Day 4 -- Magic SpringsFriday, August 2, 2013Lesson of the Day: You're going to need good shoes for a trip like this.
Two weeks of extensive walking will test the souls -- and soles -- of even the heartiest amusement park visitor. This lesson seemed most applicable to our two days in the U.S. Interior Highlands, hiking the heavy terrain of Magic Springs and Silver Dollar City. I probably asked for too much out of my old shoes in 2013, and I plan to have new ones before my two weeks with TPR in 2014.Artifacts:Scorecard:
Big Bad John
Diamond Mine Run
Arkansas TwisterDay 4
This was the worst wake-up call of the trip.
We had a lot of ground to cover on the trip's fourth official day. We started the morning in Texas, and ending the evening in Missouri -- two states that, as you'd notice on a map, are not adjacent to one another. With a park to hit in between, we had to get an early start, with a 5:45 AM meeting time to have everything out of the hotel. With over 90 people on the trip, it was crucial to be on-time for loading, with such a huge number of suitcases to be stowed under each bus. We only had time to pick up a quick breakfast on the way out, as our buses left the parking lot at 5:53 AM. To no one's surprise, it was easily the quietest bus ride of the entire trip -- one that would contrast with the next leg of our trip that same evening.
I think people had a little too much fun at the Arkansas Welcome Center
just northeast of Texarkana, where we stopped for a quick break just after 9 AM. Arkansas isn't on a lot of travel agendas, so entering the state for the first time might also have been the last time for several of our international guests. It was actually the second time I'd been in Arkansas in three months, and I do plan to return!
At about 11:25 AM, we arrived at Magic Springs and Crystal Falls
in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Hot Springs is a rather unique city with some interesting history, and I would enjoy getting a chance to visit more of the surroundings. Our itinerary only allowed the time to visit the park and head out on our way. Upon arriving in the parking lot, we had to say goodbye to our first crew of bus drivers (Cowtown Bus Charters), as we switched luggage into the new vehicles (Anderson Coach & Travel) we'd be staying with for the rest of the trip. The first buses had wifi on-board, which I'd come to miss on the rest of the trip. After getting our belongings situated, it was almost noon by the time we got in the park.
The Magic Springs visit was essentially designed as a quick credit run -- with only around two hours scheduled to hit five roller coasters. We had to keep a tight schedule because of our plans for the evening at Silver Dollar City, and we all understood why that was so important. Still, it was of great importance for us to visit this out-of-the-way park, and we had just enough time to get (almost) everything done.
As we prepared to enter the front gate, Robb suggested that it would be best if we didn't all run to X-Coaster immediately. So, what did I do? I went to X-Coaster immediately -- which worked out fine, as the TPR group did split up fairly evenly. X-Coaster
was definitely not a ride that lends itself to quick-moving queues, so I was glad to have it out of the way first. I followed up X-Coaster with rides on the nearby Big Bad John and Diamond Mine Run
, before heading to The Gauntlet
-- the only SLC on the trip. I finished off the credits on Arkansas Twister, with all five complete by 1:30 PM.
Most of TPR gathered at a meeting area near the park's entrance, where the word quickly spread that our 2:00 PM departure was going to be changing to 2:30 PM. It wasn't the coasters that demanded the extra time -- rather, it was the wait for lunch! I think most of the TPR group had the same idea -- knock out the coasters, eat, and head out. That crowded a large portion of us into the lines at the Split Rock Grill, where service was not moving briskly.
The credit-run pace of the visit didn't allow for a whole lot of time for photography. With the slight adjustment to our departure, I was able to get some extra pictures of the water park area, as well as some zoom shots of X-Coaster in action. What I am most disappointed about is that I missed out on riding Old No. 2 Logging Company -- the park's log flume. It was the only operational log flume credit on the entire trip
that I failed to collect. In between riding the coasters, I wandered over to the flume, only to find that the line appeared to be at least 20 minutes long. Since I wasn't sure I'd have time for it, I had to pass. I also missed out on Dr. Dean's Rocket Machine (the S&S tower), but I was able to get on similar rides at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Cedar Point.
