Category Archives: Roller Coasters

Six Flags Great Adventure Roller Coasters

We had waited for years to ride some of the coasters at Great Adventure.  They delivered.

El Toro – Spectacular wooden coaster (ranked #1 in the world).  It’s a smooth coaster, but it does feel like you’re riding a wild bull.  We loved it.

Kingda Ka – The tallest coaster in the world (456 feet) and second fastest (128 mph).  A thrill, to be sure, but very similar to Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point.  As we exited, Joel coolly said, “I’m unfazed,” although he later referred to it as “legendary”.

Bizarro –  Joel and I declared this to be “awesome” – it has fire, steam, inversions, and Superman’s nemesis.  What more could you ask for?

Nitro – A steel coaster with impressive specs: 4.3 Gs, 80mph, over 200 ft high.  It’s rather intense – probably too much so for many people, even though it has no inversions.  Every year from 2007-2012, Nitro has ranked as the #3 steel coaster in the world in the Golden Ticket Awards.  We didn’t love it quite that much, but overall, it’s a great ride – somewhat similar in size and scope to Phantom’s Revenge and Steel Force.

Superman – A fun “flying coaster” (where you are tilted so you’re in the Superman flying position on your stomach).  There are only 10 flying coasters in the U.S., and three of them are this coaster replicated in different locations.  Not as good as Manta in Orlando or Tatsu at Magic Mountain (two of my all-time favorites), but certainly worth riding.

Batman: The Ride – Nearly identical versions of this inverted coaster appear at various Six Flags parks (including Magic Mountain in Southern California).  It’s a good ride with multiple inversions.

Great Mine Train – A typical mine train coaster, similar to Gold Rusher at Magic Mountain or Mine Train at Cedar Point.  A great coaster for those starting out on a coaster obsession.

Skull Mountain – We were warned about this indoor dark coaster, but we tried it anyway, and we liked it.  It doesn’t provide the theming of a Space Mountain or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, but it was a good ride.

Rolling Thunder – A racing coaster on parallel tracks.  Our car didn’t start at the same time as the other one, so the racing effect was tainted.  Not a bad ride, but it doesn’t deliver the thrill of Racer at Kennywood or Lightning Racer at HersheyPark.

Blackbeard & Road Runner Express – As we have generally found junior coasters like these two to be both boring and rough, we don’t do these anymore.  Skipped.

Dark Knight – SPOILER ALERT – There’s a pre-ride video with Aaron Eckhart (from the Batman films) at the beginning that is then interrupted with sounds of gunshots (that made everyone jump) followed by scary images.  The coaster is a mediocre indoor wild mouse with some frightening imagery, making it our second least favorite coaster at the park.

Green Lantern – We hated this stand up coaster almost as much as we hated Mantis at Cedar Point (similar ride by the same manufacturer).  Those two were the only rides on our entire trip that made me feel ill (headache and motion sickness).  When we got off, Joel said “That was H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E!”  He was upset, and I wish in retrospect that we had skipped it.

Great Adventure Roller Coasters ridden: 11
Total for the tour after nine parks: 58

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Knoebels Amusement Resort – Elysburg, PA

Knoebels was a truly unusual place.  It bills itself as an amusement park and resort – they have campgrounds on property, a large pool, and waterslides in addition to the many rides, attractions, stores, and food stands.  There is no admission charge (or parking fee) – you pay by the ride, and each costs between 50 cents and $2.50 per person.  They do offer an unlimited ride wristband at certain times.  The park does not offer any front of line passes or other VIP-type experience, so make sure you go to the most popular rides at the very beginning or end of the day.

Roller Coasters
Phoenix – Joel has been talking about Phoenix since he was about six.  He loves the mythological creature, and he had read a lot about this coaster. It was spectacular – the best wooden coaster I have ever ridden (so far).  Smooth, fun, and for the first time, I really understood why coaster enthusiasts talk so much about “airtime”.  On other coasters, it doesn’t excite me, but here I felt like I was floating for half of the ride.  It was thrilling, beginning to end.

