Really terrific report. We were so blown away by SFM a few years ago when we visited! Medusa Steel was absolutely incredible for us, and I'm sorry to hear it's running a little tamer now. Reading your description of moments of no airtime and tame turnarounds was so different from my memories of it! Hopefully it picks back up.
We also loooooved Superman too though. My wife just adored it.
And Mexico City as a whole is just amazing. Thanks for sharing your experience!
One of my favorite things to see in the heart of a major city is an amusement park. In the US, the only notable ones I can think of are Coney Island and Elitch Gardens. I encountered a pair in Sweden last year and since I was staying in downtown Mexico City, I just recently visited La Feria de Chapultepec before my return flight to the US.
An impressive skyline from my hotel window.
I was across the street from the National Auditorium, but I think you are all focused on what's in the distance.
More cities need an amusement park downtown. I also may be very biased.
The trip to the park was again the scariest ride of the day. Google Maps estimated that it would take just under 20 minutes to reach the park. After picking me up, my driver drove over the median strip and backed up one block to get to the closest onramp. This death defying stunt managed to trim 15 minutes off the ride. I wasn't quite sure if I should tip or not. On one hand, I got there in 5 minutes. On the other hand, just imagine being in that vehicle.
I only had 3 hours before I needed to leave for the airport, so I knew that'd be a gamble to squeeze in La Feria. For one, I was taking a gamble the city's propensity for thunderstorms wouldn't hit in the morning. But a bigger factor would be La Feria’s operations. I heard they were random and frustrating, so hitting all major rides in such a short timeframe could be complicated.
And La Feria's operations lived up to its dubious reputation. It began before even entering the park. 99% of the time, I like to buy my ticket online so I can proceed straight to the turnstiles. Unfortunately you must be a native of Mexico to do so. I arrived a half hour prior to opening and found a short line at the end behind a family.
About 5 minutes prior to opening, an employee hung a “Cerrado” sign on our ticket booth, so everyone in my line switched to the other ones. 5 minutes later, the "Cerrado" signs were flipped to "Abierto" causing a running of the bulls to those ticket booths we previously thought were closed. La Feria was not off to a great start. After buying my wristband, I proceeded to the turnstile with the shortest wait only to be told I had to wait in the one with the long line.
Also as a note to those who typically throw out their receipts, absolutely do not do that at La Feria. You’d think the wristband you receive is your park admission, but nope they use your receipt. So don't throw it out in the inconveniently placed trash can next to the ticket booth. One family who had disposed of their ticket had to fish it out before being admitted to the park. The whole process to enter the park probably took 20-25 minutes, but it was chaotic. Though since an all-inclusive wristband costs the equivalent of $10 USD, I guess it comes with the territory. Even more impressive is that a season pass is just $25. That's insane for a park located in such a populated city!
La Feria's operations bugged me.
Once inside the park, I immediately made my way to the park’s star attraction, the Montana Rusa. While a majority of the park’s attractions are relatively compact in nature, this hulking wooden coaster can be seen from anywhere in the park. Despite this fact, it's more difficult than you'd expect to get good photos of it since all the other rides are adjacent to the structure. Heck they even have a sizable amphitheatre in the middle of the ride.
I was warned in advance the park usually only runs one train on this mobeus coaster. And that's not one train per side. No it's one train total. Sure enough that was exactly what they were doing on Cinco de Mayo. Combine that with their glacial dispatches (I don't think any coaster had a dispatch under 5 minutes and that included the spinning mouse) and I knew I'd only be getting one ride on Montana Rusa. I only waited 15 minutes, but later in the day the queue was spilling out of the building. You aren't able to wait for any row on the coasters La Feria; it's first come, first serve. All the seats towards the front were taken, but I was able to snatch the second to back, which was honestly the seat I wanted anyway.
I'm pretty sure most in the US would consider this coaster rough, but after 5 days of driving over all the potholes and topes in Mexico City, Montana Rusa felt like riding on a cloud. Sure there were some bumps, but this would have been perfectly reridable if it had no queue. After the first two drops weren't steep at all, I figured I may be in for a snooze fest.
Then the 3rd drop arrived and holy guacamole! It had some serious ejector air. The next two drops are back to ADA compliant slopes before being hit with back to back steep plunges leading into the final turnaround. And like the third drop, these both had terrifying pops of ejector air. The return leg is something in between and may have given a slight hint of air, but nothing compared to those three hills.
It's a shame this mobeus coaster doesn't race, but it's a historical ride with some surprisingly intense moments. The airtime isn't sustained like an El Toro, but it's up there for the most intense and violent pops of airtime of any coaster. And it does this three times. But the rest of the coaster doesn’t offer much. Now Idid see them add a second train later in the day, but by that time, I needed to call an Uber to the airport. 7 out of 10
It's impossible to be anywhere in the park and not see Montana Rusa.
