Yesterday evening, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was kind enough to invite Great American Thrills™ out to the park for an exclusive preview of their latest entertainment offering – “Cirque Dreams – Splashtastic.”
This program is unlike anything we’ve experienced here at a Northern California park – it’s very glitzy and the production value is VERY high. If you were a fan of the “Marriott Era” of entertainment offerings at, say Great America, or the quality of shows that Disney parks offer – then this show will bring back good memories for you.
It also sets a very high precedent for entertainment offerings in the coming years at all the Bay Area amusement / theme parks. (I.E. You’re on notice!) Unlike many other shows at parks which are produced in-house, Cirque Dreams – Splashtastic is a partnership between Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Cirque Productions.
If you’ve ever been to a “cirque” style show before, you’ll see many of those elements in the program (we can’t really call this a show – it’s much more than that). The program features a showcase of talents, that as the park says, “…combines the grace, power and agility of our bottlenose dolphins and the amazing spectacle of of true performance artists…”
As you would expect, the entire program is themed with an aquatic flair to it. Costumes mimic sea life, actors are adorned with prosthetics to give them a more “fishy” quality and the entire amphitheater (formerly Dolphin Harbor Stadium) is adorned with colorful graphics strewn about the facility.
There are seven parts to the show in all, each with their own featured characters and skills on display. During pre-production of the show, nearly 300 acts auditioned to be one of those seven featured performances.
The pace is good and the program keeps moving for the most part with no real lag time. During the human performances, the dolphins show off their stuff as well, including a particularly entertaining dolphin hula hoop behavior that you’ll simply have to see for yourself.
The show was created, produced and directed by Neil Goldberg, an acclaimed Broadway director who also founded the Cirque Dreams troupe over 20 years ago. In other words, this guy knows what he’s doing.
“Our goal was to complement the personalities of the dolphins and performers through playfulness…and unparalleled showmanship,” said Goldberg. “It will be one of those unique, memorable entertainment attractions rarely experienced.”
I’ll be posting a full, exclusive interview with Goldberg later this week.
The only thing that I can find wrong with the show, is that it has a limited run – just from Memorial Day Weekend though August 11th. But in a way, that works – it makes it a limited engagement, so the performances are better and more special to those who witness them as spectators. It’s quality over quantity, and something that most parks would not think twice about.
I’ll be posting a full interview with the Creator and Director of Cirque Dreams Splashtastic, Neil Goldberg, later this week.
For now – get your plans in now and get out to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to experience this one of a kind piece of amusement park entertainment – it’s certainly worth the trip.
As always, Great American Thrills™ would like to thank those who made this post possible: Neil Goldberg, Nancy Chan, Lee Munro as well as the entire staff and crew of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Cirque Dreams – Splashtastic!
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I rent all my camera gear through my friends at: BorrowLenses
If you’ve gone around the site lately, you’ve noticed our new, spruced up banners.
Which one is your favorite? Be sure to comment below!
Special thanks to my employer, BorrowLenses for allowing us to take awesome camera equipment out on the weekends! All the photos you see below (except for the second to last one) were shot using BL equipment!
Ah yes, the summer heat will soon be upon us. But you won’t find me on many water rides…
Why, you ask? Well, because there’s water involved!
An old acquaintance of mine used to judge water rides based on a single factor: whether or not they had an “acceptable amount of water” that you would be taking with you (via your clothes) through the exit.
I laughed at him at first, but then realized that he was absolutely correct. Water rides with purpose-built soaking devices are just, well – not entertaining to me! (We’re talking waterfalls etc., here, by the way)
If you have to wear a poncho (which you’ll rarely see outside of Japan and Islands of Adventure), then it’s already defeated the purpose.
Going on a log ride is about the challenge, the risk of getting wet. Getting soaked with certainty is certainly no fun! Where’s the surprise? How will I drive home still smelling of chlorine and making that creepy “squish” sound?!?
So enjoy then, our next segment – this time on the double life I live when it comes to water rides. Not fun to ride, but oh so much fun to interact with…
1001 Fairgrounds Drive
Originally started as an oceanarium inRedwood Cityback in 1968, this hybrid park has not forgotten its roots as an educational outlet for the animal kingdom. Today, hundreds of species of birds, fish, tigers, sea lions, dolphins and orca live at the park, giving guests a stark contrast to its larger thrill rides.
Built next to the bay along Redwood Shores, Marine World was a small oceanarium whose mission was to educate as well as entertain. In the mid 1970’s, the park merged with the fledgling Africa USA fromLos Angeles. By doing so, it infused many more species of animals that guests could only dream about seeing on an African safari.
Rising land prices eventually forced the park to search for other locations and found one at it’s current site,Vallejo,CA. Today, the park has grown quite a bit since its inception. There are now eight roller coasters to its colorful collection. However, the park keeps a firm hold on its mission to provide a thrilling, memorable experience while taking away a greater appreciation of the animal world.
The Three Areas of Six Flags DiscoveryKingdom
The park has recently spent several million dollars upgrading the interior of the park, most notably in themeing each third of the park for easier navigation. For the casual visitor, this makes navigation much more simple.
Land – This area is where most of the animal species reside in the park, and is the oldest section of the park. Don’t miss: Odin’sTemple of the Tiger, Elephant Encounter, Giraffe Dock and the Butterfly Encounter.
