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Kings Dominion : A Disney Fan's Visit

U.S. Travel photo
by Angela Jenkins, PassPorter Guest Contributor
Last modified 06-09-2011
  

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Filed in Articles > U.S. Travel > Touring  

Kings Dominion is a 400-acre amusement park operated by Cedar Fair, the company that also runs Ohio's famed Cedar Point and equally famous Knott's Berry Farm in California.


Kings Dominion is located 20 miles north of Richmond, Virginia on Interstate 95.

Our family visited Kings Dominion this past Memorial Day weekend. We went on Sunday to try to avoid the Monday holiday crowds, and arrived around 4:00 pm to take advantage of the “Twilight Ticket.” This is a discounted ticket providing admission for all ages after 4:00 pm for $34.99, and it includes access to “Waterworks,” the in-park water ride area. A 2011 regular full-day ticket costs $47.99, with the Junior ticket (under 48 inches or over age 62) costing $36.99. Parking was $12.00. In comparison, at Walt Disney World, a one day base ticket is $87.00, and parking costs $14.00.

The parking lot is located outside the park’s gates, and is marked with numbers and letters. I didn’t notice either a tram or shuttle to the main entrance. There were families out having picnics at the tables along the wide median of the parking lot. The day was warm and humid, the temperature about 88 degrees.

We walked right up to the cashier window, were given a waterproof receipt, and headed to the gates. Our receipts were scanned and I was directed towards bag check. According to the Kings Dominion’s website, no food, drinks, or coolers are allowed in the park. I wished we had brought our Camelbak water bottles (there are water fountains near the bathrooms), as we got thirsty later and drinks, including water, were $4 a bottle. You can purchase a special refill cup for $13. We ended up sharing one. The food offerings are mostly standard amusement park fare, and expensive. In comparison, Walt Disney World allows you to bring drinks and snacks inside their parks.



Paramount's Kings Dominion photo
Paramount's Kings Dominion

Backlot Stunt Coaster - photo by goofyboysmama

I had read some reviews of Kings Dominion at various theme park blogs. Most people thought the park needed some work on theming, landscaping, and cleanliness. Before leaving home, I promised myself to not think of Walt Disney World. I already knew nothing comes close to the magic there, so I would just be setting myself up for disappointment. I had been to Kings Dominion many years before and I remembered that it had an “amusement park” theme with plenty of concrete. When we entered, I was pleasantly surprised to see lovely fountains greeting us, and lots of flowers and trees. International Street is a large boulevard with a long, rectangular pool down the center. Along each side of the boulevard there are shops and restaurants, including a big Starbucks. There is a place to rent strollers and manual or electric wheelchairs. At the end of International Street stands the Eiffel Tower, where you can take an elevator ride to the top and gaze out over the park. The “hub” around the tower takes you different directions into the park. I was looking for “dirt,” but the park was cleaner than I expected it would be. In fact, the one time I used the restroom, I braced myself for anything, but the toilets and restroom were clean, and featured modern “air blade” hand dryers.

We took a left turn before reaching the Eiffel Tower, which led us to the rides on the left side of the park. There, park staff measure children against a colorful board, and give them a wristband with a color code that indicates their height. I would love it if Walt Disney World did the same thing. We immediately headed for our first ride of the day, The Berserker, a swinging boat-type ride that stops upside-down for a few exciting moments. My sons, 6 and 9 years old, could not wait to ride. I was concerned for my youngest one; even though he met the 48-inch height requirement, he is skinny. I made sure the restraints were super tight and off we went. They screamed with excitement and loved it, and of course, wanted to do it again. The boys had had a great time at Walt Disney World, but were either too short or too nervous to go on rides like Rock 'n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. This day, however, they were wild about the rides and couldn’t wait to try them all, except for the more extreme rides like Intimidator 305, Anaconda, and Drop Zone. My 9-year-old went on Dominator next, and despite being nervous while on it, totally raved about it when the ride was over.

