California Dreaming - A West Coast Adventure

Discussion in 'Your Trip Reports and Plans' started by Rob, 25th Sep 2019.

  1. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    As some of you know I have just returned from nearly 3 weeks in California with @Sazzle and @Russell. We flew out to San Francisco and back from Los Angeles, and got up to plenty of fun along the way! First up, here is a summary of what we got up to:
    • San Francisco sightseeing
    • California's Great America
    • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
    • Yosemite National Park
    • Six Flags Magic Mountain
    • A little bit of LA sightseeing
    • Disneyland
    • Disney California Adventure
    • SeaWorld San Diego
    • Knotts Berry Farm
    • Universal Studios
    My reports will focus on the theme parks for obvious reasons but I will post a little bit about the other things that we did get up to, espeically Yosemite which was simply incredible.

    So let's begin, in the city of San Francisco.

    I'm going to try and keep this part short but sweet. We flew in to San Francisco from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic (my first experience flying with them and I was very impressed), arriving late on a Tuesday afternoon. After picking up our hire car we had a fairly straight forward drive to out hotel in Fisherman's Wharf - Hotel Zephyr. The location of the hotel really could not have been any better and we had a wonderful view from our room out across the Bay.

    For a US city San Francisco feels relatively small and it is not too difficult to get around. We had two full days in the city; on our first day we the Big Bus (biiiig buffeettttt) open top bus and on the second day we got a MUNI day pass which allows you transport on all cable cars, street cars and buses for only $12, bargain!

    My highlight of San Francisco was Alcatraz. I have wanted to visit this former maximum security prison for a long time and it did not disappoint. The ferry over to Alcatraz Island make for a nice start to your adventure and upon arrival there is a good introductory film that you can watch which helps to set the scene. The tour itself is an audio tour, and to be honest I am not usually a huge fan of these, however the Alcatraz audio tour is so well done. It has not changed since the 1980s and I can see why. I won't give too much away as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who is planning to do it in the future but I cannot recommend it enough. You also get some lovely views across to San Francisco and the rest of the Bay from Alcatraz!

    Other highlights of the city for us included the Cable Cars (so much fun), The Palace of Fine Arts and The Walt Disney Family Museum (a must for any Disney fan in my opinion, a very well present museum which follows Walt's story perfectly and contains many exhibits and photos that you will not see anywhere else).

    The Golden Gate Bridge would have been another highlight had Karl the fog not been present! We drove over the bridge on the open top bus but could not even see the top of it then due to the fog.

    Following on from two days in San Francisco were took the long and scenic route down the coast to Santa Cruz (the Boardwalk was unfortunately closed) and then back us to San Jose/Santa Clara. We came across some lovely coves and beaches which made up for not having time on our trip to do the main scenic drive down the coast to LA!

    Our hotel this night was right next to our first park of the trip - California's Great America. I will come on to this next!
     
    GeorgeT, Ted, Sazzle and 9 others like this.
    Posted 25th Sep 2019
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  2. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    California’s Great America

    So, our first park of the trip, California’s Great America (CGA), one of two Cedar Fair parks we had lined up. I quite like the Cedar Fair parks that I visited so far (Cedar Point, Kings Island, Kings Dominion); they are generally very well present, have decent food offerings and good coaster line-ups. CGA is of course quite a lot smaller than the others I’ve been to though, so expectations were adjusted accordingly.

    I’ve also visited Six Flags Great America which was once CGA’s sister park back in the late 70s/early 80s when Marriott built and opened two theme parks. Much has changed since Marriott sold the park in 1984 but you can still see similarities between aspects of CFA and Six Flags Great America, especially with regards to basic park layout and the placing of some older attractions and buildings.

    We managed to get an online ticket deal that included entry and Fast Lane. The park was not overly busy when we were there however Fast Lane did prove to be worthwhile on the more popular rides, especially Railblazer which is popular and has poor capacity.

    Let’s start with Railblazer shall we, arguably the main reason for any theme park enthusiast to want to visit CGA right now. These single rail RMCs look crazy in videos as they speed around their layouts and I was intrigued to see how Railblazer would ride. It’s on quite a small footprint and CGA have done a lovely job of landscaping and presenting the area with the inclusion of some nice rock work. Watching the trains whiz around the track is really quite mesmerising, the videos do not lie!

    Railblazer is a brilliantly fun coaster. Very different to other RMCs but it maintains their crazy and out of control feel. You get thrown over the first drop on the back row and the speed taken throughout the rest of the layout makes you completely forget that there are even inversions! There is one very slight jolt towards the end of the coaster which I hope does not get worse over time, and the vest restraints are not that comfortable at all. Railblazer is very re-rideable though and perfect for smaller parks that do not quite throughout machines.

    The other coaster that I was rather looking forward to at CGA was Gold Striker, their GCI woodie that opened in 2013. Wow, what a coaster this is! The layout and pacing are tremendous, it just never lets up at all, I’d argue that it is the best layout of any GCI I have ridden after Wodan. The only downside is that it has aged poorly, it is not unbearable, but it does shake you around a lot due to constant vibrations. I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting and had it have ridden as smoothly as something like Wodan it would be right up there as a top coaster.

    CGA is home to two B&Ms; Flight Deck (an Invert) and Patriot (a Floorless that was previously a Stand-Up). In POVs Flight Deck looks poor for a B&M, a short layout that does not seem to do much. In reality this is an old school B&M that packs a real punch from start to finish, a really big surprise! I was not expecting such strong forces to be generated. Patriot on the other hand is crap, the only positive thing I have to say about it is the lovely shade of blue that the track is. As a coaster it lumbers around, is somewhat rough and gives no joy.

    There are not really any other stand out coasters at the park. Demon is a clone of Demon at Six Flags Great America, it seemed smoother but did not have any of the effects or theme audio that its counterpart has. Psycho Mouse is a rare Arrow Mouse that I had completely forgotten was at the park! We only rode it once but it’s novel and good fun. Then there is Grizzly which RCDB does not list a manufacturer for, but we found out that it was somewhat of an in-house coaster manufactured by Kings Island Construction. It was fine. Finally, Woodstock Express, a surprisingly long Intamin kids coaster which we got a private ride on. No more needs to be said!

    Theme parks are not just about coasters, and we did ride a few of the others rides that CGA had to offer. Unfortunately, the rapids were down all day so we could not experience these. The Intamin drop towers was pretty good, the Disk’O looked like it had received a recent re-theme and Delirium (Chance Rides Revolution 32) was enjoyable. The park does have a few other flat rides but we gave these a miss.

    Food in the park was what you would expect from an American amusement park style theme park, I had something from their BBQ Smokehouse place although this was slightly overpriced. I also enjoyed a nice (plastic) glass of Railblazer IPA which went down a treat!

    Overall I really quite enjoyed CGA. We did leave before the 7pm closing time as we had done everything that we had wanted to do multiple times and it was not going to get dark by the time that the park did close. The park is missing one real stand out top class coaster and I do hope that Cedar Fair may give it this in the years ahead. I’m not sure how tall the park can build due to its proximity to the airport but something like a B&M Hyper or Mack Mega/Launch would really complement their existing coaster line-up.

    If you are ever in the San Francisco Bay area then I would certainly recommend fitting in a trip to this nice little park!

    Next up will be Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, a park that I had somewhat lower expectations for.
     
    GeorgeT, Ted, AstroDan and 8 others like this.
    Posted 27th Sep 2019
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  3. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

    After the first Cedar Fair park of the trip came the first Six Flags park of the trip in the form of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. I’ll be honest here and say I had pretty low expectations for this park; Six Flags parks hadn’t been great on last year’s East Coast trip and Discovery Kingdom seemed on the face of it to be one of the smaller Six Flags parks.

    We had purchased our Six Flags Season Passes way back when there was a sale on, which meant that we got them for a bargain price. When you purchase a Season Pass in the sale you get a free upgrade to Gold level, however this is only is the collection of the pass is processed before 1 June, which in our case it was not. Gold entitles you to free car parking so when we arrived at the barriers I said that we had Gold Passes to pick up, showed the ticket voucher which was subsequently scanned, and to my surprise we were let through without having to fork out $30 (yes, you read that right, $30. Now stop moaning about the cheap parking fees at UK parks!!). Thank you Six Flags for investing in systems that do not work!

