One thing on my bucket list had been to hit up a park on New Years Eve. I hadn’t really planned on it for this trip, and even when making plans for the end of the year this wasn’t the original idea as we had discussed Savannah, Charleston (S.C.), or just staying in Charlotte, which is what I’d done most years down here.
We woke up and headed down to the dirty south early Saturday morning from my house, arriving in Atlanta around 11:30, with our first stop being lunch at The Vortex in Little Five Points, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. After amazing burgers and beer was had by all, we killed some time whilst heading over by Turner Field so I could take pictures. We were way early, so once we got to Six Flags we had more time to kill. This was the only time I’d never ran in to really heavy traffic in Atlanta, but I’ll put that on the Peach Bowl and it being New Years Eve.
Once we got to the park we wondered, with the weather being what it was, if rides would run. Basically, every thing in the front 2/3 of the park was scheduled to be open, but obviously this was weather permitting. I’d been to the park when a little rain and mostly clouds shut everything down, so I was trying to think of alternative options. However, it would end up not being necessary as the park ran all of the major rides at the front of the park, and that was good enough for me.
Ah, Dollywood. One of my favorite parks. Not too far away. Very well themed. Great food, great people, great rides. Dollywood is one of the few parks that really gets it and has it all. At this point, any time they announce a new ride or attraction, there’s never any feeling of “If only they’d add…”, but a feeling of “Of course, that’s what they would add”. And I love it. Sadly I hadn’t been there in about 4 years just due to circumstances. I’d wanted to get there early this year for their new roller coaster, but unfortunately, the ride had…issues.
Dollywood is a great park regardless of whether their star attraction is open, but I really, really wanted to ride Lightning Rod. The ride did get some what more reliable towards the end of the season, and since there was an ACE event, even if it weren’t open, if I were to go to said event, at least there would be ERT and friends to make up for it. So I signed Isaac and myself up for it, and on Friday I left work early to meet up with Isaac and park my car along the way.
After passing thru all of the smoke from the wild fires, which we were heading towards before passing, we arrived at Gatlinburg around 8pm. We’d decided to find some food before checking in, so we rode by the resort I’d booked, then back in to Gatlinburg, parked, and found out our first choice for food was closed already (Gatlinburg is not a party town, and stuff closes way too early, in my opinion). So we headed to No Way Jose’, a Mexican restaurant which had good food, but gave me bad indigestion all night long. Then we headed to the resort, only to find out they had three restaurants there we could have chosen from.
Dorney Park is one of those parks that you kind of just show up, stay a couple of hours to get everything in, and then leave unless you’re doing an event or the water park. I knew it wouldn’t be a long visit and with Platinum Cedar Fair passes, why not stop by? We got in fairly quickly and headed straight to the closest coaster to the front.
Talon–There was a one train wait for the front row, and I’d almost feel spoiled, but it is Dorney. The first drop is really great. It’s odd how quiet the coaster is. The loop is really great, the next set of inversions are fun and powerful, and the ride has a really great layout. I really like it.
The mouse had a bit of a line as usual. I think it may be the only ride that ever has a line at Dorney. So we walked back towards more coasters. Dorney really kind of reminds me of a mini Cedar Point. You can definitely see the influence in the front gate, midway, and in the Shoot the Chutes ride. Up next was a quick shot of Hydra.
October 8, 2016 Elysburg PA Phoenix Phall Phunfest
My previous visit to both Knoebels and PPP (also my first) were in 2010. It was a sucky day leading up to getting to the park much later than I’d planned, and it really wasn’t the type of event I thought it was going to be. But I dug Phoenix and Twister, and some of the classic flats, so there was that. I had intended on taking Isaac to PPP in 2015, but then in August I found out after constantly telling my then PCP that I really didn’t think it was bronchitis that part of my lung had indeed collapsed because I had a tumor growing right at the start of the airway leading to the upper lobe of my left lung And even though the first surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled for the Thursday before PPP, I really felt I’d be able to make it.
