Friday, April 27, 2018

Worlds of Fun 2018 Opening Day Review

I’m honestly not sure exactly how many opening day reviews I have written over the past twenty years, I started writing them with the 1999 season, stopped for a few years while I worked as an Ambassador and started them again around 2011.  I can admit to having written some not so positive, yet honest, reviews in the past, even though I always tried diligently to write about every positive aspect I could find. It was hard sometimes.  

It wasn’t hard this time. In fact I am left to wonder if one of the whole three people that read this will wonder what happened to me.  However, as difficult as it is to make negative commentary, it’s much easier and much more fun on my part to write about things I have only dreamed of seeing.  There was a time maybe a year or two ago, I literally dreamed of a moment where I turned the corner into Africa and surprise… there was the floral clock, back again. It was a dream I never thought I would ever see.  About six months ago I woke up from another dream where ELI was re-painted and was absolutely beautiful.  Do you know how it feels to watch the park announce, and then see them with your own eyes, and then you get the chance to write about them?!  So forgive me if this editorial goes on a little longer then my previous opening day reviews.  It was an absolute joy to write.   

Check in/Registration for Worlds of Fun Village

What a nice view!

Jeff and I decided to stay at Worlds of Fun Village for the first time this visit.  We visited it back when it first opened in 2005 but only walked around it from outside.  While we lived in town I could never talk him into paying to stay there.  When we moved to Florida though it became slightly easier, and finally I did, for one night, Friday night.  Prior to check in, I had called ahead of time since the website stated that the offices were only open while the park was.  The phone attendant stated that offices opened at 1 pm for check-in.  We arrived around 2 pm I believe, had no problem checking in.   I had requested a cottage near Oceans of Fun and was assigned cabin 220, the one closest to Mamba.  The employees working at The Village were polite and friendly.  We checked out the gift shop and found it well stocked and had a very nice selection of park merchandise and village-specific merchandise as well.  Now some may complain about pricing since food and drinks are above “off property” pricing, but having stayed at numerous other park-based resorts (Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Orlando, Cedar Point Breakers), I found the pricing on point, and no different than any of the others of equal comparison.

The futon (just an FYI in Cabins there are two of these)

We had a short drive to our cabin and parked right in front of it which was very convenient.  We found the exterior a little worn (they are 12-13 years old now), but nothing horrible.  There was a charcoal grill in front, a small deck, and three Adirondack chairs.  We did use the grill and grilled hamburgers and veggies for dinner that night, along with s'mores, and had no problems with the grills, though they are looking a little long in the tooth.  The interior of the cottage was small but nicely laid out into usable spaces.  In the end, there were three of us, Jeff and I and a friend.  All adults.  I would not recommend more than 3-4 adults total in a cottage, though with smaller children I could see them sleeping more.  You enter into the living area which has a full-size futon, kitchen table with four chairs, a small tv, and kitchenette with microwave, fridge, and sink.  Utensils are not provided, and I am wondering if the village has ever tried or considered a utensil rental such as Disney Vacation Club or Fort Wilderness offers.  Our friend slept on the futon and said it was comfortable.  Down the hallway is the bathroom, which is compact, but functional.  The bathroom has a small tub/shower combination (the tub is only large enough for a small child).  The back bedroom had a double bed, tv, small nightstand and bunk beds.  Being familiar with the bunk beds at Fort Wilderness, which are smaller than twin size, I found these to be Twin Size, perfect for a smaller adult (I slept on it without any problem and I am 5’3”), Jeff, being 6’4” took the double.  His feet hung off just a little.  Like many things at amusement parks, it wasn’t designed for very tall people.  (He also can’t ride Outlaw Run because of his height).  Overall though it was comfortable, I have heard the mattresses were just replaced this off-season, which is up there with good shower heads when it comes to a comfortable nights stay!  We paid $99 a night with the pass holder discount and found it to be a very good value, being an easy walk to the park through the Oceans gate.  We would definitely recommend it and hope to stay there again.

