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Showing content with the highest reputation on 12/13/2020 in all areas

  1. Six Flags Fiesta Texas At some point in the last decade Fiesta Texas quietly became a sleeper pick for best Six Flags Park. It feels like it happened overnight. Before we all knew it, what was a novelty park with a big floorless on a quarry wall was suddenly the shining example of how the Six Flags formula can be done right. In 2020 it feels more like a Cedar Fair park in how the corporate brand is more skillfully woven into the local culture and identity. After a long, fun, and surprisingly busy day at Fiesta, I declared it my second favorite in the chain close behind the perpetually overlooked Six Flags Over Georgia. Joining me was TPR’s favorite Austinite, the one and only Bert! He and I kind of had dueling 2019 Japan trip reports going for a while and discovered that besides coasters, we also had a love for Godzilla films in common, so the only sensible thing to do was to meet up once I made my way to his home state of Texas. This was not my first visit to SFFT, but it’s Bert’s home park so he was able to help us navigate the larger than expected crowds and show us the ins and outs of the place. Bert and I are such hardcore coaster enthusiasts that we wore Godzilla shirts instead. My first time at SFFT was in 2001 just a few months after my dad and I had our big Kraken marathon at Sea World Orlando. Superman Krypton Coaster was the new hotness back then. This was when B&M floorless coasters seemed cutting edge and avant-garde, so as a 13 year old proto-enthusiast who had just ridden the two biggest and baddest floorlesses in the country, I felt like I was in coaster heaven. The park’s only other major coasters at that point were Road Runner Express, the Vekoma-built Joker’s Revenge (closed), Poltergeist (closed), and the original, full-blown wooden, John Pierce-designed Rattler. This was after Rattler had been modified to shorten the drop and reprofile the curve off the quarry wall, but I still remember it to this day as the roughest coaster experience of my life. Not even Son of Beast or Psyclone at their worst could outdo Rattler’s worst. It took 14 years for my next visit when we came during Holiday in the Park 2015. The park had seen numerous upgrades by then, most importantly Iron Rattler. I finally got to ride Poltergeist, but Superman was closed so I’d have to continue relying on a fading memory instead of reevaluating it. One-train operations on Iron Rattler kept us in line there for most of the day, so I didn’t get to explore the full park the way I would have liked, but the handful of night rides on Iron Rattler were well worth it. Its height, speed, terrain, and airtime make it one of the best night rides out there and the cold December air only amplified everything. Now in 2020, armed with a Gold Flash Pass in one holster and Bert in the other, I felt ready to take the park by force the way I had always wanted to. Things started well. We got two quick rides on Wonder Woman and powered through the other coasters on our way to Iron Rattler. But little by little the midways became more clogged and by noon it felt like regular October Saturday in terms of crowds. With our Gold Flash Pass this would not normally have been a problem. Gold is all I’ve ever needed at any Six Flags park even on peak days. Usually I’ll select the next ride as soon as my current one is scanned and by the time I’ve exited the station and walked to the next one it’s either already time to ride or will be in a matter of minutes. Not so today. Social distanced seating meant that every ride was hovering somewhere around 40-50% capacity and the park just could not handle the crowds. Bert will correct me if I remember incorrectly, but I believe the state had just approved raising theme park capacity that week and the result was an influx of guests the exceeded what the rides could accommodate with their current restrictions. I can’t be too mad about it. These are unbelievably tough times for this industry and if letting in the most guests allowable is what they have to do to keep people employed and the park running, then good for them I guess. Mask wearing and sanitation were overall very good, so it never seemed like a safety concern to me. The unfortunate effect of all this is that it rendered our Gold Flash Pass almost moot. By mid-afternoon wait times for all the major rides were 70-90 minutes on the Flash Pass. Now keep in mind the Gold level means your wait time is reduced by 50%, so the regular queue was double that. We made the best of it but we eventually had to accept that we just weren’t going to get as much done as we thought. Getting any more rides on Wonder Woman