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Photo TR: Southern California & Nevada, with Erik & Smisty


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Want to see some vacation photos?


Wait, no, come back. There will be roller coasters...! And, if you stick around long enough, maybe even Gene Simmons!


That's what I thought.


I grew up in Southern California, but Misty had never been. So it seemed like a natural place to go....



Part 1: San Diego, Anaheim, Primm


MCO, 5:00am. It's going to be a long day.


So we decided to skip all that boring airline/car rental stuff and just Sky Ride into SeaWorld San Diego.


A lot's changed since I was last here. I suppose that would have been the early 1980s or so!


We loved Manta. Fun, easy, comfortable, fast--what's not to like? This is what Cheetah Hunt should have been.


SWSD has many more aquarium than SWF. This is Shark Encounter, though, which exists in both. Um...maybe this wasn't the time to make that point.


We opted to skip the water rides due to our whirlwind schedule. I will say this: Orlando's infrastructure is better. San Diego feels more like a zoo than a theme park by comparison. However, we actually preferred many of San Diego's attractions when it came right down to it.


Turtle Reef was much better than TurtleTrek. Possibly because it had turtles in it. :OP


Pacific Point, however, was tiny and sad compared to Orlando's.


I think I'm just gonna share photos of derpy animals with you.


Much smaller than Happy Harbor, but not bad.


Misty didn't want to get soaked, but I really wanted to experience this JTA. So I gave her everything in my pockets and got in line. And...it broke down. So, yeah...JTA. Probably just as well.


Misty grew up with these in Texas. I grew up with them in California. They don't exist in Florida. First food place we went!


And then Speculoos!


The next morning we were up early. (No surprise there, as we were still adjusting to west coast time.) So we went and checked out Sunset Cliffs.


Smisty loves zoos. And I hear this one is a pretty big deal.


Certainly, it's big. And it has lots of animals...


...including some pretty rare ones.


However, it's very hilly and very confusingly laid out.


For example: Have we wandered backstage here? No. And make sure you keep to the sidewalks on the main pathways because of buses!


This elephant is so dumb it can't even avoid this simple obstacle.


"I am the king of dung!"


"Um...does he think that's money?"


Adolescence is hard on giraffes.


Misty trying to stare down a snake. San Diego Zoo was okay, Maybe even good. And while I'm certainly glad we went, I've been to better.


Time for more local fast food! Jack In The Box! So good, we ate at two of them on this trip.


And our final stop in San Diego: Mission Beach.


I love the ticket shack/gift shop/coaster museum.


The ride was slower than I remembered, but I also think I liked it more this time. So...there you go.


There's not much of note here besides the coaster, unfortunately.


Genuine Southern California beach. Too bad we can't stay.


The next day found us at Disneyland Resort. Okay, so, again, I grew up with Disneyland. Smisty had never been.


The classic Disneyland sign is gone, but I was happy to see this at the Disneyland Hotel pool.


Go ahead, insult the castle. Whatever, I so strongly prefer Disneyland to Walt Disney World that I have trouble putting it into words. But, here, let me try: Disneyland craps all over Disney World. I love Disneyland and I hate Disney World. Period. You may feel differently. That's fine. I respect your right to be wrong.


Normally, I'm not a fan of dutch angles, but the dude surfing under the rope really sells this one for me.


Real Space Mountain! (Yeah, yeah, Florida's was first. Are you really arguing with me? It's the internet, dude. Let it go.)


I'd kind of forgotten that they'd brought the Submarine Ride back. And Misty was totally unaware of its existence. So this ended up being a nice surprise.


I thought the Nemo stuff seemed kind of forced, but Smisty liked it. And if that's what it took to get it back, so be it.


Even "it's a small world" is better here.


Wait...are we actually doing this? Oh, crap, we're doing this.


In all seriousness, I liked the addition of the Disney characters. It was subtle enough that you almost had to go looking for them, which made it kind of fun. Unlike, say, the way Captain Jack Sparrow's name is mentioned 15,000 times in PotC.


I think Roger Rabbit might have been Misty's favorite ride at Disneyland.


Gadget's Go Coaster. Um...frogs are cool.


They should really build a Disney park in Florida some day.


Lunch at the Blue Bayou, because why not?


Service was a bit cracky, but you can't beat the view. (It, um, looks better in person.)


Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Awkward name, great ride. (And if you tell me you prefer "Dinosaur," I will (verbally) stab you in the throat.)


