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Day 4—Kemah Boardwalk

The midpoint of our October trip was a morning flight from Orlando to Houston. While I have always liked Houston, we would not stay for long on this trip. The plan was to go from the airport straight to Kemah Boardwalk, spend the night at a downtown Hyatt, then drive to Sea World San Antonio the next morning.

Kemah Boardwalk is an interesting place. It’s a small seaside amusement complex similar in scale to something like the Santa Monica Pier and far smaller than Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Unlike those two which are geared heavily towards rides, Kemah’s focus is more on dining and a marina with a small selection of rides as a secondary draw. It is one of countless properties fully owned by Tilman “I want to build the Houston Rockets into an NBA title contender, but I drove my highly-regarded team president out of town, slashed budgets in every department of the organization, and just traded for John Wall” Fertitta.  The Boardwalk is thus a showcase for many of the restaurants under Fertitta’s Landry’s Inc. banner. I happen to think most of them are quite good, so I don’t feel like having the Tilman stamp all over everything is a bad thing at all, even if he’s one of my least favorite NBA owners.

A quick Tilman anecdote. After I completed the WDW college program, I worked front desk at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas for a year right around the time Landry’s Inc. purchased the joint. One day when Tilman (everyone always referred to him by his first name) was touring the hotel, he walked out of the back office and stood right behind me, watching me check guests in for ten minutes or so. I was 21 at the time and still a fresh hire who didn’t really know what I was doing yet. Tilman obviously had no idea who I was and probably picked me at random, but having this billionaire owner hovering over me was the most nervous I’ve ever been in a professional setting.

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None of that colors my opinion of Kemah Boardwalk and Boardwalk Bullet however, both of which I really liked. Bullet was the only thing I rode. The standard-fare flat rides weren’t of any interest to me. I bought an all-day wristband and finished with eight rides on it that afternoon before we left for the hotel. I would have liked to have gotten there earlier and bookended a far longer Bullet marathon with lunch and dinner at a couple of the restaurants, but we made do with an intermission for drinks and aps at Landry’s Sea Food.

Operations were okay but not great. The pair of Bullet ride ops were talkative and friendly if not particularly fast. Same with the Landry’s bartender and wait staff. Mask wearing was encouraged but not enforced. The boardwalk was clean and had a pleasant atmosphere I would like to soak in more during a future visit.

Boardwalk Bullet

This was my fifth Gravity Group after Voyage, Ravine Flyer II, Switchback, and Mine Blower. My understanding going in was that Bullet was a coaster that polarized people over its intensity, pacing, and roughness. I had heard thorough retracking over the last couple of years had mostly solved the latter two problems so I knew I was going to love it. In answer to my pre-trip question of which new GG coaster I would prefer, it was easily Boardwalk Bullet. I fully accept that it may have run like a hastily constructed wooden garbage heap years ago, but in 2020 this thing ran awesomely. It was as smooth as such an intense coaster running PTC trains probably can be and it was much more comfortable than the more recent Mine Blower-Timberliner combo. It also hauled all kinds of ass until the final stretch of the layout. It took all the big moments fast, even the tall-ish midcourse hill with the anti-rollbacks it just crawls over in older videos.

However, the pacing does let up some at the end unlike Voyage or Mine Blower which never seem to slow down at all. There was never a queue and I never saw a train more than half-full. I imagine a full train would have run even faster and held that momentum until the very end. Like a lot of my top coasters, Bullet is an aggressive ride that constantly reminds you that it, not you, is in control of the experience, so I can see why it may not be for everybody. I would describe it as a more tightly wound and intense Ghostrider or a Knoebels Twister with more airtime. For me it’s also the best coaster in Texas, beating out all three of the Six Flags RMCs. 9/10

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This slight wave turn doesn’t look like much from this angle, but it delivers a nice kick of lateral airtime that made me bust out laughing my first couple of times. That’s what I do when I’m taken aback by surprisingly intense elements. I laugh uncontrollably.

