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Finally getting caught up here, and some great updates!

 

Can I also take a moment to discuss the musical selections in the park as a whole. It’s clear the park has a sizable pool of Christmas songs to pick from. This is a contrast to Fright Fest when it seems like you hear just Monster Mash, Thriller, and Ghostbusters on repeat.

 

However, it seemed like Florin Street Band’s “My Favorite Time of Year” came on every other song. I don’t recall hearing any other song twice, but this dang song kept repeating itself. To be honest, it isn’t a bad song. It was just being played to death like It’s a Small World.

 

Dude. Feliz Navidad. Feliz fu*kin Navidad. How did you not notice it? Every single time I have been there over the last 4 seasons all I hear is that godforsaken song. Like 30 times throughout the day. Not that I liked it to begin with but I hate that stupid song now thanks to Six Flags.

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Great report! Holiday in the Park is easily my favorite time to visit Great Adventure (which sounds insane with Kingda Ka, El Toro, Safari, Zumanjaro and Bizarro closed). It's absurd that it's a thing and it's even more absurd that people actually show up for it.

 

Thanks! It's definitely the nicest time of the year to visit because of the shorter ride lines and how well decorated the park is. However, I can't say it's my favorite time to visit simply because I do love El Toro.

 

Finally getting caught up here, and some great updates!

 

Can I also take a moment to discuss the musical selections in the park as a whole. It’s clear the park has a sizable pool of Christmas songs to pick from. This is a contrast to Fright Fest when it seems like you hear just Monster Mash, Thriller, and Ghostbusters on repeat.

 

However, it seemed like Florin Street Band’s “My Favorite Time of Year” came on every other song. I don’t recall hearing any other song twice, but this dang song kept repeating itself. To be honest, it isn’t a bad song. It was just being played to death like It’s a Small World.

 

Dude. Feliz Navidad. Feliz fu*kin Navidad. How did you not notice it? Every single time I have been there over the last 4 seasons all I hear is that godforsaken song. Like 30 times throughout the day. Not that I liked it to begin with but I hate that stupid song now thanks to Six Flags.

 

Thanks! I probably heard Feliz Navidad but it was no more or less frequent than how often I hear it on the radio. My Favorite Time of the Year is the song that was torturing my ears.

 

. The view was pretty lackluster. That is, unless you like highways or Kias.

What, not Volvos? Man, that theming sucks.

 

Great report of a park I knew very oittle about.

 

Thanks! There were some Volvos on the highway. I'm sure of it.

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California’s Great America

 

When I spent a summer in the Bay Area, California’s Great America was the park I visited the most. For one, it was the easiest to reach thanks to the park’s proximity to the Amtrak station. Second, it was the most well-rounded. From the rides to the landscaping to the operations, everything was above average.

 

For that reason, CGA was the park I was most anticipating in my long weekend trip to San Francisco. As an added bonus, we would be visiting during WinterFest. Once we passed through the gate, we felt transported to a winter wonderland.

 

CGA already has one of the most picturesque entrances thanks to that double decker carousel. Now place a skating rink in front of the carousel and a massive tree behind it. Add in thousands of multi-colored lights and live Christmas music and you have ever base covered. But CGA goes even further by adding Santa’s freaking sleigh and reindeer atop the tunnel on Gold Striker’s first drop. Just wow!

 

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Now that's an entrance!

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My jaw hit the ground when I saw Santa atop Gold Striker.

 

We planned to hit RailBlazer first, but we couldn’t pass up a walk-on at Gold Striker. We asked for the back and our request was granted. I love GCI layouts. And Gold Striker has one of the best. What I don’t love about GCIs are how they age. Gold Striker rode like a dream in 2014. It was a very aggressive wooden coaster. For that reason, I was fearful it would tear itself apart.

 

Gold Striker definitely isn’t glass smooth anymore. In fact, it had a strong rattle throughout. I already had a headache going in due to a cold, but my headache got no worse. Unfortunately the shaking was a bit much for my girlfriend coming off of a cross-country flight.

 

I find most GCI drops to be throwaways, but Gold Striker’s is fantastic. I know the sheds were added due to cranky neighbors, but they significantly enhance the drop. It feels like you’re plunging into a black hole and the drop offers fantastic floater air. From that point onward, Gold Striker does not slow down.

 

The first 2-3 hills offer sustained floater and all subsequent hills offer quick pops of air. The coaster is exceptionally well paced. I’ve ridden Gold Striker quite a bit and I still don’t have that layout memorized. I hope it doesn’t get any rougher, but as of now it’s still a great wooden coaster. 8.5 out of 10

 

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Gold Striker is a beautiful mess of track.

 

We planned to hit RailBlazer next, but we were sucked into two shows. To put it mildly, not everyone at a theme park would win American Idol. However, the singers at CGA were incredible. They had excellent vocal range. We caught the show by the big tree (I think Cool Yule Christmas) and whatever one was by the gazebo near Patriot.

 

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People were rockin' around the Christmas tree.

 

It’s no secret that I loved SFFT’s Wonder Woman. That was one of the most relentless and best paced coasters I have ever ridden. For that reason, I was ecstatic to have a chance to ride a mirror image. All we wanted for Christmas was a walk-on, and while we didn’t get that, it was only 15 minutes.

