Kings Island has always been on my list of parks to visit, and when they revealed Mystic Timbers for 2017, I decided it was time to make the trek to Cincinnati to check it out. While at the park on Tuesday, I tackled Kings Island’s world-class collection of thrill rides and found new favorites in Diamondback, Banshee, and The Beast. I thought Mystic Timbers was a solid ride, but “the shed” seemed more like an afterthought than a climax.
I’ve always admired Kings Island’s 230-foot hypercoaster, and upon entering the park I was drawn to the ride like a magnet. The line was a mere walk-on, and within minutes I was sitting in a comfy B&M Hyper seat near the back of the train. As the train ascended the hill, I took in the view. Kings Island is a beautiful park, and I could see miles in every direction from Diamondback’s lift. Cresting the hill, the train plummeted, dashing me to the ground in a euphoric plunge of weightlessness.
Each hill in the coaster’s layout had me floating in my seat, and every movement of the train was perfectly fluid. Heading into the woods at the back of the park, the train snaked its way over several humpbacks and raced through a turnaround. The splashdown at the end of the ride made for a perfect ending, cooling lucky riders with a fine spray and serving to slow the train’s speed.
When the train entered the brake run, two ride-ops headed over to the train to inform me and the other riders that they had encountered a technical difficulty, and we would remain on the brake run until the maintenance crew had fixed the issue. It ended up being a 20-minute wait, but I enjoyed getting to hang out on Diamondback’s train. I ended up striking a conversation with a few other riders who, like me, were looking forward to seeing Cedar Point’s 2018 announcement the next day.
After a bit, the ride-ops sent the waiting trains into the station to unload, then ran several test cycles with the empty trains. As soon as the ride reopened, I was first in line for a second ride. And it was every bit as thrilling as the first.
How did Diamondback compare to my other favorite steel coasters? While no first drop can truly compare to the ones found on Fury 325 and Millennium Force, I thought that Diamondback’s layout was nearly flawless in all other respects. I gave the ride 9 out of 10 stars.
Earlier this year, I named Mystic Timbers the Best New Ride for 2017, and I was eager to find out whether or not the ride had truly earned the title. Standing 109 feet tall, the park’s new GCI wooden coaster wound its way through the woods by Diamondback in a series of quick bunny hills. I passed the ride’s entrance sign and listened with amusement to an audio recording warning me to turn back, as the area was on lockdown. Since it’s fairly unusual for a Cedar Fair park to add theming to their rides, I took extra notice of the warning signs, surveillance screens, and lumber mill references throughout the coaster’s queue. Mystic Timbers is themed to an abandoned lumber mill, and everything surrounding the ride cautions riders against entering “the shed.” After ignoring the messages’ urgent plea to turn back, I climbed aboard the ride’s train, themed to an old pickup truck, and started up the lift hill.
On the way up, a recording played and someone sharply ordered the riders to leave the restricted area. Picking up speed, the train recklessly rolled over the first hill and banked hard to the left. The ride’s spiraling drop offered a pop of airtime and from then on I was out of my seat more than in it. I was taken aback by the coaster’s relentless energy, and the rapid-fire bunny hills flung me in every direction possible. GCI packed a ton of thrill into such a small ride, and the layout didn’t feel half as short as I had expected.
When Kings Island announced the ride last year, they teased fans by keeping the coaster’s ending a secret. #WhatsInTheShed became a hot topic among enthusiasts during Mystic Timber’s construction, but early riders expressed severe disappointment at what they found in the mysterious building at the end of the ride. Naturally, I had low expectations for the ride’s ending, but I couldn’t help but shake my head as the train rolled into the shed, revealing a mere radio and a few animated windows. After waiting on the elaborate brake run for a few seconds, I watched as the windows began to sway and a flock of bats started entering the window on the side of the shed. With a lurch, the train returned to the station just as an enormous bat burst through the front window and roared. The ending made no sense, and I found it extremely anticlimactic. I would have enjoyed it much more had the ride launched out of the shed into a final element to escape the dangers of the shed rather than simply returning to the station.
How would I rate Mystic Timbers? I would give it a 7 out of 10. The ride itself was pretty fun, though not particularly outstanding, and the finale was lackluster at best. Kings Island would have been better off leaving the shed out of their announcement.
No coaster enthusiast can visit Kings Island without paying their respects to The Beast, perhaps the most legendary wooden coaster on the planet. The Beast makes its home in the forest behind the park, with only its lift hill visible from the queue. After the train makes it over the first hill, riders are entirely at The Beast’s mercy as they traverse nearly a mile of wooden track at an utterly reckless speed. When watching a point-of-view video of The Beast, it’s easy to write it off as a tame wooden coaster with a boring layout, but when I rode the coaster for myself, I realized that this assumption is anything but correct.
