I Would SO Try This!!

Posted in Travel on March 14th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In past  summers, Hubby and I have been lucky enough to have all 4 kids watched by Grandma for an entire week.  This gave us time for some kid-free fun together with just us, as well as time to catch up on necessities like work and sleep.  For the past two summers, we’ve made a trek  down to Cincinnati for some FUN.  We’ve been going to King’s Island, an amusement park in the suburb of Mason.  Their VIP tours are quite reasonable, considering all the benefits you get (your own personal park guide for the day, all you can eat for lunch, and front of the line ride access, to name just a few!).  We’ve been making a weekend of it, going to the world-class Cincy Zoo one day, followed by a VIP tour at King’s Island the next.

I was on their site today, and I saw this cute little teaser video starring Don Helbig, the public relations manager at King’s Island: the same guy who meets us by the awesome 5-minute long wooden coaster The Beast for our backstage tour, which is also included in the VIP ticket.  Having ridden King’s Island’s wooden coaster The Racer over a whopping 12,000 times and holding the Guinness record for coaster riding, Don is fascinating to talk to.  He made this video to unveil King’s Island’s new 2011 attraction – or so I thought.

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So after seeing the video, I did a bit of internet searching, and it didn’t take me long to find the attraction being unveiled on March 18; here is your sneak peak:

The Windseeker is a swing ride, but it’s going to suspend riders 301 feet above the ground, swinging at speeds over 30 mph!!  Even though I have not been enjoying the height of the coasters in the past few years, I would try this!!  Thing is, we won’t be making it to King’s Island this summer because buying a ticket to enter the park would be a waste of money for me this year – I am due with my 5th child in the fall!  I’m not too broken up about missing the new ride or any of my old favorites; after all, I’d rather have a baby than a trip to King’s Island a million times over, but for the record, I would try this ride!!

We’re going to have to find something equally fun and pregnant-lady-in-the-summer-friendly to do this summer, but it might be a challenge – everything I can think of involves being outdoors and also lots of walking.  Not only that, but since there are now 4 kids, Grandma wants to split their vacations with her into shifts during the Grandma week, meaning Hubby and I are down to zero kidless days.  Oh well, there is plenty of time for that in about 20 years, right?!?

VIP Squared

Posted in Travel on July 24th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Every year, my husband and I are very lucky to get a week-long break from being busy parents of 4 kids when Grandma takes the kids to her house for a week.  For the past two years during this vacation, we traveled downstate to King’s Island, an amusement park near Cincinnati.  King’s Island offers a VIP Tour, which means that for 9 hours, you get your own personal park employee to lead you around the park and to the front of all the park rides of your choosing, even holding your stuff if you really want him to!  In case you’re interested, a VIP Tour at King’s Island also includes an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, unlimited fountain drinks all day, a ride photo, an ice cream cone, a behind-the-scenes tour of The Beast, and $25 in park souvenir money – which can be spent on carnival style games, buying more food (if you need it after the buffet!), or in the park’s gift shops.  While it may seem expensive up front, if you do the math, the VIP Tour ends up being a great deal all things considered, and we highly recommend it; especially if you’re a coaster enthusiast!

Being able to walk to the front of any ride line of one’s choosing is really cool – it’s hard to imagine, until  you ride coaster after coaster without pause!

We began our day on The Beast (only because the Diamondback was not functioning, but luckily our fears of it being broken for the entire day were dispelled and they were able to fix it before long).  The Beast is an almost 5-minute long journey into the desolate forests of southern Ohio on a wooden roller coaster!  As we learned from our behind the scenes tour (included with the VIP Tour as I said), prior to its unveiling in 1979, The Beast was built on-site and follows closely the terrain upon which it is built.  It was not pre-ordered and shipped to the park in segments like many modern roller coasters.