Twister – A wooden monster.  Joel and I found it a little rough and rocky, frequently pushing us into each other.  We got an amusing photo (below), but the ride wasn’t one of our favorites.

Black Diamond – This indoor ride was added in 2012 and is a very odd addition.  As the area has a mining history, they built this as a haunted mine ride (picture skeleton and zombie miners on a wild mouse coaster).  It was very odd – even stranger than Exterminator at Kennywood (although fortunately not as rough).

Kosmo’s Curves – This kid coaster is not particularly fun.  For some reason, the kid coasters are rougher than the adult ones – maybe they’re not as hard on the kids.  Joel hated it, and I can’t blame him.

Flying Turns – Knoebels has been working on this wooden roller coaster for years, and it has been fraught with problems.  They hope to open it in 2014.

Rides
Knoebels has many rides, but we only tried a few that looked unique.

Carousel – Knoebels has one of the most beautiful carousels (it won the Golden Ticket award for Best Carousel), and it’s one of the few left in the country where you grab a ring each time you go around, in hopes of grabbing the “brass ring”, which gives you a free ride.  It’s one of those rides that transports you 100 years back in time.

Haunted Mansion – Since Knoebels is a family-oriented park, I thought this dark ride would be campy fun, along the lines of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.  It’s more like a haunted house you would encounter during a “Fright Night” at a Six Flags or Cedar Fair park – filled with bloody, gory figures and monsters jumping out at you.  Joel closed his eyes five seconds into the ride and didn’t open them again until we were out, after which he declared that he hated the park.  Teens will likely enjoy this ride, adults will find it amusing, but be careful with younger kids.

Kosmotron – While Haunted Mansion was Joel’s idea of a nightmare, the Kosmotron was mine.  A classic “Himalaya” ride (often called “Music Express” at carnivals and parks), Kosmotron is indoors, playing music at 100+ decibels, with flashing disco lights.  Imagine the worst nightclub you have ever been to, but you’re speeding backwards, going up and down hills at 30 mph, then doing the same in the opposite direction.  I can’t remember ever being so happy to get off a ride.

Attractions
Shooting Galleries – Knoebels has two shooting galleries: an electronic one where each target triggers some kind of movement or sound, and an antique one where you fire BBs at targets (you have to wear protective goggles).  We are not gun people, but in this setting, it was great.

Carousel Museum – This small museum (and gift shop) has some beautiful antique animals from various carousels as well as artwork, photos, and other memorabilia.  Well worth a visit.

Mining Museum – Explores Knoebels’ history as a mining town and details the history of the park with some remnants of discontinued attractions.  It’s quite interesting and is an excellent way to escape the heat in the summer.

Fascination – Joel loved the Fascination parlor, where each player rolls balls down a ramp into holes, and the first person who gets five in a row wins tickets.  It’s like Bingo where you theoretically have more control over the outcome.  The games are fats, it’s highly addictive, and Joel would have spent hours there if we didn’t have to go.  Some of the women we played against obviously spend a lot of time and money on Fascination, and even though there is supposedly no good strategy, they frequently won.

Food at Knoebels
Knoebels is famous for its food and won the Golden Ticket Award for Best Food at any park in the world for 14 straight years (then narrowly lost to Dollywood in 2012).  Since I can’t eat dairy, I didn’t get to try the Bacon Cheeseburger Chowder, Chicken Pot Pie Soup, Perogies, or homemade desserts like fudge.  Of course, they were “famous” for two potato-based products: the Tri-Taters and their fries.  The Tri-Taters were like hash browns at Burger King (and not really any better), and the fries were very good (but not quite Potato Patch).  The park does have a wide variety of food available, from chicken sandwiches to gyros, and since the park doesn’t charge admission, local residents often come there for dinner.

