I’ve been going to Kings Dominion Amusement Park since I was a small boy, and that is spanning a lot of years. A lot has changed, as they’ve gone through different owners, but the best part about this is there have been a lot of improvements. Back in the 1980’s, it wasn’t that large of a park, and didn’t have a lot to offer. There were a few wooden roller coasters, a couple of family friendly rides, and then the usual games that you’ll never win. Thankfully this park has received major upgrades, and now has a whole host of rides to choose from, including a new water park that’s been added over the last couple of years. You can easily spend a couple days here, instead of a few hours, and even though its expensive its a worthwhile place to visit. Parents and their children will find plenty to do, and my wife and I recently spent an entire day here on a scorching summer day.
My favorite part about Kings Dominion, is their wooden roller coasters. Perhaps I’m a bit traditional, and I will admit to being afraid of steel upside down monstrosities, but there are four “oldies but goodies” that you’ve got to ride. The best one is the Grizzly, and you will scream and perhaps close your eyes on this, as well as ducking. I believe this is the oldest of the bunch, and you start off on a high hill. It takes forever to reach the summit, as you are sitting down in the car, you have plenty of time to ponder the inevitable drop. I cannot describe it in words, but you will be amazed by the height of this drop, along with the speed, and the shaking of the car you are riding in. The wood creaks, making it even more intimidating, and there’s a tunnel where you think your head is going to be ripped from your body.
Want to challenge your stomach? Don’t eat funnel cakes before riding the accurately named Hurler. The drop isn’t quite as intense on this one, but it starts out with a decent one. After the initial drop, you will go up and down over a series of hills. I just love how around some of the curves, it seems the car you are sitting in is going to fly right off the tracks. There isn’t as much creaking, but you will be bounced around, and I actually will admit to holding on to the safety bar hard on this one. Its a bit faster as well, and very intense for a ride that only lasts about a minute.
One of the crown jewels is the Rebel Yell. Years ago you could also go backwards in this, but unfortunately they don’t allow that anymore. I never found out the reason for that, but this wooden roller coaster is a classic. Many fans of wooden ones seem to flock to this one, and lines can be outrageous. Yet its worthwhile to wait for this one, as it has a huge first drop, and most of the ones in the middle and the end are of a decent height. This is the fastest wooden one in the park, and if you are lucky enough to have hair, its going to fly all over the place. The one reason I like this one, is that the ride is a bit smoother, but there’s that wooden creaking noise that’s scary. I really love that first drop, as while it doesn’t last long, it will “capture your full attention.”
The Ghoster Coaster is fun for kids, and their parents alike. This is more for little ones, but I’ve had to ride it several times with my friends daughter, to help her get over her fear of roller coasters. It seems to fit that category perfectly, as I’m guessing there’s no more than a thirty foot drop. Its actually fun though, and I like the safety belts, that add a layer of comfort to anyone. Its a basic series of a big drop, smaller ones, and then some curvy track that causes some jostling around. My only complaint, is being over six feet tall, is that when it stops at the end your knees are going to pay for it. Also, if you are a bit “wide,” be sure to avoid it as the cars on this coaster are cramped even for kids.
There are two steel roller coasters I’ll ride here, but the rest are for serious thrill seekers. I believe they have over six steel ones, and the majority of them go upside down, and a few even go through tunnels under water or over balls of fire. The newest one is the Intimidator, which caused my heart to skip just by looking at it. One steel coaster I love is the Backlot. Its based off of a famous action movie, and the initial acceleration is ridiculous. I don’t know how many g forces are obtained, but it throws you into the back of your seat, while you go through a series of vertical twists. At the end, you go through a completely darkened building, and have no idea where you are going for around fifteen seconds. I screamed in pure delight, and I can say from personal experience that it is so fast, your eyes will be pushed back into a new direction when riding it. The Ricochet wasn’t quite as exciting, but it has a good first drop, and decent curves that’ll knock you around a bit.
As for traditional rides, the Scrambler is one the whole family will enjoy. You are put into a car, and are pushed in numerous directions quickly, and come close to other riders. Its fairly tame, and if you want something more thrilling go with the Triple Spin. Each car has enough room for a parent and child, and you are buckled down, along with a safety restraint bar. This goes high up in the air, even upside down, and you barely miss other rides about fifty feet up. You can get a good view of the park, and it lasts for a long time, while providing plenty of screams from parents and their children alike. This is right next to the “Swings” that take you for a circular ride in the sky, and the much more placid Bumper Cars and Carousel that people of all ages enjoy.
