We woke up and were out just before nine on Sunday morning. Breakfast was had from Duncan Donuts, and because we were in an AirBnB south of Cedar Point, our drive to Kings Island was only around 3 hours. After getting close to the park we stopped at Burger King for Blake and Isaac to get some food. We were all hungry, but I had a meal plan so was planning on getting lunch in the park. I did cheat a bit and get a small hamburger though.
Pulling up to the park I immediately noticed that the parking lot wasn’t really full. This would be my first visit to Kings Island on a holiday weekend and I didn’t know how it would be. This was a good sign. We arrived just around 1pm and headed to the front gate. After getting thru the front gate I suggested we head straight back to Mystic Timbers in case the line was long, so we went straight back. To my delight and surprise, the line was short, maybe about 15 minutes, so after putting our stuff in a locker we got in line.
Mystic Timbers–I have to admit, when it was being built, I wasn’t impressed with the ride, but as people started to ride it last year it became clear that Mystic Timbers was a hit. I started to get excited about finding out for myself. And it definitely is a hit. The first drop reminds me of Thunderhead. There is airtime on the hill over the lift. Then the ride really hits its stride as you head out in to the woods with massive amounts of GCI airtime. It isn’t severe ejector air, but it is really good. Then you have the turnaround and tunnel which is also a lot of fun. The return trip is just as insane, and then of course you hit the shed. Now, I knew what was in the shed, obviously, and had heard mostly negative comments about how it just wasn’t what people expected. I honestly thought it was a clever trick for stopping on the brakes at the end of the ride, and wish more rides would do something like that. Overall, though Mystic Timbers is an amazing creation by GCI.
Hurler at Kings Dominion had been closed for some time. Rumors swirled, announcements were made, and in March of 2017 Twisted Timbers, the successor to Hurler opened to the public, an RMC hybrid coaster with the same layout but major re-profiling and 3 new inversions. Over the past few years I’ve spent Easter weekend in Virginia for Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens, but this year, though I had Good Friday off, I had prior plans on Saturday and couldn’t make a weekend of it as I had been. The weather outlook for Friday was not looking good initially and I considered going to Dollywood instead. Friday morning, however, the weather forecast was much better so I left my home just north of Charlotte, NC and headed north to Virginia.
I arrived at Kings Dominion around 1:30 and saw a fairly light crowd of cars in the parking lot. I noticed that Dominator wasn’t open, but lots of other visible rides were up. Once I was in the park I went to the Burrito place on International Street, but the line was long. So I went to Panda Express. Long line there too. I looked on the KD App to see what restaurants took the all season meal plan and noticed one in Candy Apple Grove. I passed by Chik Fil A (another long line) and headed to Mac Bowl, which was kind of like a Subway for Mac & Cheese. It was decent. Then I headed to the back of the park to see what the wait for Twisted Timbers was like as it wasn’t listed on the app showing wait times though most every other ride in the park was a five or less minute wait.
The line was out near the repurposed store near the ride’s entrance. It didn’t take me long to figure out, though, that the ride was not open. They were sending a train out periodically with 6 people in, but the line was closed. I stood around for a bit and took some pictures, but eventually decided to leave the line. But before that I got a message that some friends of mine were in the park for the ride as well, so I texted Craig. It took a while for him to respond. But in the interim I headed over to Intimidator for a ride. Sadly, just as I was about to get on, the ride went down. Bummer. So I headed to the next nearby coaster, Flight of Fear. I got in line, but sadly after a bit of standing and not moving, I left and headed to Grizzly.
Saturday was mostly a leisurely day for me. During the afternoon we hung out at my sister’s house. Eventually, though, I was ready to head out and ride some more rides. I asked my niece and nephew if they wanted to join me. My sister and brother-in-law were going to hang out at home and go out for dinner later. So we headed in to Orlando, thru Disney World for a short cut, and then to our first of two Fun Spot parks, Orlando. This was my first time to either park.
The afternoon was sunny and warm, and as we pulled up and found a place to park, we noticed the area was fairly busy. Lots of families bringing their kids to ride rides. I was impressed with the park from the get go. It was very clean, nicely done, and there were plenty of people everywhere. We took some pictures and headed the long way around the small lake in the middle of the park and over to our first stop…the restroom in the park’s arcade. Then we purchased tickets. I got the 4 rides for $30 bracelet as this would be enough riding for me on this visit. Then we walked towards Mine Blower. My nephew had been to the park for the go-karts, but neither of them had been on the coasters there.
Mine Blower–There was barely a line. Chris and I rode in the front row and Kaitlyn was behind us. I have to say, I really loved the Timberliner trains again on another coaster. You drop out of the station and head up the lift quickly, where you turn and then hit the first drop. And what a drop it was. Right after, you’re up and over the station, all while upside down. The inversion was really well done, with airtime, making it more like a zero G roll. What followed was a twisted mess of track and turns, with over banked turns, airtime hills, laterals. It was very intense, very much like a mini-Voyage. Very Gravity Group. I loved it!
