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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Roller Coasters, Parks & Attractions > TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012

TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012

leviathan leviathan Profile

Posted:
8/24/12 at
1:24:21 PM

After hitting Busch on Monday, we spent a few days with our friends in VA before heading back to Western NY on Thursday. On the way back, we decided to take a detour off of Rt 15 and headed over to Knoebels for a few hours. Two things make this possible - the free parking and the free pay-as-you-go admission structure. Knoebels is one of my favorite amusement parks, as I'm sure many share my sentiment. My wife and I both feel so happy after visiting. The food is great. They have a really diverse collection of flats and coasters, many rides that you simply won't find anywhere else. And there is a lot of shade available.

So we arrived after 2:30 and lathered up the kids in sunblock and entered the park. Even walking into the park is so relaxing and unique. There is no admission gate...you just walk straight from the parking lot right into the thickly wooded park area. And because of the landscape, it is hard to get an appreciation of how many rides there actually are at this park and how big it really is. There is just so much to do here.

So after purchasing a book of tickets, we headed back towards Twister. Another thing we love about this park is that my kids can ride everything here, even the roller coasters. I'm not sure if I agree that 42" is an appropriate height to allow a child to ride alone on the two big coasters, but I would assume common sense prevails and parents typically supervise their kids appropriately. Twister, one of these 2 coasters, is the high-speed twist and turns coaster modeled after the legendary Mr. Twister in CO. My wife and I rode this back when it opened in 1999 I believe and it surprisingly is still running as well as ever. This has to be a testament to how well Knoebels maintains their rides. I imagine this coaster takes a lot of punishment in some areas of the structure, but it is not excessively rough at all. We waited a good 15 min or so as they were only running 1 train.

Next, we hit the flume ride, which uses the wooded area well and circles back through the trees a bit for a nice relaxing ride. Then off it was to ride the Black Diamond for the first time.

Knoebels is seemingly infatuated with resurrecting rides of the past. I am a little conflicted on Black Diamond. Knoebels did a tremendous job with this ride. The theming is, as expected, impeccable. It really fits in well with the mining culture of PA. Knoebels just loves to resurrect rides from the past. The problem I have is that times have changed and guests have different expectations and desires when visiting an amusement park. Black Diamond, while a fun ride, is probably a ride I would not pay to ride again. Don't get me wrong, it is outstandingly done and you have to ride it at least once to get a true appreciation for how much attention to detail was put into this ride. It's not really a roller coaster (although I think it classifies as one) nor is it a haunted house, but it is simply a very well themed dark ride. However, with as busy as the park was, there was literally nobody in line. At what point does resurrecting a classic ride become cost-prohibitive? Especially if it is not drawing crowds? I know they made some modifications to the original ride when creating this one, I just think they missed an opportunity to do something with it that would get people a little more excited to ride.

The ride itself is very mild and has a few lifts and dips. The dips are either artificially speed-controlled or it may be that the train design seems to hold back the speed a bit. In either case, my boys really enjoyed it as did I. With the intricate theming, it might have made more sense to scrap the coaster idea and make it a constant-speed dark ride, but for what it is, it's enjoyable.

My wife took the kids on a few flats next and then we headed over to the Haunted Mansion. If you've never ridden through Knoebels Haunted Mansion before, you are truly missing out. I think the ride is a little mislabeled, as Haunted Mansion stirs images of ghosts and gouhls, a la Disney's Haunted Mansion. This is more the classic dark ride with various tricks and effects. Not surprisingly, every trick is working to perfection, which is what separates this from all the rest. There are several jump-out-of-your-seat moments. It's not a ride for children or those that don't like dark places with loud noises or unexpected and unanticipated scares, but it is a wonderful ride and a must ride if you like dark houses.

We ended our short trip with the highly anticipated ride on Phoenix. As you can tell from my profile, I have much respect for this coaster. Anyone looking to build a wooden coaster must take a trip to central PA and ride Phoenix. Then, after disembarking, they should get back in line and ride it again. And finally, before wrapping up, ride it one more time. The ride is so simple and so unassuming. It starts with a neat little tunnel to the lift and a pretty simple first drop. And then the real fun begins. What ensues is 30 seconds of the most airtime-filled chaos you could possibly imagine. What makes this ride what it is is the lack of ratcheting lap bars in favor of the classic "buzz bar" restraints. This allows you to pretty much ride the ride for what it was meant to be. It is typical for your knees to contact the bottom of the bar as much as your back side contacts the seat cushion. In fact, it is not unheard of to end up on top of the seat divider.