The Beast follows its native land's terrain and disappears into a tunnel at the bottom of its first drop

After riding The Beast twice in a row (almost 10 minutes worth of roller coasters right there!!), we moved on to the Vortex, an old-school steel roller coaster with more than a few high speed inversions.  I had printed out my blog post I had written about the VIP Tour a year before, and it served as a helpful guide for this year.  And I have to say, everything was much more enjoyable this year – last year I had written in my blog that I didn’t like the Vortex much and that the Backlot Stunt Coaster was lame, but this year both rides were much more fun than I had remembered – perhaps because I knew what to expect from the park, and so the element of surprise was minimized.  I’m a person who likes to know what to expect rather than to be completely taken by surprise – I have 4 little kids, so I have enough surprises throughout my average day, thank you 😉

But whatever the case, whichever the reason, this year’s VIP Tour was even more fun than last year’s!  All of the rides we rode were better than I had remembered they were, and the Whitewater Canyon water ride was even more fun when riding with friends!  Of course, I think it helped that this year’s temperature was almost 90º instead of the unseasonal 70º we had during last year’s tour – getting soaked last year left us near frozen!  And I learned a little bit from last year’s tour – no blisters from walking around in wet shoes for me!  I brought a little bag and put a change of shoes in it.  As much as it may have annoyed my co-VIPs (but then again, I was the only gal in a group of men), I changed into my flip-flops every time we got on a water ride.  Not only did I save my feet from blistering, but I got to order our guide to carry my shoes around the park!  Ok, so I actually felt pretty badly making the poor guy carry my shoes around, but it was kind of like being a queen for a day, and –  carrying our stuff was his job after all…

The Diamondback Roller Coaster

Being led around the park by a guide all day, slipping in front of the ‘regular guests’ to get to the front of the lines (and picking whatever spot you choose on all the rides!  Note to self for next year:  front car on The Beast rocks, back row on the Diamondback is sweet, and the back is ideal and technically the front for Firehawk…) gave us plenty of time for ‘extras’ in the park: things we don’t normally do in theme parks, usually for lack of time like souvenir shopping, playing games and seeing shows.  The show we chose to see this year – and it’s strange, I know, that I keep promising myself a theater break but still I continue to find myself in a theater audience – was called ‘Too Much TV’, and it was actually pretty fun!  It began with a ‘host’ who went around the audience asking for them to ‘name that tune’ as different tv show theme songs were played.  I thought I would be good at this kind of thing, but apparently my brain had been scrambled upon one (ok, a dozen) too many roller coasters earlier in the day because I couldn’t get any of the answers correct.  But it’s ok, I didn’t raise my hand too high- unlike a fellow VIP who was called upon, but he answered correctly and won himself a Too Much TV button – way to  go!  Despite a fleeting regret in the beginning of the show (am I really watching yet another stage show?!?), I did enjoy myself.  I recognized 100% of the show titles and about 80% of the lyrics since I used to be a huge tv fan and had watched many of the shows when I was a kid (many in reruns; I’m not THAT old!)  The show included 6 dancer-singers, and it began with TV shows from the 50’s – 60’s (a few of these I watched like Patty Duke and Mary Tyler Moore – um, in reruns of course 😉 while the rest I just knew the themes since they were very famous like the Andy Griffith Show) and continued to shows from the 70s (3’s Company, Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, etc), 80’s-90’s (Full House, Perfect Strangers,  Growing Pains, Friends, etc).  LOTS of fun, especially for a former TV junkie like myself.  The singers / dancers were pretty good, and I have to say that one of the highlights of the show  was that during the Brady Bunch theme, they showed clips from the episode where the Brady’s actually visit King’s Island!!  I had totally forgotten that episode (I used to be a huge Brady Bunch fan; I watched it every day in syndication after school, and I had the book / episode guide written by Mr. Greg Brady (Barry Williams) himself – I used to check off the episodes I had seen – ahem, NERD!!), but anyway, I will have to dig it up on youtube.com or somewhere and watch it again now!!