Isaac wisely decided we should wait a year. So here we were. I needed a Knoebels redemption in the worst way because I was not so impressed on my first visit. And it was mostly not Knoebel’s fault. Because we had just gotten back from an amazing trip from SoCal the weekend before and were both trying to have a smaller budget for this trip, we opted to drive. After work on Friday I drove up to meet Isaac an hour away, parked my car at his friend’s place, and then headed up to Pennsylvania. Several hours (and some hotel/hotwire drama) later we had a room and a few hours of sleep. Then we got up the next morning and headed up to Elysburg.
Arrival was around 9:30 AM, but the park opened at 10, the rides at 11. The covered Bridge Festival, however, had already started. And I saw a sight I didn’t like that was very reminiscent of the last time, non-moving cars trying to get in to the park. And the last time it took me almost 2 hours to go a quarter mile to park. We turned around near the entrance of the car park, then realized they had just stopped so they could move some cones and let everyone in. We realized that because the line of cars that had just grown much larger was now making it’s way in, so we headed across to the opposite road, turned around, and headed in, parked, and walked to the park.
Waking up early, we picked up breakfast and headed north to Six Flags Magic Mountain. This was the only time I’d ever actually been in any of the infamous LA traffic. Friday morning…wasn’t terrible. But we did get caught up in traffic. I think if you go into it with the mindset of it IS going to happen, it’s much more tolerable. I had gotten online a couple days before on Wednesday and signed up for a Six Flags membership, which is like a season pass but you’re locked in for 12 months of around $7 per month payment. After the initial year, I can either cancel or continue. With taxes and fees, SFMM was around $12 on this trip and the first non special event theme park admission I’d paid for.
After we arrived we paid for parking, went to the front gate, and Isaac got his season pass ticket all before opening. We headed over to the Season Pass processing center to process our passes. It was quick and painless. I will say this, the park needs a lot of cosmetic and infrastructure work (nothing that hasn’t been said before), and the Season Pass center could use just a few touch ups to be really nice, but it looked run down. A theme for the day. Once we got in we headed directly to one of my favorite coasters of all time.
X2–I still love this coaster. We ended up on the left side. We put our stuff in a locker and got in line for the front seat. Isaac was excited to try it out. The audio was different than my last time around. The wait was about 30 minutes or so. That first drop is still amazing. You swing to face straight down (well, almost) as you fall down a nearly vertical drop. The ride is a little rough, and shakes, but I like it. The whole ride is just so different than most coasters out there, and I’d really like to see Six Flags purchase a non-free spinning 4D coaster by S&S Sansei at one of their parks for a marquee attraction.
In the morning we woke up and headed again to the beach after picking up breakfast at McDonalds. This time we went to Seal Beach, since we had plans in Long Beach later, and it isn’t far from there. Seal Beach was again, amazing. West coast got beach game on fleek. Isaac had his birding book, I had my camera, and we walked in the surf while looking at birds and taking pictures. It was great. And such a beautiful morning. I found several more shells that I liked, as I did at Huntington Beach. Isaac found me a really neat dried coral, which unfortunately fell apart on the last day during packing, but whatever. Seal Beach was very nice indeed.
There were some surfers, but the beach was mostly desolate. I’m used to being at east coast beaches, with warmer water, where a beautiful day like this would see quite a lot of people sunbathing and frolicking in the water. We walked north up the coast in the cold surf. Isaac was able to spot several west coast birds with his birding book. At one point we saw some kind of party hat that was wrapped in seaweed. Perhaps someone had too much fun on a party boat.
So we made our way up to Long Beach and onto a whale watching cruise (A three hour tour…). Both of us were looking forward to this. I hadn’t been whale watching since the early 90s as a child, and it was a life changing experience. We saw lots of blue and right whales on that trip. This time we were looking for hump backs like Star Trek IV. And dolphins. And birds. And the trip did not disappoint. There was lots of scenery going along the coast and between the coastline and Catalina Island. And we saw a Hump Back! Plus 2 pods of dolphins. And one bird flew onto the ship. It was a great time, and on the way back, as the sea got choppy, we enjoyed the airtime and aggression of the sea. Continue reading →
Waking up the next morning we had some of our leftover Korean food for breakfast before hitting up the pool, then heading out. We were going to find the Hollywood sign from a good vantage point so we headed to LA and then to Hollywood. We actually accidentally ended up at the foot of the hike up to the Hollywood sign. We weren’t prepared, nor did we have the time to do the hike, though I definitely want to do that at some point, so we walked a little bit up the trail before heading back down and driving back to Anaheim for day 2 of Disneyland, or in this case, California Adventure.