I took my daughter in the fourth row (first seat, second car) and my boys right behind me. What a way to close out the day. If you've never ridden Phoenix, PLEASE get to Knoebels and ride this coaster. It is (as you'd expect by now) superbly maintained and running as well as ever. Unfortunately, 1 train operation led to a good 20 minute wait.

Before leaving, we grabbed a bite at the Phoenix food court. The food is really good here for an amusement park, as is well-documented. And the prices are pretty reasonable.

It really bugs me that in all the times I have visited Knoebels, I have never seen them operate more than 1 train on either Twister or Phoenix. When the station is consistently full, there is simply no reason that 2 trains should not be used. It is just irritating and unfair to the guests that are paying good money to make them wait unnecessarily.

In regards to the flats here, there are just so many unique and classic rides. There is a paratrooper (one of my all-time faves), a flying airplane ride, a whip, and a rare looper which is a circular flat ride that has individual spinning cabins, a la the classic Rock-O-Plane ride. There are also some more modern rides as well, which really gives them a very diverse collection. Not to mention the 14 minute ski lift-type ride up the mountain. And there also is a classic carousel complete with a brass ring distributor! I will also point out that some of the rides are old enough that you might even question their safety, but I do have confidence in the staff at Knoebels...they are the best!

One final note, Flying Turns sits idle (still). Last I heard, there were new trains being developed. It looks like they've also done some work rebuilding a few areas since I last visited a few years ago. Knoebels really got knee-deep in a restoration project this time. Hopefully their investment will pay off...I can't imagine that this is a cheap project...

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 8/24/12 9:17:38 PM
Another great TR. We were just at Knoebles last year, but Black Diamond was running yet. I love The Phoenix also. I have it as my #11 favorite wooden coaster. It ranks out of my top 10 because I have ridden most of the top rated wooden coasters in the country. Pound for pound, it's one of the best coasters in the country. I was just thinking about Flying Turns the other day. I really wish they would get that coaster running. I have plans to be at Hershey on Sunday September 9th. I was entertaining the thought of visiting Knoebles the day before. If Flying Turns was open, it would be a no brainer. I agree Knoebles has one of the best flat ride collections in the country. I've been to Knoebles twice and haven't ridden Haunted Mansion or The Carousel. It's good you got to stop and have so fun, maybe we will to.
Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by leviathan leviathan Profile at 8/24/12 10:28:29 PM
frontrow said:

Another great TR. We were just at Knoebles last year, but Black Diamond was running yet. I love The Phoenix also. I have it as my #11 favorite wooden coaster. It ranks out of my top 10 because I have ridden most of the top rated wooden coasters in the country. Pound for pound, it's one of the best coasters in the country. I was just thinking about Flying Turns the other day. I really wish they would get that coaster running. I have plans to be at Hershey on Sunday September 9th. I was entertaining the thought of visiting Knoebles the day before. If Flying Turns was open, it would be a no brainer. I agree Knoebles has one of the best flat ride collections in the country. I've been to Knoebles twice and haven't ridden Haunted Mansion or The Carousel. It's good you got to stop and have so fun, maybe we will to.

Thanks again. It is such a great place to take a family for a real laid back fun day. We're even thinking of camping there next year and doing a PA vacation...including either Hershey, Dorney or Kennywood.

I would definitely not count on Flying Turns being open before next season. There were no trains visible anywhere and some materials sitting out on parts of the tracks.

I know that if I had the resources to visit more parks, it might be a tougher decision to rate Phoenix in my top 5. But I have ridden a fair number of coasters (175 is not too shabby) and I think that my preference has veered towards the air-filled wood coasters rather than the fast, out-of-control coasters...although I do like both!

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by hersheyworker hersheyworker Profile at 8/26/12 6:50:15 PM
I've been to Knoebels quite a few times where they were running two trains on both Phoenix and Twister.
Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by leviathan leviathan Profile at 8/28/12 8:59:11 AM
hersheyworker said:

I've been to Knoebels quite a few times where they were running two trains on both Phoenix and Twister.

