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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Roller Coasters, Parks & Attractions > TR: midwest parks: Mt. Olympus, Nickelodeon U and Valleyfair

TR: midwest parks: Mt. Olympus, Nickelodeon U and Valleyfair

Schrecken Schrecken Profile

8/18/13 at
9:56:09 PM

Note - this is very, very long with lots of pics!

This summer my friend Karen and I decided to hit three mid-west parks that neither of us had been to before - Mt. Olympus in Wisconsin Dells, Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America, and Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN. This trip would also afford me the opportunity to hit my 200th coaster, that is, if all of the each park's adult coasters were up and running.

First up would be Mt. Olympus - this was, according to directions, just under 8 hours away from Karen's home outside of Cincinnati. However, we hit quite a bit of bad traffic and it seemed like it took a good deal longer than that to get there, especially having to go around Chicago at the beginning of rush hour in a rain storm. We got into our motel on Wednesday night, which luckily was just over a mile away from Mt. Olympus and very close to all the other stuff in the area.
So on Thursday morning we headed out, and after a brief bit of back-tracking, found our way to the park. Luckily there was no stampede of people coming into the parking lot which is often a harbinger of a really crowded day to come. Right upon the entering the front gate you are surrounded by parts of various wooden coasters, and this is perhaps the only park I've been to so far where you have to go thru a gift shop to get into the park. I've been on many coasters that shuttle people thru a gift shop at the end of the ride, but never a park entrance. Once we were out of the gift shop, we decided to get Zeus out of the way, since I had heard that it is really rough. But we found that Zeus wasn't yet open, so we got in line for Hades 360. The line was about half-way down the stairs, and was moving rather slowly. I had heard that this park only runs one train on each coaster, but I had no idea that each coaster only HAS one train! No transfer track, no option of running more than one train, just one train on the circuit for each coaster, just like on a shuttle-type coaster. Well, thankfully we only had to wait about 20 minutes (which would be our shortest wait of the day, so it might be best to hit Hades when you first get in the park in the morning). We chose the 2nd seat (we weren't sure what to do with these new Timberliner trains, as it wasn't so easy to figure out which seats might be rough and which would be better), figuring that would be relatively safe. The Thunderbolt-like drop right out of the station was an interesting start, even though part of widest turn was a bit rough. The first drop was pretty good and the first pass into the tunnel gave a real sense of blistering speed, with the wind blasting us in the face in pitch blackness. I had heard this was one of the worst parts before they re-did the ride, and thankfully there weren't any really rough places at all in the tunnel, at least not that I experienced only riding in the front. As soon as we exited the tunnel we were confronted with the inversion, which was far smoother than similar maneuvers on many steel coasters, which I was thankful for after my awful experience on the only other looping woodie I've ever ridden, Son of Beast. The return trip into the tunnel was similar to the first pass, but not as much speed, and the only really bad part of the ride was close to the very end where it got pretty jittery and bumpy at the couple of turns before the brake run. I've heard that some people had ridden Hades 360 this summer and found it horribly rough (and I'm one who hates rough woodies), but we must have caught it on a good day (or maybe because we rode twice in the front and once in the 2nd seat only) because it really wasn't that bad. It is easily the best coaster in the park (which actually isn't too hard to do, since the rest are IMO mediocre at best). We also did Opa, the wild mouse, which was rather lame, even as mice go, since we both had to sit on one side and leave the other two seats empty to even get a minimal amount of spinning.

Hades 360's single inversion poking up out of the parking lot:

Apollo's Swing

Little Titans kiddie coaster (which childless adults are not allowed to ride)



A couple more views of Hades' inversion (due to the very slow dispatch, we didn't have time to sit around and wait for a train to come thru).

