When Kentucky Kingdom opens Saturday after a five-year hiatus and a $50 million renovation, your family can expect a greater number of rides appropriate for children under 48 inches tall, expanded water features for the pint-sized guests in Hurricane Bay and more shaded areas and air conditioning than when the amusement park last operated in 2009.
Just getting into the Louisville park will be easier. For those of us who have struggled maneuvering a single or double stroller through those old clumsy metal turnstiles, there’s good news: Kentucky Kingdom, which calls itself a family-friendly theme park, has removed the turnstiles.
And if you choose not to bring your own stroller, the park has them for rent in the Wheels 4 You area ($10 for a single, $12 for a double). Check the park’s website for information on wheelchair rental.
Once you and the kiddos are inside the park, you’ll want to head to King Louie’s Playland. This is an area with rides, activities and performances geared specifically for young children. Rides are appropriate for children 48 inches or less in height.
Many of the park’s original features for the pint-sized have been restored, like the Samba Balloon Ride and the Musical Carousel, where each seat is in the shape of a different instrument. Other returning favorites include the Sun and Moon Ferris Wheel and the tiny yet thrilling (if you are 4) Zeppelin ride.
Added to those eight existing rides are four new ones including gentle, scaleddown versions of the swing ride and spinning teacups.
Ride along with me, please
Not every child is comfortable riding by himself or tall enough for that to be safe. The majority of rides in King Louie’s Playland are designed to accommodate a companion rider. On these rides, a parent (or other companion over age 14) and a young child may ride together.
“We felt like it was important to have rides where mom and dad can ride with their child and share that experience together,” said John Mulcahy, spokesman for Kentucky Kingdom.
Kentucky Kingdom now offers 12 rides in all for those under 48 inches. Plus, King Louie’s Playland offers activities and performances throughout the day like a prince and princess coronation and dance parties.
Water fun in Hurricane Bay
Hurricane Bay has been expanded, and there are specific areas you’ll want to visit with your younger children.
Buccaneer Beach is designed with toddlers in mind and features more than 10,000 square feet of shallow water with interactive water-play elements, including tiny water slides.
The Splash Zone will be best suited for kids a bit older who won’t mind a giant bucket of water being dumped periodically from overhead. Here, there are four levels of interactive water activities, including slides and bridges.
Families looking for thrills a little less intimidating than the 6-foot waves of Big Surf will be happy to know that a new attraction called The Family Wave Lagoon offers smaller, gentler 3-foot waves.
Be sure to check out the Kentucky Kingdom website before you head to the park, www.kentuckykingdom.com. You’ll find several water rides that you might assume are off limits for children under 48 inches, but they can ride if you’re willing to jump on board with them.
For example, if your child is 42 inches or taller and you are willing to be a supervising companion, he or she can ride Plummet Summit and Calypso Run — two new attractions. Deluge, a hydromagnetic rocketslide water coaster, is also new and allows riders at least 42 inches tall.
The Family Wave Lagoon, Adventure River and Lazy River allow kids under 48 inches as long as they ride within arm’s length of a supervising companion.
How can I remember all that?
Lots of new signs will guide you through the expanded park and provide ride information on height and weight restrictions.
It’s always a good idea to check those things out before you head to the park and make a plan based on what you and your family are able to ride.
To help make your day run smoothly, Kentucky Kingdom will have information ambassadors stationed throughout the park to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
Not so hot
On a sweltering day, shade becomes a big deal, especially at an asphalt-covered amusement park. Kentucky Kingdom has added more trees, shade umbrellas and air-conditioned indoor facilities.
There are now three indoor, sit-down restaurants and a 5-D movie theater. All four areas are air-conditioned. The movie “Rio” is the feature in the 5-D theater and includes 3-D glasses, moving seats and the sensation of wind being blown on your face.
Counting the cost
Season pass holders (currently $99.95 online or $69.95 at Kroger stores until June 2) receive 32-ounce soft drinks for $1 and a 20 percent discount on food and merchandise. They also get free admission to the park and free rides in the park during the Kentucky State Fair.
If you aren’t going to buy a season pass, you should still go online to purchase your tickets.
Adult tickets online cost $39.99, which is $10 less than at the gate. Children under 48 inches, military personnel and seniors 55 or older cost $34.95 online and at the gate.
The Kentucky Exposition Center controls the parking lot and charges $8.
You can’t bring your own food or beverages into Kentucky Kingdom or Hurricane Bay. However, guests with special dietary needs can notify the park’s security officer at the front gate to get food items approved.
Kentucky Kingdom hours
The summer season is from May 24 to Aug. 13.
Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hurricane Bay hours
Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.