The Walt Disney World Resort can be considered a true theme park. Kings Dominion, however, is like an amusement park/carnival. It seems like half the park is devoted to midway-type games, which are not included in the price of admission. There are “lands” like at Disney parks, but not nearly as well-themed, and the themes mostly have nothing to do with the rides. Some areas, especially the older ones, really could use a coat of paint and some tender loving care. The newer areas have had some thought put into them, and it really shows. One of my favorite rides of the day was Backlot Stunt Coaster. The theme was “Los Angeles” and the movie set of the Mark Wahlberg film, The Italian Job. You board a Mini Cooper-type car and off you go at high speed through a movie set, complete with six different scenes. There are helicopters “firing” at you, fiery explosions, a chase through a darkened sewer, a plunge into the L.A. aqueduct, and more. Another ride, which we did not get on, is called The Crypt. This wild-looking ride is themed like a jungle, including “artifacts” a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. We joined a crowd of people watching the riders being flipped and turned over and over, even backwards at times, to the sound of tribal drums. The riders encountered shooting water and flames during the ride, rising from the water below – at a safe distance, of course.

In the five-and-a-half hours we were at Kings Dominion we were able to enjoy nine rides and roller coasters. The lines weren’t long at all, and for some of the rides, we walked right up to the ride with only a few people ahead of us. I had searched the Internet for information on some kind of FASTPASS system like Walt Disney World has, but there is no such thing. There are some early entry-type benefits and “Walk-on Wednesdays” for VIP Season Pass holders. Kings Dominion does not have parades like Walt Disney World, but they do have some shows. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see any this time. There is a meet and greet area called Planet Snoopy, where you can meet the Peanuts gang; Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy. We also really enjoyed the fireworks at the end of the evening.

Our family had a great time at Kings Dominion. This park specializes in thrill rides and carnival games. The rides were scream-inducing and body-jarring, but absolutely fun. The rides at Walt Disney World seem to be focused on experiencing a story through theming and environment, where your imagination comes into play more than fear or thrill seeking. Will we go back to Kings Dominion? Probably, if we’re in the mood, the weather is right, and if we go after 4:00 pm. But we plan, dream about, and wait for the world of Walt Disney all the time.


Paramount's Kings Dominion photo
Paramount's Kings Dominion

entering into Kings Dominion, International Street - photo by goofyboysmama




About the Author:
Angela is a homeschooling mom of two boys. She is married to her husband of 11 years, whom she successfully turned into a Disney fan on their first trip together in 2009. They are looking forward to another trip to Disney this year! She is known on the PassPorter Boards as “goofyboysmama.”

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Reader Comments:


Good review! As native Richmonders, we tend to go to Busch Gardens down in Williamsburg which is far nicer (we're Season Pass holders there) but we do get to Kings Dominion once a year when my company rents out the park for a day for employees and their families. I wouldn't pay to go there, I don't think. Nowhere really compares to our beloved Walt Disney World, but for something closer to home, Busch Gardens is far, far nicer.

Glad you had a good day!

     Monkeyfish on June 9, 2011 @ 6:37 pm
Loved the article, we leave close to there and visit often. I really enjoyed your article!

     jiwdurando on June 9, 2011 @ 7:34 pm
Monkeyfish;3682516 >Good review! As native Richmonders, we tend to go to Busch Gardens down in Williamsburg which is far nicer (we're Season Pass holders there) but we do get to Kings Dominion once a year when my company rents out the park for a day for employees and their families. I wouldn't pay to go there, I don't think. Nowhere really compares to our beloved Walt Disney World, but for something closer to home, Busch Gardens is far, far nicer.

Glad you had a good day!


