Hopscotching over my 2nd Fright-Fest visit to update for Holiday in the Park: 11/21/18
So . . I had taken Wed. before Thanksgiving off of work, thinking that I was going to have to drive down to Houston to pick up my Dad, so he could join us at our friend’s celebration.
I found out about a week ago, that my Brother (who lives in Houston) had actually invited him – I was under the impression from my Sister in Law that they would appreciate it if I invited Dad again this year. . but my Brother had turned around and asked him. So with that obligation no longer pending, I still had the day off and didn’t want to just sit at home.
Solution? Day trip to Fiesta Texas for Holiday in the Park, which had just kicked off this week. The park was open from 2pm-9pm.
So I made this suggestion on Tuesday, and brought it up again Wednesday morning.
I knew traffic would be brutal, and it was overcast and a bit chilly, so my Spouse didn’t really want to go. He would have preferred to go today, but I made the argument that:
1) the park would be dead today, since I was off, but lots of other folks were either working or travelling. On Friday, that would not be the case, and the park will be crowded.
2) the potentially nasty day would make the crowd even lighter. . I suspected locals only. So today was really the day to go, even tho he HATES being cold.
3) I told him I’d just go without him, and that made him feel bad so he said as long as I drove (which I had volunteered to do anyways), he’d come with, but likely wouldn’t ride anything.
Best thing I ever inherited from my Mother: Jewish Guilt Trip super-powers to use on my spouse : p
Fiesta is about an hour and 20 minutes from our house, so expecting traffic, I suggested we leave around 12:30, which would put us in the park near opening. . with over an hour to make use of the Dining Plan for lunch (which you have to use by 3:30 pm). So we dressed in layers, hopped in my truck, and we headed out.
Since I was driving and I know Nick hates traffic on I35 going thru Downtown Austin, I decided to take Mopac (Texas Highway Loop 1) that runs parallel to I35 on the West Side of Austin). Typically, I would have just gone to I35, but one must choose their battles, and I knew Nick would be annoyed if I went that way. Should have gone with my gut tho – Mopac was bumper to bumper, with tons of rear-end collisions and accidents. When we finally got to Tx 71 to cut across to I35, we then got stuck on THAT highway, which had two lanes shut down, and traffic was crawling. Luckily, my best friends live over in this area, so I knew a back way to cut across and get to I35 with less traffic – but first I had to get to the exit from a barely moving Tx 71. Sheesh, it took us almost an hour ½ just to get from North Austin to South Austin, and we weren’t even on I35 yet!
I even said to Nick that if we get to I35 and traffic is not moving there? We’d just blow it off, eat lunch, and go visit my friends. But lo and behold, when we finally got to I35 (via Slaughter lane), traffic was moving pretty well, so we hopped on and headed towards San Antonio – barely out of Austin city limits, as the park officially opened at 2.
Thanksgiving Traffic was not as bad as I expected, but it was pretty bad.. . lots of accidents, and speed limit staying to about 45 miles an hour (it’s officially 65 most of the way), with some traffic jams as we passed thru the towns along the way: Kyle, San Marcos, Selma. . .as we got to more traffic in New Braunfels, it was close to 3, and I suggested we just pull off to grab lunch, since no way would we make it to the park in time to use the dining pass. We didn’t want to do a full sit down meal, but just a quick stop to grab a bite.
We ended up discovering the most ghetto Jack In the Box in Texas (or possibly the USA). It was just off the freeway feeder, on the way to Shlitterbahn for goodness’ sakes – but the place was a complete $#!thole once you step inside: peeling paint, nasty floor (with a weird ramp area going down to the order counter), and no many places to sit.
There were only 3 employees: a Manager, a fry cook, and a lady working the Drive thru and the counter who seemed to be new, as she was very confused.
(not even worth getting into the “fun” of trying to place an order, and actually getting it but will point out – remember, we were the only ones inside, yet ended up being 5th in line to get food made, behind everyone in the drive thru, since she rang it showing we were ordering from drive thru, and the only one making the food was the Manager. Oy.
Eventually we got food, and sat down to quickly eat and head back out on the road. But of the 8 lights in the dining room, FIVE were out, and the Heat was not working – seriously, it felt like the air conditioner was on. It was in the mid-50s outside, but it was easily 40 in the dining room.. freezing cold, and when I mentioned it, the manager said “you should feel how cold it is before we turn the fryers on in the morning!” When we stepped back outside, it really was warmer outside than it had been in there.
Oh, and of course, I was up the whole night with heartburn & stomach issues too, but luckily it didn’t affect me until after we got home later that evening.. . but we KNOW it was this Jack in the Box food, since it was all we ate the whole day.
luckily, New Braunfels is only ~15 minutes from Loop 1604, which is where one exits I35 to head to Fiesta, and 1604 was basically traffic free!. . so we were pulling into the Fiesta Parking lot by 4pm.
