At the start of the summer season, Kings Island debuted Mystic Timbers, a 109-foot-tall wooden coaster whose construction allowed the park to reclaim the title of having the world’s largest collection of wooden tracks — almost 19,000 feet. The new addition solidified the park’s holy trinity of wooden thrill rides, which include The Beast and The Racer. (There is a fourth wood coaster, the “kid-friendly” Woodstock Express.) I headed to Kings Island, a true staple among Midwesterners, in advance of Wednesday’s National Roller Coaster Day to sample the trifecta.
To celebrate the holiday, Kings Island is offering card-carrying American Coaster Enthusiasts 30 minutes of exclusive ride time on The Beast and Mystic Timbers after the park closes.
Mystic Timbers’ greatest draw (as it was advertised) is its abandoned lumber yard theme and what lurks in the mysterious shed at the end, where no two encounters are alike — the animations and soundtrack rotate. Observing the videos set up throughout the sprawling waiting line, I thought something in the realm of Blair Witch Project seemed likely.
I took a seat in the middle of the coaster’s train, designed like a baby-blue 1960s Chevy pickup truck. As it crept up the first hill, a crackling, frantic voice warned: “Don’t go in the shed.” Strapped into my seat, the ominous foretelling came too late.
Like its predecessor The Beast, the coaster snakes through thick foliage in a blur, but has fewer trim brakes — a feature that makes for a smoother ride (I prefer wooden coasters to be on the rough side). The views screamed and shook past me through 16 tumultuous hills before screeching to a halt and inching into the shed where the voice returned. I heard, “What’s happening?” Lights flickered overhead. “I see a radio. I see blades.” The voice was omniscient — a narrator who couldn’t spare us from the horror we were about to witness.
Gary Numan’s synth-heavy “Cars” abruptly began playing as the train stopped momentarily. Projector screens made the walls awash in unsettling green, swirling light. The ambiance gave off campy ’80s horror flick vibes, which were cool to take in. However, the shed visit has a pacing problem; the train lingers just a bit too long without there being enough to see. Afterward, Mystic Timbers waddled to an end. Essentially, it lacked a denouement.
The Racer is simple and classic with two tracks and trains meant to “race” one another. I slid into the blue car — victory was already ours as the red racer was closed. Like a true thrill-seeker, I opted for the front seat and fixated on the track splayed out before me.
The legendary ride first went upward. For a moment, our train teetered on the tip of the manufactured hill before plummeting downward. Though the 82-foot drop isn’t as steep as other coasters, the thrill remained. But it’s more of a starter course than an entrée, however.
Though I’ve visited Kings Island throughout my youth, and The Beast is arguably one of its most iconic rides, this was the first ride experience I can remember on this particular coaster. The famed Beast first takes an 180-degree turn before veering left and climbing 110 feet into the air before descending 135 feet into a dank underground tunnel. True to its name, it felt as if towering creatures were playing catch with my body. As the ride made multiple sharp turns, I began to feel a sense of weightlessness — as if I, a real-live woman, were nothing but a mere Raggedy Ann doll. And there was more to come.
Once we finally pulled back into the station, I fumbled out of my seat and picked the shards of my psyche off the dusty floor. Out of all the coasters, it left me the most rattled and with the most amount of adrenaline. Despite its age, The Beast is still a rollicking time and doesn’t need the gimmicks employed in Mystic Timbers.
KINGS ISLAND is located at 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason. More info: visitkingsisland.com.