I must be unlucky! Although you probably live much closer than I do :)

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by Coaster316 at 8/28/12 9:35:33 AM
leviathan said:

I am a little conflicted on Black Diamond. Knoebels did a tremendous job with this ride. The theming is, as expected, impeccable. It really fits in well with the mining culture of PA. Knoebels just loves to resurrect rides from the past. The problem I have is that times have changed and guests have different expectations and desires when visiting an amusement park. Black Diamond, while a fun ride, is probably a ride I would not pay to ride again. Don't get me wrong, it is outstandingly done and you have to ride it at least once to get a true appreciation for how much attention to detail was put into this ride. It's not really a roller coaster (although I think it classifies as one) nor is it a haunted house, but it is simply a very well themed dark ride.

I enjoyed reading both of your trip reports. Thanks for sharing them.

I rode Black Diamond for the first time on Sunday and loved it. That being said, I think you made some great points here. I know my brother took his family a few weeks ago and hated it. I'm sure a lot of people heard indoor roller coaster and were disappointed in that aspect of it. I bet I would have been if I had not known better going into it myself. My hope...and this is me speaking as a fanboy...is that people will eventually appreciate it for what it is and add it to their routine rides list when they return in the years to come. Perhaps if it were priced in line with the haunted mansion it would see more riders.

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 8/28/12 9:37:00 AM
leviathan said:

hersheyworker said:

I've been to Knoebels quite a few times where they were running two trains on both Phoenix and Twister.

I must be unlucky! Although you probably live much closer than I do :)

Last year we were there on what I considered a busy day. They were only running one train on both coasters, resulting in a 20 to 25 minute wait each time. We were at the park for the better part of the day and only got 3 rides on each coaster, with a bunch if rides on the flats. I also was very frustrated with the one train operation. We could have got more rides and had a better time if 2 trains were running. Other than Holiday World, it seems that small to midsize parks constantly do this. I can understand if the park is dead, but when a line grows to a half hour, put another train on.

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by Jim_S Jim_S Profile at 8/28/12 6:51:21 PM
You have to remember Knoebels' pricing model.

Except for special occasions, they run one train on days when a handstamp is available, and two trains on days when you have to pay for individual rides.

I never get the handstamp anymore unless it's a discounted day, because it's hard to get your money's worth unless you just ride a coaster all day non-stop, and there are other things that just have to be done, such as bumper cars and flyers.

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 8/28/12 7:33:42 PM
Jim_S said:

You have to remember Knoebels' pricing model.


Except for special occasions, they run one train on days when a handstamp is available, and two trains on days when you have to pay for individual rides.

I never get the handstamp anymore unless it's a discounted day, because it's hard to get your money's worth unless you just ride a coaster all day non-stop, and there are other things that just have to be done, such as bumper cars and flyers.

Last year I purchased the unlimited rides hand stamp for me and my 3 kids. When we got home, I added up what it would have cost if we would have bought tickets instead. I would have saved about $20 -$25, if I went with the tickets. We got at the park right at opening and had most of the day. The park was more crowded than I expected, therefore we didn't get to ride as much as I expected. Oh well, maybe they will use that extra $20 to get Flying Turns running. I do see your point. In order to get your money's worth with the hand stamp, you have to stay from open to close on a less crowded day.

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by leviathan leviathan Profile at 8/29/12 8:41:23 AM
Jim_S said:

You have to remember Knoebels' pricing model.


Except for special occasions, they run one train on days when a handstamp is available, and two trains on days when you have to pay for individual rides.

I never get the handstamp anymore unless it's a discounted day, because it's hard to get your money's worth unless you just ride a coaster all day non-stop, and there are other things that just have to be done, such as bumper cars and flyers.

Wow, so that sheds new light on the two train deal. I was not aware that there was a specific procedure that they follow. To me, by running one train on days that they do POP admission, that seems to convey an attitude of "we have your money now, so we don't care if you have to wait."

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by leviathan leviathan Profile at 8/29/12 8:54:33 AM
frontrow said:

Last year I purchased the unlimited rides hand stamp for me and my 3 kids. When we got home, I added up what it would have cost if we would have bought tickets instead. I would have saved about $20 -$25, if I went with the tickets. We got at the park right at opening and had most of the day. The park was more crowded than I expected, therefore we didn't get to ride as much as I expected. Oh well, maybe they will use that extra $20 to get Flying Turns running. I do see your point. In order to get your money's worth with the hand stamp, you have to stay from open to close on a less crowded day.