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Boardwalk Bullet’s Texas-themed station is just as Texas as all the other Texas-themed stations you'll find in Texas.

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As many highlights as Bullet has, the compact structure makes it difficult to photograph.

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All of my rides were late afternoon/early evening. I want to ride this thing at night when I suspect I’d love it even more.

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The coaster’s structure pushes right up to the seawall.

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Several of the restaurants including Saltgrass were closed. I bet the ambiance at Kemah Boardwalk is great when everything is open and the sky is a little darker.

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The ride selection is fine for what it is, but as the greater Houston area’s closest thing to a true amusement park, I’d love to see them find a way to grow with more rides. Perhaps by building another parking structure and expanding into the parking lot.

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I was pretty nervous that Bullet was closed when we arrived. We didn’t see a single train cycle during our approach to the parking lot. But it was merely the low crowds and Covid cleaning procedures.

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Like Ghostrider, the wooden structure’s proportions make it look bigger and more imposing than it is.

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The first drop is one of the best wooden coaster drops out there. It equals Mine Blower’s for sheer ejector airtime and easily bests it on view and setting.

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Haven't been down there since the 2009 Texas trip with TPR when everyone was obsessing over 'getting a ride under 45 seconds' or whatever, haha. Do you remember hearing about that? Glad to hear it's holding up well, I have good memories of it! It was cool neon lit at night.

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13 hours ago, PKI Jizzman said:

Haven't been down there since the 2009 Texas trip with TPR when everyone was obsessing over 'getting a ride under 45 seconds' or whatever, haha. Do you remember hearing about that? Glad to hear it's holding up well, I have good memories of it! It was cool neon lit at night.

That may have been when I first learned of Boardwalk Bullet. I'd be very curious to know how lap times then compared to my visit. Riding it with full trains at night must have been incredible.

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Sea World San Antonio

This park was not on my radar until 2020. It always seemed like a pleasant, midsize park with a few okay coasters that I might go to if it was convenient but would never plan a trip around. Then they built Texas Stingray which rounded out the lineup enough to appeal to me. It was still very much a “convenient” stop in what had been a trip of pure planning turmoil and if any of the Texas parks had to get bumped from the trip, it would have been this one. Fortunately that didn’t need to happen.

Our day at SWSA went much better than our day at SWO. Don’t interpret that as me saying Texas has the better park. Florida’s is the flagship for a reason and everything from coasters to animal exhibits to landscaping and dining is a notch higher there. The difference is that on the day we went, SWSA ran with at least some semblance of normal operations. The only rides closed were Great White and a couple of flat rides. We never gave the flats consideration in the first place and I’m not about to lament missing one of three Batman: The Ride clones in the state. Crowds were manageable and there were clearly budgetary cutbacks, but it didn’t feel like SEAS took a hatchet to the place like Orlando did. Not all the coasters opened right away. The two available at opening were Journey to Atlantis and Super Grover’s Box Car Derby and the rest opened an hour later.

The layout here is kind of unique. As I understand it, when the park first opened the whole property functioned as a single park, then over the years it was subdivided into three sections. Now when you enter under the iconic triple arch structure, the southern and largest side of the park to your right comprises Sea World proper featuring all the coasters and shows, while the east end just ahead has been redeveloped into an Aquatica water park, and the north end to your left is Discovery Point with dolphin and shark encounters. Having seen a bunch of the animal stuff a few days ago, we spent almost the entire time on the rides side with a stop to watch the Beluga show since we didn’t see it in Orlando.

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You’d think Sea World Orlando might have the grandest entrance, right? No, it’s actually San Antonio!

The Covid effect reared its head most obviously with the park’s seasonal Bierfest event. They advertise it as a pretty standard theme park Oktoberfest beer and food event and this was just what we had  a taste for after completing our first laps on all of the coasters. In practice it didn’t turn out quite as well. It was held in a courtyard area between Atlantis and Texas Stingray with a stage featuring a German-style show surrounded by small craft beer tents with more tents scattered along the midway. Unfortunately the venue was practically empty and we just couldn’t bear to sit there and watch the German show troupe half-heartedly perform to a plethora of empty benches and a bunch of bored-as-hell bartenders seemingly suffering from caffeine withdrawals.

