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Getting aHEAD of myself
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Feb 12, 2011
Don’t call the police, but I think I may have just done something that hasn’t been done in ages, something that one may consider a crime against humanity. “What did this fool do?” you may be wondering. I did something unthinkable, but something that couldn’t have paid off any more than it did: I, somehow or another, got my >80-year-old grandparents to take a trip to Kings Dominion! SHRIEK! I’m sure your initial thought is that I am the worst person in the world for doing such a “horrific” thing, but the truth is, they had a fantastic time. I repeat, my more than 80-year-old grandparents had a great time at Kings Dominion! “What?! Huh?! I thought Kings Dominion was just a parking lot for teenaged thrill junkies!” I have written up a LONG trip report of the day two elderly people experienced Kings Dominion from a different point-of-view: a relaxed day at a theme park. This is to show what Kings Dominion is like for people who DON’T come to bang their heads around on roller coasters all day.
To start off, you should know that my grandparents are NOT one of those crazy older folks who you see riding huge thrill rides all the time. In fact, the last roller coaster my grandmother had ever ridden was what was then known as Scooby Doo (now Woodstock Express) at Kings Dominion about twenty years ago with a relative of mine well before I was even alive. How’d she like it? Let’s just say that after that ride (which is fairly small), she has never liked fast rides (I think she didn’t like fast, swooping rides before that time, too.) However, they have gone so far as to venture into the territory of a few “extreme” rides for them, such as Darkastle, in which my grandfather laughed literally the entire ride, though my grandmother was a little dizzy afterward.

I should also point out that my grandparents love, love, love Busch Gardens; always have, always will (even if they can’t make another trip in the future). Granted, they go for the whole experience of the park: the shows, the music, the food, the beauty, and just the feel of being in an old place, full of memories, and feeling like you’re really in Germany, Italy, etc. Every few years, they’ll take the hour-or-so drive to the park and meet me and other members of their immediate family. Kings Dominion, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well in their minds.

Then, not too long ago, some health complications came up with one of my grandparents, which not only did it limit what they could do, it also filled them with worries and plenty of other stuff you don’t want to be worrying about when you’re in your 80’s. That’s when I got the brilliant idea: how about taking them on a trip to Kings Dominion, a place they hadn’t been to in at least twenty years? I did a ton of planning, looking around, and work to see how much there was to do and experience at the park outside of big rides. After all, they’d been working to make the park much nicer, prettier, more inviting, more well-rounded, and even added a whole slew of new live shows this year, right? Then, I asked them what they thought of going to Kings Dominion.

“Oh, we’re not going to Kings Dominion,” they said, “That place is a dump. We wouldn’t like it there.” Stuff like that. That was their initial reaction. It would take weeks, even months of explaining, planning, and such to slowly transition their opinion on going from “Blech!” to “Hmm, maybe it could actually be pretty good.” Remember that “Kings Dominion Park Beauty” video I posted in it thread of the same name a while back? Well, the sole reason of doing that was to get them thinking about how nice and great the park really could be. I even did a quick customization of the park map for things they specifically could do. Maybe I went a bit overboard? Anyway, imagine my shock when I got a call just a few days ago that a cold front was coming through, and that two days of the week would only be about 80 degrees at the highest temperature…and that they figured it would be the perfect day to go, since we might never have gotten this opportunity again! What follows now is a play-by-play of what they experienced that day.

- 11:00 – My immediate family picked my grandparents up at their retirement home, and we arrive at the park (they live only 15 minutes or so from the park). They brought their handicap placard along so they wouldn’t have to walk the entire parking lot, and we ended up getting the very first parking spot in the lot—you could literally step out of the car and your feet would be on the pavers in front of the entrance! Thanks to our Gold Passes, along with the senior discount, we got them in at pretty low prices, too.

- International Street - Both of my grandparents were stunned by the view of International Street with the huge fountains and the Eiffel Tower in the background. They must have spent at least 10-15 minutes taking pictures. After that, we took two nice, slow full circuits around International Street and the fountains, taking in the view of the shops and restaurants around the water. They were mesmerized, and kept pointing out how beautiful and nice it was. I have to agree, between the fountains, European-style buildings, and beautiful music, it really was nice.

- Eiffel Tower – After two laps around the fountains, my grandfather wanted to take a ride to the top of the picturesque tower, explaining how the folks in Paris must have like the ride at KD so much the decided to make a bigger version in France (bu-dum, crash!)… Anyway, they loved the view and thought it was a cool experience. My grandfather walked all around the platform, taking pictures (he must have taken a million pictures that day) and laughing at some of the rides. My grandmother liked the view and the rides, but it must have been a little too high for her, because even though she looked and walked around, she kept a good couple of feet between herself and the edge at all times. After everyone was good, we rode down and started making our way to Old Virginia.

- Old Virginia – We passed by the Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia theater, took some pictures of the wooded waterfall on the way to Old Virginia, and got plenty of shots of the Liberty Bell replica in the Old Virginia plaza and the rest of the country-style buildings. My grandmother took note of the antique cars and wanted to ride those, so we crossed the little bridge over a stream and queued up.