Double bed with a towel animal, love it!

Bunk beds.

So when we arrived we sat down our stuff, took some “unmolested” photos, and then took naps.  Jeff and I only had three hours of sleep the night before!  Around 3:30 pm I woke up and checked my e-mail and Facebook, responded to an e-mail and then laying there…. I heard it.  I wasn’t entirely sure that what I heard was what I thought I heard so I sat up and listened more closely.  Sure enough, it was what I thought it was.  Mamba’s lift hill!  For me… that is the ultimate perk of staying at the village, you are right there and can hear the train engage the lift, here the “rip” as the train releases from the chain and heads down the first drop, and of course the B-block brakes.  (clunk clunk clunk).  I ran outside and I wasn’t the only one out there.  It was chilly so I only watched for a few minutes but what a beautiful sight.  Cyrus showed up around this time, and both of started getting organized and ready to head towards the park.  I believe we left around 5:30 or so, and took the sidewalk to the Oceans of Fun gate.  I had confirmed with the front desk at check-in that the Oceans gate was open.  It took about five minutes to walk there and was quite simple.  No one was there except us, and the employees. We went through security and scanned our season passes and we were in!  The first thing I heard was Queen’s “We Are the Champions” playing and my spirit sunk… I didn’t have to worry too long. The themed music, in ALL worlds now seems back and hopefully will stay around.  We passed Nile which was already testing with boats and saw the waterfall was on, which meant it was probably not a ride I was going to be enjoying this go around (hey I am from Florida now!).  We headed towards Mamba instead.  I had noticed as we had walked towards the OOF gate that Mamba had all three trains at the station for the first time in several years.  The third train is still “some assembly required” but it’s THERE.  A major plus, especially come the summer and Haunt when it will need that third train.  I hemmed and hawed on whether I would express this next comment, but Mamba was running EXCEPTIONALLY well this weekend.  Jeff, Cyrus and I walked up to the Plaza and found the queue line open and ready for guests, right then the National Anthem played, the official cue for the park to be open.  After it finished we looked up to the panel and made sure they were ready, they signaled they were, and we boarded the first public train for Mamba’s 20th birthday season.  

Look its the third train!

Mamba photo turned gift shop.

When we exited I noticed that Mamba photo had been turned into a mini gift shop, similar to Prowler, with shirts, and miscellaneous Mamba souvenirs hanging on the wall that used to be open air.  Since there isn’t a gift shop anywhere near Mamba this wasn’t too bad of an idea!  We walked towards Nile which was still closed to guests but would open up later in the day.  Overall, every single ride operated on Pass holder preview (except Timber Wolf but its an exception to the rule) and Opening Day.  AND every coaster ran two trains, if able to do so (since Boomerang obviously can’t!). Though, yes it is should be expected, its a major step forward after previous years.  

Coasters was open to the public as we walked by and I noticed the “directional sign” right across from it was blank on Friday.  Here is another amazing thing to me.  Between Friday night at 10 pm, and Saturday morning at 10 am, there were several updates to the park, including the addition of park information guide board additions, properly themed information guide boards no less.  The one across from Nile was themed to “Egypt” which was awesome, but makes me wonder… are there Mamba’s in Egypt?  :). 

New gate at Fury of the Nile.

The asphalt around Boomerang hadn’t been sealed yet, and was in pretty rough shape, but not really a major issue to me as it is one of only a few areas that have yet to be replaced.  Unlike when over half the park was in this condition just a few years ago.  MAJOR improvement. Maybe this means something new will be coming there in the next few years?  No, I don’t know anything more than anyone else, just being hopeful.

Floral Clock during the daytime...

Floral Clock at Night.

At this point, I was literally dragging Jeff and Cyrus behind me I wanted to see the Floral Clock.  From the pictures posted on the Worlds of Fun blog and knowing the weather the previous weekend (snow!), I wasn’t really excepting anything except dirt and bricks.  I was once again pleasantly surprised to find that there were indeed flowers, though it appears they were a “let's get something in there” kind of thing and I am guessing the flower design is not the final product.  I also loving the new sun and moon topiaries, that frame the clock, beautiful and such a nice touch to this Worlds of Fun original.