After getting to my sister’s home Wednesday nite we took most of Thursday easy. Later in the evening my sister, nephew, and I went to Disney Springs to hang out for a while since I’d not been after the change over from Downtown Disney. I had Blaze Pizza for dinner and it was good. Then on Friday morning we headed into Orlando around 11 AM on our way to SeaWorld Orlando. We were fortunate that my nephew was able to get us tickets thru work at no cost. We had to meet him and some of his work mates there, and once we arrived at the park I saw a packed parking lot.
Of course I knew it would be busy, this being one of the busiest times of the year in Orlando. Normally I wouldn’t want to go to a new park on such a busy week, but it worked out pretty well. We got in line for the tram, but that line was massive so we just walked over to the front entrance and met everyone. I’d been texted the previous day that it was around a 45 minute wait just to get tickets and get inside the park, and this was obvious when you got to the gate. We, however, walked over and got in the ten or so minute line to get in the front gate. Our first stop once inside was to Guest Services as my sister wanted to get a Handicapped Pass, since she has some major back issues and other health problems, so standing in line wasn’t really an option for her.
Once we had that in hand we went to the restrooms and started our day. We passed by some pink flamingos, then Manta on our way over to check out Kraken. I wasn’t interested in the VR, neither was my sister. We went to the entrance and, although the park was super packed, the lines were never bad, save for Manta. And the way they handle the handicapped pass is that you give them the sheet for eligible rides and they give you a return time, much like Disney. They basically looked at the wait time and assigned your time based on that. With Kraken being a 30 minute wait we were asked to come back in 30 minutes for our timed ride. As we walked back towards Journey to Atlantis we noticed that it was a walk-on, so we headed there first.
As I’d taken two weeks off in September of 2017 to visit Japan I really hadn’t planned a lot of domestic travel in 2017. I knew getting back from Japan would lead into a busy time. The following two weeks after my return to the US were busy with local events including a work trip at Kure Beach. Then there was a pre-planned trip with friends in October to Atlanta. I took most of November easy, but I knew that December would be another busy month to cap off the end of the year. I had tickets to see Janet Jackson in Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA which were rescheduled dates from her Unbreakable World Tour, renamed the State of the World Tour, at the beginning of December. These were the last two dates of that leg of the tour. Needless to say, I was busy.
Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to request 2 days of vacation in between Christmas and the New Years holidays at work, which meant I would have 10 days off in a row. I didn’t plan out anything, but in the back of my mind I had considered spending part of the time in the Orlando area as my sister and her family have been there for 6 years and I’d only made the trip down once. Eventually I made the commitment and let my sister know I’d be down for the latter half of my time off. Time slowly approached and soon it was Friday.
Some more back story, during my trip to Japan there was a position at an office very close to my house that I’d hoped to transfer to before the year’s end. I knew the position would be available, but unfortunately due the incompetence of some human resource employees I missed my chance at an interviewee even though the local management team tried to set up a phone interview while I was abroad. However, in a surprising turn of events, 2 more unexpected positions became available before year’s end. I was able to secure an interview this time, but the wait in between interviewing and finding out whether I was selected for a position was nearly a month an a half. I was in a bad mood during most of that time, but 3 days before the start of my vacation I received confirmation that I would be transferring, starting effective the first of the year.
Tokyo Disneyland | Yokohama Cosmoworld | Photos | Videos
September 23, 2017 Tokyo & Yokohama Japan
The next morning we got up early and made our way to Disneyland. It was our last day in Japan and I knew it was likely to be busy at Tokyo Disneyland, but we pressed on. The morning was overcast. We ate breakfast outside of the park at the train station before heading over to Ikspiari and then the front gate. When you enter there’s no familiar hill with a train station for you to pass under, but immediately you are standing on a covered version of Main Street U.S.A. called World Bazaar (Still not sure why the covered main streets are all the rage in Japan, but it does cover you from the rain). The castle in the distance, however, is all too familiar.
The park was already quite busy and it was just opening. We made our way to the right first to their version of Tomorrowland (or, more aptly titled, we-need-to-upgrade-it-all land). Tokyo’s Tomorrowland has the familiar Space Mountain building as its centerpiece, and we were able to snag a fast pass for Space Mountain for later. But it also has a version of Star Tours that never seemed busy (I’m not a fan of those types of motion rides so we never bothered), Stitch Encounter (Stitch is pretty big in Japan, but again, I’m not going to wait for 2 hours for a ride I’m not crazy about and have ridden in the states), Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters (which is fun, but had a long wait and no Fast Passes), and a version of the twirling rockets, though they’re being removed soon for their version of New Fantasy Land. This part of the park is in desperate need of a make over. It was very dated and it needs at least one new E-Ticket level attraction.