    After a 10 mile walk from the car park to the park entrance we got in relatively quickly and we given our super thin Six Flags Season Passes and went to collect the Flash Pass queue bot that we had previously ordered online for a bargain price; for some reason the Gold level Flash Pass was cheaper than the Standard level when we purchased it.

    First impressions of the park were actually very positive. Everything seemed to be well presented and there was plenty of greenery and planting around the park. So far, so good.

    On to the coasters. Let’s start with their new for 2018 coaster, Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster, which is a Skyline Attractions Skywarp that just about passes as a coaster as it does actually coast at times. First point to be made is just how bloody loud this thing is. Second point is that the ride vehicles looks horribly uncomfortable. Third point is that they are horribly uncomfortable. The ride experience is really quite poor; it is all very clumsy, sounds awful and gives no real thrill. You know a ride is not good when you just want it to end. With any luck there won’t be too many more of these popping up.

    Staying in the DC Universe area of the park, which I think has been done quite well by Six Flags standards, we’ll move on to Batman: The Ride. Unlike at most Six Flags parks, Batman here is not a B&M Invert but an S&S 4D Free Spin. I did a couple of these over on the East Coast last year so knew what to expect and it delivered. These are fun rides that can vary from fun to insane depending on how you spin.

    Superman: Ultimate Flight completes a trio of coasters all lined up next to each other, and this original Premier Sky Rocket II is by far the best of the three. I had not ridden one of these since Sky Scream back in 2014 (thanks to Tempesto being down last year) and to be honest I had forgotten just how good these coasters are. The launches pack a serious punch, you get great hang time from the in-line twist at the top and the journey back down is exhilarating. The worst thing about Sky Scream had been the leg guards that are on the trains, they really dug in to your shins. No problem here though as they are much softer on Superman!

    We’re not yet done with the coasters in DC Universe. Next comes what is arguably Discovery Kingdom’s stand out coaster, The Joker. This RMC conversion of Roar opened in 2016 and has a rather different colour scheme with the left rail being purple and the right rail being green. I was not expecting The Joker to set the world on fire like other RMCs that I have ridden, it is generally regarded as one of the poorer RMCs. So maybe because of this expectation, and maybe because it had been over a year since riding an RMC, I was pleasantly surprised. The layout of The Joker is very different to other RMCs but it does have a good mix of airtime, hangtime, inversions and twists/overbanks. It does lack the power of other RMCs (I’ll come on to this in my Six Flags Magic Mountain report) but it is a very fun ride and probably the best coaster in the park.

    The final coaster in this area of the park is The Flash: Vertical Velocity which is an Intamin Twisted Impulse Coaster with a difference! The coaster features one straight spike and one twisted spike; however, the twisted spike is at an angle of 45 degrees as opposed to 90 degrees. When it first opened in 2001 both spikes were at 90 degrees, but the park are not allowed to build coasters over 150 feet in height. The spikes were 186 feet tall so for the 2002 season they decided to reduce the height of the straight spike and change the angle of the twisted spike. This results in a very usual ride in terms of looks and experience, and I would argue that is enhances the ride experience!

    The remaining coaster at Discovery Kingdom are located on the other side of the park and the clear highlight of these is Medusa, a B&M Floorless Coaster that opened in 2000. The true definition of a car park coaster, you can still see the parking lines on the tarmac below, Medusa also features the only Sea Serpent role on a B&M! We rode it on both the front and back row, with the front row giving a somewhat smoother ride experience. I do remember enjoying Medusa though (I am somewhat hesitant as to be honest riding it already feels like an age ago and Magic Mountain somewhat wiped my memory of some of Discovery Kingdom’s coasters)!

    One coaster I have not forgotten about is Kong, a disgustingly presented Vekoma SLC. I ended up on the back row, it was pretty horrendous, it should probably be melted down. Enough said!

    Talking of coasters that should be melted down, Discovery Kingdom has a Vekoma Boomerang (Boomerang: Coast to Coaster). It has old trains and no magnetic brakes, so it’s awful.

    Finally we have Cobra, a Zierer Tivoli Large that does exactly what it says on the tin. There is little point in adding much else! There is also a Zamperla kids coaster in the park which we missed out on.

    Aside from the coasters were sampled Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth which was my first Zamperla Giant Discovery. These are fantastic flat rides that provide a lovely cool breeze which is much needed in the Californian sunshine! Then there was White Water Safari, the parks rapids, which proved to be great fun. I do love a good rapids ride and much to my amusement @Sazzle got rather soaked (sorry)! Flip flops really are essential for US rapids unless you want your shoes to remain sodden for the next few days.

    This is the point in the report where I would usually say something about the food we sampled in the park. I cannot do that this time around though as we did not eat. The park opened at 11am which meant a bit of a later start, and the breakfast on offer at our hotel the night before was superb with omelettes freshly made to order. So, a large late breakfast had kept us going throughout the day, and we did leave earlier than the 6pm closing time, getting some food en-route to our next hotel.

    In fact, I did not spend a single penny (or cent) whilst inside Discovery Kingdom! I brought along my own stainless-steel water bottle for this trip so that my water did not heat up as the days went on, and Discovery Kingdom had filtered water refill stations at all their restrooms. Brilliant!

    I enjoyed Six Flags Discovery Kingdom far more than I was expected to. Sure it is not a top park but it has a really nice feel to it and in places does not look at all like a Six Flags park. There are some solid coasters but nothing that is really going to blow your mind along with some decent support rides. I don’t recall operations being too bad either which was a bonus as they can be an issue at some Six Flags parks.

    Leaving early worked out quite well for us as the next day would be a very early start for an intense day in Yosemite National Park.
     
    Posted 30th Sep 2019
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  4. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    Great report @Rob It's interesting that we do say a park like Discovery Kingdom "is not a top park" when you're across the pond, because if it was here it'd be one of our top drawer parks.
     
    Brad97 and Rob like this.
    Posted 30th Sep 2019
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  5. RicketyCricket

    RicketyCricket TowersStreet Member

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    I got the free gold upgrade too, got free parking at Great Adventure but then 10 days later was forced to pay $30 at Great America. Couldn't be arsed arguing with them but it was an absolute con. "Have a Six Flags Day" etc...
     
    Posted 30th Sep 2019
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  6. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    Visual scan this [​IMG]
     
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    Posted 30th Sep 2019
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  7. Dan

    Dan TS Contributor

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    I’ve had about four six flags season passes now and each time I have collected the pass after the free gold pass upgrade offer has expired.

    The app says I have a gold pass but when it’s scanned at the car park entrance the machine shows it’s not a gold pass and the scanner clearly gives a audio warning that it’s not valid but most staff members will let you in anyway. I’ve saved so much money over the years with this

    So it’s not a scam. It’s just an issue with the app saying you have a gold pass when you don’t. If you collected before the free upgrade offer had finished then you should have gone to guest services
     
    Posted 30th Sep 2019
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  8. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I was going to come on to this in my Magic Mountain report but I'll bring it up now. We had two days at the park; both days I showed my season pass to the parking attendant and both days we were let in without having to pay, no questions asked. Despite the pass not being gold there was no indication that the attendant got a message from their system saying that it was not valid for free parking, if they did then they simply chose to ignore it on both occasions!

    We were not complaining. It meant that we saved $80 across three days at Six Flags parks.
     
    RicketyCricket and Rick like this.
    Posted 1st Oct 2019
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  9. Maelstrom

    Maelstrom TowersStreet Member

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    We are going to Magic Mountain in just two weeks and have season pass vouchers with the gold upgrade (we will be exchanging within the specified dates) what I wanted to check is where you exchange your voucher for an actual pass. The voucher says to go to the turn-styles is this correct or do you have to go to guest services or something similar?
     
    Posted 1st Oct 2019
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  10. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    They'll give you a season pass as you enter. For all that Six Flags do that annoys me, their season pass processing is about the most efficient system possible.
     
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    Posted 1st Oct 2019
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  11. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Yosemite National Park

    Time for another non-theme park day now, but this was possibly the best day of the entire trip for me! Yosemite National Park, somewhere that I have had my sights set on for quite a while now. We only had one day in Yosemite and that included long drives in both the morning and evening, so plenty of careful research went in to ensure that we could maximise our time in the park.

