Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Comparing Park Features

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While touring the various parks, besides noting what we enjoy and had fun with at each park, we started making comparisons and contrasts between them. Certain themes began to arise in our minds. Today’s post will start a short to moderate discussion of the things we observed and discussed during our tour. True, we only saw 5 of the 11 parks, and not even all of them, but our observations, comparisons and contrasts, between those five form a reasonable basis for some conclusions we have drawn.

Family of Parks

I won’t go into a precise history of the Cedar Fair Parks, how they went from single parks to an amusement and water park system. Suffice it to say, in our tour of the parks, we came across a unified sense of the parks. They aren’t cookie cutters – each has its unique style and flavor – but they do have a sense of being a part of each other, and not just alone. They are a family, with all the uniqueness and differences of a family and all of the elements that unite one.

Of the parks we visited, many of them were built in the 1970s and 80s, which seems to have been a popular time for amusement parks:

  • King’s Island – 1972
  • World’s of Fun – 1973
  • King’s Dominion – 1975
  • Canada’s Wonderland – 1981

Two of the parks are older. Michigan’s Adventure was founded as Deer Park in 1956. Cedar Point is the oldest at 1870.

Map Improvements

The different parks had maps that looked similar in print color, graphics, etc. but had significant differences in practical legend constructions. Some parks had lists of attractions numbered, with numbers scattered across the map that were hard to find. Others had the map divided by a grid, and the attractions noted to their grid location. In the first one, you sometimes had to look all over the map to find a number, especially when there were multiple color/number systems. In the second, you might find the grid location, but the attraction might not have anything labeled for it within the grid.

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What we recommend is that both methods be used.  If each attraction has a grid location attached to it, and a number on the map, the patrons can locate the grid section, and then easily find the numbers. This same numbering system should also be used on the season dining flyer, so people can cross-reference it with the map to find the food locations.

Park Entrances

The main improvement at World’s of Fun, our home park, this year, was a new entrance gate and entrance plaza.  This made us look at the other parks for their entrances.  Most of them seemed to have a similar feel, like they were recently redone as well.

Four of the parks had a similar park entry style.  King’s Dominion, King’s Island and Canad’s Wonderland were all built on the same model of an entry gate leading to an international street with a fountain down the middle and a monument at the end (Wonder Mountain or Eiffel Tower). All the other streets looped off the main street. Cedar Point opened to its main midway,  and is made of other midways opening off the main one.

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Michigan’s Adventure is either a C or a loop. There is a central lake, and if you are walking, it forms a trail around three sides of it in the rough shape of a C.  When you include the railroad that connects the fourth side, you can go around the park in a loop.

World’s of  Fun, our home park, has an entry plaza, but is designed in a loop fashion, following the theme of the book Around the World in 80 Days with an inner and outer loop. Each has its advantage.

Coaster’s Restaurant

We found the iconic 50s Coaster’s Restaurant at every park we went to. And they all had classic period cars out in front. The only one that didn’t was our home park, Worlds of Fun.  Worlds of Fun used to have cars out front, and we are not sure why they got rid of them. They need the cars, just like they need the authentic 50s music playing inside, instead of off-period music.

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Reentry Hand Stamps

All the parks had an ink stamp you got to allow you reentry the same day. Kings Dominion had an invisible ink stamp that had to be scanned under a special light to see. The rest of them had visible inks. Worlds of Fun has stamps with several themed words, each stamp with one of the words. The ink used at Worlds of Fun also tends to run, especially if you sweat. The other parks had more durable inks.

Cedar Point had stamps in different colors that featured the various rollercoasters at the park. I got a stamp the first night we were there, and when I left the second night tried to have the guy stamp me on the other wrist, but he insisted it had to be on the same hand and actually stamped over previous day’s stamp. That irritated me. He could at least have stamped in a separate spot so both could be easily read and seen.

King’s Island had faces of Peanut’s Characters, which was also cool. Michigan’s Adventure had a bright green ink.

Log Flume Rides

Several of the parks had log flume rides Unlike Worlds of Fun, all the others had a seatback in the middle dividing the seating compartment – which made it easier for 3 or 4 people to ride. We’d like Worlds of Fun to update its log flume cars with this feature.

Refresh Stations

At Worlds of Fun we are used to the various drink refill options for our season drink bottle. There is the refresh station, which has a series of 6-10 soda fountains, and the freestyle machine, which has a selection of over 100 drink combinations from one machine. We found these to be the same at the other parks. But what we found especially unique at Canada’s Wonderland were several refresh stations that consisted of two soda fountains and two refresh machines, allowing you to choose either at one stop, instead of having to go to different stops to get your options.

