It’s that time of year again – time for park fans to begin serious speculation about what may (or may not) be coming to their favorite parks in 2020.
There seems to be two trains of thought on how to best make these announcements: by individual park or as a complete chain.
At Cedar Fair it appears the chain spreads out their announcements, usually over a two week period, so that each park receives their “day in the sun” with media coverage in their local markets.
Meanwhile at Six Flags, the chain has made it a tradition to announce every park’s newest addition in a single video, with each park sending out a release to their local media. The idea is that the single announcement carries more weight on a national level, which should translate into more traction with the national media.
But this “one day fits all” strategy does have a potential flaw: what if a park hasn’t opened their new ride from 2019? Wouldn’t that potentially kill the buzz for both?
Sadly, for the good folks at Six Flags Magic Mountain, they don’t have to imagine this scenario – they’re living it.
Since their “new for 2019” attraction, West Coast Racers, isn’t even finished being built, it’s highly likely the park will be forced to announce another new ride, without even finishing the last one they announced.
Personally, I’m a fan of the spread out approach. The collective anticipation continues to build throughout the week or two you keep dropping announcements. Plus, there’s a smaller probability that your least-visited parks or smaller investments won’t be lost in the giant, one day announcement.
And if a situation like Magic Mountain’s sets up, there’s flexibility built into it to delay an announcement.
No matter the way you announce it, 2020 is setting up to be a record year for new capital investment. Let the speculation and intrigue begin!
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What do you think? Are you a fan of a “one day” or “spread out” announcement style for new rides and attractions? Let me know in the comment section below – and be sure to check us out on social media as well!
In light of the closure of Fear:VR at Canada’s Wonderland, Great America and Knott’s – after a protest from the President of the Orange County chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Health – a person who admitted he never actually experienced the attraction for himself – Great American Thrills is proud to present to you five more offensive rides that should be shut down, torn down and never spoken of again.
(If you haven’t already gathered, this is all sarcasm – please be offended if you did not get the joke already).
1.) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Walt Disney World
Offends: Little People
As our good friend Eric the Actor from the Howard Stern Show always used to say, the correct term is “Little People.” Who thought to name a ride after seven height-challenged people, and then make then sing as if they were merry? Oh – it was a famous KIDS movie? So we’ve inoculated our children that it’s okay to say this, too?!?
2.) The Demon, Great America
Offends: Church-going folk
Sadly, this is the only one on our list that played out in real life. Turns out back in the 1980’s, people were not down with the idea of theming a coaster after a devil-like apparition that was eating guests randomly. Thankfully, people got over themselves and not only is the ride still around – but it tweets, too!
3.) All water rides
Seriously – how can you in good conscious place all that water around a log and let people float in it? What a disgusting insult to people who fear water…
4.) Gold Striker & Gold Rusher, Great America & Six Flags Magic Mountain
Offends: Mine Workers
How can either of these roller coasters accurately portray the savage life endured by miners, all in the search for rare minerals…they should be ashamed of themselves.
5.) Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point
Offends: Decent people
Have you seen that thing? It looks like a giant wanker. A hot dog. A gentleman’s “special region.” We can’t have our kids grow up in a world like this…
You see how slippery this slope is? If you don’t like something about a park – just do what everyone else does – don’t support it. Don’t impose your beliefs on them, it only makes you part of the problem…
Never has a wooden roller coaster closure announcement been more gleefully celebrated by the ride enthusiast community…
On Monday, Cedar Point announced that they would be “giving the axe” to their once record-breaking wooden roller coaster, Mean Streak. There was no blowback; no online petitions; no hashtag activists. Quite simply, people were ready to let Mean Streak go. But why? Aren’t we supposed to celebrate and try to preserve the wooden coaster in America? After all, we invented them back in 1884 at Coney Island.
