like animatronics and the like. But its fully lit, not dark like a true horror maze, and the scarers just come charging through. And it feels a bit odd because there are staff in medical uniforms as minders all the way through.

So its middle of the road….technically well presented with good sets, but not particularly scary or stressing.

 

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We went back into Wizarding World and mum conquered Forbidden Journey and loved it. I did another lap on single rider, and on Flight of the Hipogriff because I actually liked it. We sat in Three Broomsticks and tried a few more things, including the Fish n Chips (Decent), the postmix version of Butterbeer (Better than I remembered, would get again!), and Pumpkin Juice (Doesn’t really taste of Pumpkin, it was more a spiced drink that tasted of Cinnamon…if you like Ginger ale etc you’d like Pumpkin Juice.

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The last attraction we did was the SFX show. This was quite entertaining, with plenty of techniques shown…A man on fire, miniature models, foley sound effects (yes, guests still cant get their cues right!), motion capture, flying rigs, makeup, fake blood knives. The theatre was a full house  and nobody left early so can’t question its popularity. They also mixed a bit of theatrics and humor into it, rather than it being a dry demonstration. Eg the flying rig sequence all “went wrong” with the guy on the rig being tossed and tumbled all over the place.

 

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We rounded out the day with another go on transformers, and Potter before calling it a day around 5ish.

It’s a great park, and has made some definite improvements, with a really solid line up of attractions. It wasn’t too much of an effort to get everything done.

(We skipped Waterworld…seen it, and Shrek 4D was skipped for the same reason)

 

I think the main thing the park needs is a signature roller coaster. Japan has Hollywood Dream and Flying Dinosaur, Orlando has Rip Ride Rocket, IOA has Hulk. Singapore has Battlestar.

I reckon the park could also do with a family dark ride, like the ET or sesame st ones at the other universal parks.

So, that concludes this diversion, and Ill return to chronological trip reports for the rest of this topic.

 

 

Edited by Gazza

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11 hours ago, Gazza said:

 

After lunch we went on the Studio Tour. All the usual stuff is there like the Psycho house, Wysteria Lane, Whoville, Jaws, the Earthquake subway etc, so some things don’t change. They have deleted the dancing cars on robotic arms in an old Fast and the Furious scene (Which has since been replaced by another F&F sequence ill get to) . I think there used to be a mummy themed scene with a spinning tunnel. Even without any filming going on, the multiple staged scenes make it quite fleshed out. 

 

 

F&F arms got taken out due to being shit i believe i read on Micechat. And the new F&F replaced the mummy tunnel.

 

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Cool report. I went there for the first time in 15 years at the end of last month...during the day that is. Potter seemed to have more in it than the Orlando version. Love a Butterbeer.

I thought the small raptor show outside Jurassic Park was simple, but very effective. The Mummy is a decent coaster, I always ride it - I see some good possibilities with a Jurassic World rework (don't know if they'll re-theme or build something from scratch) - imagine a raptor attack from all sides in that stationary bit and then reverse launching out of there.

 

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11 minutes ago, downunder said:

Cool report. I went there for the first time in 15 years at the end of last month...during the day that is. Potter seemed to have more in it than the Orlando version. Love a Butterbeer.

I thought the small raptor show outside Jurassic Park was simple, but very effective. The Mummy is a decent coaster, I always ride it - I see some good possibilities with a Jurassic World rework (don't know if they'll re-theme or build something from scratch) - imagine a raptor attack from all sides in that stationary bit and then reverse launching out of there.

 

If you mean re-theme Mummy to JW, that wont be happening any time soon; seeing as they're currently in the process of rebooting the Universal Monsters, something The Mummy is not only apart of, but slated for a 2017 release.

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Someone asked about the lady on the plane…Basically she dropped a whole fried chicken meal box, coleslaw etc onto the carpet, and then the attendants confiscated the box. Kek.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

So, back to our scheduled programming.

After my day at Carowinds I flew to Kansas City, Missouri the next morning to start my next leg of parks, the first being Worlds of Fun.

http://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/park-186-Worlds_Of_Fun

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I was thinking of squeezing in two parks that, namely checking out Schlitterbahn, a water park which otherwise looked pretty bland apart from Verruckt, the worlds tallest water slide. But literally a couple of days before my visit a boy was killed on the slide, so the closure of the park of course meant not doing that.

I got there around 1pm, the place wasn’t busy, so I got it done fairly easily in about 4-5 hours.

The park has areas themed to different countries, but nowhere near as themed as Busch Gardens for example. It’s basically a few token bits of theming and textures on buildings, though to their credit rides tend to pretty much match the themed area (Eg Prowler is in the African bit, Patriot is in the American bit, Spinning Dragons is in the Oriental bit. For the most park, it felt like most Cedar Fair parks, tidy, but a bit bland. (It was nice and leafy though!)

