Reviews Trip Reports

Kentucky Kingdom Trip Report

Last week, I took a day trip to Kentucky Kingdom to experience Storm Chaser, Lightning Run, and the new-for-2019 Kentucky Flyer.

Lightning Run

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?).

Fear Fall

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

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.

Thunder Run

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.

Storm Chaser

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.

Hurricane Bay

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.

Kentucky Flyer

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.

Park tips

  • 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.

Final thoughts

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.

Announcements News Rumors

Busch Gardens Tampa Announces Tigris and Teases RMC Gwazi

In 2019, Busch Gardens Tampa will be adding Tigris, a triple launch coaster from Premier Rides.

Tigris joins Tempesto and Electric Eel as the SeaWorld chain’s third SkyRocket II model. Offering a great thrill in a small package, these coasters have proved popular among families and enthusiasts alike.

Launching riders both forwards and backwards, Tigris will reach a top speed of 62 miles per hour. After reaching a height of 150 feet, riders will experience a heartline roll and a non-inverting loop.

While Busch Gardens will be adding Tigris in 2019, they don’t plan on stopping there. The park has been hinting at a hybrid conversion from Rocky Mountain Construction for 2020.

Gwazi, the park’s wooden dueling coaster, opened in 1999 to raving fans. Sadly, the ride didn’t age well and Busch Gardens closed it in 2015 due to its rough ride experience. Since then, Gwazi has been standing but not operating, with its final fate left unknown.

Now, it looks as if the ride may get the I-Box treatment after all. Screamscape managed to obtain a reference to the park’s 2020 plans, which all but confirms a Gwazi transformation. I would expect Gwazi to reopen in 2020 with an increased lift height, relentless airtime hills, and a couple of wild inversions that made RMC famous. I’m also expecting the park to opt for a mobious layout like on Twisted Colossus, allowing riders to ride both sides of the track. We’ll have to wait for the details, but 2020 looks promising.

Are you excited for Busch Gardens Tampa’s announcements for 2019 and 2020? I love the one-two punch they have planned, and I can’t wait to see how Gwazi turns out in 2020.

Read next: Electric Eel Coming to SeaWorld San Diego

Announcements News

Copperhead Strike at Carowinds Launching in 2019

Yesterday was a big day for coaster announcements, but Six Flags wasn’t the only chain unveiling their plans for next year. Carowinds announced Copperhead Strike, a wild new launch coaster from Mack Rides. With two launch sections and five inversions, the coaster will treat riders to a spaghetti-bowl of twists and turns when it opens in 2019.

Over the summer, the park teased the ride’s stats by releasing small components of “Granny’s Secret Recipe” each week via Twitter.

As it turns out, Granny and her famous jam are a key part of the ride’s theme. Riders will head to the copperhead-ridden farm where she runs operations only to find that Granny has more than jam up her sleeves—and they’d better get out of there quick before they’re caught by the moonshiners. After taking in the details of a themed shed (sound familiar?), riders will be launched from 0–42 mph into the rest of the course.

Copperhead Strike will feature five inversions, including a slow jojo roll out of the station, two loops, a corkscrew, and a cutback. Midway through the layout, the train will launch a second time and reach a top speed of 50 miles per hour while traversing a bunny hill.

While the layout features some intense-looking turns, it looks like “hangtime” will be the ride’s specialty, with several of the inversions taken at an unusually slow speed. Watch the on-ride POV for Copperhead Strike below:

Carowinds has been lacking a good launch coaster for years, and that’s one of the things that stood out to me during my 2015 trip to the park. It looks like they set out to build the Maverick of the South, and since Cedar Fair has all but ditched Intamin due to unfortunate reliability issues, Mack Rides was the obvious manufacturer of choice. As a huge fan of Maverick at Cedar Point, I’m curious to see how the Mack Rides design compares in terms of intensity and overall layout.

In terms of theming, it’s interesting to see the third iteration of Cedar Fair’s farm/shed storyline. With the Copperhead Strike shed placed early in the layout, riders will catch a glimpse at the coaster’s theme while awaiting the launch. This seems like a much better placement for the shed than the anticlimactic finale on Mystic Timbers.

Between Copperhead Strike, Maxx Force, and West Coast Racers, 2019 is shaping up to be a great year for launched coasters. One thing is for sure—I’ll have a really hard time deciding which park to visit next year.

