Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
This is a concrete park with very little theming. The exception is in the back, a frontier-type theme complete with Mine Car Coaster, which is better than most even given its age. However, this park doesn’t really need a theme, being placed right on Lake Erie. It is surrounded by beach, which is ambiance in and of itself… and also provides a very nice refreshing breeze.
Shopping here is way better than most, with the exception of Busch Gardens. There are numerous shops with a great selection of Cedar Point- branded items… but that’s not all… they also have dragons, wizards, light houses, neon 60-ish stuff… gads, you name it! Reasonable pricing on this stuff too! They also have a myriad of craft shops, mainly in the Frontier area… candles, wood, leather, glass, yarn, iron, even a place to build your own teddy bear.
There are a couple of arcades, which are fun, but the Midway games are a big blow it. Sorry Cedar Point, You’re getting slammed here. Most parks realize that the more you win, or perceive being able to win, the more you will play (ka-ching!) but this basic idea is lost on the Cedar Point management. The games are difficult to downright irritating.
Cedar Point has a total of 17 roller coasters! YES!! This is where they sorta make up for the flaws in other areas. This park has the ‘Fearsome Five’, we rode them all, and then some. Cedar Point is king of the roller coaster wars. If you are a coaster fanatic like me, then do not miss Millennium.
Paramount’s Kings Dominion – Richmond, Virginia area
Entering the parking lot of King’s Dominion is your first clue. Cracked pavement with weeds growing through the cracks. Trash sporadically covers the cracked pavement. Parking attendants were virtually non-existent.
The park itself does, indeed, carry over the theme of the parking lot… which is pretty much the ‘gone to seed’ theme. Graffiti is absolutely everywhere! This park is dirty… which makes me feel unsafe on the coasters. If they do not care enough about this park to maintain the grounds, are they really maintaining the mechanics of the rides? Probably not!
Shopping is actually not too bad. Above Six Flags, below Busch Gardens. You can find several shops that carry park-branded items, the standard fare… but there is also one shop with a decent selection of dragons and whatnot, and there is an African themed shop near the Volcano. Prices are average for an amusement park.
Food is way over priced at King’s Dominion and leaves quite a lot to be desired. Looking at the park itself, you have to wonder if it’s even safe to eat anything! We found mainly burgers and hot dogs… the burgers were dry and tasted soy-based (which is not necessarily a bad thang)… we couldn’t even finish them. Later in the day we bought hot dogs and pretty much had to force those down too. Dry, stale buns are the worst!
As far as rides go, King’s Dominion does have Hypersonic XLC, which is the only coaster of it’s kind to date, a compressed-air launch coaster. This is a blast coaster and the most intense 20 seconds of your life! They strap you into your seat, and then warn you to keep your head back against the headrest. DO!! They then do a NASA-type count down as you stare up the steep track you are about to encounter. I do not have the exact stats on this (and stats are not available on the web site), but it is a zero-to-outrageous speed in like 1 second. This ride is worth the trip if you live nearby.
Six Flags America -Washington, DC area
This Six Flags is located just outside of D.C., a major tourist destination. With all that potential you would think that the Six Flag’s Corporation would take a little more pride in this park. It is my understanding from talking to a few folks that this was a failed park that Six Flags bought out. They’ve done this in quite a few areas so I’ve no reason to doubt this. The thing is, they have owned it for at least 5 years that I know of, probably quite a bit longer. Plenty of time to have brought this park up to standard! Get off your butts Six Flags!
The parking lot is layed out badly and is in dire need of repairs. This wasn’t a big problem on our visit as the place was so empty an hour after opening (on a Saturday!) that we parked right at the gate. No complaint on that score. Leaving later is another story all together. It took us a full two hours to exit this lot. Nobody bothered to come tell anyone what the hold up was… we all just sat in our space the entire time and waiting for something to actually move. Irritating in the extreme!
There is quite a selection of food at this Six Flags. At various spots you can find BBQ, fried chicken, pizza, burgers, hot dogs, & chicken strips, along with the usual funnel cakes, ice cream, etc. The pizza at Casa de Pizza was really not half bad for an amusement park, but the prices were a bit steep. We paid about $20 for two meals there.
Being amusement park addicts, we buy tons of souvenirs from each one we visit. Indeed, our entire drinking glass collection is made up of glasses with a myriad of roller coasters on them. (go ahead and laugh.. we’ll never grow up!) The problem with this park is a lack of branding. Oh, they had plenty of generic Six Flags items, but very, very few with the specific Six Flags America on them. Management, if you read these, heads up: What we would have bought are shot glasses from all the coasters, drinking glasses, coffee cups, magnets, t-shirts and ball caps. We spend a pretty penny usually. You lost.
As to the coasters… Ahhh to the meat of it! Usually when we visit a park we have a specific coaster in mind that we MUST ride. This particular trip was for Batwing, which was worth the aggravation of the rest of the park. Now, this coaster doesn’t sound like much in the specs with a height of 115′ and top speed just over 50 mph. That, my friends, is deceiving. This coaster lays you down so in one part of the loops you are facing the sky, the other you are screaming across the ground, which feels like flying. I loved this coaster! Enormous thrill factor. The wait wasn’t all that bad when we went at, about an hour.
Superman is comparable to Busch Garden’s Apollo’s Chariot with a 200′ drop at about 70mph. This is a very smooth ride with decent airtime. Loved it, but not unique by any means.