Hotel
We opted for the Sleepy Hollow Bed & Breakfast, as it was one of the closest hotels to the park, and we thought this was the right environment for a B&B.  The hotel is in a lovely setting, run by a charming young couple.  Breakfast was delicious and made to order.  The rooms are heavily decorated by theme to the point of being kitschy.  The bed was comfortable, but the sofabed could benefit from better padding.  The B&B is adjacent to the farm, so we heard animal sounds throughout the night.  We found it fun and hilarious, but light sleepers might have trouble with it.  I do recommend re-confirming your reservation and/or getting an e-mail confirmation when you make it.

We had mixed feelings about Knoebels.  We loved the setting amongst the campgrounds, and with no admission charge, anyone can come enjoy the park.  Seeing people walking their dogs in the park gave it more of a community feel.  We loved the Phoenix Coaster, the carousel, the museums, and the shooting galleries, but didn’t like the other rides.  The many food stands reminded us of a county fair (in a good way), and we enjoyed perusing the many unusual stores.  As this trip was primarily about roller coasters, it was worth going just for the Phoenix, but the rest left us wanting.  Perhaps we will go back again someday and we have more time to wander and soak in Knoebels’ charms.

Knoebels Roller Coasters ridden: 4
Total for the tour after seven parks: 40

Dorney Park – Allentown, PA

We arrived in Allentown, PA this afternoon, where it’s hard to keep a good man down (according to Billy Joel).  With severe thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow, Joel and I decided to visit Dorney Park this evening.  In three hours, we rode seven coasters (and one kiddie ride), explored the park, and had dinner, with time to spare before closing.  Dorney didn’t have the charm of other Cedar Fair parks like Knott’s Berry Farm or Cedar Point, but it was an enjoyable way to spend our final afternoon and evening in Pennsylvania.

Roller Coasters
Steel Force – Joel felt it was “trying to be Millennium Force, but not”.  He said it was “okay in speed” (for him, 75mph is “okay”), had good height (over 200 feet), and he liked it overall.  I agree.

Hydra – This was a great floorless coaster.  According to Joel, Hydra was awesome, especially the crackerjack roll (a slow corkscrew at the beginning). He was truly excited to ride it, since it won its episode on the show “Insane Coaster Wars”.

Talon – This was a thoroughly enjoyable inverted coaster.  Joel was amused by the signs below the track leading up to the first drop, and he liked that it had a slower, twisty descent after the initial climb, rather than the huge drop at the beginning.   We always love the inversions on these coasters.  It reminded him of Great Bear at Hersheypark.

Possessed – This shuttle coaster akin to Wicked Twister at Cedar Point added a brake on the final run, so the coaster completely stops, making you feel like you’re about to fall (as Joel said, you think the coaster is “possessed”).  It was a surprising twist that will excite some and terrify others.

Stinger – This coaster was relocated to Dorney in 2012 and is a variation of the standard Vekoma Boomerang Coaster found at Knott’s Berry Farm, HersheyPark, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, etc.  In this version (“Invertigo” is the most famous of these), the coaster is inverted and rides sit face to face, so half the riders go backward for the first run, then forward for the return, and the others do the opposite.  These are rather intense coasters, but Joel enjoyed it (more than I did – I’m not a fan of going backward).

Wild Mouse – Just an average Wild Mouse coaster.  No spinning.  Normal track.  Incredibly slow loading, as they only allow two people over 48” in a car at a time.  Nothing special.

Woodstock Express – Joel and I “officially hated” this kids coaster (his term, not mine).  It was really rough, threw us side to side, and not fun in any way.  To add insult to injury, they made us go around three times.  Ick.

Thunderhawk – Built in 1923, it’s one of the oldest coasters in the world.  Too many people told me they were in pain after the ride, and after 47 roller coasters in six days, I didn’t want to push it, and Joel didn’t care.   After the three Kennywood classic wooden roller coasters, I feel like I have done the best old woodies in America, and I didn’t feel a driving need to ride this one, at least not today.