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Dual service refresh station at Canada’s Wonderland.

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A neat Coca-Cola Marketplace at Cedar Point

All Season Dining Plan/Dining Options

We have enjoyed the all-season dining plan at Worlds of Fun. We enjoyed getting to use the plan at all the other parks during our trip. It showed us several things that we think would be improvements back at Worlds of Fun.

First, all the other parks feature their executive chef somewhere – on Fun TV, the dining plan flyer, etc. – but we haven’t seen that this year at World’s of Fun. The past two or three years we knew and felt the presence of Kevin Williams as executive chef, but the current chef is practically invisible. World’s of Fun needs to feel the presence and personality of the executive chef on the park’s food services.

Second, all the other parks had wider food selections than World’s of Fun. They all had more fresh green items than Worlds of Fun. Worlds of Fun had the cheapest and most arbitrary food plan of all the parks we visited.

Some of that food variety also involved specialty restaurants, local specialties. To use King’s Island as an example, the Cincinnati icon of Skyline Chili had restaurants in the park. Their pizza service was by another local pizza chain – La Rosas – and got high approval rating from our family member who had pizza.

World’s of Fun needs to find some local specialty affinity to add as a food feature. Everyone thinks barbecue is the trademark of Kansas City, but the Battlecreek barbecue just doesn’t cut it – it isn’t an external specialty restaurant. I don’t really think getting a local barbecue chain in is really the best idea, but there has to be some other iconic restaurant that could be partnered with to add variety and specialty to the menu.

At Cedar Point we saw them actually hand breading the corn dogs and cheese on a stick, not just putting items from a freezer into a frying vat. Just another way that a sense of freshness at atmosphere was added through the food preparation process.

Finally, we felt a lack of clarity about which items were on the dining plan menu. Some places had really good markings and specific lists of items, while others you only knew they participated but not what they were. Signage at the restaurants could be listed with greater clarity for the dining plans.

Overlapping Sound Zones

Here is an item where we definitely rate World’s of Fun the best.  For several years we have commented on walking through the park that you could get a jarring sound from two rides, or a ride and background noise, or ride music and Fun TV, would be overlapping so you were hearing both at the same time. Over the past couple of years someone at Worlds of Fun has been working on this, and the overlaps are less. Not perfect, but less.

King’s Dominion was the world offender, with the most loud, overlapping sound zones at once, and most recurrent throughout the park. But none of the other parks have yet seriously realized how conflicting sounds detract from the experience before you, to get this right.

Snoopy Photo Op

To wrap, I’m doing a small photo lineup.  We found this similar Snoopy Statue at each of the parks and I had my picture taken with it at several.

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The doghouse at King’s Island

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Canada’s Wonderland

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Michigan’s Adventure

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Cedar Point

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King’s Island

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Cedar Fair Parks Tour: King’s Island

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DSC08542Of the three parks designed on the same model — King’s Dominion, Canada’s Wonderland, King’s Island – King’s Island probably has the best balance from entry to roaming.

We arrived at King’s Island on Thursday evening, and got modestly lost on the way to the park before getting ourselves turned the right way.

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As per our usual plan, we were arriving in town and heading to the park for supper.  Entry was easy – for 3 of us. The fourth had a modest delay.  We had checked in to four parks with no problems, but at King’s Island the person said Betsy needed to get a new picture – her current one had her wearing sunglasses (which was curious, because she doesn’t have a pair of sunglasses). So she got sent over to the season pass processing to have a new picture put on her account.

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The rest of us went reconnoitering inside while waiting. Nathan roved wide looking for soda options for our season bottle, while I located a food plan flyer and we assembled in the SkyLine Chili restaurant on the international street near the front gate. Once the picture was taken and Betsy was through the gate, we gathered there, with the full bottle, to decide what to have for dinner.  Three of us decided to eat there, while Nathan went for La Rosa’s Pizza at the Festhaus.

The three-way chili of SkyLine Chili, a Cincinnati tradition, was enjoyed by both myself and Carly. Betsy chose the two Coney Chili dogs. Her comment: I don’t usually like chili dogs, but I liked these. Nathan brought his pizza back to eat with us at SkyLine. He commented on the perfection of its crust – which is thinner than what we get back home at the pizza places at Worlds of Fun.