    In terms of doing research for a visit, I strongly recommend Yosemite Hikes, it gives a great overview of the many different trails in all areas of this huge National Park. We had planned to do the Sentinel/Cook’s Meadow Loop including the detour to Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

    Our long day started with a quick breakfast at our hotel in Modesto and we set off at 7am with a journey time of around two and a half hours to Yosemite Valley. September is more of an off-peak time for Yosemite, but it does pay to arrive early to beat the mid-morning surge of traffic in to the park. The drive to Yosemite got better and better as it went on; driving through the foothills, coming across a small town that in places looked like it could have come straight out of a western themed theme park area, and then coming across some more dramatic mountains as the road followed the river along the valley floor.

    We had a quick stop to take in some views and early more fresh air just before the US-140 entrance to the park and then after paying the entrance fee we were in. Everywhere you look in Yosemite your reaction is simply ‘wow’. I’d seen plenty of photos previously but they cannot prepare you for seeing it all with your own eyes. The mountains are huge, the cliffs steep, the meadows beautiful.

    September is a good time to visit Yosemite for crowd levels and temperatures are also slightly cooler than in the peak summer months. The downside to visiting in September is that many of the waterfalls in the park are seasonal with peak flow in the spring time when there is more snowmelt. Many of the waterfalls tend to stop flowing come the autumn, but we were lucky to find that Yosemite Falls was still flowing and was more than just a trickle (although nowhere near as impressive as it is earlier in the year)!

    Lower Yosemite Falls was the first stop on our walk around the valley floor and even when not at peak flow it is still quite something seeing water cascading down such huge cliff faces. From here we were going to head back to the Meadow Loop trail but ended up heading up part of the Valley Loop Trail which gave us yet more incredible views. We soon realised that this trail could have been rather long, so went back on ourselves slightly and found a cut through down in to Yosemite Village where we were able to get a nice lunch. This put us a good hour ahead of schedule for our days activities and saved us from having to drive up to Yosemite Village as I had originally planned.

    A nice stroll back to our car followed on from lunch and then we headed to the parking area for Bridalveil Fall, a waterfall that we knew we were guaranteed to see at this time of year as it flows all year round. A short walk from the parking area takes you to the base of this waterfall, and it is a fascinating one to watch. Most waterfalls run straight down the side of the cliff they are falling off, but the wind, not that it was overly strong, meant that the water from Bridalveil Fall was being blown along the side of the cliff and falling at so many different spots. There was also a beautiful mist created!

    Another short drive from here and our next stop was the famous Tunnel View. I’d imagine that every first-time visitor to Yosemite stops off here and there is plenty of parking with people coming and going all of the time. This viewpoint showcases many highlights of Yosemite Valley, and prepares you nicely for what was the next stop on our tour, Glacier Point.

    The drive up to Glacier Point is an experience in its own right. Before evening turning on to Glacier Point Road from Wawona Road we were met with the sight of a landscape destroyed by fire; bare slopes and black remains of trees. This I believe is the result of a large wildfire that took place in 2018, thankfully it never spread to Yosemite Valley.

    Anyway, Glacier Point Road is just over 15 miles long and it slowly takes you up to the iconic Glacier Point, travelling through various valleys along the way to avoid too many steep hills or hairpin turns. Having said that you do drive alongside some sheer drops with no form of barrier at all and there is one hairpin turn towards the end of the road, known as Darwin’s Turn, where if you went straight on you would meet your doom.

    Glacier Point is breathtaking. I love views from an elevation but being 7000ft above sea level and 3000ft above the valley floor below is taking it to new levels. You look down towards Yosemite Valley, where you had been just an hour or so earlier, and everything at the bottom looks so small. Yet you are still surrounded by other huge natural landmarks such as the Half Dome just across the valley. Words can never do Glacier Point justice, for me it is the highlight of Yosemite.

    Our final stop of the day was right at the southern entrance/exit of the park, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Here you park just off the main road in a brand new parking facility and catch a free shuttle bus which takes you up to the grove. We decided to go the Big Grizzly trail here which meant that we would get to see plenty of Giant Sequoias including the Big Grizzly. These trees are quite something, they don’t seem real, especially when you see them surrounded by so many ‘normal’ trees. Of course, the best place to see them is Sequoia National Park but as we didn’t have time in our trip to visit Sequoia it made for a nice bonus to see them here in Yosemite and made for the perfect end to our memorable day.

    There is natural beauty around every corner in Yosemite National Park. It is like you have been transported to a different world as you feel so removed from every day life in the USA. It also really makes you appreciate the world that we live in and that we all have a responsibility to protect it. Places like Yosemite are far older than the human race and arguably far more spectacular than anything we have developed ourselves.

    I insist that anyone who is planning a trip to California tries to make time for Yosemite. Our day was long, but we managed to fit a huge variety of activities and sights in to it, proving that you can see so much of Yosemite in one single day. You could easily spend several days here though.

    I will try and upload some photos from our day at Yosemite National Park before I move on to the next park in our trip, Six Flags Magic Mountain.
     
    venny, RicketyCricket, Matt N and 8 others like this.
    Posted 3rd Oct 2019
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  12. Sazzle

    Sazzle TS Administrator Team Member

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    ...waiting patiently for the next instalment of my own trip report...
    Hahaha!! :)

    Great posts Rob! I take the pictures, you write the reports ;-)
     
    Rob likes this.
    Posted 8th Oct 2019
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  13. Jb85

    Jb85 TowersStreet Member

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    @Rob excellent read so far thank you for sharing
     
    Rob likes this.
    Posted 9th Oct 2019
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  14. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I know I promised some photos from Yosemite but I've not got around to uploading these yet! I will still try and post some at a later date though.

    In better news, I have now finished my Magic Mountain trip report. It took a while as there are so many rides!! I hope you enjoy though!

    Six Flags Magic Mountain

    From the outside, Six Flags Magic Mountain looks like the real jewel in the Six Flags crown. Great Adventure has a brilliant coaster line-up and Over Texas is where it all begun for them, but Magic Mountain is somewhat of an icon just like Cedar Point and has received significant investment in recent years.

    So needless to say that I was really looking forward to visiting and riding some coasters that I have known about since the days of RCT2! We had two days scheduled in for Magic Mountain both with park hours of 10.30am to 6pm. A look at queue times online for equivalent days last year meant that we did not pre-book Flash Pass, the park was hopefully going to be fairly quiet.

    We were wrong. Six Flags Magic Mountain was not fairly quiet. It was completely and utterly dead on both days. Every single coaster was either walk on or just queuing in the bays. The fact that pretty much everything was on reduced capacity did not matter, there was legitimately no need for a second train on coasters. Incredible! Despite this, Six Flags still had people out just through the turnstiles selling Flash Pass and we did seem some people walking around with it.

    I’m going to start this review with my thoughts on the coasters, then move on to others rides in the park, before ending on food and the general atmosphere.

    Let’s start with Full Throttle. It was the first coaster we came across and is only a short walk from the park entrance. I was not expecting too much from Full Throttle although I am not sure why that is as Premier do usually produce good coasters. It turns out that Full Throttle is no exception; a punchy launch leads in to a massive loop with some fantastic hang time, then it is up and over the Superman plaza before a dive drop in to the tunnel where you are brought to a halt. Here is where what I have always thought as a bit of a gimmick is, a backwards launch back up the dive drop where again you get some good hang time and then another launch forward on your way through the tunnel which gives you the speed to get over the top hat/hill over the loop. And then it ends, which is a shame as what’s there is fantastic!

    Goliath is one of only two Giovanola Mega Coasters, the other being Titan at Six Flags Over Texas. I do wonder why Six Flags went for Giovanola at a time when both Intamin and B&M were producing similar coasters (Millennium Force opened the same year and Six Flags had opened a B&M Hyper at Great America the year before). If anyone does know why then I’d love to know!

    Anyway, on to the experience, which starts with walking through the hugely impressive entrance feature which is the rides logo carved out in large rocks. This must be one of the best coaster entrances in the world! The lift hill takes you to a height of 235ft and then the 255ft drop in to a tunnel is relatively shallow by modern standards, but the coaster gains considerable speed. A slow turnaround is next which is followed by what is technically an airtime hill, but it is not really engineered for airtime, and then a turn up in to the MCBR. The MCBR almost brings the train to a halt, and from POVs I’ve always wondered why it needs to kill so much speed. However, the answer is what comes next. Goliath drops you back down to the ground with a downward turn to the left then downward turn to the right and sends you up in to a 540 degree downwards helix that must be one of the most intense moments on a coaster. I found it impossible not to grey out each time I rode it and if any more speed was to be carried through this section of track then it would be very unpleasant indeed. One tamer corner and then it is up in to the brakes to catch your breath. Goliath is a proper old school coaster with some serious force.