VIP Options
Parking: In 2013, it was $15 for standard parking or $20 for preferred.  For Platinum Season Pass holders, standard parking is free, and you can upgrade to preferred for $5.

Fast Lane: Like other Cedar Fair parks, they have a Fast Lane pass which dramatically cuts wait time, and on this day it cost $50 for the first person, and $40 or less for each additional person.  Since we arrived late in the day, the crowds had already thinned, so it wasn’t necessary.

Attractions
Lazer Maze – Joel really enjoyed this attraction ($5 per person), where you have to work your way around laser beams (imagine a museum security system from a movie) and press targets in record time.  Joel suggests trying easy or medium, but said that expert is super tough.  Perhaps a jewel thief would use this for practice.  Many other parks across the country have this attraction.

Rides
Linus Launcher – This was the only non-coaster ride we tried.  It’s in the Planet Snoopy kids area, and you lie flat on your stomach and revolve around the center pole.  It’s sort of a flying coaster for young kids.

Food
Chickie’s and Pete’s – This Pennsylvania-based chain opened a full-service Sports Bar in the park in addition to its fast food location, where we had some decent chicken tenders.  Not surprisingly, they’re “famous” for their French fries, which they call “crab fries”, even though they have no crab in them.  It has something to do with the seasoning.  They were good, but nowhere near Kennywood’s Potato Patch.

Hotel
Although we generally prefer chains in the Hilton family, we couldn’t resist staying at the Holiday Inn Express directly across the street from Dorney Park.  Not only did we have a view of the park from our window, but the bedroom has a Jacuzzi in it, which we needed and used.  Like the other hotels on this trip, it had a sumptuous buffet breakfast included in the room rate, with one item I had never seen before: a push button pancake maker.  You push a button and a pancake comes out less than a minute later, almost like a piece of paper from a laser printer.  We had a great stay, and you can’t beat the location.

Dorney Roller Coasters ridden: 7
Total for the tour after eight parks: 47

Hersheypark Roller Coasters

Hersheypark has a good collection of 11 coasters, including one classic woodie, one of the most talked-about new coasters, and several other genres well-represented.

SkyRush – We are so glad we rode SkyRush.  There has been a lot of controversy about this coaster since it opened in 2012.  Most people think it’s a great coaster (and it’s currently ranked among the top 50 steel coasters in the world), but when it originally  opened, the leg restraints were so tight that it was bruising people’s quadriceps and thighs, earning the coaster the nickname “Thigh Crush”.  The manufacturers added more padding to the restraints, but people still complained.  Joel and I took a chance and rode it.  It’s a thrilling winged coaster with impressive dives and fun inversions.   Most importantly, by following the following five tips, we had a pain-free ride:

  1. Sit in the middle two seats.  The outer “wing seats” are supposedly more intense.
  2. Don’t pull the lap bar down too tightly when you first get on.
  3. Pull up on the side metal bars throughout the ride, pushing your butt down into the seat, preventing the lap bar from digging into your thighs.
  4. Keep your head back, since there are no shoulder restraints.
  5. Take everything out of your pockets, so the lap bar won’t press anything into your legs.

We experienced more vibration than we expected (Joel said it should be called “Massage Rush”), but overall, we loved it.

Fahrenheit – A blood-pumping coaster with a huge vertical climb, followed by a 97 degree drop.  The rest of the ride was gravy.  A highlight of the day.

Comet – A classic wooden coaster, built in 1946.  Not very rough, and loads of fun.  This was the only coaster on our entire trip that we rode three times.

Great Bear – An inverted roller coaster with multiple loops and corkscrews.  I found it to be a similar experience to Dragon Challenge at Islands of Adventure in Florida.  It started raining fairly hard right as we got on the ride, so it was not the ideal experience, but some say it their favorite coaster in the park.

Storm Runner – A medium-sized launch coaster, we liked both the launch and the inversions.  Reminded me a little of the new Sky Coaster at Kennywood, although Sky Coaster is more exciting and smoother.  We generally try to sit in the front row for launch coasters, finding that it adds significantly to the thrill.

