Robert Forto

East Coast Road Trip: Roller Coaster Tour Day 2

After we finished our fun filled day at Busch Gardens we had to drive about an hour north towards Kings Dominion, the next stop on our roller coaster tour.

When I lived in Virginia, we used to go to Kings Dominion all the time. It was only about an hour south of our place in Lake Ridge and it was good to go down for the day, ride The Grizzly and head home. Back in those days, the mid-1980s Hanna Barbara ran the joint so there was a lot of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble influences.

We stayed the night at a hotel just 12 miles to the north of the theme park and hit the sack early to rest up for the next day of coasters.

Kings Dominion

It was Monday and Memorial Day when we drove up to the parking lot. We weren’t first in line like the day before but we were close. We paid our parking fee and headed to a spot close to the gate. We had to wait in line for almost an hour before the gates opened. During that time Whitney Houston belted out an awesome rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and everyone in line turned toward the flags, removed their caps and placed their hand over their hearts.

We paid our hundred bucks plus the extra fee for the fast lane pass and entered the park. The first thing you see when you enter is the large pools and fountains and all of the shops and restaurants that line the promenade as you make your way toward the eiffel tower. The Eiffel Tower at Kings Dominion is a scale replica of the original and I have been going up to the top since I was a kid. Up here you get a great vantage point of how the park is laid out and can see if any of the rides are closed.

Since we were one of the first people in the park we had to wait in line behind a barrier right as you entered Planet Snoopy. Remember I said that Fred and Barney used to roam these streets! Now it is Snoopy, Lucy, Charlie and the gang. I have always loved the Peanuts and so has Michele. We even bought a little Snoopy for our soon-to-be-grandson, Psymon who would arrive just two days after we returned from our trip.

As we did on our Roller Coaster Tour Day 1 re-cap we will describe the coasters to all of our rabid readers and then Michele and I will give our experiences. Sit back and enjoy!

Volcano

Robert Forto

Soar at speeds up to 60 miles per hour into the heart of darkness, then rocket 155 feet straight up and out of the top of the crater through a spectacular sidewinder inversion head-spinning, heart-pounding fashion.

Location: Safari Village
Duration: 1 minute, 10 seconds
Height Requirement: 54 inches
Manufacturer: Intamin
Speed: 60+ mph

  • One of the most popular thrill rides at Kings Dominion.
  • Debuted as the world’s first inverted linear motor-launched (LIM) roller coaster with tallest inversion.
  • Considered the quintessential thrill-seeking experience by roller coaster enthusiasts.
  • Only roller coaster in the world to shoot riders straight out of a raging volcano.

Robert: Oh my God! This was the first roller coaster of the morning and it was a blast, literally! We had to wait in line a long time but as we sat down in the car and buckled ourselves in we soon realized we were in for quite a ride. The train shot off like a rocket and soon we were inside the cauldron of the volcano. Before you know it you are flipped upside down and shot straight up and out of the mountain. The rest of the ride is a dizzying array of flips and sharp turns. It is only 70 seconds long but it feels like you on a ride holding on for dear life.

Michele: This is my kinda of coaster, remember I said I am short, there’s no bottom to this one so your feet get to dangle which makes it “feel” more like you are flying.  This coaster lived up to its name in thrill! I jumped up onto the seat, pulled the harness down over my shoulders, grabbed Robert’s hand and said are you ready? He didn’t hear me.  No matter, we were off!  Volcano starts off with an inversion and twists you around the inside of the volcano then all of a sudden shoots you straight up towards the sky and then you spill out onto the side of the volcano into another inversion and a loop!  I would’ve rode this one again!

Intimidator 305

Robert Forto Robert Forto

Challenge the tallest, fastest and most thrilling roller coaster on the East Coast. The 300-tall first drop and high-speed twists and turns deliver a thrilling experience you will remember for a long, long time.

Location: Safari Village
Duration: 3 minutes
Height Requirement: 54 inches
Manufacturer: Intamin
Speed: 90 mph

  • The tallest, fastest and most thrilling roller coaster on the East Coast.
  • The ride stands 305 feet at its highest point with a first drop of 300 feet at an 85-degree angle.
  • Roller coaster enthusiasts rave about the ride’s high-speed twists and turns.
  • Voted “Best New Roller Coaster of 2010” by Amusement Today.
  • Great photo opportunities of the ride are available from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Robert: As we stood in line for the Volcano we could see the red track that reached high in the air. That would be the fastest roller coaster I have ever been on in my life. As you walk up to the train you see all the Dale Earnhardt NASCAR references and it looked pretty fast from the ground but just wait. The ride starts by taking the train straight up, 305 feet, the tallest coaster I have ever been on. The next 2.5 minutes are pure speed and that any adrenaline junkie would crave. I barely caught my breath by the time the ride was done. I looked over at Michele and she looked scared to death!

