DCA, SFMM and Disneyland May 5-7 (long)

Friday, May 11, 2007 5:02 AM
Kudos to everyone who offered last-minute advice.

Day 1: California Adventure

We arrived at 11:00 am, with about 3 hours of sleep. It was a tough day, but we made the most of it.

Golden State
• DCA is known for its quality food. FYI, all the quality is east of the giant bear head. In our sleepy stupor, we tried to eat near Soarin’ and Mulhulland Madness. Ew! They call that food?!?
• Soarin’ was a great ride, but we could handle something more intense. Does anyone else think that the pine scent alone would be sufficient, and the other scents are just overkill?
• Grizzly River Run – IMO, good, but not as good as Kali River Rapids.
• Redwood Creek Challenge Trail – we were too brain-dead and grumpy to agree on a better attraction. <Yawn.>
• Golden Dreams = perfect napping place
• Mission Tortila Factory and The Bakery Tour –yummy samples!

Paradise Pier
• It’s amazing how well Disney imagineers captured the look and feel of a typical amusement park. But didn’t Walt want the exact opposite?
• Golden Zephyr – a spinney ride with views of Paradise Pier attractions.
• Mulholland Madness – wild mouse. No desire to repeat.
• Orange Stinger – a good swing ride – the walls make it feel faster than it is.
• California Screamin’ – fast, smooth and fun. I wish we the time and energy to repeat it.
• Sun Wheel – rode a moving car at night. The ride was pretty good, those cars rock around lots.
• Maliboomer – rode at night and saw Disney’s Electrical Parade setting up back-stage.

A Bugs Land
• Nice kiddy area. We didn’t spend much time here. We skipped It’s a Bug’s Life since we saw it in Florida.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot
• We did a double-take as we looked several blocks down the street. The street is only a block long – the painted backdrop view blended seamlessly.
• Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue – a typical Disney movie ride-through attraction. The story seems to end abruptly.
• The Twighlight Zone Tower of Terror – the creepy actor / cast member just added to the already awesome dark ride / human yo-yo drop ride. Definitely the best attraction in the park.
• Turtle Talk with Crush - very fun and cute. Totally reliant on audience participation –if you’re a stick-in-the mud that cannot interact with a cartoon character, don’t go here. IMO, “It’s totally righteous dude! Cha…”
• Aladdin – Thanks to Jeffery R Smith for recommending this. Even though we were totally exhausted (and fell asleep in several dark quiet scenes), we were blown away by the professional and enthusiastic performances in this 45 minute production. If Aladdin is made into a Broadway production, fork out $80 or more for tickets. It’s that good!

We grabbed a late supper at Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney. Our server was overly enthusiastic, slapping me around like I just made a touchdown. (Very weird!) But I was too tired to care. We took a couple photos in the Lego store, and headed to the hotel to crash.


Day 2: Six Flags Magic Mountain

We woke up well rested, but not early enough to get a good breakfast and arrive at gate-opening. We opted for a good breakfast and arriving 30 minutes after opening. I warned my wife that this park has the reputation of the worst ride operations in the entire Six Flags chain. We walked in expecting the worst…

We skipped on Flash Pass ($25 for four ride coupons) because it would not cover X.

We never saw a ‘closed attractions’ list, but within two hours of gate opening, we found X, Déjà vu, Ninja, Superman, Scream, and (of course) Flashback closed. X, Ninja and Superman would all operate later in the day, but our first impression of the park was very poor.

While we were disappointed with the closed attractions, we were pleasantly surprised by the staff – virtually all were friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic.

The weather was hot (84 F / 30 C) and sunny. We ate lunch at Mooseburger, primarily because it was table service and air conditioned. The food quality was no better than our DCA experience the day before, but because we could just sit in the air conditioning and let the food come to us, we savored it and even left a generous tip.

Six Flags leveraged their Photo Pass system in this park – using bar-coded ID cards (or season pass bar-codes) to collect and identify all our gate photos, character photos and ride photos. We could browse and buy them at the main photo shop near the gate or on-line when we got home. It worked like a charm.

• Jet Stream – our first ride of the day, after finding X closed, Tatsu queued for 2.5 hours (WTF?!?), and Déjà vu closed. (Revolution and Viper were operating, but we walked by them trying to get to Tatsu early.) Jet stream is an ancient log flume that runs as rough as a poorly maintained woody. But the water felt good.
• Gold Rusher – the family coaster ride was fine, but what really lifted our spirits was our conversation with a Hawaiian family in the queue. They told us that the previous day (Saturday), the queue for Tatsu was less than 30 minutes at 8:00 pm. My wife and I expected queues for major coasters to increase at night (like our visits to CP), but I guess things are different here on the wrong coast.
• The Riddler’s Revenge – Stand-up coaster haters must try this ride. It is the smoothest, most enjoyable stand-up coaster I’ve ever experienced. My wife and I rode single (walk onto the platform) and rode in rows 3 and 4. Our heads never touched the shoulder pads. Amazing! Why can’t Mantis be this smooth?
• Batman – it is what it is – an excellent, compact invert. It’s a great ride, wherever it is installed.
• Colossus – a good woody, but not great. Rode front and back rows. The back offered a couple quick pops of air, but nothing very intense.
• Goliath – elaborate queue theming. Back rows experiences buckets of airtime on the hills. Front row seat offers great anticipation since the train slowly crests the lift hill before diving into a tunnel. Helixes were intense, with powerful G-forces – it was difficult to raise your arms. Awesome ride. Our favorite at Magic Mountain.
• Viper – we liked it, but it was very intense and head-banging rough. I got some good bruises on my arms from banging against the restraints (almost as bad as my Storm Runner bruises). From the top of Viper we saw staff working on X and running empty cars….
• X opened a few minutes later (3:00-ish) and we quickly joined the queue. We requested a front-seat ride. Coincidentally, the ride-op was just reprimanded by his lead that there was no preferential seating – the lead insisted that no more than two riders in any row on the platform and he was not happy about the eight people already waiting for the front row. Our ride op discretely told us to stand in the waiting area and he would call for us when the front row queue was empty. No problem. We were on with a total wait time of 40 minutes (20 minutes in the queue plus 20 minutes on the platform). And what a ride. Totally disorientating. Just when I thought I knew where I was going, we rolled over backwards and I was lost. A very good ride. We rode again (30 minute wait), lucking out to get another front-seat ride. We found our second ride (front-right) much rougher than our first (front-left). I suspect the rougher ride was due more to the additional warm-up time than the seat location, but others may have more educated opinions.
• Tatsu – only a 40 minute wait by 6:00 pm. Magic Mountain maintained lots of trees under and around the flying coaster, which increases the thrill factor. Superman Ultimate Flight at SF Great Adventure seems boring in comparison.
• Revolution – a classic steel coaster, actually ran a lot more smooth than we expected. Definitely worth a re-ride, but we didn’t have the time. Like Ninja and Tatsu, Revolution is surrounded by trees. It feels like a terrain-hugging coaster.
• Ninja is a nice suspended coaster, which makes great use of trees and terrain. Does any other coaster have lift hills immediately before and immediately after the station?
• Superman The Escape – the sound of this coaster echoed through the park. It’s a loud thundering boom, like a jet launched from an aircraft carrier. I’m sure Superman was incredible when it was new, but the six-second 0 to 100 mph launch is Disney-tame compared to TTD and KK. Even Flight of Fear (KI) and Storm Runner (HP) have more intense launches than Superman.

Summary: We were impressed with Six Flags Magic Mountain. There are lots of great coasters. The ride closures were frustrating, but staff enthusiasm balanced this out. We will be back.


Day 3: Disneyland

Looking back, I’m not sure how we coped. We didn’t pack shorts and were wondering around the park in denim. Anaheim broke records hitting 97 F / 36 C. But what a day…

Disneyland and California Adventure also have a photo-sharing system similar to Six Flags Photo Pass, but some key Disney ride photo systems (Space Mountain and Tower of Terror) are not integrated.

Tomorrowland
• Space Mountain rocks! While the coaster ride isn’t much more than a wild-mouse, the sound and visual effects really pack a punch. It’s disorientating and fun at the same time.
• Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – after riding, you can email your ride-photo (including scores) to make your friends and coworkers jealous. Great idea!
• Star Tours – we did not ride it again, but we browsed the gift shop and found a great T-shirt. Front side: “Judge me by my size, do you?” Back side: Yoda, wearing mouse ears and eating a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar, stands below a sign that reads, “You must be this tall to ride this ride.”

Fantasyland
• Matterhorn Bobsleds – The first coaster I ever rode – 26 years ago. It is a very imaginative ride. I think the Yeti and the splash-down are my favorite elements.
• Mad Tea Party – the tea-cups would not spin very fast for us. I guess it’s time to lose some weight.
• Alice in Wonderland – nice Disney movie ride-through attraction.
• Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – crazy story and concept. Driving through the manor house always makes me smile, but the ride seems shorter than I remember as a kid.
• Snow White’s Scary Adventure – OK, we see lots of the witch trying to get Snow White, and when Snow White eventually eats the poisoned apple, riders are shown a 15-second scene with the dwarves taking Snow White away. The end. WTF? I thought Disney attractions usually tried to include a happy ending, or at least most of the story. It’s as if they built half a ride.
• Peter Pan – by far the best Disney movie ride-through attraction – it actually follows the major movie plot elements from beginning to end.

Mickey’s Toontown
• Gadget’s Go Coaster – the ride and theming were fine, but the stagnant water underneath reminded me of the green stuff that floats through Venice. Yuck!
• Roger Rabit’s Car Toon Spin – what a simple yet wonderful concept – take a movie-themed ride-through attraction and allow the guest to spin the ride vehicle as it travels along the track. Cool animation effects too. Riding this makes me want to watch the movie again.

Frontierland
• Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – I just love the theming on this roller coaster, but I could not pick a favorite between the installations at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom or Disneyland Paris. All are the best-themed mine rides I’ve ever ridden.
• Sailing Ship Columbia – guests could explore the main and lower decks. It was all fixed up, ready for the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.

Adventureland
• Indiana Jones Adventure – we did not know what to expect, and we were totally blown away. This was the biggest surprise at Disneyland. The story was well developed and the special effects were virtually perfect. It was like the best haunted house ride you could imagine, scarier and more intimate than Revenge of the Mummy.
• Jungle Cruise – Very cheesy, just how I like it. “Aw! Look at the lions protecting the sleeping zebra.”

New Orleans Square
• Pirates of the Caribbean – We didn’t sing along as much as we’d intended. But it was still really fun.
• Haunted Mansion – The ride was OK, but the cast members were not as intimidating as we’ve experienced in WDW and Disneyland Paris.

Critter Country
• The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Cute ride, but the ride vehicle is not as well suited as the Florida version – it didn’t bounce along with Tigger, but rather just wobbled from side to side as we rode through the story. We also noticed that it was relatively dead – the attraction really should be in Fantasyland and it seems to be ignored in this corner behind Splash Mountain. (It may be busier when Splash Mountain is operating.)

We left the park at 6:00 and headed to the airport loaded down with souvenirs and ride photos. It was an awesome weekend. We can’t wait to come back.

*** Edited 5/11/2007 9:14:40 AM UTC by greatwhitenorth***

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Friday, May 11, 2007 9:26 AM
It's interesting to hear you liked Kali better than Grizzly. I actually worked on Kali and don't like it as much as Grizzly. ha ha!! Go figure. But, compared to most rapids rides, they blow everything else away - at least that I've ridden.

I'm glad to hear you loved Indiana Jones. That's one of my favorite ride systems Disney has created. I think I prefer Countdown to Extinction (Dinosaur) just because it opened while I worked there, but the ride tracks are basically the same.

I agree with you too about Pooh. That dead end midway is just very poor planning and unlike Disney. They don't normally create dead ends for that specific reason. It disorients guests.

I feel VERY lucky now based on your experience at Magic Mountain. I would've been disappointed if rides were up and down as much as they were with you. But, we happened to luck out with only Tatsu opening late.

