Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
My girlfriend hates Six Flags New England. Merely suggesting we stop there when we literally pass it on the highway elicits a groan. She'd even take Story Land or Santa's Village over SFNE.
I never thought I’d see the day where she’d take SFNE over another park, but that was until our visit to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. They earned it.
*If you want positivity, please skip to the part where we ride Joker. If you want to see what kind of Six Flags day we had, please enjoy the next few paragraphs.*
Six Flags was firing on all cylinders. They left no area untouched. Parking was chaos. Customer service was poor. Food lines took forever. Rides were breaking down. Dispatches were horrifically bad. And the park was extremely dark, which is terrifying considering we visited during Holiday in the Park.
Our experience began with a Diamond Elite parking reservation. The employee scanned it and told us to follow the signs. To that I say, what signs? The parking lot was so dark, that the signage was illegible. After a lap around the lot, we thought we found the preferred lot (no sign of course), but it was coned off on all sides with no employee in sight. We cut our losses and parked way back in the black abyss.
There was no semblance of organization by the shuttle bus, so we hiked a mile to the main entrance. In retrospect, visiting California’s Great America was unfair to SFDK. The former was a winter wonderland. From the moment we entered Great America, we were dazzled by the glistening lights and live shows. Meanwhile SFDK had a single dude playing a banjo, some lights, and many areas of darkness.
Our first stop was the Flash Pass booth. My favorite benefit of the Diamond Elite membership is the two skip-the-line passes per visit. Our exchange went something like this:
Employee- Hi, what ride would you like?
Me- Two for Joker please.
Employee- Joker is running one train.
Me- These passes will be super helpful then.
Employee- Sorry, you cannot get them for Joker since it’s running one train.
It was a bummer Joker was off-limits essentially because the line was too long. But based on that logic, how many other rides were restricted? Anyone familiar with SFDK knows just how many of their coasters run with just one train. So did that mean I couldn’t use it on Superman either?
Logically Superman or Wonder Woman were the next best options, but we picked their only coaster running two trains, Medusa. I strongly doubted Medusa would have a line, but it was one of the few rides we cared to go on. I like Superman, but I ride Phobia all the time so I felt comfortable skipping it.
With one train on Joker, I figured it’d be a miserable wait. So we decided to get some Flags Famous Chicken Strips to help speed up the queue. We beat a large crowd to the food stand and noticed a second line open. Like any reasonable people would do, several of us jumped over there.
“This is for drinks only.”
We were pretty mad since there was no sign stating that and the other line now stretched a good 15-20 people deep. So we decided we'd just eat later.
By this point, we were just chuckling at everything that was going wrong. The only thing that could make it worse would be if Joker was closed.
Son of a biscuit. The clown was down.
We figured it'd be a good time to ride Harley Quinn but it was also down. I'm guessing Joker and Harley were getting busy in one of the animal exhibits. At least Wonder Woman was nearby too...but of course that was down too. I guess she wanted to make it a menage a trois. Superman was being morally responsible and cycling trains like a champ but it was several switchbacks deep.
If we only rode one ride tonight, we sure as heck was going to make sure it was Joker. So we bit the bullet and entered the queue. Usually you can't do that during a ride breakdown but there was no employee to stop people. There was only a sign warning us about the one train operations. The fact they have one made suggests this is a semi-regular occurrence.
Within five minutes, we heard an announcement the coaster reopened. It wasn’t for another ten minutes until we saw a train dispatched. We only had to wait 6-7 trains, but it took an hour with how glacially slow they were sending out trains.
While Joker’s crew was painstakingly slow, they were friendly and enthusiastic. Before each ride, they were pumping riders up. But best of all, they were allowing you to wait for specific rows. I had heard Joker had a strict assigned seating policy, so I was excited I could wait an extra train for the back.
Saying Joker rolls out of the station would be an understatement; this think has a mini launch. It has enough speed that the largest hill on the pre-lift actually offers a pop of real, genuine airtime. But that’s just the appetizer for the craziness that’s to follow.
The twisted drop offered the usual RMC first drop ejector air plus vicious laterals. This is my favorite RMC drop outside of Iron Rattler and the Raptors. That’s followed by something called a step-up under flip that’s the child of a zero-G roll and a turnaround. It didn't offer as much hangtime as I expected, but it sure beats a regular overbank.
Joker’s stall is the highlight of the ride. Further, it’s one of the best stalls anywhere. It’s similar to Goliath’s stall in the fact that it lasts forever. And for the entire duration, you are suspended in mid-air all while coming perilously close to Roar’s old structure.
