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Kings Island

Kings Island
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Kings Island can't match Cedar Point in numbers or Kennywood in history, but it still has an outstanding collection of both wooden and steel coasters. Indeed, some of these rides are still attracting hour long lines 30 years after their debuts. It'a a very photogenic coaster family, set against wooded backgrounds, rising high against the sky and dropping deep into ravines. Many great pictures can be taken from right along the fences, and anyone with a good telephoto can spend an hour atop the Eiffel Tower aiming down at the various first drops. Most interesting is Diamondback, one of the two greatest hypers in the U.S. There are Beast and Woodstock Express, the world's number two woodie and the world's greatest compact woodie. But there is also Flying Ace, the number one suspended kiddie coaster; Adventure Express, the best mine train; and Vortex, a dizzying array of loops and turns. Topping off the collection are a classic wooden racing coaster and the world's greatest "flying" coaster.



The Beast for 32 years was the number one wooden roller coaster in the world, only recently having been displaced by Holiday World's Voyage. It's still a clear number two. This is a great experience. It doesn't track as smoothly as it did when it was younger, but it's not bad. Trims have been added to slow it down midrun and reduce the wear on the tracks below the drops, and they detract from the experience. But it's still a magnificent ride morning, noon or night. A reckless race through 35 acres of woods with tunnels, helices and the second longest run in the world. The spiral through that helix is amazing; the only other coaster to come close is Holiday World's Legend.

Flight Deck is a great suspended steeler except for the fact that it's too short. It is a rare Arrow suspended because it only has one lift hill. Flight Deck is 2352 feet lomg amd 78 feet high. Once it climbs the lift hill out of the station, it follows a basic L pattern, screaming down the drop, careening sharply to the left, winding its way out, around, and back to the station. The cars on Flight Deck swing completely free laterally but the track is banked completely vertically coming around the sharpest bends. This was a hard lesson learned from the first Kings Island steel suspended, The Bat, also built by Arrow. They could not keep The Bat running. They finally realized they had not banked the track. The high speeds and sharp turns put so much stress on cars, wheels and shock absorbers that it destroyed the ride. Flight Deck avoided this problem and has run smoothly ever since. This is actually a pretty scenic experience, racing through wooded hillsides and a ravine, but you're moving so fast and tilting so radically you may not notice.
Woodstock Express is PKI's compact woodie. It is one of the great compacts in the country, and several model coasters have been based on it. It's not only a great ride, a great introductory coaster for young riders, and a great family coaster. It's also a great nostalgic experience, because early in the 20th Century, this was what a classic coaster was like, the very first experiments with the upstop wheels. The boardwalk parks in California and the East Coast all had one. Kennywood had its Little Dipper, Waldameer its Comet. They had limited space, so the coaster had to fold back inside itself. What evolved was this double out and back with the drops from one circuit dropping under and through the second circuit. Tunnel sheds (see right) and headchoppers add variety and thrills without extreme height or helices.
Flying Ace is another coaster classic masquerading as a family or kiddie ride. This is a very well designed Vekoma suspended coaster. It features a 52 ft lift hill, 1129 total length, 35 mph speed, single train operation. The ride is very smooth and good experience for a novice before trying Flight Deck. It's actually a rather relaxing interlude for veteran riders of the more intense coasters, but the lines are often long.
Invertigo is the Vekoma ride that hovers over the entrance, the first one you see from the parking lot. It climbs 115 feet high and hits 50 mph through five inversions. It's an odd ride, an end to end track. You back out of the station to the first 138 foot high stub (an odd sort of lift hill), roll forward through the station and on at 55 mph through three inversions to the other stub end, reverse and come back, then ease into the station. In all, it's a 1:30 ride. It's a smooth ride but at only 30 seconds in each direction (and about 15 seconds at each end) it seems much too short.
Racer is Kings Island's version of the two tracked, two trained coaster. It's a 3415 ft. 61 mph experience, with an 88 ft. lift hill. The ride seems rough compared to, say, Kennywood's Racers, but it's still a lot of fun. Unlike KW's, a compact ride which winds under and over the lift station and loops back on itself, this is a classic out and back layout which runs along the east boundary of the park.
Invertigo is a 1987 Arrow Dynamics creation which still packs quite a punch. We're talking here about a 148 ft. lift hill, 3800 ft. of length, six inversions and 55 mph trains, all laid out in a forest with hills and hollows and the screams from the adjacent Beast echoing in your ears. Vortex is still smooth and comfortable, one of the great steelers now operating and certainly one of the greatest of its 80s decade.
Diamondback debuted in 2009 and instantly became either the best or second best hyper steeler in the nation, depending on your opinion of Kennywood's Phantom. Each ride has a major gimmick : Phantom the plunge down the cliff toward the river and the railroad tracks right through the middle of the Thunderbolt, Diamondback the plunge into the lake with water spraying in all directions like a boat plunge or log flume. We still give Phantom a slight edge but it's close. Diamondback is smooth as silk and has more high drops, beginning with a 215 feet first one (at a 74 degree angle), and hitting 230 feet at its highest. The ride is 5282 feet long and hits speeds of 80 mph three times during its three minute run.
Firehawk hides behind the Racer, accessed through a tunnel under the white wooden framework. It climbs 115 feet high and hits 50 mph through five inversions. You board it by sitting facing backward. At the top of the lift hill, the seats rotate so you're suspended below the rail facing the ground. You thus have the sensation of flying as if you're Superman. This also complicates the definition of "inversion." Since you're already upside down, a loop doesn't really invert you. So there could be as many as eight inversions or as few as three according to how you look at it. Firehawk sets up some intense Gs. In 2008 one rider died of a heart attack, not due to any ride malfunction, but to the Gs. However, for anyone nor suffering from heart disease, Firehawk is safe, and no other incidents have occurred.

Backlot Stunt Coaster is a Wild Mouse on steroids, a wacky run in Morris Minor cars themed as a Hollywood Stunt Studio. While you spin around sharp turns, helices (see left), steep climbs and tunnels, you're confronted with helicopter gunships, flame throwers and other movie scenes. You'll experience extreme acceleration and disorienting blackout stretches. This ride is hard to classify. It's sort of a cross between Locosumo at Indiana Beach, Kennywood's Exterminator, and the mine train and wild mouse rides at several parks. It's taken the best of all those rides. However you classify it, we love it and think it deserves a #1 rating.

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