- Blue Ridge Toll Way – Not a long wait for this one. This was a slow, shady, relaxing ride through the woods for them, though my grandfather had a bit of trouble getting out of the car at the end of the ride (thanks to the two operators who assisted with helping to get him out!).

- Dinosaurs Alive! – Got our pictures taken and took our walk through the dino forest. Both of them were very impressed and interested by the dinosaurs (I don’t know if they thought the technology, the realism, or the feel over all was what was so cool). My grandfather would walk ahead, setting off all the dinosaurs as he went, take a picture, and move on. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the plan my grandmother had, who took her time reading every dinosaur’s sign, so we’d have to wait for the sensors too reset so she could enjoy the dinos, too. We took one rest on a bench beside the simulated dig site play area for kids, but the only person there was one of those “explorer”-themed employees tending to the area, so I think they thought he was an actor, simulating a paleontologist working an archaeological dig site! In the end, the loved how cool and well-themed the “adventure” was, and they got a souvenir photo of all of us screaming at a T-rex, so I doubt they’ll forget that any time soon!

- Country Kitchen – Since it was nearby Dinosaurs Alive, and by the time we finished it, it was lunchtime, along with the fact that my grandfather loves Cracker Barrel-style food, we went under the covered ivy tunnel (which my grandparents thought was great) and to the Country Kitchen. Everyone got some type of chicken, either chicken tenders or grilled chicken with fries, coleslaw, green beans, biscuits, etc. I didn’t have the highest of hopes for the food, but it was actually great! They loved it, and commented on how the food at KD was better than they’d expected. We were going to sit outside by the water next to the patio, but decided to eat in the air conditioning instead. The restaurant was also very well-themed.

- On Broadway – First show of the day for them, and both of them were looking forward to this show, as both of them like Broadway-style shows. I think they really liked the show. I personally don’t like Broadway-style stuff (unless you count Celtic Fyre), so I can’t really judge from my own opinion, but the singing was good, it made enough sense to me, I didn’t see a major problem with the sets, and I think they just liked the whole gist of the show. Afterward, both of them couldn’t stop humming songs from the show that they liked. Yes, they thought the show was great.

- Planet Snoopy – We then made our way over to Planet Snoopy, the area I’d really hyped to them about. They really loved this whole area: the look, the feel, everything. They took tons of pictures of everything here, from the fountain up front, to the topiaries, to the rides, to the characters. I agree, it was nice.

- Flying Ace – What? Someone did Flying Ace? Yes, my grandfather rode Flying Ace, the big swing-on-a-tower/Windseeker-like ride. He always loves swing rides, and even though this one goes pretty high up, it still goes at a pretty leisurely pace. I rode next to him, and he loved the slow, calm breeze and the view. About halfway through the ride, he looked into the distance and said, “I wanna ride that one now.” I couldn’t believe it when I realized he was looking at Windseeker!

- All Wheel Sports – After Flying Ace, we got great seats at the stunt show. I’d seen this show before, and my grandmother kept talking about how she couldn’t wait to see it, since she’d seen All Wheel Sports on America’s Got Talent. They thought it was incredibly cool. They also thought the “surprise” in the middle of the show was hilarious… once they figured out it was a gag (it’ll make sense if you’ve seen the show). Loved the energy in this show. On a side note, I felt bad when the stunt scooter guy fell flat on his face during the little montage at the end. I’m sure it’s not easy to do; it’s okay!

- Lucy’s Tugboat – Another ride I was surprised to see my grandfather do. We rode this on the way to Boo Blasters. I don’t know what he thought it would be like, but he thought this ride was really fun—he laughed through the whole ride. The motion of the ride was fun, but calm; in other words, perfect. ;)

- Boo Blasters on Boo Hill – Definitely something I knew they could do, we got on this ride with no wait. I’d tried to explain the concept of this being a slow-moving “haunted house” ride, but you have electronic laser guns to shoot targets on the ghosts during the ride. It took them a second to figure out, but they had a lot of fun on this ride. My technologically-challenged grandmother even said this was her favorite ride, with a score of 540 (not bad…My technology-loving grandfather, however, seemed a bit confused, but still got a score of 230.) They really liked this one. We would have done it again had the line not suddenly have stretched outside of the building!

- Boardwalk Fries – Something I’d told my “folks” they couldn’t go to Kings Dominion without trying, and both of them had been looking forward to these big-time. We got some in a shady area in the Grove and loaded up with seasonings and vinegar. As I guessed, they loved the fries, though I think we got waayyy to much seasoning! I had to trek from the Country Kitchen area of the Grove all the way over to the Juke Box Diner by Hurler to get some free waters for everyone. Still, these babies are legendary!