was out of the question as were Joker Carnival of Chaos and Road Runner Express. The real kicker came near the end of the night when our reservation for Iron Rattler got booted out of the system so they could close the line two hours ahead of the park closing. We had already waited in limbo for our prior reservation on Superman while it broke down, only to finally get off that and see that our existing Iron Rattler reservations had been wiped clean despite being only 8:00pm ahead of a 10:30pm closing time. If the ride had broken down it would have been one thing. But to see Iron Rattler continue sending out trains full of riders when our reservation we paid the combined total of $380.00 for got canceled was infuriating. As someone who works in hospitality, I hate complaining and I try to give staff the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but I couldn’t do that here. We went to the Flash Pass office where several other groups were already there about the same issue. I guess my voice must have been the loudest in the room because a more-senior manager came over to speak with me. To his credit, he was totally professional about it and asked what we wanted in compensation. I said we wanted passes to ride Iron Rattler or Wonder Woman. When he replied he couldn’t do that and floated the idea of a partial refund, I asked for 50% to which he agreed. When we left and checked our receipt I was beyond impressed to find that he had in fact given us a full refund. If you’ve ever taken any university level hospitality courses, you might have had a professor who taught you this type of thing is called the “service paradox.” While any real hotel manager would probably laugh at you for using the term in general conversation, the gist of it is that guests look more favorably on a business that rights a wrong rather than one where nothing goes wrong at all. With that in mind, the park did the right thing in compensating us, but it’s inexcusable that they’re cutting off Flash Passes like this in the first place. I don’t buy the excuse that it was to accommodate the fireworks show still over two hours from then. I work in a business where every hour of payroll feasible is being cut right now to manage losses. As far as I can tell, this was just Six Flags trying to get their ride staff off the clock at the earliest possible convenience. Did this experience taint my opinion of Fiesta Texas as a whole? Not really. I’ll chalk this one up to Covid and hope for better next time. We still had a great day hanging out with Bert and I got to see all of what the park has to offer better than I did the last time. I think there are a couple of Six Flags parks with better coaster collections, but none of them have the all-around blend of quality and quantity of attractions, atmosphere, theming, and a great natural setting like Fiesta Texas does. I can see why Bert is proud of it as his home park. Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster If the Raptor clones aren’t the top pound-for-pound coasters out there, then I don’t know what is. Short as they are, Wonder Woman and Railblazer are so packed with ejector airtime, intensity, and inversions, their brief duration never registers. I don’t know if I have a preference for one installation over the other. It will be interesting over time to see if much variation develops as more of them are built the way it has with some Batman clones. SFFT has an elite 1-2 punch now with this coaster and Iron Rattler. 9/10 The raptor train carries so much speed over this hill the physics almost don’t look real. Superman and Wonder Woman are two very different steel loopers from different eras that complement each other perfectly. One is a short, tight, bundle of energy while the other is a long, flowing epic. It looks not unlike the Roman fanfare theming from the original Roller Coaster Tycoon, huh? Iron Rattler Well, I never got to follow up on my world class night rides from 2015 like I wanted, but with the two rides I got on it, Iron Rattler moved up on my list anyway. I noticed they don’t slow it down at the top of the lift anymore. I don’t know how long this has been the practice, but it definitely improves the drop in the back of the train. The quarry wall and bits of support structure you fly through add so much to the sensation of speed, really making Iron Rattler feel like a grandiose experience. This coaster possesses an “epic” quality that some of the world’s greatest coasters, including ones I rate higher than Iron Rattler, lack. It shares a sense of magnitude and of conquering something formidable I otherwise only feel on giga coasters or one-offs like Dododonpa. The zero-g-roll atop the cliff remains one of my top five favorite inversions and the cliff dive would be the most ideal coaster midpoint ever devised—if it were actually the midpoint. The storyteller in me yearns for the layout to complete its narrative and by hitting the brakes straight out of the tunnel it doesn’t get that chance. Still an excellent coaster though. 