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I have to give honourable mention to the African shooting gallery. I thought you'd get to shoot elephants and lions like that dentist who got publicly shamed, but it turned out to be a standard off the shelf western gallery.

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I remember from one of Noxegons trip reports that you can see this park from miles away, and it’s true! Basically on the interstate from the airport its kind of just open and mostly flat (Well, a continuous gentle slope down to the park) so the navigation was saying a solid 15 mins away, yet you could clearly see the park on the horizon.

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When I got in I grabbed some soft chicken tacos and started off with Spinning Dragons, the Gerstlauer spinning coaster. It has the same layout as the rest of them, so basically mouse turns, helices, then a big wavy turn around a big circle (Funny  that not a single park puts a flat ride in the middle of this bit ) then a couple of mouse style dips and the brakes. I got fairly balanced ride so it rotated very slowly and only got spins on the brake run lol.

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Patriot was broken down so I pressed on.

Continuing around the park the Timber Wolf wooden coaster wasn’t open for the day at all (First missed coaster of the trip!),

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...So that meant the next one up was Cosmic Coaster…A wacky worm. For me, bug run at Aussie world will always be the best Wacky Worm :P

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Next one along was Mamba, the parks Hypercoaster. This was very similar to Steel Force at Dorney Park, which is a good thing. Morgan built hyper coasters give good amounts of air, and this one was really cool in the helix at the far end of the ride because  you go under several a frame supports from the part above, and they get very low, until they are right on the threshold of the clearance envelope. The return hills lifted you up and slammed you down a bit, but not too painfully.

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The weather was quite warm so I tried out Fury of the Nile, the parks rapids ride. The queue and station area was a bit unpleasant, no shade at all (Why do so many American parks do this where they don’t shade the queues! I mean they’re only open in the summer time so what’s the excuse. The structure in the middle of the turntable is like a microscopic version of the roof that was over Snowy River Rampages station at Wonderland.

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The course itself wasn’t too soaking, with a single geyser on the way and some moderate waves about the size of the ones on Thunder River (So the chance to get a bit wet is there, but for the most part you’ll go through unscathed. From memory it also had a wave pool section, which a lot of parks have deactivated right?

Next up was Boomerang, which was in the African section….Aboriginal Culture, African Culture, it’s all the same right? The most notable thing on this ride was that we stopped for about 15 mins on the 2nd lift hill, which got a bit hot. Was amusing, about 30 seconds after we stopped at the top we heard the ride op shouting “it’s ok, we’re going to get you down”….I was hoping we’d get to walk down the lift hill or something. The bonus of this technical delay was that the touch of nausuea you get on the first pass had time to go away before we were finally released for the return trip. Upon disembarking we were given cups of water and a manager on duty at the exit ramp apologising.

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Prowler was next. Basically it’s a GCI with a big curling drop, then a  long out and back section which is just heaps of s turns and small hills that you belt through because the drop is big but the rest is low, so maintains its speed. Cool concept! It’s not a new GCI so it was a bit rough (I’ve come to the conclusion that Six Flags are better at maintaining GCIs than Cedar Fair)

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Coming into the Europa section I noticed they had a Rotor style ride called Finnish Fling. Looked a bit neutered compared to the one in Sydney, because the floor dropped probably about 30cm, whereas I remember the one in Sydney you slide down a good meter or so, which was a great gimmick!

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The last coaster was back up and running and turned out to be the best…Patriot.

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It’s not the biggest B&M invert, but it still felt big, with lots of changes in level (tall inversions, a huge looping turn, airtime hill over the station etc and well paced. Kinda stuck out in an empty field compared to the rest of the park, but meh, it was a good ride.

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Next to it was SteelHawk, a windseeker style ride. Always found the story of this one odd. It was removed from Knotts because it was unreliable, but relocating it makes it miraculously reliable again? As always, these provide an enjoyable way to get a nice view, and don’t really bring on much vertigo as you might think…Too bad you can’t take a camera on!

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I finished my visit with a lap on the train and the ferris wheel to get photos, and one last lap on Mamba, Prowler and Patriot respectively.

 

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The park also has a large water park called Oceans of Fun, and in fact had a direct clone of the whitewater west drop slide/ raft slide complex I’d ridden the previous day at Carowinds. I didn’t go in, instead opting to head into downtown Kansas City for a stickybeak.

Overall, Worlds of Fun is nice, but not really outstanding in any particular field. It does its job of being a decent park for the Kansas City area. In terms of improvements, it’s hard to say…Just keep building stuff? Maybe a dark ride would balance the place out well, there’s no shortage of flats, and  there is plenty of options if they wanted to put a coaster in.

 

Edited by Gazza

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