That first meal was an example of a feature of the park that worked well. Both SkyLine Chili and LaRosas are local food icons and specialties, and the park has an excellent relationship with them to serve their food inside the park.  It is great to tour the area, go to the park, and get a regional specialty.

The pizza place, as I mentioned was located in the Festhaus.  Used for the Octoberfest theme, it had both Panda Express and La Rosas inside, along with a bar.  There were a lot of good, solid, picnic-style tables inside to eat and, with a stage for live (or broadcast performances). I don’t know for sure, but it looked like the tables could be cleared out for other events, such as dancing and other types of concerts. Overall, another wonderful space – available for special events, but also used on a regular basis.

Supper was the main feature of Thursday night. We got there near opening on Friday, and started our usual round of rollercoasters and other rides.

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One of the special rides for me was the Invertigo. There is a similar ride at Worlds of Fun – it goes one way on its track, and then does the course in reverse.  At WOF they call it the Boomerang.  The Boomerang is a standard coaster, where the track is below the car.  Invertigo is an inverted coaster, where the track is above where you sit and the cars hang from the track. On the Boomerang everyone faces forward; on the Invertigo the first two face forward, the next to face back, sitting back to back to the first two, and they alternate front and back. So half the people go backwards on the way out, and half the people go backwards on the way back.  Unlike other coasters, you face other people and get to see their expressions (if you are able to watch) during the ride.  It adds to the fun.

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One of the things we had been looking at in each park was their version of the Rip Cord. I have started a habit of doing it once a year with Nathan, and since I hadn’t managed to get it done at WOF, we thought maybe one of the parks might have the right timing and price set up.  Well, King’s Island, our last chance, was the score. Came off a coaster and saw it ahead of us, and saw the markdown price to $5 apiece.  Which with the passholder discount became $4.50.

We talked to the guys suiting us up about our tradition, exchanged information about WOF Rip Cord – only one launch site to the two available at King’s Island, etc.  I believe one of them said the King’s Island one was a bit smaller.  It might have been, but it always seems far enough to me when you are secured in and going backwards were you can’t see how much farther you have to go.

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And then we flew, and had a great time, and got on with the rest of our day.

Some of the coasters had you take your glasses off. The Banshee was one of them.  It was a very well themed and intense ride, but when I got off, it took me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong with my glasses: One of the lenses had popped out.  Fortunately, it was still in my pocket.  This had happened before the Rip Cord, and we kept trying to pop it in while we waited for it, and afterwards, but just couldn’t get it to work.  So we released the kids to wander the coasters they wanted, while I went to Guest Services at the gate to see what they could advise.

Once again, guest services rose to the challenge.  They didn’t have any way to pop it in, but they looked up some eye glass shops locally we could call, and then got the bright idea to send us over to first aid to see if they might have an idea.  And someone there was a pro at popping the lenses back in.  I still need to get to my own eye doctor to have it seater professionally (the end of the securing thread stick out in front a bit), but it rescued our day and prevented us wasting more of our fun time.

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The new rollercoaster for the year was the wooden Mystic Timbers.  It had a sort of haunted theme to the entry way, and as a rollercoaster was thrilling with all the traditional moves.  But the thematic haunted strike at the end didn’t really do anything for me, it was sort of anti-climatic.

Wrapped around underneath the Mystic Timbers was the White Water Canyon, the park’s raft rapids ride.  Now, the Grand Rapids in Michigan was my fondest and most favorite, but White Water Canyon was very good, and had better geysers than any of the other raft rides we tried. First, I think they were controlled by one of the ride ambassadors, and second, we think they were actually a bit less powerful, but had a greater quantity of water. In any case, it was great!

Two of the coasters only tried by the youth were the Diamond Back and the Beast.  The Diamond Back, a snake theme, had a neat long course that ends with the car creating a spray through a small pond/lake before coming into the station.  No one on the ride gets wet, but watching it is impressive.

The Beast is another Wooden Coaster, the longest one, the youth said. Its special feature was tunnels, and turns in the tunnels, and two lift hills, the second one to add more oomph halfway through the ride.

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We also enjoyed the water park, which you can get to via a train that travels between amusement and water parks, or by walking a moderately long trail past the group picnic pavilions to the water park and back.