 

We requested the back two rows and my girlfriend was a bit freaked out by the inline seating, but she ended up loving RailBlazer. I did find RailBlazer a bit bumpier than Wonder Woman, but it was equally as intense. I call BS on RailBlazer’s top speed of 52 mph. RailBlazer feels way faster. For this reason, I don’t notice the rockwork while riding. You’re simply traveling too fast!

 

The ejector air on the first drop, dive loop, s-hill, and turnaround drop is unreal. It’s some of the most powerful air out there. On most coasters, it feels like you’re thrown in the air. On RailBlazer, it feels like the train drops out from under you and you’re left suspended in mid-air like a Looney Tunes cartoon.

 

I’m scared to think how long RailBlazer’s line got in the summer. On a day when everything else was a walk-on, RailBlazer’s queue hovered around 15-30 minutes. Outside of capacity, these Raptors are perfect coasters. 9.5 out of 10

 

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These Raptors feel like they were ripped right out of a cartoon.

 

I was intrigued to try Patriot. I’ve had a rough past with B&M stand-ups. However, Vortex admittedly wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t good, but it lacked the Gs and rapid transitions to reach the special levels of suck of their others.

 

Is Patriot an upgrade? For sure. It’s completely devoid of forces outside of a snappy corkscrew, but it’s now perfectly reridable. I only got one ride up front, but I can’t recall a single instance where it bashed my head against the OSTR. I think Patriot was Cedar Fair’s plan to take Hydra out of the running as the worst floorless. 6 out of 10

 

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They say you can’t polish a turd, but CGA tried with Patriot.

 

The one show we weren’t going to miss was It’s Christmas Snoopy. We’re both Peanuts Fans and this seemed to be the signature show of the event. Much to our amazement, we walked in 5 minutes before the show and found front-row seats!

 

For the most part, it was a beautiful ice skating show to familiar Christmas songs. I was particularly impressed by how much skating Snoopy did. It cannot be easy maneuvering around in that big costume! The other skaters performed more daring stunts, including a few tandem lifts that were quite impressive.

 

There were some WTF moments of the show though. Four in particular standout.

 

1) At one point Snoopy bent over, presented his booty to the audience, and shook it for all to see.

2) Snoopy sat on a throne while a scantily clad woman lying on the armchair stroked him.

3) The Christmas tunes were broken up by Aaron Carter’s “I Want Candy” at one point.

4) The actors chucked snow and iceballs into the audience at one point. The former makes sense, but I saw one child get drilled in the eye with an iceball and start crying. I’m glad the parents weren’t busy recording the moment on their iPhone or anything…

 

Ultimately, I really enjoyed the show even if it did have some weird parts.

 

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I was surprised how many tricks Snoopy did. It can't be easy in that costume!

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Snoopy turned on his doghouse.

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And then got turned on himself.

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I think Snoopy would be good friends with the Joker. Just a hunch.

 

Instead of completing the loop, we backtracked past the tree to reach Flight Deck. It may be one of the oldest B&M inverts and if it weren’t so short, I think people would call it one of the best. This is one intense coaster.

 

When you feel the yank down the first drop, you know you’re on an old-school B&M. The vertical loop was pretty darn forceful and that’s followed by a crazy upwards helix guaranteed to make your legs go numb. That’s followed by a quick dive and a furious zero-G roll before the finale.

 

As much as people hate Silver Bullet, the consensus seems to be that the finale is awesome. Flight Deck has a better version of that finale. You dip over the water, whip through an aggressive corkscrew, and haul through another leg-numbing turn. 8.5 out of 10

 

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I feel the need...the need for speed.

 

Six Flags has often renamed their flats for the holidays. An example of this would be SFNE renaming their Tea Cups the Terror Twist for Fright Fest and Gingerbread Twist for Holiday in the Park. CGA took the same approach with a few rides of their own. The most notable was the 12 Days of Christmas Antique Car ride. Unfortunately I had to chop this one out due to time constraints.

 

I did ride the rethemed Flying Eagles. I forget the holiday name, but each tub had wraps of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer. I remembered being able to snap these in 2014, but the top speed felt a little too slow on this December night. The ride did have good movement and I came *this* close to snapping just as the ride ended. 7 out of 10

 

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When I think of ride wraps, I think of those tacky advertisements at Six Flags. Now this is how you use a wrap.

 

North Pole was the retheme for the Skytower. The park could have gotten away with offering the usual ride experience, but they added a holiday narration. But to be perfectly honest, I tuned out the narration and focused on my birds eye view of the park’s impressive Christmas lights. There was one negative though; the windows were really dirty and gave my camera fits. 8 out of 10

 

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From the North Pole, I felt like Santa. I could see everything.

 

My girlfriend is a carousel aficionado, so there was no question we’d be riding Carousel Columbia. Maybe it was because of the Christmas music being pumped through the park, but the carousel was missing its own music. The only other carousel I’ve seen do this is the B&B Caroussell on Coney Island. That combined with the rickety horses makes this carousel more beautiful to look at than ride. 5 out of 10

 

With 30 minutes left, we decided to head back to RailBlazer. As I approached the ride, I was thinking to myself that had been a very long time since the last dispatch. Sure enough, the RMC clocked out early and was down for the remainder of the night.