9/10 I failed to take any good photos of Iron Rattler. The old Rattler had more track circling this space that was omitted from the RMC conversion. I’m sure cost was the reason they didn’t retain more of it and it’s too bad because the lack of a proper denouement is the only thing keeping Iron Rattler from being a top tier RMC. How our standards change over the years—Until Rattler surprised us at the end of the night, Road Runner Express and Superman Krypton Coaster were the only coasters open when I visited in 2001—and I was very satisfied with that at the time. Iron Rattler frames the Gully Washer loading platform like a gigantic horror creature sprawled atop the quarry wall. Superman Krypton Coaster It’s too bad I didn’t get to ride this back-to-back with Kraken like I intended since they seem to have been the consensus two best floorless coasters for years. Fortunately, SKC was running great, in fact a lot better than I remember Kraken riding the last time. It has a bit of that vibration and shuffle B&Ms pick up as they age, but it was never uncomfortable. Maybe this is due to having not ridden it in nineteen years, but SKC is a more intense coaster than I realized. That’s by B&M looper standards, mind you, however it was not the big, floaty floorless I remembered. It pulls just hard enough to be interesting in a few places, which together with the strong layout and terrain visuals make it my new pick for best floorless, finally overtaking my beloved Kraken. 8/10 I have it on good authority that Brandon Routh valiantly, yet unsuccessfully petitioned for years to reprise his role as Superman right here atop the vertical loop at Six Flags Fiesta Texas before ultimately returning to the DC Universe in a different capacity on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. I think this is one of B&M’s finest zero-g-rolls. My only criticism of Superman Krypton Coaster is that it doesn’t utilize the quarry wall more. A tunnel or another dive off the edge would have been ideal. Other than the first drop and the elevated spiral, most of it follows a typical B&M looping layout. Poltergeist Who would think that despite having two excellent RMCs, a twenty-one-year-old, cloned Premier would be Bert’s favorite coaster at his home park? I was surprised when he told me, but I understand. Like Joker’s Jinx which I rode earlier this year at Six Flags America, Poltergeist is a well-rounded, thrilling, and comfortable ride. Without the MCBR found on the Flight of Fear twins, Poltergeist take every element at just the right speed and the intensity mounts as the ride nears its conclusion. I still think it’s a crime Premier never sold more of these. 8/10 The first-gen Premier launched trains always look like toys to me. Batman: The S&S This was my first Free Spin coaster back in 2015 and it remains one of only two that I actually enjoy. Nagashima Spa Land’s Arashi spins so much it’s in a class by itself, but of the more pedestrian, US-based models, only Fiesta’s allows the concept to flourish. Unlike the later installations, you’re likely to get a couple of inversions on this one and it doesn’t feel like the ride vehicle is being reigned in constantly. 7/10 Batman has a central location and doesn’t fit squarely in the DC area by Superman and Wonder Woman. So help me out with this. I’m not particularly steeped in Batman lore, but was this specific Batmobile featured in any movies/shows/games, or did someone actually go to the trouble of making an original design just for the park? The only Free Spin in North America I’ll wait in line for. Goliath This is one of my two favorite Batman: The Ride clones along with the one at Six Flags Over Georgia. I routinely gray out on them whereas I rarely if ever have on the rest of them. For whatever reason, these two just seem to pull a little bit harder. Props to SFFT for doing a parking lot coaster the right way too. Putting some grass, sand, and shrubbery down goes a long way. As intense as it is and as nice as it looks, the Batman layout still leaves me a bit cold. I’ve never been able to figure out why this is, but it may be that the layout is so tightly paced that it doesn’t leave adequate time to enjoy what the train is doing. 7.5/10 Goliath: The Invert Goliath was already running intense on an early morning run then became even more so once it had ample time to warm up. Probably my favorite paint scheme on any of the Batman clones at the moment. I feel like SFFT’s eclectic mix of themes should not work together on paper, but somehow in practice it just does. It would be one thing if this were a true Disney/Universal style park with themed areas designated by a cohesive plan, but that isn’t quite the case here. Instead you have Western, Medieval, Boardwalk, 1950s, DC Comics, and (seasonally) Halloween elements that all somehow just avoid clashing with each other. Bugs’ Rapids is as good a flume ride as you’ll find at a Six Flags park. This dragon alone wets riders more than the rest of the ride combined. To their credit, the scare actors seemed into it despite being unable to roam like they have in years past. One could actually make a case for keeping this approach instead of returning to the old scare zone model. Parks could opt to expand on these show scenes with multiple contained characters featuring story arcs and dialogue. Each one could be its own ten-minute horror set piece that plays out several times per hour. I appreciate touches like turning the Gully Washer river red. Steampunk horror pumpkins? Sure! I didn’t stop to check if the kiddie train at Kemah Boardwalk was named Tilman Fertitta. The steam train at Fiesta Texas is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s long, scenic, and atmospheric without resorting to hokey show scenes or long stops in the middle of nowhere. And where else can you find such great views of exotic attractions like this Vekoma Boomerang? Crowds almost seemed to double after nightfall. The park atmosphere was still great, but it eventually became clear we just weren’t going to be able to get as much done as we had earlier in the day. As good as Joker’s lighting package looks, it will have to wait until next time.
    3 points
  2. Yesterday, after my brief stop at SFA, I fought through the perpetual Northern Virginia I-95 traffic to check out Kings Dominion's Taste of the Season event - a COVID-blamed Winterfest-lite. And believe me, it was "light" indeed in every way, from rides, to food stands, even holiday decorations. The only thing not light about the day was the crowd; I blame going on the best weather day the region has seen in months: High 60s when I arrived at around 4:30, high 50s when I left around 7:00. The place seemed more packed than when I went for Winterfest-regular last year. Anyway, on with the TR. After arrival, I kinda just did a lap to confirm what was open and how things were laid out. In the area that used to be a smoking zone (KD, like all other CF parks, has removed all smoking zones from inside the park and replaced it with one just outside the main gate), they had some local craft booths set up: And around the Eiffel tower, were some makeshift games booths: As for the Tower itself, it was unfortunately closed, despite appearing on the app as being operational. I continued my trek towards the back of the park, and thought I might grab a tasty adult beverage, but here was the line: So yeah, that didn't happen. Glanced over to Twisted Timbers, and lamented what could have been. This was actually open for last year's Winterfest and was awesome in the brisk December air. Continuing my lap around the park, and saw that they had just parked a food truck in front of the entrance to Safari Village. Sorry, no shots of the Tiki Twirl construction site (no, they haven't announced the name of the 4D but that's what I'm sticking with!). A note about the holiday decorations: They were severely cut back from what they had last year during Winterfest. For example, last year they had thousands of jumbo-style lights hanging from all of the trees in Planet Snoopy, covering over walkways, and making it it an awesome experience. This year? Just some regular lights strung up in the ground-level bushes. At least they lit up Snoopy. And the stage was active with a variety of music-and-dancing shows, running basically continually throughout the night. There was also another small stage with singing acts, again seemingly continual, near Racer's entrance. Speaking of which, this was the queue at 5:20. Yes, that is backed all the way out onto the midway. Why was this? Much like Dorney Park, the park's COVID-protocols were to blame - only seating every 3rd row, which results in a maximum of 10 riders per train. At least they were running both. A nearby employee estimated the wait at an hour and a half. Wave Swinger was also similarly capacity-limited. Maybe hard to see in the photo, but that is about 25% of the seats actually installed. A note about food service: Most stands had been converted into Tasting Stations for the main theme of the event, food tasting. As I have the food preferences of a 5 year old, I passed on all of these (the only one I wanted to try was the minty ice cream sandwich, but the line