Back in 1979, when I was eight years old, my cousins and I piled into my aunt’s station wagon with a cooler full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a half-dozen flavors of Faygo. It wasn’t our first trip to Kings Island, also known as the largest amusement park in the Midwest, but it was the first time we were going to ride THE BEAST–the longest, and arguably to this day, one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world.
I remember the anticipation lasting for the entire drive and during our ride on the “warm-up” coaster called The Racer. By the time we were finally in line for The Beast, our excitement was almost unbearable. We were terrified, we were giddy, our emotions were up and down like…well, like a roller coaster. The mood of everyone in line was positively electric.
And, that ride lived up to every bit of our expectations.
For over four minutes, we were sent screeching along the wooden track, hurled into the woods, thrown around deep banks and into underground tunnels. The fact that we were moving at a speed of 65 miles per hour on the track you see in this picture, made the ride all the more exciting. That’s not steel, folks.
It was a thrill-ride like no other. And, thirty-three years later, it still is.
Now, I take my own kids to Kings Island and this year my son was finally tall enough to ride some of the bigger coasters, including The Beast. Kings Island has an amazing area for young kids (and I’m not just saying that; Camp Snoopy has been rated the “Best Kids Area in the World” for 11 consecutive years by Amusement Today), but my son is ten years old and has been mentally preparing to move on to the big rides for at least three years.
But that didn’t mean there wasn’t fear in the air when he finally got in line for The Beast.
Don’t let him fool you. He loved it.
Not only did my little 48-incher ride The Beast, but also Vortex, which contains two vertical loops, one corkscrew, one boomerang turn, and a 360-degree helix. He rode that one three times. We were extra grateful for the wristband which identified that he had been measured at Guest Services, so we didn’t have to wait for them to check his height on every ride.
Then there was Drop Tower .
That’s my daughter sitting in unlucky seat #13 and our friends, on either side, who were brave enough to ride 315 feet up, only to be dropped down the tower at 67 miles per hour. I took pictures. With my feet on the ground
Fortunately, Kings Island has a rating system in place to help any visitor choose their park adventure, grading rides on a scale from Low Thrills (1) to Aggressive Thrills (5), so if you think that rides like Drop Tower (5) seem too adventurous, you can ride Scrambler (3) or take a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower (2).
I love that Kings Island has been bringing me decade upon decade of fun and laughter. I love that my kids can experience and appreciate the same things I did when I was their age. I love that despite the generational gap, my teenage daughter and I both speak the same language when we’re on a roller coaster. But mostly, I just love The Beast.
And, I’m pretty sure I always will.
Are you a Aggressive Thrills rider or a Aggressive Thrills photographer when you go to amusement parks?