 

It was a bummer not being able to finish with RailBlazer, the park’s new star attraction, but Gold Striker was a worthy consolation. RailBlazer closing allowed me to get a front row and second back row ride on Gold Striker. It’s a coin flip if I prefer the front or back. The front has more consistent air start to finish but the back has some superior moments at the start.

 

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This wasn't how I planned to end my night, but it worked.

 

There was one issue with our visit- the park’s operating hours. For WinterFest, CGA is only open 5-10. It was quickly apparent that five hours is not enough time to experience everything. And we visited on a day when lines were basically nonexistent. With extra time, we would have watched more shows.

 

California’s Great America should be honored to have a coaster as great as RailBlazer. When you combine that with Gold Striker and Flight Deck, you have a strong top three. And if they get that long-rumored B&M hyper, you can bet I’ll be back to ride it and reride my favorites.

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...we’d be riding Carousel Columbia. Maybe it was because of the Christmas music being pumped through the park, but the carousel was missing its own music. The only other carousel I’ve seen do this is the B&B Caroussell on Coney Island.

 

This past summer, I was one of the operators at Valleyfair's Carousel. The music on the carousel is on a set timer. It'll turn on by itself at the beginning of the day and will turn itself off at night. One night, I was the closing operator and the music shut itself off mid-cycle. And I still had a queue waiting to ride. The area was dead silent. It was the creepiest moment of my life when the music went dead. And the park willingly did this during a Christmas event!?

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It wasn't dead silent since the park had audio playing well past closing along the midways, but it was still odd not having the music radiate from the Carousel.

 

Dead silent carousels feel like a zombie apocalypse, so maybe they should be used during Halloween events.

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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

 

My girlfriend hates Six Flags New England. Merely suggesting we stop there when we literally pass it on the highway elicits a groan. She'd even take Story Land or Santa's Village over SFNE.

I never thought I’d see the day where she’d take SFNE over another park, but that was until our visit to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. They earned it.

 

*If you want positivity, please skip to the part where we ride Joker. If you want to see what kind of Six Flags day we had, please enjoy the next few paragraphs.*

 

Six Flags was firing on all cylinders. They left no area untouched. Parking was chaos. Customer service was poor. Food lines took forever. Rides were breaking down. Dispatches were horrifically bad. And the park was extremely dark, which is terrifying considering we visited during Holiday in the Park.

 

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I realize it's HITP, but not all of these rides were supposed to be closed.

 

Our experience began with a Diamond Elite parking reservation. The employee scanned it and told us to follow the signs. To that I say, what signs? The parking lot was so dark, that the signage was illegible. After a lap around the lot, we thought we found the preferred lot (no sign of course), but it was coned off on all sides with no employee in sight. We cut our losses and parked way back in the black abyss.

 

There was no semblance of organization by the shuttle bus, so we hiked a mile to the main entrance. In retrospect, visiting California’s Great America was unfair to SFDK. The former was a winter wonderland. From the moment we entered Great America, we were dazzled by the glistening lights and live shows. Meanwhile SFDK had a single dude playing a banjo, some lights, and many areas of darkness.

 

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CGA really spoiled me the night before.

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Candy Cane Lane (or whatever they called it) was the best of the park's lights.

 

Our first stop was the Flash Pass booth. My favorite benefit of the Diamond Elite membership is the two skip-the-line passes per visit. Our exchange went something like this:

 

Employee- Hi, what ride would you like?

Me- Two for Joker please.

Employee- Joker is running one train.

Me- These passes will be super helpful then.

Employee- Sorry, you cannot get them for Joker since it’s running one train.

 

It was a bummer Joker was off-limits essentially because the line was too long. But based on that logic, how many other rides were restricted? Anyone familiar with SFDK knows just how many of their coasters run with just one train. So did that mean I couldn’t use it on Superman either?

 

Logically Superman or Wonder Woman were the next best options, but we picked their only coaster running two trains, Medusa. I strongly doubted Medusa would have a line, but it was one of the few rides we cared to go on. I like Superman, but I ride Phobia all the time so I felt comfortable skipping it.

 

With one train on Joker, I figured it’d be a miserable wait. So we decided to get some Flags Famous Chicken Strips to help speed up the queue. We beat a large crowd to the food stand and noticed a second line open. Like any reasonable people would do, several of us jumped over there.

 

“This is for drinks only.”

 

We were pretty mad since there was no sign stating that and the other line now stretched a good 15-20 people deep. So we decided we'd just eat later.

 

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At least this food stand had no line...or anything.

 

By this point, we were just chuckling at everything that was going wrong. The only thing that could make it worse would be if Joker was closed.

 

Son of a biscuit. The clown was down.

 

We figured it'd be a good time to ride Harley Quinn but it was also down. I'm guessing Joker and Harley were getting busy in one of the animal exhibits. At least Wonder Woman was nearby too...but of course that was down too. I guess she wanted to make it a menage a trois. Superman was being morally responsible and cycling trains like a champ but it was several switchbacks deep.