Today there were no GPS mishaps. We parked in the parking garage and headed to the Grand Californian on a much easier route this time, meeting up with our contact/new friend for a drink at the bar at the Grand Californian. She was starting her vacation today and wanted to start off right, so we gladly obliged. I had a drink made with Wild Turkey, Red Stag, and something that made it all taste a bit smokey. It was good.
I really did enjoy my visit to California Adventure on my last visit a decade ago, but the park has now grown in much more, and obviously there is that recent billion dollar make over. There were elements I liked from the original, but I won’t mourn their loss much because California Adventure, as it stands now, is amazing. We headed over to Pacific Wharf and straight to the main attraction there.
Waking up we once again headed back to the beach. Huntington was familiar so we headed there for beach time. I did hang out in the pool that morning. Huntington was just as nice during the day and there were again plenty of surfers. Also, there were birds for Isaac (an avid birder). I acclimated to the water quite nicely, but he was kind of on and off with it. The surf was up and fun, and we spent a nice morning playing in the water and laying out on the beach.
We had lunch reservations at 2:50 at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland, and thanks to a good friend, got hooked up with tickets for 2 days while in the area. Because of poor planning and GPS usage on my part, we were a little late meeting our contact, but we did get there not long after we’d planned to meet at the Grand Californian Hotel. Unfortunately, once we parked and got to the resort, another GPS mistake had us walking all thru Downtown Disney and going to the hotel the long way. But once we got in, we met up with our new friend and headed into California Adventure first before heading directly over to Disneyland proper.
My last visit to the Disneyland Resort was in 2005, just before they started the 50th celebration. I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World at that point, but now I’d been to the Florida parks a couple times. So it was nice to compare with the original with a fresh perspective. I love Disneyland, and the last time my group only had a 1 day park hopper pass so we tried to cram too much into one day and didn’t spend nearly enough time at Disneyland. I loved California Adventure even then, before the changes, but I really needed more Disneyland time.
September 26, 2016 Buena Park & Huntington Beach CA
Monday morning we woke up and headed to a neat local diner with great food and homemade salsa for eggs that was not far from the house, then we headed back to Knott’s Berry Farm where we found a nicely shaded parking spot in the lot by Ghostrider. After getting inside we headed over towards Ghostrider first, but it wasn’t open quite yet, so we headed around and hit up Pony Express.
Pony Express–I really like it. I’d be happy if Carowinds got one of these. The launch is fun, there’s airtime, and the train is really neat. It would serve as a great family coaster in whatever park it’s in, but that it’s themed to the Pony Express near Ghost Town makes it all the more interesting. The launch isn’t that intense but it is fun, and the twists and turns are mildly thrilling. The finale with the tunnel is quite fun.
Next we hit up the Log Ride and Mine Train again before heading into the 50s section of the park. We got in line for Xcelerator and with absolutely no line or wait we rode in the front seat. And it was glorious. Then we were allowed to switch to an untaken seat and ride again. We rode two or three times more and then headed over to another ride close by.
Supreme Scream–I like the S&S towers. They don’t scare me that much, though I’m really starting to be less and less scared by drop towers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the drop, but the journey up the tower scares me. Supreme Scream has a nice view, and it’s a shame I didn’t have my camera up there. And the drop was a lot of fun.
We headed over thru the Fiesta Village section next. My last visit to Knott’s wasn’t very busy, but this day was absolutely dead. And it was fantastic. It was time to get some Jaguar and Monte love in.
Jaguar!–I love the queue. It’s really, really long, but really cool. But there was a loud announcement made and you couldn’t make out a word that was being said. They need to fix the speakers. Jaguar! is a great family ride. It’s a long ride, it gets done what it needs to, it’s great for kids and families. No major airtime, but it’s just so much fun going up, down, around, and thru the other rides in the area.
We headed over to another classic, one of my favorites, and a dying breed next.
Montezooma’s Revenge–We had a mishap (with no line, mind you) of the people beside us getting in our seats for some odd reason, and wouldn’t move, because they wanted to ride with their friends who were in the queue right behind them. It was weird. But whatever. Monte is a classic and I’m so glad Knott’s keeps it up. The launch is fun, the loop is intense, and the first spike, while sunny, was really fun. And that back spike really is better on the fly wheel versions of this ride.