And the staff didn’t seem to even know how the event was supposed to work. It was one of those setups where bartenders don’t actually sell you the drink—you have to buy a ticket/wristband/whatever from a different booth then take that to the individual beer tents. A shrugging bartender sent us to a pair of booths in the center to buy our passes where we were met by another employee who wasn’t sure what to do and was apparently waiting for someone else to come train her. Maybe we were early or something, I don’t know. We knew there was a German restaurant out the back door of our Hyatt right on the Riverwalk, so we decided to just skip this thing and go there for our Oktoberfest fix. While it would have been nice to share a few beers in the park, it wasn’t a big deal since operations were otherwise just fine.

Do I think I’ll come back next time I’m in Texas? Ehh, maybe not. The park was nice enough but none of the coasters really stand out, even Texas Stingray, and I’ll likely continue making regular visits to Sea World Orlando in the years to come. So unless Sea World San Antonio builds a big B&M, Mack, or Intamin to peak my interest again, this visit will probably be it for a while.

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Great White and Vampire at La Ronde are the last two North American Batman: The Ride clone credits I need.

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We actually thought we were going to be able to ride it later in the day…

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…until we eventually found this sign, which was a little more definitive.

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The festive Oktoberfest atmosphere around here is just so strong I can hardly believe it.

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You pretty much feel like you’re actually in Munich.

Texas Stingray

I was not as hyped for the latest GCI as I was for the two Gravity Groups. I figured it would be a pretty good ride because the layout looked fantastic in videos, but as we know, GCI is like the B&M of wooden coasters and they rarely deviate much from their safe, proven formula. So count me one-hundred percent surprised/not surprised when I hit the brakes after my first ride on it and thought, “this is what all the coaster YouTubers are so excited about?” It felt like a watered-down Goldstriker with little of that coaster’s sharp pops of airtime or feeling of controlled chaos. Texas Stingray felt surprisingly tame, like the transitions were all just a little more drawn-out than usual for GCI. I don’t think running slow was the problem. Even with socially distanced trains it still ran blazing fast. I will say that Texas Stingray might be the smoothest wooden coaster experience I’ve ever had. The steel structure/ipe wood/Millennium Flyer combo runs like a dream and I will always prefer these trains to Timberliners. The only wooden coaster that felt comparably smooth might be an opening season Outlaw Run. Overall through, speed and smoothness are not enough. A great wooden coaster should carry either airtime, intense laterals, a near out-of-control ferocity, or some combination of the three. Stingray didn’t seem to do any of that for me. My tastes in GCI differ from the consensus though. My favorites are the relatively unheralded American Thunder and Joris en de Draak. If those two aren’t your cup of tea, maybe Texas Stingray will be, but it’s a middle of the pack GCI for me. 7.5/10

GCI Rankings:

  1. American Thunder
  2. Joris en de Draak
  3. Thunderhead
  4. Gold Striker
  5. Troy
  6. Wodan
  7. Texas Stingray
  8. White Lightning
  9. Kentucky Rumbler
  10. Lightning Racer
  11. Prowler
  12. Apocalypse
  13. Roar
  14. Wildcat

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I think Texas Stingray has one of the best looking structures of any GCI.

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It is built over some slight terrain though it isn’t apparent on-ride.

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I approve of GCI doing a straight first drop for a change. It’s no Gravity Group drop, but there’s some nice airtime in the back few rows.

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I’ll be curious to see where Texas Stingray ranks when the next round of polls comes out. Many new GCIs score highly at first before the excitement settles to a more appropriate level a few years on.