Mean Streak was part of a trio of massive wooden roller coasters built in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. They were designed and built by Charles Dinn of Ohio and each (Hercules at Dorney Park, The Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas and Mean Streak at Cedar Point) were record breakers.
They were also neck breakers. While the rides were massively popular their first year, the parks they sat in simply could not allocate enough man-hours or maintenance time to keep them running as smooth as when they opened. They quickly fell out of favor with not only ride enthusiasts, but also the general public due to their rough rides.
Of the 11 wooden coasters that Dinn designed and built – four have been demolished, one has been renovated into a steel coaster and now we await the eventual fate of Mean Streak.
The other massive woodies of the era (not built by Dinn) did not fare well, either. The Rattler at Fiesta Texas was renovated into a steel coaster in 2013 while Son of Beast at Kings Island was eventually torn down.
The closure of Mean Streak is a bookend to a unique era in the amusement industry, where we discovered there is an upper limit to what wooden coasters can do, bigger was not always better and sacrificing ride quality for records does not make for a good, long-term investment. Let us hope that we never see an era like it again.
Today’s post is of the Corkscrew – the world’s first modern looping roller coaster:
Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ
See you there on Saturday!
Today’s Throwback Thursday comes from this past summer, when I had the privilege to cross the country with my good friends Robert Ingle and Nicholas Laschkewitsch to help tell the story of Arrow Development.
The documentary is coming out later this year – so for now, enjoy this great scene of Magnum XL-200 (world’s first hypercoaster) from Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. The fire ants and muffleheads were INSANE!
As for my hair – I’m pretty sure I was wearing a hat that day…
There’s been quite a bit of chatter over those few weeks in regards to rides and attractions that could be coming down the pipeline, so I figured I’d take the time to address one in particular – Vortex at California’s Great America being next in line for a floorless conversion.
Let’s start with how this rumor even came about. Longtime Cedar Point Public Relations Manager, Janice Witherow apparently told the paper (and was printed as saying so) that, “…Cedar Fair plans to do the same with other aging coasters in its portfolio, including one next year at its park near San Francisco.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen another park spoil the announcement of a new ride…for another park. Let alone one in your own chain. That being said…
Why this would be a good idea:
1.) Standup coasters were a fad. They require two different locking systems which slows down capacity – and they aren’t the most comfortable riding position. Basically, it was throwing the adage of, “…don’t stand up on a coaster” to the wind. But that was about it. The last new standup to be built: 1999’s “Georgia Scorcher.”
2.) Also, the conversion could theoretically smooth out the ride, the second B&M ever built. It’s a marketable product with a minimal investment. Seems like a safe, economical idea. Even if the conversion isn’t that popular, it’s only about the same amount as the revamp of Planet Snoopy – as opposed to a new, $22 million hypercoaster from B&M.
Why this would be a bad idea:
1.) This is the park’s 40th anniversary. It’s been through some rough times in the past decade, but most will argue the park has emerged from the doldrums and is making strides to become a destination park. This addition (if true) just screams, “meh” to me.
But, upon further research, recent “anniversary” celebrations haven’t been very stellar or marketable at this park for awhile:
2001 – 25th Anniversary: Removal of the beloved Scenic Railway for cancelled S&S Hypersonic coaster. Addition of Psycho Mouse and used Wave Swinger from Carowinds.
2006 – 30th Anniversary: Survivor: The Ride re-named Tiki Twirl.
2011 – 35th Anniversary: Invertigo removed; three new shows; Halloween Haunt expansion.
You have to go all the way back to 1996 and the 20th anniversary season to see a record breaking or marketable new attraction in an anniversary year: Drop Zone Stunt Tower.
2.) The park’s direct competition (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom) already has a taller, faster, longer and smoother version of this ride. (Medusa). I can speak from personal and direct experience – Rougarou didn’t make Mantis much better, if better at all. It’s still rough in spots, although the capacity is slightly higher now due to faster loading. Not that we waited longer than 10 minutes to ride (Millennium Force and Maverick had hour long waits while we were there, for comparison).