Miraculously, the rain held off until minutes after our guide was dismissed for the day –  we had been watching the storms move in all day the day before our tour, hoping it wouldn’t affect our trip.  We had promised our guide an email depicting our thoughts on what riding The Beast was like in the dark, but as I said, it began to rain, and we were forced to take a break.  That’s when we realized just how tired we really were – too tired to wait for the rain to stop and the rides to re-open, so we’ll have to experience The Beast at night next year.  And I could not be looking forward to it more!!

On the way home, we found a White Castle (don’t have them way up here in the bufu northwestern corner of Ohio), or at least that’s what the sign said.  But the White Castle location was connected to a gas station, and the sliders did not taste quite the same…  I thought they were just old until I brought some home and re-heated them, and they STILL were a bit off…  hmmm….  Normally these things reheat really well, and I’m sorry to tell the White Castle newbie in our group that he still hasn’t really tried an authentic slider.  They hit the spot at the time and had we taken the time to stop anywhere else, we would have gotten home even later than the 1 am-ish that we did and would have been even more exhausted.  My bodily soreness from being beat up by various coasters all day was less than last year, but it also lasted a day or two longer than I remember.  Oh well, more to tweak for next year!  Maybe I will bring TWO pairs of shoes for Mr. Guide to carry around for me, haha!

And one final note…  We have a running joke with a member of our group – we went to Disney World with him almost two years ago, and it seemed that every ride which he rode stalled; including rides that didn’t usually stall.  At King’s Island, only one ride stalled while we were on it, but we got stuck in what I am sure is the most precarious position in which a person can get stuck at that park – flat on our backs, under the great blue sky on the Firehawk.  Here is a picture of how we were stuck; note that these people are in the station, which would have been better since there were people around to help.  We were stuck flat on our backs outside of the station for about 10-15 minutes, and I couldn’t help but notice how sympathetic the ride operator seemed during her announcements directing us to stay calm.

Also noticeable were the extremely red faces and disoriented nature of our fellow riders who were finally returned to an upright position and allowed to leave the ride with us.  For the record, our park guide happened to be on the Firehawk with us (on the VIP Tour, you can also make your guide go on rides!) and said that he had never seen it stuck like that before.  So yeah, while we were only stuck on a ride once during our day, what a place to be stuck!!!

And surely I don’t want to leave you with a bad impression of the Firehawk, nor of King’s Island, so here are some fun youtube videos from other riders:

Firehawk (you lie on your back and then are flipped after the lift onto your stomach.  Like Superman, you fly thru a series of loops, inversions, and open track):

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Next, not one of my favorite rides at King’s Island, though still fun, the joy in Invertigo is watching the person’s face who is sitting across from you.  Ride with a friend sitting across from you, and experience the g-forces backwards first.  Then watch your friend’s face as they experience the same thing backwards you just did – It’s priceless!!

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And now for my favorites, The Beast (start watching at a minute and ten seconds into the video for the real action):

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And the Diamondback:

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All this watching the POV cams on the coasters makes me want to do it all over again…   But unfortunately I have to wait…
So until next year…

VIPs For A Day (part two of even more parts)

Posted in Travel on July 12th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

So, where did I leave off when I blogged about our kid-less day trip to King’s Island amusement park?  I don’t remember; I got kind of side-tracked and have made a few unrelated blog posts since then…  But no matter, I’ll just begin by rating the rides at King’s Island; my scale is 1-5 ♦’s, 1 being not so good and 5 being a perfect ride experience.

The Beast – 4½♦.  I have an in-depth description of this one in my previous post, but I will recap again – very cool wooden roller coaster; built into the existing terrain of the Miami River valley in southern Ohio which means you can be speeding along not more than 3 feet above the ground, thinking you must travel a lift before you can drop, but that’s not the case!  This is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world with a 4 minute and 50 second ride time.  Like any wooden coaster, it can be rough and rickety (I was sure I threw out my bad back on one of the speeding curves, but thankfully, I did not.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone I ride coasters with a bad back, but it must not be that bad since my back was one of my least sore parts the day after King’s Island), but these sensations improve if you ride the front row – I HIGHLY recommend the front seats on this one!

