Regional amusement parks set to open for the season soon
HUNTINGTON -- The dogwoods are in bloom, the dandelions have carpeted area lawns with yellow and nearby The Beast and the Big Dipper are awakening from their slumber.
The amusement park season kicks off this week as Mason, Ohio's King's Island is the first regional park to open the gates on Friday, April 18.
Here's a look at the roller coaster beasts of the amusement park wild as well as what's new, improved and changed at parks around the region.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014: The Rattler. This pendulum ride sends 16-riders head over heels through dual swinging and spinning motions. It was just opened in 2013. Located beside the Big Dipper and visible from U.S. 60, the ride was built by the Italian ride maker, Zamperla, which has made most rides at New York's Coney Island.
Also, the park maintenance staff has been busy in the off-season spiffing up the old favorites such as The Log Flume, the Little Dipper, Tilter, Hand Cars etc., said Jack Boylin, owner/operator of Camden Park.
OPEN: May 3. Opening weekend events include a Sunday, May 4 concert by nationally-traveling Americana songwriter, Steve Free and his band. Early season dates are: May 3-4, May 10-11, May 17-18, May 24-26 and May 31-June 1. The park then is open Tuesdays through Sundays (closed Mondays) starting June 3 through July.
SCHOOL DAYS: More than 20,000 area school kids will come to play and learn during May School Days. Sessions are: May 7-8, Local History Comes Alive (Adena and Moundbuilding Native American culture); May 14-16, WV Natural Science with hands-on shows with lizards, insects, mammals and native foliage, and May 21-22, Physics and Amusement Park Rides. There is still time to book a day if you are a school looking for a cool local end of year celebration, said Boylin.
SEASON PASS: Online special right now is (25 percent off) $74.99, the parking pass for season is $14.99 extra, through April 30.
DAILY ADMISSION: $19.99, $14.99 seniors and children 48 inches and under. Special Starlight discounts for after 5 p.m., and a special $13.99 all age ticket can be purchased online.
SPECIAL DATES: On Mother's Day, May 9, Moms get in for $1 with any guest paying regular admission.
HITTING THE LINKS: Opened in summer 2008 was the 18-hole West Virginia Adventure mini-golf complete with waterfalls, a working grist mill, covered bridge, cabin and animatronic characters. Miniature golf (during regular hours with park admission) $3.99.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: The 11th annual Children's Festival every Thursday with rides, games, balloon artistry, a petting zoo and special attractions. For the third year the Wayne County Fair will be at Camden Park. The dates are Tuesday through Friday, Aug. 5-8. There will be reduced admission prices for the fair.
IN CONCERT: Such nationally-traveling acts as Hackensaw Boys, Hot Club of Cowtown and Two Man Gentlemen Band have played the Hot Summer Nights Concert Series in years past. The 10th annual series will run Thursday and Friday nights from mid July through early August. Acts are TBA.
GETTING THERE: Located five miles west of Huntington on U.S. 60. Turn at the sign of the happy clown.
CONTACT: Call 866-8CAMDEN or 304-429-4321.
WEB SITE: www.camdenpark.com
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014: The world's longest inverted roller coaster, "Banshee," makes its highly-anticipated debut April 18, when Kings Island opens for the 2014 season. The first female-inspired thrill ride at a Cedar Fair Entertainment amusement park, Banshee will send riders screaming through 4,124.1 feet of track and seven inversions at speeds up to 68 miles per hour. The first 5,000 guests get a free Banshee T-shirt. This year's live show lineup features four new shows: Cirque Imagine, The Boyz Are Back!, Flashback: Totally 80's! and Charlie Brown's Hoedown.
OPEN: Friday, April 18 with a weekends only schedule early season.
HOURS: The park's seven-day-a-week schedule begins Friday, May 9. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during most May weekdays and then 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days during the summer.
SEASON PASS: A regular season pass (if you buy four or more) is $109.50.
