It was raining again when we woke up Monday morning, but we were still in the car and on our way to Six Flags Fiesta Texas by 10. It rained off and on as we drove toward the park. We considered stopping somewhere for some ponchos, but it had stopped raining again as we got within five miles of the park.
The entrance to the parking lot is awesome, with a big waterfall and a well-landscaped sign. I obviously knew the park was built in a rock quarry, but I had no idea the quarry was so large. The parking lot was basically empty, and we parked in one of the first few rows. Of course, it started pouring again as soon as we entered the lot. I thought Texas is supposed to be hot and dry.
We entered the park with our SFoT season passes and immediately took shelter in one of the shops. They were selling ponchos for $5 or so, but the line for them was ridiculously long, so we decided to head a bit further into the park to find a less busy shop. We picked up our ponchos from Casa de Loony Tunes and were given a season pass discount. Apparently SFFT does this for all food and merchendise purchased within the park. Are other Six Flags parks doing this?
Now protected from the rain, we ventured further into the park. The first coaster we came to was the Boomerang, which was closed and not testing. There weren't even any employees on the platform. We passed the park's mock steam train, which was sitting quietly in the station with a closed queue. Next we came to Superman: Krypton Coaster: closed, with its entrance covered in blue canvas and no trains cycling the course. Poltergeist: closed, not testing. Scream: closed. Multitudes of flat rides: closed. And the thing that really got me was that there were almost zero ride employees in sight. It was now 11:00, the park had been open an hour, and not a single attraction was operating. Did someone forget to tell Six Flags Fiesta Texas they were actually opening today?
The first (and very likely the only) operating attraction we found was Scooby Doo Ghostblasters. Zero wait. It was a pretty typical Sally dark ride. These are fun family attractions, but not something I need to ride at every park I visit. SFFT's seemed pretty average. I won, of course.
From here I could clearly see that Tony Hawk's Big Spin, along with every other coaster in the park, was closed with no trains cycling. I don't think any of these rides were even staffed. Most of the flats were down, too (I believe the scrambler in the boardwalk area was the only one I saw operating). I understand that rain can put a damper in ride operations, and that maintenance can have trouble clearing a ride for opening if the the weather isn't cooperating. This, however, was just ridiculous. As I said above, it's almost as if everyone just forgot about opening the park that day. The rain sucked for us, but I have certainly been to parks in worse. It never downpoured, but rather stayed somewhere between a drizzle and a heavy sprinkle. It also never rained for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. So what the hell was the deal here? I can understand a handful - even half - of the park's rides being down due to the weather, but nearly every single one? Inexcusable.
We walked back toward the front of the park and noticed the queue for the railroad was now open. As luck would have it, we ended up in a car with the most obnoxious school girls I have ever seen. Rather than taking a nice, relaxing ride around a very pretty park, we were trapped in the car for what seemed like an hour with screaming, swearing, stomping, chanting, rapping, and singing girls. I seriously considered throwing myself from the train. Where the hell are these kids' chaperones??
Since our first ride around the park was absolute hell, we decided to go around again to see what we missed while wincing in irritation. Nothing else was open anyway. Fiesta Texas is a beautiful park, with lots of nice landscaping, inspired ride placement, and some decent theming, particularly in the Spassburg area. The waterfalls down the side of the quarry are a stunning sight, and I wish I would have had my camera with. Very cool.
From the train I could see logs cycling on Bugs' White Water Rapids, so we headed there. What the hell, we were wet anyway. We walked through the nicely-themed queue and waited just a few minutes before boarding. This was a very nice log ride, with a couple nice drops, one of them with a fun "coaster-like" hump at the bottom. It's integrated very well into the area, with the river flowing through, around, and above the castle that serves as the ride's queue. There were a few cartoon characters along the way, most of which are designed to spray riders with water. Quite honestly, though, I had expected more theming while on the ride. It seems odd to put so much effort into theming the ride's queue house and not put anything into the ride itself. Ride-wise it's one of the nicer flumes out there (Hopkins makes such nice product), but I thought the theming was sort of a missed opportunity. Oh well.