Diamondback – 4½♦ – I also talked about the park’s newest addition in my previous post, so here is another recap.  Exceptionally smooth ride, with no upside-down air time.  Rather, the only air time is achieved when your butt lifts from your seat on the multiple drops.  The sensation of free-falling is achieved by the restraint system – one smallish plastic piece that sits between your legs – that’s it!  The picture I posted in my previous blog doesn’t do justice to the coaster, so here is another:

delete-diamondback1I know certain readers of mine will notice that this is indeed a computer-generated picture, so I might as well just say that outright.  The first time we went on Diamondback, I loved it, and it would have gotten an even higher rating from me if it were not for the time we rode it in the front row.  Unlike The Beast, the front row of the Diamondback adds an entire new dimension to the ride – one I was happy enough without!  I respect our tour guide’s opinion that riding front on Diamondback is a must-do experience, and even though it wasn’t for me, I’m glad I got to do it once.  But it was SOOOO scary!

Firehawk – Holy (excuse my language) crap.  This is one doozy of a coaster!!!  Wow, I forgot to rate it, hmmm let me think…  3¾♦.  First let me explain what this coaster is, and then I can explain what would have made it better.  The riders load into Firehawk, and then the seats recline until the rider is lying down.  Not for the faint of heart – you are strapped into flexible (not hard plastic like most) shoulder harnesses, and then you are tilted backward until you are lying on your back – and it even  feels like your head might just be lower than your feet.  So anyway, lying down, the rider leaves the station, and proceeds to go up a hill, head first, facing the sky.  So of course you can’t see when you’re going to reach the top.  And when you finally do reach the top of the lift, you flip until you’re flying Superman-style through the trek of the coaster.  Overall, it was awesome, and I have to say  that I truly misjudged how ultimately different the horizontal sensation would be – it was VERY different.  What kept me from giving this coaster a higher rating, however, was this (and a discussion on the long ride home found my husband thinking the same thing):  For a unique roller coaster where you were supposed to feel like you were flying, especially for one of the first and only of this type (this is the only one in Ohio, I believe), they really could and should have simplified the design.  Instead of all the inversions, corkscrews and loops, they should have actually slowed down the coaster and left the rider suspended belly-down for the majority of the ride.  After people experienced that, THEN they could have added the speed and all the inversion stuff in an update version of the ride, and it would have been like a 2-fer – 2 rides, one idea.  The way it was, the ride was so fast that you really didn’t have the time to pretend to be Superman, and that was a shame.  The woman in our row the second time we rode Firehawk was, and I quote, “terrified”.  My husband told her it wasn’t that bad, and when he told her that, I was thinking, “What are you thinking?  It IS terrifying!”.  I just did not think that being on our backs face up on our way up the lift was the right time to tell a stranger that my opinion differed from my husband’s – it’s not like she could check my face for my true feelings.  The woman found out for herself.  I think she liked it though, as did I in the end, despite the changes I would make.  Another fun thing about this coaster is that while waiting in line (or by-passing the line on your VIP tour, highly recommended please see my first King’s Island post ), you get to pass next to the part of the ride where it first slows down as the riders come back into the station.  You can hear the riders’ very first reactions to the crazy configuration of this coaster, and that is a really cool time-filler!