"Welcome to a tropical hideaway, you lucky people, you!"


I'd been to DCA once, right after Tower of Terror opened, and I liked the park. This was my first visit to Cars Land, though. I don't rate the movie all that highly, but the land is freaking great.


Theming-wise, it's desert-y. And there's puns. Whatever. But the three rides are really, really cool.


Radiator Springs Racers is the real deal. A (mildly) thrilling, highly detailed indoor/outdoor dark ride with impressively large audio-animatronics. Oh, and it even tells a story that isn't just a retelling of the movie. I loved it.


So, yeah, this is the big ride. But what about the other two?


What impressed me the most, I think, is the fact that both of Cars Land's smaller rides were throwbacks to older rides. A sense of history amidst all this fancy new-fangled theming? Be still, my heart!


Hearing Larry The Cable Guy spiel in very un-smooth Spanish is way funnier than it has any right to be.


Even Flo's V8 Cafe was good.


We walked by some kind of Incredibles parade. I took a picture. Which you're now looking at. I'm going to stop typing now.


Monsters, Inc. was new to me. I liked it. The world needs more dark rides.


Quick, name another dark ride that takes you through a bathroom!


Man, the quality of merchandise has really gone downhill.


Skipped it. (I rode it on my first visit, though. Not bad.)


Misty didn't like California Screamin'. I think it's just okay.


I made it a point to get her on the Sun Wheel. (*Sigh* Fine, "Mickey's Fun Wheel.") I thought she'd love it, but in fact she was kind of bored. I still really like it, though.


Hey, guys, let's drive to Vegas! Whoooo!


Cool. Now stare at this photo for the next 4 hours.


Buffalo Bill's. Smisty loves Magnum XL-200, so I had to make her ride Desperado.


It's not just cracky, it's ARROW cracky.


I can't quite figure Primm out. Like, I want to say it's run down and dying. But...they're clearly still making and spending money, so...I dunno, it's weird. Clearly, the demographic is older, less glamorous folks than Vegas attracts. I mean, I guess that's it. It's an hour closer than Las Vegas. There you go. But still, it hurts my brain.


Oh, you know, just a log flume through the casino. No big deal.


If you like, you can take a cracky monorail from Buffalo Bill's to Primm Valley Casino. And then you can take this even crackier monorail over I-15 to Whiskey Pete's.


Primm Valley has a mall. With expensive, "high-class" stores. And, like, no empty stores. So, it's doing well, obviously. So why do the casinos seem so pitiful? Especially on the outside, where it seems as if no one has swept in the last decade. I just can't figure it out. I'm sorry. I'll stop.


Buffalo Bill's has a roller coaster and a log flume. Primm Valley has an outlet mall. Whiskey Pete's has Bonnie & Clyde's Death Car. Seems pretty fair.


If you've ever wondered how the place got the name "Whiskey Pete's," this actually won't help clear it up at all.


Employee housing, I presume. Since it's the only other thing around beside the casinos.


Big finish!


Stay tuned for Part 2!


At some point.


I promise (...ish).


Ciao! Ciao means go. Go!

Edited by Electerik
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The Primm casinos have been bought and sold a few times. Supposedly, they run in the green, but their owner has a huge amount of long term debt. The business model is "do everything as cheap as possible" and they make their money in volume from people playing penny slots and $2 table games. This strategy goes down to the rides: cannibalizing the trains for Desperado for parts, for instance. The log flume, as someone asked, once had light guns. They nixed those probably 7-8 years ago. They haven't even put a wrap on that monorail and it has the ownership name from like, 3 managements ago.

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"Disneyland craps all over Disney World. I love Disneyland and I hate Disney World. Period. You may feel differently. That's fine. I respect your right to be wrong."


Guess I am only half wrong since I hate both of those over hyped parks.

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The real reason for this trip wasn't to go to California's theme parks, but to visit our friends Seth & Natalie in Las Vegas. (You remember them, don't you? If not, check out From Sandusky, With Love)


Since we'd be staying at their house, instead of having to pay for hotels, the Las Vegas portion of the trip was meant to be a bit more relaxed. And it was, to an extent. But, well, we're still us....



Part 2: Las Vegas, Boulder City, Buena Park


So, it turns out that the Las Vegas sign is a tourist attraction unto itself.


Seth & Natalie's house. We had no idea when we planned this trip that we'd be there on Fart Day.


Cool, what's for lunch?


Seth got us tickets to Le Reve at The Wynn. I'm not much of a show guy, but this was actually pretty darned cool.


Natalie plays Roller Derby. That's her in the middle, 923. I really had no idea what was happening, but it was fun to watch.


Now, I'm not saying this sport is dangerous. But the halftime show was a race between all the players who had broken their ankles this season, and even that didn't end well.


Las Vegas has lots of casinos. (I strive to be educational.) We're not gamblers, but we do like architecture and theming, so we set out to see what attractions were available. First up: Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.


Shark Reef is a lush, beautiful--though not terribly large--aquarium. Which is almost exactly the right combination of things to appeal to me.


"Um...I'm not a fish. So, if you could just point me to the exit, I'll be on my way."


Tunnel aquariums are the pinnacle of human civilization.


They don't have a ton of different sea creatures, but they have all the good ones.


Smisty likes octopi. Even though they're terrible creatures. Shark Reef doesn't name their animals, so I've named this octopus, "Hitler."


Sunken ship room sort of thing. With sharks. So, yeah, awesome.


The lady in the gift shop offered to sell us the octopus statue, but I assume the TSA doesn't allow one to travel with 800 pounds of evil incarnate.


I hadn't realized that so many of the casinos would be connected to one another via some type of tunnel or bridge. Or, in this case, a mall.


Okay, so The Luxor has an Ancient Egypt theme, but is home to a Titanic exhibit, a sports museum, and a Carrot Top show. Yeah....


I debated for some time, but finally decided not to pay $14 to experience for myself the alleged horror of "The Roller Coaster." (I think the tie-breaking factor might very well have been the name. I might have ridden "Manhattan Express."


The worst part of Vegas is all the scumbags trying to sell you nonsense the second you step out onto the street.


Although this I'll make an exception for.


The Coca-Cola Store on The Strip offers a tasting thing. It's like Club Cool at Epcot, except with more flavors and less free. And, yes, they had Beverly. And something even worse whose name I've blocked out of my brain but that kind of tasted like stale Scope.


The next day started with The Pinball Hall of Fame. Basically just a warehouse full of (mostly) pinball machines. That you can play. No admission fee, you just pay for the machines. And, OH MY GOD I'M FAT!


Circus Circus seems like it's seen better days.


A lot of stuff was closed, but seemingly for repair, so perhaps things will get better...?


But the reason we're here is of course the Adventuredome. Looks like they had a log flume that was pretty seriously integrated into the place that they've removed in order to build an El Loco coaster. Maybe no one wanted to get wet indoors?


There's also a Miner Mike with some kind of Satanic theme, so that's fun.


Adventuredome is almost my thing. I like that it's small and sort of built around a central theme. The problem is that their ride selection doesn't much appeal to me. There's a pirate ship and a Disk-O, but not much else that floats my boat. I would've liked to have tried the log flume, but alas.


Canyon Blaster was okay for an Arrow multi-looper. Seth liked it a lot more than I did. Misty abstained.


Really wish I could have caught The Chuck Jones Experience at Circus Circus, but it would appear to have been long-since evicted. This is about all that's left. Well, that and a sign saying they can have their stuff back when they pay their back rent.


No one really wanted to go to The Stratosphere but me, so we compromised and went. Funny story: There was a BS security check before you could go up to the top of the tower--because apparently The Stratosphere is such a big deal that terrorists want to blow it up. But, earlier, at Circus Circus, Misty had played some redemption-style arcade games. So when it came time to empty her pockets for security, she pulled out a plastic frog, a sheriff's badge, a noisemaker....


It's $18 to go up to the top of The Stratosphere, but it was worth it to me for the view. The rides, on the other hand, at $15 a pop....


A confusion of elevators gets you to the tip top, but only if you're paying to ride The Big Shot.


The rides feel very tacked on and awkward, honestly. It's hard to get to them and hard to get around because of them.


Kind of pointless if you're not in the front seat, eh?


I liked it, but it feels like there are a lot of missed opportunities here.


I know, let's go to The Venetian! I hear that's nice! Oh...sad day.


The outside canal was open, though. Still, I bet there were a lot of complaints from hotel guests. (But, yes, The Venetian was actually very nice. I'd show you more photos, but this is a whirlwind report. Let's move on!)


Treasure Island was doing its thing across the street.


This is maybe the greatest sign I've ever seen. "If it's in stock, we have it!"


The next day we headed for Boulder City and Hoover Dam.


So, they built a bridge to bypass the tourism of the dam, but the bridge is so cool that it's became a tourist attraction itself. Irony, thy name is Boulder City.


Speaking of which, most of the electricity generated by Hoover Dam gets sold to California. The neon lights of Las Vegas run on coal.


No, not interesting? Fine. Look at how big that dam thing is!


There are a lot of dam rules.


The aforementioned, ridiculously named, Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.


The tour is worth doing. The dam really is an impressive feat of engineering.


where the electricity gets made. But the dam's not really about electricity, it's about regulating the river....


Sorry. Big dam generators.


I really should have bought this shirt. I f**king regret it now.


Wait, what?


The Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail is worth checking out if you like outdoor activities and don't mind dying in the Nevada desert.


Seth took this photo. And I quote: "It could almost be a metaphor for something."


Our last day in Vegas begins with a trip to Fremont Street. Not really my scene, and probably even less so (but also more interesting) at night. Still, we had to go downtown anyway for legal reasons, so why not?


Seth wanted to try The Heart Attack Grill. So we did. And...it was terrible. Just incredibly tacky.


I want you to think for a moment about who just told you that this place is too tacky.


More to the point, the food is not good. Let us analyze this "Double Bypass Burger." First of all, it has vegetables on it. Those are standard. You know what isn't standard? Bacon. Bacon is an add-on at The Heart Attack Grill. You know what isn't an add-on? Donuts. Fried eggs. Or anything even remotely interesting, in fact. Yes, a midget nurse will bring you your drinks in a little car. And, yes, she'll even spank you if you like. (Don't ask.) But while you're actually eating, you'll wish you were at Hardee's.


Technically, we made two separate trips to KISS by Monster Mini-Golf. But I'm just going to combine it all into one thing and you'll be none the wiser. Oh, crap...delete, delete!


Now this is the correct amount of tacky!


We've played a fair amount of indoor, black-light mini golf. Most of it is terrible. But this was actually good. The best I've been to, certainly.


They even had animatronics. Sure, Peter Criss was missing one hand and just directly pounding on the drums with the other, but still....


Leave a message for KISS in the bathroom. Because that's where they apparently hang out when they come to visit.


Seth won at mini golf, but Misty and I got married by Las Vegas Gene Simmons, so that kind of makes up for it.


And they had a cool fish tank.


We got up early the next morning and drove to Knott's. Now, KBF is a tough park for me. I grew up with Knott's. I worked at Knott's. But Smisty had never been and was really excited, so I tried to just enjoy it through her eyes and not constantly complain about how much better it used to be.


We went here first, because I figured Misty would love this ride. (I was right.)


There's still some charm left at KBF. Cedar Fair hasn't crushed it completely. Some areas are better than others, obviously.


Jaguar is the world's biggest kiddy coaster.


I have no idea if this is Haunt stuff or just regular Fiesta Village theming. :OP


Revolucion is a cool ride. But it's no Tampico Tumbler.


My first ride on Xcellerator, as it was down for that cable thing the last time I was here. It is interesting how so many of the rides that are 40 or 50 years old still look fresh and exciting, while most of what Cedar Fair has added in the last 10 or 15 years looks old and stupid. But maybe that's just me.


The Sky Cabin still runs, though the Parachute Drop is sadly long gone.


My favorite color is green and this hurts my eyes.


Coast Rider was fine.


This whole area is hugely improved over the Perilous Plunge days. I just wish all this water didn't look quite so much like a swimming pool. And Flyers are always welcome.


Not sure why this sign is still here, but I suppose I approve. I wish there was still a dark ride under it, too.


I actually like the way they added Pony Express. And there are even a few theming touches to make it fit in better.


The ride itself is too short, though. (And I don't normally mind short rides, if they're doing cool stuff the whole time.) It's probably quite scenic, but it's hard to say since KBF now hates people with glasses almost as much as Cedar Point hates fat people.


While I'm here: Dear park owners with perfect vision, I understand that you think my glasses might fly off my face at any moment and attack a group of nuns. What I don't understand is why you think they couldn't possibly come out of my pocket, given their awkwardly un-pocket-fitting shape. And, also, the Pony Express is an effing kiddy ride. What the hell is wrong with you?