    Six Flags Magic Mountain actually has themed areas with themed music and the next two coasters are located in the Steampunk District which has been done really well. The music fit perfectly and there are some decent theming objects. Scream! is a B&M Floorless coaster that opened in 2003 and is a mirror clone of Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure, a coaster that I have previously ridden. Scream is built directly over a former car park and you can still see the lines, how delightful. Bizarro at Great Adventure is pretty good, so I expected the same from Scream, however I was somewhat let down. I don’t know if it was the train that we were on, the wheels or the Californian heat but Scream was, by B&M standards, fairly rough and uncomfortable despite riding it on the front row. A real shame, and we only rode it once because of this.

    Thankfully you don’t visit Steampunk District for Scream. Oh no, this area of the park is home to a true beast of a coaster, Twisted Colossus. This RMC conversion of the former Colossus wooden coaster is only just over 120ft in height and features two lift hills and a layout that allows the blue track to duel with the green track. Twisted Colossus was running two trains rather than three whilst we were there, which meant that duelling was not guaranteed although we did get it a few times. Credit to the staff as they were trying to get the trains loaded as quickly as possible to allow for duelling!

    I was not too sure as to how Twisted Colossus would compare with the other RMCs I have ridden. Clearly it was not going to be up there with SteVe but it is of a similar scale to Storm Chaser which I rate very highly. First things first, Twisted Colossus is way better than The Joker which we rode at Discovery Kingdom. From the moment that the train leaves the first lift hill you get serious ejector airtime and this coaster does not let up at all. You are pulled up and thrown out of your seat at various points on both halves of the ride, get a good dollop of hangtime on the green track, and have some awesome overbanks. Twisted Colossus is definitely a back-row coaster, the airtime is so much stronger here. And when you do duel it is so much fun! We spent the last half an hour of each day at the park just going round and round on Twisted Colossus, often swapping seats in the station or just staying on the train, it was that quiet! A top-class coaster that leaves you wanting so much more.

    Next on our anti-clockwise loop around the park is Batman The Ride which is of course a B&M Invert Batman clone that opened just 7 days after our own Nemesis. This is the fifth Batman clone that I have ridden, and I have grown to like this coaster layout more and more over time. It is just so relentless and intense. Unusually for a Six Flags Batman coaster the track of this is blue (it used to be grey) and as with most Six Flags Batman coasters the station building is suitably themed. We only rode this once over our two days, mainly because it is a coaster we had all done before elsewhere and we wanted to prioritise rides on new and unique coasters.

    Speaking of unique coasters and ignoring Green Lantern which was being taken down faster than West Coast Racers was being constructed, we come to Riddler’s Revenge; the tallest, fastest and longest of B&M’s Stand Up coasters. I have only ridden one B&M Stand Up coaster previously (Green Lantern at SFGrAd) as well as Shockwave at Drayton Manor and the now gone Shockwave at Kings Dominion. I have not really been a fan of any of them and find them very uncomfortable. I was of course prepared to give Riddler’s Revenge a chance.

    First of all, I had not realised that Riddler’s had been repainted from green track and black supports to yellow track and green supports, it certainly looks very vibrant! Riddler’s actually has a really good layout, is not too intense and is more comfortable than other stand up coasters that I have ridden. It is very unusual to have a dive loop followed by another dive loop, but it does flow well. The section of track after the MCBR features two corkscrews which is fairly standard for a B&M like this, however the track in between the two corkscrews is more interesting than usual and even features an almost airtime hill that manages to be floaty without causing pain for us men! I was surprised myself with how much I enjoyed Riddler’s Revenge.

    Gold Rusher is one of the park’s original coasters having opened in 1971. It is also one of the oldest Arrow Mine Trains (older ones can be found at Cedar Point, Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags Over Texas). Some of the trackwork on this looks quite bizarre, even flimsy in places. Two lift hills take you part way up the hill that is in the middle of the park before you wind your way down in a somewhat clumsy but fun manner. It’s nothing to write home about but for such an old coaster it’s not at all bad.

    Seeing as I am reviewing these coasters as we go anti-clockwise around the park, it is time to mention West Coast Racers, the new ride for 2019, and Apocalypse, a GCI wooden coaster. As you know, West Coast Racers still has not opened and when we were they had not even finished all the track work, never mind the pathways and various buildings in the midway. Will it even open in 2019? I’m not so sure. As for Apocalypse, it has been closed all year due to construction on West Coast Racers getting in the way of the entrance to the ride. We did however see it testing with people on our second day at the park, and it did open a few days later for the first day of the park’s Halloween event. A shame to miss out but oh well!

    A walk part way up hill (mountain) of Magic Mountain we come across one of the park’s most iconic coasters, Superman: Escape from Kyrpton. This 415ft tall Intamin Reserve Freefall Coaster is huge and dominates the skyline of the park. It is also absurdly loud. Every time it launches it sounds like a fighter jet is passing right overhead, I’ve never heard anything like it before on any other coaster! I was not too sure whether I was going to enjoy Superman, mainly because I am not a fan of travelling backwards on coasters. Thankfully this did not prove to be a problem and I found Superman incredibly good fun! We only ever rode in on the front (back!?) row which gives brilliant unobstructed views when you reach the coaster’s maximum height. It was surreal but quite cool to look forwards rather than straight down from the top and see the park in front of you! The 100mph launch seems to go on forever and it is great not knowing when you are going to start rising in to the sky. Then on your way back down you feel your cheeks moving from the g-forces. This far exceeded my expectations and it is very re-rideable.

    Just up the hill from Superman is Ninja, which is what should have been my third true Arrow Suspended Swinging Coaster (I don’t count Vampire). Unfortunately, it was down on both days we were at the park, it may well have been open on the first morning we were there but by the time we got round to it there was just an empty train in the station with some techies working on something. The next day that train had gone and there seemed to be no activity.

    So that means that the next coaster up is Tatsu, a coaster that I have been looking forward to riding for a very long time. I was completely taken by Manta when I first rode it in 2011 and although my opinions of it diminished in 2015 my anticipation for Tatsu did not. The fact that Tatsu is built right on top of the hill in the park makes it look even bigger than it is, and you really feel this effect as you ascend the lift hill and see the pathway below. After this Tatsu has a brilliantly unique layout that builds and builds until you reach the element that literally takes your breath away, the big ass pretzel loop. I would be doing Tatsu a huge disservice if I made out that it was all about the pretzel loop though, as it is not. The layout up to the pretzel is fast passed featuring snappy inversions and turns; the sharp turn just before the pretzel really leaves you wondering which direction you are heading in. After the pretzel, which of course is very intense, comes a nice inline twist before a final turn in to the brakes.

    Overall Tatsu is a top-class coaster and easily the best flying coaster that I have ridden. I’m hoping that Six Flags give it a bit of love in the form of a re-paint sometime soon, like they have done with other coasters at the park, as it is looking extremely faded now.

    For every great coaster there are several not so great coasters. Thankfully Magic Mountain does have more great coasters than not so great coasters, but Viper fits in to the latter of the two categories. At 188ft and 70mph this is the world’s tallest and fastest Arrow Looping Coaster and it held the record for the tallest vertical loop on a coaster up until 2000. Said vertical loop looks rather silly; Arrow never worked out how to build loops of different sizes, so this is a normal sized loop atop of what is essentially a hill. After this loop come two more loops, a batwing and a double corkscrew; also known as pain, pain and more pain. Viper is awful and although I like to see these old Arrow loopers at parks I would not be sad to see this one bulldozed.

    From one Arrow to another, X2, the coaster that really puts Magic Mountain on the map for enthusiasts. I’ve heard so much about this prototype 4D coaster and it was certainly the coaster that I was most anticipating at the park, however I had no idea whether I was going to like it. It’s not often that I am genuinely fearful of a coaster these days, but the nerves were jangling whist waiting for my journey to begin.

    On X2 you do not pull down on your restraint, oh no. It’s more that you must put on your restraint like a jacket or waistcoat, buckle it up and then adjust the height. Bizarre, but X2 is a bizarre coaster. You leave the station backwards, obviously, and turn a corner before climbing up the 175ft lift hill. From here you get views of the entire park but on my first ride I was not really at all bothered about these. You have no idea how far off the top you are and absolutely no way of telling, so it was a case of waiting and bracing for the action to start. Thankfully the pre-drop gives you a moment to prepare for the 215ft nearly vertical drop which you go down face first following a 180-degree rotation of the seats. Terrifying but awesome!