Michele:  The picture above (me sans “Home Alone”) was taken before the ride as a joke! Well it quickly became a reality.  Notice I’m already way too hot, my face is beat red and it’s only 11:00a.m.

As we walked passed Dale Earnhardt’s replica car and saw all of the propaganda for NASCAR, I thought to myself, okay NASCAR, I’d like to take a spin around the track get the car up to 200 mph, but I’d be in control.  This you’re not in control!  Robert and I get in the car. Immediately I knew this was going to be what I’d later refer to as a “concussion ride”.  I’m 5’1″ and I weigh 180 lbs.  I’m a short chubby chick!!  The cars overhead harness came down and clicked then the attendant comes by and clips a seat belt and pushes the bar down until he hears it click 3 more times!! REALLY dude, I have boobs and now I cannot breathe.  No matter my eyes were definitely going to be closed on this ride.

One deep breath, we start the 305 foot climb, I manage to take a quick look around to see the direction of the first turn and unlike Griffon at Busch Gardens I didn’t get a chance to count, we were off and turning and head thrashing so fast I was blown away literally.

It comes to a hard stop and its all I can do to wait my turn to get out, I was having a literal panic attack to get off because I couldn’t breathe and I felt trapped.  Not a good combo.

Anaconda

Robert Forto

Get wrapped in the coils and be prepared to drop 144 feet into the depths of the Anaconda. You’ll be rocketed through 2,700 feet of track at speeds up to 50 miles per hour through an underwater tunnel, vertical loops, sharp twists and turns.

Location: Safari Village
Duration: 1 minute, 50 seconds
Height Requirement: 48 inches
Manufacturer: Arrow Dynamics
Speed: 50 mph

  • Long-time favorite of park visitors and roller coaster enthusiasts alike.
  • Anaconda was the first looping roller coaster in the world to feature an underwater tunnel.
  • Riders are sent through a 360-degree vertical loop after exiting the underwater tunnel.
  • One of the most photographed rides at Kings Dominion.

Robert: This was our third coaster in a row with barely a second between each of them to catch our breath. All three coasters, Volcano, Intimidator and Anaconda are within a few hundred feet of each other.

This green monster was around when I used to come here as a kid. I didn’t remember it until I got on the train and it took off down the track. By today’s standards this coaster could be considered an ancient relic. The old school cars and safety harness leave much to be desired and this is what I call a true head-banger. Your head literally gets knocked from side to side as you twist and turn. Don’t get me wrong, this is an awesome coaster! It really does feel like you are a slithering snake on its way to constrict and crush its pray. Its an oldie but goodie and should not be missed on a trip to visit the King!

Michele: Holy Mother of God!  We take the fast track from the Intimidator to Anaconda and immediately get placed into a car.  I could barely walk from the Intimidator and now this!  Okay!  It goes under the lake at some point I noticed as we were walking up, but from where we were it doesn’t look like a tunnel, the water splashes up.  I try to talk our way out of this one for now, “you don’t want to get wet this early do you, honey!?”  We aren’t going to get wet let’s go!

We get into the seats, again, I get squeezed, the harness comes over my shoulders but it’s too high, it doesn’t rest on my shoulders.  Eh-oh!  I know my head is going to get banged up so I try to pin my head to one side, unsuccessfully.  This is old-school cork-screw inversions, not the smooth longer ones they have on the newer coasters.  This fast moving snake thrashed my head on the right side like I was Pacheio to his Mayweather!  The tunnel was a disappointment too.  I got off with a sigh of relief knowing we’d be going on a baby ride next! Or so I thought…..

Backlot Stunt Coaster

Robert Forto

Experience what it’s like to be a stunt car driver as your car races out onto the track and transported into the stunt chase sequence.

Location: Safari Village
Duration: 2 minutes
Height Requirement: 48 inches
Manufacturer: Premier Rides, Inc.
Speed: 40 mph

  • A roller coaster that families enjoy riding together.
  • Non-stop action from start to finish with a series of twists, turns and drops.
  • A favorite of young teens.

