When it was decided that I’d be heading to the United States for my five week vacation this year, it stood to reason that I’d add at least one theme park to my itinerary. I’ve written a few theme park reviews in the past and it’s safe to say that I enjoy a good coaster and a bit of pageantry more than the average bear.
It was a three sided coin-flip that gave Kings Dominion the win, but I’m glad it did. My day at the Virginia mainstay was one hell of a good time, 100+ degree heat be damned.
About Kings Dominion
Kings Dominion is a sizable park located between Richmond in Virginia and the US capital. My own visit took me to the park on a scorching hot (100+ F) Sunday afternoon, which lead to criminally short lines for almost all of the park’s attractions. In fact, the longest waits were to be found at refreshment stands and the park’s water slides and tide pool. Insanity!
Adult tickets are $59.99 if bought at the gate, but drop to $49.99 if purchased online. The park has a Will Call system as well, so you don’t need to worry about finding a printer before heading to the park. There’s a $5 charge for printing it at the park.
Parking is also an additional $15 though, so bear that in mind when working out your budget.
For those wanting to skip lengthy queues, a $35-$45 ‘fast lane’ ticket allows you to skip to the front of the queue on the park’s 15 most popular rides. Not a bad option if you’re facing queues upwards of an hour. I’d imagine the money is worth it solely for the looks of sheer loathing you’d draw from those sweating buckets in the regular queues too.
Like most major theme parks, Kings Dominion maintains a number of themed areas including the jungle themed Congo, the US county fair styled Grove, Planet Snoopy, and an in park water park by the name of WaterWorks.
The American fascination with roller coasters is evident from looking across the list of rides at Kings Dominion. While there are a few thrill rides that aren’t coasters (such as the Drop Tower and the Crypt), the majority of the park’s thrills come from its staggering fifteen roller coasters that range from the classic wooden to the kid friendly to the downright terrifying.
Even with a full day at the park and shorter queues, I didn’t manage to hit every single one of Kings Dominions’ roller coasters – but I did partake in the lion’s share. Here’s just a taste:
- Dominator: The world’s longest floorless roller coaster and boasts the second largest loop in the world. A hell of a good time.
- Grizzly: An old school wooden coaster including plenty of near misses and some densely forested track.
- Rebel Yell: The park’s original roller coaster.
- Richochet: A classic ‘wild mouse’ style coaster with plenty of sharp turns.
- Shockwave: My first stand up roller coaster. Nothing too remarkable.
- Anaconda: A shaky, multiple inversion coaster with an underwater tunnel and spectacular views.
- Avalanche: The only bobsled style coaster in the United States. Very mild.
- Flight of Fear: An all dark indoor coaster in the same vein as Disney’s Space Mountain.
- Intimidator 305: A truly terrifying high speed coaster featuring a 300 foot (91 meter) drop at 85 degrees to start.
- Volcano: A sudden start (similar to Dream World’s ‘Tower of Terror) takes riders through a volcano themed setting.
As you can see, there’s a good variety of roller coasters and the above list is just a selection! Purists will love the old wooden coasters on site, kids can find a few more friendly rides, and there are plenty of different, high speed options for those who want to get their hearts well and truly racing.
Kings Dominion has, thus far, been the best park I’ve been to as far as thrills go. There was never a shortage of thrills to be found and try as I might, I didn’t even manage to hit every single one of the coasters.
Thrill Factor: 8.5 out of 10
While there’s certainly no shortage of thrills to be found at Kings Dominion, there’s plenty of fun things for the family to indulge in as well. A few of the coasters (such as the Avalanche, Backlot Stunt Coaster, and Richochet) are perfectly fine for less thrill minded patrons, but there’s a huge selection of other options as well.
With cheaper ticket prices, meal plan options, and affordable season passes – Kings Dominion is a perfectly accessible park for families on a tighter budget too.
As far as the family friendly rides go, here’s a taste:
- Flying Eagles: Riders can ‘steer’ themselves by manoeuvring a rudder as they spin.
- Shenandoah Lumber Company: A classic log flume ride with a lengthy ‘relaxed’ portion.
- White Water Canyon: The most drenching river rapid ride I’ve ever ridden. Great fun.
- Windseeker: A 300+ foot high tower with a gentle swing ride atop it.
- Backlot Stunt Coaster:
- Ghoster Coaster
Rides aren’t the entirety of it. In addition to the park’s dedicated water park (WaterWorks) there are also attractions such as the pay-per-entry Dinosaurs Alive exhibit and live performances offer a respite from queues and potentially nausea inducing rides.
A special shout out to the wonderfully relaxing Lazy Rider in WaterWorks – 1/4 mile of tubing peacefully through the park? Yes, please!
All told, the park offers a nice balance between thrills and a good day out. A family could do a lot worse than a day (or two) at Kings Dominion.
Family Factor: 7.5 out of 10
As I did not venture into any of the kid specific areas of the park (Planet Snoopy and Kidzville), I can’t comment with any authority on the quality of the park from a child’s perspective.
There are plenty of kid specific rides in both areas in addition to the tamer rides to be found in places like the Grove such as ferris wheels, dodgem cars, and carousels. WaterWorks also has a number of kid friendly areas such as pools and relatively tame slides.
I won’t rate the park from a kid factor perspective until I have a chance to actually explore it.
There’s a definite big park feel about Kings Dominion, and even on a relatively quiet day, the place had a really electric vibe to it. With lots of big rides spread out across the park, the crowd was never too dense in one particular spot – although WaterWorks was drawing a large crowd due to the intense heat.
The themed lands were not particularly elaborate in design, but the park has a wonderfully woodsy, relaxed feel to it. There’s no shortage of shady areas around the Grove or WaterWorks, and the park’s entrance area is quite breath-taking with its replica of the Eiffel Tower and sizable fountain display.
Newer sections of the park are not quite so pleasing to the eye and on a scorching day such as the day of my visit, the absence of shade was quite frustrating.
Atmosphere Rating: 5.5 out of 10
While we didn’t eat a great deal at the park due to budgetary reasons, there was no shortage of food stalls or drink vendors on offer. A number of refreshment stalls were on hand offering a selection of Coca Cola products, slush puppies, ice cream, funnel cakes, boardwalk fries, fried chicken, Dippin’ Dots, Cinnabon, popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, and churros. There were several Rita’s ice cream sellers, a pair of Chick-fil-A locations selling chicken burgers and such, Subway, Panda Express, burger joints, and pizza spots as well. Definitely no shortage of choices.
While food does tend to be more expensive as its in a theme park, it’s still quite affordable by Australian standards. On a stinking hot day I spent the majority of my food budget on waters and sweet tea.
Food Rating: 8 out of 10
With so many fantastic coasters on offer, it was hard for me to nominate my absolute favorite ride – but I’m going to go ahead and give the nod to the Volcano. The rapid ‘launch’ start and high speeds made this one an absolute thrill to ride.
Honorable mentions should also go to the Intimidator and the Lazy Rider in the WaterWorks section of the park. Ride lovers are going to find something to write home about at Kings Dominion, guaranteed.
As a theme park for thrillseekers, Kings Dominion stands head and shoulders above the other three parks I have reviewed in the park. There’s a staggering selection of rides and enough differences between them to ensure almost everybody has something they’ll enjoy.
While I was particularly drawn to the huge number of roller coasters on site, there were also plenty of other fun rides that I’ll remember fondly. The water park and rapid ride were particularly welcome on a white hot day, and there was a certain country charm to the carnival games and attractions on offer in The Grove.
The park is cheaper than others I have visited and the selection of food was very impressive. Had I not still been full from a big Arby’s breakfast, I may well have indulged in a wee bit of Subway and some Rita’s ice cream.
All told, Kings Dominion takes out the spot as #1 on the relatively short list of four theme parks I have reviewed so far. Will it stand up to my upcoming visits to Disney World and DisneyLand? We shall soon see…
You can learn more about Kings Dominion and plan your own visit there by visiting the Kings Dominion website.