Paisano's new Menu.

We next went up through Europa, and since I noticed the show times were not on the park map we had been given as we entered the park I figured I would check at Moulin Rouge to see if the upcoming shows would be listed there.  They were and first thing I noticed was the significant change in the show line up, in that there were MORE shows then previous years.  First off, I am not a huge show fan myself, but I have friends that are.  Moulin Rouge has been reduced from its two shows during the normal season line up to just one this year which looks like it will be a re-boot of “Road Trip” from last year.  However two NEW shows have been added which appear to be variations of shows from Winterfest,  The “All American Trolley” (in Americana) and “Where’s the Party?”  (International Plaza).  This should definitely be an interesting season as far as live entertainment goes.

Italian/Sicilian wedding photos on the wall in Paisano's.  Being 25% Sicilian myself (explains a lot I know) I have photos of my Great Grandparents that look just like these... and yes they all look like mafia photos. 

Though there are no major additions to Europa this year it has been home to several small updates.  Deja Vu, though still home to retro merchandise also has a nice selection of Coca-Cola themed merchandise as well.  Paisano’s, while still serving Italian was not only open(!), it also had several small theming details added, including various Italian/Sicilian wedding photos, hanging lights, and various other small details.  Paisano’s, which originally was Le Polit Bone when the park opened is an original food service location and its overall structure could use some love… but Rome wasn’t built in a day either.  The main reason MOST people go to food service restaurants… you know for food… I won’t overlook either.  Several restaurants received all new menus this season, including Paisano’s, thanks to the new chef on board.  It will take time to see how the menu options will fare throughout an entire season, but on opening day… it was VASTLY improved.  Worlds of Fun has never been known for its tasty food selections, in the entire forty year experience I have had with it, but the fact that the food was warm and enjoyable, was a big step forward.


Looks a bit funky but tasted good which is all that matters.

Several other attractions in Europa have seen some minor updates, Flying Dutchman boats were shiny in their new paint jobs.  Autobahn also was running… 14 cars, an all-time high for recent years, and was also sporting some new German autobahn road signage (as in the REAL Autobahn).  Awesome.  

Some German Autobahn signs, on... Autobahn.

Some German Autobahn signs, Grob Koris and Mittenwalde are cities in Brandenburg.  Of course all distances are metric.

Also, Awesome, Falcon’s Flight received a new lights package.  It was missing last year but has made it for year two. As those that know amusement parks, in general, it's rare for anything put off to “next year” to actually occur. Anywhere.  So I was once again pleasantly surprised.  Falcon’s Flight looks just like it should now. 

Falcon's Flight with new lights!

Some have asked about the troll that was added to Haunt last year, its shed has been closed up, it's not really tacky it's more just “unnoticeable”.

Lookin' good for 45 years old... (actually 46 since it was built in 1972, but since it's a she I thought ELI would appreciate being called younger...)

And from the 1970's... looks pretty similar.  That makes me smile.

I have heard these had to be re-painted a few times to meet park approval.

Ok, Ok, besides the floral clock what else have we all been waiting to see?  The train of course!  ELI and the coaches behind it were re-painted for the first time in many years and it looks… well, I needed to pull out my trusty thesaurus because the word Awesome is getting way overused.  So how about the word Stunning.  Yes, it very much does.  It wasn’t just re-painted though, it was repainted almost exactly as it was when the park opened in 1973, Candy Apple Green, and each individual row ending cap was repainted, painstakingly to its original white and multi-colored balloon.  It does look stunning, and beautiful.  When I first saw the post on Worlds of Fun's facebook I recalled the interview I conducted several years ago with the then new head of maintenance, Wayne Meadows. In the interview he stated that the train was the crown jewel of the park’s ride line up, and now… it looks the part too.   The only question I had, is I noticed there was no train conductor spiel, was this missing because it was opening weekend?  Curious.