It doesn't race, but it makes up for it with some oddly profiled drops.
Montana Rusa's air is orgasmic at points. See the dude in the back left as proof.
I love how the color scheme borrows the colors from the Mexican flag.
A true classic.
I planned to follow up my ride with the two Schwarzkopfs, but both were still closed with no sign stating when they'd open. I decided to check on Raton Loco, the park’s spinning mouse and lucked out. They had just finished testing and an employee came down to move the heavy, metal trashcan blocking the entrance. Usually a chain will do, but I guess Lou Ferignou wanted to impress a few woman with his muscles.
I mentioned it earlier, but they had 5 minute dispatches on the mouse. Though it isn't as bad as it seems. Instead of loading one vehicle at a time, they load all 6 together. Once all the cars are filled and checked, they then send a car out every 30 seconds. I thought this may have just been a quirk hitting it immediately after it opened, but they were doing the same later in the day even with a full queue.
The mouse itself was somewhat notable for two things. First, the ride was extremely close to a few trees. So close that it may be the reason why riders aren't allowed to raise their hands. Two, I don't think La Feria knows what trim or block brakes are. Usually these spinning mice are braked before the hairpin turns, but here they were taken like someone in the Fast and Furious zipping around a corner. On one hand, it yielded insane spinning in the second half. On the other hand, the first half was borderline painful without proper bracing. 5 out of 10
This ride taught me that La Feria doesn't know what a trim brake is.
I was tempted to hit the park’s haunted walkthrough, but decided to check back on the Schwarzkopfs. I saw the shuttle loop operating, but decided to check Quimera. There was no trash bucket blocking the entrance, yet there was no activity by the station. I confusedly got into line and heard over the PA system “diez personas.” Ah ok, I could wait for 9 other riders. And it took no more than a minute. I eagerly grabbed the first row. After riding Olympia Looping last year, I was interested to see how its brother would ride. It was off to a good start without those annoying acordion restraints. Now there were comfort collars/straps along with the lap bar. They were tricky to secure and dramatically slowed loading, but they weren't uncomfortable. In fact, the forces of the ride tried succeeded in partially removing them.
The loops were as forceful as Olympia Looping or any other Schwarzkopf out there, but what separated Quimera was the park not giving a flying hoot about capacity. Who needs block brakes if there's just one train? For this reason, Quimera absolutely hauls through the whole course. This leads to some surprising pops of air and some intense Gs at the base of all drops. By comparison, those elements felt like filler on Olympia Looping since they needed brakes to run 4-5 trains (or whatever insane amount they had).
Honestly, for me Quimera may be the most intense coaster out there. Unlike the other Schwarzkopfs that let you breathe between the intense loops, Quimera is pedal to the metal. The other factor is Mexico City’s elevation. I didn't realize Mexico City was 3000 feet above Denver going into the trip and I think I was dealing with some side effects of altitude sickness. For this reason, I only rode Quimera once but dang was it good. I honestly take it over Olympia Looping (but not Shock Wave or Mind Bender since I love those expansive layouts). 9 out of 10
Quimera is arguably the most intense coaster I've ridden when you factor in the location.
Olympia Looping hauls through just the loops. Quimera hauls through everything- drops, loops, helices.
Comfort collars look like B&M clamshells compared to those Schwarzkopf accordion restraints.
I needed a 20ish minute water and rest break before daring to ride Cascabel 2.0. If I immediately jumped into another Schwarzkopf loop, I feel like that could have been the knockout blow for my visit. When I entered the queue I was greeted with just a 10 minute wait and ended up with the second row.
The launch had a strong snap and the vertical loop traveling forwards was as forceful as you'd expect. In reverse, it felt quite a bit more drawn out. I didn't remember that on Montezooma's Revenge. Maybe it's a hair slower? Either way it's still intense because of the nearly circular profile.
I felt dizzy and short of breath after the ride ended. I mean it's a pretty action packed coaster, but I think the altitude was giving me an issue. I had no clue why it didn't bother me at Six Flags Mexico, but I guess it shows just how intense Schwarzkopfs are. It's a shame the shuttle loops are a dying breed since they're pretty good rides. 7 out of 10
Schwarzkopf loops and high elevations are a powerful combination.
Cascabel doesn't quite make it all the way up the tower.
I had about an hour before I had to go. It was tricky to pass up rerides on Quimera or Montana Rusa, but I figured I should take it easy. Fortunately the park’s haunted walkthrough (Casona del Terror) is noted as a highlight in many trip reports so that was absolutely perfect. The queue took about a half hour, but it gave me time to feel better.
