Kings Island Opening Day Trip Report
Joey and I just got back from opening day at Kings Island. I’m happy to report that it was an absolutely beautiful day and we had lots of fun. We had some camera trouble, so I wasn’t able to take a lot of pictures. And I can’t post the ones I could take because the chord to download from the camera is apparently elsewhere. So I’ll need to come back and update this post with pictures of Joey once the chord is returned. In the meanwhile, I’ll use some generic pictures of the park as illustration.
The first thing you see as you pull up to the parking lot is this guy advertising the upcoming Dinosaurs Live exhibit. There are a few similar dinos scattered around the park and they all look pretty cool. Joey was none to thrilled about them since she doesn’t like dinosaurs. But if you have a kid who does, Dinosaurs Live is bound to be worth the $5 admission at least once.
We arrived right about 10:00 which is when the gates opened. But the parking lot was fairly backed up and it took about 15 minutes to get through the lines and get parked. Joey was about as patient as she is capable of being – which is not very.
There is really only one thing Joey wants to do at Kings Island at that is to buy a toy at the Snoopy Boutique or one of the other gift shops.
We have a long standing agreement that in order to buy a toy, she needs to humor her old man by riding a few rides and having some fun. In theory, if she is adventurous and rides a few bigger rides, she can get something bigger. But the truth is there is no formula to it. She more or less gets what she wants as long as it’s somewhat reasonable.
As usual, we ducked past the Kings Island photographers and their paparazzi-like tactics. We made our way down International Street towards Planet Snoopy. I have to admit, I love the view walking down International Street with the fountains and the Eiffel Tower in the background. It’s not quite the same as Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, but it’s got far more personality than your average regional park. Plus, I’ve grown up with the fountains and the tower. So, there’s a lot of nostalgia there as well.
Last year, Kings Island rethemed its award-winning kids area from Nickelodeon Universe to Planet Snoopy. It didn’t amount to much more than new names and a fresh coat of paint. But the place looked fresh and new. I was pleased to see that on opening day this year, it looked great once again. You really couldn’t ask for a better area for kids.
As we walked in, we saw Sally and Snoopy in the greeting area. Joey clearly wanted nothing to do with them. My goal is to have a picture of her with one of the characters before the end of the summer. But I wasn’t going to push the issue today.
Last year, our big victory was getting Joey comfortable on the Great Pumpkin roller coaster. It’s a tiny little kiddie coaster with three little bumps for hills. Generally you do two times around the track, but if it’s slow the ride operator might send you around a third time. But by the end of last summer, the Great Pumpkin was Joey’s favorite ride. She would ride it with or without me several times in a row. So, naturally it was our first stop.
The lines weren’t terrible. But considering how early we were there, they weren’t short either. The sky was clear, but the air was still cool. Joey decided she wanted me to ride with her this time. And one ride was enough. She wanted to get a variety of rides under her belt so she could get to the gift shop and pick something out.
Next it was a choice between the Dodge ‘Ems and the Character Carousel. The Carousel won out because it was closest and also because it is right next to the gift shop. Joey was working her way towards the Snoopy Boutique. She thought she was rather clever about it.
Immediately following the merry-go-round, Joey asked if we could go to the gift shop. I told her she owed me more rides than that if she wanted a toy. So, she picked the nearby Sally’s Sea Plane. This is another safe choice which she has ridden a lot in the past. It is also very near the gift shop. While the thrill factor is pretty low, you can get a pretty good look at Planet Snoopy.
Another “safe” choice is the Woodstock Whirlybirds. A couple years back, it took a lot of convincing to get Joey on this gentle ride because it was high up and the track looked somewhat like a roller coaster. But once we finally got her to try it, the Whirlybirds became a must-do every trip.
The thing about the Whirlybirds is that it is a very slow-loading ride. That means that the line is always long. So generally we make a point of riding early when it is still a walk-on. However, today the ride was not operating when the park opened. So I was a bit relieved to see it was still down.
One of the rides I wanted to get Joey on last year is Surf Dog – in no small part because I have never been on it. Last year, it was a no-go. So this year I started working on her early. I showed her a video a couple of weeks ago so she would know it did not go upside down. For whatever reason, she thinks all “big” rides go upside down and that scares her. And I basically promised her a toy at the gift shop if she would ever ride it with me.
Since riding the little rides was not gaining her admission to the gift shop quickly enough, Joey decided it was time to go for broke. She decided it was time to ride Surf Dog. Almost as soon as we got in line, she got cold feet. I told her she didn’t have to ride if she didn’t want to. But she told me she did because she really wanted that toy.
Now, I don’t believe in pressuring kids to ride rides that they are not ready for. But I’m not above bribing them. And I knew that Joey was ready for something a little more adventurous than the Great Pumpkin Coaster. So I told her the choice was hers. She could either ride a lot of little rides or stay in line for Surf Dog and go directly to the gift shop when she was done.