The map board by Vittle Griddle.

And the original one by the Depot.

Besides major and minor attractions through the park, one thing I had been noticing was the map cases.  Worlds of Fun is one of the VERY few parks that still uses map cases (thank goodness), and they were fantastically updated this year. Instead of the old stand by glass case with old-fashioned paper and wood displays (and a clock that as another fan mentioned could be updated by just about anyone), it is now a digital board, displaying all the same information but in a much more aesthetically pleasing way. Each board is themed to the correct world, and I have noticed how several of them have a seemingly intra-World theme, such as “Old West” by the train depot, or “Egypt” Near Fury of the Nile.  Speaking of maps we turned the corner and found a few teenagers looking very confused by the Front Street shops end cap display window, that now displays a variety of old souvenir maps (1973, 1987, 1996, and 1998).  The teenagers didn’t realize that the maps were not current, and we explained that fact to them and directed them to the more current map cases.  We happened to notice on the 1973 map that the scanned image had a very distinctive piece of yellow tape that held the map together… it looked familiar…

Moving along.  Every year for the past few years a wide span of old asphalt has been replaced by concrete.  Usually, it coincides with the new addition for that year.  Up to now the entire Orient, half of Europa, half of Scandinavia and half of Americana had been replaced.  For 2018 the park replaced what is most likely the largest swatch of asphalt with concrete at one time from Detonator and Forum Road all the way to near Pizza Pier.  This included re-landscaping, re-curbing, and removing the extended queues for Cyclone Sams.  I am slightly concerned about the removal of the extended queue for Cyclone Sams and how that will effect lines come summer time.   On a different front, we noticed that the lights on the exterior of the building had been replaced by a very awesome (there’s that word again!), flaming light bulb.  Jeff loved them so much he researched them literally overnight and bought a few on Amazon already.  

Not a great photo but shows the new lights by Sams.

The lights on the actual ride itself have also been replaced in this case by LED bulbs.  A fact noticed by another fan, since I can no longer tolerate Cyclone Sams.  And by the looks of those exiting the ride… I am not the only one.  

New Vittle Griddle Menu.

New paint on Bicentennial Square.

Taped up wiring for a light fixture.

Next up was Timber Wolf and the old Bicentennial Square.  For those not familiar, Bicentennial Square runs from Timber Wolf’s entrance all the way back to its exit, it was added along with Screamroller (that Timber Wolf uses the same station and queue line from), in 1976.  Timber Wolf’s line was closed off and had a sign that Timber Wolf was basically a work in progress.  Now for those that have read my opening day reviews in the past, know I am not a fan of rides not being open on opening day.  Timber Wolf’s not being open does not bother me in the least.  Why?  Because the park was completely clear what was going on and they gave a date for expected opening.  Fury of the Nile did the same thing in 1984 (it didn’t open until Memorial Day either), if an opening day is not going to be the same as the rest of the park, and its made readily apparent by the park, (opening late spring!), It is a non-issue if it isn’t open on opening day. Plus, as Timber Wolf is one of my favorite roller coasters (after mamba and prowler), in the park, I am rather intrigued as to this modification since the helix has always been, for me at least, sluggish.  Stay tuned for my review after wolf opens.  

More Bicentennial Square/Ripper Alley for Haunt

Bicentennial Square itself was closed off, just past first aid (the old entrance to Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall), when I looked through the darkened doors of the arcade I saw the same picnic tables that had been there since Winterfest and no games.  I have heard the games will be coming back… which is possible.  Still, every time I think of arcades in the park I remember that scene from the new Tron: Legacy, where we see the old shuttered Flynn’s Arcade.  No one cares anymore about arcades anywhere.  Sad.  But true.  What’s fascinating to me, is that it appears the outside of New Funtier Arcade/Snoopy’s Arcade, whatever its called today, has recently been painted.  The same blue color as most recently, but it looks to be obviously VERY recent as the light fixtures were removed and electrical lines taped up as you would do with a proper painting job.  Also, the buildings further down, the old Calamity Games/Timber Wolf games, look to be primed as if ready to be painted.  Maybe, well probably, they are just painting the buildings.  