Let’s just hope that if the conversion takes place, it’ll include a covered loading station…like they should have done back in 1991 when it first opened…
Now, this is ALL conjecture – no official announcement has been made – but if the park does decide to convert Vortex to floorless, they’re going to have one HELL of a time in a market that is already ultra-competitive for entertainment dollars. Plus, we haven’t even addressed that RMC rumor up in Vallejo…
It’s good to know people. But it’s even better to know there’s all sorts of things inside our favorite amusement and theme parks that can make your day that much more special, IF you know them! Here now is my top six most celebrated amusement and theme park “insider” experiences as parks open up for full time operation this week:
6.) Dole Whip:
Once only reserved for visitors to Disney’s Tiki Rooms, this Polynesian frozen treat is slowly making its way out from the mouse and into regional parks, to the delight of pineapple fans everywhere. If you haven’t experienced one yet – hunt it down or request it be brought to your park.
5.) The Rollback:
We ain’t talking about WalMart here…an exclusive experience to Intamin cable-launched coasters, this delightful event occurs when the launch isn’t quite strong enough to get you over the first hill, resulting in screams of euphoria from enthusiasts – and shrieks of horror from the general public.
In reality, it’s all perfectly safe and for the lucky riders, it’s like getting 1.5 rides for the wait of just one!
4.) The Round-Trip Skyway Ride:
Because nothing’s better than watching all those people in line scratch their head over why you’re not getting out of your sky bucket. But, with so many of these rides being removed in recent years, plus the increase in overall park attendance (which means longer lines for rides) this experience has become far more difficult to cross off your list.
3.) The Track Walk / Evacuation:
A very rare event that you don’t necessarily want to root for experiencing for yourself. Why? Because it most certainly means the ride will be down for at LEAST the rest of the operating day.
But the experiencing of walking a coaster lift is most certainly a memorable one.
2.) The Last Ride of the Night:
There is something oddly cathartic about knowing you’re the last person to experience all that fun. Well, at least until the mechanics come in tomorrow morning to start checking on things. this fun. But, until then…
And the number one most celebrated amusement park insider experience?
1.) Exclusive Ride Time (ERT):
The only thing better than the last ride of the night, is having the ride all to yourself or the group you’re at the park with!
Just think about it – no line and fast operations. It doesn’t get any better than that. Heck, it’s one of the biggest reasons I joined ACE!
Did I miss an experience? Do you have one to add to the list? Tell me about it on my social media channels or leave a comment below!
GOING HEAD OVER HEELS FOR SOUTH BAY HISTORY
Former ride manufacturer to be featured in new documentary from local filmmakers
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Great American Thrills® and Totally Twisted Media are proud to announce a historic partnership with American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Worldwide, Inc. to produce a documentary on the former Bay Area amusement park ride manufacturer, Arrow Development. The film is expected to premiere at the IAAPA industry trade show in Florida this November.
Several of the most prominent and respected names in the amusement industry have already signed on to participate in the documentary. These include: Cedar Point, Irvine Ondrey Engineering, Silverwood Theme Park, S&S Sansei and Six Flags Magic Mountain, among others.
The documentary is being produced by the all-volunteer team behind the award-winning “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, with filming beginning shortly. Nicholas Laschkewitsch and Kris Rowberry are leading the project:
“Everyone knows Silicon Valley is famous for technological innovations,” said Rowberry. “But very few people are aware that the valley that gave us Google and iPhones also spawned the world’s first log ride and tubular steel roller coaster, along with countless other ride innovations.”
Joining Rowberry as Executive Producer on the project is Nicholas Laschkewitsch, Video Promotions Coordinator for American Coaster Enthusiasts.
“Arrow Development and its mechanical marvels have always mesmerized me and held a special place in my heart,” said Laschkewitsch. “The sheer opportunity to be able to tell the story of Arrow to the masses is a dream come true.”