- Carousel – Classic, beautiful. Both of them wanted to ride this one. It has a really nice charm to it. My grandfather “saddled up” onto a horse, though he had trouble getting on and off (we helped him do this), and my grandmother took a peaceful ride in one of the “chariot’s” benches. Very peaceful, relaxing ride they enjoyed.

- Americana – Something my grandfather wanted to do from the beginning, as he said he loves Ferris wheels. On the other hand, my grandmother has always been afraid of them, so she stayed on the ground. The ride was very scenic, quick-to-load, and secure. He liked it. On the ride, he pointed to a blue tower and said “I want to do that,” again. Yup, it was Windseeker!

- Windseeker – What?! :shocked: As surprising as it might seem (trust me, I was shocked), my mid-80’s grandfather really wanted to ride Windseeker! It doesn’t come off as much of an “old person” ride, does it? I was a little unsure about having him do it, but I ended up riding alongside him 301 feet in the air, and he loved it! I was able to get him to leave his hat on the ground, but he kept trying to take his phone out to take pictures during the ride, which I wanted to stop, since he’s not the steadiest person in the world. Pair that with swinging quickly at a breezy 300 feet in the air, and someone could get hurt. Luckily, he eventually decided just to enjoy the ride. He loved this!! The view, that feeling of freedom, the breeze…I don’t know what it was, but he looked to be having the moment of his life as he looked out from atop the ride. Priceless, man. Just priceless.

- Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia – The 3D dinosaur movie in the Action Theater was something they were both interested in seeing. Not only was it comfortable and air-conditioned, the movie was very engaging, interesting, and cool. I actually think this is a great non-ride addition for the park that probably costs them very little to run. Regardless, my grandparents were thoroughly entertained and interested.

- Outer Hanks – Seafood shack for dinner! It was actually a surprisingly good meal, and it reminded them of eating seafood they’d always get when they would vacation in places like Hilton Head, so they both enjoyed the food and atmosphere. We ate outside to take in the surroundings. Also of note, this is actually an incredibly well-themed restaurant with a great feel.

- After this, much to my sadness, we made our way to the exit of the park (after all, it was…holy cow! Eight o’clock already!!), catching glimpse of the spectacular Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular just starting up, walked down International Street, and got one last look at the fountains bursting in front of the Eiffel Tower in the sunset, before we turned and left after experiencing a truly fantastic, and unexpected, day. Wow…

- We really had a great time. No, we didn’t gobble up ride after ride. We had a relaxed, wonderful day where my grandparents got to experience something unlike anything else they’d ever done before. They got to try new things, make new memories, and live new experiences I doubt they’ll ever forget.

This concludes my Über-long trip report of a day at Kings Dominion that is totally different than what one might expect from the park. Sure, you can go just to ride coasters all day. But if you look deeper, this proves that there is a whole other side to Kings Dominion, one full of charm, details, beauty, and fun for everyone. I hope this proves that Kings Dominion has come a long way, and that it has something great for everyone. So, the next time someone snorts and turns their nose up at Kings Dominion for being a “dump,” tell them they just need to look at things from a different direction…because who knows what you’ll get from it…which happens to be a pretty good rule in life, too.

I hope you liked reading about a totally different and wonderful experience at the evolving park in my super-long trip review. (Sorry about the length :blush:) By the way, if you want to hear about what went on with them at Busch Gardens, let me know! Also, I don't blame you if you didn't take the time to read the whole thing. ;)
Thanks for the positive "Thanks" and such, guys!

By the way, I wasn't lying about the customized map in the first part of the post. Too much? :p I just copied the real map, pasted it into Word, blew it up so the real ride labels were pixelated, and re-labeled the rides and attractions my grandparents would like...


  • Custom KD Map for Grandparents.PNG
    Custom KD Map for Grandparents.PNG
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This is one of the best trip reports I've ever read. It was not only a joy to read, but it is actually very helpful to me and the idea of visiting with my parents. They're not quite as old add your grandparents, but their interests and abilities are similar. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed and thoughtful review of the day.
FYI, If you are planning to take older folks to the park to enjoy the shows like Joe's grandparents did with "On Broadway" and "All Wheel Sports", both of those shows close for the season in just over 3 weeks. (Sunday, August 18th is their last day of performances for both shows).

I assume the "On Broadway" ends early so the park can strike the sets and lighting and prep the theater for the Halloween Haunt show (should be a new one for 2013). Not sure if any Halloween Haunt show or attraction is going in the Peanuts Show-Place amphitheater.
Wow truly an amazing trip report! Glad that they had an amazing time!

Also I'm pretty sure your grandpa has beat my score on Boo Blasters on Boo Hill (I hate that thing).

Another thing... unless me and you went on the same day and watched the same show. I think the scooter guy did the fall on purpose at the end when each stunt person did a signature move when their name was called. I mean you don't do a back flip on a scooter, then fall on a simple trick :p.

But again, that was an amazing read about a park that people normally will trash instead of think of how much has been done in the recent years.
I thought is was better in the paramount days, But I've been saying it for years... It's not a bad park -_-.
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