New Front Street Square at night.

Ok so lets all talk about the ten-ton gorilla in the room.  The new Front Street area.  I knew about it awhile ago, and knew that there would be some that would freak out over the trees.(Go read my Patriot post on April 8th…)  I know this because had this happened three years ago I probably would have freaked out too.  Too many years watching too many beautiful trees being cut down for what appeared to be no reason whatsoever without being replaced.  Truth be told some were probably removed to create a more open walkway.  Then there is exhibit B, Mamba Plaza. Enough said.  So a few years ago when the Americana Front Street island trees were removed I was visibly upset, then the trees in front of Voyager were removed and replaced about three years ago.  This depressed me even further.  Then last year, I remember seeing the new Voyager trees planted just the year before and noticed that they appeared larger already.  Then I sat in Patriot Plaza, waiting for Jeff to ride (as I no longer ride Patriot),  and enjoyed the shade that the once tiny Bradford Pear trees provided.  And I realized something.  Some trees need to be replaced.  This wasn’t the first few years of the 21st century Cedar Fair, ripping out trees left and right with nothing left but mulch beds.  This was a thoughtful and careful process of replacement NOT removal.  The trees aren't even being replaced by "stick" trees either, but the slightly more mature version, and not with “weed” trees but carefully chosen specimens (Hunt Midwest was guilty of both just as a reminder...).  Let us not forget that Worlds of Fun didn’t open completely covered with mature trees either.  I am now at peace with what I have begun referring to as the “Tree Rotation Program”.  

An Atlas Cedar planted by Subway (is Atlas Shrugging?)

The new Americana fountain, its beautiful.

Case in point.  The original trees at the Front Street sunken fountain were Pin Oaks.  A fine mature and beautiful tree.  The new trees, are Shumard Oaks.  Shumard’s are a more hardy species, native to Missouri, and produce red foliage in the fall.  They are also fairly quick growing of the oaks.  It’s also one of the rarer species.  It wasn’t chosen without thought.  Probably the detail I was most disappointed in loosing was the sunken fountain aspect, but that makes the most sense when it comes to ADA.  AND, on opening day a friend made a good point.  It is much easier to walk across the plaza now, rather than going around a sunken area.  The fountain is without question, beautiful, I cannot even imagine any argument to the opposite.  Yes, it’s different, yes it’s changed from what we have all known.  But that isn’t always a bad thing.  For the first five years of park operation, there was no central fountain at all, it wasn’t even added until 1978.  Sometimes new can be better than the original.  

The only slightly critical comment and it's more just an FYI that concerns me is the lip in the concrete from the fountain area towards the shops.  Both Jeff and I saw several people trip, heck I even tripped once on it (of course I am a klutz..).  I am sure the lip was designed to assist with drainage, but it's something I at least wanted to call to someone’s attention.  Otherwise zero criticism.

Picture of Front Street from Friday, notice the lack of flowers in the bed here.

From Saturday morning... now there are flowers.

Last few comments on Front Street, and it’s a small detail but one that reverberates for what it tells me about landscaping and the park.  On Friday night preview the Front Street area had small shrubbery planted but no annuals.  The park closed at 10 pm.  At 10 am the next morning… there were annuals and LOTS of them.  Now I have planted annuals in my own home garden, and while the folks at Worlds of Fun are professionals, there is a fact you can only plant so fast.  So basically someone, stayed up overnight… to plant flowers.  Let me rephrase that… someone at 2 am in the morning was planting flowers. 


My final comment,l, but the newly landscaped areas, the ones that I could see up close, had something that Worlds of Fun has NEVER had.  Irrigation.  Yes, there has been hose plug in rainbirds, but never a full irrigation system.  Nice.

"new" landscaping on the Americana/Orient hillside, notice the old timbers in the background.