I waited in anticipation as the train took its time climbing the first hill. Once at the top, the train dove into a tunnel and made a sharp turn to the left. The ride gained so much speed on the following straightaways that each twist of the track was taken at a breakneck pace. I was thrown from side to side as The Beast played with me like a cat with a mouse. But it wasn’t done with me yet. Just when I thought that the ride was coming to a close, the train began up a second lift hill, this time climbing in the direction of the station. After being treated to a brief view of the park, I held my breath as the ride built up speed on a long, sweeping drop towards a curved tunnel. The track banked as the train went along, but I was sure my hands would hit the top of the tunnel as I reached it at top speed. Just inside of the tunnel, I was flung to the right as the lateral forces caught up with me. Spiraling into a double helix, the train dove into a second tunnel, this one just as forceful as the first. After straightening out again, the train slowly made its way back to the station. The four minute ride was worth every bit of the wait.
Is The Beast overrated? While it’s true that hundreds of fans consider The Beast their favorite wooden coaster, The Beast truly deserves its fame. It’s a bit on the rough side, but The Beast simply offers an out-of-control experience like no other ride. I gave the coaster an 8 out of 10.
Rider tip: It’s worth mentioning that the front row offers the best experience, as in the back, the cars jostle quite a bit and it can be hard to anticipate the turns.
After taking a quick lunch break and viewing Kings Island from the Eiffel Tower, I headed back to the front of the park to Action Zone. Banshee, the park’s 2014 B&M Invert, stood proud and tall, a mass of twisted purple steel. The coaster features a second-generation train design, sporting a rubber vest instead of a typical over the shoulder harness. I had heard mixed reviews about this new harness—some riders praised the lack of headbanging, while others claimed it grew too tight during the ride, causing discomfort. I for one, thought that this new harness was a significant improvement, and I loved being able to experience the ride without getting a headache.
After boarding the train in the very back row, I swung my legs excitedly as the train ascended the lift hill. The chain lift was much faster than the older inverts that I’ve ridden, and the train made it to the top in no time. With the roar of the banshee ringing in my ears, I added my voice to the screams as the train plunged to the right, leaving me weightless the whole way down. Next came a sweeping Immelmann loop and a vertical loop that circled the lift hill. After pulling some serious g-forces at the bottom of the hill, Banshee swung me up into the air and back down in a zero-g-roll, producing a wild sensation of upside-down airtime.
Every inversion on Banshee was just as intense as the one before it, and the ride’s pacing was absolutely perfect. Each element led right to the next one, without any unnatural movements. My favorite part of the ride was the final inline twist, taken at a slow enough speed that the blood ran into my head. Overall, there was nothing I would change about the ride. Banshee is easily the best inverted coaster I’ve ever ridden, and I’d give it an 8 out of 10. I highly recommend riding it.
As a huge fan of drop towers, I simply had to try out Kings Island’s 315-foot model. Drop Tower towers above the park as the tallest Gyro drop in the world, and it slowly rotates as it climbs to treat riders to an unparalleled view of the park. I took in the view as long as I could, then held my breath when the ride reached its maximum height. After a grueling 25-second pause at the top, the ride released the breaks. I screamed in ecstasy as my stomach dropped out from under me and I plunged 26 stories to the ground. The ejector airtime on Drop Tower lasted for almost five seconds, and it was by far the most intense weightlessness I experienced all day.
After finding out that The Bat would be closed for the day, I made my way on to Adventure Express, Kings Island’s mine train. While Adventure Express had a lot more theming (including animatronic figures at the end) than a typical mine train, it was painfully abrupt and I got off feeling beat up. I’d rate Adventure Express 4 out of 10 stars, and I wouldn’t recommend riding the coaster unless you just want the credit.
Next on my list of rides to conquer was The Racer, the ride that sparked a resurgence in the public’s interest in roller coasters after the devastating Great Depression. This year, the ride celebrates its 45th year of operation. I did a post a couple months ago about The Racer’s history, so I was excited to get to ride this legendary coaster for myself.
On my visit, Kings Island only had the red trains running, but the ride was fun even without the racing experience. Climbing to the top of the hill, the train dropped, picking up speed as it tackled a series of bunny hops. From there, the twin tracks split up, and my train headed to the right. Just when it reached the turnaround, The Racer seemed to remember how old it was getting, and it bounced and jounced the whole way back to the station.
Overall, the ride was fun, but more in a nostalgic sense than a thrilling one. In terms of layout and track condition, I thought that The Racer was much better than its now defunct sister coaster Thunder Road at Carowinds. I’d give The Racer a 6 out of 10.
