By Dave Voskuhl
That was 2013 for me.
Last year was probably the biggest coaster year I’ve ever had, so narrowing down the entire year to the single best ride experience was quite difficult for me.
I’ll start from the beginning. In April, I decided to travel to North Carolina to visit some friends who recently moved to Raleigh. Naturally, I convinced them (it didn’t take much convincing) to see some amusement parks with me.
I’d never been to Carowinds, and it had been about 10 years since my last trip to Kings Dominion. So I was excited to see both Intimidators, in addition to the other coasters.
The Carowinds Intimidator is a fantastic B&M Hyper, but I think Afterburn might still be the best coaster at the park. Then it was on to Kings Dominion and I-305, which I’d been aching to ride since it debuted. Related note: I’m admittedly a Millennium Force fanboy. No judging please.
If you asked me in January what my best experience of the year would be, 305 would have been the hands-down favorite. It’s definitely intense, and it’s very fun; but being partial to hills and airtime, it didn’t blow me away. And again, it may not be the best coaster in the park, compliments of Dominator. In any case, the trip to Carolina/Virginia was a strong start to the year.
The month of May rolled around, and I found myself at media day for Gatekeeper, at Cedar Point. Now I’m a Cedar Point junkie, so I was thrilled to see a big new coaster added to the park. And boy does that front gate look fantastic now! As a ride though, Gatekeeper was strong, but again not a grand slam.
It wasn’t until October that I found the rides that really blew me away. My friend and I are avid haunt fans as well, and we took a trip to sunny Los Angeles for a plethora of rides and haunts. On day one, we went to Knott’s Berry Farm/Scary Farm. What an incredible event! I had been to Knott’s once, but Xcelerator and Timber Mountain Log Ride were down for maintenance during my previous visit. On this trip, Xcelerator was pure thrill.
It’s a great adrenaline rush, and with no line, we endured more than our share of rides. And their haunt event absolutely lives up to its reputation. They have some of the scariest mazes I’ve seen. With that said, Knott’s is quickly becoming one of my favorite parks.
Day two was spent at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Again, I’d been there before, but hadn’t been on Superman backwards, or Lex Luthor Drop of Doom. I’ll say a few things here. First, Superman backwards is infinitely better than forward. There’s something about screaming down that track backwards at 100 mph, and then looking down face-first as you climb the tower that is just surreal. Second, Drop of Doom is absolutely the most terrifying ride I’ve ever experienced. If you’re ascending the tower when the coaster launches, you can feel the entire structure swaying, and we’re talking multiple feet here. Did I have a death grip on the restraint for my first ride? Yes. Did I ride it multiple times afterward? Yes. Drop of Doom is terrifying, but it’s also fantastic for the thrill-seekers.
We concluded our trip at Universal Studios Hollywood for Halloween Horror Nights. The rides there are fun, but nothing to write home about. Apologies, Transformers.
So without further ado, my top ride experience for 2013 is Timber Mountain Log Ride at Knott’s Berry Farm.
I had heard that this thing was fun, and as I said, it wasn’t operating during my first visit to Knott’s due to refurbishment. But this year I was able to ride it, and it was just phenomenal. There are so many great scenes along the way, and despite your boat travelling so fast throughout the course, it’s still a very long ride. The downside (or perhaps upside) is that since you’re going so fast, you can’t get your eyes on everything that’s going on. As a result, when I got off the ride, the only thing I wanted to do was to get right back in line and do it again. And I think more than anything, that’s what makes a great experience.
So despite so many giant coasters that I was able to experience for the first time, a classic log flume takes the cake. Being an adrenaline junkie, I’m even surprised at myself. Maybe I’m becoming soft in my older age… Nah, definitely not. :)