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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Family Kingdom: Myrtle Beach's Seaside Amusement Park

We had the pleasure of spending a few days in Myrtle Beach recently. Thanks to this, we got the chance to visit Family Kingdom Amusement Park for the first time in a while. Since this is a ticket park, you are welcome to visit whenever you please during their business hours. This makes it great for lazy beach days when you are moving around at your own pace. We arrived in the evening and took in a sunset on the beach, then we headed to Family Kingdom. This was Brit's first time to the park and we really had a blast. 
The marquee ride of Family Kingdom is Swamp Fox, a classic John Allen/PTC wooden roller coaster. This ride is simply fantastic. It was always a decent ride, but over the last few seasons it has received some serious love, with lots of retracking, and new paint on seemingly every part of the ride.

The park's Ferris Wheel.
The best part of this coaster is the vast variety of airtime. Not one airtime moment is the same. This coaster has a spectrum of airtime that varies from light floater to light ejector, especially in the front seat. This compact wooden roller coaster, with a height of 72 feet, a drop of 62 feet and a length of 2640 feet is phenomenal. With the refurbishment work of the last few years, this coaster is even better.
The coaster's figure eight layout includes many airtime hills that each provide a different style of airtime. The hill on the far side of this photo is part of a double-up that provides some nice pops of airtime.
The park also has lots of quirky little flat rides that range from family rides to thrill rides.
Swamp Fox heading into the turnaround
And heading out of the turnaround.
The park also has a pretty carousel that was once located at the former Asbury Park Casino in Asbury Park, NJ. The carousel is PTC 87, the last carousel that was ever produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. Only the original mechanism remains. The horses are fiberglass reproductions of the original carvings.
It was originally installed in 1930 in Jersey and ended up at Family Kingdom in 1990. Back during its Asbury Park Casino days, the carousel is said to have provided inspiration to Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, who even did a concert in the still extant, and elegant, former carousel shelter in 2010 which would go on to be the final place that Bruce Springsteen and the late saxophonist, Clarence Clemons, played together.
A night scene from the park. 

On most weekdays, the park opens around 4:00, but on weekends it opens at 12. The park generally closes at midnight. This photo shows my camera fogging up after stepping out into the 90 degree weather of the afternoon. It took a few minutes for the fog to clear up. 
The coaster was declared an ACE Roller Coaster Landmark by American Coaster Enthusiasts in 2016. This coaster was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and both the coaster and amusement park remained in limbo. The Ammons Family purchased the park, then known as the Grand Strand Amusement Park, and restored the coaster, where it has remained a favorite of many.
The park also has a Zamperla Wild Mouse. It is a smooth and enjoyable ride that is a decent family ride.
We highly recommend visiting Family Kingdom Amusement Park. If you vacation at Myrtle Beach, you will be sure to find yourself spending a few evenings at the park. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Carowinds: Trip Report and Construction Update

Carowinds is an excellent amusement park. Between the park's three anchor rides, Fury 325, Intimidator, and Afterburn, and the excellent landscaping and food options, this is one of the nicest parks in the Cedar Fair chain, if not the nicest, and it easily has one of the best trios of steel coasters of any park. As far as landscaping and food options go, this is far and away the best park in the Cedar Fair chain. Additionally, Fury 325 is one of the best, if not the best, steel roller coaster that we have ever had the pleasure of riding. This coaster is fast, flawless, has excellent laterals, tremendously creative curves, transitions, and turnarounds, and some great airtime. Coupled with the extreme comfort of B&M clamshell restraints, this is a flawless ride. 
Fury 325 has what is easily the finest sequence of turns in the history of steel coasters. The high speed turns leading to and from the epic treble clef turnaround, in addition to the turnaround itself, are simply phenomenal. 
We were blown away with how awesome this coaster is. Truly one of the best coasters ever created.
My second favorite coaster at the park is Afterburn. This B&M invert is my favorite within the genre. Up until this point, Raptor was my favorite. Afterburn upended that with its seemingly endless onslaught of tight and forceful inversions, mist filled tunnels, and more. 
This is everything that an inverted coaster should be. It has the compact and snappy inversions of the early B&M inverts, without the drawn out and less forceful inversions of their more recent invert creations. I was blown away with the quality of Afterburn. 
Intimidator is our third favorite coaster at the park, and you really cannot go wrong with B&M hypers. The assortment of airtime, and the two turnarounds on the coaster are certainly fun. While this ranks lower than other B&M hypers, such as its neighbor across the park, and others such as Kings Island's Diamondback and Six Flags Great Adventure's Nitro, this is still an excellent coaster.
Aside from the airtime, the turnarounds on Intimidator are my favorite aspect about it.
An Intimidator sunset.
We got to spend the morning with Derek Sailors of RCDB. He is a great guy and we are glad we got to take in the park with him.
Scream Weaver, the park's Schwarzkopf Enterprise ride is awesome. I believe this is the first Schwarzkopf Enterprise that I have experienced, for most are typically produced by Huss. We always stop for Enterprise rides. You can see the ride framing the park's Ricochet coaster, a Mack variant of the Wild Mouse genre. 
Cedar Fair has seriously upped their game with food lately. Harmony Hall is fantastic with options ranging from BBQ to Salads, Italian Food, and more, along with desserts. The food was top quality too. Plates ranged from 10-15 dollars, which is expensive, but the quality was up there with the price. I was too busy eating to get too many shots, but the main room area has a stage and everything and the seating area can probably accommodate more than 500 people. 

