Last week, I took a day trip to Kentucky Kingdom to experience Storm Chaser, Lightning Run, and the new-for-2019 Kentucky Flyer.
Upon entering the park, the first ride on my agenda was Lightning Run. At 100 feet tall, the coaster didn’t look particularly daunting. I knew better than to write it off, though. The ride opened in 2014 as the first Hyper GT-X model from Chance Rides, boasting the thrills of a hyper coaster in a much smaller layout.
I had heard great things about Lightning Run, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer thrill that Chance Rides packed into a two-minute ride. The first drop plunged me into ejector air that rivaled Maverick. From there, I was out of my seat more than in it, relishing the ride’s attempts to send me skyward.
The intensity was literally non-stop. If anything, my only complaint was that it was too fast to take in. (And I’m saying that about a 55 mph coaster.)
Honestly, if I could put any coaster in my backyard, this would be the one. I would love to see more family parks invest in such a thrilling ride. Lightning Run earned a 9 out of 10 and found a spot in my top ten (who knew?).
Who doesn’t love a good drop tower? Fear Fall was one of the shortest I’ve ridden, but also one of the most intense. Instead of stopping briefly at the top, the ride abruptly dropped when I least expected it.
The lines in the park were non-existent all day, so I rode Fear Fall again without bothering to get off. Cloudy Tuesdays have their perks.
Scream Xtreme was the park’s newish Endeavor model from Zamperla. Normally, I’d pass by a flat ride like this, but there was no line to deter me.
My stomach has little tolerance for spinning motions, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride once it reached its vertical position.
Next up was the park’s wooden coaster, Thunder Run. Today, only four coasters from Dinn Corporation are still running. After a ride on Thunder Run, it was easy to see why.
The first drop was fun, but it all went downhill from there (no pun intended). Despite a recent retracking from RMC, the ride was too rough to be enjoyable. It’s a pity, too, because it had a great layout.
Visually, Thunder Run was awe-inspiring. One of the park’s main paths tunneled through its support structure, and one of the ride’s turnarounds bordered the water park. Overall, I gave the ride a 4 out of 10.
After leaving Thunder Run, I rounded a corner to find Storm Chaser in all its glory.
Of all the rides at Kentucky Kingdom, Storm Chaser was the one looked forward to riding the most. When the park first announced Storm Chaser in 2015, I remember getting excited about the ride’s barrel roll drop and unique inversions. Now, I finally had the chance to experience it for myself.
As with the other rides at the park, I was able to find a seat on Storm Chaser without waiting in line. The ride ops were excruciatingly slow at dispatching the train, but I guess the empty park gave them little motivation to hurry.
Finally, the train pulled out of the station. The track felt as smooth as butter after my experience on Thunder Run. I enjoyed the breeze as the train (loudly) clacked its way up the lift hill.
My surroundings swung upside down as I entered the barrel roll drop. I can’t say I preferred it over a traditional drop, but it was definitely a unique way to start the ride.
I got lucky on my first ride. Kentucky Kingdom’s proximity to the Louisville airport meant that planes were constantly landing or taking off throughout the day. As I crested Storm Chaser’s first airtime hill, an airplane flew right over my head.
I flew from side to side with the train as it traversed a series of unpredictable twists. The layout kept me close to the ground, making the ride feel faster than it was. My favorite moment on Storm Chaser was probably the pop of airtime on the 140-degree stall.
The ride was phenomenal, but it lacked the intensity of Steel Vengeance and left me wanting more. Maybe I set my expectations too high, but I didn’t enjoy the ride as much as I thought I would. Having said that, RMC did a great job with the ride’s design, and it was very thrilling for a ride of its size. I rated Storm Chaser 9 out of 10.
Eye of the Storm
Next, I headed to Eye of the Storm (pictured in yellow above). As my first Larson Loop coaster, the ride reminded me of a swinging ship. The hangtime on this thing was amazing.