All in all, not TOO bad, I suppose: the busiest travel day of the year and a trip that typically takes us ~1:20, took 3 ½ hours (minus the ½ hour we took to eat).
it was “moist” but not drizzling, when we pulled in, and the lot was only about a quarter full, if that. We got a spot pretty close up to the entrance gates, and headed to the park.
We knew it was gonna be a special day tho, when I stopped to take a pic of the Holiday in the Park sign and asked Nick to then take one of me – and a guy with his family stopped and offered to take one of us together. Such unexpected kindness from a Six Flags customer! Must be the Holiday season. . LOL. . .but you know what? We saw this thruout the day!
there were no “official” Six Flags photogs out today, but everyone was super friendly and took turns taking pics for each other at any photo-spot. Even when we didn’t want pics together, people would still offer to take one of us together. It was very cool, and nice, and restored a little bit of my faith in humanity.
I returned the favor, taking a pic of him and his family, then we all headed into Fiesta Texas, where there were no lines at Security, or the gates. My inkling that today was a good day to go was proven correct. Goliath seemed to be a Walk on, so we took that left, and headed over there to see that yep – no line. Nick didn’t want to ride, so I hopped in line, and joined a family of 3 in the front row. It took them a bit of time to dispatch, as they were trying to help get someone larger into the seat (and in the middle of that there was a crew change (likely because the raised exposed station was not only windy, but also cold), and even with 4 operators, they couldn’t get the restraint to close. So I got to see a walk of shame for the 1st time on a Batman clone – never seen that before, as I know they have larger seats in some rows (maybe he just decided he didn’t want to ride after all rather than change to a big boy seat?).
it gave a great ride, as usual, it’s a really forceful Batman clone. The cameras were working, but the photo booth was closed.
I was disappointed at this, because one of the reasons I had wanted to come with Nick were to get some “official” pics of us using my new Photopass, but not only were there no photogs out at the gates, but the booth was closed?
I chalked it up the poor weather and we moved on. . but I did learn something later that day:
If you’re ever riding and the photo-booth is not open, yet the ride snaps a picture? Make note of the time! When we went at the end of the day to the Photopass booth at the front of the park (to get the other ride pics downloaded onto my account), the Employee heard me mention that if Goliath had been open, I would have got my picture from that too. He asked me if I knew about when I rode, and since we had gone to that 1st, we looked around 4pm, and found the pic immediately. So thanks to the Photopass Booth buy overhearing my comment that the ride photobooth was closed, I was able to *get* that picture from Goliath anyways! Sharing that knowledge.
Anyways.. . back on track.
after I rode Goliath, we headed back to the front gates, and headed into the park proper. The main plaza looks fantastic, with lots of lights (that would look even better as it got darker), as well as the new this year Giant Ornament photo op
. the one at Fiesta is gorgeous, Silver and Purple, and they did a great job surrounding it with trees strung with lights, wrapped in lights, and oversize packages.
I noted that Skyscreamer, Poltergiest, and even Iron Rattler were all running. Superman seemed to be running too, tho we hadn’t spotted Wonder Woman or Batman going. As we proceeded around the park, it seemed that pretty much everything was running (Batman hadn’t been going simply because there was no line, but eventually they started cycling empty cars, and that got folks to come to the queue – and we saw Wonder Woman running when we got on the train a little later). The only coaster that wasn’t running seemed to be Boomerang – no great loss in my opinion.
I knew that CrackAxle canyon wouldn’t have a whole lot of Holiday lights, and since I really wanted to see the park lit up at night but Nick can’t so much walking for me to drag him back and forth, we decided to do one loop of the park, starting that direction – and that way we wouldn’t have to come back this way after dark.
Roadrunner Express was operating with a very short line, but Nick wasn’t wanting to ride (and I just rode it a few weeks ago), so instead I headed for Iron Rattler – which was not only a walk on, but also running two trains. I waited a cycle for the back car, and got a fantastic ride sharing with someone who had never been on it before (and whom I convinced to move back from the center of the train to ride in the back car with me).
The photobooth store here was open - likely because it’s inside a store, so not exposed to the cold?. . . so I made note of the picture #, and then after telling Nick I was going again, I hopped back in line for a quick no wait, center train ride.
