TR: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Associated parks:

TR: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Vallejo, CA

I have to be honest, I kept thinking, "Gosh this is a valuable piece of San Francisco property. I bet they could build at least 400 homes on this, at least half of them could fit on the shoreline! Let's see, at 1,000,000 per house, that's 400 million dollars..."

Even when I was riding the coasters. "Boy I can see from the top of this lift hill how they could build town homes here, maybe a courtyard in the middle. Woosh. First drop! Plenty of room for town house parking over there. Woosh. Air time! Two story town homes could go right over there. Headchopper!"

Premier bought the park in 1996, and added Amusement rides starting in 1998, according to The thrill rides are oddly packed into the front entrance, for the most part. And Roar, un-themed, hidden away in a back corner. The whole place has an impermanent feel to it. The animals don't belong in this habitat, they're imported from Africa, and placed in cages that appear tiny versus some of the other world-class animal parks in the country. It seems disingenuous, fraudulent. The animal conservation theme seems self-serving and contrived. What does it need? An Intamin mega-coaster? A naturist celebrity tie-in? It's a toss up.

The dolphin attendants are professional and communicative. The landscaping is lush, and is the best of any Six Flags park I've seen.

But it feels empty, and cold. There's no sex appeal to it. No celebrity appeal. Where is the emotional investment in the attractions, here? Where's the emotional story that draws me in to an attraction?

Although the cages are way too small for the animals, they're well-kept and tidy, with very little odor. The pet-the-dolphin exhibits are walk-up attractions that look deceptively simple to maintain and operate, but are incredibly sophisticated, especially with the scrutiny of animal cruelty acitivists and vigilant green party members.

However, one leopard sat in his cage, panting, as he listened to the park music piped in next door. I'm not a green party guy or anything, but this was just uncomfortable to see. It's like the only things the giraffe can see from their cage is a shuttle coaster. Maybe Six Flags can kill two birds with one stone and turn the animals into ride operators. They're trainable, apparently.

Where are my polished hosts? Where are the professional spokespeople? A ride operator on Roar ate candy in plain view of the line queue, and, even though it was 70 degrees, covered his head with his windbreaker hood so you couldn't see his face, and occasionally put his head down on the railing to rest, all which made him look like a "gangsta". Unsettling, really.

Two performers tried to do a "Wheel of Fortune" prize game near the main entrance, but the M.C.'s were a couple of college kids whose banter was crass and a little blue. They made jokes about Rocky Mountain Oysters (which is such a tired old chestnut, tasteless enough to satisfy a rude late night crowd, which must happen here a lot.) They went into unfortunate, drawn-out innuendo about what Rocky Mountain oysters are (bull testicles) and the audience just stared at them, like, "We get it. I've got children in strollers, here." The material had an improvisational feel to it, but the content was too crass for a daytime crowd, it rambled, and was unpolished. The two hosts over-talked each other, repeated each other, and they often walked away from the audience member who was on stage.

To MC a game like this, and to do it well, takes mature improv talent and experience. Typically, a professional double-team of hosts will create a banter between them, one playing the fool, where the focus becomes more about the sidekick than the guest who's been selected. That's one option. But this segment lacked any clear "game" or through-line, it was too crass for their assembled family audience, the segment had no predetermined length, and kept the audience member up there for way, way too long. (Looked like they were stalling.) These two young performers apparently wanted to "riff" on the subject of Rocky Mountain Oysters, in a free-for-all type stream of consciousness style, (which stand up comedy and comedy hosting never are, by the way. Even random improvisational style standup is drawn from a pretty sturdy rolodex.) It was just uncomfortable to watch. The MCs were in oddly fitting pants, too. Kind of those, kid-still-in-college-and-still-growing kind of pants. They looked uncomfortable, "uniformy" and dowdy. Overall, the impression was that these weren't pros, they were college kids, falling forward.

Again, as in most Six Flags parks, I see a lot of guests riding Medusa once, and that's it. Kong, once, and that's it. No re-rides. I see a lot of guests re-riding Roar, though. People loved this mid-level ride, and the station was full from 1PM on well into the afternoon.

