Kings Island is the second Cedar Fair park to reopen. I went to Worlds of Fun on June 23rd to see their opening, and was excited to see how Kings Island would fair on their opening day, being a much larger park.
By Justin S. Landers
I had a feeling it would be much busier, based on the fact that they have a brand new giga roller coaster this year — Orion. For those who don’t know, a giga coaster is any roller coaster with a drop of 300 feet.
When I got to the park around 10:15 a.m., the parking lot had not opened yet, and traffic was backed up. At 10:30, the gates opened and I was parked by 10:45. There was immediately a backed-up line to get into the temperature check tent. This was where Kings Island would hit their first snag, however, as their brand new thermal camera system failed.
When the thermal camera failed they switched to handheld devices, which is what caused the long line. Thermal scanners allow people to just walk through, while handheld scanners are used to check people one at a time. Between the handheld scanners, the bag check, and scanning my ticket, it took 45 minutes to get into the park. I got in at noon, and felt like it was the most difficult opening I had seen so far out of all the parks I had been to. By about 12:30 p.m., the line outside had dissipated and the park was a walk-in.
Orion immediately had a 3+ hour wait. The line stretched out past the new Area 72 theming in the area, and halfway through the park to the other large B&M, Diamondback. Would it be worth it?
After my first ride, if it had been my only ride that day, I would have said no. Having managed to ride it multiple times, though, it certainly grows on you. It feels like a giga, with great airtime and intense speed. The back row is certainly better than the front. They were running three trains, but each car was limited to half capacity, keeping the line around an hour to two hours most of the day.
It is awesome to see Cedar Fair starting to invest in theming their attractions, as we saw last year with Copperhead Strike at Carowinds. That new drive to create a cohesive story and theming continues with Orion, and even carried over to the other ride in the area, Flight of Fear. It is also worth noting that there are many hints and callbacks to other rides, both past and present. Flyers can be seen that talk about Vortex, Invertigo, and more, and there’s even a reference to Magnum XL-200 on a piece of decor outside. I’m sure people will be finding Easter eggs in Orion’s queue for a while.
I also managed a single ride on Diamondback and Banshee, both of which are B&M’s — Diamondback is a hyper and Banshee is an inverted coaster. I got two rides on Mystic Timbers as well, an amazing GCI wooden coaster. Lines through the park were around an hour for pretty much everything with Kings Island’s cleaning systems in place.
For lunch, I stopped at Tom + Chee, and used my meal plan to get the grilled mac and cheese sandwich, which was amazingly delicious and something I would immediately recommend. I also recommend, if you are a platinum pass holder for Cedar Fair, that you invest in their meal and drink plan. Basically, four meal specials at a park pays for it, and you get two a visit, plus unlimited drinks.
I noticed a good amount of the flat rides were running, and the only attractions down were down for maintenance. Due to the long lines for the roller coasters, however, I didn’t end up riding any flat rides. Even the park’s dark ride was running, something the Six Flags parks have decided against for the year with their Battle for Metropolis dark rides. This further shows that the policies change from park-to-park based on what company manages them. The main consistency through the major parks seems to be the face masks, temperature screenings, and spacing out on rides. Cleaning, what rides they run, and how they are managing queues varies widely.
Overall, it was a good day. Opening days are normally always busy, and this was no exception. The large crowds were hampered by the limitations we found ourselves dealing with in lines, but at least Kings Island was committed to getting their new for 2020 rides open this year, unlike some of the competition out there. Orion may not have been the most anticipated ride of 2020, (that title belongs to Iron Gwazi in my eyes) but Orion may end up being the best new ride of 2020 thanks to unforeseen circumstances. That is certainly a win Kings Island would not mind.
29-year-old Justin Landers owns Just Shoot Light Multimedia Productions. He has been involved in the amusement and theme park industry since 2013 as a freelance photographer and videographer. You can follow him on Instagram @Inverted_Therapy and Just Shoot Light on YouTube.