Busch Gardens is def nicer, I totally agree with Monkeyfish!

     jiwdurando on June 9, 2011 @ 7:35 pm
I have never been to Kings Dominion but have regularly purchased season passes to Cedar Point which is Cedar Fairs flagship park. Now my family is a bunch of coaster nuts and have visited other amusement parks as well as the Disney World theme park. There is a difference if you are going to an amusement park whether a Cedar Fair park,Six Flags or Busch Gardens you are going for the rides not to visit characters, princess or visit themed areas. Disney World is the best at what they do but do not offer rides for a coaster nut but when we go there we don't expect to go 300 feet up a hill and travel 73 mph on a roller coaster. We expect the themes and adventure that Disney offers. While I appreciate your review I do not think it is a fair comparison. There really is no comparison with Disney.

     p00kee1970 on June 9, 2011 @ 8:33 pm
These are the third or fourth owners of KD.... I live in Richmond, the original park was pretty cool and alot of that is gone now.... Most parks these days are called Theme Parks... they all want the money... It has always had the picnic tables outside the gates and anytime we go, we do take a picnic... Paramount owned KD before these people bought it from them.... there were Paramount themed rides... it was ok... when the park first opened, it was just a drive through (in your car) Safari ride which opened before the rest of the park was finished... that was interesting... If you want to see pretty much what the original park was like, watch the episode of THE BRADY BUNCH that was filmed at it's sister park, KINGS ISLAND, i think it's in Ohio.... the parks were almost identical except the coasters and rides were named for Virginia things.... Like THE REBEL YELL, racing coaster... one of the best wooden coasters I've ever ridden....

     MKBaughan on June 9, 2011 @ 11:36 pm
Thanks for your comments everyone!

I thought Busch Gardens would have been a nice trip, but we would have had to stay overnight :o

I agree that comparing Kings Dominion to Walt Disney World is unfair - kind of like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. I also agree that it is a great place for coaster fans to visit. (The reputation of the Intimidator 305 is downright scary!)
I wish I could have had more room to describe all the rides we went on!

     goofyboysmama on June 9, 2011 @ 11:41 pm
Cedar Fair must own King's Island in Cincinnati too because some things are identical to what they have: the Eiffel Tower, the Planet Snoopy area, the Crypt, and the Backlot Stunt Coaster are all identical rides. This park is neat and clean but could us a little refurb. We went last summer and enjoyed ourselves. King's Island even has a water park attached to it that is included in admission. They also have the "height bands' and i agree that Disney should ook into this as well.

     ccmillion on June 10, 2011 @ 9:50 am
This must be the first decent review of this park that I have ever seen. I always feel like I need a shower when I walk into this park. We do not go often and it is when we get a very very discounted ticket.

There are no trams/shuttles from the parking lot to the entrance. Just a long walk!

You also mentioned no food, drinks, etc. I believe that is from the shootings that have occurred in the parking lots along with the gang fights. A few bad apples can spoil it for the rest of us!

You talked of a sea of concrete, but I remember it being a sea of molting hot asphalt. The lines being ridiculous. The crowd rude and disrespectful. They used to have basketballs as a prize, so you were constantly hearing the bounce and having to dodge the ones that got away. Other parks give them out deflated!smiley for :D

I am with the first post, Busch Gardens all the way for our area.

Nothing does compare to WDW!!

     Chkultr on June 12, 2011 @ 9:17 am
We were happy to use the Twilight Ticket!

I didn't see any basketballs, just giant stuffed animals. We were there after 4pm on a holiday weekend, so maybe everyone had cleared out already. Monday Memorial Day was probably really crowded. We were fortunate not to run into rudeness, etc. We must have gotten there at just the right time, on just the right day :p

I REALLY wanted to go to Busch Gardens, but it was too far for a day trip for us. Maybe next time!

     goofyboysmama on June 13, 2011 @ 9:38 pm
Thanks for the article on Kings Dominion. I think you hit it right on that it's more of an amusement park. My 6-year old daughter loves the spinning carnival-like rides, which I make DH go on with her because they make me nauseous for hours. (What is it with little kids & spinning?!?!)