They had a very good lazy river with moderate “obstacles”.  Like the other lazy rivers on our trip, you have to be on/holding a floatation tube. The one weakness of the river is that people entered and exited at the same spot, and there was always a line, but some of the people coming around didn’t always get out to let other people in, but just kept going around.  Being able to institute something fair where people had to get out and back in would be better. It didn’t inconvenience any of us too much.

They had two wave pools, which were shut for testing when we arrived, had to wait 15-20 minutes to get in, which was a downer. And neither of them had any real depth or serious waves.  (overall, WOF wins the wave pool contest, hands down, in my estimation).

Off to the side of one of the wave pools was Pipeline Paradise.  It is a pool with circulating water where you get a board and try to surf on it (always have be kneeling, at least on one knee), for up to 40 seconds.  If you make 40 seconds, you have to leave and let the next person try.  I tried it – 6 seconds (being generous to myself).

They also had a lot of different slides.  I kept looking for the short lines and tried a few of them.  But it wasn’t until just before leaving the water park that I found the Rendezvous Run and gave it a try.  You have this foam sort of mat/carpet/sled that you hold by two front handles and go down.  Of all the things at the water park, I am glad I got to try that one.

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We had lunch before going to the water park, and supper afterwards.  For lunch The adults chose Reds Hall of Fame Grille, and the youth got other things and ate with us there.  I had a buffalo Chicken Salad. It was a lot of salad, the right amount of chicken, and a lot of green.  We found a lot more green and vegetables in other park’s food plans than at WOF.

For supper the adults did Panda, after one of the youth had it earlier, and we realized you got two entrees and a side with the dining plan. It was fresher and more generous than our home park plan.

So we had a great time, and enjoyed the rides, and the memories of what was different from our previous visit.

Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Cedar Point

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Cedar Point: Mecca of the Cedar Fair park system.  Everyone needs to make a pilgrimage there at least once in a lifetime.

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We arrived in Sandusky on Tuesday evening, and after checking into our motel and unpacking, took a quick run out to the park to get a lay of the land – and have some supper.

This wasn’t our first trip to Cedar Point, but it had been several years. So we wanted to see what was different.

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We cased the rollercoasters and the lines. We read the signs and discovered that many of the roller coasters didn’t allow you to carry anything, you had to have someone else hold onto things, or rent the lockers that were available for a couple of buck per couple of hours nearby.

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We also had the one really bad service for a Cedar Fair employee during our trip. There was no line for the Wicked Twister, so we ran up to get on the ride. When we got there we stepped into our cars and pulled down the restraints. They buckle an odd way to any other coaster I have met – on the side.  Took me a moment to figure mine out.  One member of our party couldn’t get it to go on, so I thought the associate came over to help get the buckle to fasten. But all he said, over and over again, was “the buckle has to be fastened.” At first I thought that meant he was going to help fasten, then I thought maybe there was something wrong with the strap on that seat, so I asked if the person needed to change seats. I finally figured out that the person’s size was wrong and wouldn’t allow the seat strap to fasten, so they were unable to ride the ride – period.  But it was very confusing, perplexing, and somewhat embarrassing for the person to merely say “the buckle has to be fastened” rather than explain what was going on. It was totally unhelpful, confusing, and distracting, as well as delaying the other people wanting to ride.  If he had only spoken to me and answered my questions, instead of repeating the same line over and over, we could have resolved it amicably and quickly.  But by that point, once I figured it out, and the member of our party had to leave the ride, I didn’t want to ride it anymore easier, his demeanor and lack of responsiveness had so changed my mood.

So that was the last ride we tried to get on that night, and instead headed to supper.

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Pink’s was a nice place to eat. Their hot dogs were good. I am not sure if they would be as great as the hype says, I think the celebrity and reputation makes the hot dogs “taste better” than they are. Not so well advertised, but just as good, were their burgers.

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We got to the park around opening on Wednesday morning. Cedar Point is designed around midways. You enter the gates and go through the Main Midway to get to the other midways. Our first ride was the Sky Ride that took us down through the main midway, and then we started dispersing for rides.

I think we dispersed more as a group at Cedar Point than at any of the other parks.  The first focus for many of us was what roller coasters we could get on. Even at opening the ValRavn was longer than we wanted to wait for. So we bounced from one to another looking for good lines.

Others of us enjoyed riding the train, walking the midways, seeing the various sites.  We ended up going to Frontier Town, where many of us enjoyed lunch at the Frontier Inn (they had an excellent Buffalo Chicken Sandwich) after touring the Cedar Fair Museum, and seeing these Solar Powered Trash Cans that made no sense to us.