    I would try to describe the rest of X2, but it is such a crazy mess of a coaster that is continuously messing with your mind and perceptions of direction that I can’t. We rode it once on our first day and although I really liked it I did get one rather large bang to the head which put me off a little. Riding it the next day and knowing what to expect and how to brace myself led to a far more enjoyable ride experience. So much so that we rode it again immediately afterwards, this time on the front row which was even better! All in all, X2 is a phenomenal coaster unlike any other that I have ridden. It throws you around in pretty much every direction possible and you ride certain parts in positions that you did not think it was possible to ride a coaster in. Absurd, batsh!t, but brilliant.

    Last but by no means least of the park’s major coasters comes The New Revolution, minus the pointless VR which was added in 2016 for a couple of seasons (thank god). The 2016 refurb of Revolution in to The New Revolution did bring the return of lap bars, so it wasn’t all bad. The best word I can use to describe this classic Schwarzkopf coaster is delightful. It is perfectly smooth and so much fun as you drop down and climb back up the hillside. Then there is the unusually long and straight shallow drop down in to the vertical loop which is very novel. The New Revolution is a hidden gem in Magic Mountain’s coaster line-up.

    We did ride a couple of other coasters at the park; Road Runner Express (Vekoma Junior Coaster) and Speedy Gonzales Hot Rod Racers (standard layout Zamperla kids coaster). They were both ridden at the start of our first day (yes, we rode kids coasters before the likes of X2, Tatsu and Twisted Colossus) when there was absolutely no-one else anywhere near either coaster. There is nothing more to be said here!

    There is more to Six Flags Magic Mountain that just the coasters and we did sample some of the other rides that the park had to offer. Six Flags have put Justice League dark rides in many of their parks and the one at Magic Mountain is the most substantial. It features its own pre-show room and a slightly different ending featuring Harley Quinn. These really are brilliant dark rides and are one area where Six Flags out perform Cedar Fair. The air conditioning it provides is also very welcome!

    Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom is an Intamin drop tower that is on the side of Superman, in a similar way to how Zumanjaro is attached to Kingda Ka, although it is 15ft shorter than Zumanjaro. That does not mean that it’s not as petrifying though, especially as you can feel the whole structure shaking when you are at the top! This is a very good drop tower ride.

    CraZanity is a Zamperla Giant Discovery, but a bigger version that the one found at Discovery Kingdom (this swings to a height of 170ft whereas the one at Discovery Kingdom swings to a height of 147ft). It is a bloody brilliant flat ride with immense power and some nice airtime when you reach the peak of each swing.

    There were two further rides that went on at Magic Mountain. One was Roaring Rapids, which you might guess is the park’s Intamin rapids ride. Featuring boats that seat 12 people, we walked right on to this with no queue at all, sharing the boat with four others. I don’t recall getting too wet on these, probably because our boat was fairly light weight. Plus, there were no unnecessary waterfalls the come right over the boats and soak you from head to toe. Still, good fun as rapids always are!

    Finally, we have Jet Stream, the park’s Arrow log flume that opened in 1972. I only found out a few days ago that up until 2011 the park had two Arrow log flumes, the other being Log Jammer which opened with the park in 1971 and seemed to be more substantial than Jet Stream. Log Jammer was removed to make way for Full Throttle. Jet Stream is similar to the log flume I rode last year at Hersheypark in that the boats skim across the water at the bottom of the drop, something I really quite like!

    Phew, that’s all the rides done which means this very long review is coming to an end. A few points on the food, which generally is your usual Six Flags stuff. With the park closing at 6pm we had one meal each day and then had our dinner in the nearby Santa Clarita retail complex area. I did have some nice food at the park though. The first day we ate Food Etc. which is near to Goliath and does salads, Mexican, gyros and sushi. I enjoyed some tasty nachos and the portion size was excellent. The second day we ventured in to Sports Bar which turned out to be a table service restaurant. Sure, it’s your typical theme park food but the wings I had were delicious and there’s a good selection of beers.

    I really enjoyed Six Flags Magic Mountain, it far exceeded my expectations. For the most parts it is a nice park to be in and it feels well kept. There may not be any overly immersive theming, but the areas of the park are themed to an extent including themed audio which really does make a difference. The park was much greener than I expected it to be and the infamous ‘Tatsu hill’ was not too much of an effort to climb up. The headline coasters like X2, Twisted Colossus and Tatsu are all top-class coasters but the likes of The New Revolution, Superman, Ridder’s Revenge and Full Throttle are slightly lesser known gems. There really is great mix of coasters at Magic Mountain.

    I do feel that the park would benefit from a more modern hyper coaster/airtime machine. This does not look likely in the near future though with Six Flags level of investments. West Coast Racers will be a great addition to the park once it does eventually open, Full Throttle gives me confidence that it will be a very enjoyable ride experience.

    After two brilliant days it was time to head to Anaheim via some sightseeing in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area, which will be my next report!
     
  15. SirDossa

    SirDossa TowersStreet Member

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    Great write up Rob. I was lucky enough to visit Magic Mountain as a ten year old lad on a family holiday and I remember how in awe I was of Superman. I remember the anticipation building up in the queue for it and remember coming off absolutely buzzing about what I had just experienced!

    At the time, Viper was a massive coaster as well and was what initially put the park on my older brother's radar. Ever since, I've been following the relentless addition of coasters to the park's lineup and I hope to one day get back out there to ride all of them!
     
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  16. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    First of all, I apologise that the gaps between these reports are seemingly getting longer and longer. I will endeavour to get them all done at some point though!

    Los Angeles/Hollywood

    The Thursday after our two days at Six Flags Magic Mountain was another non-theme park day as we travelled down to Anaheim. It was also our designated day for seeing some of the sights of Los Angeles and Hollywood. None of us were overly keen on seeing too much and from what we did see LA is not a patch on San Francisco!

    After driving up and over the hills north of Los Angeles, our first stop of the day was at the Griffith Park Observatory. Here you get what can only be described as stunning views over the greater Los Angeles urban area, which is a sprawl unlike anything that I have seen before. I thought that the skyscrapers of downtown LA would be much closer than they appeared to be. The observatory itself is a beautiful building although we did not go inside.

    Next was a quick stop at the famous Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round. For those who are not aware, this is where Walt Disney used to bring his daughters; he would sit on a park bench, munching on peanuts, and watch them ride the carousel. This gave him the inspiration to develop a place where adults and children alike could enjoy such attractions in a specially built environment - a place we now know as Disneyland. The Merry-Go-Round was unfortunately closed but I was pleased to have seen it as it holds such significance to the hobby that we all enjoy.

    You cannot visit LA without going to see the Hollywood sign, so that was next on the agenda for us. I’d heard that Lake Hollywood Park was a good spot to park up and get some photos. So, after driving up some steep, narrow and windy streets, passing some very nice properties, we found some street parking by the park. Top tip: make sure that if you park on the street then park facing the same direction as traffic on that side of the road. Turns out this is a state law and, in a tourist hot spot, the local council will send out wardens to make money from tourists who are unaware of this. Yes, we got a parking ticket.

    Alas, we got some photos with the sign and met a very friendly dog, so it wasn’t all bad here!

    We were not at all bothered about seeing Hollywood Boulevard so gave this a miss, this area really seems to be quite grotty these days. This meant that the final planned stop of the day was out at the coast in Santa Monica, via a drive through Beverly Hills and along Sunset Boulevard. The main attraction in Santa Monica was the rollercoaster on the pier, Santa Monica West Coaster, a Morgan family coaster. I gave it a go despite a ride on it costing a somewhat staggering $10! Yeah, it’s not great but hey, plus one as they say. At least I got given two laps on it.

    The best thing about Santa Monica pier was the lovely fresh sea breeze at the end which was most welcome with the LA sunshine. It was also nice to just look out at the Pacific Ocean towards the horizon.

    Now for the worst part of the day, driving from Santa Monica to Anaheim. The quickest route is about 41 miles long and should take around 40 minutes, so no problem at all right? WRONG! This is LA, unless you are travelling in the middle of the night then you will encounter traffic around every corner. I forget exactly how long the journey took but it was over 2 hours, possibly over 2 and a half, and it was a very stressful drive with Waze trying its best to find quicker routes avoiding the main roads.