One ride that I’ve heard is nothing short of amazing though, and had yet to reach a 90 minute wait time, was Pooh’s Honey Hunt So we got in line with 82 minutes to wait. The queue is very well done, mostly outdoors. They should incorporate the queue entertainment from the ride at Magic Kingdom. Having said that…
Isaac and I had slept later than we’d planned and after discussing what to do we decide to go to Tobu Zoo together so that Isaac and I could check out the Zoo, and I could get the credits he got a couple of days prior. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to go back with me, especially with the train ride and cost, but he was happy to go back to the zoo, which he’d not spent any time at on his first visit. Also, he liked the coasters so much, he wanted to ride more, and wanted to see what I thought of them. The only downside is that Tobu Zoo is really rural to the north, about 2 hours from Yokohama, which is already on the south side of Tokyo.
Having said all of that it was definitely worth the trip out to Miyashiro for the zoo. Getting there on the train takes you to a newly remodeled station on the Tobu line, out in the Tokyo suburbs and farmland. The quaint little town of Miyashiro didn’t seem to see much in the way of Caucasian or generally non-Asians from what we saw on our visit (Isaac’s second). We walked from the station to Tobu Zoo, passing through the town and by Nippon Institute of Technology, a 100 year old college in Japan. We walked to the zoo in the beautiful weather (another reason the visit to Tobu Zoo ended up being today). I’m not sure what the park is like on the weekends or when school is out, but during midweek with school in the park was absolutely dead. We paid our entrance fee and for a ride all day pass and headed in hopes that all of the coasters would be open, and they were.
You can walk for quite a ways in Tobu without seeing anyone, employee or patron alike. Our first stop was a walkway to the left of the lake to Regina, the Intamin built wooden coaster built over a small lake, as it was further out from the rest of the rides. I’d heard good things about this ride when people started going to Japan to ride coasters, many years go, but in recent years reviews hadn’t been so good. Isaac wasn’t able to ride in the back on his initial visit and wasn’t so impressed with his front row rides. But today the crew didn’t seem to mind where we sat, so the back it was.
The next morning we had to get to Fuji Q Highland early. I’ve read nothing but horror stories from both coaster enthusiasts and non enthusiasts, locals and visitors about how terrible the operations at Fuji Q are, and how long the lines are. During the day, those horror stories would prove to be correct, and they make any poorly run park in the U.S. look like a walk in the park. So the plan was to get there and be close to the first ones in line. We woke up from our hotel, headed to the Kawaguchiko station which proved to be quite a walk, stored our luggage, and headed back to the cute Fujikyuko train. We arrived about an hour before the park opened, and I was shocked (and didn’t quite believe) that we were the first ones in line at the back gate. There were some Russians staying at our hotel that showed up after a bit, as well as some locals who had internet tickets.
In order to get to do all of the major coasters, we were planning to quickly exchange our tickets then, once the rope dropped, literally running to the middle of the park where the very limited express passes could be purchased for rides. Express Passes are sold at the resort, online (but only on the Japanese site), and a few local convenience stores which means they sell out very quickly on the morning of. So at 8:20, we were able to exchange our passes and, even though they were letting in resort guests early, we were at the front of the rope for the rope drop. Once the park was opened it was go time.
EVERYONE runs, either to whatever coaster they plan on hitting up first, or towards the middle of the park to buy express passes. We were at the back gate, so you had people at the front gate all heading to the Express Pass booth. Isaac sprinted, and though I tried to keep up, I just couldn’t do it. So I briskly walked as quickly as I could after the first initial burst, and was happy to see Isaac being the second person in line when I rounded the corner. Score!
Monday morning was a late morning, and we needed it. We grabbed breakfast at a restaurant near the hotel and headed up to Tokyo for some sight seeing and attractions. First stop: LaQua. We went over to Tokyo Dome City and LaQua to see if Thunder Dolphin was running. The whole area was really nice. I had considered going to LaQua Onsen while here, but didn’t get a chance. We walked around the rides section by LaQua and eventually got a ticket for the coaster.
Thunder Dolphin–You head up the first hill, drop, pop up on top of a building, dive thru a ‘hole’ in said building, then dive thru and around a hubless Ferris Wheel, then back up on the building for some trick track before dropping down and hitting the brakes. As far as hyper coasters go, it was what everyone else has said. A good couple of drops, no major airtime, but a fun coaster, and it looks stunning. It gives a few good views as well. The hills really didn’t have much airtime, and the trick track was odd, but I liked it. I probably wouldn’t pay to ride it again, though.
We walked around the Tokyo Dome, in to a gift shop, and back out onto the plaza where there were a ton of cosplayers all over before heading over to the other rides section. We were going to ride the parachute drop, but the line was too long, so we had dinner at a burger joint in Tokyo Dome instead. Then we walked back thru the cosplayers, LaQua/Tokyo Dome City, and caught our next train down to the waterfront area to hit up Sega Joypolis.