We also rode the other coasters once (Karen rode Zeus twice, but my back would have never been able to take it) - Cyclops, which was decent in the front seat, Pegasus, which had some uncomfortable laterals, but otherwise wasn't too bad, and Zeus - which was torturously rough, even in the very front seat (at least for me - it was too painful for me to want to ever ride again, which is sad, since the layout would suggest it could be a fun, airtime filled coaster if better maintained).
One of the best things about this park is that it had plenty of shade in and around the ride line areas, and in other places. We had beautiful weather for the whole trip (highs in the 70's, super-low humidity), but had it been hot, the shade would have been great to have. One of the things that could use a vast improvement is that this is the most flat ride poor park I've ever set foot in. Your only choices will either be upcharge rides (like Apollo's Swing, which looks like a carny version of an S&S screamin swing, hardly worth an upcharge, especially for $12!) or, if you have young children, there are a handful of kiddie flats.
We were going to do the outdoor waterpark, but it was too cool (which didn't stop other people - the waterpark was plenty full), so we did the indoor waterpark instead. It had some slides and a lazy river, a small pool and a hot tub, and we were there about a couple of hours or less. If you are into doing water parks (usually we don't, because we are trying to cram in lots of coaster credits, but at this park they weren't hard to get), Mt. Olympus seems to have a pretty decent and expansive water park, both indoors and out. There are also lots of go cart courses in this park, which are all included in the regular admission. I've never seen elevated go carts before, so we decided to do one of them. However, all it did was to aggravate my carpal tunnel due to the washboard-like surface of the elevated part of the track.
Finally, we left the park in the late afternoon and spent the rest of the evening wandering around the strip where most of the tourist shops and other attractions are. This reminded Karen of Pigeon Forge (me too) and me of a boardwalk near a beach (but without the boardwalk itself, just the shops, restaurants, food stands and attractions). Some of the shops we looked in were very expensive, but I guess that's the way things tend to be in touristy areas. You could easily spend a few days in this area outside of doing Mt. Olympus if you wanted to.

The next morning we got up early and made the 3+ hour drive to the Mall of America, getting to our destination a little after 11 am. We decided that we would do some brief shopping before we would hit Nickelodeon Universe. I had heard about the MOA back when it opened in the 90's, and I had always pictured it being out in a suburb, with very little around it. I was surprised that it was so close to the city, but it wasn't hard to find at all.
Once we were done shopping, we bought our wrist bands and headed for the park. We had tried to come across some discount coupons for admission, but due to the lack of time and not knowing the area, we were unable to do that.
My first impression of this park was that they had crammed quite a lot of stuff into an indoor park, and my second impression was that it was a good deal noiser than most outdoor parks due to there being lots of hard surfaces to amplify ambient noise. I could see immediately that this park would have never been able to install a B&M (even if they had room for one - even the smallest B&M invert would be way too large and tall), otherwise it would be utterly deafening!
Our first ride was on the newest ride in the park - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock - this is an odd and rather unique flat ride (at least I've never seen anything like it before) where the aim of the rider is to be able rock the seat so you spin as the ride goes around. You apparently can do that by rocking your body and moving a pair of fins up and down, but as we watched in line, we only saw maybe one or two riders per cycle being able to get a complete spin or more. Little children were hopeless, but a few adults were able to get their seats to spin. I never did get a great picture of this ride, but you can get an idea of it some of the photos. As for my own ride experience, I found it very difficult to get it to spin, and I got a couple of almost spins, and that was about it. I had to put in way too much effort for it to be enjoyable, and it took a good deal of arm strength to even get close to a flip. If I had the chance to ride it a few times I probably would have suceeded, but we didn't have the time for that. Karen was also unable to get it to spin.

After that, we headed over to our first coaster of the day - the Pepsi Orange Streak. This is a family Zierer coaster, and it is basically (at least riding towards the front, we never got the chance to see if it had more to offer in the back) a scenic ride around the perimeter of the park.

Next was Sponge Bob's Rock Bottom Plunge. This is a scaled-down Eurofighter (the park's coasters seemed larger/taller than they really were to me, probably because of being indoors and there being no natural frame of reference, like trees), and I was able to avoid head-banging by keeping my head forward of the restraints after the first loop. Otherwise, there would have been some head-banging but perhaps not as bad as some coasters that are notorious for that. The bottom of the first drop into the loop does pack a pretty good punch due to the compact size of the ride, and Karen mentioned that she greyed out briefly in that spot.

After that, we rode the Fairly Odd Coaster, which is a Gerstlauer spinning mouse. This one really does spin quite a bit, even if the riders are balanced out. We got some decent spinning riding with a couple other riders. And later that night, when we joined up with John, a fellow enthusiast whose home park is Valleyfair, the three of us really got so much spinning going on that it took forever for the car to stop whirling around on the brake run. We were really dizzy after that ride!

