Dear Coaster Friends,
The 2019 season has come to a close for most seasonal parks, and I already have the off-season blues. So many great memories and thrills are in the books and lots of fun to look forward to soon. I had a great 2019 and was able to fit in a few new parks and revisit some of my old favorites. I wanted to take a quick look back especially of the three new for 2019 rides I managed to visit.
The first new stop of the year for me was an early season trip to Carowinds with my wife. We both absolutely loved Fury 325 as that was the main reason for the trip. The park as a whole was good, but the gap in quality after their three B&Ms and Mach multi-launch was wide. We both agreed when we left that Fury was worth the trip, and that a return trip would be welcome just to have another shot at Fury.
The next new park for me was Six Flags Great America with Coaster-net. This was more than the draw of the rides; there was also pizza, and of course the great community from Coaster-net. I had an absolute blast and despite going into the park having gone on clones of five of their coasters, six if you count Viper, the park offered tons of new experiences for me. Great America offers a great mix of classic and modern rides. To me Goliath, Raging Bull, and Maxx Force were all standouts that kept calling me back for more laps. While still offering up unique surprises on X-Flight, my first B&M wing coaster & Whizzer a surprisingly fun Schwarzkopf classic.
The final new stop for me in 2019, probably, was Kennywood. This park was on my radar because of Phantom’s Revenge, and it didn’t disappoint. However it was Steel Curtain that moved my wife and I to head over across Pennsylvania for the visit. Steel Curtain and Phantom’s Revenge were both awesome and had two very unique ride experiences. They are both rides I want to revisit and hold up as special. The three classic wooden coasters each offered something fun and special too, they really added variety to the day and gave the park something that could not be offered anywhere else because of the terrain.
There is one more place I may be able to visit before the end of the year and that is the newly opened Nickelodeon Universe at the American Dream Mall. It just opened last week and it is certainly in my area. The fact that it is indoors gives me a lot of flexibility to check it out during the winter months. I am very much interested in the Takabisha clone that I can ride without having to travel all the way to Japan, and the compact Intamin multi launch coaster that has yet to open. They may become my last rides of 2019 or the first on 2020 depending on when I can make time to head out there.
The three new for 2019 rides I was able to try were at my three new parks. I would have to say that Steel Curtain was the hit, it really exceeded expectations. I was concerned that the record breaking inversions would leave me dizzy and kill the re-ride ability. I was wrong, it was exciting, comfortable, and we took many laps on Steel Curtain, I loved every one. Maxx Force was a really fun ride and I would say it met expectations. I really love hydraulic launch coasters, and was looking forward to checking out the pneumatic launch to see if it was comparable. I would say that it was, and the inversions all had a good feel to them. I think between Steel Curtain and Maxx Force S&S really deserves praise, because I was very skeptical of them going in. The last new ride was Copperhead Strike, and while I think it is a pretty good ride, this is the one that left me underwhelmed. I was underwhelmed with the preshow, the launch, and the pacing. It did have great hang time in the inversions and a well designed layout, but I got off the ride unimpressed. It did break down for the rest of the day, so I didn’t get to give it another try, but I plan to give it another chance in the future. Now that the off-season has officially begun it is time to get my rankings sorted out for the RWCA and Thrilling 32. I of course I now have plenty of time to daydream about where I will be heading in 2020.
The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.
Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind,—the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!—but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head, in the eagerness of his flight.
They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong downhill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.
As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind,—for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.
An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash,—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.
PIGEON FORGE, TN
A must see which will entertain the entire family is the Great Pumpkin LumiNights at Dollywood. Guests are awestruck by the intricate pumpkin carvings and fall themed art adorning the walkways.
The Plaza at Wilderness Pass boasts of a 40 ft. tall pumpkin tree consisting of an assortment of carved pumpkins.
As dusk approaches, the lights come on as guests jam to the music throughout the park. USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards named it the country’s Best Theme Park Halloween Event The 2019.
Recently opened Wildwood Grove offers new attractions around The Wildwood Tree.Dollywood’s Harvest Festival runs now – Nov. 2(closed Tuesday, Oct. 22 & Tuesday, Oct. 29) with park operating hours each day from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., providing guests more time to enjoy harvest time in the Smokies.
A 10-year-old girl died after being ejected from an amusement ride at the Deerfield Township Harvest Festival on Saturday evening.
The victim, who has not been identified, was ejected while on a ride called "Extreme," which is a Wisdom Super Sizzler amusement park ride, according to a statement released by New Jersey State Police.
The girl was airlifted to Cooper Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. on Saturday.
