Amusement Parks
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Kentucky Kingdom

Amusement Parks

This Louisville park has probably receives more negative comments out on the internet message boards than any other. It still has a long way to go, but it is making progress.
Access. From I75 or I64, take Watterson Expressway to Crittenden Drive and turn into the parking lot. Seems easy enough, but with 75 mph traffic changing lanes catching the correct turn can be tricky. If you think the parking lot is huge now, imagine it before they carved the park out of the original.
Kentucky Kingdom was born in 1987 when the State Fairgrounds Commission decided the five big carnival companies all charged too much for a yearly state fair midway so they would create their own, in a corner of the huge parking lot. After the 20 day Fair closed someone noticed that now the whole setup would sit idle for 49 weeks. They tried to run it as an amusement park, but it lost money and needed a tax dollar bailout.
Enter Ed Hart, who leveraged a buyout of the bankrupt facility in 1990.
He nursed the park along for almost a decade. A neighborhood was being cleared out for airport expansion, and Hart grabbed a section of that for expansion. He bridged a four lane highway to reach the new acreage, brought the ride total to within three of Kings Island, added a waterpark, and invested heavily in landscaping to escape the parking lot legacy. But big coasters like Thunder Run and Chang were expensive, and he had a limited pocketbook during a run of bad weather and tight economics. Hart said coming in that amusement parks were a 20 year investment, which could pay off big down the road but required developers to hang on. Ultimately, he couldn’t do it.
Enter Six Flags. They bought him out. But it's still been an uphill struggle. The young trees have finally matured enough to provide a little shade and green, and a few flower beds help with color. But there’s still too much asphalt. KK can’t shake the image of a carnival set down on a parking lot.
And after several years of management, Six Flags has other problems. To begin with, this is the least inviting amusement park entrance in America. The first thing visitors see is stone walls and barbed wire. It looks like a federal penitentiary. Nine ticket windows and only one open with a mile long line doesn’t help, either. Once inside, customers are further irritated when they learn that on top of the Ride All Day price, EIGHT rides carry an extra charge. This policy is abusive wherever it is used, but EIGHT ???
Lodging: We always recommend staying close to a park. Here, that would place you at The Executive Inn, a magnificent 40 year old establishment at the front entrance to the Fairgrounds parking lot. At quite reasonable rates, you’ll enjoy a fine restaurant, pool, and classy rooms just a pleasant quarter mile walk from the park. Just don't plan your visit during the Kentucky State Fair in August. Crowds, traffic, and prices are inflated and you won’t find lodging anywhere.
Slingshot drag racers behind Thunder Run. For an extra fee, you can steer an actual 1960s machine down the quarter mile track in real competition.
Roadrunner, KK's interpretation of the classic Wild Mouse. This one is magnificently themed. You could shoot a roll of film standing in line.
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