Rex and I were flying into Dayton, OH in what was perfect flying conditions: tornados, hail, thunderstorms, and gale force winds. Ok, maybe not perfect flying conditions, but thanks to the skilled flight crew of Frontier Airlines, we made it safe and sound. From Dayton, we would be renting a car and making a simple 45 minute drive to Mason, OH – home of King's Island. We landed right at midnight and made our way to the rental car station. We were pretty pumped when we found out what car we would be driving; a sweet Toyota Prius. This bad boy had a gear shift that Rex and I were unable to figure out, we were seriously looking for the owners manual. The joy lasted only short while, however, because the attendant at the gate informed us that we had picked the wrong car. Come to find out, it was actually their fault; they had parked the wrong car in section A12. Instead of the sweet Prius, they hooked us up with a beat up Hyundai Accent. Oh well.
After stopping at one heck of a redneck gas station for some Dews and snacks (I opted for the Cheddar Combos, Rex went with the chocolate donuts), we were on the interstate cruising toward the Hyatt Place hotel in Mason. We hit some pretty bad rain, but Rex kept it together nicely behind the wheel.
The Hyatt Place is quickly becoming our "home away from home" and we love this hotel. The staff is friendly, the rooms are amazing, and the television is huge. Oh, and the beds are pretty darn nice as well. After grabbing some more food at the Hyatt Place front desk, we turned in for the night. There was business to do in the morning.
This was unquestionably the quietest hotel I have stayed in. Rex and I enjoyed sleeping in past our normal early, sunrise schedule. We woke up and made our way to King's Island. The parking lot had plenty of space and Rex decided to bypass the normal parking regulations and just drive right up to the entrance gate. After noticing that this particular strategy might not work, we backtracked to the normal parking area which was still very close to the gate. After a bit of confusion at the Will Call window, we were directed to the VIP Dinosaurs Alive tent where we were warmly greeted and received our lanyards. We were ready to enter the park.
Since the ribbon cutting ceremony was at 2pm, Rex and I had a little time to kill before the festivities began. We decided to head over to Diamondback so that I could experience my first ride on King's Island's only megacoaster. Rex and I were dumbfounded to discover a walk-on wait for Diamondback. We rode it twice in a row. The ride is really incredible in many ways, but more about that in future blog posts. After Diamondback we made our way over to the Dinosaurs Alive! ribbon cutting ceremony. A fairly nice crowd of media, family, and friends had gathered to welcome the new addition of the park.
Dinosaurs Alive! is located in the Coney Mall area of King's Island, toward the back end of the park next to the entrance of Vortex and the soon-to-be-opened Windseeker. Rex and I were very impressed with our initial view of the area surrounding the entrance. A nice tent is situated just inside the entrance that houses what must be one of the largest dinosaur toy collections in the world. A small booth is set up just next to the entrance selling tickets to the attraction: $5 for Dinosaurs Alive! or $7 for the the attraction and the accompanying IMAX 3-D movie. After a brief spitting of rain, Don Helbig, public relations manager for King's Island, stepped up the podium and gave a very brief but effective talk about the opening of Dinosaurs Alive! After a couple of other folks said a few thanks, including park general manager Greg Scheid, the ribbon was cut by both Greg Scheid and the president of "Dinosaurs on Earth", a Canada based company that specializes in creating animatronic dinosaurs in scientific detail. One of the most startling parts of the ceremony was when Rex and I were reminded that this entire project was conceived only in January of this year. Yes, Dinosaurs Alive! became a reality in only 4 months. After taking our tour through the new addition, it is really hard to understand how they managed to bring things together so quickly; or why they would do it.
Rex and I started our own tour through Dinosaurs Alive! We made it about halfway through before the storms hit and forced all of us out of the attraction. We would of course be able to make it all the way through a few hours later, but we were already impressed by what we were seeing. Dinosaurs Alive! is essentially an exhibit of various dinosaurs from different time periods ranging from Triassic – Jurassic – Cretaceous. There is a sign in front of each dinosaur giving a brief but helpful description of the dinosaur name, period of time the dinosaur lived, and some general information. Some of the dinosaurs offer a "make the dinosaur move" function where you can press a button and make certain parts of the dinosaur's body move about. Most of the dinosaurs in the park were animatronic but moved based on some kind of triggering mechanism. In other words, when you approached the next dino, he would move for you. The attraction is housed in the beautiful wooded area of King's Island, making it a nice escapism from the rest of the park and gets you "into" the Jurassic world. The trail is near a mile long, making this very definitely the largest animatronic dinosaur park in the world. There are some hills along the way, so parents with strollers will be in for a nice little workout during their visit. The T-Rex was a pretty massive dinosaur, spanning a distance of 72 feet long and over 30 feet tall. There were also some areas for kids to participate in an "archeological dig" but it was not open due to the rain. Like every good attraction, Dinosaurs Alive! has you exit through the rather large gift shop on your way out.
We were also able to experience the 3-D movie in the large theater that sits close by to the Dinosaur's Alive entrance. It is worth the extra two bucks to see the movie. The 3-D is very, very good, the movie is both entertaining and educational, and it sets up the attraction of the dinosaurs very nicely. I would suggest viewing the film before entering the dinosaur park.
Overall, Rex and the Beast think Dinosaur's Alive is a great addition to the park. This won't cause folks to travel hundreds of miles to see the dinosaurs, but it will be a nice addition for the already family-friendly atmosphere of King's Island (Planet Snoopy in King's Island is consistently voted as the best children's area). Parents with boys will probably be bugged to death until they fork over the 5 bucks to check it out. The looming dinosaurs at the entrance coupled with the thundering growls from the speakers makes this a boy's dream (and girl's dream for those who are into dinosaurs more than princesses).
Finally, we want to give a shout out to Don Helbig and the KI staff for making our visit so memorable and easy. The catering was absolutely wonderful (possibly the best we have ever had) and the service was top notch.
The day was completed by Rex and I riding some the best coasters in the world: The Racer, Flight of Fear, another ride on Diamondback, and then a ride on the greatest coaster of them all (at least from my perspective), The Beast. It was a terrific trip and we were thrilled to be a part of the grand opening. We wish nothing but the best for King's Island and Dinosaurs Alive!