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In our previous visits the lines to the Top Thrill Dragster and other roller coasters had been too long to get on.  But several of our party (not me) enjoyed the Top Thrill this time.  If I had gotten to it in the morning I would have tried it, but by the afternoon I was in a different mood.

While we rode many coasters, my one disappointment was the Maverick. I remembered it fondly from our last visit, but it was never running when we were anywhere nearby that day to ride it and reminisce.

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We also missed the boat ride through the swamp that they had the last time but is now no longer there.  It seems that the entrance to their dinosaur exhibit took over that spot. Our hope is that they get back to having another water ride experience.

One of the things that was neat to see, on the midways, were the street shows.  There was a Bluegrass festival in frontier town, and on the main midway we came across a Mardi Gras themed float. I am not sure which Midway we were on when we saw some acrobats rehearsing some moves for a show – obviously rehearsing because there was no sound and they weren’t in any special outfits.  But it was neat to see them doing their practice loops.

We were always looking for the special things to eat that we couldn’t get back home.  So I tried the shrimp on the midway. What I missed out on trying was what Betsy had for dinner – the Cheese on a Stick. If I get back again, that is what I need to remember to have.

Some of the other parks had “local fare” restaurants in the park. Cedar Point didn’t have anything like that – because its local fare is carney fare, and they had several good items, like the cheese on a stick, that are worth the experience.

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Cedar Fair is land locked, but it is also perhaps the most intense, packed, extensive park in that way. It is hard to describe the full experience in the way it grabs and pulls you in so many directions – like a carnival does.

We enjoyed and had a full day without having a chance to get out to their water park – which is still a separate park from the main amusement park. Cedar Point Shores sounds impressive, and we need to get back sometime to experience it.

Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Michigan’s Adventure

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Michigan’s Adventure was perhaps the nicest park, as a total package, to be able to go to and enjoy in one day.  Not that it had any points that were specifically better than any of the other parks, but it was put together in such an easy and enjoyable way.

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But I am going to start my write-up for the park with something unique to our experience. We got into Muskegeon and checked into our motel with the intention of heading to the park for supper, only to discover that one of our platinum passes was missing. No search would find it. So we called the park and left a message about how we could resolve the missing pass issue.

Then we went to the park and those of us with passes went through security and the gate to guest relations desk, where a very helpful associate listened to our story, downloaded the Worlds of Fun Database to confirm the missing passholder’s pass, then let them into the park with the rest of.  They weren’t able to give us something with the meal-plan attached, so all of us decided what we could get for supper that we could split between all of us.

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The next day we went to the park and went into the season pass and group sales area and got the season pass replaced for the $15 fee, and were in the park.  Between when we left the motel until after we got the pass replaced, we had three calls checking on us and our pass situation and how we could help.  It was a concrete example of the helpfulness of Cedar Fair employees that we found all along the trip.

And so now on to the day at Michigan’s Adventure.

The park is arranged in a squarish circle around a central lake, with the entry gate at the lower left corner. If you go along the bottom of the park there are two streets of rides that end at two large wooden coasters and the train station. If you go along the left side of the lake, you go up a street of coasters, and then past the water park entrance before turning to the right along the lake to another row of rides that end in a coaster, the Great Rapids water ride and another train station.  There is no way to walk all the way around the center lake. The two train stations  connect the right side of the park.

We started up the left side of the park, going in a clockwise direction hitting the coasters. The Big Dipper was closed so Zack’s Zoomer was our first ride, followed by the Corkscrew.  The Zoomer was an excellent start, and the Corscrew was amazing for how short it was. It didn’t send you through numerous turns, but just enough for a thrill, and then you could get on it again, or to another ride, without feeling the need of any break.

We worked our way around the circle to the Thunderhawk, caught the train and then hit the Wildcat and Shivering Timbers. We finished that side with a ride on the Mad Mouse, the premier “mouse trap” type roller coaster of our park tour, and one of the things we most remembered from our previous trip o Michigan’s Adventure.

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We scattered for lunch, and then I went back to the car for the swim bags and we rendezvous at the water park where we reserved a locker, changed and did the water park rides.

Most of the water rides are within the water park area, but the river raft ride, the Grand Rapids, was outside it on the top side of the lake.  For the part of the park near the gate you need shirt, shoes and shorts, but for the top side of the lake, you can wear swimsuits and shoes. So we went up to the Grand Rapids and experienced its short but intense water rapids ride (The Grand Rapids was the second thing I remembered from our previous visit to the park and was looking forward to riding.  It did not disappoint).