I had zero clue what the scare actors were saying (I can only understand written Spanish or if it's spoken slowly and clearly). But they were really animated and plentiful too. I should also note that since we weren't in the US, the actors could touch us. Combine detailed and creepy sets and this was as good as any Halloween haunt out there. This was also longer than anticipated. The building didn't look too big from the outside, but it was multi-leveled and the narrow walkways allowed for plenty of scenes. I think it took about 10 minutes. The only full-time haunt I can think of quite like this in the US is Morey's Ghost Ship. 9 out of 10
You'd think a permanent carnival would have one of those terrible, tacky dark rides, but La Feria has a bonafide haunt-level walkthrough.
I had just 15 minutes left. Since I knew Montana Rusa’s queue was a lost cause and I didn't want to risk feeling queasy for my ride to the airport, I went with the park’s drop tower, which was a one cycle wait. Called Torre Pepsi (which as you can guess translates to the Pepsi Tower), this is up with with the Helpful Honda Express for the most corporate sellout of a name out there.
This was an odd drop tower. I don't quite know the manufacturer, but the drop was taken pretty slowly. Nonetheless, it did provide a sensation. It wasn't quite a full-on stomach dropping sensation like a Larson or Intamin tower. It felt more like a tickle in the groin; I really have no other way to describe it. The only other rides that yield the same sensation are those tiny little Moser and SBF towers. As an added bonus, the park gives a double cycle, something I've never seen on a larger tower like this. While it isn't the most intense tower out there, it does provide spectacular views of Mexico City and the drop, while slow, manages to do something. 6 out of 10
The (not so) Power(ful) Tower.
La Feria also had a rare mix of older flats including a Loop O Plane, Huss Condor, and then a swinging inverter ship that was a splitting image of the Chinese one included in the Roller Coaster Tycoon Wacky Worlds expansion pack. They also had an odd looking flume with the weirdest profiled drop I’ve ever seen. It has a pullout sized for a hyper coaster’s drop despite being no more than 40 feet tall.
It may look like your average flume.
But just look at the profiling on this drop.
I really wish there were more Huss Condors left.
Another rare flat.
So this is where that Chinese themed swinging inverter ship in Roller Coaster Tycoon came from.
I regret skipping this. I knew it would be terrible, but it's the type of terrible that's so laughably bad that it's enjoyable.
Lastly, WTF is this slide?
La Feria doesn’t have the modern thrillers like Six Flags Mexico, but it knows its niche. Really it serves as a permanent carnival in the center of the city. Honestly the retro feel is refreshing as the park has some pretty rare attractions.
I really wish this park had better operations. That's the lone Achilles heel. Now that I think back, I don't think any ride had more than 2 people staffed to it. That includes the operator, attendants checking restraints, and height check employee. In many instances, the employees performed a little of each. Beyond that, the confusing mess to enter the park had me pulling my hair out. But then again I have to keep in mind the admission price. I thought a Six Flags season pass was a steal, but a park in a downtown metropolis costing just $25 for the year is unbelievable.
Not sure when I'll revisit this park, but if I'm ever back in Mexico City it's a must. I’ll just take some more preventative measures against the altitude and hopefully have some extra time for rerides on the coasters. This really is one of the more unique parks out there.
Visiting Six Flags St. Louis would have completed one of my bucket list items - visiting every Six Flags theme park around the world. And I would have succeeded too if it weren’t for the chain’s surprise acquisition of Frontier City last week. But I still did end up visiting one of the nicer Six Flags parks.
Six Flags St. Louis is a very green park.
As I approached the park, there was a light drizzle. I wasn’t too worried since the chain usually has no qualms operating rides in the rain. Upon entering the park, I consulted my handy dandy Six Flags app and everything was closed, including the indoor rides. Surely that had to be a glitch, so I made my way to Justice League. And go figure, it was actually closed too, but for non-weather related reasons.
I guess the Justice League took Memorial Day weekend off.
In retrospect, I probably should have started with the low capacity Pandemonium, but I was too tempted by the park’s GCI. I joined a small group queuing and about 20 minutes later, American Thunder opened and I was on the third train in the very front row.
American Thunder is essentially a double out-and-back coaster with a ton of crossovers mixed in. The airtime was weaker than other GCI’s in terms of strength (weak floater as opposed to strong pops), but American Thunder compensated with quantity. Basically every single hill had me flying out of my seat. It wasn’t the most intense coaster in the world, but I couldn’t help but smile as we hit the brake run.
I immediately grabbed a second ride in the back, waiting maybe 20 minutes. While the air wasn’t as plentiful as row 1, the air was stronger when it did occur. I also found the laterals to be a bit stronger in back. That being said, I preferred the very front for the added airtime.
I think the most remarkable thing about American Thunder is how smooth it is. Several of the GCIs I’ve ridden are glass smooth in their infancy but have become rougher in time, particularly if you ride further back in the train. Yet American Thunder is incredibly smooth in every seat. 8 out of 10
Finally a test train.