Steel Eel

This was better than expected. While not a full scale hyper, Steel Eel delivers a slightly more forceful ride than its cousins Steel Force and Mamba. It finds a nice middle ground between those two and the big outlier in Morgan’s catalogue, Superman El Ultimo Escape. The experience in the back car was enjoyable though nothing to get excited about, but things get a little more interesting up front. You actually get some very abrupt airtime at the crest of those big cammelbacks. I thought it was almost Magnum-like a few times. Steel Eel is not the kind of clunky airtime machine Cedar Point’s big classic is, but how often do you ever ride something even reminiscent of it? Not often, and that’s why Steel Eel was a very pleasant surprise. Contrasting it with Texas Stingray is a study in how expectations can impact one’s enjoyment of a ride. I’m giving them both the same score despite the fact that I enjoyed Steel Eel more. If two coasters are equally good and you entered one with higher expectations and the other with lower expectations, the former will always feel like a disappointment no matter what it does well while the latter feels like you earned a nice bonus. 7.5/10

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The scale of these two coasters plays tricks on me. My eye wants to see Steel Eel as a full size hyper and it has the effect of making Wave Breaker look massive by association.

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SWSA has adopted the Cedar Fair method to painting roller coasters: (1) Give one coaster the most high contrast combination of bright, primary colors possible, (2) choose an opposing set of bright, primary colors for the next coaster nearby, and (3) throw your hands up in the air, walk away, and assume the aesthetics will work themselves out on their own. Fortunately it worked out okay in the case of Steel Eel and Wave Breaker.

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Be it a trick of perspective or merely the lack of anything taller around it, Steel Eel certainly doesn’t look like a junior hyper while approaching from the midway.

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Steel Eel fails the airtime eye test and passes the butt test. It looks a little slow, but it’s deceiving!

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Like Sea World Orlando, the San Antonio park has great views across the central lake.

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This was the best dual train shot I was able to get. Am I the kind of enthusiast photographer who waits around for such things? Well, maybe I am, and maybe I’m not.

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It has the same 36 passenger trains found on Steel Force, Mamba, and Superman. With Steel Eel’s shorter track length, I bet it’s a capacity monster when running more than one train.

Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster

This is everything a deluxe family coaster should be. It’s fun and mildly thrilling without being intimidating. Throw a bunch of expensive theming on it and it could feel right at home in a Disney park. Wave Breaker is a coaster I wish was a lot longer because I felt so relaxed riding it. Give me a scenic railway version of this that spans the entire park. I’d ride it. Like any family coaster, scoring it on the same scale as bigger coasters is deceptive because it’s not playing the same game. It excels at what it was meant to do. 6/10

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Wave Breaker is um… not a capacity monster.

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I'm interested to see how the similar, but more compact Jet Rescue at Sea World Australia rides one day. With their new Gravity Group, that park just added itself to my to-do list.

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I don’t know how much use the park gets out of the lake as a show venue, but I’d like to see another large coaster skimming across its surface one day.

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Journey to Atlantis

I don’t have a ton of thoughts about this one other than to call it like I see it: it’s a poor man’s Atlantica. The theming, setting, and scale Europa Park gave their Mack Super Splash is not found here. Even something as simple as the camelback after the drop adds a lot to Atlantica. Sea World really could have done a lot more with the Atlantis rides in Texas and California. 5/10

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Journey to the chute-the-chute.

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The turntables and reverse drop are fun elements even if they seem kind of silly and pointless.

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Our hotel for this leg of the trip was the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk. It’s one of the nicest downtown city Hyatts in the country and has the trademark atrium lobby.

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This was the only hotel we stayed at that felt somewhat busy. If it wasn’t for people wearing masks you could easily have fooled yourself into thinking it was business as usual here.

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The Hyatt has prime placement on the Riverwalk.

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Back in my Japan trip report from 2019, I recounted how my experience at the Roosevelt Lounge at Tokyo DisneySea was influenced by an earlier visit to another “Roosevelt lounge”—the Menger Hotel Bar in San Antonio.

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Well, we’re back!

