Family Kingdom 2004

September 20, 2004
Family Kingdom Amusement Park
Myrtle Beach, SC

The sun had set, which was great because I haven’t ridden Swamp Fox in almost 10 years and couldn’t remember the last I’d had night rides. A Chance Slingshot, a Log Flume that looked like fun, and another Sally Dark ride had all been aded since I’d been to the park. For those of you unfamiliar with the Family Kingdom, or for those that haven’t been there in a long long time, let me give you a bit of history. What was once known as both the Grand Strand amusement park as well as the Swamp Fox Pavilion has undergone a lot of changes over the years. I don’t even remember the park before it re-opened after Hurricane Hugo, but Hugo did major damage to the Swamp Fox in 1989, and the coaster was rebuilt.

This is a classic John Allen Figure 8 seaside coaster with 2 PTC trains, though one must’ve been hidden for the off-season, as it wasn’t in the station. Even though they have 2 trains, the park only ever runs one. I can still remember my first ride on Swamp Fox. It is a really great wooden coaster. The park has been opened consistently since the early 90s, and has added and switched out some of their other rides. It has mostly all fair style rides, as well as Sally’s first interactive Dark Ride, a nice carousel, and a decent selection of flats. The park used to sit beside what was once known as “The Fun Spot Fun Park”, a very carnie feeling go-cart park that had a couple kiddy flats and a Ferris wheel, but Family Kingdom bought them out and expanded across the little river. This area is now mostly the kids section, with the Chance Slingshot, Pistolero Roundup (the Sally Dark Ride), Go-Carts, and the Log Flume.

I walked in and bought my all day wrist band then headed straight to Swamp Fox. If you’ve never been on this coaster, it has the oddest station. I guess they never get really long lines as there isn’t anywhere for a long line to go. It has a load and unload station, and on this nite, only had one operator running the ride. As I was getting in line for the back there were two twentysomething girls getting off of the ride and telling me that the back was “Just Brutal! The front is nothing compared to the back”. I smiled and said I knew, and then boarded the ride.

Swamp Fox-I pulled the seat belt as tight as I could and off we were. There is a large turn around to the lift, which has a wonderful light package. The lift is short, and the view is sweet, especially with the ocean air. Then you turn around to head for the first drop. I had thoughts of Hurricane from the day before as I was flung over the hill in the back seat. The only spot of roughness, and it isn’t that bad, is at the bottom of the first drop. I wish there was more air over the second hill but it doesn’t detract from the ride one bit. After that, though, the ride goes a little crazy. I was out of my seat on every hill. The turnaround was quick, and the small bunnies after it kicked my butt even more. I love this classic wooden coaster.

After that insane ride walked over to the other side of the park, as I’d ridden everything on the Swamp Fox side that I had wanted to ride, and didn’t feel up to a lot of flats tonight. I crossed a bridge and headed straight to Pistolero. At first I didn’t think it was open, but there were 2 ride ops on the platform. This used to be an old Mexican restaurant and was Sally’s first Shoot’em up dark ride. I was the only person riding. My only complaint was that only 1 of the guns work if there is only one person riding.

Pistolero Roundup-Fun little ride. I don’t remember what my score was, and there were a few spots where something jumped out and scared me but this is typical Sally goodness. I could have ridden more but the one trip was rather fun, though the theme is quite…outdated. Every park should have one of these type of dark rides. The scenes were nicely done, but the last room with the “explosion” could have had more to it.

There was the newest thrill ride in the park, the Sling Shot Drop Zone, a Chance slingshot close to the front. It looked intimidating, and no one was riding, but there were ride ops standing on the platform so I went to get on.

The name was kinda corny, but the ride was pretty sweet. I hadn’t seen it run all nite, so I asked the ride op if it shot up or was just a drop tower, and he told me both. He was pretty friendly and I got to face the park as I was going up…alone. I’d never ridden a drop tower alone before. I’m still very afraid of drop towers. I don’t mind the shooting up at all. I loved Power Tower at Cedar Point for that reason.

Sling Shot Drop Zone-First you rise up about 6 feet, and then the car lowers a bit. The tower looks very S&S-esq. The tower had a great lighting package and was painted yellow and red. After lowering a bit and the ride op going thru his whole spiel, I was launched. The ride was rather weak compared to most other launched rides I’ve been on but I didn’t mind that one bit. The shot up was a lot of fun. Still, you don’t shoot to the very top of the tower. Going to the top of a drop tower is the part I hate most because I have time to think about dropping. But once I got to the top, it wasn’t long before it dropped. This was odd, as you fall until about 6 feet from the bottom. On most other drop rides you break way before that. Still, the breaking wasn’t at all hard, and the ride was rather smooth, and very quiet. It was even more quite with me riding, as I didn’t make a sound the entire way up or down.

Okay, so that was fun, what’s next? How bout my long awaited trip on the Log Flume. I remember them building this ride but I’d never ridden till now. Again, no one was riding, as the park was nearly empty.

Log Flume-Another great ride by myself. This is one of the choppier log flumes I’ve ridden. It’s a concrete course, and as I left the station towards the first hill I knew I was going to get wet. I went up the first smaller hill with anticipation. I knew there was a bunny hill at the bottom, a first for me on a flume. The first drop on the flume goes under ground level a bit where there is no water, and then hops up into a small pool. Splash! I was soaked. Good stuff! Then, it was more choppy water heading to the big hill. The flume is situated in between the Go-carts to give both some cool interaction. Again, down the big hill and Splash! The drops on both hills on Family Kingdom’s Flume seemed much steeper than Pavilions. I like both, as both have their up sides, and no down sides to speak of.

Have I said how much I love Swamp Fox? One train wait for the front of another almost empty train, but something weird happened. Because someone couldn’t figure their seatbelt out, the train ended up being almost full since more people showed up during the delay. Okay, turn to lift, up the lift. I had tears streaming from the wind in my face, and I loved every second! Though not nearly as forceful in the front, you get a different ride. This is how wood was meant to be ridden! Thru the course and onto the skid breaks into the unload station. I wanted more. I then got another ride, this time from the middle. There was a small delay again, but that is par for the course if you only have one ride op working. Still, she was doing her very best, and dispatching, loading, and unloading a dual station coaster by herself.

The middle provides different air, as well as different points of air than the front and back. I did headed back over to the drop tower for another go.

This time I was on the back facing towards Ocean Boulevard and the Ocean with 2 young Russian girls. There were also 3 people around front. The shot up again wasn’t forceful, but good enough for me. This time, it didn’t seem to take as long to fall back down, but that could have been due to the fact that I could tell we were still moving till we got to the top as I had visuals to pinpoint my location.

So my nite was almost over. I could have stayed till close but I was tired. Plus I was still in the mood for dessert and all this amusement park food was working on me. What to do? Why, take another back seat spin on Swamp Fox, and then head to that Dunkin Donuts I saw behind the park last nite that was closed.

The back is the best. Again, I was out of my seat most of the time. I really like this coaster, and it will go down as one of my all time favorites. I can only imagine what the thing runs like mid-summer, running all day with greased track that is heated from running all day. I will be back sooner for some more of this coaster.