Robert: Fourth coaster in a row and Michele paid the price. As as said in my description of the Anaconda, all of these coasters are with in a couple hundred feet of each other. When I looked at the description of this coaster I must have read the wrong thing because I told Michele, this is a kiddie coaster, its slow and look at the train, they look like little cars.

Boy where we wrong! As you sit in the cars–we decided to sit in the front since we thought we were on some kiddie ride–the train shoots you down the track and immediately around two or three very sharp turns. The story of this ride is you are supposed to be in a high speed chase from the cops in Los Angeles. It feels like it. As you enter the tunnel and in the dark you are zooming. As you fly out of the tunnel and back into the bright sunlight you have just a second to catch your breath before coming to a quick stop.

I knew Michele was in trouble as soon as we got off the train. She looked sick. Having done four massive coasters in a row I knew she was going to have trouble. As we sat down on the bench to catch our breath Michele had to run to the rest room to throw up.

When she came back the entire park stopped in its tracks for a moment of silence for Memorial Day. It was noon and at that very moment was a very profound experience. I have never in my life seen thousands of people stop in their tracks, workers came out of stores and restaurants and the rides stopped. They played God Bless America over the park’s loudspeakers. It was an experience I will never forget.

Michele:  So, YA! This is a level 5 coaster! I’ll let Robert’s description stand because I may have blacked out on this one!  He did leave out that the cops are chasing you up into a parking garage and out into another one.  You climb the parking garage turns that are only about 15 feet in diameter at 54 mph!

Rebel Yell

Robert Forto

Not the biggest, tallest or fastest ride at Kings Dominion, but certainly a ride with class that families enjoy riding together. Twin racing trains compete for the finish on this traditional out and back wooden roller coaster.

Location: Candy Apple Grove
Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
Height Requirement: 48 inches
Manufacturer: Philadelphia Toboggan Company
Speed: 54 mph

  • An attraction that families enjoy riding together.
  • Has given more rides than any attraction at Kings Dominion.
  • Name comes from The Rebel Yell, a battle cry used by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War.
  • The ride was featured in the 1977 movie Rollercoaster.
  • The Rebel Yell received the American Coaster Enthusiasts’ Landmark award in 2003.

Robert: Back in the day this was one of my favorite coasters. It was a ride we always rode together, my brother Ryan, my dad and I. Coming to the park as a party of three is never as much fun as an even group but we always had a good time. Back then they used to race the blue train against the red one on two parallel tracks. One of us would always ride in the other train and we would place bets on which one would win. If my train won we might get a candy apple. If Ryan’s won we might get an ice cream.

Today they still run the two trains side by side but one always seems to be much faster and is not much of a race anymore. It is still a super-fun ride. By old-school wooden coaster standards this rickety old coaster still packs a punch.

Michele: Whew! Carousel, and Ferris Wheel to cool me off before the Rebel Yell.  Although I am deathly afraid of the Ferris Wheel. On to the Rebel Yell!  I love wooden coasters, the sounds, smell, and that secret fear we all have, this coaster was built 20+ years ago, is today the day is comes down?

I’d never seen a coaster like this one.  Two separate twin tracks? What’s up with that?  Well as Robert explained they used to race.  To bad they don’t anymore!  This coaster was a lot of fun, I laughed my butt off and even though we got bumped and bruised, hips and elbows it was worth it.  No over the head harness either!!

Ricochet

Robert Forto

Families thoroughly enjoy this fast-paced, exciting attraction filled with unexpected twists, tight turns and sudden drops.

Location: Candy Apple Grove
Duration: 3 minutes
Height Requirement: 44 inches minimum.  Between 44 and 54 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Manufacturer: MACK Rides
Speed: 35 mph

  • One of the most underrated rides in the park.
  • An attraction that families enjoy riding together.
  • The ride features a surprisingly thrilling 50-foot drop.

Robert: This little coaster is a blast! It used to be called Mighty Mouse, I think back in the day. It is a fun little gem that runs along a flat track in a car of four. Your car gets whipped around and you feel like you are going to fly overboard at any minute.

Michele: Another ride that Robert tried to convince me was a “baby ride”! Not even close!  This ride was fun and thrilling and much faster than expected.  No it’s not hardcore like Anaconda but it’s not a baby ride either.  It shouldn’t be passed over.