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In 1898 Theodore Roosevelt used the Menger Bar as an enlistment station for what later became known as the Rough Riders, Teddy’s regiment during the Spanish-American War. Supposedly, if you enlisted, you were served a whiskey. Talk about an incentive.

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The Menger Bar wasn’t quite as charming this time in its Covid configuration with bar stools removed and seating confined to tables on the upper balcony level, but what can you do?

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I drank to the kindly, apologetic Japanese bartender at DisneySea who tried so hard to understand what I meant when I attempted to order an old fashioned. She has no idea there’s a buzzed coaster enthusiast 6,400 miles away in Texas thinking about her.

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If the staff is to be believed, this is a bullet hole from when Teddy’s trigger finger got a bit too frisky at the enlistment table.

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The lobby of the Menger Hotel is rich with history.

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Mounted antlers and horns from game animals Teddy shot.

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Teddy’s handkerchief with a likeness of himself. Hey, I’d carry a hanky with a pic of me on it if I were Theodore Roosevelt too.

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Dollhouse furniture belonging to Teddy’s daughters.

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A crow Teddy shot.

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Teddy’s Almond Joy wrapper. Okay, so I made these last five up, but I had you there for a moment, didn’t I?

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I didn't realize you had such gorgeous weather for your SWSA day too - looks like it was a beautiful day to visit!

and great pics of the Riverwalk area.  Yeah, that Hyatt is lovely, innit?

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Six Flags Fiesta Texas

At some point in the last decade Fiesta Texas quietly became a sleeper pick for best Six Flags Park. It feels like it happened overnight. Before we all knew it, what was a novelty park with a big floorless on a quarry wall was suddenly the shining example of how the Six Flags formula can be done right. In 2020 it feels more like a Cedar Fair park in how the corporate brand is more skillfully woven into the local culture and identity. After a long, fun, and surprisingly busy day at Fiesta, I declared it my second favorite in the chain close behind the perpetually overlooked Six Flags Over Georgia.

Joining me was TPR’s favorite Austinite, the one and only Bert! He and I kind of had dueling 2019 Japan trip reports going for a while and discovered that besides coasters, we also had a love for Godzilla films in common, so the only sensible thing to do was to meet up once I made my way to his home state of Texas. This was not my first visit to SFFT, but it’s Bert’s home park so he was able to help us navigate the larger than expected crowds and show us the ins and outs of the place.

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Bert and I are such hardcore coaster enthusiasts that we wore Godzilla shirts instead.

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My first time at SFFT was in 2001 just a few months after my dad and I had our big Kraken marathon at Sea World Orlando. Superman Krypton Coaster was the new hotness back then. This was when B&M floorless coasters seemed cutting edge and avant-garde, so as a 13 year old proto-enthusiast who had just ridden the two biggest and baddest floorlesses in the country, I felt like I was in coaster heaven. The park’s only other major coasters at that point were Road Runner Express, the Vekoma-built Joker’s Revenge (closed), Poltergeist (closed), and the original, full-blown wooden, John Pierce-designed Rattler.

This was after Rattler had been modified to shorten the drop and reprofile the curve off the quarry wall, but I still remember it to this day as the roughest coaster experience of my life. Not even Son of Beast or Psyclone at their worst could outdo Rattler’s worst.

It took 14 years for my next visit when we came during Holiday in the Park 2015. The park had seen numerous upgrades by then, most importantly Iron Rattler. I finally got to ride Poltergeist, but Superman was closed so I’d have to continue relying on a fading memory instead of reevaluating it. One-train operations on Iron Rattler kept us in line there for most of the day, so I didn’t get to explore the full park the way I would have liked, but the handful of night rides on Iron Rattler were well worth it. Its height, speed, terrain, and airtime make it one of the best night rides out there and the cold December air only amplified everything.

Now in 2020, armed with a Gold Flash Pass in one holster and Bert in the other, I felt ready to take the park by force the way I had always wanted to. Things started well. We got two quick rides on Wonder Woman and powered through the other coasters on our way to Iron Rattler. But little by little the midways became more clogged and by noon it felt like regular October Saturday in terms of crowds.

