View From Table 9

July 6, 2008

A Tale of Two Parks

In the past month, we’ve had the opportunity to visit two amusement parks. As DH and DS are both   roller-coaster junkies, this has been a sort of heaven for them.

First, we went camping for a weekend at Knoebel’s in Elysburg PA. Don’t know where Knoebel’s is?  Welcome to the club. I grew up in PA and I hadn’t heard of it until some friends suggested it. Best description of where it’s at would be either “Near Danville” or “Middle of Pennsylvania”.  It’s been around for many years, someone described it once as a place where old amusement rides go to die, and that’s not totally inaccurate.  I saw rides there I hadn’t seen in years, along with two very big wooden roller coasters.

We camped with a group of families in a campground directly adjacent to the park itself, which was great because anytime we wanted to go, we just walked.  The park itself and the campground were both very clean and full of trees for shade.  Campground sites are not big, and there’s a variety of camping styles going on from big RVs down to simple tents.

The park itself has no entrance fee, and rides are cheap – average price is $0.50 to $0.70, I think the most expensive was $2.50.  A child 44″ or taller will be able to ride just about any ride, including the big coasters (with an adult).  The staff were very friendly and nice and the food was surprisingly very good – much better than your typical amusement park overpriced tasteless fare.

We had a blast there.  My son the Roller Coaster Junkie rode the Phoenix twice in a row, my husband said each time he actually came up off the seat for some of the vertical drops, laughing the whole time.  We spent about $35 on tickets (they never expire) and rode everything we wanted at least once.

They do have a swimming area that’s spring-fed and looked lovely.  It was very crowded the days we were there so we opted for a quick dip in the less sophisticated (reminded us of the swimming pool at the campground in National Lampoon’s Vacation) but clean and cool small campground pool.

Next time we go (and there will be a next time) if we camp, we’ll bring more fans (there is power at each site, bring an extension cord and a power strip) for comfort.  Other than that, we would not change a thing.  Knoebel’s is a terrific park we’d recommend to anyone.

Next up was a trip to King’s Dominion in Doswell, VA, near Richmond.   This has long been one of our more preferred parks, especially compared to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, as it has both many more roller coasters and a water park inside that’s included in the admissions.  So we were looking forward to the trip.

The park looks pretty much like it did the last time we were there, which was about 8 years ago, even though it’s changed hands since then.   It was clean, and the staff were again nice.  This is an admission park, they’ve added some ‘additional fee’ attractions inside of it, one of which, a trampoline getup, we paid $5 for.  You also pay for parking.  We purchased our tickets online in advance and saved quite a bit.

We did not expect at this park that our son would be able to ride the ‘big coasters’ as he’s not tall enough.  We had checked in advance and seen there were a few roller coasters he could ride and hoped that was enough.  They also had a Nickelodeon area that promised character visits and a slime station which sounded great, especially as the boy has recently discovered Nick (read: we recently unblocked Y7 programming) and loves it.

What we were surprised and disappointed with was the water park.  Their water park has many different slides.  All but 2 of them require the rider to be 48″ or taller (including the ones attached to the ‘water factory’ structure designed for kids) and the two that did allow kids under 48″ tall were closed that day.   All we could do with our son was the wave pool (fun), the water factory without the slides (fun, but the slides really were not dangerous enough in my opinion to warrant the height restriction.  Not fun for the Roller Coaster Kid or his parents.

The other disappointment was the Nickelodeon tie-in.  Slime station was basically a big one level water structure, but not close to the water park area and without changing areas.   No characters (on a Sunday), and the old Days of Thunder motion ride (fun!) was now Sponge Bob 3-D (also fun, but we’d seen it before in 4-D at Adventure Aquarium in Camden NJ).  Especially on the heels of a recent Disney jaunt, it was really a sad, seemingly carelessly done brand tie-in.  I’ve seen better character stuff at Dutch Wonderland’s “Danger Ranger” show.

For now, we’ll stick with Knoebel’s for our amusement park fun, along with the Jersey Shore.  The “Big Parks” simply aren’t worth it for a thrill-seeking short kid and his family as there’s not enough ‘tween’ stuff to do.  Everything he could ride at the ‘big park’ was too babyish for him and everything he couldn’t ride he wanted to.

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