Ah, unspoiled Knott's Berry Farm! Hooray!


Well, I'm not saying it was *all* perfect.


To their credit, Cedar Fair did a great job of updating the figures in what has always been the world's best water ride. They even added a bit of a storyline to it, which is okay? And sort of reminds me of Knott's Bear-y Tales.


Can you tell what ride Smisty just got off of? (Hint: It was in the last picture.)


The figures in the Mine Ride are non-updated, but I still love it. And also, there was a bunch of Haunt stuff in there, which is always weird during the day. And our driver wasn't a very good spieler. AND they were only running one train, which is unconscionable, considering the length of this ride and their line. BUT I STILL LOVE IT. Abuse me more, KBF!


Oh, yeah, see Silver Bullet back there? I rode it. And I'm not wasting an entire photo on it.


At least Cedar Fair haven't tightened up on Big Train security. Luckily, he left me alone once he realized I was married, and thus broke.


I know, I know, it sucks now. Still would have been nice to get Misty on it.


You know, this really was great when it opened. Honestly. I know you kids won't believe me, but it was.


Smucker's recently discontinued the KBF brand. They still have it here, but who knows for how much longer. Even Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant now serves Smucker's. We bought a bunch of stuff and had it shipped to us. :OP


I'm sure Walter and Cordelia loved their children. I just wish their children had loved Knott's Berry Farm. I sure did.


It's not awful now. It's a good park. Misty really liked it, and I had a good time visiting. So, let's just end on that. :O)


Since it was technically our honeymoon, we sprang for the Camp Snoopy room at the Knott's Hotel. Which comes with a visit from Snoopy to tuck in the kids. But we don't have kids. So, um, yeah....


Thanks for reading! We had a great trip!

Edited by Electerik
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Great stuff Erik. Congrats on the wedding/honeymoon. My wife and I also got married in Vegas ... but not by Gene Simmons unfortunately.


I pretty much agree with your assessment of Knott's although I will say that they've taken many steps in the right direction over the last 2-3 years. It will NEVER be what it was when we were growing up but it's not as bad as it was in the mid-2000's.


Also glad to hear that the Heart Attack place isn't worth it so we never have to bother.


And yes, the Log Flume at Buffalo Bills used to be a shooting Log Ride and was incredibly fun. It's still a decent log ride IMO.

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On glasses: All parks - even here - now require straps to wear them on inversion or airtime-heavy coasters. But with straps I had no problems so far on either side of the pond.


Tripsdrill is honorably excluded from this mention as you're there not even even allowed to ride with straps.


Carnivals are a completly different matter here as ride attendants there do not care a bit, I have seen glasses, phones, cameras flying off riders but they clearly do not have the time and capacity to check for loose items. And of course the rider loosing it is responsible here - not the ride operator.

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Yes! Naked City Pizza was really good. I didn't mention it as I couldn't find a decent photo. I now realize I was also remiss in not mentioning that the San Diego Zoo has a Sky Ride.




As for the glasses thing, in my experience, most US parks aren't concerned about it--nor should they be. The exception being Cedar Fair. But their approach on a lot of things runs contrary to traditional logic.

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I think they are not concerned that one looses anything but that once it flies it hits a bystander so I can see their point.


But as said: Here the rider loosing the article is reliable for any damage caused by lost property. Do not know how it is in the US - but I guess the operators are reliable in court also, even if only for the fact that you can sue off more money from a park chain than from an average rider.

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And yes, the Log Flume at Buffalo Bills used to be a shooting Log Ride and was incredibly fun. It's still a decent log ride IMO.


My one ride, circa 1997, it still had the guns. Which had seemingly been added to spice up dull layout of the ride. The problem is, it starts with the drop, then meanders for a while--instead of the other way around. I'm assuming they removed the guns because they all broke. But you can very much still see the targets. There's even a poster left.




Even with the guns, and the inherent coolness of cruising around through the casino, it still didn't strike me as all that great. But maybe that's just me.

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As for the glasses thing, in my experience, most US parks aren't concerned about it--nor should they be. The exception being Cedar Fair. But their approach on a lot of things runs contrary to traditional logic.


Really what it comes down to is each parks interpretation of the "no loose article" policy in the ride manufacturer's SOP. Cedar Fair obviously chooses to err on the side of caution and take it to the extreme (maybe they lost a lawsuit in the past over something like this?).

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