With our Gold Flash Pass this would not normally have been a problem. Gold is all I’ve ever needed at any Six Flags park even on peak days. Usually I’ll select the next ride as soon as my current one is scanned and by the time I’ve exited the station and walked to the next one it’s either already time to ride or will be in a matter of minutes. Not so today. Social distanced seating meant that every ride was hovering somewhere around 40-50% capacity and the park just could not handle the crowds. Bert will correct me if I remember incorrectly, but I believe the state had just approved raising theme park capacity that week and the result was an influx of guests the exceeded what the rides could accommodate with their current restrictions.

I can’t be too mad about it. These are unbelievably tough times for this industry and if letting in the most guests allowable is what they have to do to keep people employed and the park running, then good for them I guess. Mask wearing and sanitation were overall very good, so it never seemed like a safety concern to me. The unfortunate effect of all this is that it rendered our Gold Flash Pass almost moot. By mid-afternoon wait times for all the major rides were 70-90 minutes on the Flash Pass. Now keep in mind the Gold level means your wait time is reduced by 50%, so the regular queue was double that.

We made the best of it but we eventually had to accept that we just weren’t going to get as much done as we thought. Getting any more rides on Wonder Woman was out of the question as were Joker Carnival of Chaos and Road Runner Express. The real kicker came near the end of the night when our reservation for Iron Rattler got booted out of the system so they could close the line two hours ahead of the park closing. We had already waited in limbo for our prior reservation on Superman while it broke down, only to finally get off that and see that our existing Iron Rattler reservations had been wiped clean despite being only 8:00pm ahead of a 10:30pm closing time. If the ride had broken down it would have been one thing. But to see Iron Rattler continue sending out trains full of riders when our reservation we paid the combined total of $380.00 for got canceled was infuriating.

As someone who works in hospitality, I hate complaining and I try to give staff the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, but I couldn’t do that here. We went to the Flash Pass office where several other groups were already there about the same issue. I guess my voice must have been the loudest in the room because a more-senior manager came over to speak with me. To his credit, he was totally professional about it and asked what we wanted in compensation. I said we wanted passes to ride Iron Rattler or Wonder Woman. When he replied he couldn’t do that and floated the idea of a partial refund, I asked for 50% to which he agreed. When we left and checked our receipt I was beyond impressed to find that he had in fact given us a full refund.

If you’ve ever taken any university level hospitality courses, you might have had a professor who taught you this type of thing is called the “service paradox.” While any real hotel manager would probably laugh at you for using the term in general conversation, the gist of it is that guests look more favorably on a business that rights a wrong rather than one where nothing goes wrong at all. With that in mind, the park did the right thing in compensating us, but it’s inexcusable that they’re cutting off Flash Passes like this in the first place. I don’t buy the excuse that it was to accommodate the fireworks show still over two hours from then. I work in a business where every hour of payroll feasible is being cut right now to manage losses. As far as I can tell, this was just Six Flags trying to get their ride staff off the clock at the earliest possible convenience.

Did this experience taint my opinion of Fiesta Texas as a whole? Not really. I’ll chalk this one up to Covid and hope for better next time. We still had a great day hanging out with Bert and I got to see all of what the park has to offer better than I did the last time. I think there are a couple of Six Flags parks with better coaster collections, but none of them have the all-around blend of quality and quantity of attractions, atmosphere, theming, and a great natural setting like Fiesta Texas does. I can see why Bert is proud of it as his home park.

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster

If the Raptor clones aren’t the top pound-for-pound coasters out there, then I don’t know what is. Short as they are, Wonder Woman and Railblazer are so packed with ejector airtime, intensity, and inversions, their brief duration never registers. I don’t know if I have a preference for one installation over the other. It will be interesting over time to see if much variation develops as more of them are built the way it has with some Batman clones. SFFT has an elite 1-2 punch now with this coaster and Iron Rattler. 9/10

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The raptor train carries so much speed over this hill the physics almost don’t look real.