 The John Allen designed Woodstock's Express family wooden roller coaster was really pretty good. I  place it at fourth in the park behind Fury 325, Afterburn, and Intimidator. 
 Kiddy Hawk has an awesome new paint job and would be a great family ride if the trains tracked well. 
The park's boomerang, which was once located at Geauga Lake. This area of the park is themed to a county fair, with lights strung all around, along with a parked carnival transport truck with pieces from an old whip ride, and more. I thought they did a great job with this section and really came up with an original and charming idea. Additionally, they recently placed a classic Huss Troika in the midway. 
The Carolina Gold Rusher is a fun little Arrow Mine Train. When our full train arrived back in the station, no one was there. They rechecked the train and let the whole train ride again.
Once we finished the entire collection of coasters at the park, we went back to have a bunch of rides on Fury 325. Intimidator, Afterburn, and Fury 325  The capacity on these, and most B&Ms, is tops in the business. The excessive heat on the day that we visited meant that most of the people stayed in the waterpark. This left all but one of the coasters as complete walk ons. The only coaster that was not a walk-on was Nighthawk, the park's Vekoma Flying Dutchman, which has low throughput. Both Fury 325 and Intimidator were running two trains instead of three, but even with that, the coasters were walk-ons. They cycled trains quickly and never let them stack. Fury 325 is even equipped with a screen that lets the operators know if the restraints are adequately closed, and the speed at which they are dispatching trains. It is obvious that the park takes great care to ensure that their operations are as safe and quick as they possibly can be. Even on the smaller coasters, they worked to always have two trains on the tracks. All parks should place emphasis on running multiple trains this upon the operation of their coasters.
This photo illustrates the efficiency with which they dispatch trains on Fury 325. 
Hurler was not bad. It had some decent floater airtime and runs way better than its twin did at Kings Dominion. While it does not have the ejector airtime of the similar Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom, it is good enough to be fifth best coaster at the park, in our opinion, after John Allen's classic Woodstock's Express family wooden roller coaster.
Carolina Cyclone. I usually like Arrow loopers, but this ride just did not do much for me.
Back for more Fury 325!
The park's carousel serves as a beautiful centerpiece. This 1923 Philadelphia Toboggan Company Carousel is a beautiful gem. The recently updated main midway was beautifully done, including the area around the carousel. You can find more information about the move and the restoration work on the ride at this link. There is a smooth and deliberate flow to the midway that is both aesthetically beautiful and really relaxing. This year it was moved over to this spot from Camp Snoopy, and with this being our first visit to the park, we did not even know that the carousel was moved. The shelter does a great job of maintaining the classic feel of the carousel, and showcasing it to everyone in the midway.
This carousel is beautiful. Everything about it is pristine, though I would prefer if it moved a little more quickly. This carousel also has a unique layout, with three rows of jumpers on the outside, and smaller standing horses on the inner ring of the ride. I have never seen this configuration before.
The landscaping at the park is a cut above the rest of the Cedar Fair parks. This arbor that serves as a tunnel through foliage provides a beautifully shaded place to sit on benches, or to walk on through. I believe this was an original feature at the park, and I am glad they held onto this. 
Vortex. I am not a fan of these old stand up coasters. It was just a little bit better than Six Flags America's Apocalypse. 
Did I say that the landscaping at the park excellent?
Nighthawk. I am often in the minority when I say that I do not mind Vekoma flyers, but after the first drop, this one rattled a good bit.
The star of the park is Fury 325. Here you can see the main entrance midway from above on the Carolina Skytower, the park's classic Intamin Observation Tower. These towers are great, especially on a hot day when the air conditioning provides a great respite from the heat. 
Approaching storms
A look at the area of the 2019 coaster addition to the park. Crews were hard at work all day, working on land moving, drilling for footers, and more. Derek at RCDB has seen some deliveries to the site and footings that are consistent with that of a Mack coaster. It will be exciting to see the first full size Mack addition in the country after seeing the spectacular things they are doing overseas. 
 Some views of the construction from ground level


Fury 325 passes both over and under the main entry path into the park, providing a very exciting greeting into the park. Additionally, underneath the pedestrian bridge, riders pass through an exciting light display.
Even with our day being cut short with storms, we were able to ride all of the coasters, and a number of flats, and get many rerides on the coasters that we really liked. Fury 325 at least ties for my overall favorite steel coaster, if not winning it outright. We highly recommend checking out Carowinds and we cannot wait to see the coaster that is coming for next year.