 

If we only rode one ride tonight, we sure as heck was going to make sure it was Joker. So we bit the bullet and entered the queue. Usually you can't do that during a ride breakdown but there was no employee to stop people. There was only a sign warning us about the one train operations. The fact they have one made suggests this is a semi-regular occurrence.

 

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How often does Joker run one train if they have this sign handy?

 

Within five minutes, we heard an announcement the coaster reopened. It wasn’t for another ten minutes until we saw a train dispatched. We only had to wait 6-7 trains, but it took an hour with how glacially slow they were sending out trains.

 

While Joker’s crew was painstakingly slow, they were friendly and enthusiastic. Before each ride, they were pumping riders up. But best of all, they were allowing you to wait for specific rows. I had heard Joker had a strict assigned seating policy, so I was excited I could wait an extra train for the back.

 

Saying Joker rolls out of the station would be an understatement; this think has a mini launch. It has enough speed that the largest hill on the pre-lift actually offers a pop of real, genuine airtime. But that’s just the appetizer for the craziness that’s to follow.

 

The twisted drop offered the usual RMC first drop ejector air plus vicious laterals. This is my favorite RMC drop outside of Iron Rattler and the Raptors. That’s followed by something called a step-up under flip that’s the child of a zero-G roll and a turnaround. It didn't offer as much hangtime as I expected, but it sure beats a regular overbank.

 

Joker’s stall is the highlight of the ride. Further, it’s one of the best stalls anywhere. It’s similar to Goliath’s stall in the fact that it lasts forever. And for the entire duration, you are suspended in mid-air all while coming perilously close to Roar’s old structure.

 

The rest of the ride was a frenzy of powerful airtime hills, a great zero-G roll, and some turns. Admittedly Joker didn’t feel as fast as other RMCs, but it offered plenty of action. Joker is often called the worst RMC. Granted the worst RMC is still a world-class ride, but Joker was better than several of their coasters like Wicked Cyclone, Medusa, and Goliath. 9.5 out of 10

 

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I love the two-tone rails and Joker bust on the train.

 

We arrived at the park pretty late (we have no regrets stopping at Muir Woods) and Joker’s lengthy queue gobbled up a huge chunk of time, so we only had 90 minutes left. We intended to go ride Medusa, but we got distracted.

 

Anyone who has been to Northern California knows that garlic fries are like crack to the area. Admittedly I was skeptical getting them at Six Flags. I figured they would dump a bunch of garlic powder on their generic fries, but these were thicker, crispier fries than usual with fresh garlic. They were really good!

 

We ended up eating the fries at the dolphin show. Through a stroke of luck, the show started as we walked by the stadium. It would have been an absolute shame to skip all the animals. That really is what makes Discovery Kingdom unique among the Six Flags parks.

 

The aquatic exhibits and shows seem like a budget SeaWorld. As much as I love dolphins, I haven’t seen an awesome show with them yet. SFDK had some loose Christmas overlay where the dolphins had to retrieve ornaments from the water. If that sounds boring, it was. Fortunately the ending delivered. They turned the dolphins loose much like that stupid lateral play against the Patriots a few weeks ago.

 

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It wouldn't be a dolphin show without jumps.

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I wonder what Apollo did to get on the naughty list.

 

With an hour left, we could delay Medusa no further. Our skip passes were laughably unnecessary. While I secretly do take joy bypassing a lengthy queue with skip-the-line passes, Medusa’s short queue allowed us to ride twice in a span of 15 minutes- once in the front and once in the back.

 

If Superman Krypton Coaster didn't exist, Medusa would be king of the floorless coasters. Firstly, I want to know why more B&M loopers don’t have straight drops. Medusa’s has some fantastic floater air, much like SDC’s Wildfire. The first two inversions (vertical loop & dive loop) aren’t forceful, but they offer sweet hangtime as you exit them.

 

The back half of the ride has the snappier inversions. The snappiest of all is the zero-G roll. But the sea serpent (aka the screwed up cobra roll) and corkscrews are no slouches either. And by riding at night, the fact that the coaster is built on an old parking lot is less obvious. 8.5 out of 10

 

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I'll take Mexico's Medusa, but I'll take this one over any floorless coaster.

 

I had delayed it long enough. It was time to try the Skywarp. I heard awful things about Harley Quinn and warned my girlfriend accordingly. Without any hesitation she sat this one out and questioned my sanity.

 

“Why do you even want to ride it then?”

“I have to see if it’s really as bad as everyone says.”

 

And it’s not as bad as everyone says. It’s worse. It’s far worse. I expected a slightly bumpy and boring ride. Instead I thought it was going to kill me. When the train started shaking violently on the initial launch, I knew I was porked.

 

Harley Quinn was like riding a Super Loop that tracked as well as the back row of Mean Streak. When you mix in a neck-chopping transition on the Immelmann (while still being vibrated), this ride reaches a special level of suck. I really hope Skyline can improve the tracking on future models because it’s horrific here.

 

I really hope this counts as a coaster and makes it into the TPR Coaster Poll. I think it’s a worthy contender for the worst coaster in the world. That’s saying something considering it exists in the same park as Kong. 1 out of 10

 

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I can still feel the pain and hear the deafening roar from this photo.