    Eventually we did arrive at our final hotel of the trip, we had 9 nights at the Clementine Hotel & Suites Anaheim which is a 10-minute walk from Disneyland and gives easy access to the I5. As we were here for 9 nights, we wanted something more than just a bedroom and a bathroom, so opted for a one-bedroom suite which included a living room and kitchenette. Having the extra space was more than worth it, and we paid a reasonable price that included both parking and breakfast.

    After some time to relax a little, have a shower and get changed we ventured down from our hotel to Disneyland Resort for the first time, which was very exciting! The parks were open when we arrived on Disney property, but we had no plans to go on, instead we went to collect our 5-day park hopper tickets to save faff the next morning and went to Downtown Disney for a look around and an evening meal. A table at Catal Restaurant had already been booked and the food here was first class, as was the general atmosphere.

    All in all, the perfect end to a slightly chaotic day. We headed straight back to the hotel after our meal to get an early night in preparation for our first full day at Disneyland!

    And this is where my trip report may start to become a little dis-jointed. Our days from now on went as follows; Disneyland, SeaWorld, Knotts Berry Farm, Disney California Adventure, Disneyland/DCA for Oogie Boogie Bash in the evening, Universal Studios, Disneyland/DCA, Disneyland/DCA.

    I think I am going to focus on the non-Disney park next, and round of the reports with Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. And if that is what I do, next up will be the delights of SeaWorld San Diego!
     
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  17. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    SeaWorld San Diego

    SeaWorld San Diego was probably the park we were looking forward to least on the trip, and had it not been for Manta we would probably have overlooked it completely. There are not that many rides at the park and of the rides that they do have nothing really stands out.

    We were visiting on a Saturday and had no idea what crowd levels were likely to be. The park opened at 10am so we made sure that we arrived on time to be able to get the coasters in early before any long queues did form. The entrance plaza was packed when we did arrive with people waiting for the turnstiles to open, thankfully it did not take too long to get in once they did.

    Of the park’s four coasters, two are on the left side of the park and two are on the right side. We decided to head left towards Manta, and with not many other people doing the same thing we were hopeful of a ride with next to no queue. Well there was certainly no risk of a queue, because when we got to the entrance it was closed! Turns out that all rides at SeaWorld San Diego open at 11am despite the park opening at 10am. Every. Single. Ride. This had not been at all obvious on their website and we were somewhat frustrated to say the least.

    A little wander around and a coffee later we came back to Manta ready for it to open at 11am, which it duly did. Unfortunately, you cannot take bags in to queue lines and must use lockers. I do not mind this when a park gives you the option to rent a moveable locker for the whole day, as is the case at some Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks. But at SeaWorld San Diego you must pay to rent a locker every time you wish to use one, which is infuriating for those who want to ride coasters and take a bag to a theme park.

    After a bad start to the day it was good to see that Manta was running three trains and we walked straight on. This Mack launch coaster was the second to open after Blue Fire and looks wonderful off-ride with plenty of ground hugging swoops and a beautiful track colour. As a coaster it is okay, maybe a tad disappointing after quite a few years of thinking it looked quite good. The launches are fairly weak but better than Icon’s and the layout is relatively forceless. But you do have to remember that it is a family coaster and I am sure it goes down very well with those who are not yet ready for bigger and more thrilling coasters. We got two or three rides in on Manta whilst our bags were in the locker, and as we did not want to pay again, we never returned.

    Next up was the park’s newest addition, Tidal Twister, which opened earlier this year. It is a Skyline Attractions Horizonal Skywarp and after experiencing the atrocity that is Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster at Discovery Kingdom, I was not looking forward to this at all. We did not fancy paying for lockers again here, so we split ridership so that one of use was always left with the bags; thankfully there was no queue. Tidal Twister was actually a big surprise and much better than the vertical version at Discovery Kingdom. It’s much more comfortable and flows quite well, although I cannot say that I would be excited to see more parks getting these.

    A ride on Shipwreck Rapids followed, which as you have probably guessed, is the park’s rapids ride. The queue took longer than it should, largely because it was not being operated efficiently. SeaWorld seem to have a policy of no more than two boats on the turntable at any one time, perfect for slow loading. The ride itself was pretty good fun, apart from that it ends with a dark cold tunnel that boats stack in (thanks to the turntable policy); not nice when you are sodden.

    We grabbed a bite to eat and a beer (the food was fine, nothing to write home about, and sadly no Shamu burgers) before heading for Journey to Atlantis. Like its namesake over in Orlando, this is a Mack water coaster, but with less theming. That being said, it still looks lovely! The queue was about 45 minutes, so we decided to make use of the single rider queue, this turned out to be a very good decision. The host clearly had no idea how a single rider queue was meant to work, so sent one of us to row 1, one to row 2 and another to row 3. This did not match up at all with people who were already in the bays. We ended up sitting with two of us in one row and one of us in the row in front, which worked for us and for the other people in the bays!

    Thankfully none of us were on the front row as at one-point water came flowing over the front of the boat giving a real soaking. Wetness on rows two and three was more than acceptable and Journey to Atlantis was a pretty good coaster.

    The final coaster here is also the park’s newest coaster; Electric Eel. This Premier Sky Rocket II opened in 2018 and like the other coasters at the park has a gorgeous track colour. Unlike the two previous Sky Rocket II’s that I have ridden, Electric Eel features trains made up of three cars and the restraints have ‘comfort’ collars. I have always been sceptical about these restraints and having now experienced them I can confirm that they are utterly pointless and actually make the ride less comfortable than the versions that do not have them. The ride is just like the other Sky Rockets, very good!

    There is a Wild Arctic simulator dark ride at the park, but we did not bother with it. We did have a look around the Wild Arctic exhibit though which features some beluga whales, seals and walruses.

    SeaWorld San Diego is a nicely presented park with a similar feel to SeaWorld Orlando. It really is lacking in quality rides, although we knew to expect this. Nothing stands out and it is not a park I will be rushing back to, despite the addition of a new B&M Dive Coaster in 2020.

    We left the park at around 3pm and headed just down the road to Belmont Park so that we could get a ride in on the famous Giant Dipper. This wooden coaster opened in 1925 which makes it one of the oldest operating rollercoasters in the world. It was not the most comfortable of rides with quite a few jolts along the way, but it was great fun none-the-less.

    We enjoyed a nice meal at Chili’s on the way back to Anaheim and were able to get an earlier night ahead of our next park, Knotts Berry Farm.
     
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  18. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Apologies for the very long delay, but my next review is now ready!

    Knott's Berry Farm

    I was really looking forward to visiting Knott’s Berry Farm and had heard good things from those who has been before. On paper the park does not have one stand out world class ride or coaster, but there is a more than solid selection of rides.

    Let’s quickly start on a negative though. We found out the day before that GhostRider, the park’s CCI wooden coaster that was re-tracked a few years ago by GCI, was going to be down for scheduled maintenance. To say that this was a disappointment for me was an understatement; GhostRider looks to be the best coaster at the park and I was eager to ride it. I am glad that we did find this out the day before though rather than when we arrived at the park.

    We were visiting Knott’s Berry Farm on a Sunday and it looked like it could be relatively busy, so opted to buy Fast Lane in advance. When first arriving at Knott’s it was clear that this theme park is quite different to others. There is not one large main car park, but several smaller parking lots dotted around the edge of the park. The walk to the park takes you along California Marketplace, which is a small but charming shopping and dining street/area and the location of the famous Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

    Unlike many Cedar Fair parks, Knott’s is split up in to very distinct themed areas. I think I am going to take it an area at a time for this review, rather than my usual format of coasters followed by other rides.

    And I am not even going to leave the best to last, as first up is Ghost Town. This elaborate wild west themed area is large, immersive and mightily impressive. There are plenty of streets, eateries, retail shops and craft shops where you can watch craftsmen go about their work. This reminded me somewhat of Silver Dollar City.

    Ghost Town is home to the park’s most popular attraction, Timber Mountain Log Ride. This Arrow Developments log flume is one of the oldest in the US and was given a major renovation in 2013; it turns out that a new soundtrack and a couple of new animatronics were added this year for the ride’s 50th anniversary. The ride features two drops, one indoor drop about halfway through and then finale drop at the end down from the top of Timber Mountain. It is the wonderfully detailed scenes that make Timber Mountain Log Ride though and the overall quality would not look too out of place in a Disney theme park. Only downside is the very poor capacity of the ride, which means it nearly always has a long queue. No Fast Lane either, although that is probably a wise decision.