Impatience won out and soon we were loaded into Surf Dog. It’s really a neat little coaster with some pretty big thrills. But it’s definitely kid friendly. There’s no loops or giant drops. Joey screamed and laughed her head off. As we exited, she talked about riding it again… as soon as we were done at the gift shop.
We take our time in the gift shop. These decisions can’t be rushed. She nearly picked a Peanuts coffee mug with her name on it. ”Joey” isn’t all that common of a name. It’s rarely on girls’ stuff and on gender neutral products it’s usually “Joe” or “Joseph”. So she was pretty excited about a Joey mug. But she also wanted a toy and a mug is not a toy.
She asked if she could get two things. I told her that would depend on what the second thing was. Seeing as how the mug was $12, any toy would have to be pretty cheap. As it turns out, Joey already had a toy in mind from last year.
This is Olaf. He’s one of Snoopy’s many relatives. Let’s just say Olaf isn’t generally portrayed in a good light in the Peanuts comics…
Now, Joey’s never read a Peanuts comic strip in her life. She took the shirt off Olaf and decided he was a chubby baby Snoopy. And thus, the coffee mug returned to the shelf surely to be purchased on another day and $15 (baby Snoopy) Olaf joined us for the rest of the day. Although she was also eyeing a few more $15 plushes for the next trip.
I told Joey that for a $15 toy, she owed me a few more rides. But she didn’t need to ride any more big ones if she didn’t want to and she could pick. She opted against riding Surf Dog again because the line was too long. No argument from me there. Instead, she picked Linus’ Launcher.
Getting Joey on Linus’ Launcher last summer was my final victory of the season. So I was glad to see her choose it of her own free will this year. It’s a very gentle flying ride. Joey likes it because you lay down flat. We had a good time flying around.
After riding the Launcher, Joey told me she was hungry and wanted some popcorn. I checked the time and saw it was almost noon, so I asked if she was hungry for lunch. She decided she was and that she wanted pizza. So we headed over to Rivertown for some La Rosa’s.
Theme park food is notoriously overpriced. And I think Kings Island is actually worse than Disney in terms of quality for the price. But we did okay at Rivertown Pizza. They have a combo deal in which you get two slices of pizza and two cheese-covered breadsticks for $8. I had a souvenir cup from last year so I could get a refill for $2. But Joey said she was happy with water. So I packed the cup away and pulled out the water bottle I’d packed.
Joey pulled the cheese off the breadsticks and dipped them in sauce. Heck, she bathed them. The sauce cup you get is actually intended for an order of 5 breadsticks. So, you’re covered. The breadsticks filled Joey so I ate the two slices of cheese pizza.
I gotta be honest, La Rosa’s has never been my favorite pizza. It’s okay, but everyone in Cincinnati eats the stuff and I get burned out on it. But for some reason, it just feels right at Kings Island. I like the fact that they serve so many regional favorites like La Rosa’s and Skyline. It gives the park its own personality.
With lunch out of the way, I headed over to the Coney Mall. Windseeker isn’t operational yet and Vortex was down. But we weren’t going to ride those rides anyway. Mostly, I just wanted to check the area out. As part of the work to open Windseeker, Kings Island has shown the Coney Mall section of the park a little TLC.
It’s not the sort of thing the average tourist is going to notice. But the place looks great. I enjoyed just walking around and taking in the atmosphere. I just wish there were fewer carnival games. I’m okay with them in Coney Mall since it seems appropriate to the theme. But they’ve spilled out all over the park. And after walking past so many of them, Coney Mall is really overkill.
Joey decided she was up for one more ride before calling it a day. I thought we might try one of the “flat” (non-coaster) rides in the Coney Mall section of the park. I talked her into the Shake Rattle and Roll before I saw it in action. It was actually a lot more adventurous than I had remembered, but Joey handled it like a champ!
We made our way towards the Eiffel Tower for the trek down International Street and out of the park. Joey asked about going to the top of the tower as she had done late last summer. But then she decided the line was too long and she’d rather go home. By this point in the day, the park was filling up and the lines were somewhat substantial. So we started down International Street.
We stopped briefly to take in a few minutes of the Snoopy show that was starting at the top of the fountain. I put Joey on my shoulders so she could get a better view. She’s nearly 6 and it had been a while since I had done that. Whew, I could feel the difference! After the first song, Joey told me we better go home before I started dancing.
I carried her on my shoulders to the exit and asked her if she had fun. She indicated that she had and with that we ended our opening day trip to Kings Island. I’m looking forward to many more trips this season. We’re off to a great start!
Update: Here’s a video Kings Island posted of the Opening Day Activities: