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Of all of the SFMM TRs I've seen, I really enjoyed the descriptive/thorough nature of yours.

 

I can't wait to ride Green Lantern at WCB next year.. I'm assuming it's loads of fun, but I can't justify spending the money to go there for one ride.

 

Also, check out the guy with the camera on the front row of Riddler's.

 

Again, great report! I'll be subscribing now.

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Great TR of So Cal attractions. There is so much fun things to do down there if you can afford them. As Eric Cartman once said, "anything that is fun costs at least eight dollars".

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The L.A. County Fair in Pomona recently ended its 2011 run (it essentially runs for the entire month of September, ending at the very beginning of October). I've always been the type of person who'll go to the fair every other year or so, ride a few rides, and eat some food. This year I thought I'd spend a little more time exploring everything the fair has to offer, so I bought a season pass (which is really the best deal if you even plan to visit just twice). I hit up the fair on four different days, and I can say that I probably still only saw a fraction of the attractions. What with all the rides, shows, exhibits, shopping, food, and special events, I think it's physically impossible to do everything, even if you were to go every single day. There's that much to see and do. Now, whether or not all of if is necessarily worth seeing and doing is a slightly different story. Still, being exposed to the huge variety of fair offerings gave me a different perspective of the fair, and I'll probably be more inclined to go back on an annual basis from now on.

 

Being an amusement park / roller coaster / ride fan, I did spend the majority of my time in the carnival section, and I have a pretty comprehensive set of pictures for that part of the fair. The rest of the pictures show off just a sampling of the shows and exhibits, to give a feel for the type of thing you can find. And let's not forget the crazy fair food - some of it awesome, some of it just plain weird, but all of it a huge part of the fair experience.

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Let's begin in the carnival section of the fair.

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The newest addition to the fair this year was Typhoon, an impressively large coaster for a fair (for an American fair, anyway). I imagine this was added to make up for the absence of the Hi Miler coaster, which has been at the fair for as many years as I can remember but wasn't present this year.

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Typhoon is the relocated, repainted coaster from the old Santa's Village park in Illinois. I've always known that this coaster had a bad reputation, but for some reason I've always wanted to try it. Here was my chance.

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The inclined loop, the most unique part of the coaster's layout.

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Watching the coaster, I was amazed at how SLOW it traveled. Was the coaster this slow when it operated at Santa's Village? I had always heard that it was rough, but I don't think I'd heard about it being so slow. I figured at this minimal speed it couldn't possibly still be rough. Let me tell you it is possible. I'm not sure how, but this coaster was nothing but a head-banger from start to finish. It wasn't the most painful head banging, as there were huge padded restraints, but I still couldn't figure out how it could knock your head back and forth so consistently even during the slowest and straightest segments.

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An overview of the entire ride. Though I'm glad I got to ride it to say I did, this really was not a very good coaster. However, I suppose it might be accepted by the general public as it travels the carnival circuits.

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The other adult coaster at the fair was the Crazy Coaster.

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The Crazy Coaster is a typical spinning mouse, so you pretty much know what to expect.

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Though not the most exciting coaster in the world, it was reasonably entertaining and I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed Typhoon.

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Cobra was one of at least three kiddie coasters that I saw (there may have been more; there were so many that they all started to look the same and I could very well have missed some). I just couldn't bring myself to be a whore on any of them. I was impressed, though, by the size of the kiddie area. In addition to the coasters, there were tons of kiddie flats, merry-go-rounds, slides, funhouses, etc. everywhere.

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Let's add in a food item every now and then. The most talked-about new crazy fair food this year was the deep-fried Kool-Aid! I didn't try it, but the employees said it basically tasted like a doughnut.

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My favorite ride at the fair this year was Evolution. I have never been on one of these rides before, and while I was anxious to try it, I was a bit hesitant too. These have always looked to me like they have too much upside-down hangtime, so I worried that it might actually become uncomfortable. I'm happy to report that I had no need to worry, as it was great fun.

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Spinning around in this position was pretty unique.

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Spinning around in the upside-down position for as long as this ride does seems like it might be too much, but the whole thing was actually exciting, thrilling, and, believe it or not, quite pleasant. I look forward to trying more of these.

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Always popular at the fair is Tango.

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It is pretty fun, as long as you don't mind dangling from your crotch the whole time.

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Re-Mix II was essentially an orbiter flat ride on steroids.

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It doesn't go upside down, but it flings you around enough to still become sickening.

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But the winner for most sickening ride would be Experience. It's basically a cross between Tango and Re-Mix.

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Many years ago I nearly killed a friend on this ride. She didn't really know what she was getting herself into, and after getting off she was clammy and sweaty and had to sit completely still for about half an hour before she gradually got some life back. This year, my sister rode with me. She didn't have as extreme a reaction, but it did give her a headache to the point where she was done with rides for the day. For the record, I enjoy Experience, but I would probably not ride it twice during the same visit.

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The Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich was the talked-about new food a few years ago. I actually tried one this year. The chicken was good. The jelly doughnut was good. The combination of the two was kind of weird. I guess that's the point.

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Speed was the fair's skyscraper ride. These are always fun and thrilling, plus a little disconcerting when you are left at the top while the other side of the ride is loaded / unloaded.

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While Evolution may have been my favorite new ride this year, my all-time favorite carnival ride remains the Zipper. You can't beat the forces produced by the movements of this one.

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Mega Drop was a very decent drop tower ride.

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Speaking of tower rides, next was the Sky Flyer, my first ever star flyer. I've been apprehensive about these from the first time I heard of them. I have ridden Windseeker at Knott's, which is mildly scary due to the height, but it is so slow and controlled that it isn't too bad. However, a standard chairswing ride hundreds of feet in the air sounds just plain freaky. And trying one for the first time at the fair didn't sound like a very good idea either. However, it was actually a good choice, as this one was really not very tall at all - only 130 feet. It was therefore a good way to get my feet wet for the much bigger star flyers that I know I won't be able to avoid forever.

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There was a traditional-sized chairswing ride as well.

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G Force had an interesting ride cycle. It seemed to operate at only 50% during the first half of the ride before kicking up to a full 100% and delivering the goods during the second half.

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A typical Disk-O. Fun enough, but nothing spectacular.

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As with any carnival, there were plenty of standard spinning twirl 'n hurl flat rides.

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A round-up.

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A tilt-a-whirl.

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A gravitron.

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Techno Jump, my first ever bouncy bouncy type of ride. It was fun but I imagine there are better examples out there. This one had a long cycle, traveling both forwards and backwards, but the spinning in circles kind of came to a halt every time the bouncing started. So the ride was either traveling in circles or bouncing, but not both, which I'm sure would have made it much wilder.

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A himalaya / music express ride (not sure what the technical difference is between the two, if any).

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This one had one of those funky tarps that cover the vehicles for a portion of the ride.

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A cliff hanger.

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I think I'll pass on these, though I suppose if I was to eat frog legs deep frying them would be the way to go.

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There was a pretty good selection of non-spinning rides as well. Wild River was a standard compact log ride, but the two drops were fun and it actually got you reasonably wet.

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Euroslide was the largest slide at the fair. By the time you reached the last couple of humps, you were traveling at a fast enough speed to actually get a little bit of airtime.

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Bumper cars, a staple at any carnival.

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I generally love cheesy dark rides, but the Haunted Mansion was just okay. Very short and not much activity inside. Definitely no scares. However, it was award-worthy compared to...

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...Ghost Pirates, without a doubt the most pathetic dark ride I've been on.

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After the Haunted Mansion and Ghost Pirates, I wasn't expecting much from Creep Show. It actually turned out to be pretty good. It was a much longer ride consisting of upper and lower levels, plus it had plenty of neat stuff to look at, some cool effects, and even delivered a couple scares.

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There were tons of funhouses all over the fair. Moscow Circus was the biggest and best of them. That spiral slide made me dizzier than any ride. I was completely discombobulated when I plopped out of it.

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There were also multiple ferris wheels spread throughout the fairgrounds. The Grande Wheel was the largest.

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The Sky Ride is a classic part of the L.A. County Fair experience.

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Even stuffed animals enjoy the Sky Ride.

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Just a couple coaster pics taken from the Sky Ride and Grande Wheel. Here you can see the entire layout of Typhoon.

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And the entire layout of Crazy Coaster (if you're able to see through trees anyway).

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Bungee Jump. I didn't do this, as it wasn't included in the ride wristband. I've actually never been bungee jumping now that I think about it. I will definitely have to one day.

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Looks like fun.

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Who says you can't eat healthy at the fair? They have fruit.

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Okay, that's it for the carnival and ride section of the fair. Time to explore some of the other offerings. I very much enjoy visiting national parks, so this sounded like a cool exhibit. Let's check it out.

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It looked impressive when you first walked in.

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However, what wasn't emphasized outside but what became very apparent inside was that this was just the fair's flower exhibit. They were trying to set up dioramas I guess with flowers representing different national parks, but everything was such a stretch that it really made no sense at all. Lame.

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The two most highly advertised exhibits at the fair this year were the Live Shark Encounter and Jurassic Planet. The Shark Encounter occupied a portion of one of the shopping buildings. Having live sharks mixed in with mattresses, spas, and jewelry made me concerned about the quality of this attraction before I even entered. Still, the Jaws-looking sign gave it some potential promise. Let's take a look.

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Um, there it is. A tank that looked like something you might find at a seafood restaurant with a few nurse sharks that appeared miserable hanging out on the bottom. This somehow still drew a huge crowd of amazed spectators. Have people never been to an aquarium before?

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Not exactly Jaws. 0 for 2 on the exhibits.

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With now incredibly low expectations, I headed over to the Jurassic Planet exhibit.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one was actually quite good. An entire shopping building was transformed into Jurassic Planet, which featured many life-sized dinosaurs in realistic settings. This huge dino was definitely the star of the exhibit.

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Pretty cool-looking.

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The dinos were automated so that they moved and interacted with each other. I imagine this is very much what the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit must be like at the Cedar Fair parks, except that here I didn't have to pay $5 extra.

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It's a good thing the building had a high ceiling.

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The exhibit buidling was set up as a research station, and they had some living representatives of animals that coexisted with dinosaurs on display. My favorites - the Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

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What seem to be everyone's favorite dinos, Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, were placed outside the building, getting everyone's attention and luring them into the exhibit.

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I sure hope those are mashed potatoes underneath the beef.

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The majority of the live animals at the fair were located in the quite large Mojo's Jungle area.

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Kangaroos were among the animals present.

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Emus were hanging out with the kangaroos.

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Other birds represented included parrots.

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In addition to birds, there were tons of other reptiles on display (yes, birds are feathered reptiles).

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You were free to (and even encouraged to) touch many of the animals. Several reptiles were in cages that were open enough to reach inside.

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Other reptiles were freely roaming around the Mojo's Jungle area. This is a South American lizard called a tegu.

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If you don't believe that the previous picture wasn't taken in an enclosure, here's the same tegu wandering around on the pavement, soaking up the sun.

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You can get very up close and personal with some of the snakes, as my sister ably demonstrates.

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I opted to get up close and personal with the scorpions instead.

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This almost doesn't seem that weird anymore.

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I thought I'd use the Wilderness Ridge area to give an idea of the types of shows offered at the fair.

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Of all the animal shows, the bear show was probably the most entertaining.

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Trained bears doing tricks. The bears had been raised as pets since birth and seemed very well cared for, plus the "tricks" were mostly exercises that proved the bears to be more athletic than me.

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Receiving a bear's reward - honey.

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In addition to the bears, other animal shows at the fair included a monkey show, a parrot show, a falcon show, a pets show, and the like.

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After the show you could feed the bears a snack, as my sister again demonstrates.

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If you were looking for a show starring humans, the lumberjacks were also in Wilderness Ridege. Pretty typical stuff, such as log sawing...

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...log rolling...

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...and "tree" climbing. Also at the fair were Chinese acrobats (always very good), circus acrobats (pretty good), and many other shows and demonstrations.

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I suppose this might sound appealing if you're pregnant.

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No visit to the fair would be complete without a stop at the farm exhibits.

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At the farms you can watch pig racing. Ironically enough, after the pig races everyone in the audience received a coupon for bacon.

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If you've always wanted to watch cows being milked, here was your opportunity. Sadly, the audience didn't get to milk the cows (that's too old fashioned for our high-tech cow-milking times). On a plus note, though, they did sell some of the most delecious chocolate milk at this exhibit.

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There was also one of the most crowded (in terms of number of people and number of animals) petting farms I've ever seen.

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It was mostly goats, but there were a few cows too.

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Plus a llama thrown in for good measure (okay, it might be an alpaca).

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This sounds even more disgusting than the chocolate-covered pickles.

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The Our Body exhibit was very popular at the fair. I didn't get around to doing it, mainly due to time constraints (you've got to give yourself at least an hour), but I have seen this exhibit at a couple different places. Though the concept is the same, the presentation does differ from location to location, so I would have liked to see how this one compared. It was an $8 upcharge, but based on my past visits to Our Body exhibits, that's well worth it.

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There was a concert free with fair admission almost every night. This is the one I went to. Awesome!

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I've been spotlighting some of the funky food at the fair, but I thought I'd finish by mentioning that there was a ton of "normal" food too. Pretty much anything you could want could be found. Without a doubt the two most popular items were the turkey legs and the roasted corn. They were being sold everywhere. I never had a turkey leg, but the corn was so good I got one on every visit. Perfectly buttered and salted and delicious. That alone makes it hard to wait for the 2012 L.A. County Fair.

Edited by biosciking
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This one had one of those funky tarps that cover the vehicles for a portion of the ride.

 

The are called "Liebesexpress" or Love Express in germany as teens love to make out under the closed cars....and bystanders cheer out when they're catched kissing when the covering opens....

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  • 1 month later...

I have been wanting to try a good ziplining course for quite some time now, but I haven't really known of any locally in Southern California. However, earlier this year (July 2011), a new ziplining course opened in Wrightwood (in the Angeles National Forest). Called Navitat Canopy Adventures, this represents the company's second installment, the first of which opened in Asheville, NC, in 2010. There are apparently plans in the works to open more in the upcoming years, though specific locations have not yet been revealed.

 

Navitat Canopy Adventures is an approximately four-hour course that includes ten ziplines, four suspended sky bridges, and three rappelling experiences (two actual rappel descents and a third one that would probably count more as a jump). There are a few short hiking segments interspersed throughout as well (they advertise that you'll hike approximately a mile in total).

 

The Wrightwood course will operate from April through November. I visited toward the end of the operating season, during Thanksgiving week. It was a perfect time to visit, as it was cool but sunny out. It had snowed a couple days earlier, though, so we got to enjoy ziplining around the snow-covered mountain. The cost is $109 per person, which might sound expensive, but I actually found it to be quite reasonable for the length of the experience and all that it includes. I thought the whole thing was great fun, especially considering the fact that this is a pretty unique experience for So Cal.

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This is "base camp," where you check in and gear up. You do need reservations, which you can make online. Tours depart each half hour every day, from early morning through mid afternoon.

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The Navitat building is at just above 6000 feet in elevation, but the actual course is at just above 7000 feet. Therefore, these "troop transports" are used to drive you the rest of the way up the mountain.

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Loading up. The gear includes a complete harness system, a helmet, and gloves (your "brakes" for the ziplines).

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And we're off. Each tour can accommodate eight guests and two guides.

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After the Navitat vehicle drops you off, there is a short hike to get to the start of the course. A nice scenic hike in the snow.

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The first zipline is very short and low to the ground, so that you can practice proper starting and stopping techniques before moving on to the larger lines.

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The next two ziplines aren't too terribly long but are significantly higher.

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You can see how they've constructed the starting and ending points of the ziplines as platforms in the trees.

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More ziplining from tree to tree, through the trees.

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The platforms and trees they were on had a tendency to sway a bit as people zipped across, which might be unsettling if you're not fond of heights, but I found it added to the excitement. Everyone remained hooked up the entire time, so there was nothing to worry about.

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After the third zipline was the first rappelling experience, during which you lower yourself from the tree platform all the way to the ground.

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You do have a decent amount of control over your own descent, but the whole thing is rigged up in such a way that it's pretty much impossible to do anything wrong and hurt yourself.

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Another hike to the next part of the course.

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To get to the next tree platform, we had to traverse our first sky bridge.

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This sky bridge was inclined and had pretty widely-separated logs as the steps, so it was kind of like climbing stairs and walking a swinging rope bridge at the same time.

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As mentioned, the first three ziplines were considered "warm ups" for the remainder of the course. This fourth line was the first of the big ones.

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As the guides put it, you go from kindergarten during the first zip, to first grade for the next two, and then you're at university level for the remainder of the course.

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Even this one, while significantly longer and higher than the previous three, still wasn't anywhere near as extreme as some of the later ones.

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This should give a better feel for the height of the tree platforms (center of the picture), connected by ziplines all the way down the mountain slope.

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A very long and high zipline. Notice the starting platform way back in the distance.

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Time for the next rappel.

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This one was cool because you had to work your way down among all the branches.

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The next two sky bridges came back-to-back. These bridges had double planks instead of logs to walk on. Doesn't it remind you of the Ewok village?

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These bridges were very high, getting us to the starting platform for the tallest, longest, and fastest zipline of the course.

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Here goes nothing.

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It's kind of hard to tell from the starting platform angle just how long and high this zipline is. If you look closely you can follow the line to the top of picture, which still isn't anywhere near the end of its run.

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Turned around from the ending platform, however, you can see just how huge this particular zipline is. The stats are: 1500 feet in length (over a quarter mile), 300 feet high at its greatest distance from the ground, and speeds up to 55 mph. Notice the sky bridge that we just walked across to get to the starting platform for the zipline.

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This is a picture of that same sky bridge taken much earlier in the course. The entire tour works its way down the mountain, so that, while this particular sky bridge was very high, we were at a much greater elevation earlier on.

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I've got a few more pictures near the end of the "mega" zipline. Notice how gorgeous the setting is.

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Smile for the camera (and for the thrill of the 55 mph, 1500-foot ride).

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Navitat actually had a photographer positioned at the bottom of this zipline to capture your experience in case you didn't want to bring your own camera along. Since I'm always the one taking pictures I never get to be in these trip reports, so I borrowed the photographer's pictures of myself to prove that I do partake.

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Cheese!

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The tour was by no means over yet. Next was the final sky bridge.

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Half of the group with one of the guides.

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The other half of the group with the second guide (thanks again to the Navitat photographer for these last two pics).

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This bridge had just a single plank, so it was like walking a wobbly balance beam.

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The final zipline. Another very long, tall, fast one.

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Nearing the tree platform at the end of the line.

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Almost there. You have to use your gloved hand to brake yourself a the end of the run. You don't grab the line, but rather press down on it with an open palm. You have to learn to time it correctly so that you don't fall short or come to too abrupt of a halt, but by the end of the course everyone was a pro at this.

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The final rappelling experience took us down from the last tree platform (probably almost 100 feet high). However, this one wasn't so much a rappel as a jump off the tree. We had to take a step off, after which we free-fell for about 10 feet, before the rigging caught us and smoothly lowered us the rest of the way to the ground.

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It was actually a very similar mechanism to the Stratosphere jump in Vegas.

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A final hike to get us back to the truck for our return trip to Navitat headquarters.

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I've skipped around a little with the pics for the second half of the course, as I know pictures of ten different ziplines all start to look the same. I thought I'd finish off with a couple pictures that I didn't include in their correct order, but that exemplify the thrill and the variety of ziplines the tour offers. Here's one that traveled pretty low to the ground the whole way, just avoiding all of the surrounding vegetation.

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However, most of the ziplines were very high off the ground, as you can tell from this picture...

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...and this picture...

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...and this picture. It's a pretty huge rush zipping high above the forest at such a fast speed. It's also quite a workout, holding on and keeping yourself positioned properly. Still, it's also very pleasant, enjoying the scenery as you fly by. (As an aside, this picture totally makes me think of the opening scene from the move Cliffhanger. Not to worry; it's much safer than that.)

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Because it is such a small group, you get to know everyone else pretty well. It was a fun group, and a very fun experience overall. Highly recommended!

Edited by biosciking
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  • 3 weeks later...

Adventure City is located in Anaheim, literally just down the street from Knott's Berry Farm and only a few miles from Disneyland. The park is small and definitely geared toward very young children. However, there are a couple of attractions that should also keep older kids and theme park / coaster enthusiasts happily occupied. There are about a dozen rides in all, and children as young as three can ride all of them except for Tree Top Racers (which has a 42" height minimum). Some rides do require that children ride with an adult, but it's great that adults can be accommodated on all of the rides as well (with the exception of Crank 'n' Roll, which has a 52" height maximum). Therefore, Adventure City is a park that the entire family should be able to enjoy together.

 

Adventure City costs $14.95 for all guests except seniors (55+), who get in for $9.95. Parking is also free. A pretty reasonable deal for a day out with the family.

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The entrance to this fun kid's park.

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For older kids and coaster fans, the top attraction at Adventure City is definitely Tree Top Racers.

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Tree Top Racers is a Miler wild mouse coaster, one of only four in existence according to rcdb. Here you can see the lift hill and multiple switchbacks that begin the ride, some of the drops off to each side, and the central spiral leading into the break run at the end of the ride.

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The lift hill from a different angle. The coaster has received a nice new coat of paint since my last visit a few years ago.

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The switchbacks are cool but not as forceful as on some other wild mouse coasters, mostly because they're not taken at the fastest of speeds.

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It's not until you reach the drops (and there several of them) that this coaster picks up speed and puts the wild in wild mouse.

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The track and turns are banked a bit during the second half of the ride, and you even travel through the roof of the coaster station.

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The second set of drops takes place directly underneath the first, and I defy anyone to not reflexively duck your head seeing that other track just above.

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Overall very good fun. The cars can comfortably fit two children or an adult and a child (sitting inline), though they are a bit of a squeeze for two adults. It's a little hard for kids to see over the front, but for a single adult rider the view is not obstucted and the vehicles are quite comfortable. They're heavily padded on all sides, so even if you get jostled around a bit it just makes it fun, not at all painful.

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And another view, this one taken from the park's Drop Zone ride.

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Speaking of Drop Zone.

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This is a Moser tower ride, which is more than a notch above a frog hopper in the thrill department. It actually stands 45 feet tall and provides a legitimate tummy-tickling sensation with each drop, and the ride drops about half a dozen times. This is hugely exciting for young children, and pretty darn fun for me too.

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Adventure City has a second coaster, called Freeway Coaster. It's another Miler, this time a kiddie coaster. It begins with this small curving drop.

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However, this is a custom-made kiddie coaster. After the first drop it travels through a tree, leaping over one of its branches.

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The coaster finishes with a spiral around some boulders. Interestingly, these boulders are actually a tunnel for the park's train ride. Kind of unique for a kiddie coaster. Beware that the coaster is sent around the track twice, and it does provide a decent amount of whiplashing for adults, but I suppose most kiddie coasters do.

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Here is the park's train ride, called Adventure City Express Train. It is pretty tiny so there's no problem fitting through that tunnel.

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The train travels around the perimeter of the entire park, giving a glimpse of pretty much every attraction. After passing through the tunnel, there's this scenic spot that can only be viewed from the train. The train also travels through the park's birthday party building, which is neat for both train riders and birthday party guests.

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Let's take a look at the rest of the park's rides.

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The balloon ride looks pretty tame, but it's actually no joke if you're not into spinning rides. It can get quite dizzying, especially if you are seated in the backwards direction.

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Right next to the balloons are the Barnstormer Planes, a standard kiddie ride.

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There's also a crazy bus...

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...a carousel...

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...and a kiddie ferris wheel, called Giggle Wheel.

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One of the most popular rides at Adventure City is Rescue 911, where kids can drive their parents around in fire trucks, police vans, and ambulances.

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It's a pleasant and attractive ride with some decent theming. And as mentioned, it's a huge hit with the kids, who can dress up like firefighters while in line and actually wear the costumes on the ride!

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One more track ride, this one just for kids.

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There are a few other attractions at the park. An outdoor children's theater puts on puppet, magic, and song-and-dance shows that were VERY popular with the young ones. This Thomas the Tank Engine play area was another spot where kids could probably spend all day.

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There's also a petting farm. If you buy some feed, it comes in an ice cream cone that the goats can eat right along with the feed!

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In addition to sheep and goats, the petting farm has a couple other inhabitants, such as this cute fellow.

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This guy was also roaming around.

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Finally, there's a nice-sized arcade and a rock climbing wall, which we got to after dark. The rock wall is cool in that, after you make it up the easy level (the middle of the rock), you then get to try the intermediate level (on the right), and if you can make it past that you get to try the difficult level (on the left). I only made it halfway up the intermediate level. There's impressively no age requirement for this. Employees will follow small children up the whole way and help them as necessary. There was also an interesting but efficient way to pay for the rock climbing and arcade (as well as the food at the petting farm). You get a card that you load points onto, and use the card at all of the attractions. My final verdict is that Adventure City is a very well-maintained park, with friendly employees who are extremely good with kids. The food is also reasonably priced and there's some variety too (a few healthy alternatives mixed in with the typical theme park fare). Definitely check this park out if you have kids. Even if you don't, it's worth a stop. After all, you'll be in the area visiting Knott's and Disney anyway!

Edited by biosciking
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We're over two months into 2012 now and I haven't done a single update to biosciking's So Cal thread. Time to remedy that.

 

I paid more than a couple visits to Disneyland during January and February, in an attempt to document the entire park. Disneyland is not a huge park per se, but there is just so much there that I think it's physically impossible to do everything in even two or three visits. I realized this pretty quickly while trying to photograph it all, so I decided to break the park up into two and devote my first Disneyland post to the eastern half of the park. Despite only covering half of the park (albeit the larger half), I've still got a ton of photos to share, which will require a few separate posts just by themselves.

 

The eastern half of Disneyland consists of four of the park's eight lands. Main Street, U.S.A. is immediately beyond the entrance, Fantasyland is immediately behind Main Street, Mickey's Toontown is immediately behind Fantasyland, and then Tomorrowland occupies the entire easternmost side. Because I did visit in early January, I've got some shots of the park still dressed up in its holiday attire. I've also got some shots of the Matterhorn operating during its final days before refurbishment. Most of the pictures are from later January and February, when the holiday decorations had been removed and the Matterhorn refurb was in full swing.

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Disneyland, arguably the world's most famous theme park. This is of course the original Disney park, created and enjoyed by Walt Disney himself. How could anyone not love it?

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You're greeted at the entrance by floral Mickey, plus the Disneyland Railroad chugging into the Main Street train station.

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The Disneyland Railroad passes over the entrance bridge.

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I can hardly wait. Let's go.

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After passing under the entrance bridge, you immediately find yourself in Main Street, U.S.A.

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The Main Street train station is at the very southern end of the street. Here you can catch the Disneyland Railroad for a trip around the perimeter of the entire park.

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A Disneyland icon.

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The southern end of Main Street is called Town Square. Here you'll find the Main Street Opera House, which features the Disneyland Story and Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln. If you are at all a Disney geek, the Disneyland Story is a must.

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The Disneyland Story features tons of concept art and memorabilia spanning the park's entire history.

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1959, the first big expansion year for the park, as well as the introduction of the E-ticket.

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Disneyland's classic attractions.

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Disneyland's modern-day attractions.

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A picture of Walt making his dedication speech during the park's opening day, July 17, 1955.

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Excepts from Walt's opening-day speech introduce each of the park's (then only five) lands.

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There are plenty of models throughout the Disneyland Story as well. This very large model is a 1/100th scale representation of the park as it existed on opening day.

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A model of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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A model of Splash Mountain.

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Historic items on display include the bench from the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.

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You can also watch a video that was produced for Disneyland's 50th anniversary, hosted by Steve Martin and Donald Duck. Back during the 50th anniversary, this film actually played in the Opera House's main theater. Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln is now back in that spot.

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Speaking of, here's a model of the United States Capitol Building from the lobby of the main theater. Very impressive.

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Inside the main theater itself. Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln has gone through several incarnations over the years. The current version is said to be most reminiscent of the original version. I kind of miss the previous version, where the audience was given headphones to wear and sound effects were presented in "3-D" audio. Still, the show is very patriotic and historic for its Audio Animatronic Mr. Lincoln figure (impressive even today). The show is a nice, uncrowded respite from the rest of the park, and I recommend it to all Disneyland visitors.

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Right next door to the Disneyland Story and Mr. Lincoln is the Disney Gallery.

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The Disney Gallery features changing art exhibits; the current display focuses on the various trains of the Disney parks.

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Walt was of course a huge train aficonado, so this is certainly appropriate.

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Presented in the Disney Gallery is an actual piece of Walt Disney's personal railroad.

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An overview of the Disney Gallery's main exhibit room.

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The Disneyland Railroad is well represented here. Despite all the changes that took place during the planning stages and development of Disneyland, one thing was always certain - the park would be surrounded by a railroad. Artwork of all of the Disney park's railroads is on display.

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There are other trains in addition to the Disneyland Railroad at the park, and they're all included here as well. Did you know the Casey Jr. Circus Train was originally designed to be a roller coaster?

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Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. If I was given the opportunity to go back in time to experience one attraction from Disneyland's past, this would be it. The scenery (mountains, deserts, forests, caverns) looks incredible. Anyone care to share their memories of Nature's Wonderland? I'd love to hear them.

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Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Nature's Wonderland's replacement. Big Thunder Mountain opened in 1979, the year I was born. I love this ride, but how I wish I'd gotten to try Nature's Wonderland as well.

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A little farther up Main Street is the Main Street Cinema, another cool, quite respite from the crowds on a hot, busy day.

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The entrance to the Main Street Cinema. What a wonderful, old-fashioned vibe it exudes.

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The darkened, circular, standing-room only Cinema presents six classic black-and-white cartoon shorts. Most are silent, though a band organ plays typical silent-film musical accompaniment that fills the theater. One of the more interesting and entertaining films is Mickey's Polo Team, which features a large collection of celebrity "guest stars." However, the most popular film in the Cinema is of course...

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...Steamboat Willie, the debut of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. It's great to always be able to watch it here.

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Another attraction along Main Street is the Penny Arcade. As you can see, it's undergoing a refurbishment right now, as are many of the surrounding sweet shops and eateries. I hope most of the classic attractions remain when it reopens. The Starcade in Tomorrowland has been tampered with so much that it remains just a pathetic remnant of its former self. The same fate had better not be in store for Main Street's Penny Arcade.

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Perhaps the most prominent feature of Main Street are the vehicles that travel it, from Town Square to the Central Plaza and back again. The horse-drawn streetcars are probably the most famous of the Main Street vehicles.

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Much nostalgia is added to Main Street by the streetcars' presence.

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They also sure look great with Sleeping Beauty Castle in the background.

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Or, from the other direction, with the Main Street train station in the background.

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I thought I'd throw in the same view (minus the streetcar) as it looks during the holidays, to show off how decorated Main Street U.S.A. becomes.

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In addition to the horse-drawn streetcars, there are also the horseless carriages, here awaiting passengers at the Central Plaza end of Main Street.

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And here transporting passengers down Main Street's thoroughfare. Notice the omnibus, another of the vehicles that services Main Street, in the background.

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Speaking of, here's the Omnibus in Town Square.

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And in Central Plaza.

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The final means of transportation along Main Street is the fire engine.

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The Main Street vehicles are perhaps not the most efficient way to travel Main Street (you could probably walk faster), but they certainly add tons of charm. If you're on a relaxed schedule, give one a try.

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Where there's a fire engire, there must be a firehouse. This building contains the apartment that was actually occupied by Walt Disney himself when he stayed at the park. The candle buring in the second-story window is in honor and memory of Walt.

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Another highly recommended Main Street "attraction" is the flag retreat ceremony, which takes place each evening at dusk.

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The ceremony begins with the Disneyland Band marching down Main Street. The band then circles around the flagpole.

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The band is joined by the Dapper Dans, the famous Disneyland barbershop quartet.

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The Disneyland Band and Dapper Dans play and sing many patriotic tunes, naturally including the Star Spangled Banner.

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The color guard enters next to lower and fold the flags.

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Overall this is a very moving and patriotic ceremony. Members of each branch of the military are invited to come forward during the flag retreat to be recognized for their service. If you're a proud American, you'll want to be sure to schedule this into your Disneyland day.

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Here's the base of the flagpole. Very attractive.

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The most famous excerpt from Walt's opening-day dedication speech is found at the flagpole's base.

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As already alluded to, the northern end of Main Street, U.S.A. is called the Central Plaza. Prominently displayed in Central Plaza is the Partners statue, featuring Walt and Mickey. Sleeping Beauty Castle makes a nice backdrop. Sleeping Beauty Castle also serves as the gateway to Fantasyland, which is where we'll be heading next. Coming up shortly...

Edited by biosciking
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The eastern half of Disneyland continued...

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Here we are, at the entrance to Fantasyland.

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Cross the drawbrige over the moat to enter the land of fantasy and make-believe.

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I know Disneyland's castle has a reputation for being small when compared to the castles of other Disney parks. However, when you're right up next to it, I defy anyone to say it doesn't look spectacular.

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Here it is with its winter holiday trimmings.

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Zoomed out a bit to include the neighboring Matterhorn. What an incredible view. Two iconic Disneyland attractions.

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Looking back at Sleeping Beauty Castle, once you've passed through to Fantasyland.

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Another plus to Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle is that there's an attraction inside. It's a walk-through that tells the story of Sleeping Beauty using storybooks and dioramas.

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The walk-through is exciting in that you have to navigate through some pretty narrow, dark corridors and stairways. There are some special effects sprinkled throughout as well, including more than one appearance by the evil Maleficent.

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Right next to Sleeping Beauty Castle is Snow White's Grotto.

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It's a nice quiet spot that always makes for a good photo op.

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Also nearby is Pixie Hollow, a meet-and-greet area for Tinkerbell and her fairy friends. I don't have any pictures of the actual meet-and-greet itself, as there's always a huge line (you can see some of it in this pic), plus I didn't feel any compelling urge to meet Tinkerbell anyway.

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Prior to Pixie Hollow, this area was themed as Ariel's Grotto and King Triton's Garden. The ponds and fountains that surround Pixie Hollow definitely look nice but seem sort of out of place here now (they were more appropriate when this was King Triton's Garden). I'm not really sure what else they could do with the area though. It's in kind of an awkward location, between Fantasyland, Main Street, and Tomorrowland. It's attractive and peaceful and the meet-and-greet is very popular, but I imagine that once the fairy craze wears off this whole area could be transformed into something entirely different. It would certainly clear up a decent amount of space for a new attraction.

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Here you can see that, in one direction, Tomorrowland sits immediately beyond Pixie Hollow.

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A centerpiece of Fantasyland is the King Arthur Carrousel.

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The sword in the stone is prominently on display in front of the carrousel.

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They used to hold an informal ceremony a few times a day where Merlin the Magician would select some children from the audience to try to pull the sword from the stone. I don't believe this has been done for several years now, but I could be mistaken.

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On either side of the carrousel are Fantasyland's many dark rides. Snow White's Scary Adventures is my favorite, probably because it's most reminiscent of a typical haunted spookhouse dark ride. For that reason, though, it really isn't the best choice for young children.

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Next to Snow White is Pinocchio's Daring Journey. It's nice because it tends to have the shortest wait of all the Fantasyland dark rides (Snow White's wait is usually pretty short too).

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Speaking of short waits, Peter Pan's Flight is the POLAR OPPOSITE. Located across from Snow White and Pinocchio, Peter Pan has the most consistently long line of any ride at Disneyland (along with Dumbo I suppose). The ride is fun in that your pirate ship vehicle is suspended from the track above, rather than riding on the track below, but it's a very short ride for the time you invest waiting in line. I would make this a first-thing-in-the-morning stop if it's a priority for your Disneyland day. The architecture of the building (all of the Fantasyland buildings, for that matter) does look very nice though.

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Next door to Peter Pan is Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. This is a pretty good one that unfortunately also tends to gather fairly large crowds.

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Nearby is Alice in Wonderland. Alice is very good in that it is the longest of the Fanytasyland dark rides, it changes elevation throughout, and it has both indoor and outdoor components. The downside, though, is that wait times here tend to be just as long as for Peter Pan. For what you get for your wait, however, I rank Alice in Wonderland significantly higher than Peter Pan.

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Appropriately located just outside Alice in Wonderland is the Mad Tea Party.

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Mad Tea Party was Disneyland's original thrill ride and is still hugely popular today. Like any teacup ride, this can be sickeningly awesome if you choose to make it so.

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Next we arrive at Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

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Dumbo is hugely popular with the kiddies, so this is another one that you'll need to hit first thing in the morning if you want to avoid an interminable wait. It's also a very short ride, though I suppose out of necessity. Imagine how long the line would take if each ride cycle was any longer.

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I don't mean to sound too negative toward Dumbo (or Peter Pan). I know they are Disneyland classics that need to be experienced at least once. If the line was short (which doesn't ever happen), I'd happily ride Peter Pan. I'll leave Dumbo more for the kids.

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Next up are the Storybook Land Canal Boats, a pretty underrated attraction in my opinion. Storybook Land definitely draws large crowds, but, like the park's other boat rides (Jungle Cruise, Pirates, and Small World), it can process the crowds quickly. Unlike Jungle Cruise, Pirates, and Small World, though, this one doesn't ever seem to get much press. I think it should. It's quite worthwhile and also unique, considering you can't find a comparable attraction at Walt Disney World (I know there is a version at Disneyland Paris).

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The ride begins with the boat being swallowed by Monstro the whale.

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It's pretty neat for both riders and on-lookers.

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After emerging from the Monstro "cave," the boat journeys past miniaturized representations of many Disney animated film sets. The landscaping (miniature trees and shrubs) is a notable feature of this ride.

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Probably the most famous and impressive scene is Cinderella's castle.

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In recent years scenes from some of Disney's newer animated films have been added. Here is Aladdin's palace.

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The seaside castle from Little Mermaid.

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The boats travel past a scenic waterfall at the end of the ride before returning to the dock.

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Intertwined with the Storybook Land Canal Boats is Casey Jr. Circus Train.

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As you can see, Casey Jr. and the Canal Boats cover much of the same territory.

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Casey Jr. is a very slow-loading ride, plus the sites of Storybook Land can be better viewed from the Canal Boats. I'd therefore give the boats the distinct edge. However, kids love riding the train, especially in its animal cage cars and caboose.

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Moving on, we get to the park's original roller coaster, the Matterhorn Bobsleds. As I know you all know, this was the first ever steel coaster and is therefore incredibly significant in the coaster world. It's also incredibly photogenic. Here's how it looks from Main Street.

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From Fantasyland.

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From the ride's exit.

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From the ride's queue.

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From Tomorrowland. Pretty gorgeous if I do say so myself.

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The ride begins with the bobsleds traveling up the inside of the mountain. Riders then encounter the Abominable Snowman and begin their descent by spiraling around the mountain's exterior, though they do frequently poke back into its interior. There are tight turns and fun dips throughout, culminating in an alpine lake splashdown. There are two separate tracks. The track that faces Fantasyland is a little milder, while the track that faces Tomorrowland is a little wilder. Both are fun and thrilling in a rickety, old-fashioned coaster kind of way. This is one of the last times we'll be seeing these particular bobsled vehicles, as the Matterhorn is now undergoing an extensive refurbishment, part of which includes replacing the trains. Ready to see how the Matterhorn currently looks? Here it is...

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Yuck.

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Lining the construction walls are some pretty interesting and informative signs to read.

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I'll have to watch this movie.

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A preview of the new bobsleds. I'm not sure I agree with the sign saying the Fantasyland side has sharper curves.

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It will be interesting to see what new enhancements come along with this refurbishment, in addition to the new vehicles.

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A few more fun facts.

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At the back (northern) end of Fantasyland is It's a Small World.

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What can I say about Small World that you don't already know? It's a boat ride through various countries with doll children (and a few Disney characters) singing the ride's theme in each country's native language. Topiary animals are located outside. It's a classic.

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The Disneyland Railroad passes through Small World's iconic facade.

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Next door to It's a Small World is the Princess Fantasy Faire, a large area that incorporates the Fantasyland Theater and its immediate surroundings. I'd never even thought about visiting this previously, but I figured I'd go ahead and give it a look this time around.

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Here you can see all of the offerings. The main attraction is of course the Royal Walk, a princess meet-and-greet. It had an incredibly long wait, so I passed (as I'm sure I would have even if there'd been no wait). There are two shows presented, one informal storytelling and one more elaborate presentation. For what it is, the area was actually not bad. I liked that it was almost a "mini land" within Fantasyland, incorporating multiple components into an integrated whole. With the exception of the meet-and-greet, it was not exceptionally crowded, so it felt relaxed. Plus, the restaurant sold delicious baked potatoes that you can't find anywhere else in the park.

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Here's a shot of the storytelling performance. Children sit on the floor gathered around Cinderella as she recites her story.

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And here's the stage show. The show's goal is to teach young princesses and knights how to behave at a formal coronation ceremony, so it was appropriate for both boys and girls. Plenty of audience participation. Again, I wasn't expecting to care for any of this, but I ultimately felt it was all quite well done.

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Between Small World and the Princess Fantasy Faire is the entrance to Disneyland's next land, Mickey's Toontown. You have to cross under the Disneyland Railroad track to get there.

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The Disneyland Railroad actually has one of its four stations in Toontown, right next to the land's entrance.

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A more zoomed-out view of the Toontown train station.

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Mickey's Toontown is of course supposed to look very cartoony. Everything is bright and colorful and curvy. It's actually set up similarly to Main Street, with a downtown area at one end and a residential area at the other, connected by the main thoroughfare. The Jolly Trolley used to bounce along Toontown much the way the Main Street vehicles travel along Main Street. However, the trolley was decommissioned long ago, so it now just sits there and the track serves no purpose.

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Like Main Street, there are plenty of buildings, some of which house restaurants or shops. Here, though, most of the buildings instead offer some sort of gag, so you'll need to spend a little time playing around with everything to discover them all.

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Downtown Toontown features the land's best ride, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Roger's Fountain is located outside of the ride's entrance.

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Car Toon Spin is a very elaborate dark ride that I rank higher than any of the Fantasyland dark rides. It's actually a cross between a dark ride and a spinning ride, as you can spin your vehicle throughout. The spinning is by no means as hardcore as that on the Mad Tea Party, so it shouldn't make anyone sick. The ride is very long and detailed, and includes a pretty neat and impressive illusion as its finale. The line for the ride tends to be very long; so long that Fastpasses are available. I would say take advantage of that opportunity, except that the queue is so detailed and entertaining that it's almost part of the attraction. It's actually a bit of a shame to cut through the queue using a Fastpass, missing it all.

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The ride vehicles. As soon as the ride starts, the weasels spill dip on the road, which causes the cabs to spin "out of control." Lots of fun; I highly recommend this one.

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Toontown's residential district is highlighted by Mickey's House. Like Roger Rabbit, Mickey Mouse also has his own fountain.

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Mickey's house is a walk-through attraction and, more importantly, an opportunity to meet the mouse himself. Unlike the previous meet-and-greets, I went ahead and did this one.

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After wandering through the various rooms of Mickey's house, you enter into his movie barn. This is where you get to meet Disney's most famous character.

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Mickey & Me.

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Minnie lives right next door to Mickey (convenient), though this is mostly just a walk-through. Minnie herself is only present at select times.

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A look at Minnie's kitchen should give you a feel for what Minnie's House is like. Everything is very girly and cartoony.

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Near Mickey's and Minnie's Houses is Gadget's Go Coaster, Toontown's second ride and one of four roller coasters at Disneyland. It's a Vekoma roller skater, so you pretty much know what to expect. It does seem a bit larger and more elaborate than a typical roller skater (even though it's not), probably due to its extensive theming. By the way, the tent in the background is part of the Princess Fantasy Faire.

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After the lift hill there's a little dip, followed by a quick pass through a tunnel.

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The ride ends with a spiral.

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As you spiral, frogs lining the track squirt water just above the train, so there is the possibility of getting sprayed.

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Gadget's Go Coaster is a perfect fit for Toontown. It's great for kids and their families. How worthwhile it is for coaster enthusiasts, however, is another question. It almost always has a long wait, plus the ride is less than a minute in duration. If you're out to get every coaster credit, I guess you've got to do it.

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Also located in Toontown are Goofy's House, Donald's Boat, and Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse. Goofy's House is designed to actually resemble Goofy.

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Goofy's House used to be called Goofy's Bounce House, as it consisted of a giant inflatable room for the kids. It now doesn't really have anything to do inside. There is a small soft foam play area outside, but that's pretty lacking compared to its original incarnation.

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Also lacking is Miss Daisy, Donald's Boat.

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This used to have slides and rope ladders and all kinds of cool stuff for kids to play on. Now you basically just walk on and off with nothing to do.

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But the winner (or rather, the loser) for most pathetic remnant of its former self is Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse. Kids used to be able to climb up the treehouse and then slide down into a pit of acorn balls. Now the treehouse just consists of a spiral staircase (a very tight and confined spiral staircase, by the way)...and that's it. You enter, walk up, and then exit. I heard so many people asking "Was that all?" after they'd walked up the treehouse. Yes, that was all. I'm not sure what's happened to these Toontown attractions over the years. Are inflatable bounce houses and ball crawl pits really that hard to maintain? Is Disneyland really that worried about kids getting hurt? It is very unfortunate, because these attractions used to be great for children to work off energy. Now they're just kind of pointless. Anyway, time to move on to the final land making up the eastern half of Disneyland. Tomorrowland is coming up shortly...

Edited by biosciking
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The eastern half of Disneyland concluded...

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Time now for Tomorrowland.

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The Astro Orbitor is located front and center at the entrance to Tomorrowland. The ride is basically an older kid's version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

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While the Astro Orbitor looks great in its current location, I did prefer the former incarnation of the ride (the old Rocket Jets), as they were elevated off of the ground to begin with and therefore gave a more thrilling ride. We'll get to that past location momentarily.

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Immediately to the right of Astro Orbitor after entering Tomorrowland is Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Tomorrowland's big new attraction (Disneyland's big new attraction, for that matter). Star Tours re-opened in 2011 and is still proving to be incredibly popular in 2012.

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A nice mural of the ride above the outdoor, overflow queue (which is very frequently filled).

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The indoor queue looks pretty similar to the way it used to, with C-3PO and R2-D2 still tinkering with a Starspeeder.

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Being Star Tours, the overall premise is the same as before. The Starspeeder is our mode of transportation to a particular destination planet.

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There are significant differences in the new ride though. First of all, C-3PO is now the pilot.

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The major changes involve the addition of 3D to the film, as well as the random sequence of destinations that each ride may experience. Though it's advertised as having a beginning, middle, and end sequence, there are actually four sequences that can be mixed and matched per ride. The first sequence involves the Starspeeder exiting its hangar. Here you are either fleeing from Darth Vader or following the Millenium Falcon. In either case, it's been made known that a Rebel spy is in the group (a rider is chosen at random to be the spy). The ride then travels to its first destination, which could be one of three planets. Hoth was my favorite, as it felt just like the battle scene from Empire Strikes Back. Tatooine is I believe the most popular destination, as it involves podracing, which I know Star Tours has wanted to incorporate ever since Episode One first came out in 1999. The third possibility is Kashyyyk ("Wookie planet" as C-3PO calls it), which was actually kind of uneventful. After this first planet, there is a transmission from either Yoda, Princess Leia, or Admiral Ackbar telling the Starspeeder to deliver the Rebel spy safely. It's then off to the next destination. Here the possibilites are: Coruscant, zipping around the traffic of the planet; an asteroid field followed by a trip into the interior of the uncompleted Death Star; or Naboo, most of which involves traveling through the planet's underwater core. I actually liked Naboo the best, as it made the most use of the 3D technology.

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Overall I'm torn between the new Star Tours and the old Star Tours. The picture quality of the new ride is spectacular, though 3D effects may not be utilized as extensively as they could be. The ride will be great for repeats as visitors try to experience each of the possible destinations (I've now seen them all). Some of the destinations are better than others, though, so if you get a combination of the lesser ones the ride might seem kind of lacking. I don't know; maybe it's just my old-school nature (the same reason I like the classic Star Wars trilogy much more than the new triology), but I do miss the original version of the Star Tours ride.

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Immediately to the left of Astro Orbitor after entering Tomorrowland is Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

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Buzz Lightyear is awesome. It's a shoot-em-up dark ride that is completely addicting; you'll want to ride again and again in attempt to improve your score. Because the ride is so efficient at processing riders, you actually can ride multiple times without ridiculous waits in line. Buzz Lightyear beats out Roger Rabbit for my vote as Disneyland's best dark ride.

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Farther back in Tomorrowland are Captain EO and Space Mountain. There's also this boulder that reportedly weighs tons, yet little kids can still spin it because it's sitting on top of a high-pressure fountain.

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Captain EO replaced Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (which in turn replaced Captain EO). The show is a little cringe-inducing due to some of the dated 1980s style, but it's still pretty cool to have it back. Michael Jackson always gets plenty of cheers when he first shows up.

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Next door to Captain EO is Space Mountain, arguably Disneyland's most famous and popular ride.

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Who in the world doesn't recognize Space Mountain's iconic structure? Who in the world doesn't love riding Space Mountain (or long to ride it some day)?

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Though not the most hardcore roller coaster in existence, Space Mountain seems hardcore because 1) it is the wildest ride in the park and 2) its outer space theming adds exponentially to the thrill factor.

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Despite being 35 years old now, Space Mountain remains my second favorite ride at Disneyland (Indiana Jones has been number one ever since it opened in 1995).

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Nearby is Innoventions, plus the moonliner rocket (not an attraction, just a decoration outside of Redd Rockett's Pizza Port restaurant).

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Innoventions is perhaps the most head-scratching attraction at Disneyland for me. It's kind of like a high tech playground, so if you're a techie (which I'm not), you might consider this awesome. Much of it tries to be educational (which is not a bad thing), but you have to invest some time and energy to make it at all worthwhile and I just don't think most Disneyland guests are in the mood to do that during their visit. This takes up a huge chunk of territory and is never incredibly crowded (which does make it a good place to get out of the heat or crowds if necessary). It also utilizes the former Carousel of Progress' revolving base, which is completely unnecessary and actually kind of weird. I've seen many people getting lost while trying to exit because the entrances and exits keep moving.

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The top floor of Innoventions contains a random assortment of high tech exhibits (each hosted by a different sponsor). Project Tomorrow is I believe very similar to what is done on Epcot's Spaceship Earth these days (determining what your perfect future would be like). There's a futuristic driving video game that's part of it as well.

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Many of the remaining displays are also interactive video games. I guess I can see kids (and certain adults) eating this up.

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Then there's a bunch of health-related stuff. I can see this fitting into Epcot, but I just don't think it works at Disneyland. Pictured here is one kind of interesting exhibit, where you can see what an older version of you will look like. It was actually pretty disturbing. Even though I indicated that I don't smoke or spend much time in the sun, they still made me look hideous.

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The bottom floor of Innoventions consists of the house of the future. At least there is some continuity to this portion of the attraction. Here's the living room of the future.

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The kitchen of the future.

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The bedroom of the future (a boy's bedroom; they had a girl's bedroom too, but I somehow missed taking a picture of it).

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The office of the future. Notice that it's not supposed to be unrealistically futuristic. It's just supposed to be high tech. Speaking of the future, I can imagine the entire Innoventions building being replaced in the years to come. It's sort of interesting (I guess), but it just isn't a major draw at Disneyland.

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This structure is located where the old Rocket Jets used to be. Though it does "come alive" every 15 minutes or so, it's really just a decoration. There's no reason why the Astro Orbitor couldn't be placed back in this spot.

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Encircling the structure is the load / unload platform for the old People Mover and Rocket Rods rides. The Rocket Rods are perhaps the most infamous attraction in Disneyland history.

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I did get to ride the Rocket Rods a few times. The ride's motions reminded me of a slightly faster version of Alice in Wonderland. It would accelerate but then come to a crawl every time it reached a turn, forced to do so because there was no banking to the track. It would then speed up and slow down again, moving in fits and starts the entire ride. Most of the times I attempted to ride I wouldn't even get to, as it would break down while I was in line. A couple times it broke down while I was actually on the ride. Instead of removing us, they just inched the vehicle along the track to get us back to the load / unload platform. We may as well have been riding the People Mover at that point. The whole thing was just an epic fail.

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Here you can see how the track works amongst Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear, and Astro Orbitor. The track snakes through all of Tomorrowland and its attractions, and it's a conspicuous eyesore just sitting there doing nothing. I imagine it will have to be brought back to life in some form in the future, or else removed entirely.

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One attraction that is a real winner, on the other hand, is the Jedi Training Academy. I had never seen this before, and I must say whoever came up with it is a genius.

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The concept is simple yet brilliant. Kids are selected from the audience by a Jedi master to train in the ways of the force. Each is given a robe and a lightsaber.

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The kids are then led through a (rather complex) lightsaber training exercise.

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Darth Maul and Darth Vader arrive.

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Every single participant is brought up in turn to fight either Vader or Maul.

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All of the lightsaber moves that were learned during the training exercise are put to use here.

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Some kids are pros and get the moves down perfectly.

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Some kids remain sort of oblivious to the entire goings-on. That's what makes it hilarious. I was amazed that such tiny children had no apprehension whatsoever to approach a giant Darth Vader and start swinging a lightsaber at him.

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The Jedi-in-training naturally defeat the Sith, and there is a celebration of their victory. The show is of course designed for young children (to participate) and their parents (to watch and photograph). However, I think it's pretty darn funny for everyone else too. Like I said, the concept is simple, but it's incredibly inspired and very popular.

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Nearby is the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

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The gulls from Nemo are present, mindlessly squawking "Mine, mine" just like in the movie.

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The submarines pass through a waterfall, beyond which much of the attraction takes place.

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You'll have to humor me for a moment here. I've got several shots of the submarines because I think they're just so photogenic.

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The ride itself is a bit of a letdown. I enjoy the first part, before you pass under the waterfall. During this portion you travel through a bright, tropical coral reef.

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This naturalistic setting is reminiscent of the old Submarine Voyage attraction. It may have looked fake and cheesy, but it at least tried to simulate the actual oceans. Once you pass under the waterfall on the new submarine ride, it becomes Finding Nemo. I know that's the whole point, but I don't care for it much. There may be some advanced technology at work, but there are a couple of problems with it. First, the soundtrack is the same for the entire submarine. Because the submarine is quite long, riders may not be viewing the same thing at the same time, and the audio may not match what is currently being seen. That makes for some confusion. Also, the screens and images all seem to be projected up a little too high. Maybe they're designed for kids who are looking up through the portholes, but for adults trying to look straight out of (or even down through) the portholes it gets kind of uncomfortable. You have to slouch quite a bit.

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I guess I'm just being nostalgic for the old Submarine Voyage the way I'm nostalgic for the old Star Tours. The current ride still looks fantastic.

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Also noteworthy is the fact that the Disneyland Monorail swoops around above the submarine lagoon.

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The two attractions sure look great together.

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As you can see, the entrance to the monorail is literally above the entrance to the submarines.

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The monorail pulling into the station. Yet another Disneyland icon.

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From the monorail you get to see much more of the Rocket Rods track. The monorail track and Rocket Rods track are actually pretty intertwined at certain points.

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Of course, they're not completely intertwined. The Disneyland Monorail actually exits the park and travels around California Adventure, the Grand Californian Hotel, Downtown Disney, and the Disneyland entrance plaza before re-entering the park.

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Once back in the park, the monorail glides above Tomorrowland and skirts a bit of Fantasyland too.

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Next to the monorail and submarines is the Tomorrowland Autopia, a fairly large and elaborate car ride.

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While it may not totally belong in Tomorrowland, I'm not sure where else it would belong. There used to be a Fantasyland Autopia as well. Both tracks have since been combined to produce the new super-sized Tomorrowland Autopia. It's very popular and pretty fun if you're into theme park track-guided car rides.

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The Tomorrowland Autopia and Disneyland Monorail interact a bit.

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As opposed to just concrete pavement, there's an "off road" stretch to the Autopia as well. Kind of cool.

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Hidden beyond the Autopia, kind of tucked away at the easternmost point of the park, is the Disneyland Railroad's Tomorrowland station. Between this station and the Main Street station, the train passes through the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas. Both are classic Disney attractions that are still quite impressive and enjoyable, in my humble opinion.

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Okay, time to head back to Main Street to catch the fireworks display above Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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The current fireworks show is called "Remember...Dreams Come True" and is set to music and audio that takes guests on a trip around all of Disneyland's eight lands. During the Tomorrowland segment, there are clips from the old Star Tours and Submarine Voyage audio. I guess I'm not the only nostalgic one.

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Being Disney, there are of course all kinds of crazy pyrotechnics in addition to just standard fireworks. It's a good show that I'd recommend to all.

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Just a few more nighttime shots to wrap up the post. These shots were taken during the holiday period. Nighttime + holiday = Disneyland magic. The giant Christmas tree is located at the Town Square end of Main Street.

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It's a Small World becomes amazingly illuminated.

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As does Sleeping Beauty Castle. What a beautiful sight. Well, that's it for the eastern half of Disneyland. I'll go back for the western half sometime soon. Until then, thanks for reading.

Edited by biosciking
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Thanks so much for doing this! I love to see pictures of a park I really want to revisit (last visit was 10 years ago ). I was just wondering the comparison of space with Disneyland VS Magic Kingdom. Does Disneyland really seem that much smaller that its counterpart in Orlando? I visit Magic Kingdom almost yearly and it seems like a pretty good space wise.. I was wondering how much smaller Disneyland seems?

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  • 4 months later...

I'll get back to finish up Disneyland a bit later; in the meantime, new rides are opening at many So Cal parks, so I thought I'd give them some coverage. I'll start with Six Flags Magic Mountain and Lex Luthor Drop of Doom.

 

Last summer I reported on the coasters of SFMM (which you can find back on page 5). With the opening of Lex Luthor, I figured this would be a good opportunity to discuss the park's non-coaster rides. As most everyone knows, Magic Mountain is a coaster park first and an "other ride" park a very distant second. The park has only about half a dozen (very standard) flat rides, and with the recent removal of Log Jammer and Sierra Falls, a rapidly declining number of water rides. However, if the opening of Lex Luthor is any indication, perhaps we could see some higher-thrill non-coaster rides added in upcoming years. I know a new coaster is all but confirmed for next year, and I'm certainly happy about that, but I do think a few rides of other varieties are definitely in order every now and then as well. Lex Luthor is a great start. Let's take a look.

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Here we are at Magic Mountain again. This time we'll check out the park's collection of non-coaster rides.

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What is that I see attached to the side of Superman?

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It's a drop tower!

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And not just any drop tower. Lex Luthor Drop of Doom is the tallest drop tower in the world. Attached to both sides of the Superman tower, Lex Luthor drops riders from a height of 400 feet.

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Some theming in the queue.

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Dangling 400 feet above the ground.

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Dropping all the way back down.

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The other side.

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If you look closely, you can see that the opposite side of the tower is still at the top here. Both sides get raised and dropped simultaneously, so the opposite side must have gotten stuck at the top. I saw this happen more than once during the day.

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A close-up look at the ride vehicle. Sitting eight across on both sides of the tower, Lex Luthor's capacity is definitely not huge. However, the ride is not very long, and the employees were efficiently loading and unloading riders. The line therefore moved at a decent pace. The only time it seemed to slow was during the abovementioned "stalls."

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It hasn't been shown in the previous pics, but both Lex Luthor and Superman can and will run at the same time (note how insanely high up on the tower Superman is getting). The first time I rode Lex Luthor, Superman went up while we were at the very top, and the entire tower seemed to shake. The second time I rode, Superman didn't run, but there was still the same swaying. I therefore determined that the movement wasn't caused by Superman, but instead realized that the Lex Luthor vehicle sways back and forth at the top with the cable it's attached to. The pause at the top is therefore definitely the most terrifying part of this ride. In addition to the cable and vehicle sway, Lex Luthor's voice comes on to basically tell us we're all insignificant beings. The drop itself, though very fun, isn't quite as gut-wrenching as it probably should be. I think the reason for this is that the initial release, while usually the most forceful part of a drop ride, is almost unnoticeable here. It took a split second before I realized "Oh, we're dropping now." This is a minor criticism, as the drop is very long and picks up incredible speed on the way down. There are also some awesome new views of the park on the way up (especially if you're facing toward Goliath). Overall a very enjoyable ride and a great addition to the park.

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Okay, let's see what else the park has to offer in the non-coaster department. First up is Flash: Speed Force.

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It's a musik express flat ride.

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Directly across from Flash is Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth, a round-up. Both Flash and Wonder Woman have been at the park for many years, rethemed several times to match the current theming of the area they're in. With the addition of Green Lantern last year, this area became DC Universe, home to Green Lantern, Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman. The new theming actually works well with these two flats.

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Elsewhere in the park are two other next-door-neighbor flat rides, Buccaneer and Swashbuckler.

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Buccaneer is a swinging ship.

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Swashbuckler is a yo-yo swing ride.

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The park also has bumper cars, called Sandblasters.

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Scrambler is right next to Sandblasters. Buccaneer, Swashbuckler, Sandblasters, and Scrambler have also been at the park for a long time. They are all perfectly acceptable examples of their type of ride; certainly not the best, but far from the worst either. I think each could still benefit from a little attention and TLC the way Flash and Wonder Woman have. That kind of finishes up the flat rides at the park. During the last decade or so there has also been a tilt-a-whirl, a rotor, a bayern curve, a trabant, a condor, and an enterprise (and perhaps others that I'm not remembering presently), but all have sadly been removed.

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At the front of the park is the Grand Carousel.

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Grand Carousel is a restored 1912 carousel, which means it's celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The park removed another family-friendly ride, the antique cars near Bugs Bunny World, five or so years ago.

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Speaking of Bugs Bunny World, this giant fake redwood tree marks the entrance to the the park's main kiddie area.

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Bugs Bunny World is actually pretty decent for a park that focuses on such big thrills. It takes up a relatively large area and has about a dozen well-themed kiddie rides (including two coasters, Road Runner Express and Canyon Blaster). There's also the Looney Tunes Lodge, an indoor play area.

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Here's the Bugs Bunny World tree (a semi-park icon) with the park's main icon, Sky Tower. We'll get back to Sky Tower in just a moment. But first, a quick look at...

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...Whistlestop Park, Magic Mountain's other kiddie area. Compared to Bugs Bunny World, Whistlestop Park is pretty underwhelming. It is very small and only contains a tiny water play area, the park's kiddie coaster (Magic Flyer), and a train ride. The train ride is reasonably elaborate (this used to be Thomas Town, after all), but it (along with all of Whistlestop Park) is almost always empty. Though Whistlestop Park (Thomas Town) is somewhat new, I feel like it's living on borrowed time. However, the park tries very hard to advertise all of its family-friendly offerings, so they may not be willing to scrap the whole area. I suppose it could be incorporated into Bugs Bunny World, which is immediately adjacent.

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Okay, back to Sky Tower. Not technically a ride (unless you count an elevator a ride; if you have a fear of heights this may be the scariest ride in the park), it's an observation tower that offers great views of the entire park. Though it's about 350 feet above the ground, because the tower is located on top of Magic Mountain's mountain, you're actually even higher above most of the park than that. A few years back they added the Magic Mountain museum to the Sky Tower, showcasing memorabilia from the park's past. It was very worthwhile for the nostalgia. During this visit to the park, I discovered...

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...an empty Sky Tower. No more museum. Boooooo. The ride attendant said it may return in the future, but nothing was definite at this point.

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Another classic "ride" at the park is Orient Express, which offers transportation between the front of the park and the top of the mountain. Very old school, I'm surprised this has lasted as long as it has. I suppose they have to offer a way for guests who don't want to walk (hike) the mountain an alternative to get up and down.

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A view from the top.

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Let's talk water rides. Here's a look at Tidal Wave from the Sky Tower.

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Tidal Wave is of course a boat ride that goes up, around, back down, and produces a big splash.

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Sounds great on a hot day. However, if you look at this picture you'll notice the major problem with the ride. All of the water splashes away from the boat, so riders DO NOT GET WET AT ALL! I feel so bad for people who wait for this in a long line on a hot day hoping to get soaked. Not only will you not get soaked, you won't even get sprayed. That effectively makes Tidal Wave completely pointless. Now, I'm not advocating for the removal of yet another water ride, but I really feel this one should have gone before Log Jammer. I suppose salvaging the ride somewhat is the exit bridge, where you actually can get soaked by the next boat. You've got to stand toward the sides of the bridge. What many people do is just skip the ride altogether, walk up the exit, and stand on the bridge to get soaked by several boats in a row.

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Sorry, you guys aren't going to get wet.

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You guys will though.

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Jet Stream is a log flume ride in a little jet boat rather than a log.

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It culminates in a very decent flume drop. Ninja and Jet Stream kind of snake around each other for their entire rides.

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Jet Steam is quite good. It moves at a rapid pace that crashes the boat side to side within the flume and constantly splashes water, it has two drops (the first smaller one is enclosed within a shed), and it skims the water at the end, hopping along the straightaway after the drop.

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Here you can see the boat jumping, much like an actual jet boat. Pretty fun and unique. However, Jet Stream is still not as good as the park's other flume ride, Log Jammer.

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Here's what's left of Log Jammer. Boooooo.

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From the Sky Tower. I'm sure Log Jammer's absence makes for a far less interesting ride on Gold Rusher.

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I know this site is the location of next year's major coaster, but I think Magic Mountain made a very bad decision by removing Log Jammer. I can't imagine there couldn't have been a way to add the new coaster while keeping Log Jammer as well. Let me come out and say it and you can disagree if you'd like - Log Jammer was the absolute best log ride at any Six Flags park. Probably the best traditional, non-themed log ride anywhere. It was an incredibly long ride (unlike most Six Flags log flumes), it moved at a very swift pace (unlike most Six Flags log flumes), and the final drop was a real winner. It was huge. Log Jammer's first drop was more comparable to the final drop on practically every other Six Flags log flume. Also, the forested setting through which Log Jammer traveled added so much to the ride. Part of me will never forgive SFMM for removing this one.

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The park's final water ride is Roaring Rapids. After remaining completely dry on Tidal Wave and only getting moderately splashed on Jet Stream, I came off Roaring Rapids COMPLETELY DRENCHED! How wet you get will vary, but this is definitely the park's wettest ride. It's really quite great too, situated in another forested setting and soaking riders legitimately, with water crashing into the raft as you run the rapids, rather than relying on gimmicks like waterfalls and geysers. It's very hard to get a picture of the ride, tucked away in its isolated corner of the park, so this shot from the Sky Tower was the best I could do. Realize, though, that it does occupy a very large chunk of territory. While this is great for the ride itself, I do worry that Six Flags could possibly start thinking about other uses for this spot. This had better not happen. Roaring Rapids is incredibly popular on a hot day (almost every day at SFMM), and it always has a huge wait. The number of water rides at the park has already dropped too low; seeing as how SFMM used to have an impressive five water rides, they cannot afford to lose any others.

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I'll finish with the park's few upcharge attractions. Dive Devil is SFMM's skycoaster.

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This is the only skycoaster I've ever ridden, as I never feel very inclined to pay extra for them. I have ridden this one twice over the years, and while I can't compare it to others, it is very fun.

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One thing I've never done is Cyclone 500, the park's go-karts. I've just never been able to bring myself to pay extra for go-karts at Magic Mountain, where there's already so much else to do.

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Here's a shot of the entire course from Sky Tower. It looks fun enough but also pretty standard. I'm sure some day I'll cave and actually try this.

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The final upcharge, the park's rock climbing wall. It gets more difficult as you move from left to right. Kids should be able to handle the left side of the wall, while the right side becomes challenging even for athletic adults. That's it for Six Flags Magic Mountain. We've now taken a look at the park's coasters and non-coaster rides. Time to eagerly anticipate the announcement of the 2013 attraction.

Edited by biosciking
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Well, well, well.....SFMM does have flats! Honestly most of them I haven't even noticed on my visit last year. The only non-coaster ride I did that year was Log Jammer and thought it was a great log flume. And even if it wasn't hot by Californian standards I enjoyed the cooldown early afternoon.

 

I wanna add another fact that Log Jammer was compared to northern european flumes: As its here quite cold compared to the southern parts of the US Log Jammer was also the wettest traditional log-flume I ever did.

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Well, well, well.....SFMM does have flats! Honestly most of them I haven't even noticed on my visit last year. The only non-coaster ride I did that year was Log Jammer and thought it was a great log flume. And even if it wasn't hot by Californian standards I enjoyed the cooldown early afternoon.

 

I wanna add another fact that Log Jammer was compared to northern european flumes: As its here quite cold compared to the southern parts of the US Log Jammer was also the wettest traditional log-flume I ever did.

I agree, thanks for that unique TR, many of those flats I had never even noticed in the park! (Admittedly because I spend most of my time either running to or re-riding X/X2)
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biosciking, I liked the historic Disney photos in there. The ones about 1960 and the Mine Train reminded me I have some great (and unusually high quality) photos of Disneyland 1960. If you or anyone else is interested I could post a Retro Photo TR. There's some good shots of the Mine Train, the mermaids in the lagoon, the Pack Mule Trail, and some other things that aren't around anymore.

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biosciking, I liked the historic Disney photos in there. The ones about 1960 and the Mine Train reminded me I have some great (and unusually high quality) photos of Disneyland 1960. If you or anyone else is interested I could post a Retro Photo TR. There's some good shots of the Mine Train, the mermaids in the lagoon, the Pack Mule Trail, and some other things that aren't around anymore.

 

Sure, that sounds great. Any pics of the pack mules and the mine train especially would be much appreciated.

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  • 2 months later...

I paid a couple of visits to SeaWorld San Diego this summer, which is a great time to visit, as the park celebrates Summer Nights. Summer Nights includes extended park hours (9 am to 11 pm is very impressive!) and, with those extended hours, special evening Shamu and sea lion shows, plus fireworks. Summer is also the season during which the park presents the Cirque de la Mer show, though its run was cut off a bit early this summer to begin the transformation into a new show for next year. The main draw this summer, however, was of course the opening of the new Manta coaster.

 

The summer months are certainly more crowded than the rest of the year (I do wonder if Manta made it exceptionally crowded this summer), but the extended hours make up for that. Hit the rides early or late when the crowds are lighter, and then see the shows and exhibits during the busy part of the day. While it can get warm and even hot in San Diego, it's far cooler than most of the rest of So Cal, and the morning and evening temperatures are perfect. Very pleasant.

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SeaWorld San Diego.

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First things first, let's hit up the new Manta coaster.

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Manta is a double launched coaster by Mack. The first launch blasts the train into this highly banked turn.

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Some nice theming and detail to the coaster train.

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The banked turn is followed by a drop underneath the walkway and the hordes of onlookers.

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There is a water splash effect at the bottom of the drop. Perhaps not as spectacular as the Orlando version, and really not even noticeable while riding, it's still a nice touch.

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The coaster then swoops around the ride's marquee.

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A fun negative-g hill follows.

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There's actually a decent pop of airtime here.

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See, airtime.

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Another hill follows. This one doesn't have quite the same airtime as the previous hill, but it's still fun. It's located over the final brake run of the ride.

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There are a few twisty turns that lead up to the coaster's midcourse brakes.

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The midcourse brakes are followed immediately by the coaster's second launch. The flamingos get to watch Manta launch all day.

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The second half of the ride is all about twists and turns.

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There's a sprial that actually produces some decent postive g-forces.

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Plus more negative-g hairtime as the train hops into the turns.

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More curviness.

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The final stretch into the brakes.

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So overall, how is the ride? I give it a big thumbs up! While definitely not the most hardcore coaster in the world, being at SeaWorld it probably shouldn't be. I hope coaster enthusiasts don't knock this one for being too tame. As mentioned, it does have two very fun launches, in addition to hills and drops with negative g's, plus swooping curves with positive g's. The ride actually reminded me of a mini-Maverick from Cedar Point. It was PERFECT for families. I could tell children above the height requirement (48") and their parents absolutely loved it; this really was incredibly thrilling stuff for them. In addition to all of these positives, I haven't even mentioned yet that the ride begins inside a tunnel that surrounds riders with crystal clear projected images of a tropical reef. Manta rays swoop all around the train before the first launch shoots it out of the tunnel into the banked turn.

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A great addition to SeaWorld San Diego. I believe they've got a real winner on their hands.

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Immediately adjacent to the entrance of Manta is the ray touch / feeding pool. These are mostly bat rays; no mantas here.

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You can buy a tray with about five or six fish to feed the rays. Each tray costs $7, and while that's pretty pricey, it's neat to have the rays swoop over your hand and grab up the fish. The feeding booth is not open all day, and I don't believe there are set times, so if you're interested in feeding the rays you may have to wait around or keep checking back.

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Some rays don't seem all that interested in humans whether they have food on them or not. Others are like giant kittens or puppies and just want to be pet all the time.

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Prior to the addition of Manta, the ray feeding pool used to be part of an attraction called Forbidden Reef. The other part of the attraction was the underground moray eel caverns. The caverns have now been incorporated into the coaster queue (note that you can also view this aquarium without riding). Because of the change, the eels have been removed. I inquired about their status, and an employee told me that they are in a backstage area. While you can still see them on a backstage tour, there are currently no plans to put the eels back into public view. Though that's a shame, they did make a neat new change when converting this to the Manta Aquarium. The aquarium is now continuous with the feeding pool above. The rays can therefore hang out in the pool above or in the aquarium below. Also, notice that they've added some new windows...

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...directly above the aquarium.

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Come up here and feed me.

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There are some other fish in the aquarium besides bat rays. There are shovelnose guitarfish, but probably the most popular was this sturgeon.

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There's also my favorite, the garibaldi (California's state fish). While I never saw the garibaldi go up into the touch pool, the sturgeon would as it made its rounds.

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Okay, that's it for Manta and its adjacent exhibits. Cool stuff.

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Let's check back in on the flamingos before getting too far away.

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Like the rays, you can also feed the flamingos. This is a much better deal too. Just $0.50 for a handful of food. If you feel like sharing, all of the ducks and pigeons in the area will happily eat the food as well.

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These flamingos really are treated like royalty. Each day, a group of them is paraded across the park. Where are they going? They're moving from the flamingo pool to...

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...the grassy lawn in front of another attraction, Animal Connections. Animal Connections took over the stables that were formerly home to the park's Clydesdales.

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Flamingos are awesome looking.

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While a fenced-in lawn may not seem like the most exciting place for the flamingos, I'm sure it's a nice change from the flamingo pool, plus for a short time the flamingos are allowed to roam around the hillside.

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Even cooler, they get to interact with park guests. While you're not supposed to touch the flamingos, the flamingos can touch you. You're allowed to sit on the curb and let the flamingos peck through your hair!

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What else is this new Animal Connections all about? It's actually quite nice. It showcases the fact that the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment company has a strong commitment to and much experience with terrestrial animals in addition to marine animals. The outdoor stables are home to this miniature horse.

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Plus these llamas.

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Inside are additional exhibits. A beaver.

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A porcupine.

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A capybara (the world's largest rodent).

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A sloth.

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Like the flamingos, several of Animal Connection's residents are brought out to meet guests for a while. In fact, you're pretty much always guaranteed to find an animal or two roaming the premises.

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A legless lizard (not a snake).

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A tortoise.

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The water monitor seemed to be the most popular.

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Nearby are the crowned cranes. I believe these are the ones that make an appearance during the Blue Horizons show. Overall, Animal Connections is a welcome addition to the park. Check it out during your visit.

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Time for the second of the park's big rides, Journey to Atlantis.

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Atlantis is a water coaster that, like Manta, was built by Mack.

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After ascending the lift hill, the boat immediately rounds a turn and heads down the ride's flume drop.

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It's a very decent drop.

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It also produces a very decent splash that is pretty much guaranteed to get everyone wet. Maybe not soaked, but certainly wet. After the drop the boat meanders around the front of the attraction at ground level for the flume portion of the ride.

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Following the flume portion, an elevator lift carries the boat to the top of the coaster portion of the ride.

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The coaster part is relatively short but still quite fun.

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It drops and swoops around the back side of the attraction.

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Nearing the end.

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One final maneuver awaits. Being a water coaster, the coaster must of course return to the water. The boat hits the splashdown pool with all its coaster speed and momentum carrying it.

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This produces an even bigger splash than the first drop. Again, maybe not soaking (though the front row can come pretty close), but still very, very wet.

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What are my final impressions of the ride? I really, really like all of the individual parts, yet somehow the whole doesn't quite come together the way it probably could. The flume part is very nice, the coaster part is lots of fun, and the final splashdown is great. The elevator lift, while probably the coolest part of the ride because it is the most unique, is also a bit frustrating because the effects have never really worked the way I know they're supposed to. The theming of the overall attraction looks incredible, but the storyline of the ride has always remained a bit unclear. I'm sure the average park guest is completely satisfied with the ride itself, as for the most part I am, but there are a few issues that I feel could definitely be worked out to make this really great.

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Journey to Atlantis has a nicely themed "lost city" aquarium at its exit. This used to be home to SeaWorld's Commerson's dolphins, though it now houses more of the park's bat rays. When I inquired about the status of the dolphins, the employee I asked unfortunately didn't really know. I did find a video online from about a year ago showing them in a backstage location. I don't know if the construction of Manta necessitated the relocation of the rays to this aquarium, but I hope the dolphins return somewhere in the park someday. They really are most appropriate here, as they play a role in the Journey to Atlantis ride's theming.

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The aquarium also has leopard sharks.

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In addition to bat rays there are also a few stingrays, though I failed to get a good picture of them.

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Between the Journey to Atlantis aquarium and the Manta aquarium and feeding pool, SeaWorld San Diego sure has a lot of rays!

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Despite the fact that I miss the Commerson's dolphins, this aquarium really does look nice in its current state. It's a very large exhibit with attractive theming, plus the rays sure look cool when they start to school.

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The third and final major ride at SeaWorld is Shipwreck Rapids. This is an excellent river rafting ride with exceptional theming.

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There are some serious rapids too, as seen by this section of whitewater at the beginning of the ride.

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Near this area, onlookers get to blast the rafts with water cannons. It can be drenching.

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More of the ride's incredible theming.

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This ride will very likely soak you. It is quite possibly the wettest river raft ride in So Cal (wetter than Grizzly River at DCA, Bigfoot at KBF, and Roaring Rapids at SFMM, unless you happen to get a particularly "wet" ride on one of those or an uncharacteristically "dry" ride on this one). This stretch of the ride splashes you, but keeps you out of direct contact with the waterfall. However, look what's coming next...

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Good luck staying dry here.

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While the waterfall does shut off somewhat right before the raft passes under, it still pours down pretty significantly. Plus, if you're near either end, you're going to get nailed. It's awesome.

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There's one additional component to Shipwreck Rapid's fantastic theming. During this straightaway the rafts travel right through a pool of sea turtles. I'll admit that it's kind of hard to even notice them while braving the ride, but you can always come back and take a look afterwards.

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What a bunch of beach bum turtles. These days you can get up close and personal with even more sea turtles at SeaWorld. Where? Time to head over to...

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...Turtle Reef, the park's new sea turtle exhibit that just opened last year.

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Turtle Reef features a very large aquarium that houses MANY sea turtles.

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This used to be home to the park's manatees before they were returned to Florida.

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It's a very attractive exhibit.

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The turtles share the aquarium with a bunch of tropical fish.

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See, lots of fish.

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At the exit of Turtle Reef is Riptide Rescue, a ride they added along with the exhibit. I'm not entirely sure it was necessary, but I guess it can't hurt for the park to have a few flat rides thrown in here and there. At least it's unique; kind of a troika-style flat ride, which we don't have anywhere else in So Cal.

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Another ride / exhibit combo is Wild Arctic. The ride here is a simulated helicopter trip through the frozen north. While perhaps not the best simulator ride ever, it really doesn't matter. The ride is NOT the main point of this attraction. The animal exhibits are. In fact, you can skip past the ride and go directly to the animals if you don't feel like waiting in line or if you don't like simulators. I always do ride, and I'd recommend for everyone to do so at least once. If you don't have your expectations set too high, you'll enjoy the ride just fine.

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The first residents of Wild Arctic that you'll encounter are the beluga whales. There's above-water and below-water viewing for all of the animals.

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Smile for the camera.

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I'm just chillin' here in the Arctic. Pun intended.

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Then there's the walrus habitat.

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I can swim a backstroke just as well as the belugas can.

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While everybody loves the beluga whales and the walruses, the stars of Wild Arctic are definitely the polar bears.

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Relaxing on the ice.

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The polar bears spend most of their time above the water, so you may not get to see them swimming below. However, there are a bunch of cold-water fish to look at in the exhibit.

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They sure are impressive.

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Polar bear. (I know, I've got more pictures than I've got captions to go along with them.)

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Getting sleepy.

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I think I'll rest here on my paw.

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Ah, this is more comfortable.

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Wild Arctic is an excellent exhibit. Great animals, great theming, great attention to detail. From the Arctic, we'll head next to the Antarctic. Coming up soon...

Edited by biosciking
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