Sounds like you had a great time overall though. I miss Disneyland already. :)

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Friday, May 11, 2007 11:03 AM
You thought Alice in Wonderland was good??? It was okay, but what's the point of having a ride named Alice in Wonderland if you don't even see her going through the story. She's not in the ride. That's kind of stupid. I agree with the Snow White ride. I didn't like that it never really ended. They should fix that. Shorten some other scene, and put an ending to it.

I forgot, but if that ride has all the dwarfs one by one like WDW in the mines, than they can put them altogether, and move the other scenes around. It doesn't really matter if you see them one by one. It's not really part of the story. Of course, that would take a lot of work.

Why wasn't Scream open?

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Friday, May 11, 2007 1:30 PM
I thought Grizzly River was a monster in comparison to Kali River. What ride better resembles a white water rafting trip?

I'm not at all surprised to hear Tatsu is better ride than all the other cookie cutter flying coasters out there. It is a ride concept designed for a more scenic coaster experience (front row seats for everyone) without the need for high intensity loops and turns which honestly is not all that comfortable to do on your stomach. B&M has defiantly enhanced the flying coaster concept, but my guess is Tatsu is the first to tap into the unique potential of the flying coaster. What I don't get is why we've had to wait so long for a park build something like Tatsu, a coaster that almost didn't happen if Shapiro had anything to say about it. I haven't ridin' it yet but how could a B&M scenic, terrain flying coaster not be great?

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Friday, May 11, 2007 2:14 PM

rc-madness said:It is a ride concept designed...without the need for high intensity loops

You might want to actually ride Tatsu before you say that. The loop is DEFINITELY high intensity. I thought it was wicked, but the two chicks next to me didn't think so. They were all screaming and going "woo woo" the whole time until we entered the loop. Then they became quite silent and after the loop said, "wow, i didn't like that part" then went back to their "woo woo" again. LOL!! It was actually quiet amusing.

You guys must've missed the sign at the end of Snow White that said "and they lived happily ever after." LOL!! My friend and I both thought the same thing after riding that. We both turned to each other and were like, "what"? LOL!!

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Friday, May 11, 2007 2:31 PM

rc-madness said:
Tatsu is better ride than all the other cookie cutter flying coasters out there. It is a ride concept designed for a more scenic coaster experience (front row seats for everyone) without the need for high intensity loops and turns which honestly is not all that comfortable to do on your stomach.

Tatsu is just as intense as other flyers. My wife loves them beginning to end. I like the flying, but loops make me feel like I've been sucker-punched in the stomach (Superman Ultimate Flight, X-Flight and Tatsu). It's Tatsu's run through the trees that makes it a better ride than it's eastern counterparts.

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Friday, May 11, 2007 2:38 PM

Spinout said:
Why wasn't Scream open?

No idea. When they were closed, X and Deja Vu had staff at the entrances with scripted responses for guests. Scream was totally empty, no staff anywhere.
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Friday, May 11, 2007 4:27 PM
TIs funny about MM on my trip on a friday on my trip everything was open and there werent any lines whatsoever for anything, that sucks real bad. Good TR.
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Friday, May 11, 2007 6:12 PM
Good report...I told you Alladin was good. I hate it when a show becomes something I want to do at a park. Somebody on here (Moosh?) told me a long time ago to watch the show...pretty darn good.

P.S. The closed Six Flags rides w/o warning has been status quo for YEARS! Glad you had a good CA trip!

P.S. Heading to Disneyland tomorrow as a junior high chaperone... :(

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Thursday, May 17, 2007 8:35 PM
Greatwhitenorth...

Just noticed you didn't mention how many trains were running on the coasters at Magic Mountain. You wouldn't happen to remember would you?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007 1:58 AM

kRaXLeRidAh said:you didn't mention how many trains were running on the coasters at Magic Mountain. You wouldn't happen to remember would you?

During my visit, it wasn't much of an issue. Any coaster with a significant line was running multiple trains. I remember STO on Gold Rusher, Ninja and Revolution. Superman the Escape was only operating one track. X and Tatsu had capacity limited by the speed of loading and checking restraints, but both were operating multiple trains.

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