 

It was 10 minutes to close. While we maybe could have snuck on Superman, we weren’t going to risk missing a final ride on Joker. Plus we figured there’d be enough people behind us that we could wait an extra train for the front. And that proved to be true.

 

After a 40 minute wait, we boarded the second to last train of the night. Joker was still a ton of fun up front, but the airtime was markedly weaker. When we returned to the station, the last train only had five people queuing.

 

“I’m feeling a little holiday cheer right now. If no one is waiting for your row and you would like to, you may ride again.”

 

That was awesome the operators would do that! What wasn’t awesome was the fact that of course someone was waiting for the front row. Thankfully the ride ops let us fill in empty seats. We needed to split up, but both of us rode towards the back of the train. Back to back rides on Joker was a fantastic way to end a visit filled with frustrations.

 

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Back to back rides left a good taste in our mouth as we left.

 

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom may be the most unique Six Flags park. In many ways, it feels like two parks in one. The front half has two clusters of coasters. Meanwhile the back half is basically a hybrid zoo/aquarium.

 

While I liked the park more than my girlfriend, it is undoubtedly one of the weakest Six Flags parks. Joker finally gives the park the airtime machine it badly needed, but the operations and customer service need to improve. SFDK really needs to look at CGA as an example.

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I really wonder what the deal is with Joker. I visited the park in June and it was pretty much the same story; down at opening for the first 40 minutes or so, then when it finally did open, it was one-train operations the rest of the day.

 

And I honestly think you’re being as nice as anyone could possibly be about this sh*tstain of a Six Flags park. Customer service was so horrible when I visited, from me being flat-out denied the diamond member ticket discount to food service employees having no clue and taking their sweet a$$ time with only a handful of people in line,

 

I said something to this effect in my PTR: it had been 10 years since my prior visit and I hope it’s at least 10 more before I go back.

 

Your girlfriend is correct, SFNE blows this park away every day of the week.

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SFDK is definitely flawed, but it does have potential if they can improve their operations (really they can only go up). I still enjoued myself despite these issues, but it could have been better.

 

As for Joker, I have no clue why this one supposedly breaks down as often as it does. At least it runs more than V2.

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It wasn't dead silent since the park had audio playing well past closing along the midways, but it was still odd not having the music radiate from the Carousel.

 

Dead silent carousels feel like a zombie apocalypse, so maybe they should be used during Halloween events.

 

I've ridden to worse, but yeah. . . zombie carousel!

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San Francisco

 

WARNING- There are no coasters in this update. Don't say I didn't warn you.

 

It almost seems wrong to end my 2018 reports with a non-coaster related update. For many, this will be like the last five minutes of an action movie. You've just had the epic battle where the villain is thwarted, but they have that heartwarming scene where all the heroes hug, kiss, and sing kumbaya.

 

But for those who care, here's a mini report of my favorite US city to walk around, San Francisco.

 

Last time I was in San Francisco, I was an intern entirely reliant on public transit. This time, we had a car. Anyone who has driven through a major city knows just how costly and frustrating it can be to have a car. You crawl through gridlock in search of street parking or a lot that doesn't cost $40-50. But amazingly, street parking was abundant.

 

The one lot we parked in was the Battery East Lot by the Golden Gate and it was a very affordable $1.20 per hour. That's an absolute steal to see one of the nation's most iconic landmarks. The bridge itself is incredible, but when you add in the mountain backdrop and surfers underneath, it's really an unfair standard for other landmarks like Plymouth Rock, which I grew up 20 minutes from and thought wasn't worth the drive.

 

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Any photo of the Golden Gate looks fit for a postcard.

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The surfers looked far more coordinated than me on a flow rider.

 

Not only did we walk (most of) the Golden Gate Bridge, but we also drove across it. I was stunned there was no toll heading north. As I found out later, San Francisco is one of those cities that only charges you to enter. It gives people from Oakland something to strive for I guess. But the reason we went north was to reach Muir Woods.

 

I'm ashamed to say this, but I spent an entire summer in California but never once visited the redwoods. Meanwhile I concocted a 4.5 hour public transit route to reach Six Flags Discovery Kingdom using 3 buses and the subway. Priorities. But this time, we made sure to prioritize the redwoods. And they did not disappoint.

 

There are two types of redwoods: giant sequoias and coastals. The former are the super wide ones and a solid 4-5 hour drive from either San Francisco or LA. The latter are the Shawn Bradley of the tree world standing almost 300 feet tall. And while they aren't as thick as the sequoias, they're still far thicker than anything I'll find back east.

 

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The redwoods did not disappoint.

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Myself included for scale.

 

Muir Woods was the main course, but we also whet our appetite the day before in Palo Alto. The primary reason for our stop was because my girlfriend wanted to try the much publicized Sushirrito. I preferred to try something cooked like a normal burrito, but she said it was delicious and her favorite thing about the entire trip.

 

The auxiliary benefit of visiting Palo Alto was that we could visit El Palo Alto, the tree for which the town is named. El Palo Alto isn't particularly tall for a coastal redwood at 110 ft, but it absolutely towers over the other trees in the park. We also tried to make a quick drive through Stanford University. Getting in was easy. Getting out was a royal pain since it was the last day before winter break. Oops.

