Mystic Timber at Kings Island: A cross between Indiana Jones and a John Carpenter horror story

These are my favorite kinds of topics, the fun things that we can do to alleviate ourselves naturally from the toils of life where everything we sometimes do seems like an uphill battle deliberately made so to prevent our very existence.  It had been one of those nights even over the weekend where professionally I had been up all night working through a number of problems and sleep was scarcely an option until the next day.  But by noon after 36 straight hours of worry Saturday afternoon opened up and I had a rare moment of fresh air where I could breathe without concern as all the objectives had been met.  It’s not like that all the time but when those types of things do happen you just have to wrestle the issues to the ground until you get through it.  So feeling totally depleted and in need of a full charge physically and intellectually my wife and I did what usually comes first for us during the summer months—we went to Kings Island, this time to specifically ride the new roller coaster they have called Mystic Timbers.

I had been trying to get to Kings Island for weeks but the time just wasn’t there, until this particular weekend.  And it was the perfect thing because I had been curious about Mystic Timbers since I watched the press conference last fall from the public relations crew which I must say have been doing a fabulous job over the last several years at advancing the amusement park.  I consider Kings Island a real treasure for our area and feel very fortunate that I have something that nice so close to my home.  I think people have a tendency to take something like that for granted because they are used to it.  Well, let me just say, I was in Paris just a few weeks ago at the Eiffel Tower there and having some leisure time by the carousel they have between the tower and the river and it’s nowhere near as nice or dramatic as the one at Kings Island.  The one in France may be three times taller, but at Kings Island the little fantasy town on International Blvd along the fountain is better than anything in Europe.  It’s cleaner and much more optimistic so the moment I set foot in that region for the first time in 2017 after doing so for over 40 years now, it reminded me that sometimes the best things in life are right down the road.  Kings Island is a better tourist destination than traveling to Paris—forget the history, region for region, Kings Island is simply a better place where you can relax without worrying about nonsense.

Rivertown at Kings Island has always been my favorite part of the park; I like the dynamic relationship between the log ride, the train, the trees, the little creeks and lakes that span down to the great Beast roller coaster in the back of the park. It was originally supposed to be a kind of frontier town similar to what they did at Disney World but has evolved into its own thing over time and I like to go there to get fries at the Great Potato Works.  In recent years Kings Island has added the Diamondback roller coaster which I still think is one of the best in the world—its such an unusually good ride and covers so much real estate, if that’s all they had it would still be fabulous.  I mean in London—one of the great cities of the world—they have Chessington World Adventures which is England’s version of an amusement park and its nothing like Kings Island specifically at Rivertown.  Even though I’ve been going to that particular part of the park almost my entire life, I still enjoy it each time so when they built a new roller coaster within it I was very curious.

Much to my surprise the Mystic Timber roller coaster was a significant improvement to the Rivertown area.  The theme of the ride itself actually rivals some of the rides at Universal Studios and Disney World by way of “plot” which is a departure from what is typically done at Midwestern amusement parks.  Mystic Timbers has a story to tell and I’m not going to give away what’s in the shed but it reminded me of an Indiana Jones adventure in a way mixed with a John Carpenter horror film—Christine comes to mind.  The ride itself was something of a mix between The Beast and the Adventure Express.  It’s not a rough roller coaster, kind of a middle of the road ride for people who don’t want to ride something as crazy as the Beast—but it had its own charm and takes you on a nice ride through the woods back to essentially the train shed and back again.  It was well done and really captured the atmosphere of the Kings Mills area with a plot that was very Blair Witch—which is revealed in the illustrious shed.  I thought the ride was a bold move by Cedar Fair Amusements in not just building a roller coaster, but in adding a story to the park as part of its overall mythology.  It was a very good move and took a kind of dead space in Rivertown and really juiced it up.  Now that entire area from the Soak City water park all the way to the pavement of Rivertown is a very dynamic area between the Water Canyon, the train ride, and now Mystic Timber—there’s a lot going on.

In the scope of the entire ride, Kings Island spent some serious money on the “shed” experience which was simply a queue up area where the coaster waits for passengers ahead of it to leave the station.  Instead of putting up with the dead time at the end of the ride these coaster designers gave people something to look at and used that time to add a little thrill as a climax.  For an adult, it’s not much, but for kids 10 years old, it’s pretty freaking cool.  I thought it was a nice touch.  Kings Island didn’t need to add the coast to the coaster by building the shed, but they did it to just take the experience to the next level and by doing so they are stepping into the kind of territory that is normally reserved for the great Orlando parks, and that’s saying something.  I was impressed.

For that day as it often does, Kings Island put some life back into me in a very positive way. It was a wonderful experience that I’m sure I’ll do many more times.  As a stress management tool, Kings Island for me is the best during those nice summer months where you want to get outside, but don’t have the time to invest in a big trip.  There is nothing like actually traveling somewhere to see things in their native environment, but honestly, Kings Island is a treasure compared to anywhere in the world and we are lucky to have it in the Cincinnati area.  It’s good to see that the park management isn’t content to just ride the fence and surrender to the other great parks in the United States but is willing to compete with them for the title of greatest.  Mystic Timber isn’t the greatest roller coaster in the United States—but it’s a pretty good one at a park that is certainly one of the largest with the greatest collection.  But what Mystic Timber does is liven up the character of an amusement park that has been there for a while but is just now starting to break out into its own individuality.  And that was good to see.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

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