We walked over thru Camp Snoopy next. They have one of the best Camp Snoopy sections in any Cedar Fair park, I really like it. Then we walked back to Ghost Town. I had some unfinished business from the night before.
I’d mentioned when Cedar Fair announced that Ghostrider would be getting completely retracked, refurbished, and new trains all done by Great Coasters International that I had a bit of trepidation. I loved Ghostrider with PTC trains. Even in 2012, with the MCBR mostly stopping the train on the MCBR I still thought the ride was really great. I never got one of the infamous ‘rough’ rides. So GCI’s modifications gave me pause. We rode in the back of the train. I like GCI, I like Millennium Flyer trains, but in the past, switching to those trains have not fared well with enthusiasts.
Ghostrider–The ride is very smooth. It definitely feels GCI smooth. The first drop was really good, and the first couple of hills were fun, though the amount of airtime was not what it was before, and that comes from simple physics. The trains are different. Also, there was some reprofiling of the layout. You go right thru where the MCBR used to be and the whole last part of the ride is fast, furious, smooth, with airtime and laterals in the helix. So what did I think, and how did it compare? For my first ride, I was slightly disappointed that a few of the more powerful airtime moments were gone, but what it lost in intensity it gained in speed. Ghostrider now feels like a coaster built by GCI, and that isn’t a bad thing. I liked it, but decided to hold off on officially making a decision until another ride later. Though slightly disappointed, I still really like Ghostrider just based off of that ride.
We walked to the Mystery Lodge but I’d just gotten a Boysenberry Icee so I had to finish that instead. I first experienced Mystery Lodge on my last visit and unfortunately it led to me not getting to ride Jaguar! or Monte because of my time crunch. But since we had Platinum Passes and were less than 2 miles from Knott’s I didn’t mind waiting this time, and the wait was actually far less than it was the last time. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an interesting show using Pepper’s Ghost and a live action actor. The actor last time was much better, but it really is a well done use of the PG effect.
We were getting hungry so we walked out of the park and over to Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant, newly renovated and with a new head chef. It. Was. Amazing! I love the chicken there anyway, but the mashed potatoes (dairy free, not that i care, but you just might) were out of this world and the whole meal was really good. As was the Boysenberry punch (see a theme here?).
Heading back in I believe we went over to the Stage Coach next. This was my first time riding it and it was a lot of fun. Then we rode the train. They had the smaller one running in the off season. I love trains and the smaller, more unique one was really neat. The outlaw that held us up was funny too.
We walked over towards the Fiesta section again and rode La Revolucion. I love these rides, and this one was no exception. It made me hope Carowinds gets a frisbee type ride at some point. We walked back over again to Camp Snoopy. I discovered some random ‘cave’ and had to check it out. It reminded me a little of the Treasure Cave (R.I.P.) at Kings Dominion. I really love Knott’s for things like this. Next was Sierra Sidewinder, another credit for Issac, and just a fun ride.
Sierra Sidewinder–Knott’s has another home run as far as family coasters go. It spins, it has a few fun drops and turns. We spinned quite wildly as our car was a little bit off balance, which was great. The layout is really one of the better ones for a spinning coaster.
We took a re-ride on Voyage to the Iron Reef. This time on Voyage, we got stuck just near the end of the ride. I still hope we get one of these at Carowinds and at other Cedar Fair parks. We also rodehe Sky Tower for some photos. They need new windows.
Also, Isaac wanted to ride the flyers. Up to this point in my life, I’d yet to snap flyers. I tried hard, but never have. Even at Knoebels. Even at Carowinds. These were no different, but I do like the setup of the boardwalk section. We took a spin on the Log Flume too before our last ride on Silver Bullet. And we got some last daytime rides on Xcelerator.
We headed out of the park and back to the house for a bit. I tried again to get in the pool, and I think I stayed for a few minutes. It was warmer in the mornings, but not so much in the afternoons or evenings. I did manage to nap by the pool one day, and we laid out by it one night.