The closest I could come to a before picture its from the opposite direction but you can see the similarities.

Moving along, we both noticed some nice “new” landscaping off to the side just past front street.  New is in quotes because at one point the hillside was obviously originally landscaped as it still has its original railroad tie edging.  (like the entire park used to have).  Like more than one thing with park landscaping, what was old is new again, and in some cases being completely rediscovered.   It’s nice to see. 

This lake is under construction...

Taken on Friday this might have been the last time we could see it.

Next door was Ripcord lake, which had been drained and on Saturday (another one of those not there on Friday but there on Saturday), the park had posted a sign apologizing for the “inconvenience” of viewing an empty lake.  For us, it was a rare situation to actually be able to still make out where Cotton Blossom once stood.  From what someone reported it sounds like they are re-sealing the lake bed.  

FunPix signs around the park.

A pricing list for FunPix available for purchase at Guest Relations.

I headed into the Orient, at this point I was passing through as I was trying to get over to meet up with Jeff.  However, I did notice the new FunPix sign by the Orient pond.  There are quite a few of these signs scattered through the park, both offering good recommendations for photo opportunities but when those with FunPix scan the QR code, it gives photo takers themed borders to their photos.  The Orient one features a background of Chinese Lanterns.  FunPix is an interesting concept debuting with the 2018 season.  Guests pay a fee for either a one day use, or the entire season of use, which entitles them to all the available on ride photos, FunPix photographer photos as well as the fun border photos scattered throughout the park.  For those familiar with PhotoPass its a somewhat similar concept.  It’s a fascinating concept.

The orient pond looking pretty.

Some remember the photo I posted about two weeks ago of what appeared to be lanterns going up in the Orient.  After some time it was determined those were the Winterfest lanterns, and it appears they were being taken down, while new Asian Koy fish windsocks were being put up.  They add a themed visual interest to the pond area, and it's nice to see once again the small details being attended to.

Some new hardscaping on the creek under the SO bridge.

Attention to landscaping at the park this season has seemingly taken a light speed jump forward, it has gotten to a point its impossible to walk through an area and not see something new.  The same is true with Orient.  On the Scandi/Orient Bridge (referred to as SO bridge) the old rough rock work on the creek below has been entirely removed and is being replaced by a much more attractive hardscape creek bed.  In regards to the SO bridge an interesting detail I discovered this last weekend also is that the SO bridge, in regards to the actual physical bridge, isn’t original.  The current structure replaced the original wooden bridge in 1982.  Which is WHY on the 1973 map the bridge looks nothing like its current form.

Ugh... and you can even still see where Pizzo Pizza lettering was.

As I turned into Scandinavia, I didn’t notice a small detail that had been changed, to be truthful I didn’t notice it until the following Saturday.  And there is an interesting reason.  Pizzo Pizza, located in Scandinavia since 1981, and named Pizzo Pizza since 1982, was renamed this year… to Just Pizza and Turkey Legs.  Funny thing, it is still listed as Pizzo Pizza on the map.  I don’t get why?  Ok, I guess I get WHY because now it serves Turkey Legs.  But seriously can’t people just read a menu?  Or ok make it Pizzo Pizza and Turkey Legs.  In all the world of beautiful landscaping and re-incorporation of the theme, there is this one little change that isn’t like the others…  And that my friends is about the only truly negative commentary I can make in this entire editorial.  

A new map case!

Up the hill towards the slightly new main gate (it’s so 2017), the park has added a new map case in traditional map case styling but with the new screens.  Supposably this one was relocated from somewhere else in the park.  Maybe it was the one that used to be in the old Scandinavia plaza?  Still a good idea to have one by the main gate.  

Moving through Scandinavia, a fairly major change for Retail is the re-naming and re-theming of The Lift to Kringle’s Holiday House.  I have to ask… why wasn’t it Kringle’s Holiday Haus?  I guess that just seems such an obvious thing to me.  For years, and I seriously mean decades the retail location across from Voyager has struggled.  It was dead when it was Norseman’s Niceties, it was dead when it was The Lift.  I can only hope that maybe with time Kringle’s will pick up in traffic.  It’s a fabulous idea to bring a Christmas store to the park, since so many parks have already followed the same trend.  It's also a very charming store, I loved the merchandise options.  Hopefully, it will pick up in traffic when Voyager does, as it gets warmer.  

