Each amusement or theme park is different. They each “need” attractions based on their audience and climate.
Many park fans (and even general public guests) have argued that one ride Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was desperately missing was another water ride. The park had two Intamin water rides (both debuted in 1999), a standard 20-person splashwater and rapids flume. But that was it. With temperatures easily pushing above 90 during the summer heat waves, the park needed something more – something new.
For many years, a rumored “log flume” was on the books, designed to interact with the animal exhibits already in the park. Consider it a “Water Safari,” but for whatever reason, the ride never materialized.
So, it was with great anticipation that I rolled up to the park last week to test drive the new Tsumani Soaker – a Mack built “Aqua Twist.”
The ride is deceptively simple: Four turntables (one large, three small) sink down into water when the ride begins and slowly rotate. Riders are seated in “barrels” that actually float, as they “battle” other riders, those waiting in line and would be passerby’s with water guns attached to their barrels.
As soon as the ride cycle starts, the entire platform sinks, revealing the water though the grated platform. From there – the best I can describe it is this: ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE. Water is flying literally everywhere – even the ride operator’s booth isn’t out of the firing line.
Part of the cool interactivity of the ride is the fact that you can still cool off – even if you never go on the ride. Five water guns are stationed outside of the ride’s fence, allowing non-riders to soak those on the ride. Just remember, you’re in range of the guns on the ride, too. You can even nail people waiting in line – which should be interesting to watch if people begin stampeding to try and stay dry.
And don’t let the small streams of water fool you – you will get soaked on this ride, there is no “wet.”
That being said, there are some minor flaws. All of the Great American Thrills team that day noticed a lack of a “long enough” queue line for the ride, which is bound to spill would-be riders into the midway.
I also imagine it’s a matter of time before the ride is modified, to include some form of seatbelt or restraint. Many riders on Media Day were seen standing up or switching seats to avoid the watery blasts. While riders were always safe and secure inside their barrels – most parks would rather you be COMPLETELY secured…in your seat.
The ride cycle is also quite long (this is a complaint?!?) but there’s a reason why this point ends up here. You see, all of the ride’s “guns” are built for right-handed people. We found that we had tired out from the one arm firing about halfway through the cycle (as did many of the other riders).
That being said, the long ride time also ensures no one will leave the ride dry. Scratch that – the ride’s cycle length ensures no one leaves the ride that isn’t drenched. Even with only one-fourth of the seats occupied, the entire Great American Thrills team was soaked to the bone. I can’t imagine how quickly you’ll be drenched when this ride is operating at full capacity.
Despite my qualms (and I’m a picky person), Tsunami Soaker is the perfect “family flat ride” that Discovery Kingdom desperately needed. It will be a welcome relief during the summer and if you bring an extra set of clothes. (You can always use the air dryer that’s now conveniently located at the ride exit too – though it’ll cost you $5.00 for three minutes).
WORD OF WARNING: Get a locker before going on this ride. Any electronic device is NOT safe from the inevitable drenching in your pocket, or in a backpack or other bay lying on the side of the ride.
If you’ve visited Six Flags Discovery Kingdom this year, odds are a group of animal-rights activists were there too, trying to pass out leaflets and dissuade you from entering the park.
Well, you won’t have to worry about them interrupting your day, at least for now.
According to the Times Herald, a Judge has ruled that the protests (if they occur) can only be done from the sidewalk of the park – not on park property, as they were being done prior to this injunction.
The activists are angry over what they claim is “mistreatment” of animals in captivity at the park. Activists have also claimed that this captivity has lead to premature deaths of animals, something the park strongly denies.
The protests were already a distraction outside the gates, when Deborah Classen and Janet Locke purchased season tickets to the park, for the sole purpose of handing out leaflets inside the park, hoping to disrupt park operations. The passes were officially revoked on April 13, according to court documents.
But, this is not the end of the saga – Six Flags’ corporate offices are still looking to get permanent injunctions against the activists, to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Now, in all fairness – I have yet to see the controversial film, “Blackfish,” which has been used as a rallying call for animal-rights activists over the past year. The film has certainly done a good job of polarizing people, however: it entrenches people who already had a strong opinion on either side of the argument. From my sources in the industry, serious questions have been raised about how it was produced, and the lack of the “other side” being presented.
I have also seen how many of the animals have been treated at this park, behind the scenes. I have never seen anything that these activists call “mistreatment.” In fact, I have only seen a caring, nurturing environment fostered by the park and it’s animal handlers. Many are deeply bonded with the animals under their care – and that relationship is clear from my interactions with them both in the past, and through the present.
No matter what your opinion or thoughts on the topic, the fact of the matter is this: You can’t do whatever you want on private property, that’s why it’s called PRIVATE property. I look forward to waving at the protesters as I happily drive into the parking lot of the park, soon.
Yesterday, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom proudly announced that Bella, a nine year old Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, gave birth to her first calf. It is not yet known if the calf is male or female – though it is surmised that it is female, the first time one has been born at Discovery Kingdom since Bella nine years ago.
As it is her first calf, Bella will be closely monitored in the first few weeks of life.
“For a first time mother with no prior experience, we are very excited that Bella is demonstrating her maternal side in a big way,” said Michael Muraco, animal care director. He added, “…the first 30 days will be critical to the young calf’s long term survival.”
“Our technology to monitor and track the calf’s progress is much more advanced than in the past, but ultimately, it is up to mother and baby,” he said.
The birth has attracted significant attention in the animal research field, as Bella may have been communicating with the calf in utero – similar to how we as humans play music for our new arrivals in the womb. Bella’s behavior could help us better understand our own development, in addition to the groundbreaking research on dolphins.
But, don’t plan to visit the park and expect to go see Bella and the newborn just yet. While the park is now open year-round, Bella and the calf will be secluded away from park guests while animal staff members care for the two during this, the most critical days of it’s life.
An announcement will be made when the calf will be able to be viewed by the public. For now, get ready for the bottlenose baby shower!
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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