Flight of Fear – 3¾♦.  It does feel strange to rate this and the previous coaster the same since they are two very  different ride experiences, so I feel the need to disclaim that I’m rating my overall ride experience.  Keep in mind that I am no longer in my 20’s, so I’ve lost my reckless abandonment.  I really like roller coasters, but I do draw the line and find some things too scary – so my rating system might vary from that of a true coaster enthusiast.  But anyway, I liked Flight of Fear, largely because it is like a much better version of Disney’s Space Mountain.  My husband likened it to the Aerosmith Rock N Roller Coaster at Disney’s MGM Hollywood Studios – which I loved, but I  found it more like a much improved Space Mountain.  All 3 are dark indoor coasters.  Flight of Fear and Aerosmith have what they call linear induction launches, which is how smart people say “0-54mph in 4 seconds!”.  On the way home, I was browsing through (ahh, life without kids in the car!) the super-cool stat sheets our guide gave us as parting gifts, and I noted that Flight of Fear was the first ride in the world with the linear induction launch!  It was SO much cooler than Space Mountain; much more smooth and with inversions.  Space Mountain is herky-jerky, and there are no drops nor inversions – it’s almost kind of like, what’s the point?  THIS is Magic Kingdom’s thrill ride?  But then again, Magic Kingdom really isn’t like that – you visit with small children and/or for the small child inside yourself.  But my point is, Flight of Fear is SO much better than Space Mountain, but not quite as good as the Aerosmith coaster – perhaps something to do with Aerosmith’s black light flourescent graphics versus the plain darkness of Flight of Fear; I preferred the graphics.  For a tangent, here is an interesting story about Flight of Fear: as I mentioned, we had a guide for our trip to this park.  Other park visitors would see he was an employee and ask him questions throughout the day.  One of the questions was “Is Flight of Fear still open?”.  Our guide said yes, not really knowing what the guest was talking about until later during the behind-the-scenes tour of The Beast when the park’s PR Manager, Don Helbig (who has ridden The Racer, another wooden coaster, almost 12,000 times!  How does one even count that high, especially when being tossed around on a wooden coaster?) told us that one of his job’s challenges was to dispel the rumors about the park given life by the internet.  One of those rumors he talked about happened to be that Flight of Fear met its demise.  Not true – Flight of Fear is alive and well and also well worth riding, especially if you are a person who is used to Space Mountain.  I think I can pretty much guarantee you will like Flight of Fear better.

Well…  I have once again talked blogged your ear (?) off with my boring detailed account of an event.  I wanted to rate most of the enjoyable rides at King’s Island, but I must cut the post short for now – maybe I will be able to get the other cool rides in the next post if I cool it a little and shorten the detail…  Until then…

VIPs For A Day (part one of more parts)

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Thursday, my husband’s brilliant ability to find awesome entertainment deals on the internet paid off once again.  He booked us a VIP tour at King’s Island (click for a view of the rides and attractions!) near Cincinnati Ohio, and we spent the entire day at this awesome amusement park!  The VIP tour included our own personal guide; a park employee who followed us around all day leading us up the exits of every ride so that we got to bypass the line and ride without waiting – in the seat of our own choosing. We also got to wear lanyards with VIP passes on them (think of the movie Wayne’s World when Wayne and Garth get backstage passes to see Alice Cooper.  They wear them around their necks and proudly display their lanyards, flashing them into the faces of nearly everyone they encounter, hilarious!) – and tempting to reenact, but there were some people in line who were upset that we got to board without waiting in line; I wouldn’t want to rub it in.  But I would recommend the VIP tour to anyone who wants to go to King’s Island  – it includes a guide (you can even make him do things, like hold your stuff and go on rides, haha!), no lines (sometimes a minimal 5 minute wait at the gate while the ride operators find a place to stick you in, not really an issue at all – there is plenty to watch for those 5 minutes), an all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch, unlimited fountain drinks throughout the day, ice cream, a backstage tour of The Beast (the longest wooden roller coaster in the world!), and 2 ride pictures.  A great deal, especially if you want to sit through my following narrative to see if it’s a place you’d want to visit:

The lady on the phone told us to get to the park at 8:30 am, so we were actually early and had to wait in a car line to get in.  When we got to the park, we got shuffled around and had to wait a bit more – it seems that this part of the tour could be tweaked a little bit.  We didn’t get our guide and get on rides until about 9:45.  Still early (park opens to the general public at 10), but we had about an extra hour of doing nothing at the park (could have slept an hour longer!), so perhaps they should tweak this part of the tour to make it run more smoothly for the guest – everything else about the tour is really great though!  So anyway, our guide comes to meet us, and we gave him our list of rides and follow him around the park.  Actually, since it was before 10, only the park’s brand new showcase ride and The Beast were open.  So we began with the Diamondback – which I had named as the ride that scared me the most on the way over.  But I loved it!  It was so smooth and all those fast drops were so fun in the cool open air.  The Beast was another story.  I liked it, but it was very rattly and jerky.  Going back on The Beast later in the day and sitting in the front row changed the experience for me, however, and we ended up riding it a lot!  Once we discovered the front car of The Beast and I switched sides of the train with hubby, I enjoyed the ride immensely.  It’s a 4 minute, 50 second ride through the forest on a wooden roller coaster at speeds of over 60 mph.  The subtle sound of chirping birds accompanied by the naturalistic scents of the surrounding forest and the wooden tunnels where the coaster whizzes is indescribable.  A comment on themeparkinsider.com says about The Beast, “Running through the thick forest at 65 mph on an intense wooden coaster…about as close to riding a real beast as you can get. Classic ride that always delivers.” – I have to agree.  They built another wooden coaster at King’s Island called Son of the Beast, but it closed in June when people complained it was too rough.  From the printed King’s Island info, I learned that Son of the Beast was a looping wooden coaster – interesting.  Oh well, maybe it’ll open some day for me to try.  But back to the backstage tour of The Beast – very cool.  We watched some trains descend the first large drop which actually leads directly underground into a tunnel.  We walked further into the forest (noticed some long-gone riders’ possessions along the way: broken sunglasses, coins, hats, etc.  Didn’t see any cell phones, but then again, we saw the lost cell phone display they have in the Diamondback area – a big clear box FULL of cell phones, ipods, Blackberries, PDAs, etc. ), and we learned some interesting facts while watching riders fly past us – and boy, were they surprised to see us walking around back there in the forest!! As for the facts – the entire coaster was built from scratch on site; unlike many of today’s coasters which are shipped into the parks in segments.  The Beast was built around and including the existing rolling terrain of the Miami River valley in lower Ohio, and as I mentioned, it goes underground.  It has speed monitors built into parts of the track, so if a train is going to fast, it will automatically break to slow itself down.  I gratefully noticed this while riding, and it helped calm my concerns of flying off the track.  This coaster goes so fast into those tunnels – WOW!  For all these reasons and more, it’s a coaster like NO other!  Here’s a pic – looks like something I’ll have to try in the fall; the forest looks beautiful during peak season for color-changing leaves:

delete-beast

Ironically, the exact opposite thing happened with the Diamondback –  I loved it the first time, and then I tried the front row which was absolutely terrifying!  I  won’t be riding the front of the Diamondback again.  Careening down that  first 74° drop (!) practically face-down at over 80 mph with only a red thing between my legs to keep me from plummeting to the earth made me feel like I was going to die for sure.

delete-diamondback

And not in a good way, which is ironically enough sometimes the reason why lots of crazy people like to ride coasters.  Being in the front seat on Diamondback makes it look like the the track disappears beneath you, then before you know it, you’re flying in the air getting lift out of your seat and you have nothing on either side nor in front of you – yikes!  I’ve grown too old to feel invincible, so I put a cap on my thrill-seeking.  I enjoy a good coaster, but I also have my limits.  If you are a thrill-seeker roller coaster enthusiast who just can’t get enough, try the front car on Diamondback!  And a side note, the guy who gave us the behind the scenes tour of The Beast is the guy who thought of the name for Diamondback; it was an interesting experience to have something like that come up during a conversation.

I think I’ll stop there for now…  it was a big day, and I’d like to write up more and get more pictures up – and yes, I  do have those free ride pictures we got of Chris and I on The Beast and Diamondback.  Am I willing to post them on the internet?  Maybe you’ll have to read my other King’s Island posts to find out!