Of all the trips I’ve taken in order to experience world class coasters, my trip to Kings Island almost six years ago was unquestionably the worst. It would be difficult to imagine a more dismal or disastrous scenario.
Because my flight from Philly didn’t arrive in Ohio until midafternoon, by the time I arrived at Kings Island it was almost 3:30. Once inside the park I drove around for almost half an hour – I kid you not – before finally finding a parking space. It was that crowded. And once inside the gates, I decided that my first priority was to get something to eat, as I hadn’t eaten probably since breakfast time. As luck would have it, the lines at food concessions were so long that it took another half hour just to get some sustenance.
Diamondback and The Beast – You Mean That’s All I Get To Ride?
Clearly, my visit to the park did not get off to a good start and I’m sorry to say that things did not improve. I waited in the queue for 2 ½ hours to ride Diamondback. And yes, it was a wonderful ride although at this point in my coaster journey I would not be willing to wait that long for anything. (Early on in my coaster journey I likewise waited 2 ½ hours for my first ride on Millennium Force on my first visit to Cedar Point but those days are long gone.) I found the stadium seating on Diamondback interesting and the initial drop exhilarating. The hammerhead turn was a case of been there done that while the spectacular splashdown struck me as being more for the benefit of spectators than riders. Still, I’d give this coaster high marks although not as high as one professional coaster critic and travel writer who included it in his list of the 12 best roller coasters in America.
By this time it was after 7pm, time for only one more ride judging by the length of the lines, and the obvious choice was The Beast. I didn’t manage to get on until after 9 pm but what a ride! Even with the trim brakes the initial drop is powerful while the tunnels are awesome. This ride is nice and long as well as full of surprises. My favorite part of the ride was when the train descended into a covered helix, especially because it was banked so sharply to the left. I can think of few things I enjoy more than a night ride through the woods on a coaster and this ride was so entertaining that I found myself laughing out loud.
Not My Lucky Day
Because my flight back home wasn’t scheduled to leave until midafternoon, the plan was to go back to Kings Island the next day as soon as it opened and ride everything I didn’t get to ride the day before. Most unfortunately, there was a torrential downpour that wasn’t letting up anytime soon so it was out of the question. I wanted to cry. Can you imagine how distressing it was to spend close to $500 for two roller coaster rides? In retrospect, I very much regret not spending the extra money for Fast Lane. I didn’t do it because I decided that I’d spent enough already on airfare, car rental, park admission and hotel. Also, to some extent I objected to Fast Lane as a matter of principle because almost everything at amusement parks is so vastly overpriced that I’m reluctant to do anything involving an upcharge. Standing on principle, however, was an error in judgment. It certainly would have been well worth it to spring for Fast Lane in order to justify making the trip at all.
Final Thoughts – You Get What You Pay For
I learned my lesson. Whenever I travel to a park that turns out to be extremely crowded, I purchase Fast Lane, Quick Queue, Flash Pass or whatever is being offered. At Six Flags New England last October, I could see that the wait time for Superman alone was a good 2 ½ hours so I sprung for a platinum Flash Pass and waltzed right on. For my trip to Busch Gardens Tampa a few days before Christmas, I made it a point to purchase Quick Queue in advance of my visit and had the time of my life, with 18 coaster rides and two drop tower rides. I’ve already booked a repeat trip to Kings Island for the end of April and this time around I intend to ride everything I didn’t get to ride on my previous visit, plus Banshee, which wasn’t there at the time. Maybe the unfavorable impression I’ve retained of Kings Island will change.
I should add that I would be unlikely to purchase Fast Lane or whatever when visiting a park in my geographic area because 1) not as much is at stake; and 2) I’m familiar enough with these parks to know the best times to visit. For instance, I find that late October is a good time to visit Hersheypark and Labor Day is a good time to visit Six Flags Great Adventure, as attendance tends to be low and wait times are correspondingly short. Even on more popular days Great Adventure is doable if you get there as soon as the gates open; on one occasion I managed to get 10 consecutive rides on El Toro. This is undoubtedly true of many parks but the problem in getting there early for those flying in from out of town is that flight schedules don’t necessarily coincide with the park’s hours of operation so the only alternative is to get there the night before and end up paying for two nights’ lodging. That really puts things into perspective, as Fast Lane is obviously a lot cheaper than a night at a hotel. So for anyone travelling a significant distance to a park that s/he plans to visit only infrequently and planning to stay in the area for only one day, a line-skipping option is usually the way to go.
What’s your take? Would you purchase Fast Lane or the equivalent in order to maximize your visit to a park?