That evening we decided to head to the beach for my first ever sunset on the Pacific Ocean. Huntington Beach had been suggested so we headed to the Pier there. And we were glad we did. There were still tonnes of surfers in the water and the sunset was spectacular. Plus I got to see what my new camera could do in low light and at night. And I’m very happy about that. We hung out at the pier and at the beach for a bit before heading back to the house
Sunday was a fresh new day so we woke up early, got ready, checked out, and headed towards Buena Park where we would be staying the rest of the week. Isaac was feeling somewhat okay and so we headed to Knott’s Berry Farm for a few hours to see if he could handle going to parks. It was busy for a Sunday but Isaac was feeling better, and he had been excited to get to the park. Obviously I was willing to go because I really love Knott’s Berry Farm. After getting in the park we headed to Ghostrider first.
It had a decently sized line and immediately broke down. With new new work on it and new trains I wanted to ride it as it is one of my favorite wooden coasters, but there was no reason to wait that long, especially since we were staying right down the street and have our Platinum Passes that allow us to visit the park any time.
Instead we walked thru Ghost Town. I hate that Ghost Town Alive ended just prior to our arrival, I’d have loved to have seen it. Our first ride of the day was Calico Mine Ride which I’d not been on since it’s renovation. I love dark rides, and the refurb on this was really well done. My favorite scene is the large ‘glory hole’ room in the middle because it’s rather massive for a park of this size.
Next up it was time for a new credit. Normally, I’d do a rundown but Coast Rider, the park’s newer Mack Wild Mouse is something I’d ridden several times, including earlier in the year at King’s Dominion. It’s a fun mouse with a great first drop, and it looks great where they put it at Knott’s. Plus I like the play on Ghostrider with the name. It’s a much better ride than what used to be there. Up next we headed over to Xcelerator, which didn’t have much of a wait, surprisingly.
Xcelerator–I still don’t care much for the queue in the station. I’m not sure why they decided to group by car instead of by row because it doesn’t always work. We sat near the back. During the off season they were running one train, but in all three visits to the park on this trip that was plenty. This is one of my favorite launched coasters. Even with a short track length, the launch is really powerful, with great airtime over the tophat. I greyed out in the 2 turns.
We walked thru the Fiesta Village area and planned to ride Montezooma’s Revenge but decided we needed water and a bathroom break first. We headed thru Camp Snoopy and back over to Ghost Town. We toyed with getting in line for Mystery Lodge, but decided to keep it for another day. I got some Boysenberry goodness in the form of an Icee and it was delicious. Then we hit up another amazing dark ride that I wasn’t able to ride last time, and haven’t been on since it’s refurb, Timber Mountain Log Ride. Again, another amazing refurbishment. I don’t remember a lot about the ride before, but we didn’t mind that we waited in line because again, it was just so well done. Then we headed around the park, at some point hitting up Silver Bullet.
Silver Bullet–This is one of my favorite inverted coasters. Most people don’t like it, I think it’s underrated. I like the rampy first drop that most don’t. Also, the Stengle Dive-esq turn is really awesome. The ride is very well paced, and then you hit that very intense helix at the end. I wish it were closer, because I love Silver Bullet.
Heading back around the park again we ended up getting in line for something else that was new since my last visit. And if this is any indication of what Cedar Fair can do with new dark rides, I want one at every park, including Carowinds, a.s.a.p.
Voyage to the Iron Reef–The queue is nicely done. I felt it was on the level of at least a Busch park, if not nearly at Universal Studios level of theming. And the whole ride is just fantastic. The gun I had was slightly off, but it worked, and the scenes where you’re shooting were a lot of fun. I also liked the throwback to the older rides no longer at the park. I really liked it. I want a Pirate themed one at Carowinds, please…
Calico Mine Train is a fun dark ride, so we rode it one more time and then left the park as it was nearing time for us to go check in to our amazing AirBnB house a mile and a half away. Once we arrived we checked it all out, checked out the pool, put our stuff away, and then headed to the grocery store to get some stuff for the week, finding an amazing authentic Korean restaurant along the way. Isaac loves Korean food, and I love what I’d have of it, but this made me wish I could have it more often. The food was amazing. For most of the dinner, we were the only non-Korean customers in the place, and it was fairly popular.
We headed back to the house and I tried to get in the (now cold) pool, but didn’t last long before heading to bed.