Fans can keep up with the latest happenings on the project by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook and Twitter or by using the #RideWithACE hashtag. To join ACE, visit: www.ACEonline.org
Many people have expressed interest in either helping out or participating in some way with our newly announced documentary on Arrow Development. So, here’s three quick ways you can be a part of history:
1.) Join ACE:
As a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are all about the preservation and enjoyment of amusement parks and roller coasters. By joining, you’ll help preserve our incredible amusement heritage, while becoming part of one of the largest and most respected roller coaster organizations in the world. Learn more at: www.aceonline.org
2.) Contribute photos or videos of Arrow rides, both past and present:
Do you have some “vintage footage” of older Arrow rides? Maybe a photo of you and your family next to a defunct Arrow coaster? Feel free to send them to: email@example.com and we’ll do our best to get them in the documentary – with proper attribution, of course.
3.) Join us for a shoot!
Parks are run by humans – which means that sometimes (although rarely) they will make mistakes. It’s human nature, after all. Sometimes, taking a risk on a prototype pays off. (Look at how well Magnum XL-200 did!) However, in these cases, things didn’t quite work out as well as the parks had hoped.
That being said, let’s take a look back at five of some of the biggest “not-so-stellar” moves made by amusement and theme parks. Got one you think should be added to the list/ Tell us on social media, or leave a comment below!
When park fans first saw this mammoth attraction, complete with it’s programmable ride sequence, many of us shouted, “…shut up and take my money!” Unfortunately, stress cracks that were discovered in the models and a snapped pillar in Ohio led the attraction to completely disappear to almost as little fanfare as it debuted to.
4.) Silver Bullet, Knott’s Berry Farm
Talk about a more appropriate name – many park fans will argue that the addition of this custom B&M inverted coaster nearly killed the charm from “America’s 1st Theme Park.” Plopped right in the middle of the park, the ride straddles several themed areas, and necessitated the moving of a church on the property as well as the original Berry Stand and vines that made Knott’s famous.
Built in an apparent attempt to compete with Six Flags Magic Mountain, Silver Bullet was the second to last major attraction built / purchased under the Kinzel-era of Cedar Fair’s management. Since then, the company has shifted, to re-investing in the parks’ classic attractions, bringing back the nostalgia and charm that made Knott’s the friendlier and less-crowded alternative to nearby Disneyland.
3.) Stealth – Paramount’s Great America
Announced in 1999 to much fanfare, this expensive, $17 million prototype attraction gave riders the sensation of flying…if they were willing to wait up to three hours on a GOOD day.
However, the ride was removed after only three years of operation, due to high maintenance needs, large amounts of downtime and that very low throughput / capacity. The second station was never built to completion, which allowed riders to bake in the sun for up to ten minutes while another train was dispatched. Quite simply, the ride never lived up to nor operated at it’s original potential.
Originally committed to several models of the ride for their parks, Paramount Parks allegedly pulled the contract on Vekoma after the disappointing results from Stealth. The area the ride sat on became the “Boomerang Bay Waterpark” but sharp eyes can still spot footers for Stealth in the Yankee Harbor area of the park.
2.) The Bat – Kings Island
Even the masters have their mistakes. For years, Anton Schwarzkopf had been designing a swinging, suspended coaster. Unfortunately, Anton’s skills with fabrication and design didn’t translate to running a business, and the company went bankrupt before “The Bat” could be finished. In stepped Arrow Development, who finished the ride.
However, high bank forces contributed to very high track maintenance, which eventually shut the ride down. It was replaced by another Arrow creation, the multi-loop “Vortex.”
Arrow would go on to build several suspended coasters of their own, one of which made a return to Kings Island, named “Top Gun.” Ironically, the park renamed and rebranded it to “the Bat” in 2014.
