By Brady MacDonald
Los Angeles Times staff writer
6:18 PM EDT, August 22, 2011
The new 301-foot-tall WindSeeker tower swing ride at Knott's Berry Farm combines the exhilaration and tranquility a bird must feel soaring amid the clouds.
The ever-changing view from the lazily spinning ride provides the perspective of a circling hawk hovering on a thermal updraft.
Down below, the bustling freeway traffic and suburban sprawl stretch endlessly to the ocean and mountains and beyond to the horizon as the wind whips your hair.
> Photos: WindSeeker at Knott's Berry Farm
The oft-delayed ride "soft opened" last week and is expected to make its official debut in the coming days.
The $5-million prototype WindSeeker attraction at Knott's offers a towering new twist on a classic carnival ride: the wave swinger, a staple on any midway and at every theme park.
The main difference is height. As opposed to the 30-foot elevation of your average wave swinger, WindSeeker takes riders up 30 stories to a place usually reserved for high-rise office workers, hovering helicopters and thrill-seeking coaster riders.
Indeed, WindSeeker riders look down on the Xcelerator (205 feet), Silver Bullet (146 feet) and GhostRider (105 feet) roller coasters. Only the 312-foot-tall Supreme Scream drop tower stands taller than WindSeeker.
With a 52-inch height requirement, WindSeeker is perfect for the tween set in search of thrills. My 11-year-old daughter, Hannah, loved WindSeeker because it combined the spinning swings of a wave swinger (one of her all-time favorite rides) with the enticing height of Supreme Scream (minus the death-defying drops, which terrified her).
I recommend riding WindSeeker after dark when a lighting package illuminates the ride’s support arms with a pulsating tie-dyed array of swirling colors as the nightscape twinkles below. Earthbound visitors can enjoy the impressive nighttime spectacular from anywhere in the park.
I loved WindSeeker and will ride it every time I visit Knott's. But I would be remiss if I didn’t explain the problems the Buena Park theme park faced in getting its new summer ride open before summer came to a close.
Cedar Fair, Knott's parent company, installed identical WindSeeker rides in 2011 at Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio and Canada's Wonderland outside Toronto.
Knott's got off to a slow start when the original plan to replace the 225-foot-tall Sky Cabin with WindSeeker was scrapped in favor of preserving the venerable but aging gyro observation tower and relocating WindSeeker to the Fiesta Village area of the park. The last-minute change put a serious crimp in plans to open WindSeeker by Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of summer.
As is common with any prototype ride, technical issues arose as WindSeeker opened during the summer at the other Cedar Fair parks. Solutions had to be incorporated into Knott’s version of the ride, causing further delays.
I rode WindSeeker at Cedar Point during our road trip this summer across America's Coaster Belt and at Knott’s this past weekend. I wouldn’t get on any ride if I thought it was unsafe. And while WindSeeker has been both frustrating and embarrassing for Knott's, I know the park's primary concern is always safety.
In the end, I'd say WindSeeker was well worth the wait.
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