For a primarily out-and-back layout, American Thunder has a ton of crossovers.
It's basically one airtime hill after another.
Fans of the park have been clamoring for the park to receive a hyper. Please don’t get greedy, you already have a coaster in excess of 200 feet- Mr. Freeze. I found the blue paint scheme much more fitting here than the red scheme Over Texas uses on their version.
The launch isn’t particularly forceful, but that’s probably for the best considering it’s in reverse. My favorite inversions are loaded with hangtime, but I also like inversions that cause me to grey out. Mr. Freeze’s inverted top hat is a disorienting experience that somehow provides both sensations. Better yet, as a shuttle coaster, you get to experience this inversion twice.
The overbank is nice and whippy, but the highlight is the spike, especially if you’re riding in the very back. The gravity defying boost on the spike really messes with your mind and the subsequent drop has some very nice airtime.
Mr. Freeze is probably the park’s best steel coaster as it’s an extremely fast and forceful coaster. It’s also extremely reridable thanks to the lap bar only trains. I found this one a bit smoother than the one at Over Texas, but otherwise it was a comparable experience. 8.5 out of 10
Here's the park's hypercoaster.
This Mr. Freeze is significantly more entertaining than watching Arnold fail miserably in the 1990s movie.
I didn't know Mr. Freeze liked to wear top hats.
Looking at this overbank just gives me the chills.
I was hoping to tour the park without a Flash Pass, but the queues for Ninja and Pandemonium convinced me to splurge $30 for a Gold Q-Bot. Overall Six Flags St. Louis was a really well landscaped and operated park, but the one critique I have for the park is how the Flash Pass is handled.
First, I really am not a fan of parks that load skip-the-line passes through the exit. I hate experiencing the look of disgust from oncoming riders and much prefer merging with the queue. Second, signage for Flash Pass queues was often minimal and confusing. The latter could be easily improved by providing a printout with the entry points. This is something Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Silver Dollar City do.
With the ability to skip the line of almost any ride, for some inexplicable reason I picked Ninja. Either an Arrow looper or Vekoma looper is bad enough, but Ninja has the dubious honor of being a collaboration between the two. I chose the back row and braced myself for non-stop karate chops to the head.
The first drop has a good pop of air and the following vertical loop is pretty darn forceful. But the highlight is the most terrifying headchopper I’ve ever experienced. Headchoppers are usually caused by supports. They also usually occur during drops. After the disorienting sidewinder, there’s a surprise headchopper from the chain lift. I’m pretty sure I head Ninja scream “Hiya” as it tried to decapitate me.
No one ever has anything positive to say about Ninja, but you know what? I actually found the coaster to be decent. This ride would be absolute hell for a shorter rider, but I was tall enough such that my head was above the OSTRs which resulted in no headbanging. 6 out of 10
This Arrow/Vekoma looper really does look like a torture device.
But this is the only point it tries to kill you with a sneaky chain lift to the throat.
Next I made my way over to Batman the Ride, which was a walk-on. Batman the Ride always has a nice looking queue, but I really liked the black color scheme on this one. Batman is a dark and gritty hero, so the black is very fitting. Seeing bright yellow or blue gives me PTSD to Joel Schumacher’s Batman films.
The ride was your typical Batman- fast and forceful. Every time I hit the brake run on these Batman clones, I can feel my legs tingling from the intensity. While Batman is usually a supporting coaster at other Six Flags parks, it’s arguably one of the stars at St. Louis. 8.5 out of 10
I love the black paint scheme on Batman.
River King Mine Train was the perfect example of a confusing Flash Pass line. The main entrance had the standard Flash Pass sign with no arrow directing me anywhere. I entered into the main queue and saw no grouper anywhere to be found. Fortunately the regular queue wasn’t more than 10 minutes anyway.
I rode towards the back and was pleasantly surprised by this mine train. Its overall speed is pretty modest, but some of the tight turns did have decent whip and the wooded setting was a plus. The highlight without a doubt was the final plunge. I didn’t see it coming and it even provided a pop of air too. 6 out of 10
This is probably the mine train's max height, but it uses its little speed quite well.
Superman Tower of Power is arguably the park’s most imposing attraction. Sitting atop a hill, Superman looks a whole lot bigger than 23 stories. I was hoping to ride on the side overlooking the hillside, but unfortunately Flash Pass users were being loaded on the backside facing Screamin’ Eagle.
I was sort of letdown by my first ride on Superman. The drop was good, but it didn’t have the punch I expected from a second generation Intamin. Fortunately I gave the drop tower a second change later in the day and it delivered the stomach dropping, airtime filled drop I’ve come to expect. 8 out of 10
The Man of Steel looks over the park.