By this point people were obviously growing just as frustrated as we were with nothing in the park being open. A large line was forming outside of Superman, even though the entrance was still completely blocked by some blue canvas "door." I suggested jumping in line as trains began to cycle, but Nick wanted something to eat first. We waited in line forever for a simple burger and fries at the Superheroes Grill. Since eating and shopping were basically the only things to do in the park at this point, there were crowds of school children loading up on burgers. The food itself was pretty typical amusement park fare. Personally, I don't think the prices here were that outrageous considering the burger came with an enormous pile of fries.
Superman finally opened, and we made our way into the queue. We waited about 15 minutes for the back seat. It of course started raining again just as we were leaving the station, which made for a rather painful ride as rain drops tend to sting at high speeds. Regardless, this is a fantastic ride. Both dives off the cliff offer some nice visuals, and the first drop was surprisingly good. Nice hang time in the loop, one of the better zero-g rolls, and a smooth cobra roll. Both the entry and exit to the midcourse are nice (a cool change of direction in and some airtime on the way out), and the brakes barely tapped the train. The second half is typical, but not boring, and ends with a decent pop of air in the front half of the train. Excellent floorless coaster. 9/10
I spotted a Rattler train cycling the course, so we went there next. This is essentially how the rest of the day went, gradually riding everything as the park opened attractions one-by-one. It was now well past noon, and while I'm glad attractions were slowly opening, I still think it took them far longer than it should have. The good news was that as more attractions opened, they absorbed the crowd nicely, and wait times dropped to virtually nothing.
We walked past the large waterfall and into Crackaxle Canyon. This is clearly the largest themed area, occupying what feels like nearly half of the park. There's quite a bit of open space around the ampitheatre that could probably be put to good use in the future. I'd like to see a large, modern flat or two installed here, but I'm guessing that Thomas Town or Wiggles World is far more likely.
The Rattler has one of the oddest queues I've ever seen. It's essentially a very long set of ramps that wind back up and forth up the side of the station. The weird thing is that these ramps are no more than about three feet wide. I'd hate to have to wait in a long line for this attraction, as I'd imagine claustrophobia would kick in. Then again, I'm not sure I'd ever be willing to wait in a long line for this ride.
The ride itself is about as bad as I expected. The first drop bottomed out hard, slamming us to the right. The train than shook violently back and forth as it climbed into the turnaround and into the second swooping drop. Apparently the guy in front of us lost his hat at this point, but I was being thrown around so much I didn't even notice. Then we hit a set of hard trims and entered the most ridiculous helix ever created. Long, boring, and filled with endless undulating hills that do nothing to make it interesting. The dive through the quarry wall was the only part of the ride I enjoyed, and I think perhaps they should consider tearing out everything except this part and trying again. As is, it falls victim to Oversided Wooden Coaster Syndrom (OWCS). I wonder if there comes a time when a park's maintenance department decides their ride is more work than it's worth and just stop maintaining it altogether. Clearly that has happened here. It's not as bad as the Texas Giant, but it basically sucked. 3/10
We moved next door to try out Roadrunner Express. This is another coaster with some nice placement along the quarry wall. It also has a nice looking station and queue. I loved this ride. As a family attraction, I think it is wildly successful. It's smooth, fast, and just plain fun. There are a surprising amount of thrills here, but it's gentle enough that everyone who meets the height requirement should be able to enjoy it. This certainly is not a kiddie coaster, but it works great for families. I also loved the little cartoon scenes along the way. A tunnel or two would have improved the ride, but I guess you can't have everything. 8/10
Continuing around the park, we arrived at the Boomerang, which was finally operating. There was no line at all here, and we were able to grab a back seat ride with no wait. Fiesta Texas's Boomerang operates with the newer Vekoma trains, so while it's a bit cramped for legroom, it's much smoother than the others. Nick loved it so much we rode twice without getting out of our seats. Unfortunately, for some reason this didn't seem to be as forceful as other Boomerangs I've ridden. Oh well. 5/10
With just two coasters left, we crossed to the other side of the park to see if either of them had opened yet. Poltergeist had just a few people waiting outside of the station, so we got in line. We grabbed a ride near the back of the train. Fiesta Texas was only operating one train, which was a little disappointing, but in all honesty another probably wasn't necessary. The station is nicely themed from the outside, but could some work inside. There was some wallpaper and creepy portraits hung on the walls, but the theming has kind of fallen apart over time, and looks pretty crappy and half-assed now. It's too bad, because I think there was some major theming potential here. Some cool lighting effects, some fog in the launch tunnel, and an enclosed station could have gone a long way. Strangely enough, Poltergeist felt less intense than PKI's Flight of Fear. Perhaps it was the sunlight. Fun ride, okay launch, but nothing exceptional. 7/10
I wanted to grab a ride on Scream because I've never ridden a combo tower, but Fiesta Texas was only operating one (out of three) towers and it had quite a line. We passed on it, deciding to try our luck with Tony Hawk's Big Spin. Unfortunately, Six Flags Fiesta Texas still hadn't managed to open their brand new coaster, a full five hours after the park opened. There were a few maintenance guys in the station and once in a while a car would cycle the course, but it didn't look like they were opening anytime soon.