Flight of Fear
After getting off of The Racer, I headed under the coaster’s lift hill to the X-Base section of the park, home to Flight of Fear and Firehawk. The area had an aviation theme, with Flight of Fear being a space program dedicated to investigating paranormal activity. The ride’s air-conditioned queue was littered with old computers, screens displaying the program’s current work, and a giant flying saucer.
Once inside the station, I was ready for flight. The ride-ops gave the thumbs up and the train launched at 54 miles per hour into complete darkness. A second later, the train shot into a dimly lit building and began maneuvering through a spaghetti bowl layout with four inversions. I could see just enough to anticipate each turn of the track, and I thought that going upside-down in the dark was a unique experience. Since the building looked the same on all sides, I soon lost track of which way was up, making me feel as if I really was in space.
I had low expectations for Flight of Fear, but I ended up really enjoying it. I gave the ride a 7 out of 10.
Next up was Flight of Fear’s neighbor, Firehawk. Firehawk is a Vekoma Flying Dutchman model, with five inversions and a height of 115 feet. The ride originally opened at Geauga Lake in 2001 but was relocated to Kings Island in 2007.
In terms of its layout, Firehawk was much better than Nighthawk at Carowinds, but the ride’s vest restraint made me more than a little nervous. After a long and sunny climb up the lift hill, the train rolled over and plunged down the drop. At this point on the ride, I realized that there was about an inch of space between my lower back and the seat behind me. My legs had lots of extra room underneath the shin bar, and I began to panic that my lower body would come loose from the restraint. For the remainder of the ride (and boy, did it feel long), I had to press my legs against the shin bar to keep my back against the seat. So while the layout itself was fun, I didn’t feel very secure and found myself praying for the ride to end instead of trying to enjoy it.
I would recommend riding Firehawk, but make sure that your vest restraint is properly tightened when boarding. I’d give Firehawk a 6 out of 10.
Backlot Stunt Coaster
Reaching the back of the park, I headed over to Backlot Stunt Coaster, the park’s family launch coaster from Premier Rides. The coaster began with a 40 mile per hour launch into an upward helix. The g-forces were so intense that I nearly grayed out. Exiting the helix, the train wove its way around police cars, road signs, and other theming until it came to a stop outside of a tunnel surrounded by oil tanks. Dramatic music played as an animatronic helicopter cornered the runaway stunt car and began “firing” at it. With a bang, one of the oil tanks exploded into flames as the train accelerated and shot into the tunnel. I felt the train dive and twist, filling the dark tunnel with its riders’ screams. Finally, the train flew back into the light, penetrating the ride’s entrance sign and diving under the queue into the brake run.
I enjoyed Backlot Stunt Coaster so much that I had to get back in line for a re-ride. Smooth enough for young riders, yet intense enough for hardcore thrill seekers, the layout was absolutely perfect for families. The special effects added to the experience, and the ride reminded me a lot of FireChaser Express at Dollywood. I gave Backlot a 7 out of 10. The ride is easily the most underrated coaster in the park, and it’s certainly worth checking out.
Having made a complete lap around the park, I headed back to Rivertown to get some more rides on Diamondback. I experimented with different rows on the coaster and came to the conclusion that the ride is best towards the back, where the train gets pulled over each hill and backseat riders get a little wet on the splashdown.
I finished off the night with a final ride on Banshee, The Beast, and Diamondback, my favorite rides at the park.
Overall, I really enjoyed my first visit to Kings Island. The park’s layout made sense and was easy to navigate, with the towering Eiffel Tower indicating the direction of the park’s center. The ride lines were exceptionally short, and I never had to wait over half an hour for a coaster. I was able to get in 20 rides, seven of which were on Diamondback, and I rode all of the park’s major coasters by 4 pm.
Food prices were brazenly high, so I stuck entirely to the food I brought with me in my car. However, I couldn’t help trying Kings Island’s famous blue ice cream, which made for a great way to cool off after standing in the hot sun. The ice cream had a vanilla flavor with a hint of blueberry, and it sure hit the spot.
I thoroughly enjoyed the park’s roller coaster lineup, and Diamondback and Banshee made a great one-two punch. I was also impressed by King’s Island’s wooden coaster collection, and I thought that The Racer, Mystic Timbers, and The Beast complimented each other well without feeling too similar. Despite that, I couldn’t help but wish Kings Island had gotten an RMC topper track coaster instead of a GCI.
Regardless, I had a great day at Kings Island, and I hope to make it back to the park soon.
Have you been to Kings Island? What are your thoughts about the park?