Hurler

Robert Forto

Riders experience non-stop action through 3,157 feet of track at speeds up to 50 miles per hour through a series of wide, heavily banked turns, flat turns, hills and humps on this wooden roller coaster.

Location: Candy Apple Grove
Duration: 2 minutes
Height Requirement: 48 inches
Manufacturer: International Coasters, Inc.
Speed: 50 mph

  • An attraction that families enjoy riding together.
  • Great first “big” roller coaster for guests.
  • A favorite of roller coaster enthusiasts.
  • Series of hills and humps provide riders with an abundance of airtime.

Robert: This is another wooden coaster that I didn’t expect to be so much fun. Michele loved this one and so did I. It felt like any minute the train was going to fly off the track. These wooden coasters all feel like that. The new age metal coasters of all varieties from stand up to floorless to swinging all feel so much “safer” than the wooden ones that feel like we might derail. That is always part of the excitement and why I will never pass up a woodie if I see one in the park.

Michele: HURLER! Hell Yeah!  This coaster was probably my favorite of our trip.  For a wooden coaster it is a long thrilling ride.  You do feel as if you’re going to be thrown off the track or even out of your seat, you barely have time to think because you are laughing so hard.  Isn’t that the point?!  Some of the new coasters have lost this feature, it’s all about speed and g-force turns.

Flight of Fear

Get ready for an adrenaline rush like no other when you catapult from zero to 54 miles per hour in just four seconds on this heart-pounding adventure in total darkness through four inversions.

Location: Safari Village
Duration: 1 minute, 5 seconds
Height Requirement: 54 inches
Manufacturer: Premier Rides
Speed: 54 mph

  • Flight of Fear features one of the most exciting accelerations of any roller coaster in the world.
  • The ride was one of the first linear induction motor LIM-launched coasters in the world.
  • Park visitors and roller coaster enthusiasts alike rave about the smooth inversions.
  • Early morning when the park opens is the best time to ride this popular attraction when the wait time is minimal.

Robert: This was another one of those holy sh*t moments on the roller coaster tour. On this tour it was the first time I have ever really been on these indoor, in the dark coasters, except for Space Mountain at Disney World. This is not your grandpa’s roller coaster!

The Flight of Fear shoots you down the track from zero to 54 in just four seconds. It feels like your head just flew through the back of the car and is sitting in somebody’s lap. The next minute you are in the dark and you are twisting and turning with just enough light to catch a glimpse of the track around you. This ride was a blast!

Michele: We walk up to what looks like a hangar.  We were told about this coaster while on the White Water ride at Busch Gardens.  A guy about our age with his wife and daughter over heard us talking about our trip and said, you’re going to Kings Dominion, you gotta ride the Flight of Fear! it’s underground.  WHAT?! Underground.  I’ve never heard of anything like this.  I didn’t ride Space Mountain, I was too short!

This ride was on our fast track.  So we quickly went to the front and waited to load just one car in front of us.  I looked around and you see aliens or sea creatures from the black lagoon in these tubes with water, colored lights and bubbles! Right up Robert’s alley! He loves Halloween as you rabid readers are aware.

We sit in the seat, harness over our head, but not as tight, I can move a little but I feel secure there’s a lap bar too. Immediately at first click your head is thrown straight back as Robert described above.  (Go back to the line, Robert said keep your eyes OPEN this time).  I have my eyes open the entire time but I’m fixated on the laser-like light show and my eyes keep catching the purple lights, they light up just as the coaster makes a new twist or turn.  There were so many inversions and at least one loop!  It was a fast heart pounding thrill ride!  The ride is over in a good amount of time.  As we came to a stop I did forget that there were children on the ride (13 yr old boys in front of us) and I said louder than I realized, “Holy SHIT!!!”  Well they got off laughing at the chubby chick that I’m sure they thought was too OLD for the ride.

Avalanche 

Robert Forto Robert Forto

Experience what it’s like to be a member of an Olympic bobsled team as your sled races out onto the track through high-speed twists and turns to the finish.

Location: Safari Village
Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds
Height Requirement: 40 inches minimum.  Between 40 and 46 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion.
Manufacturer: MACK Rides
Speed: 30 mph

  • Experience what it’s like to be a member of an Olympic bobsled team as your sled races out onto the track through high-speed twists and turns to the finish.

Robert: This old school coaster is still one of my favorites. It is tucked away near Volcano. I remembered riding it when I was a kid and how much fun we used to have. We almost didn’t go on it but we knew we had some time and it was on the fast lane so why not.