I grabbed a slice of pizza at Papa Johns. It was average at best. The best part of eating at Papa Johns is the garlic butter dipping sauce, and that little perk was not present at Six Flags. Good for the arteries, bad for the taste buds. It's unfortunate that so many parks find it difficult to succeed with something as easy to make as pizza, especially with a national pizza chain at the helm.
Superman now had no line at all, so we rode several times consecutively, including one ride in the front row. The view is great from up front, but the back is definitely the place to be ride-wise. The sun was beating down now, and as things warmed up, the ride not noticibly faster. Unfortunately, the braking became noticibly harder to match. It never reached a Busch Gardens level of trimming, but it was a minor annoyance.
We grabbed another ride on Poltergeist, and then were pretty much ready to leave the park. We walked over to Tony Hawk one last time to find that quite a line was forming outside the entrance. Obviously everyone else in the park had also ridden all of the major rides at this point and were ready for some Tony Hawk action. They opened the queue about five minutes later - good timing on our part. The queue was surprisingly well-done. It looks like St. Louis got the shaft on this one, since they didn't get the nicely-themed indoor queue. We waited about ten minutes to ride. The line would have moved much faster with more efficient operations; not only were they on the slow side, but they were sending many cars out with just two riders. I hope they can resolve these issues before the summer crowds really pick up.
Since it was just me and Nick in the car, we sat on the same side to maximize the spinning. Our car spun a lot, probably more than any other ride I've had on a Gerstlauer spinning coaster, and the whole thing was very disorienting. There's potential for great airtime on this coaster, but it's so dependant on which direction you're facing when you hit the drops that it delivers at random. The good thing about this is that when you do get the crazy airtime, it's unexpected and thus seems that much more forceful. These are such great family attractions, though, that the sporadic airtime doesn't even matter. The on-ride video struck me as bizarre, but given that people will pretty much buy anything, this will no doubt do well for them. I'm sure this will be a hit for this park with the summer crowds. Some landscaping couldn't hurt though. 7/10
We grabbed one last ride on Superman on our way out (have I mentioned that I love this ride?). I left SFFT impressed, but not as blown away as I expected to be. Theming was nice and (for the most part) well-done, but I don't think it was anything incredible. Certainly most of Six Flags Great Adventure is just as nice to look at, and Six Flags New England is just as well-themed.
From an operations standpoint, I think it's hard to judge. They only had two people working on their major attraction (S:KC) - one behind the panel and one checking restraints. I see no reason why the operator can't share in the restraint-checking if they're only going to staff two people to this ride. I've never seen a park so completely handicapped by some mild weather. It should never take a park until almost a full hour *after* the gate has opened to get their first ride operational. And mechanical issues aside, it shouldn't take half the day to get your brand new coaster running either. These things could be flukes, or they could be indicitive of larger problems. As a one-time visitor, it's difficult for me to say.
Overall, SFFT still ranks in the top third of the Six Flags parks I've visited. They've got a lot of great family attractions here, but not a lot that's specifically geared for kids. But I think they could also use another major thrill ride, too. There's quite a bit of room around the ampitheatre, and while I'd love to see a hypercoaster start out here and make its way along the cliff in the back of the park, I think it's far more likely that this area will soon be home to a new children's area. When they do finally get around to adding a thrill ride, I think a hypercoaster might be the most logical choice, unless they decide to invest in fixing the Rattler. A few more modern flats couldn't hurt either. Then again, I wouldn't be too upset with a nice inverted coaster.
