Theme Park Travel Odyssey 2008 Edition

I figured I’d recap my 2008 theme park trips all in one post including my favorite and worst rides of the year. Thanks to reader Daniel for the idea after he recapped his year. If you have trip reports you’d like to share for last year or in the future feel free to send them in and I’ll post them. 2008 was a great year and I hope to visit at least three or four parks in 2009.

Hard Rock Park Media Preview
In May, I was lucky enough to be invited to Hard Rock Park’s Media Preview. It’s a good thing that I made it to the park now that it’s likely going to be officially defunct in the coming months. I don’t normally see all aspects of a theme park. Generally, I sample the coasters and keep moving. So I was quite impressed as I got to experience pretty much everything the park had to offer. It’s sad that it’s closing for many reasons. The little hidden ‘discoveries’ were one thing that really made the park unique in my mind. To learn more about the park that died young, read my full Hard Rock Park Review.

Darien Lake
In mid-July I re-visited Darien Lake in Western New York. Now, in its post-Six Flags form, the park was in better shape than I remember. For example, The Great Gum Shrine, in the queue for Predator was gone. So it was good to see that PARC Management, the new operators, were taking better care of the park. I got to ride Superman: Ride of Steel, a clone of the Superman at Six Flags America in Maryland. And I was able to interview some of the park’s staff and ride the brand new Orange County Choppers MotoCoaster. It’s a launch coaster with bike-like seating.

Waldameer Park
Then, we made a stop at Waldameer Park in Eerie, PA for the much anticipated Ravine Flyer II. Last winter, I predicted it to be the #1 new coaster for 2008. And the New York Times quoted me when I called Ravine Flyer II the Sleeper Hit of the Year (article here) so needless to say, I was excited to ride it. I wasn’t disappointed. I gave it a 10 and ranked it as the 8th best coaster I’ve ever ridden. Read my full Ravine Flyer II review.

Six Flags Over Georgia & Alabama’s Adventure
My trip to the deep South yielded to 9 out of 10’s in Alabama Adventure’s Rampage and Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. Both rides gave fun and exciting rides and nearly received 10’s. I kind of expected Goliath to be good because I had been to Six Flags Over Georgia back in 2002, but it was nice to re-visit. After leaving SFOGA, I had to make the decision whether I really wanted to drive out to Birmingham, Alabama for a small park that really only offered a little known woodie. I was glad that I made the decision to go. My rides on Rampage were some of my favorite of the year. Read my Rampage and Goliath reviews.

Six Flags Magic Mountain, Pacific Pier, & Knott’s Berry Farms
For my BIG trip of the year I flew to California for my first coaster trip west of the Mississippi. In a whirlwind trip I hit the famous Pacific Pier in Santa Monica, Six Flags Magic Mountain (2nd largest park behind Cedar Point), and Knott’s Berry Farms all in one day. The trip was full of actual and literal ups and downs from my cell phone being tossed from Scream! to my view of the Pacific Ocean on the Westcoaster. I didn’t get to ride every coaster I encountered, but by the plane trip back I had ridden 16 coasters including the reborn X2, brand new Pony Express, and the legendary Ghostrider. Read my full California Theme Park Trip Report.

Favorite Ride of the Year
Hands down my favorite ride of the year was in the back seat of Ravine Flyer II. It was a clear Sunday afternoon and I had just finished walking the grounds around Ravine Flyer II with a park official. I’d ridden in the front, but I was itching to ride again in the back. I was treated to a breath-taking view of Lake Erie and then a much faster drop down the ravine and across the highway. The Flyer’s airtime, speed, and laterals were just head and shoulders above anything else I rode in 2008. If you haven’t made it to Waldameer, I highly recommend it.

Worst Ride of the Year – Ninja at Six Flags Over Georgia
There’s a red looping coaster situated on a pond towards the back of Six Flags Over Georgia. If you ever find yourself at the park, I suggest that you continue past the ride and enjoy Superman Ultimate Flight, Great American Scream Machine, or the water slides. But whatever you do, don’t get on the Ninja. It’s a head-bang-a-thon like no other. Okay, so maybe it’s not in a painful league of its own, Great Adventure’s Scream Machine comes to mind, but trust me you won’t get off of the ride happy that you rode it. I didn’t and I didn’t see anyone else smiling either.

What’s Your Take?
What were some of your most memorable (good or bad) rides and moments from your theme park travels? Do you have a new favorite ride or roller coaster? Leave a comment below.