I have done the math and it could be a challenge to get our money's worth out of POP admission, depending on crowds. We're a family of 5 (& 1/2), so even with a discounted admission deal, you're looking at almost $200 (that includes 1 ride each on Skyride, Haunted Mansion and Black Diamond, which are not included in POP)

You can get $200 worth of tickets for $170 with the 15% off deal Mon-Fri and if you don't use them all, they never expire. I would probably take my chances that way so I didn't feel obligated to cram as much in as possible.

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by Jim_S Jim_S Profile at 8/29/12 6:23:04 PM
leviathan said:

Wow, so that sheds new light on the two train deal. I was not aware that there was a specific procedure that they follow. To me, by running one train on days that they do POP admission, that seems to convey an attitude of "we have your money now, so we don't care if you have to wait."

Yeah it kind of sucks, BUT, they're not making you buy the POP. You can still use tickets any day.

Mind you, I don't know if it's an actual formal policy to only run one train on POP days, but observation indicates that it's the norm.

They don't, unless it's changed recently, run two trains automatically on tickets-only days either -- there IS a formal policy of not running the second train unless the first one is constantly full. I strongly suspect that they just don't want to have to deal with the blocking any more than they have to, since everything is run manually as far as I know. I mean, unless I've been blind every time I've ridden, they don't even have block brakes, they just wait to dispatch the second train til the first one has passed a predetermined point with enough speed left to obviously complete the course.

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by LoneStar LoneStar Profile at 9/2/12 10:50:26 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your TR. Never been to Knoebels, but my dream trip is to make a coaster trek across Pennsylvania.

You've just whetted my appetite that much more.

- Pat-O

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by leviathan leviathan Profile at 9/3/12 9:00:26 PM
LoneStar said:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your TR. Never been to Knoebels, but my dream trip is to make a coaster trek across Pennsylvania.


You've just whetted my appetite that much more.

- Pat-O

My work is done then! It really is a great little park. The addition of the two wooden roller coasters back in the 80s & 90s put them on the map. Some of the rides are quite old and make some weird noises, but they all seem safe :D

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by leviathan leviathan Profile at 9/3/12 9:05:19 PM
Jim_S said:

leviathan said:

Wow, so that sheds new light on the two train deal. I was not aware that there was a specific procedure that they follow. To me, by running one train on days that they do POP admission, that seems to convey an attitude of "we have your money now, so we don't care if you have to wait."

Yeah it kind of sucks, BUT, they're not making you buy the POP. You can still use tickets any day.

Mind you, I don't know if it's an actual formal policy to only run one train on POP days, but observation indicates that it's the norm.

They don't, unless it's changed recently, run two trains automatically on tickets-only days either -- there IS a formal policy of not running the second train unless the first one is constantly full. I strongly suspect that they just don't want to have to deal with the blocking any more than they have to, since everything is run manually as far as I know. I mean, unless I've been blind every time I've ridden, they don't even have block brakes, they just wait to dispatch the second train til the first one has passed a predetermined point with enough speed left to obviously complete the course.

I partially agree with that assessment. I think it's more a matter of not having to do maintenance on two trains personally. From my observation, it didn't look like the other Phoenix train had been run in several days (i.e. spider webs, etc).

You do have a point about blocking, but they could really just benefit from being able to load a second train while the other is on the course, even if they didn't dispatch until the first made it back to the brake run. It ticks me off as in the 3 times I have been to Knoebels recently, I have yet to see an empty seat on Phoenix (honestly).

Re: TR - Busch Gardens VA and Knoebels, Day 2 - 8/23/2012 by YED666 at 10/17/12 4:54:29 PM
I took my family to Knoebels this August and loved The Black Diamond. As a matter of fact, we only went to Knoebels *because* I wanted my kids to enjoy what had been my own favorite ride back when it was The Golden Nugget on Hunt's Pier. It's certainly different, but equally great (or almost as great) in its own way. I do miss the open third floor, but it has enough familiar elements to satisfy. My wife and kids liked it, but all preferred The Pheonix. I rode The Black Diamond three times that day, and am looking forward to future rides. I was surprised to find that the ride didn't have any line. There was always at least a half hour wait for it on Hunt's Pier.