 

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It must be one impressive tree if the whole town is named after it.

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And compared to the normal trees around it, El Palo Alto looked colossal.

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I imagine the quad is busier when students aren't trying to get home for break.

 

On our last day in San Francisco, the weather was awful. During my entire summer in San Francisco, I didn't see a single drop of rain. On this day, I think the city got over an inch of rain. While it wasn't the funnest walking around, it allowed us to visit Alcatraz. With limited time, we didn't want to book Alcatraz in advance. Because of this, we assumed we'd have to skip the infamous federal penitentiary. However, we were able to walk up and board the next boat to the island. For comparison, I had to reserve an Alcatraz trip a few weeks in advance back in 2014.

 

Alcatraz really has an ominous feel to it. I strongly recommend the audio tour since the voices of the prisoners and guards help transport you into the prison experience.

 

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I'm sure the prisoners used to love their cruise to Alcatraz.

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This is what a good prisoner's cell looked like.

 

Back on the mainland, we indulged in some truly delicious food. I love Mama's, but that place has a prohibitively long line unless you get there like a half hour before opening. I was hopeful it wouldn't be bad on such a miserable day, but sure enough there was a sizable wait. So instead we got a festive Snowman sourdough from Boudin, some award winning pizza from Tony's, addictive mini donuts from Trish's, and ice cream sundaes from Ghirardelli.

 

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Even though it cost more, we couldn't resist a festive loaf.

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I was one of the 263 people who helped Tony's break the Guinness World Record for people simultaneously tossing pizza dough back in 2014.

 

We also walked Lombard Street. To put this street in coaster speak, it's like Higashiyama's Slope Shooter in the form of a street. I made darn sure I didn't drive anywhere near this street since half the drivers are busy chronicling their adventures on Facebook Live.

 

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If the steep, windy road isn't enough, it's also cobblestone.

 

We ended our visit in the most touristy way possible at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Neither location is the reason to visit San Francisco, but no visit is complete without going there. For die-hard ride enthusiasts, Pier 39 is your best bet. They have a carousel, one of those Triotech XD dark rides, and a flying theater. With more time, I would have ridden the latter two. Instead we spent our time bargain hunting and watching the sea lions.

 

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I could watch sea lions all day.

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Fisherman's Wharf is everything right about a tourist trap.

 

San Francisco is an incredible city. Coaster enthusiasts have reason to visit the area due to two RMCs, two awesome wooden coasters, and two great B&Ms. But I can't encourage you enough to also see the Golden Gate, redwoods, and whatever the heck this art was along the streets of San Francisco.

 

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I don't quite get the vision of the artist here.

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San Francisco

 

 

There are two types of redwoods: giant sequoias and coastals. The former are the super wide ones and a solid 4-5 hour drive from either San Francisco or LA. The latter are the Shawn Bradley of the tree world standing almost 300 feet tall. And while they aren't as thick as the sequoias, they're still far thicker than anything I'll find back east.

 

 

Fun fact: the tallest redwood has been measured at 380 feet. Three hundred and eighty. It is in Tall Trees Grove in Redwood National Park. Muir Woods and other Bay Area groves are impressive but not the champions.

 

www.famousredwoods.com

 

www.redwoodhikes.com

 

www.mdvaden.com

 

www.redwood-ed.com

 

https://orionmagazine.org/article/a-day-of-discovery/

finding the largest redwood

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Thanks! I'm not surprised there were taller coastal redwoods out there, but it was hard to beat the convenience of Muir Woods compared to the other stops on our trip.

 

 

If you go back to Santa Cruz boardwalk, there are some nice groves nearby. I recommend Big Basin, profiles at www.redwoodhikes.com It's almost as nice as the North Coast redwoods. It's further from SF than Muir Woods, but closer to Railblazer.

 

There are also old growth remnants in Massachusetts. I've seen a grove on Mt. Greylock on a steep slope where it was hard to cut the trees. They grow slower in the cold than coast redwoods.

 

Massachusetts' Mt. Greylock - Backpacker

The Hopper Trail climbs through old-growth spruce, and the Cataract Trail leads to an impressive waterfall. ELEVATION: The reservation dips to 900 feet at its southwest fringe, and tops out at 3,491 feet on Mt. Greylock.

Search domain www.backpacker.com/stories/massachusetts-mt-greylock-2 https://www.backpacker.com/stories/massachusetts-mt-greylock-2

 

National Natural Landmarks - National Natural Landmarks (U.S ...

The Mt. Greylock Old Growth Spruce site contains potentially virgin, pure stands of old-growth red spruce. Occurring on the steep, northwest slopes of Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, they are the only old-growth, red spruce stands known to occur in southern New England.

Search domain www.nps.gov/subjects/nnlandmarks/site.htm?Site=MTGR-MA https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nnlandmarks/site.htm?Site=MTGR-MA

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Great report!

 

That's a shame about Holiday in the Park at Discovery Kingdom. Most of the events do a great job with the lights so I don't know what's going on out there.

 

And yeah, San Francisco is great.

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Great report!

