BeastBuzz, Kings Island and Great Wolf Lodge

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 10:38 PM | comments: 0

When I said I wondered what people who live in Orlando do for vacation, I wouldn't have guessed that for us it would mean going back to Ohio. In fact, this was our second trip to Cincinnati to visit Kings Island this year, the first being opening weekend and the Banshee media day.

This particular trip was in part to attend BeastBuzz, an event that dates back to 2002 as the first event CoasterBuzz ever had. The owners of Kings Island have changed since then, as has pretty much everyone working there, but the ride collection sure has improved. We don't do many events these days, mostly because the parks tend to do a lot of club-agnostic events and there isn't much point to doing "private label" events. Even for this one, I didn't care what club people belonged to... I was just hoping for a nice group of around a hundred people to share in the good times.

We flew out on Allegiant Air this time. They fly out of Sanford, which is a little out of the way, but they have direct flights to Cindy. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. We saved about $250 between the three of us, but everything is so cheap about them. The seats are terrible, no snacks or beverages, and it's Sanford. They lure you in with cheap fares, but then charge you extra for everything, including carry-ons and choosing your seat. They don't let you use electronic stuff at all during takeoff and landing, unlike everyone else. My bigger concern was probably the idea that if there was some delay or cancellation, we would have been screwed because it's not like there are a ton of flights going out of Sanford that could act as an alternate.

Random: CVG doesn't require you to remove shoes, bags of liquid, laptops or belts. At least, they didn't in the line we went through. Weird. Also random, Simon went through the magnetometer in Sanford and told the TSA agent, "Lookin' good!" She thought it was hilarious.

In any case, we stayed at Great Wolf Lodge next door to the park. (Disclaimer: Diana represented the company as an "ask-a-mom" panelist last year, and they've been very good to us.) This is actually our third stay there, as we did one in April and a quick overnight early last year when I came down for the coaster steel fabrication tour I did in Batavia. We're big fans of GWL. It might seem a little pricey, but I think there's a lot of value considering the room quality, which is a weird mix of durable and really great soft goods, and you get the water park access. They do a nice job and I always feel taken care of there. And you know I'm a hotel snob!

After a nap where Simon didn't actually sleep, we popped into the park for a little bit on Friday. It was incredibly "un-busy" for the most part. My junior coaster enthusiast is all about Woodstock Express, and he's obsessed with sitting in the very front or the very back. He also learned to queue for the adjacent car ride completely independent, though we did have to guide him a little when some other douchebag parents would just push on past him when he was watching the ride. I was pleased to hear the restored band organ on the carousel, and I wish more parks would do that. Needless to say, Simon really enjoys the elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

For the day of the event, I went early while Diana and Simon came a little later. There I met Mike and his nephew, and it's awesome to see at least part of Team Jandes more than once a year. I'm once again amazed at how good the park looks with Banshee there, and I can't give enough credit to the P&D team.

I'm not going to sugar coat it... I think Banshee might be one of my favorite rides anywhere. It's definitely the best of the B&M inverted coasters, and if I did rank rides, it would easily be one of my top three favorites. It's just insanely relentless in its forces. From the time it pulls out of the vertical loop around the lift, to the time it hits the brakes, it just kicks your ass (in a good way).

Once Diana and Simon arrived, she did one lap on Banshee with me, and one on The Bat (with the whole train to herself!) before we moved on to Diamondback. This was the ride that surprised her the most on our visit in April, so she wanted to make sure she did a few laps. We alternated while watching Simon, who decided it was his job to open and close the exit gates after every cycle. The ride ops thought that this was completely adorable. I swear that kid is going to be ride operator in his first job. Diamondback is a really fantastic ride, especially toward the back. I remember now why I couldn't keep re-riding all day when it opened for its media event... it can get to you a bit. What a great ride.

After the morning ERT, Mike went off to do some power riding, I followed my family back into Planet Snoopy where Simon again began his ritual of rides. By 11 I joined up with the group to see Banshee from behind the fence. Mike and I stopped for beverages after that at what used to be Lt. Dan's Backyard Bar, where we had some good memories during his mobile bachelor party back in 2005.

Our group was treated to advanced seating for the park's Cirque Imagine show, which was solid considering they pack the theater for every show. I was impressed overall with the show, which was quality stuff considering the size of the park. The live band they had between the fountains and the Eiffel Tower was also pretty amazing. It's great to see Cedar Fair as a whole investing more in live entertainment. That area was so neglected in the Kinzel era.

Lunch was burgers and chicken tenders, the latter of which were pretty good for food service type stuff. There was however a snafu with the beer that I bought for the group. Last year they drained the keg, but it wasn't all at once. Apparently they use larger cups this year, so some people didn't get even a first round, let alone a second. I agreed to buy another one at my expense, which kind of sucks, but it was the right thing to do. Now I know.

The park was getting insanely crowded late in the afternoon, so I headed back to Great Wolf for a little break. Simon had a good solid nap, and we had a breakfast for dinner at the local Perkins. We didn't get back into the park until 8-something.

The night time ERT started with Banshee again, and it was even more incredible than the morning. Those were some of the best rides I've had on any coaster anywhere. Even when I felt like I had enough, Mike made the point that you just don't get that kind of access very often, and I did it again. I think I did ten laps overall for the day, and every single one of them was amazing. I haven't gushed about a roller coaster in a long time.

The night ended with ERT on The Beast. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by the ride this time. I did two laps. The first was in a middle seat, and while I enjoyed it, I can't say that I have any strong feelings for the ride. The second lap was not in a middle seat, and I didn't enjoy that at all.

Overall it was a strong event, and I logged 22k steps, 10+ miles and 22 floors on the Fitbit. That doesn't include the short period of time in the break that we spent at the water park, where at the very least I added four floors going up the stairs to the family water slide. It was an epic day.

Originally, we had planned to go to Stricker's Grove on Sunday, but after Team Puzzoni set a new sleep-in record of 10 a.m., I thought it would be a better idea to just relax. We spent a few quality hours in the Great Wolf water park, where Simon made more independent strides going down the kid slides, and surprisingly he even endeavored to do some floating along the side of the pool in his life jacket. He loves the lazy river with the buckets that dump on your head, too.

We did sneak into Kings Island for a little bit that evening, and enjoyed some pizza and ice cream there. Of course, we did Woodstock Express again.

This was a really fun vacation for us. Granted, the bar was set low after the disaster that ended up being our Cedar Point trip back in June, with the water main break that shuttered the park. That's three trips to Ohio this year. Even with the cheaper air, it's kind of expensive to fly three people anywhere. This is why I enjoy cruising from the Space Coast.


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