1.) Son of Beast – Paramount’s Kings Island
The looping wooden coaster. Once the holy grail of coaster-dom; now, it’s the “next big thing” when it comes to parks. But back in 2000, it was still a “work in progress.” True, the ride worked fine, but the heavy trains custom designed to transition between the steel loop and wooden track tore up the 7,000+ feet of track on the ride, to the point it became unbearable to ride.
Removing the loop and adding lighter, Gerstlauer trains didn’t help, either. The coaster was shuttered for several years and then eventually torn down in favor of a custom, record breaking B&M inverted coaster, “Banshee.”
What do you think? Are there other “not-so-great” moves that are worth noting? Tell us what you think on our social media feeds or leave a comment with video clip below!
(*All videos featured in this article are copyright of their respective owners. No ownership is implied*)
You hear the phrases “amusement park” and “theme park” thrown around all the time. But what exactly makes a park one or the other? It seems like the two terms are interchangeable at times – but in reality, they’re two completely different experiences.
This week, Six Flags Magic Mountain was named by USA Today as “America’s #1 Theme Park” – but is it really themed like a Disney park is? (And it should be noted, that the “contest” was a user poll) Heck, there’s even parks that called themselves “Themed Amusement Parks” – we’re looking at you, California’s Great America.
So then, let’s define exactly what makes an amusement park and theme park – and start using the phrases correctly, shall we?
FAIR / CARNIVAL – Any non-permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions that typically travels in a geographic area.
Examples: County Fair, State Fair, Circus
AMUSEMENT PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides, with or without a gated entry. Single rides may be themed to specific topics, areas or storylines, but a cohesive theme(s) is/are not seen in the park as a whole. Rides tend to be judged based on statistics and “thrill factor” over immersiveness of the experience.
Examples: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point
THEME PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions themed after specific topics, areas or storylines. At no time is the illusion of theme dropped while inside the park gates (I.E. everything must have a cohesive theme, not just one ride). Rides are about immersing guests in an experience, not necessarily as thrilling from a statistics standpoint.
Examples: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Busch Gardens, Universal Islands of Adventure
What are your thoughts on my definitions? I’d love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below or write to me on social media – let’s keep the conversation going!
I travel fairly often to visit amusement and theme parks – that’s no secret. But I’m also a big fan of getting the most bang for my buck, especially in this economy. Case in point:
Cedar Fair, L.P. currently offers three different levels, or tiers of season passes:
Your standard SEASON pass, which gets you admission into a single park.
And finally, the PLATINUM Pass, which gets you admission and free parking to ALL the Cedar Fair owned parks.
Most of us in California, however – never get a chance to leave the Golden State, which makes upgrading to a PLATINUM pass very cost prohibitive, considering the next closest Cedar Fair park besides Knott’s – is World’s of Fun…in Missouri.
That being said, I believe there’s room for Cedar Fair to debut a fourth tier of passes – the CALIFORNIA Pass.
It could be positioned between the GOLD and PLATINUM passes, in terms of perks and pricing. In addition to all the benefits of a GOLD pass, it would also get you admission and parking at Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City Water Park.
Now for most people, this doesn’t seem like much to add for it’s own tier – but since the West Coast parks are so far separated from the rest of the chain in terms of distance and topography, most California park fans are content to stay IN the state and will never be able to get the full benefits out of a PLATINUM pass, unlike their counterparts in the Midwest and on the East Coast, where parks are only a drive’s day (or less) away.
As a result, they may not upgrade to the higher cost tier, and forgo even visiting the other parks in California, where they could be spending money. Of course, on the flip side, if a CALIFORNIA pass was added, I know that I’d be much more willing to upgrade to it and happily drive more often to SoCal to get my Xcelerator and Monte fixes MUCH more often.
What do you think – would YOU purchase a CALIFORNIA pass if it was offered? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or reach out to us on our SOCIAL MEDIA pages, too!