Read next: Six Flags Great America Announces Maxx Force

Announcements News

Six Flags Great America Announces Maxx Force for 2019

Today, Six Flags made their announcements for 2019, and perhaps the most notable new coaster opening next year is Maxx Force at Six Flags Great America. Themed to a formula one car, the coaster will feature a 78 mile-per-hour launch and five inversions.

The ride begins by launching from 0–78 miles per hour in 2 seconds—making it the fastest-accelerating roller coaster in North America. Gimmicky marketing superlative? Without a doubt, but that’s not to take away from a great looking launch section.

Reaching a height of 175 feet, the train will then roll through two inversions high above the park. Sweeping back to the ground, the coaster will take on a zero-g roll while still clipping along at 60 miles per hour. Now that sounds like a fun element.

From there, the train will maneuver through what appears to be a half-twist followed by a dive loop finale. Watch the ride’s trailer below:

The ride layout looks to be short but sweet, and it should be a perfect addition to Six Flags Great America. Maxx Force almost looks like an oversized Sky Rocket II model with a Top Thrill Dragster theme, and that’s by no means a bad thing. With a launch and five inversions, this coaster is sure to pack some forces. I’m curious to find out which manufacturer designed the ride. Update: Looks like it’s from S&S, as they’ve been the primary developers of air-powered launch coasters.

Are you excited for Maxx Force? Share your thoughts about the coaster in the comments section below.

Read next: Yukon Striker Dive Coaster coming to Canada’s Wonderland

Announcements News

Yukon Striker Coming to Canada’s Wonderland in 2019

Last week, Canada’s Wonderland made their big announcement for 2019—a B&M dive coaster. The ride, dubbed Yukon Striker, will take riders to a height of 223 feet before holding them in a downward position just before the drop.

Next, the train will dive 245 feet straight down into an underwater tunnel, making it the longest drop on a dive coaster. Reaching a top speed of 80.8 miles per hour, the train will then maneuver four inversions—an Immelmann, a dive loop, a vertical loop, and a second Immelmann.

As the park’s first major coaster since Leviathan in 2012, Yukon Striker will become the large inverting coaster that Canada’s Wonderland has been lacking. Having ridden Valravn at Cedar Point, I’m excited to see the park adding something of this scale, but I would have preferred a more intense coaster like Banshee at Kings Island or even a new B&M flying coaster.

Loosely themed to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897, Yukon Striker will be one of several attractions in the park’s new Frontier Canada area. According to Canada’s Wonderland, Frontier Canada was one of the original  park sections planned for the park’s opening but was scrapped due to financial constraints. Now, under Cedar Fair’s leadership, the area is finally being realized, with Yukon Striker as the centerpiece.

What are your thoughts on Yukon Striker? Leave a comment below.

Read next: Five 2019 Developments to Watch

Announcements Construction News

Dollywood Unveils Wildwood Grove for 2019

Since the beginning of the year, Dollywood has been hard at work clearing land behind the Wilderness Pass section of the park. While we knew that the entrance to the new zone would be across from Mystery Mine and that the attractions would be aimed at families, we didn’t know any specifics about the area’s theme. Yesterday, the park made their full announcement, revealing Wildwood Grove, home to 11 new family friendly attractions that the back of the park has been needing.

Guests will enter Wildwood Grove through a hollow tree and arrive in a vibrant area surrounded by brightly-colored leaves and butterflies. At the center of the zone stands the Wildwood Tree—representing the heart of the Smoky Mountains.

Wildwood Grove will be home to six new rides, including Black Bear Trail, Sycamore Swing, and the Mad Mockingbird.

The Dragonflier will be a family suspended coaster from Vekoma with a dragonfly theme. The ride’s layout is believed to be a clone of Orkanen at Fårup Sommerland.

Children in the park will get to meet new costumed characters Flit and Flutter the butterflies, Franklin the frog, and Benjamin Bear. A 4,000-square-foot indoor play area will make a great place to cool off, and a new restaurant, Till & Harvest, that will offer a new Southwest dining experience.

Wildwood Grove will be the largest investment in Dollywood history, at $37 million. The plethora of new attractions in the back of the park will be a welcome addition to families, and I can’t wait to check it out.

What are your thoughts on Wildwood Grove? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.