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Park Preview: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

1001 Fairgrounds Drive

SFDK's logo is unique among the rest of the Six Flags chain

Vallejo,CA 94589-2001

(707) 644-4000

www.sixflags.com/parks/discoverykingdom

Brief History:

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.

New for 2012 is the completely unique Superman, Ultimate Escape. Concept art courtesy of Six Flags.

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.

Plans – 

Thrill Seekers:

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.

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Another Step in the Road

Today is a good day – yet another step forward in the quest to see this concept go from simply blog to television show.

Ladies and gentlemen, the payments are made, and the bills processed – we officially own http://www.greatamericanthrills.net! Dare I say, this thing is looking more and more professional by the week.

Who knows, maybe some park PR personnel will actually call us back…

It should be noted, that we originally wanted the “.com” address. But at over $1600, it’s still way out of our budget.

Plus, we like .net – it has a nice feeling to it.

“Let’s Ride!”

– KMR


The Day Finally Arrives!

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.

Your host is no fan of "extreme water effects"

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?

Season passes are best to purchase at either the very start or very end of the season. (Photo illustration by Six Flags, Inc.)

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!


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The First Post

Welcome, everyone…to Great American Thrills!

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Vertical Velocity at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on a particularly cold winter day...

This is the jumping off point, the start of what I hope to be a fun, rewarding experience for both readers, viewers and myself.

Great American Thrills is much more than a blog…it is the result of years of visiting parks, learning everything about them, and then never being able to “squeeze the veritable sponge of theme park information” that is my brain.of things to come. If you’ve stumbled upon my little section of cyberspace, welcome.

At least twice a week (sometimes more often when parks are open) you’ll find some nce tidbits and tips here to save you and your family money at your local theme park. All the while, you’ll also learn such things as: “Why can’t I wear my sunglasses on certain rides?” “Who invented the roller coaster?” and “If there was a Mr. Disney, was there a Mr. Flags?” (No, by the way).

So just sit, back, pull down your lap bars and safety harnesses – and enjoy the ride!

– KMR