Editors' pick

Kings Dominion

Kings Dominion photo
Kings Dominion
400 acres of amusement park: twelve coasters, endless live shows and attractions and a 650,000-gallon wave pool. Got a better way to spend a summer's day?
Hours vary through Memorial Day
Open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day; check Web site for details
(Virginia)
$56.99; $33.99 seniors and children 3 or older but under 48 inches tall; free ages 3 and under; additional $10 for parking
804-876-5000
A virtual tour of area amusement parks
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Editorial Review

Roller coasters reign supreme

By Tracy Grant
May 14, 2010

Everything about the Intimidator 305, Kings Dominion's new roller coaster, is, well, intimidating. The gleaming red and yellow edifice soars 305 perfectly vertical feet (hence the name) into the air. Shot out of a cannon is as good a way as any to describe how it feels getting to the pinnacle.

But the intimidation begins long before you are tightly harnessed into the train. The warning piped over loudspeakers while you wait in line to board is no ordinary affair. A veteran coaster rider and therefore a veteran of these muffled missives, I have never had one give me a moment's pause -- that is, until the Intimidator: "You know your limitations; Kings Dominion does not."

How you will react to such sobering words will pretty much define your experience at Kings Dominion. If your reaction is "Cool. Bring it on," this is the park for you. If not, well ...

One of the most helpful aspects of the park brochure you receive upon entering is the Ride Rating System. Not including the park's Kidzville and Planet Snoopy sections aimed at the youngest visitors, there are 30 rides at the park; 22 are rated "high thrill rides" or "aggressive thrill rides." Don't say you weren't warned.

For tykes: This year, part of the kiddie segment of the park has been re-themed "Planet Snoopy." (It used to be Nickelodeon-branded.) Joe Cool Driving School, in which tykes get to steer cars around an obstacle course can engender long lines, but it's definitely a crowd-pleaser. Like everything at Kings Dominion, it is gleaming, welcoming and spotless. Personnel are uniformly friendly.

For coaster lovers: You've probably figured out that this park is all about coasters. But if you're a Disney World Space Mountain fan, don't miss Flight of Fear, an indoor, in-the-dark experience. For my money, the ridiculously rough, wooden Grizzly is the best ride in the park.

For bench-warmers: Remember how we said that if you don't like wild rides this might not be the park for you? It's not without tamer offerings, though: The Eiffel Tower offers a scenic panorama, and along International Street you can sit and listen to would-be American Idols belt out "Proud to Be an American" while festooned in red, white and blue rhinestones, but make no mistake, this is a park for serious riders.

Insider tip: The first big coaster is the Dominator, and it's right inside the front gate. Do not ride it as soon as you get to the park. That's what novices do. Instead, head back to it in the middle of the afternoon, when very few people are entering the park and there's no line.

Food: Pretty much what you'd expect, although Juke Box Diner offers burgers with a side of nostalgia. There are abundant funnel-cake stands for those looking for a beach vibe. The park allows you to bring in unopened bottled water. Do it. Bottled water sells for $3.75 once you're inside.

Need to know: Kings Dominion is in Doswell, Va., about two hours south of the District on Interstate 95. The park is open Friday through Sunday and opens daily for the season June 4. Waterworks, its water park, opens May 29. Admission is $56.99 for adults and children taller than 48 inches. Children 3 and older but under 48 inches tall and seniors 62 and older are $33.99. But check online for discounts at www.kingsdominion.com. Parking is an extra $10. Call 804-876-5000.