    The park’s other water ride, Calico River Rapids, is also in Ghost Town. This Intamin rapids originally opened in 1987 as Bigfoot Rapids but was re-themed in 2019 with the addition of animatronics and water effects. As with most rapids rides, this is a fun filled family ride although I don’t recall it being up there with some of the best rapids that I have done.

    A couple of other attractions on Ghost Town before I come on to the area’s coasters. Calico Mine Ride is a quaint little dark ride that originally opened in 1960 and takes you down in to the mine. We had no idea about this ride beforehand, so it was a nice little surprise with, again, some pretty good theming. Then there was the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad which is a one stop railroad ride that travels around the park. I do love a good railroad, and this one features actors who board the train at the start and perform a little show as they pass through the carriages.

    Now for Ghost Town’s coasters. Silver Bullet is a big B&M Invert and for quite a long time I have heard negative things about it being forceless and a B&M by numbers. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually quite good! The first drop is quite an unusual profile for a B&M Invert; shallow and not a big as the lift hill. You could argue that the next part of the ride is B&M by numbers, what with a vertical loop, cobra roll, zero-g-roll and two corkscrews but it works. Then at the very end of the ride there is a rather intense upwards helix in to the brakes. Is Silver Bullet first in class when it comes to Inverts? No. However, it is a good coaster.

    Like GhostRider, Pony Express was scheduled to be down for maintenance and that was the case in the morning. So, when we saw later in the day that it had opened were rather chuffed! This Zamperla Moto Coaster is of course themed to ponies and there’s not that much to say about it. The layout is simplistic and with a top speed of 38mph it’s hardly thrilling. Although as a fun theme family coaster it does the job.

    This is where I should talk about GhostRider. I’m still not over that it was closed.

    Ghost Town must be one of my favourite areas of any theme park I’ve been to. It is just so immersive and there is a great range of different rides. I just loved the atmosphere in the whole area, it did feel like a real western town. We paid a visit to the saloon to enjoy a Boysenberry beer (yum) and watch a show. Ghost Town sums up what theme parks are all about!

    Let’s move from Ghost Town over to The Boardwalk. Nearly all Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks that I have visited seem to have an area themed to a typical American boardwalk, and in comparison to the rest of the park, this area is quite poorly themed. Pathways are very open and although all the pathways in the park are concrete, it just stands out more in this area.

    The first coaster in this area is Xcelerator which is basically Stealth with a figure of eight layout after the top hat. Xceletator opened in 2002 and by the looks of it has never seen a pot of paint since the day it opened; the track is horribly faded and is not looking that great at all. It is also meant to have two trains, yet the second train was in pieces and it sounds like it had been for most, if not all, of the season. This meant that even with Fast Lane the wait was not short, and we only rode it once because of this. The lap bars are a welcome change from Stealth but the section after the top hat doesn’t particularly add that much to the ride.

    HangTime is the park’s newest coaster having opened in 2018. This surfing themed Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster features a vertical lift hill and the layout that follows is not too dissimilar to half of The Smiler! HangTime was also set to be my 400th coaster (I had been hoping that my 400th would be GhostRider, but it was closed. Have I mentioned that yet?) HangTime was a pleasant surprise and it is a really good fun and thrilling coaster. It is not overly intense, but it is a much smoother ride than say The Smiler which means that just having lap bars is not a problem. It’s the first Gerstlauer that I have ridden which has a holding brake before the drop, and as the drop is beyond vertical, you cannot see the track below you! Elements are taken at a relatively slow speed which means you do get plenty of hangtime whist riding HangTime; how fitting! There is also a good pop of airtime just before the train enters the cobra roll. It may not come close to anyone’s top ten coasters, but it is one that most are likely to enjoy.

    Coast Rider is the park’s Mack Wild Mouse and it is relatively new, having opened in 2013. It is also possibly the worst wild mouse that I have had the displeasure of riding. For some reason known only to executives at Cedar Fair they decided to add some very uncomfortable leg guards to the cars that dig right in to your shins. Why these are needed I will never know. What should have been quite a fun ride turned in to a ride that you could not wait to end.

    Writing this review has led me to discover a ride at Knott’s Berry Farm that we completely missed, Voyage to the Iron Reef! Turns out that this is an interactive dark ride from Triotech, and is set to be re-themed for 2020 in to Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair.

    We did also ride Supreme Scream in this area, and S&S shot/drop tower. It was so memorable that I cannot remember if it shot or dropped, I think the latter.

    It is fair to say that I was not a huge fan of this area, so let’s head on over to Fiesta Village, the park’s Mexican themed area. Although not as elaborate as Ghost Town, Fiesta Village is far better themed than The Boardwalk and it does have a bit of a party/festival vibe about it.

    It is also home to a couple of coasters; Montezooma’s Revenge and Jaguar. The former is a Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop coaster a la Thunder Looper, and it is the last Shuttle Loop left in the USA. I hadn’t ridden one of these before so was quite looking forward to it and it turns out that they are really quite fun, especially on the front row! The launch is of course steady, but it is quite cool being launched straight in to a vertical loop, and the very basic lap bars add to the overall ride experience. Backwards is not at all nauseating to that’s a bonus! It is a shame that there are not more of these classic coasters left.

    Jaguar is a custom Zierer Tivoli, and I thought it may be the longest of these in the world, but it turns out that record goes to Pepsi Orange Streak at Nickelodeon Universe. Nevertheless, Jaguar is very long for one of these family coasters, featuring two lift hills, and is very good fun! It travels over many of the pathways in Fiesta Village and I think coasters like this are perfect for families with younger children who want to go on something a little bit bigger than a little kiddies coaster.

    There are quite a few flat rides in Fiesta Village including a Top Scan, a Chance Pendulum, a pirate ship and a waveswinger; but we gave these a miss.

    The last area at Knott’s Berry Farm is Camp Snoopy, which as you can probably guess, is the parks kids area themed to Snoopy. It is a very green area of the park and mainly consists of small flat rides for children, many from Zamperla.

    Camp Snoopy is also hope to the park’s Mack Spinning Coaster, Sierra Sidewinder. This opened in 2007 and was the first of the new type of these coasters from Mack following on from the original Euro-Mir which opened in 1997. This is also the same model of coaster that Paultons Park are getting this year, although the version that Paultons are getting has tri-track and no doubt the updated trains.

    We found Sierra Sidewinder to be much better than expected, although this might have been because with the three of us, we managed to weight the car in a manner that we span like crazy! So much fun and this will be perfect for Paultons.

    There was a show on just as we were about to leave the park, so we decided to give it a watch. This was a wild west stunt show in the Wagon Camp arena situated in Ghost Town, and it provided all the cheesy laughs you would expect from such a show. Nothing amazing, but good fun.

    In terms of food, we ate at the Fireman’s BBQ where I enjoyed a huge portion of chicken, ribs, corn, garlic break and coleslaw. Truly delicious! There looked to be several nice food outlets across the park, including a sit-down table service restaurant in Ghost Town. And there is of course Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. I also enjoyed a snack of Boysenberry ice cream during the day.

    Overall, I very much enjoyed Knott’s Berry Farm, particularly the Ghost Town themed area. It is a lovely park and there is a good variety of different rides. For me the park is lacking a top-class coaster, but maybe GhostRider is that coaster? I still think that even had GhostRider been open, the park needs something that really stands out.

    Staff and operations were not ideal at Knott’s. Many of the staff had the look of wishing they were anywhere other than being at work which does not leave a great impression on guests. I wonder if all the people who want to work at a theme park in the area end up at Disney, and Knott’s are left with those who simply are not up to Disney standards. Staff at other Cedar Fair parks I have visited are not usually this miserable, bar the odd case here and there.

    We did end up leaving the park before it closed, we had done everything that we had wanted to multiple times and the 8pm close meant there would be very little, if any, time for rides in the dark. I would absolutely recommend a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm though and look forward to seeing how Cedar Fair develop the park in the coming years.

    Two Disney days were next on the agenda, but my next review will be Universal Studios Hollywood!
     
    Matt N, Dan, skyscraper and 1 other person like this.
  19. Plastic Person

    Plastic Person TowersStreet Member

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    Great review, but what did you think of Ghostrider?
     