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Returning to the water park, we enjoyed a little more leisure before returning to street clothes, having supper, and exiting the park, a full day of enjoyment under us.

I see my description is a little shorter and more streamlined than some of my previous park descriptions. I don’t want anyone to think that means the park was less impressive. As I said at the beginning, if anything, it make one of the more memorable impressions on us, as a whole.  At the other parks one might remember a specific ride, or two, to the exclusion of all else.  Michigan’s Adventure, while memorable for the rides I specifically mentioned, was equally as memorable for the entire experience. It is a gem of a park, with a gem of a staff.

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Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Canada’s Wonderland

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Our schedule for touring the parks also had a few other events on it to be planned around. That is why we didn’t hit Carowinds in the Carolinas nor Dorney Park in Pennsylvania.  Our next park was on Saturday, July 8 in Vaughn Canada: Canada’s Wonderland.

We left Buffalo that morning, and with generally clear driving made it to the park around 11:30 a.m. (our greatest delay was the line at the border to Canada, where our passports all passed muster for entry.) The parking lot was big, and modestly full. There was no instruction on parking, and finding a good spot to park took a little time working our way through the rows of people stopping at odd spots instead of near someplace where they could park.

Canada’s Wonderland was designed on a similar model to King’s Dominion and King’s Island. The entry gate presents you with a view of an entry street – an international street – but unlike the other two parks, the street and its central fountain ends in a “Wonder Mountain” instead of an Eiffel Tower replica.

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We entered the park, enjoyed the street, and had one of our first typically Canadian experiences. A gentleman who saw us there offered to take our pictures as a family, on the bridge across the stream, with the mountain in the background. Once we got our photos, I reciprocated for him and his family.

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With that done, we went back down the street and started a clockwise rotation of the rides in the park that we were most interested in. Flight Deck was the first ride we tried. It was an intense ride, but not especially appealing to us. But what it did do, was give us a good view of the Time Warp, a ride where you go through the ride lying on your stomach in a prone position.  Besides the position you ride the coaster, it has an interesting circular mechanism that hoists you up a circle to start the ride instead of the usual first hill.

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Among other rides that we hit were the Sky Hawk, which had wings you could orient to flip yourself over 360 degrees while flying.  Nathan and I came close, he more than me, but never quite made it over.  He was trying, I got so far and decided that was enough fun.

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And then there was the Fly, our second experience with a Mouse Trap-style roller coaster. My favorite coaster was torn between the Time Warp and The Fly.

Starting a couple of hours after opening, we spent our time in the amusement park section, and didn’t get to the water park, so I can’t make any comments about it.  We had sort of looped one side of the park, coming back toward the Wonder Mountain, and I noticed the sign for the Victoria Falls Divers. We were about 30 minutes to the next show, so we decided to move on and do lunch.

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Before we did lunch we went over to the International Buffet. Even on the food plan it has a $5 CAD upcharge per person, but we had seen it online and thought it might be interesting to do for supper When we got there, it was closed/reserved for a special function/group, and would open around 4 p.m. But they let me peak inside the door to see what it looked like, and I decided we wanted to try it for supper.

By this point we were hungry, and started wandering through the Medieval Faire section looking for lunch, and finding long lines.  We started a search for reasonable lines that led us into Planet Snoopy and a modest gem: Snoopy’s Suppertime. They served chicken fingers, grilled cheese, wraps and hot dogs, per the park program.  They also served mac and cheese. I had the mac and cheese with chicken, with was a large and satisfying sample.  The grilled cheese and turkey sandwich was ordinary but suitable, and the other two had hot dog combos.

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After working through Planet Snoopy and Kidzville, we came out onto a plaza near a “My Canada” video show that celebrated the 150th anniversary of Canada.  Very few people were in the line, which was a shame, since it was a wonderful expression of Canada. Our only other comment was how many of the scenes, Canadians talking about themselves. Featured snow.

We then started a reverse circle around the mountain, and hit the Mountain Guardian and Thunder Run. The Thunder Run train was a fun fast ride that went twice around its short track.

The Mountain Guardian was the unexpected ride.  Its line snaked into the mountain, so you didn’t know how long it was, but it wasn’t a bad wait.  There was an explanatory video that I didn’t understand as well as I should. When we got into our cars, which were four seats back to back, two on a side, we had some osrt of light sensor guns in front of us, and used them at various points on the ride where it momentarily stopped or slowed down, to shoot various vr creatures.

