A couple weeks ago Elizabeth and I went to Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA, to run a 5K and 10K, respectively. Our race fee included park admission in the price, so we stayed on post-race to ride some coasters. Here are our thoughts on the experience.
JENN: Ready to talk about Kings Dominion?
JENN: Was it your first time there? It was mine!
ELIZABETH: I think I was there once as a small child? I seem to have a vague memory, but nothing stands out, so it might as well have been!
JENN: The nice thing about running a race through the park first was that it gave me a primer of what rides were available. For example, I might not have otherwise noticed the Boo Blasters. Since that’s one of the few non-coaster things we rode, want to do that one first?
ELIZABETH: Sure! So that’s one of those rides where you have a laser gun and shoot at targets.
JENN: It’s kinda like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
ELIZABETH: I really liked that fact that the targets actually responded when you shot them
JENN: Ha, that was indeed different.
ELIZABETH: I DID have a broken gun the second time, which sucked because then I couldn’t activate any of the ghosts.
JENN: It was actually a bit intense for a kid’s ride, though, if you ask me. It’s themed to a haunted house, and while nothing’s really actively scary, a couple scenes are a little much for a small child, I’d think. I’m specifically thinking of the skeleton army room where the lights go off and their eyes start flashing at you in strobe.
ELIZABETH: Oh yeah, that would have been creepy for a kid I think. I’m not sure how I would have reacted as a kid, but I think having a gun would have helped (i.e. I can fight back!).
JENN: I’m trying to think if we did any other non-coasters and nothing’s coming to mind? We were going to do the swinging ship but it started raining. They also have a water park section but it wasn’t open yet so no opinions.
Alrighty then! On to the roller coasters! Let’s start alphabetically and also with my favorite: Backlot Stunt Coaster!
ELIZABETH: That was definitely the best one. It’s a small coaster that’s themed like you’re in a stunt car for a movie shoot. It also launches you, which was fun and caught me by surprise both times we rode it. It was originally themed for The Italian Job, right?
JENN: Yup! Now it’s just generic stunts, but it’s definitely the most themed of the coasters here. After the launch and some swoops, you stop and there’s fire and a helicopter!
ELIZABETH: The fire felt really good because it was COLD.
JENN: It’s a family coaster, but it’s got some fun thrills and I enjoy themeing. I’m pro!
ELIZABETH: I agree.
JENN: Okay, next… Flight of Fear. This disappointed me. It’s an indoor coaster touted as being in the pitch black but really it’s only in the dark… ish. Also there was a weird, I don’t know, construction site set up at the bottom of the building that was lit up but not relevant? Unless aliens are into, like, random tables and stuff.
ELIZABETH: Yeah. It’s like it was trying to be Space Mountain and failed. I mean, it’s worth riding once if the line isn’t long. But it was odd, and felt weirdly half-finished. I also don’t remember being impressed with the track that much. Space Mountain has those fun dips that take you by surprise in the dark, but we didn’t really get that. It was just a spiral downward. Sorry I keep comparing it, but that’s my only reference point!
JENN: Ah, yes, that is correct.
ELIZABETH: And there was the weird entrance area where it looked like it was going to be alien themed, and then was not. Slipshod at best.
JENN: Shall we do Grizzly next? Was that the really aggressive one? One of the wooden coasters was much jostle-y-er than the other. Wait, that might have been Rebel Yell. I think Rebel Yell was the wooden coaster that was trying to murder me.
ELIZABETH: Yes, I think it was the other one that felt more intense to me, but I could be
JENN: Well, let’s do both. Rebel Yell: it’s trying to kill you!
ELIZABETH: Haha, yes. So it was rough like your average wooden coaster is.
JENN: Yeah, but Grizzly was LESS rough. Rebel Yell had a stop so sudden it felt liked being stabbed in the uterus. Might be because in addition to the trestles, the track was also wooden.
ELIZABETH: But it’s pretty long and goes through the woods, which was nice.
JENN: Whatever. I DO NOT APPRECIATE UTERUS ATTACKS.
ELIZABETH: Yeah man. A lot of the rides there seemed to have sudden stops to me.
JENN: Grizzly was a bit gentler, but otherwise I don’t think either was distinct from the other. Wooden. Varying levels of aggressive. Straight drops.
ELIZABETH: I always found wooden coasters less intimidating as a child, so they might be good for the younger set who aren’t sure about loops yet.
JENN: Back to modern metal. I think Volcano was the last one we did? Toward the end of the day it got more crowded AND started raining, which curtailed our riding. Anyway, Volcano was my second favorite after the stunt coaster. The vertical bit out of the volcano is fun! Although Pat misremembered it as being a vertical launch and I’m still a little sad it wasn’t. We did it twice.
ELIZABETH: Yes! Another launching coaster, which I personally like (none of that “waiting to ride to the top” business). I’m sure a vertical launch is harder to engineer but it’s a fun ride as it is!
JENN: I think that wraps up the rides we did. What did you think of the ambiance? I thought it was a step up from Six Flags, but not at Hersheypark level. Close, but not quite. Nowhere near Busch Gardens Williamsburg, can’t touch Universal, and not worth 1/100th of a Disney park, OBVIOUSLY, but then that tends to be the case.
ELIZABETH: I’d give it a solid…B? It was a little odd seeing all the rides that USED to have themeing but no more. The Peanuts area with the kids rides was cute.
JENN: It was! It does have a pretty robust kid’s section. The park is divided into lands but there’s no cohesive overarching theme so it doesn’t mean much.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, and we got turned around a lot, but then again we hadn’t been there before.
JENN: Ha, well, that’s ’cause we’re us. Remember that time we walked allllllll the way around Universal Studios in the wrong direction?
JENN: One thing I can say with confidence is that the food is more expensive than even WDW’s. I mean, $16 for a barely even lackluster chicken sandwich with a soda and fries? Not even Disney would stoop that low (yet).
ELIZABETH: Ah yeah, the food was a disappointment. The meal I got was much smaller than the picture indicated (not that other places don’t do that, but it’s still a black mark). And I did splurge on a beer, and I don’t even remember how much it was because I’ve blocked the memory, but it was ridiculously overpriced.
JENN: Yeah, I think it was like $11 for a Yuengling or something like that.
ELIZABETH: Some of the other rides we didn’t do looked pretty good – the pirate ship (which goes upside-down!), the swing ride, the Crypt ride. I have a weird thing about swing rides where they make me nervous though. I’m weird.
JENN: Hey, I’m terrified of haunted houses. We’ve all got stuff.
Sorry we didn’t do more at the park! We were tired and kinda cold and by the afternoon a bunch of people had showed up so the lines got longer and THEN we were in line for the wild mouse coaster and it got shut down due to rain so we were like the hell with it, let’s go home.
On that happy note: any final impressions about your first real Kings Dominion Day?
ELIZABETH: I’m glad I went! They have some good roller coasters and I’d go back, but it’s not quite up the the level of Hersheypark or Busch Gardens.
JENN: I agree on all counts. Thanks for helping with my recap! 😁
ELIZABETH: Glad to help!
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Loved reading this! I went to Kings Dominion 2 years ago I think it was, and I wrote up a recap for my blog as well. Volcano coaster was my favorite! I thought the themeing was nice considering that a lot of those types of parks aren't themed much at all (definitely an improvement over Dorney, which is owned by the same company). But I could see that it used to be themed even better and I'm sad that was taken away. The biggest disappointment was the food, definitely.
I don't understand why more parks don't really flesh out the themeing – it's always a hit!