Lightning Racer (Thunder Track & Lightning Track) – Joel and I became fans of racing coasters on this trip.  The two tracks on this wooden coaster are different and repeatedly diverge and converge, so each track is really like a different coaster.  We won both times we rode it, which doubled our enjoyment of the ride.

Superdooperlooper – This coaster had the first full loop of any coaster on the east coast.  It reminded me of The Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which opened around the same time.  It still packs a punch, but is tamer than the newer “extreme” coasters in the park.

TrailBlazer – a family steel coaster, similar to mine train coasters you would find elsewhere.  Good for those who don’t want inversions or high speeds.

Wild Mouse – A typical wild mouse roller coaster, but rougher than most of the others of this style that we rode on this trip.  We would skip this one on a return trip.

Wildcat – A newer wooden coaster that is considered to be the roughest ride in the park (although new cars have supposedly made it better).  It’s directly across from the Wild Mouse, hence the name.  It was starting to drizzle as we were going to ride this, so we skipped it and ran over to SkyRush, which is the first coaster they close when it rains.

Boomerang Coaster – This Vekoma Boomerang coaster is virtually identical to others that we have ridden at Knott’s Berry Farm and elsewhere, so in the interest of riding everything else before the rain started, we skipped it.  I’m also not really a fan of the Boomerang layout (three inversions, then running the entire coaster in reverse).  I prefer going forward on my coasters.

Hersheypark Roller Coasters ridden: 10
Total for the tour after six parks: 36

Kennywood Roller Coasters

I was surprised by the roller coasters at Kennywood – these were some of the best we have ever ridden, and all for different reasons.  With three classic wooden coasters and three modern steel coasters, it was a microcosm of coaster history, which added to the overall experience.

Sky Rocket – This launched coaster is the newest in the park.  It goes from 0 to 50mph in 4 seconds – not fast after Top Thrill Dragster yesterday, but with three inversions (with only a lap bar to keep you in place) and a great layout, we thought it was an A+ coaster.  When it ended, Joel smiled and said, “Smoooooth!”

Phantom’s Revenge – This steel monster kicked off our day, and we rode it again before we left.  Topping out at 85 mph, it was the fastest coaster in the world at the time it was built and is still one of the 10 fastest coasters in the US.  It also takes you through a lot of greenery, which we don’t see in SoCal parks.  I need to find some good synonyms for “thrilling”, but this ride was exactly that.

Racer – This coaster from 1927 blew my mind.  Two cars race side by side, much like Gemini at Cedar Point, but this one is much more fun.  What makes this ride particularly unusual is that even though it’s a racing coaster, it’s on one continuous track – when you finish, you find yourself on the other side of the boarding station.  The cars criss-cross at the beginning, making for this unique and surprising design.  A true highlight.

Thunderbolt – A great classic wooden coaster, originally built in 1924 and rebuilt and expanded in 1968.  It’s extremely well padded – knees, side, back armrest – and not very bumpy.  Loved it.

Jackrabbit –  The oldest coaster in the park, built in 1920.  It’s bumpier than the other two woodies, but still a good time.

Exterminator – An oddly themed indoor spinning wild mouse ride – you’re a rat (or perhaps a wild mouse?) trying to escape exterminators.  It was a little like Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom, but rougher.  Joel thought it was fine – I did not like it at all, and it was the only one of the day that hurt.

Kennywood Roller Coasters ridden: 6
Total for the tour after two parks: 21

 

Cedar Point Roller Coasters

We rode all 15 roller coasters – the park boasts that they have 16, but one is a kiddie coaster that can only be ridden if you have a small child in tow. I almost borrowed a six-year-old, but thought better of it.

I consulted with my ten-year-old son, and we mutually agreed on the rankings below for the coasters in the park, from best to worst.