That's the difference between the incredible feeling of visiting theme parks in the 1970's with plenty of mid-level thrill attractions, versus the alienating feeling of visiting these death-machine-filled concrete jungles of the new millennium. Twenty years ago, kids rode the Demon and Willard's Whizzer, and Magnum, and shuttle loops, and the Thunderbolt over and over and over again. Nowadays, Medusa is so intense, it's good for one ride before your body gets that "aluminum foil" odor from the near-death adrenaline rush, and that's it for the day. The 2008 Tony Hawk spinning coaster should help the need for mid-range coasters. I just can't imagine how they're going to tie it into a nature theme. It's a toss up.

Not a long line for Medusa today. Or any day, for that matter.

I went back to ride Roar like everyone else to wait in line for this re-rideable coaster.

This was my first time riding a GCI, this one is one of the company's first, built in 1999. The recording they play in the loading station keeps saying that it is California's longest, tallest and fastest wooden coaster. This is, of course, untrue. It may be true for Northern California.

One train operation. The ride still packs a punch, and there's plenty of airtime in the back seat. There's a visual thrill in seeing an impossible twists in the approaching track, twists you wouldn't see on a Gravity Group coaster. The cars are incredibly comfortable--the most comfortable wooden coaster cars I've ridden. The trains shuffled quite heavily, though, and the ride was far from butter-smooth like the Voyage which I rode in May, or Thunderhead, which I've read about.

The way this coaster is laid out, you can't see it, really, from the park. It's covered up by its own loading station, and the entrance to the park doesn't offer you a good look at the coaster in its entirety, either. There's no pedestrian vantage point in the park to view this coaster. The ride has plenty of fun elements, and it picks up speed unexpectedly, midcourse. It is inherently re-rideable.

On my last ride, low and behold, someone had thrown their seatbelt over the side of their car (they're double seatbelts on Roar), and it actually slipped in between the station platform and the train, and couldn't be pulled up through the slot once the train was in the station. (In other words, the silver buckle was wedged underneath the platform between the platform and the car. Weird.)

There's a halloween graveyard walk-through where they have various macabre scenes. One, in particular, was thoroughly disturbing. There is what appears to be a tall, bald, female alien, more human than alien, hands strapped behind her back, hanging by the neck from a wire strung over a tree limb, with her body placed in a black plastic bag. This took some planning. Happy Halloween, kids.

On Roar, there was a 20 minute delay while they called maintenance and got advice on how to deal with the stuck seat belt problem. Not to worry. While you wait in the Roar station, you can look out over the park, and figure out where they might put the cul de sacs when they convert the park into a housing development. *** Edited 10/28/2007 12:21:38 AM UTC by Bill***

Private housing???
Oops. Thanks.
Your attempt at coming off with well-educated, well-read, and smart comments are very transparent. It's like reading a review written by a 15 year old who thinks he can critique something on an intelligent level while hoping the people that read it won't notice.
It was fine leave him alone.
I didn't have a problem with it either. Thanks for the TR. I really enjoyed my trip to what was then SFMW, glad you had a good time. *** Edited 10/28/2007 11:12:47 PM UTC by Brian Noble***

Untwist panties immediately, kraxle.

SFNE Central- Online Six Flags New England Resource

Is that park a kid park? They hardly have any roller coasters, and they have all those animals plus they have tons of kids and medium kids flats. They have 5 roller coasters for teens, and Kong sounds horrible just like any other SLC, in my opinion. Is it like a Disney park where kids rule over anyone else?
Wait. You're suggesting that a teenager couldn't have fun at this park? Or Disney? Seriously? How sad for you.

As far as I know, the only place where kids rule was the island in Lord of the Flies, or maybe this new show Kid Nation. I don't know; I haven't watched it yet.

Personally, I like some of his opinions of the park. I just don't quite get why people think so highly of this place. When I was there last year, it was definitely not very impressive. I was more impressed with PGA than with SFMW.

For an animal park, it wasn't great, and for a rides park, too much of the stuff is at the front of the park, and it looks kinda ugly from the entrance plaza--for instance, Medusa is built on top of a parking lot, which is typical Six Flags. I could go on with their problems, but I won't right now. Hopefully, SFMW will get better with Shapiro and company at the helm.

*** Edited 10/29/2007 5:26:59 PM UTC by rablat5***

coastin' since 1985

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