 

Taking a couple of days off from coasters and doing touristy stuff definitely made our last trip better. Can't wait for our California tour in 2020.

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If you go back to Santa Cruz boardwalk, there are some nice groves nearby. I recommend Big Basin, profiles at http://www.redwoodhikes.com It's almost as nice as the North Coast redwoods. It's further from SF than Muir Woods, but closer to Railblazer.

 

There are also old growth remnants in Massachusetts. I've seen a grove on Mt. Greylock on a steep slope where it was hard to cut the trees. They grow slower in the cold than coast redwoods.

 

We considered going to Henry Cowell park to avoid the crowds of Muir, but the parking reservations kept the crowds manageable. Big Basin was closer to CGA, but it appeared to be quite the journey off of the main road.

 

I never realized those trees were growing by Mt. Greylock. I kind of forget that there's a part of Massachusetts that exists west of Springfield.

 

Great report!

 

That's a shame about Holiday in the Park at Discovery Kingdom. Most of the events do a great job with the lights so I don't know what's going on out there.

 

And yeah, San Francisco is great.

 

Thanks! Me neither. SFGAdv, SFNE, and SFMM all have had impressive HITP light displays so it was really shocking to see Discovery Kingdom so dark. The worst offenders were the two main areas with the coasters and it was easy to forget we were visiting for the holidays.

 

Great report!

 

Taking a couple of days off from coasters and doing touristy stuff definitely made our last trip better. Can't wait for our California tour in 2020.

 

Thanks! Usually I'll pick coasters over touristy stuff, but San Francisco is too cool of a city to pass up.

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San Francisco is such a beautiful, fun city. One of my favorite parts of the US, for sure. Between the red wood forests, Big Sur, Golden Gate, NAPA, Alcatraz, Japantown (incredible ramen place there called Marufuku Ramen, heavenly!)… You can easily feel up a week or two, non-stop. Amazing breweries as well, one of our favorite locations if you are into that. We loved it so much our first visit two years ago we went back again this Spring. But now we are good for a few years before we return lol

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Being out there for an entire summer during an internship allowed me to hit all the main destinations (minus the redwoods but that has since been corrected). This trip turned into a greatest hits of San Francisco due to time, but as you said, we could have easily spent more time.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Legoland California

 

Legoland California was a park that was secretly on my radar for a while. While I may be a *bit* outside their targeted demographic as a 26 year old male without any kids, they had something very appealing to me. Did I want the three credits? Well duh, of course I did. But that wasn't my primary goal. I was intrigued by Knights’ Tournament, their Kuka arm flat ride. From the videos I saw online, it looked like a dark horse contender for one of the most intense flats out there.

 

Fortunately Legoland is so much more than one crazy flat and three credits. As the original, Legoland California is the best of the Florida and Japanese parks. It has the sheer size of the Florida park with the level of detail of the Japanese park.

 

After a frustratingly strict rain policy at their Florida park, I made darn sure to visit on a sunny day. Fortunately that wasn't an issue in SoCal. The park had a posted partial open at 9:30 and a full opening time at 10. I rolled into the parking lot at 9 and as I approached the gate, they were already letting people in.

 

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It wasn't awkward one bit coming here without a child.

 

Hotel guests had early access to Explorer Island and Heartlake City, aka two of the areas with the highest concentration of children's rides. This causes quite the dilemma for the super credit whores out there. Unless you splurge on a skip-the-line pass or one of the Legoland hotels, you'll have a dreadful wait for Coastersaurus that makes your life choices. I'm certainly not above riding a kiddie credit, especially one with a jumbo dinosaur in the center, but I had to draw the line with a posted wait of 60 minutes.

 

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I probably broke the cardinal rule of coaster enthusiasts visiting Legoland by missing a credit, but I wasn't going to wait an hour for this.

 

So instead I went the other way. I'm sure you can name several parks that make you exit through a gift shop, but Legoland makes you enter through the gift shop. That's right, to reach a majority of rides, parents have to take their Lego obsessed kids through the Big Shop. It's the perfect recipe for sales. This appeared to be a temporary thing as they were redoing the pathways around the building.

 

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Funneling people through the gift shop? Brilliant!

 

Just make sure it's a popular one unlike the one for Grizzly at Kings Dominion.

 

I figured they'd stage us until 9:30, but after clearing the construction walls, they told us Ninjago World would be open early. I sure was glad to have arrived early! I loved everything about the ride in Florida except the wait. I was able to score four straight rides with no more than a 5 minute wait.

 

I never thought I'd find a ride more physically exhausting than Toy Story, but Ninjago did it. Teenagers can train all they want with a box of tissues and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but even their arms will be weak and trembling like a bowl of jelly.

 

I cannot stress how important it is to watch and read the instructions. Ninjago requires a very nuanced technique of hand motions. My first ride was a feeler, but by the second ride, I was killing (?) all sorts of Lego characters with fire. In fact, I was the day's best pyro. Ninjago is an absolute blast and the interactivity may make it the park's best ride. 8 out of 10

 

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Earth, water, thunder, or fire?

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Why is everyone else picking earth? Burning legos alive is the way to go.

 

Dang I'm a Lego murderer.