The rest of the ride was a frenzy of powerful airtime hills, a great zero-G roll, and some turns. Admittedly Joker didn’t feel as fast as other RMCs, but it offered plenty of action. Joker is often called the worst RMC. Granted the worst RMC is still a world-class ride, but Joker was better than several of their coasters like Wicked Cyclone, Medusa, and Goliath. 9.5 out of 10
We arrived at the park pretty late (we have no regrets stopping at Muir Woods) and Joker’s lengthy queue gobbled up a huge chunk of time, so we only had 90 minutes left. We intended to go ride Medusa, but we got distracted.
Anyone who has been to Northern California knows that garlic fries are like crack to the area. Admittedly I was skeptical getting them at Six Flags. I figured they would dump a bunch of garlic powder on their generic fries, but these were thicker, crispier fries than usual with fresh garlic. They were really good!
We ended up eating the fries at the dolphin show. Through a stroke of luck, the show started as we walked by the stadium. It would have been an absolute shame to skip all the animals. That really is what makes Discovery Kingdom unique among the Six Flags parks.
The aquatic exhibits and shows seem like a budget SeaWorld. As much as I love dolphins, I haven’t seen an awesome show with them yet. SFDK had some loose Christmas overlay where the dolphins had to retrieve ornaments from the water. If that sounds boring, it was. Fortunately the ending delivered. They turned the dolphins loose much like that stupid lateral play against the Patriots a few weeks ago.
With an hour left, we could delay Medusa no further. Our skip passes were laughably unnecessary. While I secretly do take joy bypassing a lengthy queue with skip-the-line passes, Medusa’s short queue allowed us to ride twice in a span of 15 minutes- once in the front and once in the back.
If Superman Krypton Coaster didn't exist, Medusa would be king of the floorless coasters. Firstly, I want to know why more B&M loopers don’t have straight drops. Medusa’s has some fantastic floater air, much like SDC’s Wildfire. The first two inversions (vertical loop & dive loop) aren’t forceful, but they offer sweet hangtime as you exit them.
The back half of the ride has the snappier inversions. The snappiest of all is the zero-G roll. But the sea serpent (aka the screwed up cobra roll) and corkscrews are no slouches either. And by riding at night, the fact that the coaster is built on an old parking lot is less obvious. 8.5 out of 10
I had delayed it long enough. It was time to try the Skywarp. I heard awful things about Harley Quinn and warned my girlfriend accordingly. Without any hesitation she sat this one out and questioned my sanity.
“Why do you even want to ride it then?”
“I have to see if it’s really as bad as everyone says.”
And it’s not as bad as everyone says. It’s worse. It’s far worse. I expected a slightly bumpy and boring ride. Instead I thought it was going to kill me. When the train started shaking violently on the initial launch, I knew I was porked.
Harley Quinn was like riding a Super Loop that tracked as well as the back row of Mean Streak. When you mix in a neck-chopping transition on the Immelmann (while still being vibrated), this ride reaches a special level of suck. I really hope Skyline can improve the tracking on future models because it’s horrific here.
I really hope this counts as a coaster and makes it into the TPR Coaster Poll. I think it’s a worthy contender for the worst coaster in the world. That’s saying something considering it exists in the same park as Kong. 1 out of 10
It was 10 minutes to close. While we maybe could have snuck on Superman, we weren’t going to risk missing a final ride on Joker. Plus we figured there’d be enough people behind us that we could wait an extra train for the front. And that proved to be true.
After a 40 minute wait, we boarded the second to last train of the night. Joker was still a ton of fun up front, but the airtime was markedly weaker. When we returned to the station, the last train only had five people queuing.
“I’m feeling a little holiday cheer right now. If no one is waiting for your row and you would like to, you may ride again.”
That was awesome the operators would do that! What wasn’t awesome was the fact that of course someone was waiting for the front row. Thankfully the ride ops let us fill in empty seats. We needed to split up, but both of us rode towards the back of the train. Back to back rides on Joker was a fantastic way to end a visit filled with frustrations.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom may be the most unique Six Flags park. In many ways, it feels like two parks in one. The front half has two clusters of coasters. Meanwhile the back half is basically a hybrid zoo/aquarium.
While I liked the park more than my girlfriend, it is undoubtedly one of the weakest Six Flags parks. Joker finally gives the park the airtime machine it badly needed, but the operations and customer service need to improve. SFDK really needs to look at CGA as an example.