I then made my way over to one of the top RMC candidates in the world, Boss. As I approached the ride, I could only see a few imposing hills towering above the treeline. I was really intrigued to experience this coaster. On one hand, the layout definitely seemed unique. On the other hand, there must be a reason people want to see this thing RMCed so badly.
While there were two trains on the track, only one was being loaded. The other was loaded with weights, presumably to prevent a valley. Because of this, I would have felt like a total dick taking the front row with Flash Pass, although another couple had no qualms constantly reserving and requesting row 1.
I was expecting a large drop followed by a million helices, but the Boss surprised me with several large drops, each providing a substantial pop of air. My favorite moment though was that surprise double down after the initial plunge. Having a tiny 20 foot plunge while going 55-60 MPH is a recipe for major airtime.
The MCBR did bring the train to a complete and total halt and the following turnaround explained why the park couldn’t send out an empty train. The finale clearly wasn’t taken as fast as it was intended, but a few of the bunny hills still provided modest pops of air
It was definitely bumpy, but at no point did I find it uncomfortable. This is just a coaster with an aggressive layout. I wish I could have experienced the Boss before the trim brakes were added and the helix was removed, but as it stands, it’s a unique and solid coaster. I immediately rerode it in row 3 and while it was a bit smoother, I missed the strong air from the drops. 8 out of 10
I was not expecting all these large, airtime filled drops on the Boss.
As much criticism as people give Gerstlauer trains, I actually didn't mind them.
Even the final bunny hills dish out pops of air.
Pandemonium was essentially the same as SFNE’s identically named spinner with a few slight differences. The first was the amount of tree coverage around the coaster. Secondly, there was a subtle change in the set-up of the station and brake run. Ultimately I’m a fan of these Gerstlauer spinners as an off-balanced ride yields some forceful spinning and the finale is usually good for a pop of air. 7 out of 10
Why do these Gerstlauer spinners always seem to end up at larger chain parks?
While Pandemonium is a coaster I don’t mind seeing cloned (outside of the miserable capacity), I have much different feelings towards boomerangs. I don’t hate boomerangs, but I’ve ridden so many that they just aren’t that exciting to me. It’s like corn at Thanksgiving. It’s there, but do you really care to have any? SFSTL’s Boomerang was one of the smoother ones and delivered the usually intense ride. 5 out of 10
If you throw shade at a boomerang, it may throw headbanging back at you.
The last coaster I saved was actually the one I liked the best, the Screamin’ Eagle. I would have ridden it earlier in the day, but unfortunately its queue and exit configuration kept it from being on the Flash Pass. To add insult to injury, the coaster was only running one train resulting in a half hour wait.
I started in the front and was blown away by the ride. The ride sustains its speed well and cleverly uses the park’s hilly terrain to mix in some surprisingly tall drops, particularly the third and far turnaround. Most hills offered solid floater air and the turnarounds offered some surprisingly strong pops of ejector air. Then when you mix in the glass smooth ride with the wooded setting, you have a real winner.
A convenient breakdown (someone complained that their lap bar came loose) cleared out the queue, which enabled me to get two quick rerides- one in the back and one in the front. While the larger drops provided good air in the back, this is definitely a front row coaster. I definitely wasn’t expecting the Eagle to be the best ride in the park, but it does everything a classic wooden coaster should. 8.5 out of 10
I don't know why no one talks about Screamin' Eagle. It had some awesome airtime!
It also had some surprisingly tall drops too.
Unfortunately Xcalibur was closed for an extended rehab. The evolution is an incredibly rare flat. It was a bummer to see it down, but luckily I have ridden one on the fair circuit in California (Butler Amusements).
King Arthur's sword is being tended by the blacksmith.
Maybe if the archer grabbed a screwdriver instead of a bow and arrow Xcalibur would have been open.
Their scrambler was also closed, not that anyone cares.
This one people may care about. The new water slide clearly wasn't ready to go quite yet.
I had a half hour left, so I grabbed rerides on the park’s two other wooden coasters. The Boss was still cycling both trains and only loading one. I’m kind of confused why they didn’t just remove the train, but it did prevent the coaster from going down during the day. I grabbed another back car ride on the Boss and a front row ride on American Thunder to finish off the day.
Will this be Twisted Boss the next time I visit?
Six Flags St. Louis is one of the nicest looking parks in the chain. The themed areas don’t look quite as good as Fiesta Texas or Six Flags Mexico, but it’s surprisingly well-shaded and probably has the best landscaping.
My one gripe seems to be common among all enthusiasts, the lack of a standout coaster. They have the perfect supporting cast of coasters, but they lack that world-class coaster you want to marathon at the end of the day. If they ever get the mythical hyper coaster or RMC Boss, a return visit will be fast-tracked.
Whenever I travel, my primary focus is without a doubt on amusement parks. Why else would I be posting on Theme Park Review? That being said, whenever my park travels bring me through a major destination, I like to put on my tourist hat.
Six Flags St. Louis brought me to the Gateway City. Ever since I discovered the City Museum, St. Louis has been a destination I’ve been eying for a while. The City Museum deserves its own update, but there a few other sites I visited in St. Louis.
More on this in a later update. Words really cannot describe how weird and awesome the City Museum is.
The first was St. Louis’s Incredible Pizza Company. No reputable guidebook would ever list this wannabe Chuck E. Cheese’s as a travel destination, but I was convinced by its 2.5 star rating on Yelp. Actually it was the SBF spinner I discovered while browsing RCDB. You didn’t think I’d have a whole update without a ride, did you?
I fully admit I only went here because of a certain credit.
Unlike many arcades, the Incredible Pizza Company isn’t free admission. All guests are required to either pay for the buffet or spend a minimum amount on a game card. Since the food at Six Flags wasn’t exactly on par with Knoebels, I decided to go for the buffet. How bad could pizza be?
I arrived 20 minutes prior to closing and the on-duty manager graciously admitted me into the buffet for no charge. I was incredibly grateful. So grateful that I forked over $7 for the coaster without any hesitation. The buffet was pretty sparse this time of night, but I did sample several slices of pizza and some pasta. It was decent pizza, definitely a step up from Pizza Hut or Domino’s.
Not the best pizza I've ever had, but far from the worst. And it was plentiful!
After indulging myself, I had a train to myself on the Incredible Spin Coaster. While $7 is probably a bit much for this type of coaster, the park did compensate by giving 10 laps. I think that’s a new record for me. Despite riding alone, the car didn’t spin as much as I had expected, but it was still disorienting coming mere inches from the roof and speeding by the bright, flashing lights of the arcade. 3 out of 10
I'm pretty sure I would have hit the roof if I raised my hands.
The next day began with a destination that didn’t elicit judgmental looks from my girlfriend, the Gateway Arch. A son of an architect, I am always fascinated by the iconic bridges, skyscrapers, and structures that a city has to offer. The arch is incredibly simplistic, but its sleek design is extremely impressive in person.
What a beauty.
The world's biggest magnet is quite the sight to see.
The location on the river is perfect too.
The arch feels even bigger because of how slender it is.
Multiple reviews online cited a lengthy queue to ride to the top, so I purchased the first available admission at 8 am on a Saturday. Who would want to get up that early? I certainly didn’t, but the view from my hotel room convinced me otherwise.
This is a pretty convincing reason to get out of bed.
I was wondering why lines were an issue if you purchased a specific time, but I quickly discovered why. While you have a specific time for the tram, you could enter the museum at the base well in advance. Then they don’t check your time when you board the tram. I can see many people purchasing a tram time later in the day, getting impatient, and deciding to get in line anyway.
I wonder how many people actually visit the museum before ascending to the top.
The trams definitely weren’t ADA compliant. There were 6-8 cars that each sat 5 riders in a tight semi-circle. You really get to know your fellow riders as you scrape knees and bend over due to the sloped roof. Fortunately the ride to the top is only 4 minutes. You only have a narrow porthole, but there’s nothing to see other than the 60 stories worth of stairs if the tram lost power.
But the view from atop the arch was spectacular. Actually I should clarify that; the view of the Missouri side from atop the arch was spectacular. The Illinois side is that dark shadowy place Mufasa warns Simba about. The Missouri side had a really impressive skyline filled with skyscrapers, ballparks, and bridges.
Here are the little windows you look out.
630 feet in the air.
I love how the Arch's shadow is cast over the city.
This building (whatever it is) sure looks nice.
This would be a really cool place to take in a Cardinals game.
Not a Ram to be seen.
And for contrast, here's East St. Louis.
Prior to my visit, I was always told to avoid East St. Louis like the plague. From Google street view and crime statistics (number one murder rate in the country), I could definitely see why. However, all the picturesque views of the Arch from across the Mississippi come from East St. Louis.
Per the hotel front desk, they recommended I visit the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park. While it was in East St. Louis, it was distant from the downtown area and frequently patrolled by cops. I’m glad I listened to the recommendation. At no point did I feel unsafe there and the views were spectacular.
An overview of Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park.
I'd say this view was worth it.
Further, the park is also home to the Gateway Geyser, a 630 foot tall geyser equal in height to the arch. I timed my visit to coincide with the noon eruption. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for the Gateway Geyser, but it was probably the most impressive fountain/geyser I’ve ever seen.
Facts for the history nerds out there.
Shooting water higher than Kingda Ka.
Or even the Orlando's Polercoaster (if that opens).