If I were alone, would have gone on it a few more times, but since Nick was waiting, we moved on. At Fiesta Texas too, they have the “buy and make your own S’Mores” experience
, with firepits set up in a couple of locations and a little cart selling S’Mores kits. Personally, I don’t see the appeal, but they were getting customers, and it was nice and warm standing by the firepits watching. So no shade thrown from me on this. . LOL
the Holiday Express Train
at Fiesta only loads from the Crackaxle station (it doesn’t stop in Spassurg, bur rather does a complete cycle of the park from this station). I had seen some of the “Holiday Express decorations” along the tracks while exiting Iron Rattler, and thought it would be a hoot to ride it. Due to the day, there was no line at all, tho the park has quite the long queue set up to handle the crowds for it, so I suspect it’s a very popular attraction. Since we heard the train coming around, we went ahead and got in line.
The station is set up using the benches to form a queue, but not a whole lot in terms of holiday decorations. However, the train they are running, Miss Kitty, looks absolutely lovely – covered in bells, tinsel, and Garlands.
They fell really short in terms of decorations along the tracks tho, at least in my opinion. Willing to give benefit that we rode while it was still light out, and I’m sure once it gets dark the displays look much better. But in the light? Someone went to Walgreens, and got lawn stand ups with lights in them, and stuck them alongside the train tracks. Yes, some of them were cute, but there were some head scratchers (why the dinosaur over by Superman??), and many of them looked to have bulbs out.
But points for how lovely the train itself looked, and the ride is nice – and one can get some good views of the construction for the 2019 addition from the train (Twister is completely gone, with the concrete ride pad torn up. . and Whirlygig has all the chairs off it ready for repainting into the Crime Wave).
after the train, we continued our way around the park, peeking into the area that had been turned into “Santa’s Cottage
” (a seating area from the Bubba’s Burgers restaurant).
per the park map, this was the place to meet Santa, and take pictures with him. But tho it looked like they had set up to do so, maybe they decided not to open it today? There were some stanchions out front but no signage for hours or what the place was. Only a price list, saying it was $39 for a photo package, and that photopass didn’t apply.
the doors WERE open tho, so it looked like maybe they were getting ready to open? We didn’t make it back this way so not sure, but the trees in there with the fireplace setting did look really nice – should have taken a pic with my phone . . sorry that I didn’t.
We continued on, and headed thru the “tunnel” between Crackaxle and Kidzopolis. . which has been renamed “Winter Wonderland
Last year, this is where they had the Ice Princess out, but we didn’t see her this year. I did get to meet the Mayor of Winter Wonderland tho – who reminded us of the tree lighting at 6pm in Rockville.
The Mayor was actually the *only* character we saw out during Holiday in the Park. Not sure if it was the timing (right before Thanksgiving) or the weather (simply too cold), but there did seem to be a deficit of Six Flags staffing today – at least in terms of characters, photographers, store clerks.
As far as Rides, everything was operating with full crews, so Kudos to them! There were even crews working Gully Washer (even tho no one on the platforms to ride the rafts), and Bug’s flume (again, few takers, but the ride was operating).
The Holiday in the Park Brochure notes that “Winter Wonderland” is where one can also experience an unexpected snowfall – hence the naming? – but we didn’t get that on our trip thru. After meeting the Mayor, I did get pics with some very well done Snowman standees tho.. and a blow up lawn inflatable Santa. . . . yeah, not sure what that was doing there, really brought down the class of the snowmen and the live Mayor actor.
Skyscreamer was a total walk on, but by then it was a little too chilly for me to attempt. I should have tho, since never seen the line that short!
Same with Superman. . . Nick didn’t want to ride, and I just wasn’t feeling it this trip. Besides, Superman doesn’t seem to pull that long of a line on a regular day, and they most often operate this coater at full train capacity. So bypassed that too.
We did take a quick look into Kidzopolis, and here I was actually embarrassed for Fiesta Texas – they have done such a spectacular job decorating in the Main Entrance area, and the entire Rockville area. . and decent decorating at other places in the park. . . that it’s a shock to see so many inflatables. There were at least 3 or 4 of them in this area. . the kind of things I see in my neighborhood (penguins flying a helicopter with rotating blades; a snowglobe with something inside, etc). . it really looked like someone ran to Home Depot and bought some Lawn Inflatables, then just plopped them in Fiesta Texas. Very tacky, and not really sure what they were thinking. Ok, yes, it’s a kids area. But still. . .really?
Think the park would be better served to simply let loose some Looney Toons characters (in Xmas sweaters), to hang around this area of the park.
When they sent me the survey yesterday, the only not-excellent comment I gave them were on the Lawn Inflatables (and mentioned the standees that looked like they came from Walgreen’s). Certainly not enough to ding the event. . but certainly a shock when next to the things that are SO well done (the Rockville tree, the giant ornament, the train decoration).
anyways, we made our way past the train tracks into Rockville, for a walk on ride on Batman (for me), and then over to Wonder Woman to check out the line – as this is typically the longest in the park. It was only thru 1 switchback in the overflow station, so even tho it had started to drizzle I told Nick I’ll wait, and he should go into the pizza place to sit and warm up. I think the line took about 15-20 minutes, but Nick says it was closer to 30 – that likely is because he came out into the cold to look for me, so it just SEEMED longer to him. They were running two trains, but one train had 2 seats blocked off, so that impacted the capacity a bit.