Finally, we hit the last coaster the park had to offer - Avatar Airbender - a unusual and uncommon Intamin half-pipe (or perhaps the only one of its kind?). This would be one of only two Intamin coasters we would run across on our trip. We also agreed that this was the best coaster in the park, and depending on how each set of seats is balanced, you can get some pretty good spinning and thus some decent airtime. We rode this one three times over the course of the day.
I also just realized that I never got a really good pic of this ride - so I will borrow a couple from the site:

We also did some of the other flat rides - they had a falling star-type flat, which was OK, and another flat that was exactly like the Tampico Tumbler that used to be at Knotts Berry Farm (it was a Zamperla flat but I'm not sure what it was called). We debated on whether or not it might be the same ride (not sure if that one was sold or scrapped, but either way these are pretty rare flats and those two are the only ones I've ever seen, assuming they were/are different rides), but the ride cycle was pretty short on this one and the ride op took forever to load and unload. The park also had a log water ride, a ferris wheel, a drop tower (which I would have ridden because it was a bouncing type and not just a plain simple drop, which I don't care for) and a wave-swinger which we did not have a chance to do. In addition, they had one of those shooting rides, this one themed to a haunted house (don't remember the exact name), and I found it to be really easy to hit the targets, and even the ride op was surprised by my score (around 1500 or so).

Also, at some point in the afternoon we were waiting around for John to show up and we decided to take a break and ride the park's carousel. Well, all I gotta say is that this park desperately needs to place a sign at the entrance noting that this ride is ONLY for children (who can be accompanied by adults who must stand next to their kids on the platform)! We will normally ride carousels in parks to take a break from the more thrilling stuff, and also if they have interesting animals. Well, we waited at least 20 minutes, and then when it finally came to ride, I jumped on a cat and Karen jumped on a dragon. There were plenty of parents standing next to small children, and older children riding by themselves. The ride op came around and checked that each child was secured in his/her seatbelt (many carousels don't even have seatbelts, especially smaller ones like this one) and then she asked me to fasten my belt. I was thinking "you're kidding, right?" I looked at the belt and quickly realized that it was intended only for children, and children under maybe 10 or 11 years old at that. There was no hope that the tot-sized belt would fit me (somehow Karen barely fit, but she is unusually petite for an adult woman), so yes, I had to take the walk of shame on a stupid carousel! Actually, shame on the park for not posting that policy at the entrance! There are plenty of adults who ride carousels with and without children, and those with children might actually want to ride on a horse next to their child, and not stand on the platform. So if you are an adult who has no small child to accompany and you like carousels, be sure to skip this one.

Finally after John joined joined us we went to eat dinner at one of the many restaurants in the mall (it was the one with all the arcade games), and then we went back to do a little more riding before we would leave for the night. John bought individual tickets for the rides were were going to ride (three of the coasters) because it was too late to buy a wrist band since the park would soon close. He also said that a season pass for this park is prohibitively expensive (well, for many people, anyway) at $250 a pop, so it is just cheaper and easier to get the all day wrist band and go a couple of times or so a year at about $35 (and a few dollars less if you can find those elusive discounts). Another thing we noticed is that if you hit this park on a Friday, be prepared for it to become much more crowded (though much of the "crowd" were simply people milling around and not actually riding stuff, but it made for a very congested area) once people begin getting off of work.

Some random pics of the park:

Some baseball history in the park:

As for the mall itself, it really is no different from any other mall IMO, and its only real claim to fame is simply its enormous size and vast number of stores, restaurants and of course the park. Otherwise, it is like any other suburban or urban shopping mall.

We got our last ride on Avatar Airbender before the park closed at 10pm, and then we headed back to our hotel for the night. But it actually took us almost 2 hrs to get there even though it was only maybe 5 miles away! There was road construction and the whole freeway over the river was shut down, forcing everyone onto a little side road with a light that had no hope of handling such heavy traffic - a big thumbs down to the Minnesota dept of transportation for completely shutting down a main route like that on a Friday night right when most everything in the mall closes (would have been much better had they shut it down after midnight when most of the mall traffic had gone). And not only that, as out of towners, there were no detour signs so trying to get back to where we were headed would have been very difficult indeed if not for John leading us to where our hotel was.

Luckily we were able to get some sleep that night, and we made it over to Valleyfair right around opening time the next morning (also good that neither park was very far away from the other, and our hotel was right inbetween the two). Supposedly this park never really gets very crowded, but we ended up in a pretty good line heading up to the main gate, so we were worried that we might have some trouble getting all the rides we wanted. The park was having a summer admission special, where the admission was cheaper and they would donate a buck from each admission to breast cancer research. So this could have accounted for the extra crowds that day. We met up with John again right after we got inside the park, and we decided we would work our way around the park and hit whatever coasters were in the vincinity.