SINGLE-DAY TICKETS: Regular adult is $43.99 and junior is $36.99 one day. Two-day adult is $59.99. Two Parks (Cedar Point and King's Island) $64.99, after 5 p.m., $27.99.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Kings Island is home to the legendary Beast -- the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. The Beast is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2014. The Racers, which opened in 1972, will give its 100 millionth ride in 2014. Firehawk -- Ohio's only flying roller coaster. Soak City, the water park, opens for the 2013 season Saturday, May 24 and is included with park admission to Kings Island. Also, the indoor water park, Great Wolf Lodge, is the official resort of Kings Island.
SPECIAL DAYS: Color Me Rad 5K (a color run) at the park, May 17; A Tribute to the Armed Forces (free admission to any active or retired military personnel) Memorial Day weekend (May 23-26) and Fourth of July (July 3-6). The 21st annual SpiritSong concert series June 26-28. Artist lineup and ticket information is available at www.spiritsongfest.com.
Midnight closings are set for June 28, July 4-5, 12, 19, 26 and Aug. 2.
GETTING THERE: Located about three hours from Huntington. Take the AA Highway in Kentucky to I-275 and then I-71 north to Mason, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati.
DID YOU KNOW? The centerpiece of Kings Island is a 1/3-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower.
CONTACT: Go online at www.visitkingsisland.com
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014: Joining Cedar Point's impressive lineup of rides this summer will be Pipe Scream - a Disk'O Coaster, and Lake Erie Eagles - a Flying Scooters ride. In addition to the Gemini Midway improvements, Camp Snoopy, celebrating 15 years of family fun at Cedar Point, will also see enhancements. The kid-friendly Frog Hopper ride will be relocated to Camp Snoopy and re-themed as Woodstock's Airmail while the Jr. Gemini roller coaster will be renamed Wilderness Run and its entrance will be moved into Camp Snoopy.
Cedar Point will also be adding 52 new deluxe cabins to its Lighthouse Point resort. These new cabins can accommodate up to 10 people.
Later this summer, Cedar Point will take screaming to new heights when it opens its new SlingShot ride. Riders on SlingShot will be secured in an open-air two-person capsule before being launched nearly 360 feet into the sky at speeds of up to 62 mph to the second highest point of the Cedar Point skyline - that's just below the tallest and fastest coaster at the park, Top Thrill Dragster. After a brief feeling of weightlessness, riders will descend back towards Earth before catapulting back up and down until the capsule comes to rest back at the launching point.
HOURS: Opens Saturday, May 10, and then will be open daily through Labor Day. Hours usually run 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays in May with 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends. Regular 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily hours begin on Monday, June 2. Special late hours (10 a.m. to midnight) are set for July 4-5, 12, 19 and 26, and Aug. 2, 9 and 16.
SEASON PASS: $120 for regular season pass. Many options available.
SINGLE-DAY TICKETS: Single day adult $49.99, single day junior/senior $34.99; Ride & Slide two days/two parks regular $87.99, junior is $52.99.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: More than 60 rides, including 17 roller coasters. Yes, that's more than any other amusement park in the world. Also, the Soak City water park open from Saturday, May 24, through Labor Day.
GETTING THERE: About five hours north of Huntington (depending on roadwork, maybe longer). Take U.S. 52 west to U.S. 23 north. Take the Ohio Turnpike to Exit 118 (U.S. 250) and follow the signs north.
DID YOU KNOW? Cedar Point, which opened in 1870, is the nation's second-oldest amusement park and sits on the banks of Lake Erie.
CONTACT: Go online at www.cedarpoint.com
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014: The FireChaser Express, the nation's first dual-launch forwards and backwards family rollercoaster with more than 2,427 feet of track. Dolly also announced the construction of the new Dollywood's DreamMore Resort opening in 2015.