It’s both an honor and humbling to see your work in print – but to see it in the prestigious TIME Magazine – well, that’s just awesome!
Not only was I quoted several times in the piece, but two of my photos (El Toro and Bizzaro) were featured as the top two images! (I’m a little excited if you can tell)
You can read the full article here: http://techland.time.com/2013/09/19/the-top-10-roller-coasters-in-the-u-s/
Looks like there’s a new roller coaster expert in town – and this one can photograph AND write well, too! Another great milestone on my journey…
Got a case of trixadexaphobia? (Fear of the number 13?)
Better take a pass on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, found at several Disney parks. Just a perfect theme for a free fall ride.
Fun fact: For many years during it’s development, the ride was going to utilize the original Intamin “first generation” free fall technology:
I hear the wait time is low today, too…
…only 13 minutes according to MouseWait!
An unprecedented two major news-making events took place at two separate amusement parks in the U.S. within minutes of each other on Friday, bringing up the inevitable media hype over ride safety.
At Six Flags Over Texas and Cedar Point, two major incidents occurred that have splashed across the media.
In the wake of yesterday’s tragic event and subsequent investigation at Six Flags Over Texas, Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas has been closed as a precautionary measure, according to a park representative. The ride features the same style of “Iron Horse” track as the Texas Giant and same train manufacturer, Gerstlauer of Germany.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in today’s tragic events.
When reporting news, there’s always the possibility of reporting inaccurate information. When the story is breaking, that risk is even bigger. These stories are no different.
One of the more glaring items that stands out to me is from the The Dallas Morning News. They reported that eyewitness, Carmen Brown, who was in the loading station of the Texas Giant, “…said the woman had expressed concern to a park employee that she was not secured correctly in her seat.”
“He (the ride attendant) was basically nonchalant,” Brown said. “He was, like, ‘As long as you heard it click, you’re fine.’ Hers was the only one that went down once, and she didn’t feel safe. But they let her still get on the ride.”
Here’s the problem – the Texas Giant doesn’t use “clicking” restraints. In fact, according to Gerstlauer, the manufacturer of the trains for the Texas Giant, “The cars feature four self-restraining seats with T-shaped lapbars.” It continues, “The use of redundant hydraulic cylinders ensures that each lap bar can be infinitely adjusted and offers maximum security.” in other words, these restraints come down in silence.
As I was just out at Six Flags Over Texas about five weeks ago, I can attest to this fact. The Texas Giant also features an electronic indicator light on each train, (one for each restraint) which alerts operators if a restraint is too high for safety. The light turns from red to green.
It should not be lost on anyone, but you should know – your odds are far greater of being injured DRIVING to your local amusement park then they are INSIDE your local amusement park. In addition, if you do not feel confident in a ride – you always, ALWAYS have the choice of simply asking to be let out.
Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”
Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)
When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.
There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.
So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…
…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”
Now, the thrill of the chase is on!
In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…
The on-ride photo – a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…
The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.
Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.
Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…
So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:
Why not get the whole family involved?
Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?
Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!
The eyes tell the story!
Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!
I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)
Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?
No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!
Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?
(I certainly don’t think so!)
Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!
“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”
“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”
And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!
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.
It’s here! It’s here! After all your pre-planning, hype and waiting – the big day has finally arrived! You’ve walking up to the entrance right now and you’re ready for a day of fun and excitement. But, like all good theme park fans, you’ve also got a plan to execute. It starts with when you’re going to refuel your body…
“When should we eat?”
The traditional eating times (11am – 2pm, 5pm – 7pm) are some of the best to ride the park’s bigger and more popular attractions. If you can offset your meals by a few hours you’ll find yourself going on more attractions and having much more fun.
Water rides traditionally get large lines during the hottest part of the day. If you don’t mind it being a little cooler, you can hop on these attractions just as the park opens. Night time or the half-hour before closing is also a perfect opportunity to tackle the water rides…but just be mindful that you might be driving home a bit moist!