Last but not least, I made a side-trip at Gus’ Pretzels. I was born without a sweet tooth, so the doughy goodness of a soft pretzel is my guilty pleasure. The place was cash only unless you hit $5, which was surprisingly tricky since each pretzel was only 50 cents! So I did my part and purchased a smorgasbord of pretzels- pretzel ends, pretzel sticks, and pretzels.
All the pretzels were piping hot and fresh. While I still prefer those addicting pretzels at Busch Gardens and Wetzel’s Pretzels, these are ahead of Auntie Anne’s and far ahead of those generic Super Pretzels you find at theme parks.
This place actually had good reviews on Yelp.
Whenever a place has an open kitchen, it's usually a good sign.
Best part is that I ate all this before going to Lambert's later that day.
A reminder I was in the Bible Belt.
And yes, I also prioritized pretzels over beer too.
St. Louis really was a fantastic city to visit. Beyond the usual great food, they had a national landmark in the Gateway Arch, the eccentric City Museum, and for us theme park fans, Six Flags St. Louis. Hopefully I can add in a Cardinals game in an inevitable return visit.
And I need to visit this place next time. What could go wrong?
Words cannot describe how weird and awesome the St. Louis's City Museum is, so this update will be far more picture heavy than usual.
The entrance has boobs. Doesn't that say it all?
This is the lobby when you walk in. It's apparent this isn't like your grandfather's art museum.
The best way I can describe the City Museum is an oversized playground that sprinkles in a cafe, arcade, and bits you'd find in a typical museum. The museum is a complete sensory overload. Everywhere you look there's a climb or slide taking the form of something straight out of your dreams. And the best part is that adults have just as much fun as kids (until they get stuck in the climbs ).
You can be boring and take the stairs or you can get one heck of a workout climbing a multistory slinky.
Who knew evacuating a plane could be so fun?
Congratulations, you have reached the top. Your prize? A climb back down (after enjoying the view of course).
And then there are caves for good measure.
I originally intended to spend just Friday evening at the City Museum, but a rainstorm closed the outdoor section. As a result, I returned on Saturday morning after visiting the Arch since the outdoor section is just as awesome as the indoor area. While I think I hit a majority of the slides, there is absolutely no way I experienced everything in the City Museum. That's partly because of how huge it is and that's partly because the museum is basically a labyrinth to navigate. The last part may sound like a criticism, but it's far from it. Randomly discovering a new area or slide was part of the excitement!
Some of the slides, particularly the two near vertical ones and the two 10 story slides, were even more terrifying than a majority of the roller coasters I've ridden. They were possibly better too. The 10 story slides had stronger laterals than Kennywood's Thunderbolt and the vertical slides had some of the most terrifying airtime I've ever experienced. When you look down the shaft, you can't help but say a prayer.
Pictures do not do this slide justice. It's almost vertical and it's more terrifying than a Golden Horse dive machine. Ok maybe not that terrifying, but it's close.
If you go without braking yourself, you absolutely fly over this hill for some scary airtime.
And if the slide wasn't screwed up enough, the exit sends you through this claustrophobic passage that even kids struggle to pass through.
And then there's the 10 story slide. This is what a 100 foot tall maze of twisted slide looks like.
For those planning a visit, there are three key takeaways that will help make your visit far more enjoyable.
1) Visit late in the evening. There are less crowds to deal with and the average age is significantly older. Meanwhile on Saturday morning, the museum was reminiscent of a McDonald's Playplace with screaming kids constantly cutting lines and having no regard for personal space.
2) Wear athletic shorts. Originally I thought I'd be smart wearing sweatpants. While the sweatpants did help for the climbs and crawls, the museum was like a furnace. As a result, I got stuck in almost every slide which is no fun. I switched to cargo shorts and had a similar problem. But my athletic, moisture-wicking shorts did the trick and I was able to appreciate the lunacy of some of those larger slides.
3) If you wear a brace when you play sports, wear it to the museum. It may look stupid strapping up an ankle brace before going into a museum, but you'll be thankful. I was on the fence about wearing my ankle brace, but it definitely saved me from reinjuring my ankle on several of the slides and climbs.
Onto the photos! I hope these convince you to visit the museum since it really is one of the coolest places I've visited. It's basically a gigantic fun house. More specifically, it's basically a gigantic European fun house. I really don't know how a place like this exists in America, but I certainly am not complaining!
Oh and they even have an aquarium here. This museum is the oddest mismatch of activities and I loved every minute of it.
Classic pinball. I would have played, but I lost my quarters climbing through the caves :(
Hopefully this ball pit doesn't have syringes like the one at the local Burger King.
There's nothing like getting a view of downtown St. Louis atop what's essentially a playground.
You can even get a legit ride credit at the City Museum.