The cars of 4 passengers traveled in pairs of two. Both Nathan and I got the high score (it was scored) for our car, though Nathan’s score was much higher than mine.  I just shot at anything that moved.  Afterward we discussed whether the coins got you points as well. I only know that it was hard to be certain where you were aiming, and whether it was you or someone else that hit the creature that disintegrated. But it was fun.

About this time we were headed by the Victoria falls again, near the time for its final diving show. We probably would have enjoyed any of the earlier shows better.  They wasted 5 minutes with dramatic music and talking before finally getting to the diving, and in that five minutes the sun had crept into the perfect spot to put glare in your eyes when you tried to look up at the divers.  Anticlamatic.

We then went over to the International Buffet. Only to be told they had closed the seating at 6 p.m., and the next would open at 7:30 p.m. So we wandered around a bit, finding the Dragon Fire’s obscured entrance, among other things, and then returned about 6:45 p.m., when we got in the forming line.

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The guy behind us mentioned having been at the buffet several times in the year, and this being the first time he had ever been in a line.  So we waited about 45 minutes – our longest line of the day. But the international buffet was worth it. I recommend you check it out if you make it to Canada’s Wonderland.

All in all, a nice day, though if we had gotten there at opening, with time to try the water park section, it might have been an even fuller experience.

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One side note to mention.  Canada’s Wonderland has something we hadn’t seen before on its soda-only stations.  Their Refresh fountains also had Freestyle machines at the same stop. Wish we had that back home!

I had been to Canada’s Wonderland once before, near when it first opened in 1981. The one thing my mother remembered most about the park was the log flume ride that we really enjoyed and rode several times.  I never did find it, and research afterwards confirmed that it had been near the park entrance, but was eventually replaced by the Flight Deck.  Not everything we remember fondly is always there when you go back.  Which is not a bad thing, just a fact.

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Cedar Fair Parks Tour: King’s Dominion

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After our sojourn to LibertyCon 2017, the family started our second sojourn of the summer: a tour of Cedar Fair amusement parks.

We began the tour in Virginia with King’s Dominion amusement park, Doswell, VA.

We traveled to King’s Dominion on Monday, July 3, getting to the park for the first time during the early evening.

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King’s Dominion has a reserved parking area for gold and platinum passholders.  It seemed like a good idea, so we parked there.  The section was pretty full, but it was closer both to the park entrance and to the exit of the parking lot, which we assumed would make it easier both to enter and to leave the park.

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King’s Dominion is a sister park in design to both King’s Island and Canada’s Wonderland. When you enter the gate at both King’s Island and King’s Dominion you look down an international street with a fountain in the center that leads you to a view of a replica of the Eiffel tower.

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The Eiffel Tower is a great way to get a view of the park.  We rode that up and walked around the observation deck, taking aerial photos of the park.

After the Eiffel Tower we took a look at the map to decide where we wanted to eat. The map listed food locations and which ones were on the dining plan, but we didn’t find a sheet that said what foods were on the dining plan at each location, though it did mention the types of foods served. We found a Country Kitchen that served chicken on the plan that sounded different than the foods we could get at Worlds of Fun, so decided to try it (it had a Country Kitchen Grill next door, not on the plan, that served turkey legs – turkey legs do not appear to be on the plan anywhere we noticed them).

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The line wasn’t bad when we got there – about a 10-15 minute length – and so we waited in line 30 minutes. Some of it was a delay for food to be cooked; the demand wasn’t extreme enough for them to run out, except they hadn’t cooked enough ahead to stay up with it. The rest of the delay was the service staff. A new, full pan of chicken would be brought out, and instead of pulling the old, almost empty tray out, putting the new one in, and transferring the few remaining pieces, the person transferred the pieces from the new pan one or two at a time to the old pan. This took forever.

They had pictures on the menus of fried chicken and roasted chicken. I was going to order roasted, until I saw it.  The fried chicken looked as good as its picture; the roasted chicken did not look as good as its picture.

But once they had chicken, and we were able to place our orders, get our sides, and go on up to the second floor balcony seating to eat, it was a meal worth eating.

After our meal we did a little more strolling, then took in a couple of rides.