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Superman and Wonder Woman are two very different steel loopers from different eras that complement each other perfectly. One is a short, tight, bundle of energy while the other is a long, flowing epic.

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It looks not unlike the Roman fanfare theming from the original Roller Coaster Tycoon, huh?

Iron Rattler

Well, I never got to follow up on my world class night rides from 2015 like I wanted, but with the two rides I got on it, Iron Rattler moved up on my list anyway. I noticed they don’t slow it down at the top of the lift anymore. I don’t know how long this has been the practice, but it definitely improves the drop in the back of the train. The quarry wall and bits of support structure you fly through add so much to the sensation of speed, really making Iron Rattler feel like a grandiose experience. This coaster possesses an “epic” quality that some of the world’s greatest coasters, including ones I rate higher than Iron Rattler, lack. It shares a sense of magnitude and of conquering something formidable I otherwise only feel on giga coasters or one-offs like Dododonpa. The zero-g-roll atop the cliff remains one of my top five favorite inversions and the cliff dive would be the most ideal coaster midpoint ever devised—if it were actually the midpoint. The storyteller in me yearns for the layout to complete its narrative and by hitting the brakes straight out of the tunnel it doesn’t get that chance. Still an excellent coaster though. 9/10

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I failed to take any good photos of Iron Rattler.

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The old Rattler had more track circling this space that was omitted from the RMC conversion. I’m sure cost was the reason they didn’t retain more of it and it’s too bad because the lack of a proper denouement is the only thing keeping Iron Rattler from being a top tier RMC.

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How our standards change over the years—Until Rattler surprised us at the end of the night, Road Runner Express and Superman Krypton Coaster were the only coasters open when I visited in 2001—and I was very satisfied with that at the time.

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Iron Rattler frames the Gully Washer loading platform like a gigantic horror creature sprawled atop the quarry wall.

Superman Krypton Coaster

It’s too bad I didn’t get to ride this back-to-back with Kraken like I intended since they seem to have been the consensus two best floorless coasters for years. Fortunately, SKC was running great, in fact a lot better than I remember Kraken riding the last time. It has a bit of that vibration and shuffle B&Ms pick up as they age, but it was never uncomfortable. Maybe this is due to having not ridden it in nineteen years, but SKC is a more intense coaster than I realized. That’s by B&M looper standards, mind you, however it was not the big, floaty floorless I remembered. It pulls just hard enough to be interesting in a few places, which together with the strong layout and terrain visuals make it my new pick for best floorless, finally overtaking my beloved Kraken. 8/10

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I have it on good authority that Brandon Routh valiantly, yet unsuccessfully petitioned for years to reprise his role as Superman right here atop the vertical loop at Six Flags Fiesta Texas before ultimately returning to the DC Universe in a different capacity on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.

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I think this is one of B&M’s finest zero-g-rolls.

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My only criticism of Superman Krypton Coaster is that it doesn’t utilize the quarry wall more.

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A tunnel or another dive off the edge would have been ideal.

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Other than the first drop and the elevated spiral, most of it follows a typical B&M looping layout.

Poltergeist

Who would think that despite having two excellent RMCs, a twenty-one-year-old, cloned Premier would be Bert’s favorite coaster at his home park? I was surprised when he told me, but I understand.  Like Joker’s Jinx which I rode earlier this year at Six Flags America, Poltergeist is a well-rounded, thrilling, and comfortable ride. Without the MCBR found on the Flight of Fear twins, Poltergeist take every element at just the right speed and the intensity mounts as the ride nears its conclusion. I still think it’s a crime Premier never sold more of these. 8/10

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The first-gen Premier launched trains always look like toys to me.

Batman: The S&S

This was my first Free Spin coaster back in 2015 and it remains one of only two that I actually enjoy. Nagashima Spa Land’s Arashi spins so much it’s in a class by itself, but of the more pedestrian, US-based models, only Fiesta’s allows the concept to flourish. Unlike the later installations, you’re likely to get a couple of inversions on this one and it doesn’t feel like the ride vehicle is being reigned in constantly. 7/10

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Batman has a central location and doesn’t fit squarely in the DC area by Superman and Wonder Woman.