HOURS: Dollywood is open daily through mid August when the schedule gets reduced. Hours range. In May hours are mostly 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during weekdays then 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, that ramps up to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. by July.
The 30-acre Splash Country is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 17-18, and then May 24 begins seven day schedule through Labor Day.
SINGLE-DAY ADMISSION: Adult (12-59) $58; kids (4-11) $46; and seniors $53. Splash Country admission is $47 and $42 (for both juniors and seniors). Enter Dollywood or Dollywood's Splash Country after 3 p.m. and get in free to the same park the next operating day.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Dollywood added RiverRush, Tennessee's first and only water coaster at Dollywood's Splash Country in 2013. America's first winged coaster, Wild Eagle in 2012. In addition to coasters and rides, Dollywood focuses on heritage, crafts and lots of live music shows. There is a five-mile steam train ride as well as a museum and replica of Dolly Parton's Locust Ridge home where she grew up, the eagle sanctuary and the Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame.
GETTING THERE: Dollywood is about a six-hour drive south to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Take I-64 west to I-75 south to I-40. Take Exit 407 toward Pigeon Forge. Follow TN Highway 66 south which becomes U.S. 441. Turn left in Pigeon Forge at the eighth traffic light and follow the signs.
DID YOU KNOW? Dollywood hosts some of the South's biggest festivals including: Festival of Nations (runs through April 21), BBQ and Bluegrass (May 24 through June 8), Great American Summer (June 14 through Aug. 3), National Gospel and Harvest Celebration (Sept. 22 through Nov. 1) and a Smoky Mountain Christmas (Nov. 8 through Jan. 3).
CONTACT: Go online at www.dollywood.com
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2013: Family Kingdom, Myrtle Beach's only seaside amusement park, has added two new rides, the interactive bouncing on the Jump Around Dune Buggies, and swoop and fly your way through the sky on Magic Bikes. The park added four new rides for the 2013 season: The Twist 'n Shout steel roller coaster, the Kite Flyer hang-gliding ride, the Flight School mini-airplanes, and the Frog Hopper bouncy ride. Twist 'n Shout is a "wild-mouse" style steel coaster with independently-traveling, four-passenger cars, each custom-themed after '50's vintage automobiles.
HOURS: Open every day April 10 through April 27. Then open Thursdays through Sundays in May. Hours are 6 p.m. to close on Thursday and Fridays; 4 p.m. to close on Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. Sundays. Park opens at 1 p.m. and stays open as late as midnight in the heart of summer. Water park opens May 24 with 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours. That changes to 6 p.m. by June 7.
SINGLE-DAY ADMISSION: Amusement Park and Water Park Combo Pass - $36.95; Amusement park only ride wristband Adults and Children - $26.95. Individual Ride Tickets are also available for $1.15 plus tax each and range from 2 to 5 tickets per ride. (See park for specific ride costs.) The water park only is adults and children over 48 inches tall - $21.95 (plus tax), children under 48 inches tall - $18.95 plus tax.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Family Kingdom's legendary Swamp Fox wooden coaster, a four-car passenger train on a classic figure-eight track. Other favorites include: Giant Wheel, the Log Flume and Sling-Shot are just a few of the park's 38 rides.
WHAT ELSE: Family Kingdom is also home to "Splashes," a beachfront water park located across Ocean Boulevard from the amusement park. Splashes features water slides with drops of as much as 100 feet; open and enclosed wet and wild flume rides; and a spacious 425-feet long lazy river with waterfalls. There are also splash pools, eight kiddie slides and two rain trees.
DID YOU KNOW? Located on Ocean Boulevard in the heart of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Family Kingdom has been a Myrtle Beach tradition for locals and visitors for more than 40 years. Opened originally as Grand Strand Amusement Park in 1966, it was rechristened "Family Kingdom Amusement Park" after being purchased in 1992 by the Ammons family, owners of the landmark Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort. It has 38 rides.
CONTACT: Go online at www.FamilyKingdomFun.com
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