Whether they are new or rehabbed they still show some signifiant work was done to Voyager's 45 year old pumps.

While we're talking about Voyager I noticed, also on Saturday that the pumps, located under Lift 1, appeared to either be rehabbed or replaced, probably rehabbed.  I am THRILLED that Voyager is getting lots of TLC, in addition, the trough appears repainted too.  (either that or really well cleaned).  I honestly think Voyager has seen more updates in the last five years then it has seen in the entire other 40 years of its existence, Which is just… Awesome.  

Before we get to the new ride I wanted to make a quick comment.  Now in the twenty-odd years, I have been writing these opening reviews I can’t think of a time I have openly discussed a ride that was removed in the prior season.  Since its usually widely discussed prior to that point.  I am going to continue that trend, but I am going to mention Fling, not because its virtually impossible not to, but to make a point.  Fling was a rare ride, but let's not forget Voyager is getting to a point where it is almost just as rare.  Voyager is an Arrow log flume, and many consider those a dime a dozen.  They were.  Now… not so much.  Arrow flumes are vanishing just like almost every other type of Arrow ride.  (Orient Express and Screamroller were also Arrows)  If you are still dwelling on Fling lets not lose sight of the fact that the park is still investing money into Voyager every single year and that makes me very very happy. 

So 5,364 words is what it took to get me to the new ride for 2018, Nordic Chaser.  Nordic Chaser was manufactured by Mack Rides (the manufacturer plaque is very visible on the ride), and is similar to Mack’s current Sea Chaser ride except the boats don’t spin.  Some have compared it to the old Rockin’ Reeler, and on first appearances, its definitely seems similar.  However, it doesn’t really ride like Reeler did.  It’s more like an old caterpillar.  However, most people reading this have no idea what a caterpillar ride is (it’s an older style ride from the 40’s), and fewer still have actually ridden one, so let me try to explain as best as I can.  Nordic Chaser is a circular ride with undulating hills, that are “wave-like”.  While spinning it produces a very significant level of lateral g-forces (similar, but stronger than Scrambler does), and on each “wave” the car bumps up an down like it was on a literal wave.  It creates a sensation of “almost airtime”, and I believe it was running just a bit faster it would actually be real airtime.  A lot of people were concerned that it was a “kiddie ride” and it really isn’t, it's more a fun family style ride, and fun in that both I and my husband really enjoyed it.  The amazing thing about Nordic Chaser is that the experience is not just about the physical ride, it also combines music (themed music no less!), and colored lights that at night really add to the ride experience.  Almost like an indoor ride, that isn’t indoors if that makes sense.  I personally also love how the queue line and that the drive box fly flags of several Scandinavian countries.  AND, yes the landscaping around Chaser has IRRIGATION too.

Last comment about Nordic Chaser but its similar to my comment about all rides operational on opening day.  And that says it all.  Nordic Chaser, the new ride for 2018 was open on opening day for 2018.  Since there has been some difficulty in getting the new rides open on opening day in the past, its also a major step forward to have Nordic Chaser open on opening day!  

One aspect I was shocked about with Nordic Chaser is that the park kept the original walkways around it, the steps and curves.  Since they re-did and flattened out Front Street for ADA I thought they would do the same here, and I am wondering if that isn’t the long-term plan.  Still, the only way to really do something like that is to do a type of Lombard street switchback.  

ELI has significantly improved the curb appeal of it's home.

