It is that time of the year, again, when theme parks across the nation are re-opening for a new season. And, as in every prior year I’ve had children, we went early to beat the crowds. My ‘local’ parks are Cedar Fair’s King’s Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This first visit was to King’s Dominion and mainly for our soon to be five year old son. Now, my step son, like my 15 year old son, is a dare devil and just loves excitement. This year, the park expanded its ‘Planet Snoopy’, getting rid of many of the older rides-much of them were here when the park opened in 1974-75. Heck, I rode some of them myself. These are kiddie rides. A very large number of children have ridden them over the last thirty plus years. Many memories centered around those ride. Well, most of them are gone.
For me, it was a bittersweet thing. For I remember taking my 15 year old when he was three. He rode those rides until he was too big for them. The pirate ship, just in front of what used to be called the Scooby Doo Ghoster Coaster, is gone. Not seeing it was a bit on the sad side. My son LOVED that little ship. He was so cute riding it…he’d be the only child so into the ride (and not crying) that he’d throw his arms up. You could not wipe the grin from his face. Now, it is gone. Replaced by another ship ride…this one a disco type. A disco ride is a very short train track, curve up on both ends. The ‘train’, this one shaped like a tug boat, goes back and forth, gaining a little speed each time. Then, the damned thing rotates! It does this for a couple of minutes. The big difference, though, between this new ride and the one it replaces…adults can ride too. In fact, most of the new rides in the kid zone (Planet Snoopy) are family friendly.
The new, expanded area provides a nice amenity for mothers (and Dad’s too) with infants. They have a refurbished building, near the restrooms, that has been remodeled and contains a play area, a lounge area with a microwave and bottle warmers and several rooms for Mom to breast feed baby. Very nice and many, many kudos to the park for not doing something like turning it into a restaurant or tacky store.
Speaking of food…there is an outdoor market that not only sells drinks, but fruits and veggie snacks as well. It is nice to see this sort of thing in a facility that also sells tons of candy and other sugary snacks.
Walking around Planet Snoopy, you can see that Cedar Fair wants this place to succeed. They put a ton of money into cleaning it up, re-theming the area and putting in quality rides. While the old rides evoke a certain nostalgia and sentiment, the new rides are quality rides and are very well done.
Even so, I am a little saddened by the removal of some key rides and attractions, even one that languished over the last decade. The Treasure Cave, aka Yogi’s Cave, at one time, was a cool, well themed walk through attraction. Over the years, much of the theming was removed and, last year, it was pretty much empty. Yet, all of my kids and extended family LOVED walking through it. So did I. Perhaps it is fitting that it was removed. My fond memories of the caves, those where you’d wait thirty minutes, an hour or longer just to walk through it. It took just a few minutes to walk through and angled floor at the end of the walk always surprised you. You KNEW it was there. You KNEW what to expect. Yet, somehow, you were surprised when you got to it. I like that thought. I love the memory of my then four year old, in utter awe of that ending. Blew his mind. And, yet, when he was 14, he STILL loved it. He and his older cousin…running to the cave, like they were five again. Makes me smile just writing about it.
While the cave is gone, as well as the pirate ship, the jeep roundabout and others, the new rides will, no doubt, create new fond memories for Moms, Dads and kids a like. And, I have to say,in this case, casting aside the old for the new is perfectly OK. I hope those old rides find new homes, but, if they don’t, that’s OK. They did a fine job. A fine one indeed.