Dissecting the Ride – Lift Hill
Ever wonder why rides make certain sounds? Wonder why it takes a mechanic to “clear” a ride and restart it? In the next few posts, I’ll be highlighting questions people always ask me at parks – so you’ll be an educated park guest!
In it’s essence, the lift hill is the engine of the roller coaster. It give the cars the potential energy they need in order to complete the circuit. The greater the height of the lift, the more potential energy the ride has (I.E. the longer the ride can go)
Traditionally, the lift hill is at the start to the ride, angled at about a 20-25 degree pitch, and has a chain that runs along a trough built into the track.
Once you’re on the lift, you’ll hear the familiar click-click sound – that’s actually a brilliant safety device called an anti-rollback strip. Simply put, if the ride stops suddenly, or heaven forbid) the chain breaks – the car will simply rest in the position it was last in. It’s a similar principle to those common “zip ties” you might have laying around your home. They, just like a coaster – only roll on one direction.
These devices may also be placed at other key areas of the ride, where the chance of a rollback is higher (usually in a slower section of the ride – at the top of a hill)
There are some rides that either do no or cannot have these devices, usually because the action of the ride requires forwards and backwards motion.
So, the next time you’re on a ride – know that a century-old safety device is right under (or above you), making sure your train safely makes it up the lift and subsequent hills time and time again.
Park Preview: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
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.
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.
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.
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!
Pre-planning, Part Deux
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?”