Six Flags Over Texas – Arlington, Texas
This is one of Six Flag’s best parks. This is a concrete park, but done very nicely. Lots of trees and flowerbeds make this a pleasant park to wander through. There’s not a lot of difference between areas…Mexico/Spain, Texas, and the Old South… but in this case that’s A-OK…. too many great things to do to spend much time lolly-gagging in between! Besides, when you go to Texas, ya wanna see Texas stuff, right? All right then! This Theme is perfect.
In spite of the crowds the parking lot was very clean and well kept, as was the park itself… and we were actually able to park in the preferred area. It is well marked with plenty of friendly attendants. Unfortunately, I can’t tell ya about the trams, since we parked right outside the entrance. Exiting was a breeze at the end of a long day.
Food quality was not bad at all; not spectacular, but pretty good for an amusement park. We went with my brother and his daughter this time and Siarah wanted to eat at Chubbie’s Diner for lunch. Actually, they had a pretty darn good burger at a reasonable price, about $8 per person for the meal. For dinner we ate at Eddie Deen’s Texas BBQ, where they loaded us down. Lots of food from here, worth the price (again, $8)…although not near the best BBQ I’ve ever had. There are a total of 25 places to eat at this park.
Six Flags Over Texas has lots of carnival-type games such as ring toss and the like and they are Fun and win-able. We walked away with two humungous stuffed animals from different locations: A dolphin for my brother the Miami freak, and a Doberman for my niece. Boy was I glad we had parked near the entrance.
This is the only place this Six Flags fell short. There are lots of shops, but aside from Indian Village (Silver jewellery, western apparel), it’s mainly just your basic theme-park memorabilia. At least they do have park-specific branded stuff, unlike Six Flags America.
Lets get to the meat of it, shall we? Judge Roy Scream is a wooden coaster that screams over an eight-acre site along the park’s entry lake at about 50mph. This seemed to be a favorite judging by conversations heard in line… it was all right, but far from my fave. Flashback is a little more thrilling at 125′, only 50mph… but turns you upside down SIX times — three times going forward and three times going backward. Texas Giant has been around for 12 years, but it’s still one of the best wooden coasters in the country at 143′ and 62mph. Shock Wave was the World’s first roller coaster with back-to-back 70′ vertical loops at 60mph. Very fun! Mr.Freeze is an acceleration coaster which launches you from 0 to 70 mph in less than 4 seconds to a height of 238 feet. This line was over 2 hours long, but it was inside a themed building so it was at least not a boring wait… and well worth it. A definite rush! Titan has a drop of 255′ at over 85mph! This steel coaster boasts a full three-and-a half minutes of spectacular plunges, a 120-foot long tunnel shrouded in total darkness, a series of camel back hills, huge spiral curves, and high-speed helixes! Awesome airtime. YeeHaw!!!! If all they had was Titan and Mr.Freeze, the trip still would have been worth it.
Busch Gardens – Williamsburg, Virginia
Busch Gardens has the absolute cleanest parking lot I’ve seen. On top of that, the lots are well organized, easy to remember, well staffed, with easy tram access from all…. and speaking of trams, their operators have a great sense of humor. Not the usual boring scripts from these guys. They love their job, and it shows. The parking lot is indeed indicative of the rest of the park. Spotless. Not one teeny graffiti mark to be found anywhere. No trash stays on the ground for more than a minute. Why does this matter? Because it shows the park management actually cares. My logic is if they care about presentation, they must also care about ride mechanics… thus, I feel safer on those roller coasters.
This park is broken down into themed ‘countries’. Each country is like a park unto itself and you feel totally immersed in that culture… from food to shops to rides. This is no bland concrete park! This, my friends, is an experience! Various countries include Ireland (new last year), Rhinefeld, San Marcos, New France, Oktoberfest, Fiesta Italia, San Marco, Aquitane, Banbury Cross, & Heatherdowns.
The saying here is “Fear the Four”. Lowest of those 4 would be the Lock Ness Monster, an interlocking double-looping roller coaster, which gives you a peek at Scotland’s most infamous monster. Reaching 13 stories into the air, this creature reaches speeds up to 60 mph. Nessy has seen her prime, alas, and has become a bit of a jarring ride. Next up the list would be The Big Bad Wolf, which is a suspended roller coaster. That is not a bad coaster, but also a tad outdated. In the number 2 spot would be Apollo’s Chariot, a steel coaster with a 210″ initial drop at 73 mph. The total track is 825 feet with 9 drops. Sweeeeeet. We ride this at least 3 times each visit, and the wait has never been more than an hour. Number 1 on our list is Alpengeist. This one is well worth the wait in line. The World’s tallest, most twisted inverted roller coaster, this baby is themed like an Alpen ski jump with six staggering inversions and a 170-foot drop. Awesome. DO make sure you get the front seats for this one! Lines are sometimes up to 2 hours for this one, but if you time it right you can get on in an hour or less.
The food at Busch Gardens is the best of any park we have ever been to. No matter which country you choose to eat in, you will not be disappointed. Das Festhause is a must for every Busch Gardens trip. They have great German food guaranteed to fill you up and leave you happy. Dinner for two here usually runs us about $20 but unlike other parks, it is sooo worth it.
Shopping here is the best there is. Each country features items from that country. San Marcos has Capo du Monte, and the actual artisans are there quite often. Very interesting to watch them work. In fact, artisans are periodically in every area, brought over from their respective countries by Busch Gardens. I have 2 German steins and was lucky enough to have them both signed. One was signed by the master-painter himself AND his father, who is also a master stein painter. Very cool! In Killarney you can find Pot of Gold, a wonderful fantasy shop full of dragons, wizards, and gargoyles at extremely reasonable prices. There is also a sword shop in the England area.