John and I at the gate:

Karen and John:

Karen and I:

First up was High Roller, the park's oldest coaster. High Roller is a pretty mild (and rather slow) woodie, but luckily it wasn't rough, at least not close to the front. Next up was Renegade, a GCI woodie and the park's newest coaster (it was built in 07', and can easily sympathize with John regarding a dearth of new coasters since my home park is SFA). None of the lines were long at this point, maybe 15 minutes or so. We rode close to the front in a non-wheel seat, but sadly I got a really rough, jack-hammering ride that was pretty painful. John said the coaster was moving sluggishly and was not normally that rough, and is usually pretty good. We had figured on taking another ride on it later in the day to see if it improved, but unfortunately due to the the park being more crowded than normal (and both Karen and I wanting to ride all the coasters for the credit) that never happened, leaving me with a not so good first impression of Renegade. As said, I don't really want to judge it too much since I only got one morning ride and we apparently caught it at a bad time on a bad day.
Then we made our way back to the dead end of the park where Excalibur was hidden. I assumed this would be a bit like a single-track version of Gemini at CP, but not quite. The layout was nothing like Gemini, and the ride basically struck me as like a mine train on steriods. A typical lift hill not unlike any coaster of its height (100ft) starts the ride off, but much of the rest of the ride the track hugs the ground like a terrain coaster, hence the mine train comparison. But it is at least a good deal more thrilling than most mine trains, although being that it is an Arrow, it is a bit rough and jerky in places.


We bypassed the Mad Mouse for the time being, which is an Arrow mouse, as the line was pretty long and we wanted to get some other stuff done before the crowds got any worse.
Next we did the Corkscrew, which is an old Arrow looper with three inversions. I was able to avoid all but a couple of minor hits from the OTSRs, so this really wasn't too bad as arrow loopers go. It is also really picturesque, not unlike that other Arrow at CP that also has water around it - Iron Dragon.
Somewhere around this time we decided to eat lunch, and we ate at a place over near Renegade where you could eat indoors (which wasn't really necessary as the weather was, yet again, for the final day, perfect).

Corkscrew and the S&S tower

I knew at some point on this trip (this last leg) I'd hit my 200th coaster, and I wanted that to be Wild Thing. Well, I kind of cheated this out due to the crowding and not feeling like walking haphazardly around the park just to leave that coaster for last. So I officially consider Wild Thing to be my 200th, even though I didn't hit all the coasters in that exact order. But I didn't cheat much - I only put it in front of the Mad Mouse and Steel Venom, and I had a good reason for doing so. So my official 200th coaster was next - I decided to ride in the front seat with Karen, and John right behind us. We were trying to make hand signals for "200" but sadly the camera cut off my hand and the "2" never showed up. But as for the ride itself, I liked it - it was better than I recall Steel Force being the last time I went to Dorney Park. The big camel back reminded me a lot of the same element on Goliath at SFMM, and there is plenty of airtime to be had going over the multiple hills and bunny hops. Also, despite its relatively diminutive stats (though back in its day it was a giant once the 200 ft mark was broken) compared to other coasters I've ridden, it does give a great impression of height as you ascend the lift hill. Wild Thing is the best coaster I encountered on this trip, and I got two more rides on it (one towards the front, and one in the very back) later in the day.
After that, we decided to do the park's S&S drop tower, which consists of three towers, at least one of which is a double-shot type, which I will ride if the lines aren't too bad and I've done most or all of what I've wanted to do. It seemed like we waited forever for it, probably close to 35 minutes or even more. We were able to see the city skyline off in the distance from the side we were on before the short cycle of the ride was over.

Wild Thing (some pics as seen from the park's train ride)

Then it was the Mad Mouse - and this line (predictably, because it IS a mouse) was rather long and slow too. I didn't even know that Arrow had made any mice before this trip, and it's probably a good thing that they didn't make too many. Many mice are rough in the sense that they whip you around laterally, but this one had some odd forward and backwark lurching, which slammed riders into the lap bar and then back into the seat. When I got home a couple days later, I had a couple of very distinct lap bar bruises on my thighs, and I'm pretty sure this was the culprit.
Finally it was time for Steel Venom, an Intamin impulse shuttle coaster. We actually didn't wait too awful long for what is normally a low-capacity ride (considering some of the other rides in the park), and we got a nice back seat ride with some good airtime on the spikes.
Then it was getting about time for us to hit the road, as we had a daunting 12+ hours in front of us (1.5 hours to be completed this evening since we were going to spend the night in Eau Claire) to get back to Karen's house the next day. We were hungry again and so John suggested we all hit a local place called the Lion's Tap. It wasn't far from the park, and the place was totally packed on this Saturday night, so much so we decided to sit and eat at the bar. This place has some awesome burgers (that's about all they do is burgers + beer) and is well worth looking up if you are in the area.