Behind Nordic Chaser is a view Jeff and I love to check out and that’s ELI’s Roundhouse, or better described as ELI’s shed.  Like ELI herself, ELI’s rectangular roundhouse has received some much needed TLC since it was probably in worse physical shape then ELI was!  It appeared painted, spruced up and even…. Has a door.  Every off-season in the past the opening towards the park was covered with a sheet of plastic.  That was the only thing separating ELI from snow and ice and everything else Kansas City weather cooked up.  This year it has a real honest to goodness roll down door. 

New menu for Chicken Shack in Scandinavia.

I have briefly discussed the new menus and two of the upcoming restaurants, Chicken Shack (old Nordic Nook) and Gorilla Grill have been recipients of the new menus.  They look far more appealing then the old menus did.  Like a million times better.  Jeff and Cyrus shared some chicken fingers while I ran around doing whatever I was doing at the time.  They said they were quite good.  Nice.  Edible food, always a good thing.

Work done on Big Jack's patio over the off season.

Moving into Africa there are some changes.  First, one thing that hasn’t changed, which has made me EXTREMELY Happy is Big Jacks, is still Big Jacks.  Both on the map and on the snack stand itself.  For those that don’t know (and I know anyone that knows me knows this about a million times over), Big Jacks was named after Jack Steadman, one of the founders of the park, and without a doubt in my mind the person quite literally responsible FOR Worlds of Fun.  With the removal of Steadman plaza last year I thought for sure this would be gone too, and it wasn’t.  So that’s good.

Across from Big Jacks, it appears Big Game Hunt has also gone to the Worlds of Fun in the sky.  This was pretty apparent at Winterfest when it was used as a petting zoo, and to be honest with you the reader, it doesn’t bother me really at all.   Like almost every arcade in the park the era of the amusement park arcade has basically vanished, for years I never saw anyone playing it, and it’s time has come.  However, instead of boarding it up and leaving it a horrible looking eyesore the park made an interesting choice to re-use it, in this case as a FunPix Photo opportunity.  It surprisingly fits!  I have to wonder how long the decked out jungle safari theming will last (not because of the park but because of those IN the park…)  but it's a cute little photo opportunity that is well themed and probably will be more used then Big Game Hunt was at least in its last few years.  Some have discussed what the park will now, permanently put in place of Big Game Hunt and I am not sure.  It's really a tiny little space if you look at it on Google Maps.  Some have discussed moving Autobahn there, but really it's only about 25% of the space of Autobahn (if that).  It’s really shoehorned in there between Zulu and the Railroad tracks.  It will be interesting to see what it’s used for in the future. 

Looking from Zulu onwards across the bridge to G’rilla Grill, the area around the bridge has been meticulously landscaped and looks downright manicured.  The topiary Giraffe, Elephant and Rhino are obviously left from Winterfest, which is a-ok with me, it looks awesome.  I love the WOF letters too, which are also a holdover from Winterfest.  It wasn’t that long ago when this area was a tangled wild set of woods with a not so pleasant smelling creek.  Today, it's like it did a 180, and not only opens up the area but makes it absolutely beautiful.  It will look stunning once all the tropicals get put out.  I can’t wait to see it. 

Fried cheese from G'Rilla Grill. 

New menu for G'Rilla Grill.

Moving on to Prowler which was down on most of Friday preview night, though I heard it went back up right at the end of the night, I did not get a chance to ride it though.  From riding the train it appears portions of the track have been replaced which is good since it was starting to get rough.  

Prowler makes a good intro to my closing discussion.  People come to a park for rides, that is the primary reason, and we all know that.  So on a preview night and opening day to see every single ride (except Timber Wolf but Timber Wolf has an excused absence) was operating made me extremely happy.  Still, though people come for the rides, they come BACK because the park is beautiful and it was a pleasant experience.  Many parks have failed because they have simply been allowed to fall apart (Joyland in Wichita is a sad but good example).  It takes a park filled with people that see beyond a 9-5 job that really care and dare I say love the park to make a park successful.  I am not saying that because I think everything is coming up roses at Worlds of Fun Avenue, but I think the park is headed in the right direction, and that’s always a great way to start a season.  Here’s to a wonderful 46th season at Worlds of Fun, see you at the park!