Anyway, I wanted to add that we went to KD a lot the summer before we took our first Disney trip & it was a huge help for our daughter, who was then 3. She met some of the plush characters who wandered the kiddie section (they were Nick Jr. characters then but have since changed to Snoopy & friends), so she wasn't at all freaked out to meet Mickey & the gang later that year. Whew! She also got used to the idea of lines & rides & not being allowed to just stay on & go again & again & again. So, KD was a great "training" park for our WDW trip.



When she was little, we stayed in the kiddie area, which is pretty nice. There's an awesome baby station right at the kiddie area's entrance that has a large changing room & also a quiet, dark room for feeding. There's a microwave, too, if you need to heat up food. There are 2 nice sized bathrooms. However, you must have a baby or toddler to use this facility --- I tried taking DD in there to use the potty when she was 5 & were told we couldn't.



The kiddie area has mostly slow-moving rides that go round in circles. There are 2 rollercoasters here for the younger set --- one is for the really little ones & the other is for early elementary to elementary-aged kids. These were great training rides for DD --- we used them as comparisons for the thrill rides at WDW. ("If you liked the Ghoster Coaster at Kings Dominion, you're going to like Goofy's Barnstormer.")



Final thought on the kiddie area --- it's pretty much a land all to itself. So, if you have little ones, you can just go to that one area, spend about 3 hours and then leave. Not quite worth the steep admission, unless you get a season pass, which is what my family does. (We calculated it --- 2 trips and the pass starts to pay for itself.)



Also, there's a full waterpark within Kings Dominion, so the ads often mention getting 2 parks for the price of 1. They fail to mention throngs of scantily clad women throughout the park who think that bathing suit tops = regular tops. (Then again, I'm not a bikini-wearer, so maybe that's my bias.) Anyway, the waterpark is great on super hot summer days. There's a nice kiddie pool toward the back where the water is only 1-2 feet deep so you can easily wade around after your child. There are also play structures in the water that have waterfalls and slides. The only downside is the kiddie pool is the farthest from the waterpark entrance, so little ones have to go quite a distance (you cross under the Rebel Yell's tracks) to reach it. Be prepared for wilting, especially if the temps are high. smiley for :) For bigger kids (and adults), there are several rollercoaster-like waterslides, but since I have kids ages 2 & 6, I haven't tried them out.

     2Peanuts on June 14, 2011 @ 9:11 pm
Angela, Congrats on a well written article. Looks like Kings Dominion is taking a beating in the comments, and while I can't defend that particular park because I have not visited it, I am very familiar with it's sister park Kings Island and also Cedar Point. Living in Ohio I have been a season pass holder to both of these parks on numerous occasions. I've been to over 20 different amusement parks in the US and Canada and am currently planning my 10th trip to Disney in August. When Paramount bought KI it seemed to start going down hill after a few years. It was obvious they put less effort into the park the longer they owned it. From one of the previous comments it sounds like KD followed the same trend. I can say however that since CedarFair has aquired KI (approx 5 years ago) I am starting to see alot of improvements. I think a lot of thier revenue initially had to go into converting the attractions away from the Paramount movie themes. Now that the transition is over, I've noticed the park getting cleaner each year as well as many updates and new thrill rides. For the price, KI isn't a bad deal since it includes a pretty fun waterpark as well. I have to say that no one comes close to Disney when looking at the overall experience. I've also had some good times at Busch Gardens in Tampa and Islands of Adventure as well. But if someone is just looking for a day of non-stop thrills and coasters, Cedar Point is by far the best I've ever been to for that type of experience, Looking out over Lake Erie while flying aroud on roller coasters is amazing. Anyway,just thought I'd give Cedar Fair a little love and let people know that I think they are trending in the right direction with KI and hopefully will doing the same thing with KD.

     SBXLIV_WHODAT on June 15, 2011 @ 12:27 am
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Updated 06-09-2011 - Article #687 



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