“What should we ride when?”
This can vary with each park, and when you visit. Check out each individual park’s section for a more detailed plan on tackling the, “big ticket attractions” of each park. General rule of thumb is that the newest, latest and greatest ride is best to ride at the start or very end of the day.
Should I purchase a season pass or just purchase my tickets at the gate?
A season pass is a good idea only if you’re going to visit the park multiple times a year (or are planning a trip to several parks in a national chain).
One of the best ways to save time and money at amusement parks is to check their website. Most now offer the option to purchase discounted tickets online, which will almost always save you money versus paying for tickets at the main gate. Be sure to also check if any promotions are being run, such as bring a soda can in for discounts.
Well, there you have it. The complete pre-planning guide to all theme parks, regardless of location. If you follow these steps and suggestions, you will not only save yourself money, but also get more for your money.
With all that generic planning complete, let’s now take a weekly look at the California parks, starting in the North and working our way down South…
Be sure to check Great American Thrills each week for these updates. You can even send us your ideas or thoughts too via WordPress!
With this being the first weekend that most seasonal parks either begin advertising or actually open, it’s time to get beyond just the planning of how you’re going to pay for admission – it’s time to actually plan your trip.
These “General Tips” will help maximize your fun and enjoyment at ANY theme / amusement park, not just the ones located in my great State of California.
THE No. 1 RULE – “Always Plan Ahead”
The Boy Scouts are famous for their motto: “Always be prepared.” It should also be you and your group’s motto when planning an amusement / theme park trip. Weather is the most crucial factor, but there are many other smaller factors that can add up quite quickly (and that most regular park guests overlook) but not I.
These are the questions you and your group should always, ALWAYS ask before heading out the door to the park:
What’s the weather supposed to be like?
Parks are under no pressure or obligation to give you a rain check and / or refund for bad weather. If the weather looks (and is predicted to be poor) don’t spend a whole day’s worth of admission, to only to get rained-out two hours later.
Some parks do offer rain checks, in the form of a free complimentary ticket (or comp as they’re called) given to you as you flee the park to find shelter in your car – but don’t bank on all of the parks you visit to do this.
Many parks (especially in the Midwest) now show the chance of bad weather right at the ticket booths. If the number is 50% or higher…be sure you know what you’re getting into. Remember that you’re wagering a coin flip that you’ll lose your admission over the weather…
There are many guides out there that will suggest that these “inclement” days are the best to go to parks, as crowds usually stay away, and lines tend to be shorter. For the most part, that’s true. However, if that rain or severe weather doesn’t clear up, the park is not going to re-open, no matter how loudly you and your family complain to Guest Services.
Plain and simple…I don’t take the chance and neither should you – do as a zeppelin airship does…if the weather has a hint of being bad, cancel!
Are there any park sponsored special events going on when we’re visiting?
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ruin your day at a theme park faster that driving up to the front entrance to find out you visited on a “Cheerleader Competition” day. Screaming, running, loud and obnoxious cheerleaders…waiting in line for hours in the hot sun…with you and your family. Ugh!
Fireworks, certain holidays and other special concerts / shows can also lead to larger crowds, so be aware of them when you’re visiting. Also, be aware there are religious and alternative lifestyle events held at parks too, which may or may not agree with your personal beliefs.
The moral of the story – always call or log on ahead of time! That being said, there is always the “lone exception” to this rule, so make sure to read all the specific park descriptions later on in this blog!
The park’s webpage is always a good, first source to visit in planning for your trip. These types of special events are usually found under the “Special Events” section or header.
If you’re not a fan of computers, you can always call the park information line. The switchboard operator should be more than happy to assist you, or direct you to the correct department.
With all the pre-planning completed, you’re still not quite finished, but you’re close! When the big day finally arrives, there are still a few more questions you’ll need to ask to make sure all your planning was worth it…
In my next post: “What should I wear and bring to the park?”