Dear Coaster Friends,
This week we have Nitro and Batman from Six Flags Great Adventure. The Nitro ride crew has been on point the last two years and on my recent visit to Great Adventure they were moving three trains like clockwork all day. Nitro is running really fast too. The ride crew are trying to break the two million rider threshold this season, and they are really hustling. If you have a chance go take a couple of laps on the most explosive coaster at Great Adventure and be part of their record.
Dear Coaster Friends,
2020 is all set up to be a very exciting year with a large group of varied and exciting roller coasters. I wanted to look at ten of the most interesting new additions to me and compare their expected experience with ten coasters we are already familiar with. Often new coasters compete for our collective attention and praise, and I feel for now this how I am personally thinking of each one.
10. Dragon Coaster at Legoland NY may have flown under the radar for many but I am a New Yorker so this ground up park has my attention. The ride is a Ziere Force Five and it has a dark ride component at the beginning. The height will be about 50 feet and the speed will be about 35 MPH. I expect this will be an English language clone of the other versions of this ride overseas. I am purposely not looking at the dark ride portion of the ride in other parks however the outdoor sections look similar to a mine train layout. Swoops and turns with mild drops. I think the standard to put it against would be Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I know this is a tough benchmark but the theming at the beginning and the general layout seems like it could be a very well done family ride.
9. Mako (or whatever they end up calling it) at SeaWorld San Diego isn't low on this list because I'm not impressed by dive coasters, it is mainly based on location. It is hard to say if the extra elements will allow it to compete with the taller and faster dive coasters out there. I am sure it will be a big hit for SWSD and southern California in general, however I will say that SheiKra, the OG dive coaster for the chain, is the tough one to beat.
8. Aquaman: Power Wave at Six Flags Over Texas is an odd one. It it part roller coaster and part chute the chutes ride. My first thought was to ignore the water and I thought of the Intamin impulse coasters like Possessed or Vertical Velocity. I really like these coasters even though many dismiss them as clones. To me the best part of these rides is ascending the spike backwards and the float airtime you get. Aquaman looks to be able to offer a similar experience but with an airtime hill and splashdown. As long as the launches feel strong on Aquaman I'm on board.
7. Texas Stingray at SeaWorld San Antonio is another ride I am cautiously optimistic for. I have only ridden a handful of GCIs and I consider them a mixed bag.Texas Stingray looks to have that classic twister layout that made GCI a household name for enthusiasts. However some of the newer coasters they have built like InvadR have mixed in more airtime to the formula. I am going to compare Texas Stingray to this breed of GCI . This ride looks to have fast sections with strong laterals, but I expect some airtime as well. InvadR managed to cram a lot of fun into a tight footprint, I expect Texas Stingray to do the same on a slightly larger scale. This should be a fairly easy goal to beat.
6. Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando has some elements we have seen before and some interesting new ones too. The ride begins with towards and backwards launches. The twist is that the launch track has a step up and step down on either side, depending on your direction or travel. The rest of the ride looks to have a good mix of airtime and laterals, but nothing too extreme. I have a hard time identifying a direct competitor, and that makes the ride have an extra level of intrigue. I am going to throw a curve ball and line this new attraction up against Verbolten at BGW. I don't see a similarity in layout or overall experience, but I think it is aimed at the same audience. Both rides will appeal to thrill seekers who are not quite ready for inversions and extreme maneuvers. If Ice Breakers can deliver that feel of something unique, launches into and out of the step up/downs, without making children cry I would consider it a success.
5. Candymonium at Hersheypark is the hyper coaster that no one saw coming. While many were left scratching their heads about how it would fit into the park's line up with Skyrush. I think Skyrush is the exact opposite of a B&M hyper so it will not be challenging for it to stand out. Its place in the middle of this list should not be a negative, I love B&M hyper coasters. It should offer an excellent experience that may become many fans top ride at the park, but not me, “I’ll always love you best Skyrush!” The most modern and recent example of a hyper from B&M is Mako at SeaWorld Orlando. Many see Mako as the top of the food chain, so for Candymonium to be relevant and sweet in this ever expanding field of B&M hypers Mako should be the one to beat.
4. Jersey Devil at Six Flags Great Adventure is something I am extremely excited about since it will be the closest big addition to where I live. The addition of a custom single rail is certainly promising for the ride type, and shows that Six Flags is willing to pay for custom layouts. Wonder Woman down at SFFT is a very twisty layout and Jersey Devil looks like it will follow a more traditional double out and back layout. I don't think the records for tallest and fastest single rail will automatically make it the best single rail model. They layout looks fun and promising, however the two mirror image single rails have gotten positive reviews. This may be too close to call because of the variety offered.
3. Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa is another RMC looking to break records for its type. Many people are already trying to compare it to Steel Vengeance because it will top some of its records. Iron Gwazi has had me on the hype train for the longest of any of the 2020 additions, but the one I feel I know the least about the whole layout, as no image or POV puts the entire layout on display. I feel like with what I know about Iron Gwazi right now from the partial POV and artwork it shares more similarity with Goliath at SFGAm. Both layouts were pushed to break records with the lift hills and look to have have large elements instead of many elements. I do see a divergence in the focus even though they look to share the same design language. On Goliath the overbank, dive loop and stall all focus on hang time. While Iron Gwazi looks to focus on twists and turns from the information we have right now. Only time will tell which record breaking RMC with rise to the top.
2. Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg has me really excited. I know for many reading this it may not make the number two spot, but for me it signals something I have been waiting for a long time. Longer than I have been waiting for RMC to convert Gwazi, longer than Kings Island fans have been waiting for a giga, and that is Intamin returning to North America on a signature high thrill roller coaster. This ride will feature new elements from the manufacturer including a high speed switch track. I know what you are thinking, it is an unnecessary complexity that is bound to break down. My response, "Embrace the excitement! Will it work? Probably most of the time, isn't that part of the fun?" An exotic sports car is exciting because of the maneuvers it can pull off, but also because it can be on the side of the road in a cloud of steam. That is its natural habitat. So what ride could I compare Pantheon to? Like Ice Breaker it looks very unique and I have a hard time drawing a direct parallel. Last year I used Storm Runner at Hersheypark as a benchmark for Maxx Force. Since Storm Runner is still the man in the unusual launch coaster category, it will be the benchmark for Pantheon too.
1. Orion at Kings Island is the big dog of the class. Standing at almost 300 feet tall it is sure to be a crowd favorite for the Kings Island fans, at two for one this is surely still a bargain. It is impossible for me to put a giga in any place except most anticipated if one is a choice. I know many people want to compare it to Fury 325 and point out how it won't measure up, while others will point to Leviathan and challenge Orion to feel more like a complete ride. The wisdom is to put it up against another B&M, but I am not wise. I feel the best point of comparison is also in Ohio and that is Millennium Force. Millennium Force will be twenty years old when Orion opens and will have a lot of crossover in ridership. Orion really should be able to gain as many if not more fans than Millennium Force with a more modern approach to design and ergonomics.
It is always impossible to determine how these new rides may be received and this ride class is varied. I really look forward to getting out there next year and trying a few out for myself.
Dear Coaster Friends,
I love Star Wars, I know not a bold statement. Star Wars has been an ever present staple in pop culture for decades. It is really the only cool science fiction, suck it Star Trek! When Disney took over the franchise there was a doubt by many that they would treat this beloved story well and continue to grow it in a way that the fan base would approve of. Star Wars fans can be a discriminating bunch, but they also show up with their wallets open when something new is introduced. That is where Disney was like, “Hold my beer”, and created plans for a Star Wars themed land, called Galaxy’s Edge, with attractions in their theme parks. They were building an immersive land with rides, characters, shops, and experiences that would make you feel as if you had stepped into a galaxy far far away. That was the expectation and from a business standpoint, it sounds like a surefire way to print money. Galaxy's Edge has been opened for several months at Disneyland and then at the end of August it opened in Disneyworld. However it did not create the mass hysteria and crowds that were expected, in fact I would call the opening underwhelming. What happened?
Disneyland opened up Galaxy's Edge first so the public knew what to expect later in Florida. The land opened with Smuggler’s Run a Millenium Falcon simulator ride. The introduction of the land was restrictive; advanced reservations only, restrictive time windows, a price increase, and a blackout for passholders. This attempt to control crowds may have had the opposite effect, and that was to create a land without a crowd that highlighted that there wasn’t much to do yet. The feature attractions are not open so after one ride, Smuggler’s Run, had been experienced the only thing left was to go shopping and meet the characters. So you want a Star Wars T-shirt? Sorry they don’t sell T-shirts in a galaxy far far away. You can go into stores you may see in the movies and buy personalized replicas but not the type of souvenirs you would expect at a theme park, and it is expensive enough that these items are not for everyone. You could take photos, just not with the beloved characters you may expect. There is no Darth Vader, Ewocks, Yoda, or Han Solo. Disney focused the land on the new generation of Star Wars movies so the classic characters aren’t represented. Combine the thin amount of entertainment with the promise that the best is yet to come, and people waited. The attendance boost that they were expecting was nonexistent and worse yet it had the opposite effect for people looking to avoid the crowds that never formed. There reality was that attendance declined.