After Fiesta Texas, we headed back into downtown San Antonio to look for some salsa. Nick's boyfriend is absolutely obsessed with salsa to a nauseating degree, and I figured El Mercado (the "largest Mexican market outside of Mexico!") would be the place to look. It was a tourist trap, as expected, with the exact same tourist crap I've seen for sale in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
We found some overpriced salsa and headed back to the hotel before returning back downtown for dinner on the Riverwalk. This time it was for pasta at Paesanos. It was pretty average Italian fare, similar to what you'd find at an Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill, but it's hard to complain when the setting is so awesome. Eating a late dinner has its advantages, as we had a great table right on the river. It's a little disappointing we ended our trip on a Monday night, since I would have loved to have one final crazy night out, but Mondays aren't exactly the greatest nights for clubbing.
We flew out Tuesday afternoon after another stop at the Riverwalk and some more sight-seeing around San Antonio. I'll post pictures and more about that on my blog within the next few days.
*** Edited 6/27/2007 10:02:43 PM UTC by coasterdude318***
The day we went, the weather was gorgeous, but it took them a while to get rides open, as well, so perhaps it's more than weather.
SKC opened with 2 employees in the station, which is unacceptible operations to me. Should have been at bare minimum 3 people.
On the positive side, they seemed to be running Tony Hawk better, as they seemed to usually have 3-4 people in each car. On one of our rides, we were opposite 2 little girls, so the spinning action was better than the first ride.
I wasn't sure which was worse--Rattler or Texas Giant, but I might rank Rattler a little higher, since I actually did like the first drop and the drop into the quarry. Plus, the setting is so cool. TG didn't really have any redeeming qualities, other than it looks cool.
Interestingly enough, I was impressed with the rides I had on Poltergeist. The ride could use some paint, and you're right about what you said about the inside of the station. But this thing was flying! I'm used to Joker's Jinx and Flight of Fear at KD, but this blew them both out of the water with speed. That was impressive.
Too bad you missed Scream--it's a decent ride. What was weird, though, was the first ride we took, I got a nice pop of air from the space shot portion. The second ride, though, was pretty much devoid of the pop, which kinda stank. It is nice, though, to be able to get the "2 rides in 1" type of deal.
coastin' since 1985
I can't wait till I'm in a position in the future where I can get to the States and go on a roadtrip from coast to coast visiting all the parks I read about!
its not a mock steam train. it used to use steam, and now uses deisel, but its real. if that made sense. lol.
Glad you enjoyed it. One of my favorite parks as well. Can't wait to get back there, and back to Schlitterbahn.
Yes, it was raining off and on when we visited. But I've been to many other parks in much worse weather; I've never seen a park almost completely shut down because of a light sprinkle. Okay, so the go-karts and Tony Hawk can't operate in the rain. No big deal. What about the park's other 30 rides? There was no lightning or severe weather. I think most everyone here is aware that rides shut down during storms. This was a small rain shower, not a storm. I can accept that weather can delay ride openings, but when those rides aren't even staffed, the park obviously isn't working very hard to open them.
Also unacceptable is two operators on a major attraction like Superman Krypton Coaster. Unfortunately, that sounds like normal staffing for this time of year. Tony Hawk was well-staffed during my visit (4 employees, I think), but none of them were grouping people, and they were still slow.
A train that looks like a steam train but uses diesel is still a mock steam train. :)
As for the area around the ampitheatre, we visited on a day the park closed before dark, so I wasn't aware that area was used for seating for the night show. I'd think there's still more than enough room there for a few rides or a children's area, and it'd make far more sense than pushing the park out further past the boardwalk. And who suggested building anything over 200 feet?
Don't get me wrong here, I really liked SFFT. It's a gorgeous park. The theming is nice. Ride selection is decent. Employees were fine once they started working. It's one of my favorite Six Flags parks. It just sounds like their operations department needs a kick in the butt.
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