Adventure Time: Kings Dominion

Honestly, this next post was devolving into a tirade about parents and report cards until I realized that its summer and frankly I just don’t want to go there.  Everything is electronic and online nowadays so parents and students can track the student’s progress weeks before they receive their report cards by mail.  Not all parents are comfortable with the program or forgo checking until June.  As such, I’m still receiving emails from parents asking how their daughter received this grade instead of that grade in this subject.  Some even request meetings, which can erode into the parent venting their frustration at the teacher.  I received one such email on Tuesday, and dread crept a little into my heart.  Conferences like these are part of the job, sure, but once summer commences, even one additional second worrying about grades or fretting over angry parents becomes an intrusion, like a car alarm in the middle of the night.

In order to recall my missing mojo, Kevin, Bree and I decided that yesterday we would have an adventure.  Thus, the next day, we drove to Northern Virginia to spend the day at Kings Dominion, one of Virginia’s premier theme parks and roller coaster factory.  Most theme parks choose two paths when attempting to draw in summer crowds.  The first involves creating a ‘world’ or an ‘adventure.’  Disney does this rather well, creating a traditional thrill ride but attaching a story or theme to heighten the emotional experience.  Hollywood Studios’ Twighlight Zone Tower of Terror is a good example.  By linking the idea of the Twighlight Zone and ghosts to a simple freefall ride, you create suspense as guests become part of the story.  They relish the thrill, and as such buy more T-shirts.

The second type is more coarse but definitely effective.  You build a ton of rollercoasters, each bigger or more twisted than the last, and advertise the hell of out them.   Kids will come for the thrill rides, eat and leave happy.  Who cares if most of the roller coasters are only known by their color or location in the park (“That pink one in the corner by the flume ride was a lotta fun.”)?  They sell you entertainment without the extra packaging of story or drawing the guests into another world.

Kings Dominion like Six Flags is the latter type, offering nearly ten different roller coasters in the park.  Kevin and I had both visited the park as part of our senior trip in high school; Bree had never gone at all.  Frankly, that’s all we needed to decide, and by Wednesday morning we were tackling the three hour drive into Virginia.  If only we had decided to visit later in the summer . . .

That thing in the back that looks like the Eiffle Tower, represents the center of the park, like the Epcot ball or the castle in the Magic Kingdom.  You can take an elevator to the top, but frankly there are some roller coasters will offer an even higher view.

Sooo . . . only a handful of the roller coasters were actually working when we finally arrived at the park.  The Volcano, Anaconda, and The Intimidator were all closed when we arrived at 11 and still appeared closed at 1 when we stoppped for lunch.  That sucked.  In the end we only were able to ride on three coasters, which were fun but slightly underwhelming when compared to the larger, faster rides.

The Rebel Yell is one of the first roller coasters at the park, and looks like it.  It’s old wooden and like most wooden coasters, once age and time set in, bounces you around like box dropped down the stairs.  There were times during the ride, as the track creaked and groaned to our cart, that I honestly thought we might leap the rails and fly off into the trees.  Bree and I had headaches for the rest of the day.

When I was a kid, Kings Dominion was owned by Paramount (known as Paramount’s Kings Dominion) and therefore had a land devoted to various movies including James Bond and Hannah Barbara cartoons.  Snoopy and the Peanuts gang lords over the new kids area now, but they’re still some dregs of the old ‘lands’ that once roped off sections of the park.  This area was known as Wayne’s World and featured the Hurler (Also not functioning. Duuude . . . ).  In the picture above, we saw this bungie swing ride.  Passengers strap into personal harnesses and are launched from one of those towers to the other.  And each ‘swing’ can hold three people.  Frankly, if the roller coasters were not functional, there was no way I was going to trust the cables in this thing.

They have a dinosaur land!   Best part of the day by far!  I’m a huge dino fan.  Been one since I learned how to read, and anytime someone creates animatronic dinos, I’m there.  The kids and I already have tickets for Jurassic World tonight and cannot wait.    

I remember when Jurassic Park came out in 1993.  I was in eighth grade and just finished Crichton’s book, my head filled thoughts of genes, DNA and prehistoric monsters.  We were vacationing in Myrtle Beach at the time, when my grandmother and mom woke me up for the midnight showing.  God, what a night.  The moon was full when we approached the movie theater, shining down on this mural the theater had done up on all its windows.  Dinosaurs of all kinds praced around the walls of the cineplex.  The theater was attached to a mall, which had opened its door for the occasion.  It was strange seeing the place empty at night, haunted but in a good way.  I had just finished collecting several toys, trading cards (I have a complete set) and movie magazine of the film.  The whole experience was . . . well, magic.

Look at this guy.  When the T-rex stepped from the paddock in the movie, I nearly cried.  It was so beautiful.  Rex was always my favorite (I liked the meat-eaters for some morbid reason), and seeing him feast on lawyers only made it better.  For a twelve year old, I proud of how well I did in the theater.  I didn’t close my eyes or anything.  My mom kept whispering to me “Is he going to die?”  “Is anyone else going to die now?”  By the end of the movie I got tired of saying “Wait and see!” and “Shhhh!”

Anyway, we left the dino park and grabbed a milkshake before leaving King Dominion.  Despite not riding on all the rollercoasters, a good day all in all.  And today will be even better (despite my meeting next week UGH!) as we’re off to see another dinosaur movie!  Wahoo!

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