When the 2011 Golden Ticket Awards came out and Phoenix at Knoebels was ranked #2 wooden coaster – one better than my favorite, El Toro – I was nonplussed. My initial reaction, to quote John McEnroe, is “You cannot be serious!” Clearly this coaster had something special going for it, and on the last day of the park’s regular season I decided to find out what although I had already had a pretty good idea. At less than half the height of El Toro, it wasn’t going to be a blockbuster so it was most likely going to be an airtime machine. More about that later.
The beginning of the ride was among the best that I have ever experienced. Shortly after leaving the station, the train enters a tunnel which is pitch black. I’d gone through tunnels on The Voyage, but being in total darkness on Phoenix in an airtime-filled tunnel was a novel experience. From the tunnel the train goes up the lift hill toward the first drop and then it only gets better. There are no dramatic drops on this coaster (plenty of ups and downs, however) but what there is is airtime, airtime, airtime! Glorious airtime. Throughout the ride I felt myself being lifted out of my seat and at one point I was halfway standing up. That is what makes this a great ride. And it’s probably a good thing that it isn’t particularly tall or steep, because with that amount of airtime, no seat belts and a single position lap bar, it would otherwise be difficult to remain in the seat. Someone once described Phoenix as "the world's only standup wooden coaster" and that's a pretty apt description. As much as I enjoy riding coasters with hands in the air, this is one on which riders would be well advised to hold on.
I wouldn’t rate Phoenix as better than El Toro by any means but it probably does deserve to be in the top ten. And the price is right. Whereas most parks charge hefty prices for admission, there is no charge for getting into Knoebels and you pay by the ride. It cost me $2.25 - I believe it's since gone up to $2.50 - to ride Phoenix and that is a real bargain! I wasn’t expecting much from this coaster, but it exceeded my expectations. 5 out of 5 stars. Photograph courtesy o fwww.coasterimage.com/ For more information about rides at Knoebels, use the following link to their website: http://www.knoebels.com/