There is a style of roller coaster that we call the “mouse trap” – the pattern looks a little like the game Mouse Trap. We found it at several parks, and the one at King’s Dominion was called the Ricochet. It isn’t an intense roller coaster, but it is a perfect one. It does with subtle sudden turns and moderate forces what other roller coasters attempt to achieve with extreme turns and speeds and forces – and does it better than the extreme ones – at least in our opinion.

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We were thinking what we could do before heading over to the recommended location for watching the fireworks. We were near the “Blue Ridge Tollway” taxi ride, and figured we would have enough time to ride it before the fireworks.

When we were ready to get on, we were delayed a couple of minutes while they got a car started that was having troubles, but soon were on our way.

The Blue Ridge Tollway goes through a wooded area, and we were halfway through the course when the can with problems had problems again, and got stopped on the trail.  We were out of sight of the park employees, but were able to wave down a passing patron that we asked to let know they were stuck. We assume the person told them, because soon they were over trying to get it started. Eventually they used the car behind it to push it along to the end.

With all the delay, we ended up being a lot closer to the fireworks time than we planned, but we made it to the suggested observation site.

It was a good evening for fireworks, and it was an enjoyable fireworks show. It would have been better with some sort of music in the park coordinated with the fireworks, or with a more orchestrated sense to the fireworks themselves. The fireworks seemed somewhat random, instead of orchestrated in any pattern towards a climax, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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After the fireworks we went to our car in the parking lot – the reserved parking for gold and platinum passholders. And there we sat for 50 minutes.  Everyone else in the parking lot got out, and we weren’t able to move. And when we finally were able to get out, instead of going to the near exit gate, where we had seen all the other traffic leave, they sent us out the long back way exit of the parking lot.

I am not sure whether it was Virginia drivers not giving other people a chance to get in and move, or whether it was park personnel directing traffic, but that was the worst time I have ever had leaving an event with parking back-up.

We were back on the fourth around opening, and spent the early morning hitting the roller coasters early, along with a few other rides for variety.  We did Dodgem, Intimidator 305, Flight of Fear, Avalanche, BackLot Stunt Coaster, then walked Candy Apple Grove to the Drop Tower.

We were going to ride the Americana, but were told it was closed/delayed for a moment of silence coming up at noon. This was 10 minutes prior to noon. So we waited and observed the moment of silence, which ended with a singing of the national anthem over the park speakers.  We stood up, hands over heart, as the national anthem came on, and watched as people realized and started to stand, or show other forms of respect for the anthem.

After that we did the Americana, Flying Eagles, Ssenandoah Lumber Co. and Rebel Yell, before having lunch at Outer Hanks Wayside Grill.

Then the afternoon was spent at the Soak city water park. There were nice slides, an enjoyable lazy river, and wave pools. I spent 30-45 minutes in line at Baja Bends listening to four military studs rib and jibe each other – especially the newlywed of them who had his wife, and eventually was pulled into their somewhat ribald conversation. Before the end – when we reached the top of the line and finally got to go down the slides – I made sure to thank them all for their service, and the most vocal of the group expressed his appreciation for my comments and conversation with them.

The Baja Bends slides are akin to the Diamond Head slides at Oceans of Fun for style and intensity of sliding, but the materials of the slides are much better – unlike Diamond Head you don’t get your back abraded by the slide when going down the Baja Bends.

The wave pools at King’s Island didn’t compare to the Surf City Wave Pool at Oceans of Fun – we didn’t find any other wave pool to compare on our trip.

After that we went back to the Pizza Parlor on the international street for supper, and then called it a day.

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We enjoyed our day at King’s Dominion, but they still have a lot to learn about audio control and sound zones.  There were too many places in the park where the sound from one ride or event overlapped another event or ride’s sound, and usually the volumes were too loud. Worlds of Fun had this issue in years past, but is getting smarter about it.  King’s Dominion still has some catching up to do.

On the food selections, King’s Dominion had a greater selection of food items.  What we didn’t find – though we may have missed it – was any selection that was a local/regional specialty for us to try.

Promo: Cedar Fair series coming up

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No look ahead promo this week. Still cruising Cedar Fair Parks.  But below is the update on the season dining plan:

Total Price Paid $497.44
Total Number of Meals 302
Total Retail $3,203.56
Average Price Per Meal $1.65
Total Drink Price 29.64
Total number of drinks 288
Total Retail $323.50
Average Price Per Drink $0.10

Expect next week to start a series overviewing  our tour of the Cedar Fair parks (the 5 we hit), what we did, enjoyed, and thought could be done better.