 

It was now 10, so the rest of the park opened. I hoped Ninjago would draw most of the guests at opening, but I a flood of unsupervised kids sprinted to the Technic Coaster. I continued walking at a steady pace. A single adult should never run at a kid's park. It's a bad look.

 

The Technic Coaster is one of the large wild mice, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, the big drop is arguably the best moment on any wild mouse I've ridden. On the down side, the rest of the ride is a heavily trimmed ride devoid of any thrills. 4 out of

 

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You'd never know this ride were Technic Coaster based on the signage.

 

Lost Kingdom Adventure was a ride I had experienced in Florida and Japan, but this one had some differences. For one, this one had cars with two rows. But the biggest difference was the shooting. The other two versions have oversized laser pointers. This one had tiny little pointers, so it was definitely harder.

 

The other thing that made it challenging was how the hits were registered. There were several targets I know I hit right on the money, but I didn't get any points. However, the second I drifted away from the target or shot somewhere nearby, I'd get points. Maybe the pointer wasn't perfectly in line? Nonetheless, I did really enjoy the set design and overall ride. 7 out of 10

 

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This is a Legoland staple and that's fine by me.

 

I had put it off long enough; it was time to see if Knights’ Tournament justified my pricey visit to Brick City. There was little doubt which program I was going to select, Program 5. Programs 1-2 match the movement of Forbidden Journey. While you never go upside down, you do end up on your back. Meanwhile Program 5 had 18 inversions. 18! That's absurd for any park, let alone Legoland.

 

Sounds intense, right? Half of the ride was. Half the inversions came from these surprise backflips. It felt like an S&S launch backwards into an inversion. It was glorious. But the other half were just these slow 360 degree rotations chained together. I wouldn't say it's worth going to Legoland exclusively for, but it's a can't miss for any thrill-seeker who finally caves for the three credits. 8 out of 10

 

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How this ride exists at a park like Legoland is a mystery to me.

 

Speaking of credits, I moseyed on over to the Dragon. I'm glad I caught it early since they were only running one train on it. Normally that's no problem on a junior coaster, but it is when you add a dark ride at the beginning.

 

That dark ride is really cute and easily the ride's strength. The coaster part isn't intense, but it did have a 720 degree helix and a trench dive at least. Anyone who isn't a kid just needs to watch out for the dragon's bite (aka the headrests).

 

On most rides, the headrests are flush with the seat backs. However, on the Dragon, they are these hard bubbles that extend a solid 2 inches from the top of the seat back. They're the perfect height for kids and the perfect height to drive into the center of an adult's back. 6 out of 10

 

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Look at all the adults with their hands raised. Clearly they're having a good time.

 

I loved the submarine ride at the Japanese park, so I was glad to see it at the California location as well. The one addition (unless I was oblivious in Japan) was a touchscreen where you play hide-and-seek looking for treasure throughout the ride. It was a neat touch, but I was more focused on the diversity of fish and detailed Lego figures. 8 out of 10

 

I just double checked and for some odd reason Deep Sea Adventure isn't listed on the "Rides and Attractions" page on the website. So that's why I didn't know it existed.

 

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That's so odd this isn't on the website's rides page.

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Because it's definitely a ride and a darn good one too.

 

No visit to Legoland is complete without a tour of Miniland. There are multiple ways to experience Miniland. The first is a massive walkthrough. I still can't believe all these figures are made of Legos. I'm pretty sure the builders had an orgy getting to build something so extravagant from a children's toy.

 

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It was great to relive my recent San Francisco trip all over again.

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Does anyone find it funny that the Stratosphere Tower has multiple rides...

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while the Big Apple Coaster is nowhere to be found?

 

The second way is the Coast Cruise boat ride. I was originally going to skip it, figuring it would have a substantial wait, but it was a walk-on!

 

Also, what is it with California and closing their monorails? The former Sky Cruiser was doing its best Peoplemover impression just rotting in plain site. Old reviews mentioned it was the most popular ride in the park, so I was stunned to see it closed and not even acknowledged on the website. Anyone know why it closed?

 

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In the foreground is Coast Cruise. In the background is the SBNO Sky Cruiser. Anyone know what happened to it if it were so popular?

 

By the time I finished my loop, it was evident the crowds had arrived. Anyone who has been to a Legoland park knows capacity isn't their strong suit. It's pretty shocking considering they market themselves as a resort, but it's just something I know I have to deal with at Legoland.

 

Ultimately I had an enjoyable time. Without a doubt, it's the strongest of the three Legolands I have visited. If you only want coaster credits, I cannot recommend Legoland, especially considering what else is nearby. If you have kids, it's a no brainer though. And if you like dark rides and are intrigued by Knights’ Tournament like me, then it just comes down to how much time you have in SoCal if you ask me.

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Great TR! And that's so sad to read about their neat monorail not operating.

I rode the one in Denmark (Thanks TPR Tours!) and it was so cool just to ride above some of the park.

 

 

Especially when it was sunny, too!

(Like it was, in the 2014 re-visit to Legoland Denmark.)

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A rainy day in Legoland Denmark. But Yellow Monorail keeps running!

Taken from the Observe Tower. TPR 2009 Scandi Tour.

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