Also impacting capacity was that the park did not have a seat assigner today. Oh, there was an employee at the entrance to the station, but what she was doing was this: when the 4 cars of “dots” had been cleared out, she’d open the line and let people go wherever they wanted. This resulted in not filling up complete trains, as folks ran to the front seats or back seats across the 4 rows of “dots”. . meaning that some trains ran with more open seats than they should have – as a seat assigner would be making sure that every train would be full to capacity on such a low capacity coaster. Likely this was just because the crowd was so light, and it was cold on the station so she didn’t want to stand at the top of the steps assigning seats. Not a big deal, but just mentioning since I noticed it.
While in the line, it did get noticeably colder and it continued to drizzle heavily. It is nuts that WW breaks down so often on normal operating days, but was running the entire time it drizzled, without even a stop. In fact, I think that because it was drizzling, it was running even MORE bonkers than usual. Less friction from the wet track? Wonder Woman was balls out nuts on Wedneday night in the rain. . the most fun I’ve had riding it thus far. Loved it.
got off, and snagged the pics from my ride, and it was just at 6pm, so we stepped over to watch the tree lighting
. The drizzle continued, but surprise! Snow flurries started pouring down over the Rockville street during the tree lighting too – so we did get our “unexpected snowfall”, but in Rockville. It was really neat, and mixed with the drizzle, it really did feel like we were standing in the middle of winter, in Texas! Great job to Fiesta Texas for this wonderful experience.
We hung around the tree for a bit snapping pictures – nice job this year, with multiple colors flashing thru the tree. And enjoyed the “TinselTones
” performing Acapella on the stage in front of the tree.
The “snow” mixed with the drizzle was making everything very cold and moist, and Nick was starting to get miserable. It most certainly had gotten dark enough that we could go take a look at the lights now, so we headed to the Boardwalk to take a peek (and was slightly disappointed it looked like normal, but to be fair “Normal” is always all lit up anyways, LOL) but decided not to ride anything. No new signage on the Pirates Dark Ride, but the HitP map does list it and note it opens Jan 12, 2019.
The cold had really hit Nick and he was ready to head out, and since Poltergiest *had* gone down for the drizzle/cold, we bypassed that – as well as SCREAM, which was walk on - and headed towards the Carousel. He was actually so miserable from the cold, that he didn’t even want to ride the Carousel with me, so instead he waited for me to take a ride on it.
I noted the other week that the Carousel was now playing Carousel versions of German Polka, after initially playing traditional Carousel songs. Well. . for Holiday in the Park, that’s out the window too. . . one now rides the Carousel to Christmas Carols.
I rode my Fiesta Texas bunny, to “the Little Drummer Boy” (Bah-rump-a-dump-dum). . .LOL .. . . ok, It’s HitP, so they *totally* get a pass on this. Was a wonderful ride, as always.
Spassburg was almost completely deserted, but we could see down the “alley” that the park was projecting Holiday things, such as “Season’s Greetings” onto the quarry walls. They aren’t doing an end of evening show on the quarry walls, so this was a nice use of the technology they have to add to the experience.
We had eaten so late that we weren’t hungry, but we wanted to make use of the “snack” from the dining plan. So stopped into the fudge store, and picked up a couple of tubs of Cotton Candy (the two rang at $17, so I guess that’s a great deal for a “snack”), and the clerk even gave us a bag. We got them to go, basically.
Right across from the shop is where they moved “the Singing Saps
” this year – last year they were on the stage in Kidzopolis.
So we, and a few others, stopped and watched those cycle thru a couple of songs. Are they the highest tech thing in the world? Of course not. But they are stupid fun.. they’re trees with LED eyes/mouths, that sing. As noted, stupid fun. (and presented by Gold’s Gym that has a little sign next to them). . Bwaaaa-Haaa-Haaaa
Then it was time to head out, via the Main plaza… which really does look stunning once it gets dark enough. Added bonus is that the drizzle had made all the concrete so reflective, so everything looked so otherworldly. And that giant ornament? AMAZING at night.
we were in the park from ~4pm to 7pm – so about the length of time it took us to drive there, but it was more than enough since the park was so dead.
in that time I rode:
Iron Rattler x 2
Holiday Express (train)
Wonder Woman Golden Lasso
(Nick rode: Train). . LOL
but it was a great experience and I loved it, even if it did get a bit cold. And the drive home? A breeze, almost a normal drive even with the nasty weather: we left the park at 7, and got home at 8:30
Thanks for reading, now onto the pics!