This park was known as Paramount's Kings Island at the time this trip report was written. The ride names from that time have been left in place in this report.
On arrival at Kings Island, we were greeted by the director of marketing, one Jeff Siebert. Jeff has quite the reputation in enthusiast circles for being an absolute master of his game, and it was very evident on meeting the man that this was well deserved. He announced that we'd have one hour to make the most of the kiddie section of the park before it opened to the public, thereby giving everyone the opportunity to ride things they wouldn't normally be allowed on. I'd already picked up all the credits here on previous visits, so I chose to start my morning on the Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle dark ride, the new-for-2003 attraction.
From there, we took on a few of the smaller coasters; Beastie, Top Cat's Taxi Jam, and Rugrats Runaway Reptar. It's amazing to me how rough some smaller coasters can be; the latter in particular has degenerated noticeably since last year, with the train shuddering in a particularly unpleasant fashion.
I met up with Mary, Andrew, and James, and on my suggestion we made our way across to Drop Zone. Anyone who knows me will know that I've been trying to beat a fear of drop rides for some time. A lot of effort has brought me to the stage where I'll do the smaller ones reluctantly, but it was impossible to be enthusiastic about riding a big one. Nevertheless, in due course I was trapped within the restraint on seat number thirty-seven, and we began to rise up the tower. I clearly remember James saying too late now, and indeed it was. My pulse began to get faster and faster as the car rose, but it wasn't until I saw the top of Son of Beast below me that panic took hold.
Naturally it was at this stage that the whole experience got even nastier. The upward motion of the ride abruptly slowed right down; we were still rising, but at a painfully slow speed. The designers clearly wanted to extract the maximum torment from their victims. Eventually, the whirring of the motors stopped. We had arrived at the top of the tower, being held in place by a mechanical hook that was about to let go. Gritting my teeth, I hung on for dear life and quietly prayed that this would end soon. Suddenly, without warning, we fell. Though the time in free fall is relatively short, coming in at just under three seconds, it seemed much longer than that. The sensation was unbearable, with my eyes refusing to take in the sight of the ground rushing up to meet us at a frightful speed. It was a relief to disembark, and it took me almost ten minutes to stop shaking.
Having put myself through absolute misery the best recovery plan seemed to be a coaster. The closest one to hand was Top Gun, which was running very well indeed. Following this James and I stood by and watched Mary and Andrew getting themselves truly soaked on Congo Falls. It was amusing to see them ride a second time, but then they probably couldn't get any wetter than they already were. While they made an effort to dry off I went off to process my season pass, a generous gift from James and Andrew that I'll be making full use of later this year.
After a lunch break, we joined the rather lengthy queue for Flight of Fear, which I'd been particularly looking forward to riding again. Unfortunately the whole experience was nothing like I'd remembered; while once it was a smooth rerideable affair this was no longer the case, making it not worth the wait.
Andrew joined me for a quick lap on Son of Beast. Somehow I'd forgotten that the big drop on this ride is in fact the second one, with passengers experiencing their first fifty foot descent straight out of the station. It was at the base of this that my lap bar closed one notch tighter than it should have been, which made the rest of the experience positively miserable. The only smooth piece of track on this ride is the loop, meaning that a tight lap bar really hurts; the park needs to do something about this restraint design before somebody gets really hurt.
Over the course of the afternoon we managed to notch up a lap on every other coaster in the park barring Scooby's Ghoster Coaster, which had a ridiculously long wait due to inherent low capacity. This brought us all the way to dinner time, following which we enjoyed the new Spellbound show. I've seen quite a few of these illusion shows over the last fortnight in various different parks, and this was certainly one of the better ones.
At the end of regular park hours the park put on a spectacular fireworks display. Playing the theme from Titanic while shooting flares up into the sky seemed just a little on the tacky side. Perhaps someone from the park realised that, as shortly afterwards the music switched to the much more appropriate Indiana Jones.
When these came to an end our group was treated to a late night exclusive session on The Beast. As might be expected the ride was almost pitch black, making it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. When the train went into tunnels we couldn't see anything at all, with only the clatter of cars and the rush of wind as we raced around the track. I managed four consecutive rides in the front row of the back car, making a wonderful end to the day.