was 15 people deep when passed by). I was slightly disappointed to not be able to get any MacBowl glory, as it was serving only the holiday menu. I did like how they lined the Candy Apple Grove midway with the decorations from the "12 Days of Christmas" that was done last year on Blue Ridge Tollway (it was closed this year, along with the rest of Old Virginia), complete with synchronized lighting to the lyrics of the song, which would play about every 3 songs in the area. You can also see in this picture that none of the trees were lit up; last year they were all extremely well lit with pixel-mapped mutli-colored lights that were synchronized to the ambient music. Outside Buccaneer, there was a cool "mystery jelly bean" tasting game that reminded me of the "guess what's in it" shot game from Haunt a few years back when they did the Skeleton Key rooms. Right before snapping this picture, I took my only ride of the night on Dominator (36 minutes on-and-off). They were skipping every other row, one group per row but allowing a full row of 4 if your group had it, and were loading the station from the back of the train first. I managed to luck out with my line positioning and got the front row. It was good to ride perhaps the best floorless after riding what is easily the worst at SFA early in the day. They were also doing a kid-friendly scavenger hunt cell phone game based around finding a Santa's stolen sleigh. All in all, it wasn't a terrible event. I'm glad they were able to open at all this year, and being included in my Platinum Pass, it was a good time and definitely worth the three hour drive from Delaware. Yeah, I wish more rides were running, but its better than nothing for locals who had no other amusement park options without wanting to take a four-hours-or-longer drive to a park that had been operating fully over the summer. I may make another trip back later in the month, hopefully for some lower crowds. I leave you with plenty of photos of the decorations. No singing mushrooms, sorry. They didn't need these fire pits tonight, but it was nice that they were lit anyway. And to close things out, a video of the pixel-mapped "tree" that they make of the Eiffel Tower. No matter how may times I see this I think it's awesome. MOV_0364.mp4 I hope you all enjoy my report. Sorry for the blurriness on some of the photos, my phone is nearly 5 years old and doesn't work as well as it once did.
    1 point
  3. Great report! Reminds me that I need to start on my report of this park. Because of how much a comics nerd I am, I can tell you that this Batmobile took its design from the Video Game Injustice: Gods Among Us and subsequent comic series.
    1 point
  4. That very first photo of Wonder Woman.... And you had Bert with you, too. Excellent! Thanks for sharing it all. Wonder Woman and Fiesta Texas is one of those parks I'd really like to visit... some day, some how.
    1 point
  5. No, just cleaning up years of neglect and bad decisions. Sent from my SM-F916U using Tapatalk
    1 point
  6. With the four trains I could swear I had read it would have the moving station but I’m struggling to confirm that info.
    1 point
  7. On the topic of guest experience. I am sure under current circumstances it is not as consistent as they would like, most businesses are not if they are even open. That being said after the excellent support in the previously mentioned lost car key debacle at the ACE event, I had another issue completely (once again) of my own making. Apparently it was my weekend to be stupid. In the panic and then subsequent relief of the key, and the fact that we stayed an hour late for ert and went out the resort gate; I totally forgot that I had sent a package to pick up earlier in the day. I realized the next day on our way home and called the park. Of course got a machine, left my sad tale and offered to pay to ship or in lieu of that possibility could I get a refund. I did not hear back for about 10 days BUT did eventually get a call from a very nice and obviously harassed supervisor who asked for my address so they could ship it to me at no expense on my part. So......maybe just a little patience.
    1 point
  8. Um...you know KD already has a giga, right? And yeah, I'd trade operating seasons this year between KD and KI in a heartbeat. KI got four months; KD got 3 weekends.
    1 point
  9. Wait, there is actually going to be a safari-themed ride in Safari Village? Is that allowed?
    1 point
  10. COVID-19 has taken Charlie Pride from us. I am so mad right now. That man deserved a peaceful passing. https://www.wsj.com/articles/charley-pride-country-musics-first-black-star-dies-at-age-86-11607814223?mod=e2tw
    0 points
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