You sit in the car two people each. I with Michele in front of me and leaning against my chest. The story of the ride is it is a bobsled and it really feels like you are on the ice. This coaster doesn’t have a track but more like a slopped floor that is designed to mimic the ice track at the Olympics. It is a fun ride for the whole family!

Michele:  This is the kinda baby ride I like to go on in between rides like the Flight of Fear!  Avalanche was a fun ride.  The track throws you off onto the luge type track and you fly literally around until you catch the next small piece of track that thrusts you along again.  Super fun!

Dominator

Robert Forto

Scream through five inversions at speeds up to 67 miles per hour on the longest floorless steel roller coaster in the world, including one of the largest vertical loops in the world.

Location: International Street
Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds
Height Requirement: 54 inches
Manufacturer: Bolliger and Mabillard
Speed: 67 mph

  • A favorite among park visitors and roller coaster enthusiasts alike.
  • Gut-wrenching, non-stop action from start to finish.
  • Holds the world record as the longest floorless roller coaster at 4,210 feet.
  • Great ride experiences delivered in the front. middle and back rows of the train.

Robert: Why not save the best for last! We decided when we got here early in the day that we would end the day and the roller coaster tour with the Dominator. It is the longest floorless coaster in the world with one of the highest vertical loops. We took a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower to get a glimpse of this beauty before we headed over to ride.

The Dominator was on the fast lane pass so we practically walked up and jumped on the train. The next two minutes is sheer fun! This coaster has just the right amount of speed, flips and turns to make it an exciting ride. I am glad we saved this one for last.

Michele: I said before I like the floorless coasters! This one did not disappoint. I had to put Snoopy in the box next to the ride for safety precautions, jumped up onto the seat, literally! This is one of the older floorless models with the bicycle seat style.  Harness over my head and I’m ready to go!  This ride is just like Mind Eraser at Six Flags Great America and I rode it, by accident, while I was pregnant with our son Kyle! (1991)  Explains why he doesn’t really care for coasters.  The Dominator did not disappoint, a great ride and a great trip.

Other rides

We were warned that one thing to avoid at King’s is the high price of food. They were right. I got two sloppy pieces of pizza and a drink and it practically wiped out my cash. We did ride some other rides. One of the highlights was The Americana Ferris Wheel. The attendant promised us at least two rotations. We were on it for seven! The log flume is old school and fun. It got us just wet enough where we didn’t have to worry about soaked shoes and cooled us off in the 90 degree heat. What I missed most about the day was not being able to ride the Grizzly, I had looked forward to riding this since we started making plans for this roller coaster tour. We went back three times and it was still closed. We were in line for the Shockwave when some guy passed out and fell to the floor right as he was about to get on the train. It was so hot that day and the line was long for this coaster. No fast lane pass.  The guy that passed out was huge, at least 6’5″ and 250 lbs. They closed the ride and we decided not to wait.The carousel is always fun and one of Michele’s favorites. Its fun to watch the smile on the little kids faces as they experience the magic. As I said before, you can not go to King’s and not go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, We went to the top and took some pictures and got a layout of the land. Michele kept her back firmly against the wall and didn’t want to get too close to the edge. We talked to the young man up there and asked him how he got this gig standing on a platform hundreds of feet in the air. He said he tried out for the band but didn’t get picked so they stuck him up here. He said he didn’t mind though. He liked seeing the park from this high and promised he would try out for the band next year. The band at Kings is a group of teens that are dressed up like clowns and romp around the park playing their instruments. They are all very good and put on a heck of a show!

Kings Dominion was awesome! I love this park. It was so fun to re-live all those days from my childhood of coming here. I can’t believe it has been almost thirty years. I remember back in the day they still had shows on the big lake with people on water skis and big elaborate concerts in the park including big 80s pop stars like Tiffany and Joan Jett.

Theme parks have changed a lot since I have been to them as a kid. Today all of them it seems are trying to out do each other and pack in as many roller coasters and extreme thrill rides as they can. While Busch Gardens is a much more scenic park, King’s reminds me of the working man’s-blue collar type good time. It still has that old school feel but not the stuffiness of Disney or Epcot. It was a great day and tons of fun.

As we left the park we knew we had a long drive ahead of us that would take us through three states. Our next stop on the go-cart road trip would be Gettysburg.

Tomorrow: Gettysburg, Geno’s steaks and theBig City

Other photos: 

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