1. Millennium Force – a dramatic name for an amazing coaster. This was one of the most thrilling rides we have ever experienced. It’s one of the tallest, fastest, longest roller coasters in the world – it rises over 300 feet and flies at up to 93 mph. It’s like being on a rocket, but had an incredibly smooth ride. It is a must for anyone who loves roller coasters. Amusement Today magazine rates it as the best steel coaster in the world, and from what I have experienced so far, I have to agree.

2. Top Thrill Dragster – TTD briefly held the record as the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world. This launched coaster goes from 0 to 120mph in 4 seconds, shooting you 420 feet high. The entire ride lasts for about 17 seconds (you are in the car for a few minutes pre- and post-ride). Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm is similar, but half the height and 2/3 the speed. TTD is an experience you can’t forget.

3. Maverick – Incredible speed, a 95 degree drop (it turns inward), and a tightly-designed track make this one of the best coasters in the park.

4. Raptor – A great inverted coaster. With various inversions and turns, it’s a wild ride, but a smooth one. The same company built Silver Bullet at Knott’s Berry Farm, but we liked Raptor more.

5. Gatekeeper – This winged coaster with the tallest inversion in the world opened in May 2013, making it the hottest attraction in the park. It certainly takes you on a long, fun ride with some unusual elements (like flying you sideways through two towers near the park’s entrance), but didn’t find it to be as revolutionary as others have.

6. Wicked Twister – a launched shuttle coaster, which sends you rising and twisting up and down two columns, forward and backward, at up to 70 mph. Almost identical to V2: Vertical Velocity, which we enjoyed riding at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Northern California.

7. Cedar Creek Mine Ride – Based on the name and the wood supports, I expected this to be a bumpy ride. Quite the contrary – with the steel track, the Mine Train is lot of fun and quite smooth.

8. Iron Dragon – A suspended coaster similar to Ninja at Six Flags Magic Mountain, we started our day at Cedar Point swinging our way through the trees on this mild but enjoyable coaster.

9. Gemini – Our first racing coaster, where two cars start simultaneously on separate tracks and race each other (Radiator Springs Racers at DCA borrowed this concept). We loved the idea of the race, but thought the coaster itself was just okay. It gets extra points because we won our race.

10. Magnum XL-200 – This was one of my few disappointments at Cedar Point. Magnum is historic – the first coaster in the world built over 200 feet high, and Joel was thrilled to see the “scream guards” akin to those on California Screamin’ at Disney California Adventure. I know it’s very popular and highly regarded, but we just didn’t love it. I found it bumpy and I didn’t care for the track layout. A letdown.

11. Woodstock Express – a family coaster similar in size and scope to Gadget Go-Coaster at Disneyland or Coastersaurus at Legoland. A great coaster for young kids. Has a cute Snoopy/Woodstock themed train, but the overall theming is sparse.

12. Corkscrew – With its three inversions and its beautiful blue track running through the center of the park, I was excited to ride Corkscrew. It’s unfortunately showing its age (built in 1976) and was a rough ride. Bummer.

13. Blue Streak – The oldest existing coaster in the park, it’s much smaller than its big brother Mean Streak, but unfortunately gives a rough ride without the fun that good wooden roller coasters have. We closed our day with those coaster and vowed to sit in front or second row of all subsequent wooden coasters, where the ride should be smoother.

14. Mean Streak – This enormous wooden monster reminded me of Ghost Rider at Knott’s Berry Farm – until I rode it. Mean Streak is indeed mean – incredibly rough for a modern coaster, and I couldn’t wait to get off.

15. Mantis – This stand-up coaster was so terrible that it risked ruining the day for us. This ride shook our heads back and forth so much that my ears hurt after the ride and Joel had a headache. I found that pressing my head against one of the headrests helped, but I regret not doing my research and seeing how many other people hate this ride. It’s an embarrassment at a park that has so many great attractions.

Cedar Point Roller Coasters ridden: 15
Total for the tour after one park: 15