The praying mantis about to mount that slinky. Or maybe that unsuspecting guest?
Ironically, the elephant is smaller than the mantis.
Two of the fastest slides there.
The museum is a life-sized game of Chutes and Ladders.
When I think of Branson, I associate it with Silver Dollar City and amusement rides. Alternatively, my girlfriend is a foodie and associates Branson with one thing, Lambert's Cafe. Ok technically it's in Ozark, but it was directly on the route between St. Louis and Branson so it would have been foolish to skip. Anticipating large crowds on a Saturday, I tried to avoid crowds by arriving around 3:30-4. After struggling to find a parking space, I realized my efforts were futile. As I approached the main entrance, it was hard not to notice the line of people extending outside the building. But much to my amazement as a smaller party, I was seated right away!
That's a lot of people.
All I knew going into Lambert's was that they were famous for throwing rolls. I'm shocked no one has tried suing them over a thrown roll (edit- of course someone has... ), but it was an incredibly simple concept that had everyone anxiously awaiting the roll cart. I will say that I was disappointed how frequently the cart came out. I only saw it come out once during my visit. However, the waiter was absolutely launching rolls across the dining room to compensate. And the rolls were delicious too.
Can you spot the thrown roll?
To quote Oprah, "I love bread."
Beyond the thrown rolls, several servers came by with additional sides such as fried potatoes, fried okra, beans, etc. I think it's impossible to leave Lambert's without gaining a few extra pounds. I went with the traditional fried chicken and it actually came out before the roll cart even made its lone appearance. The chicken was delicious and probably the best fried chicken I've had outside of Pigeon Forge. The restaurant is cash only (so be prepared), but definitely hit this unique restaurant if you're passing it on your way to Branson.
I feel obliged to go with the fried chicken anytime I go to a southern style restaurant.
I had every intention of using the preview option on my Silver Dollar City ticket, but first I had two mountain coasters to hit. I started with the unoriginally named Branson Coaster. I have ridden several mountain coasters, but this one had several unique features. First and foremost, they offer a skip-the-line pass. As a $20 upcharge, it's pretty pricey for just one ride. To be honest, I'm not too sure how often it's even necessary since there was no wait whatsoever on a Saturday on Memorial Day weekend.
I gave the obligatory thumbs up to the safety spiel and immediately rolled out of the station. But instead of traveling up one of those endless mountain coaster lift hills, I immediately began the descent. Unlike the other mountain coasters I've ridden, this one's loading area is at the highest point. The descent was short lived, but there were some solid turns until the autobrake kicked in. If it were only a bit longer, this had the potential to be one of the better mountain coasters.
After reaching the top of the lift, I fully expected to return to the station, but instead there was a second downhill bit. That completely caught me off-guard and I appreciate how they did that to compensate for the shorter hill. The second half was quite a bit shorter, but it was significantly better as it was essentially a steep, downward run slaloming between trees. There was even a pop of air mixed in too.
The Branson Coaster's double lift was definitely unique and something I wasn't expecting. Ultimately I'd say it's a pretty middle-of-the-road mountain coaster, highlighted by the excellent second half. 8 out of 10
For some reason, I don't think the skip the line pass is needed today.
I'm kind of glad I didn't see this sign prior to riding since it made the second lift a nice, unexpected surprise.
Doing the usual mountain coaster things.
The first half is a warm up. The second half is the real star.
As good as the Branson Coaster is, it's not even the best mountain coaster in the town. That honor goes to the Runaway Coaster. Not sure if it was the location or if others shared the same thoughts, but the Runaway Coaster was definitely more crowded. Fortunately, I was able to fill out the waiver faster than a majority of the crowd (not going to make any reading jokes ), so I didn't wait more than 5 minutes.
The Runaway Coaster was a return to normalcy with the ridiculously long lift hill at the start. The entire descent took place entirely in the woods and it felt much faster than the Branson Coaster. The layout had a few double downs and tiny drops that produced quick pops of airtime and the tight turns yielded some strong laterals. As an Aquatic mountain coaster, I did find this to be one of the rougher ones. I'll take the added intensity in exchange for a slightly rougher ride, but those with bad backs may not share the same sentiments.
After my ride, the staff noticed my roller coaster shirt and were anxious to hear my opinion on the coaster. And I didn't disappoint them by saying it was better than the other mountain coaster across town. Further, it's one of the better mountain coasters I've ridden anywhere and it even stands its own with the traditional coasters out there. 8.5 out of 10
If you only can ride one mountain coaster in Branson, this is the one to ride.
I wish I had a better picture, but it's nearly impossible to photograph any of the layout. It's entirely in the woods.
I had every intention of making it to Silver Dollar City for the preview option included with my admission ticket, but first I had one more stop to make. There was a Bigfoot sighting on the strip...
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