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Kings Island

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Kings Island is the daughter park of Coney Island, a long time Cincinnati park, named after the original New York boardwalk site, located along the Ohio River southeast of the city. For most of the 20th Century Coney Island entertained visitors from a four state area. It was a good park, in the classic old trolley park mode. There were rides, shows, concerts, school packages, roller coasters, lots of trees and flowers, restaurants and fireworks displays. But there was a problem. The Ohio River flooded at least once a year, and sometimes more. The park spent as much money on cleanup as it did on all other maintenance combined. And it had filled its available acreage so expansion was not an option. Something had to be done.
New owners decided to move. They chose a tract of land far outside the city, at the farming village of Kings Mills, a wooded plateau high above a bend in the Miami River. There was enough land for a century of expansion, they were right on the still under construction interstate, and they could control at least some of the development around them. They took the first word of Kings Mills and the last word of Coney Island and opened as a competitor of Cedar Point, Kennywood and other major parks. They brought all of the old Coney Island rides with them that could be moved, sold off most of the rest, and sold the property with a few old rides still intact.
That was in 1972. In the 32 years since, the park has become one of the dominant players in the Midwest, a whole complex of motels, restaurants, and campgrounds has grown up to serve visitors, and Kings Island has its own interchange with I-71. The park has changed ownership twice and is now part of the Cedar Fair chain. In a colossal blunder, during the first ownership change, a major piece of land was sold off, which will eventually prove problematic. However, for the present, Kings Island is a great experience. It has one of the world's finest coaster lineups, the best Kiddieland anywhere, beautiful landscaping including the most photogenic entry mall of any park, and a same admission water park second only to Holiday World. It has one of the top five amusement park railroads, the number two woodie in the world, and a model of the Eiffel Tower that can be seen for five miles up and down the interstate. Families spend whole vacations at Kings Mills. A biking trail goes all the way to Cleveland, flanked by several bed and breakfasts, great canoeing on the Miami River and an isolated campground along the river, surrounded by old growth forest.

There is a state of the art tennis complex just across the road where a world class tournament is held every August, a major league golf course next to it, and of course the Cincinnati Reds just down the interstate. This is a park whose future is guaranteed.

But it's a big place. To do it right requires at least two days. Weekends and holidays are serious problems and should be avoided if at all possible. Hour long lines at all major rides are common. If you have to come on a weekend, at least call ahead and make sure you avoid Girl Scout, Boy Scout, Band, Graduation, Back to School, Physics, and various other specialty days. And Kings Island sells itself out to corporations for special weekends.

Actually, if you can fit it in your schedule, October is a great time to visit Kings Island. Crowds are down, days are cool with low humidity, sudden rains or thunderstorms are past, and Halloween and Harvest decorations add a festive air. The coasters at Kings Island run fine in cooler temperatures and the trees in fall color will give your photographs a classy touch.

Sadly, the old Kings Island Campground, right behind Top Gun, closed, so you can no longer pitch your tent and walk over or take the shuttle to the park, fixing breakfast to the roar of early morning test runs. You can still camp, but now you need to drive a few miles down to the river, and there's no shuttle.

Food here is also an issue. There's no Sky Room, Park Terrace, Dollywood or Plymouth Rock Cafe. Many longtime PKI patrons leave the park and eat at one of the nearby establishments, then return. Inside the park is only the usual assortment of fast food. Heart healthy eating is not yet a Kings Island priority.

If you enjoy taking park photos and have a good telephoto or zoom lens, be sure to bring it and ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, shown here at left. You can get some great aerial shots of the various roller coasters and other rides. But you're way up there. You have to have either a telephoto or zoom lens. The overhead shots we use that seem to be taken from a helicopter were actually taken from the Eiffel Tower with a telephoto.

Kings Island has one huge asset which none of its rival parks has, one that most of them would kill for. This is a huge 100 acre forest. They run The Beast, Diamondback, the train and Whitewater Canyon through it, and Vortex, Racer and the Log Flume skirt the edge. As many of the photos demonstrate, the forest lends a strong scenic presence to the rides and walkways.

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