Waterworks is the parks newest section, and where I spend most of my time. The reason for that is simple, because Virginia weather is almost always brutally hot. My favorite ride is also here, and that is the Tornado. You are going to wait in line for this, but its worth it, even though I wish Kings Dominion would use different materials for the stairs that you have to stand on. Your feet will burn on the burning hot cement, as you have to carry a inflatable raft up to the top of the ride, that is well over one hundred feet high. You ride the raft with up to another three people, and it starts out by taking you through a dark, winding tunnel. All of a sudden you see light, and you drop about twenty feet, into a wide tube with orange and blue checkerboard designs. Here you will go back and forth, almost upside down, and then get thrown into water at high speed. Its quite a rush, and not for those who aren’t into adrenaline based rides.
Another exciting slide is the Baja Bends. You can wait a half hour to experience this forty five second ride, but I’d have to say that it is worth it. Again, Kings Dominion needs to find a different material for the stairs you are standing on, because your feet will get singed. The purpose of this amusement, is you get in a slide, and place your arms across your chest. A lifeguard gives you permission, and you let go, going down a slide that throws you all over the place. You are probably going at least thirty miles an hour, and there are a few places where you think you are going to fly off the slide that doesn’t have a tunnel. You see all around you, and this water slide does wake you up quickly.
If you want something a bit more tame, there are two fine options. The best ride in this part of the park for being “laid back,” is the Lazy River. Here you get on a inter tube, and just coast at a leisurely speed around a pool that’s only four feet deep. It takes about fifteen minutes to complete the loop, and lifeguards keep an eye on you at all times. Its a relaxing way to spend some time, and once you clear this area, you can go to the Tidal Wave Bay. This is a gigantic pool, perhaps the biggest I’ve ever seen, and it does get crowded. If you stay near the front where the water levels are about a foot, you can lie in the sun while having waves crash at you like you are at the ocean. If you want a bit more excitement, swim to the deep area. Here its six feet of water, and waves are generated that will knock you back. Its a lot of fun, and a great way to cool down.
There are two rides, that aren’t in the Waterworks, that will get you wet. In the summer, this is a fine way to cool off. The Flume Ride usually doesn’t involve long wait times, and you get into a log contraption. Here you go down to drops, that get you fairly saturated with water. People standing by, can pay a quarter for the privilege of shooting water at you out of huge water guns. I’ve been thankful for these folks, and you can buy a picture of your ride down the big drop at the end for $5. A ride in the area that will require a wait, but will give you a realistic white water experience, is the White Water Canyon. Here you will be in a raft that holds four people, and you will go down rapids that vary in strength. You are going to get soaked thankfully, by either the rapids, or numerous water guns that shoot at unexpected times throughout the five minute ride.
Do I have any complaints about Kings Dominion? Yes, I do have a few. The admission cost of $54.00 per adult is outrageous, although you thankfully can minimize this expense if you buy a season pass or get discounts through several grocery store chains. I don’t like paying $10 for parking either, and get ready to shell out serious cash for food and beverages. Two pieces of pepperoni pizza, a salad, and a bottled water cost $22. The pizza was disgusting, my wife’s salad was spoiled, and I think this park should be disgusted by such a high expense for such awful food quality. Thankfully, and to their credit, the park has added more water fountains than they used to. However, if you want really cold water, get ready to drop $5 for a bottle of it. If you want to rent a locker, that will be $15 for a day. When your children want souvenirs, get ready to pay $20+ for a t-shirt, and $5 for just a simple glow stick that lasts for a few hours.
Other than the expense, I fully recommend Kings Dominion, and I go at least a couple of times per year. It is a lot of fun, and adults and children alike will find activities and rides that will entertain them. This park is located right off of Interstate 95, and is about thirty minutes North of Richmond. If you are coming from the District of Columbia, its an hour and a half to the South, and there are a variety of campgrounds and hotels for lodging purposes nearby. If saving some money makes sense to you, leave the park by getting your hand stamped, and go to one of the many fast food restaurants right next door. The physical address of the park is 1600 Theme Park Way Doswell, VA 23047, and its open seven days a week from early summer to the fall.