Thursday, May 30, 2013

Around The World in One and a Half Days - Part 1

Welcome to Worlds of Fun!
Earlier this Spring when I was able to visit Silver Dollar City for the first time I also checked out another park on the same trip, that being Worlds of Fun.  That's why the title of this article is what it is - Worlds of Fun was originally themed off of Jules Verne's Around The World In Eighty Days when it first opened in 1973.  That opening year also means the park is celebrating its 40th anniversary - and many congratulations to the park for that achievement!

Just inside the entrance gates.
But back to the title of this piece.  Due to flight times and a hotel nearby, I was actually able to check out the park for a day and a half.  That allowed me to become a little more familiar with the property, which was perfect because ever since Cedar Fair purchased the park in 1995 I've wanted to visit.  Well really I would like to visit every park on the globe, but becoming a part of the Cedar Fair family moved it up the list, you could say.

One of the original sections of the park.
World of Fun is celebrating its 40th by combining the theme park and water park into one admission ticket, and greatly expanding their slide offerings.  Being that I visited well before the water area, Oceans of Fun, opened for the year I didn't quite get to check out that expansion.

The theme park is broken up into themed sections, each representing a different part of the world in a generalized sense.  Think more on the continent level than on the country level.  When you enter the park you find yourself in Scandinavia, and the size of the trees and well grown in look of the park shows that it dates back to the park's opening.

Beautiful, and greets you after you enter.
Cedar Fair enjoys placing carousels at or near the entrances to their parks, and Worlds of Fun received that distinction in 2011 with the addition of the Grand Carrousel just below the front gates.  The ride was saved after Geauga Lake closed in 2007, kept in storage and fully refurbished before being installed at Worlds of Fun.

The ride dates back to 1926 when it was originally built by M.C. Illions of Coney Island, NY.  There are very few Illions rides left in the world today, so Worlds of Fun is rightfully proud to have the ride as part of its offerings.

Spinning and twirling thrills.
Scandinavia contains a great selection of flat rides once you start to explore.  Many of the attractions are from the park's early years, meaning there are some great rides that have since vanished from other parks.  Many of the rides have appropriate names for the section, such as the Fjord Fjarlane (top of the photo above) and the Finnish Fling (bottom of the photo above.)  Perhaps the Octopus is a little less themed, but maybe there are a lot of Octopuses in Scandinavia - I'll let you Google that one if you wish.

Look - blue sky!  Pretty, right?
What I really enjoyed about the Scandinavia area is the grown-in feeling I described earlier, and the peacefulness of parts of it.  Above is the Sea Dragon and a part of the Viking Voyager with a large pond in front of each.  You can see how large and mature the trees are at the park, which makes for great shade on hot Summer days.  It happened to be windy and cold when I was there, however!

Boating through the woods and past a waterfall.
The Viking Voyager, the park's classic log flume, winds among the trees throughout the section, even bordering on one of the adjacent lands.  If the weather had been a bit nicer I would have given this one a spin, but the thought of wet clothes and a day of plane rides made me think again.  The Voyager darts back among undeveloped land in the middle of the park giving riders a journey though the woods.  The final drop isn't too large, but considering the ride opened with the park in 1973 that isn't too surprising.

Boomerang.  Gnaremoob.
After passing through Scandinavia, clockwise that is, you'll enter Africa.  You can tell because the music in the park's themed areas match their setting, a totally refreshing thing if you ask me.  Located at what seems like the lowest elevation of the park, Africa's buildings are themed appropriately and not far into the section you encounter the Boomerang roller coaster.

First forwards, then backwards.  Don't get sick!
You've all been on one of these before, right?  This one was added to the park back in 2000, five years after Cedar Fair took over.  The ride features six inversions, three forwards and three backwards, and was just repainted this year so it looks totally shiny and new.  You can probably tell from the above photo, though!  

There be dinos in those woods!
In addition to the massive water park expansion, the 2013 season also is debuting Dinosaurs Alive!  If you're familiar with other Cedar Fair parks then you know the drill on this one - there's many animated dinosaurs located along a wooded path, available to guests for a small extra charge.  The display is located in Africa at Worlds of Fun and uses a nicely wooded area for the path, but the entrance (above) is in the heart of the land.

Wave hi to the guests in Dinosaurs Alive!
Here's a shot of just one small section of the meandering path.  Even though the park wasn't too crowded during my daytime visit there were still plenty of families going through the area.  Dinosaurs have always been a hit with kids, though, and these displays have proven popular at other properties in the chain.

The addition also comes with the redevelopment of one of Africa's retail locations into the Dinostore where you can buy everything and anything related to dinosaurs.  Hide your wallet!  Just kidding.

I want to ride!
When you really look at it the Africa section is generally sparse on rides, but it is home to one attraction that more than makes up for that.  That's Prowler, and above you can see some of its large entrance plaza and queue with the ride's lift hill behind it.

Prowler is a Great Coasters International wooden ride that was built in 2009.  The ride's design was a bit of a departure for the designers, as their typical twister layout was pushed aside for a long, curving out and back style experience.

Down the first drop you guys go!
And what an experience it is!  I really enjoyed this ride, I have no problem singing its praises to anyone and everyone.  Prowler is fast and disorienting and I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing it for the first time in the dark.  That without a doubt sealed the deal for me - even though it was cold - probably 55 degrees at most - the ride was tearing through those woods in total darkness and I rather enjoyed every minute of it.

Oh, and thanks to lucky timing on the train for the photo above!  The lightning and sky behind the ride are terrible, but I wanted to feature it anyway.

Roaring over those hills on the way back is good times.
Turns out I liked the ride just as much in the daytime, when you could actually see what was going on.  The ride is fast and the constant directional changes combined with moments of airtime were right up my alley.  The park was running only one train, I assume due to early season operations and lack of crowds, and only that held me from getting even more rides on Prowler.

We've still got three more continents to go, but that will have to wait until part two.  Check back for that next week!