The Mad Mouse, Steel Venom, Karen and John riding the Trabant (I also rode, but I rode with Karen because the ride has one of those no single rider policies) and some other views of the park

After we ate we said goodbye to John and hit the road. This trip did have some serious driving (which wasn't as bad because we split most of it), especially for me, driving a day from Maryland to Ohio, then onto Wisconsin Dells, then to the other two parks in Minnesota, back to Ohio and then the next day (Monday) I made the near eight hour drive back to Maryland. But it was worth it to get to parks neither of us had ever been to before, and parks that many on the east coast would never get to see.

Re: TR: midwest parks: Mt. Olympus, Nickelodeon U and Valleyfair by frontrow frontrow Profile at 8/18/13 10:23:32 PM
Great report, and congratulations on your 200th. I'm a Hades fanboy and have been dying for a review of Hades 360. I loved My. Olympus and hope to return soon. I loved Cyclops as well. It was super smooth and had ejector air time. Zeus was rough when I rode it in 2011. I agree the whole area is much like Pigeon Forge. Did you guys ride the woodie at Timber Falls called Hellcat?

We were at Nick Universe and Valleyfair last year. My favorite flats at Nick U were Jimmie Neutron and Brain Surge. Avatar was my favorite coaster.

I really liked Valleyfair. Renegade was my favorite coaster there. On my visit it was running slow and a little bumpy in the morning. In the heat of the day, it really picked up and turned into a really great coaster.

Glad you had fun Lee. It's always cool to visit New parks. Thanks for the report.

Re: TR: midwest parks: Mt. Olympus, Nickelodeon U and Valleyfair by chitlins73 chitlins73 Profile at 8/18/13 10:43:32 PM
You took a trip to Mt.Olympus and you did not do the most famous ejector airtime moment on any coaster I have been on?? You have to do Cyclops on the back seat!! The only seat on a coaster that I know of where you have to be 18 years old to go on it!!

Also,they have the most amazing wave pool that has 9 foot waves!! That is a must do!!

Howe about Hellcat? This a great woodie that is right across the street from Mt.Olympus.

Re: TR: midwest parks: Mt. Olympus, Nickelodeon U and Valleyfair by Schrecken Schrecken Profile at 8/19/13 1:29:35 AM
chitlins73 said:

You took a trip to Mt.Olympus and you did not do the most famous ejector airtime moment on any coaster I have been on?? You have to do Cyclops on the back seat!! The only seat on a coaster that I know of where you have to be 18 years old to go on it!!

Also,they have the most amazing wave pool that has 9 foot waves!! That is a must do!!

Howe about Hellcat? This a great woodie that is right across the street from Mt.Olympus.

I did see that they were not allowing anyone under 18 on the back rows of Cyclops, and based upon what I've heard about poor maintenance on coasters at this park (on some other forums), we chalked the reason for that up to it being savagely rough and not because of killer airtime. I have a bad back and I have to be super-careful of roughness on coasters, especially the back seats on woodies. So we avoided the back because we though it would be really brutal back there. I wish I had known the real reason why it was restricted to riders over 18 before I went there, and if I had, I might have risked my back for an end of the day ride.

We just didn't have time to do Hellcat either - this was the most crunched for time trip I've done in ages. I wish I had had more time at all of the parks and also in this area.

Re: TR: midwest parks: Mt. Olympus, Nickelodeon U and Valleyfair by Schrecken Schrecken Profile at 8/19/13 1:33:04 AM
frontrow said:

We were at Nick Universe and Valleyfair last year. My favorite flats at Nick U were Jimmie Neutron and Brain Surge. Avatar was my favorite coaster.

Ah - now I remember the name of that Zamperla flat that looked like the one they had at Knotts - Jimmie Neutron! The only thing is they just ran it in one direction at this park, whereas I'm pretty sure the one at KBF was ran both forwards and backwards with a longer ride cycle. We didn't do Brain Surge because we didn't get around to it until after we ate a huge dinner, and well, a ride like that isn't always a wise idea if you have a very full stomach.