After breaking for lunch, I decided to try out Kentucky Kingdom’s water park, Hurricane Bay. Located at the center of the park, it provided a nice view of the surrounding coasters and made for a great way to cool off. Access to Hurricane Bay was included in general admission, and I’m glad.
Besides having the usual wave pool and lazy river, Hurricane Bay offered a nice slide lineup. My favorite slide was Tornado, a funnel slide with a nice drop (especially when taken backwards). Ironically, the water park was more crowded than the rest of the Kingdom and my longest wait of the day was for their water coaster.
Raging Rapids & Mile High Falls
Before drying off, I headed to the other water rides in the park. Raging Rapids turned out to be an unusually well-themed rapids ride. I rode with a couple of young kids, and watching them squeal as they lapped the ride took me back to my early coaster days.
Mile High Falls was a classic shoot-the-chutes water ride, and it left me soaked to the bone. Such things call for a rider tip.
Rider tip: If you plan on riding a water ride at Kentucky Kingdom, bring a pair of flip flops. Shoes are required on these rides, and you don’t want to get off with soggy socks. I speak from experience.
I was now ready to hit some more coasters. Kentucky Flyer, the park’s new family wooden coaster, proved to be one of my favorite rides at the park. The trains were extremely comfortable, the drop was thrilling, and the layout was full of floater airtime.
I gave Kentucky Flyer a 7 out of 10. If I had kids, this is something I’d be willing to ride all day.
I also caught a ride on Skycatcher, the neighboring swings ride. I can’t say I enjoyed the spinning motion, but it was fun nevertheless.
Next up: T3. I didn’t expect much from a Vekoma invert, but it still managed to disappoint. T3 was by far the roughest inverted coaster I’ve ridden.
The layout was fun and the restraints were comfortable, but every element ended with a severe jolt. It felt like there was an inch gap between the upstop wheels and the track. I got off with a headache. I rated it 4 out of 10.
I finished out the day by lapping Storm Chaser. Since there was no line, the ride ops let us stay in our seats or switch to an empty row each time we returned to the station. Let me tell you, there isn’t a bad seat on this coaster.
On my way out of the park, I met a fellow coaster enthusiast wearing a Fury 325 shirt. It isn’t every day that I get to talk with another coaster boy, so I had a blast discussing the latest happenings in the industry.
I left Kentucky Kingdom happy and fulfilled. I wasn’t sure if such a small park could give me my yearly coaster fix, but sure enough, it did. Thanks to the low crowds, I got in 26 rides. If you’re ever in the area, I would highly recommend paying Lightning Run and Storm Chaser a visit.
- Be on the lookout for deals on Kentucky Kingdom’s website. This year they offered an out-of-state discount as well as weekday tickets for $29.95. My friend and I covered gas, admission, and parking for only $55 each. That’s super cheap for an amusement park excursion.
- Kentucky Kingdom’s no-phone policy didn’t seem to be strictly enforced, but they did have loose-article bins in every station. I always left my phone under my hat in a bin and none of the other riders messed with it.
- Plan on spending some time at Hurricane Bay. Like I said, it’s a great way to cool off and it’s included in your ticket. Also, they have changing rooms that are separate from the bathrooms, which is always nice.
It’s crazy to think that it’s only been six years since Kentucky Kingdom reopened. Before 2014, the park was abandoned and deprived of its best rides. Since then, the park has added Lightning Run, Storm Chaser, Eye of the Storm, and Kentucky Flyer. For a park of its size (and history), that’s a remarkably well-rounded thrill lineup.
What would I change about the park? For one, the layout was confusing to navigate. A road runs through the park, separating most of the rides from the front gate. It would be great to see a bridge connecting the midway by Lightning Run to Kentucky Flyer. Also, many of the ride exit ramps were not clearly labeled and I found myself going the wrong way. It would help for the park to add a one-way gate at the end of each ramp.
In terms of future rides, I think Kentucky Kingdom would benefit from a launched coaster—maybe a Premier Rides SkyRocket II model or a spinning coaster like Time Traveler.
I’m nitpicking at this point. I loved my trip to Kentucky Kingdom. Have you ever been to the park? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.