A quick side note on the Butterfly Encounter: if you’re not a fan of flying insects or extremely squeamish, I suggest you just visit the gift shop. Butterflies (although perfectly harmless) grow quite large in here and can get very friendly with guests. Plus, they don’t like being swatted or smushed.
Sea – Home to most of the park’s aquatic species, attractions here include:
Sea Lion Stadium: Let Odin & Seasil bring smiles to everyone’s face with their wild and wacky antics.
StingRayBay: Pet a real Sting Ray.
Dolphin Encounter: See and feed Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins.
Walrus Experience: Them tusks are big!!!
Penguin Encounter: These adorable flightless birds show their true talent, “flying” through the water.
For the thrill seekers, three of the park’s coaster’s reside here:
V2– Vertical Velocity: A unique inverted shuttle coaster, it takes passengers from 0-70mph in just a few seconds through a barrel roll and then backwards up a vertical spike. The ride will perform three “circuits” before coming to a stop back in the station.
Roar: A throwback to the classic wooden twister coasters of the 1920’s, Roar is a powerful and intense wooden coaster that is not for the faint of heart.
Superman, Ultimate Escape (OPENING SUMMER 2012): Discovery Kingdom shocked the coaster world in late 2011 with the surprise announcement of this prototype attraction from Premier Rides, the innovator of the linear induction or LIM launch. While the park already has a LSM launching coaster in V2, Superman is a complete circuit coaster complete with a NON-inverting loop.
Sky – Aptly named area of the park; this is where you’ll find most of the larger thrill rides in the park, literally right up front.
Boomerang: Shuttle forward and backward through three mind bending loops. This coaster is very intense – all the inversions (loops) are one after the other, with only a small pause in-between.
Medusa: The park’s signature attraction; riders are whisked 150 feet up, only to flip through eight different inversions, all while riding above the track, with no floor below! Don’t look down, she could turn you to stone…
Kong: This inverted coaster packs a punch not many other coasters can. Five dizzying inversions will leave you speechless; it’s all done while hanging below the track!
Where to Eat -
Besides the usual theme park fare found in the food court (which is located just past the games areas) the park offers several unique food options to parks, including: Gordon Biersch Oasis Club, Panda Express, Johnny Rockets, Subway and a Cold Stone Creamery.
Six Flags recently began an “Online Meal Voucher” program, which claims to save you both time and money by purchasing your meals ahead of time, and redeeming your vouchers for food the day of your trip. Although innovative, I’ve found it really doesn’t save you much time. The only way it really saves you money is by preventing you from eating more food at other locations.
This is a good idea for those who love to have everything planned about their trip well ahead of time. (Even what you may feel like eating that day!) Be advised, if you feel like eating something else when you’re at the park – there are no refunds or exchanges on your meal vouchers.
It’s not very difficult to find the major coasters here, as they stick out predominantly on the park’s skyline. If the park looks or even feels crowded, the best course of action is to hit every major coaster as if you’re circuit training. Start at one end of the park, and work your way to the other. If time is a significant issue, consider investing in a “FlashPass.” For $15 per person, you can reserve your space in line, while you visit other attractions. When your predetermined time comes up, simply enter through the “FlashPass” entrance and your wait will be significantly reduced if there’s a wait at all.
Families with Children:
When you arrive, make sure to pick up a park map and show schedule. Try to convince the kids to save the rides until later on in the day and see every show you can. Your kids will thank you when they get to play tug of war with an elephant. (Spoiler alert: The elephants have never lost!) Another must-see show is the Shouka Spectacular. If you want to stay dry, stay away from the lower bowl of seats. The kids on the other hand, should experience what it’s like to be hit with several hundred gallons of cold salt water at least once in their lifetime. Try to keep the rides to a minimum until later in the day, when most of the shows are no longer scheduled. If you have time flexibility, be sure to check out Thomas Town and Looney Tunes Seaport. This can also be the same plan used to tackle the park if you’re bringing grandkids.
Other Tips -
When walking to or from the parking lot, be mindful it’s a long ½ mile walk. To get the juices flowing at the start of your day, you should make the walk to the park from the lot. But definitely wait for the tram when you head back out, no matter how long the line appears.
Once inside the park, jet on over to the all-day use locker pavilion past Guest Relations and behind the funnel cake restaurant. Make sure to bring along anything you might want for the rest of the day, to avoid the long trip back out to the car and back. This includes pants and a sweatshirt if the weather is expected to be cool later in the night. This way, you’ll have more time and energy to spend in the park, rather than walking back and forth that ½ mile to your car and back. These time-costly trips can easily take 30 minutes away from your day inside the park.
Final Tips -
If at all possible, avoid visiting this park on weekends during the summer as well as during any Cheerleader Competition or live concert by Lake Chabot. The park can be quickly overwhelmed with people and crowding can become an issue in smaller pathway areas.
If you’re a fan of being scared or really love Halloween, be sure to experience Fright Fest. Zombies take over the midway, haunted mazes pop up inside the park. You might even catch an authentic “freak show.” This spooktacular event begins around 4p.m. each October operating day and is not recommended for those under 14 years old. You have been warned!
Also, make sure to try and visit during the winter “Holiday in the Park” event, as this is one of only two parks open for significant periods of time in the winter here in Northern California.