By: Tom Driver
Sydney, face beaming with happiness and independence, was running down the exit after her second time riding Peanuts 500 in Planet Snoopyat Kings Island when she asked, practically panting she was so excited, “What’s next?” I pointed to the entrance line for Woodstock Express, one of two wooden coasters still in operation from when the park first opened, and said, “Do you want to ride the roller coaster again?” She didn’t even break stride as she rounded the corner and started racing up the ramp to get in line. There weren’t many people in this area of the park, it was almost dinner time on Thursday and the sky was filled with threatening clouds, so Sydney was free to run all the way to the attendant assigning row numbers. Kelly and I took off after our little ride enthusiast, our attempts to have her slow down failing miserably until finally Kelly screamed, “STOP RUNNING!”
This was our second time riding Woodstock Express and Sydney was feeling the rush. She waited until the smaller hills midway through the run and then something amazing happened – her hands came off the bar and shot straight into the air with a cry of “Put your hands up Momma!” Over the next three or four little hills her hands were high in the air and sounds of pure joy flew out of her mouth. I caught a glimpse of her and thought, “This is what the phrase – Best Day Ever! – looks like.”
We Travelers Three didn’t walk through the gates at Kings Island that Thursday until after 2:00 PM; very late by theme park standards. Normally, I would have been wary about paying $30+ a ticket and not arriving until the afternoon, but Kelly found a great deal for travel agents on the website for The Kings Island Resort and Conference Center which lowered our total cost for the day (park and hotel stay) to well below market rates. Turns out there were some miscommunication around the deal, but it worked out in our favor; I’ll let Kelly explain it all in a separate post.
Kelly and I didn’t have any expectations for riding the bigger attractions ourselves. It’s not as much fun riding alone (someone has to stay with Sydney after all) and we knew we’d be arriving late. We could have spent another $45/person to avoid the lines, with the Kings Island Fast Lane ticket, but that didn’t seem like the best use of funds compared to the other things we wanted to do on this trip. Our plan was to let this day be all about Sydney, and what she wanted to do was play in Planet Snoopy.
Planet Snoopy was voted “Best Kids Area in the World” 11 consecutive years by Amusement Today and if you have a little one around Sydney’s height, who enjoys amusement park rides, it might get your vote too. At 46 inches tall, Sydney was in the sweet spot to ride everything in Planet Snoopy, and she did, at least three times. She enjoyed the rides for smaller kids because she could be a big kid and ride them all by herself, which allowed Kelly and me to retreat to nearby shady tree for a few minutes on a hot afternoon. All three of us tried the “bigger” rides like Surf Dog, Woodstock Express, and Flying Ace Aerial Chase and they had enough speed, height and excitement to lift Mom and Dad’s pulse a little too.
One of the best takeaways of the day, at least for me, was watching Sydney’s confidence grow each time she rode one of the big rides. The progression went like this; she would hold my hand tight the first time through (I found out she’s much stronger than she looks), on the second ride she eased up on the vice grip a little and would even let go of the bar when she felt really brave, and by the third time she was flailing her arms like one of those coaster junkies you see on the Discovery Channel.
After dinner, we walked around the rest of the park to let our food settle a bit and to see if Sydney would like to try some of the other rides. We came across Shake, Rattle and Roll in the Coney Mall section of the park. Sydney calls these “spinning rides” so it may not have been the best choice so close after dinner, but she “definitely wanted to ride that one” so she and I got in line. Kelly decided to sit this one out. Her memories of the nausea that eight “spinning rides” in a row elicited during a day last month with Sydney in Jungle Jack’s Landing at the Columbus Zoo were still fresh in her mind.
The wait line for Shake, Rattle and Roll is adjacent to the Vortex, the multi-inversion coaster, so Sydney and I counted the number of times the riders went upside down while we waited. “I’m not riding that one, Daddy, never!” I responded, “Never say never, sweetie. It looks fun to me. You might change your mind some day.” Sydney and I rode this one again later in the evening and I noticed there were many empty seats on the Vortex. After receiving permission from the girls I took Vortex for a spin. Rather, it took me for a spin. It’s one of the best inversion coasters I’ve ridden and I didn’t have to wait at all; walked right on.
Shake, Rattle and Roll has three sections of six or so cars in each section. Not only does each section spin in a circle,the whole ride turns on an axis so the riders get a brief view of heading straight up into the air as well as heading straight down. The first couple rotations Sydney held that bar tight and I put my arm around her. But by the third time, she was waving at Mommy, who found a great spot to watch, and yelling for joy. When we went back to ride it before we left and she was yelling, “I’m going to touch the sky, Daddy!” Along with, “Don’t hold me, Daddy, I don’t need you to hold me this time.” Sorry Syd, Daddy’s first instinct as we’re racing toward to the ground is to protect you, I can’t help it. We both had our hands midway through the second ride. The attendant even accused me, via the loudspeaker, of trying to grab the trees – I plead guilty but only on one count, and cite overwhelming excitement due to having so much fun. Plus, they were so close I couldn’t resist. Experiencing that ride with Sydney was easily one of my favorite memories from a day filled with great moments.
Here are a few tips if you’re planning a visit:
- If you like to purchase the pictures from each ride – they have several in Planet Snoopy with The Great Pumpkin Coaster and Race for Your Life Charlie Brown being two of the best – you’ll save money getting the package for four pictures saved on a flash drive compared to buying them individually.
- The Kings Island Resort and Conference Center is an older hotel, but it was clean. Our deal included a free shuttle to and from the park, and a discount on their continental breakfast.
- We decided to grab dinner at Festhaus because it has lots of indoor seating and it was beginning to rain.
a. Convince your party to at least try Chinese food; the line for pizza and burgers was three times as long.
b. Be prepared for sticker shock. The prices are not any worse than other amusement parks, but they still made me cringe.
- Second note on Festhaus – they have a British Invasion musical review for the diners to enjoy whilst eating. Picture the show Glee but one hundred times worse. It started shortly after my long wait for pizza but I wanted to leave immediately. Kelly says the show is not that bad and I’m a snob about those things. I admit to being a music snob but I respectfully disagree about the quality of the performance.
- Our wait time for the bigger rides in Planet Snoopy was no more than 15 minutes, and that only happened a few times. The longest wait was for the log ride (Race for Your Life); about 25 minutes. At the end of the night, around 9:00 PM, I decided to ride Vortex and had no wait time at all. I’m really glad we didn’t pay for their “Fast Lane” but keep in mind we went on a Thursday between 2:00 PM and close. I’ve heard arguments from both sides of the fence on this issue.