These results must have hit Disney hard. They are restarting a campaign to spread the word that the Star Wars attractions are there, in case people who may plan a trip to either Disney property were unaware. They will be campaigning on TV hard with cooperation from Disney’s cable network, ABC, & ESPN. Neil Patrick Harris will host a celebrity packed two hour special on Freeform showing how much fun you can have in the 14 acres expansion drinking blue milk and building droids. Their initial approach was very light and this new promotional campaign will be in your face. There has also been shake ups in leadership following the Galaxy’s Edge expansion. Catherine Powell announced she would be leaving her role as president of Disney Parks West, and her position would be eliminated. Internally many executives changed leadership roles as a step in reorganization. This may have addressed leadership choices, but fundamentally ignores that Galaxy’s Edge did not live up to expectations. Tourists like accessible souvenirs, Disney needs to have a place where that can take place. Give fans a chance to buy a Star Wars or even better Smuggler’s Run T-shirt. At the very least make a Darth Vader costume and get someone to wear it so we can take selfies with the dark side. The only way the area is going to truly feel alive is if it is full of guests who are excited to be there, and their vision of what Galaxy's Edge is what will make that happen.
Dear Coaster Friends,
Enjoy this lockscreen\wallpaper sized for your phone. I305 is one of the wildest rides I have ever been on, it is hands down one of my favorites. However it is so wild when people ask me if they would like it I often reply it is wild! You may hate it, you may love it, but it will definately be one of those. If you make this your phone's background it will definitely speed it up.
Dear Coaster Friends,
Six Flags and Cedar Fair have fully announced their 2020 plans, but SeaWorld has been slowly wetting out appetites with drips of information. Three of their five parks have signaled that next week they will be presenting more information. All five of the parks have shared some info, so we know that they are all building roller coasters. We know that some are aimed to be record holders of their type or region. We know some names, we know partial layouts. However this campaign of releases of information in bits has been building towards the simple revelation that SeaWorld parks, the smallest of the big chains, is gearing up for an epic year. Next week SeaWorld Orlando will tell us about their 2020 project, so far only a teaser with no images of the ride was released. Busch Gardens Tampa will also be sharing the day with hopefully a name and more layout revealed. Most recently SeaWorld San Diego announced they will also be sharing the day to share more info on their unnamed wooden coaster. Could the remaining two parks hop into the mix for a chain wide reveal?
While 2020 will obviously be the year to visit your Busch Gardens and SeaWorld parks I wanted to look further into their future. The parks have committed to ending their Orca breeding program so basically in about 20-30 years it is safe to say they will be losing those animal shows and exhibits that helped define their brand. It is also plausible that in the future other animal exhibits could be phased out as well. The general public is less enthusiastic about these types of attractions in theme parks and eventually like it or not they will become a thing of the past. Ultimately I think they will hit a tipping point where the resources needed to properly care for these animals and the space they take up inside the park will become a loss compared to thrill rides. While SeaWorld in their public statements push against this idea, everything we see them do on the business side of things points towards a future of investing in thrill attractions. So at what point will it become silly to have Shamu as the company mascot or even the SeaWorld name over the gate?
I think the best strategy for the brand is to pivot the three SeaWorld branded parks to Busch Gardens. From this point forward I'd like for you to think of me as Neptune proposing a dramatic shift for these three parks. That way they could retain some of their animals and as areas become vacant they can be replaced with rides. My suggestion is to change SeaWorld Orlando into Busch Gardens Southern Oceans. The focus on this year-round hotspot could be staying cool. The continent could be Antarctica, but the park could also feature rocky islands, icebergs and other natural looks instead of the typical architecture of specific regions. This would leave room for the penguins and other sea life to stick around. SeaWorld San Antonio could become Busch Gardens Australia. They could lean on their climate and create a collection of land animals like kangaroos, while retaining sea life in a Great Barrier Reef themed area. Finally I would theme SeaWorld San Diego to Busch Gardens Asia. This park gets the most local resistance for animal exhibits and the San Diego Zoo is considered to be at the top of their field. This park could focus on regional architecture to give different areas a distinct feel. However since the sea is an important part of life in many Asian cultures it could still accommodate sea life exhibits.
All of these changes, no matter what cosmetic overlay I suggested, the focus moves away from the animal exhibits and shows. The focus moves towards cultures and natural uniqueness. This is why the two Busch Gardens parks have escaped the same level of public scrutiny that plagued the three SeaWorld parks. They are theme parks full of thrilling attractions that have animals, while SeaWorld was viewed as profit driven aquariums with rides. You may say I am erasing the soul or identity of the brand, but I am not. I am trying to hide it in plain sight while preserving and enhancing what I like about theme parks, the rides. I know my proposal is drastic and many will not like this suggestion, and to you I say don’t worry. I am not in charge of SeaWorld nor am I qualified for such a position, however these tough choices will be in the company’s future. As in nature you need to evolve to survive, so embrace the change or go extinct.
Happy Labor Day from your coaster friends at COASTER-net! As our hot days at the parks come to an end, don't worry because they are going to be replaced by cool autumn nights. Enjoy this wallpaper of the carousel at Six Flags Great America.