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So help me out with this. I’m not particularly steeped in Batman lore, but was this specific Batmobile featured in any movies/shows/games, or did someone actually go to the trouble of making an original design just for the park?

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The only Free Spin in North America I’ll wait in line for.

Goliath

This is one of my two favorite Batman: The Ride clones along with the one at Six Flags Over Georgia. I routinely gray out on them whereas I rarely if ever have on the rest of them. For whatever reason, these two just seem to pull a little bit harder. Props to SFFT for doing a parking lot coaster the right way too. Putting some grass, sand, and shrubbery down goes a long way. As intense as it is and as nice as it looks, the Batman layout still leaves me a bit cold. I’ve never been able to figure out why this is, but it may be that the layout is so tightly paced that it doesn’t leave adequate time to enjoy what the train is doing. 7.5/10

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Goliath: The Invert

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Goliath was already running intense on an early morning run then became even more so once it had ample time to warm up.

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Probably my favorite paint scheme on any of the Batman clones at the moment.

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I feel like SFFT’s eclectic mix of themes should not work together on paper, but somehow in practice it just does. It would be one thing if this were a true Disney/Universal style park with themed areas designated by a cohesive plan, but that isn’t quite the case here. Instead you have Western, Medieval, Boardwalk, 1950s, DC Comics, and (seasonally) Halloween elements that all somehow just avoid clashing with each other.

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Bugs’ Rapids is as good a flume ride as you’ll find at a Six Flags park.

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This dragon alone wets riders more than the rest of the ride combined.

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To their credit, the scare actors seemed into it despite being unable to roam like they have in years past.

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One could actually make a case for keeping this approach instead of returning to the old scare zone model. Parks could opt to expand on these show scenes with multiple contained characters featuring story arcs and dialogue. Each one could be its own ten-minute horror set piece that plays out several times per hour.

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I appreciate touches like turning the Gully Washer river red.

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Steampunk horror pumpkins? Sure!

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I didn’t stop to check if the kiddie train at Kemah Boardwalk was named Tilman Fertitta.

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The steam train at Fiesta Texas is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s long, scenic, and atmospheric without resorting to hokey show scenes or long stops in the middle of nowhere. And where else can you find such great views of exotic attractions like this Vekoma Boomerang?

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Crowds almost seemed to double after nightfall.

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The park atmosphere was still great, but it eventually became clear we just weren’t going to be able to get as much done as we had earlier in the day.

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As good as Joker’s lighting package looks, it will have to wait until next time.

 

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That very first photo of Wonder Woman.... 😍

And you had Bert with you, too. Excellent!

Thanks for sharing it all. Wonder Woman and Fiesta Texas is one of those parks I'd really like to visit... some day, some how.

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Great report! Reminds me that I need to start on my report of this park. :p

5 hours ago, Condor said:

So help me out with this. I’m not particularly steeped in Batman lore, but was this specific Batmobile featured in any movies/shows/games, or did someone actually go to the trouble of making an original design just for the park?

Because of how much a comics nerd I am, I can tell you that this Batmobile took its design from the Video Game Injustice: Gods Among Us and subsequent comic series.

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8 hours ago, CaptainUnknown said:

Great report! Reminds me that I need to start on my report of this park. :p

Because of how much a comics nerd I am, I can tell you that this Batmobile took its design from the Video Game Injustice: Gods Among Us and subsequent comic series.

I'm a comics nerd too, and I didn't know that!

LOL. . but I do know about THIS infamous panel from the Comic they did based on "Injustice: Gods Among Us" - this is from Issue #17.

it was digital 1st, and the colorist got confused and the comic was released digitally with this image included (no. . really):
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tho they DID go in and "fix" it with the inking in the actual *printed* copy of the book:

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