    Rick, Brad97, Mattmash and 1 other person like this.
  20. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    These reviews are like buses, you wait and age for one and then two come at once!

    Universal Studios Hollywood

    You cannot really visit California for the first time as a theme park fan and not visit Universal’s original theme park, Universal Studios Hollywood. The studio lot has been there since 1915 and although Universal offered tours right from the off, it was not until 1964 that the tram tour was introduced, and the theme park began to develop. The tram tour is of course still there today, although much changed. I will come on to that later.

    Our day started with the drive from Anaheim to Universal Studios which is back up north past central LA. We had this drive on a Wednesday morning, and a drive that takes around 45 minutes with no traffic ending up taking about 2 hours! Don’t you just love the LA traffic?

    Upon arrival we had to pay $25 for parking, and we’d already been ripped off purchasing our tickets in advance; £82 for one day’s entry at an off-peak time, wow!! I’ll come on to value for money towards the end of this review.

    After a rather slow, faffy and poorly organised security check we were finally in the park, and this park is strange to say the least. A few years ago, I read a brilliant book by Sam Gennawey (Universal Versus Disney) which gives a fascinating history of Universal Studios Hollywood and how the theme park came about and developed. Because of this I knew that the park was split across two levels; the upper lot and the lower lot. These two lots are joined by a series of escalators that go up and down the side of a massive hill. Unique to say the least!

    We headed down the lower lot first, so that is where I’ll start. Down here you will find the ‘new’ Jurassic World ride, Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride 3D.

    Jurassic World: The Ride opened in 2019 and is a re-theme of the former Jurassic Park: The Ride (Universal do like their imaginative ride names). Obviously I had not ridden the ride before its re-theme, but I assume that it was very similar to its namesake in Florida. Gone are the famous Jurassic Park gates and that iconic music as they open, and instead you enter an aquarium section which of course is fake and features screens that are a bit too obviously screens for my liking. Apparently, this section responds to real world weather though, which is quite cool!

    The rest of the ride is fairly similar to before (I think), just with an updated style and narrative to fit with Jurassic World. You see that a dinosaur has escaped, make your way to the building and climb the main lift hill. Then you pass under the T-Rex animatronic and drop out of the buildings; the resulting splash looks spectacular but does not actually get you that wet. All in all, this is a good ride.

    Next was Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride (don’t forget to add the ride after the name of your attraction) which in Florida is possibly my favourite Universal ride. I knew that this would not be as good as the Florida version, it is shorter and features one less launch. It is still a very fun ride though with turns taken at high speed and some good effects. There is no fake station like on the Florida version, and no ceiling of fire. I did really enjoy this though, it’s probably my favourite ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.

    The final ride in the lower lot is Transformers: The Ride 3D. As far as I know this is identical to the Transformers ride that can be found in Florida, so it was no surprise to find that this was a top-class dark ride that relies a little too heavily on screens. It’s no Spiderman, but what is? This is a fantastic ride system and the ride is clever enough to use two floors and an elevator system without riders having the faintest of ideas (unless you know in advance and are looking out for said elevators).

    After one ride on each of the lower lot rides we headed back to the upper lot. Here you can find Hogsmeade and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The whole area is nearly identical to the area on Florida, it even features the Dragon Challenge (now Hagrid’s Adventure coaster) entrance archway! And that leads me to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is of course a clone of the Florida version although I believe this has HD screens whereas the Florida version did not when I rode it.

    We all know that Forbidden Journey is a very impressive dark ride and has a good mix of physical theming and screens to tell the story. I’m not actually the biggest Forbidden Journey fan, yes of course it is good but in Florida I much prefer both Spiderman and Revenge of the Mummy and riding this version did not change my opinion. Thankfully the park was fairly quiet, so we did not have to queue for long.

    Flight of the Hipogriff in Hollywood is a Mack YoungStar Coaster (as opposed to a Vekoma Junior Coaster in Florida). This is of course a kids coaster; it is perfectly smooth and does the job just fine.

    I was going to get myself some frozen Butterbeer whist in Hogsmeade, but Universal have decided not to advertise the price (probably for good reason, it’s rather expensive) and because of this I did not bother. At one point during the day I popped in to Starbucks to try and get my water bottle re-filled, they declined but instead gave me two plastic cups full of tap water that I could subsequently put in to my water bottle. Pass on plastic? Not in the USA!

    We did also ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, which again is identical to the one that can be found in Florida. This motion simulator is good fun but nothing to write home about. The park also has a Simpsons simulator ride, which guess what, is identical to the one in Florida. We gave this a miss as it had the longest queue in the park, and we’d all done it in Florida.

    Now the primary reason for visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, the world-famous Studio Tram Tour. This experience lasts about an hour and features several different experiences along the route. Some scenes, such as Flash Flood, show how an effect is used in a film. In this case it is a load of water cascading down a hillside and flooding a small area. Other scenes pass actual sets used in films, such as the huge plane crash scene from War of the Worlds. Unfortunately, some scenes, such as Whoville, are really looking way past their sell-by-date.

    Then there are newer scenes, King Kong and Fast and Furious, that utilise immersive tunnels. These are both in 3D so you have to put on your 3D glasses, and the tram enters a building before parking inside the tunnel. The show scene then begins and to be honest, they were both a bit naff. Kong was better than Fast and Furious, but that is not saying much. I don’t feel that these scenes really fit in with the rest of the tram tour, and it is not helped that they are rather hyped up by Universal.

    The Studio Tram Tour is good, and it is something you must do when visiting Universal Studios. For me the best parts are where you see actual sets and studios that are being used, or ‘live’ scenes that make use of special effects. It probably was not quite as good as I’d hoped it would be.

    In terms of rides and attractions, well, that is it! £82 for not a lot, and we did not bother with any re-rides as we’d already done the same rides plenty of times before in Florida. We would have done Mummy again but seeing as it was way down in the lower lot we couldn’t be bothered. Universal Studios Hollywood desperately needs more rides; the new Nintendo Land will help but even that is just going to be one ride in Hollywood as opposed to two or three rides at other Universal parks. They just do not have the space in Hollywood.

    I may have finished with the rides, but I have not yet come on to the real highlight of the day. A show. Waterworld. I knew a little bit about this famous stunt show and had been really looking forward to it for quite a long time. It is based on the film of the same name, although you do not need to know anything about the film to appreciate this spectacular show. In fact, the film was a bit of a flop, yet the show remains extremely popular.

    The usual queueing/waiting area for the show was closed off due to Halloween Horror Nights, so we were forced to wait in an unshaded area, crammed in like sardines, in the Californian heat. Not pleasant at all! Anyway, we took our seats inside the arena and made sure to stay clear of the blue seats which are the soak zones. And these really are soak zones! Before the show gets underway a few of the actors come out to get the crowd going and this involves not only lots of cheering but lots of said actors using hoses to drench people in the soak zones. One poor chap really got picked on and ended up with a whole bucket of water poured over his head. All extremely amusing!

    I’m not going to go through the whole show, but it was very impressive from start to finish with very high quality acting for a theme park show. Universal of course have access to professional actors who have worked in TV and film. The highlight and biggest wow moment was when the seaplane comes crashing down in flames! Waterworld certainly made that £82 entrance fee seem slightly better value for money.

    As previously touched on with the Butterbeer, food and drink is very expensive at Universal Studios. I had a pizza and soft drink from somewhere in the Simpsons area for my lunch which was nice but overpriced. I would have tried a Duff beer but could not justify the cost.

    The park itself is very well presented; clean and tidy with good theming. You would expect nothing less from a Universal park. I certainly won’t be rushing back here though, in fact if I was to return to California and they had not got a new unique ride then I’d probably give the park a miss. It’s fine, but there’s just not enough to do and they need some unique attractions.

    The park was scheduled to close at 6pm yet we left at about 4.30pm. It would have been earlier if we had not been pulled in to the lavish guest relations offices to give some feedback on our way out! Then to avoid the worst of the rush hour traffic heading back to Anaheim we decided to grab some food at Bubba Gumps in CityWalk.

    We had two more days at Disney left after Universal before heading home. And that is where these reviews will be heading next. I’ve not decided exactly how I am going to construct my Disney reviews yet. I may start with DCA so I can end on the crown jewel of the trip; Disneyland. So expect anther delay before the next review does appear!
     

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