Magic Springs is an attractive park. The northern half of the property is mainly taken up by the parking lot (northwest) and water park (northeast), with the front gate spilling into a plaza area between the water attractions. Arkansas Twister is set at the far northeast end of the park, and near the park's highest elevations -- offering some outstanding views of the Zig Zag Range of the southeastern Ouachita Mountains. The rest of the amusement rides are situated in the southern half of the property, forming a ring around the park's small lake. This portion of the park is very heavily wooded, especially near X-Coaster and The Gauntlet. It's probably one of the most forested sections of any theme park I've been to, as it's clear that nature is not far away. Arkansas' nickname is, in fact, The Natural State
. As I mentioned in the opening, the Magic Springs and Crystal Falls property features some pretty heavy terrain. The park's highest point (about 620 feet) is located near the front gate, while the park's lowest point (about 540 feet) is south of the lake at the park's southern end. That 80-foot elevation difference ends up as a pretty steep climb to get from -- for example -- X-Coaster back to the main entrance! The two paths that traverse the hill are lined by several of the park's smaller amusement attractions.
Crystal Falls looked like a pretty nice water park for anywhere -- let alone central Arkansas. The park had a large wave pool, a kids area, a lazy river, a FlowRider (Boogie Blast), and a few large slide complexes. It would have been easy to spend as much time at water park as we spent riding roller coasters, but our tight schedule didn't allow for it. As would be a common theme on this hot summer trip, the wet park was certainly busier than the dry park. For our group, however, this was our first day out of the extreme heat we experienced in Texas. The Hot Springs high temperature of 91 degrees
was an 11 degree drop from the 102 degrees in Dallas the day before!
For its place as a regional attraction, I liked Magic Springs. I'm glad that I was able to ride all five coasters, especially with the looming possibility of the park focusing operations on Crystal Falls. I see no doubt that their water park will continue to be a very successful venture. To be totally fair, the roller coasters were a little bit disappointing. I felt like the amusement side was lacking something truly distinctive to set the place apart -- and, although I suspect several TPR members would respectfully disagree, I didn't think X-Coaster was it. With that point aside, I can't say anything negative about the park experience. Magic Springs is a well-themed, well-maintained park, and the employees were all fantastic. A huge part of what makes a visit a good one is the things the park can control on a day-to-day basis -- employee attitude, park upkeep, and general atmosphere. They hit all the right notes, leaving TPR with a happy (yet short) experience. Magic Springs is an interesting park in an interesting part of an unheralded state -- a place which, like its central Arkansas surroundings, offers a little more than what you might first expect.
We left the park just after 2:30 PM, heading north to our next destination in Missouri. Although it's technically part of the same day, I'll be saving that part of the trip report for the next segment.
Reviews of the attractions at Magic Springs:X-Coaster:
For such an odd and unique coaster, I wanted to like this one more than I did. I'll ride almost any extreme amusement park attraction -- I'm not scared of heights, loops, intense forces, airtime, or much of anything else. I will, however, reserve one ride element that I do not enjoy -- hangtime. I do poorly with extended periods of forces directed toward my head, and I wonder if other riders feel the same cranial discomfort that I do (or if it's just me). One of X-Coaster's key features is the several seconds of suspension at the top of the lift, remarkably held in by a lapbar-only restraint system. After experiencing that once, I was good to go. I did enjoy the twist, and the quick forces on the run back through the station.Big Bad John:
This ride's been around the block a few times, opening first at Six Flags St. Louis, before moving to Dollywood. It found its third home at Magic Springs, where its wooded backdrop is its best quality. Overall, I thought Big Bad John was an average to slightly-below-average mine train.Diamond Mine Run:
Although the presence of the TPR group generally made kiddie credits a whole lot of fun, this one was helped out by an energetic ride op. The operator sent the train through the course multiple times, and threw out high-fives to the obviously-overage coaster enthusiasts (who were outnumbering the children on at least a 2-to-1 margin).The Gauntlet:
How on earth did TPR plan a trip with over 80 roller coasters and just one
Vekoma SLC? How on earth was this -- my 110th coaster credit -- the first hang-and-bang on my personal checklist? The first half of the ride went much better than I'd expected, and I wondered to myself if perhaps the SLC legacy was a bit overstated. The second half of the ride beat the truth into me, and now I know better.Arkansas Twister:
This ride has the layout of a typical out-and-back wooden roller coaster, with the advantage of having the park's most scenic location. I'd rank it as slightly below-average compared to other rides of its type. There was some mild jackhammering in a few spots, and the pacing of the hills (and the speed at which they were taken) felt a little bit strange. Even still, this is probably the park's most re-ridable coaster, and I would have liked to try it out in a few different seats to see how the ride experience changed. Or, alternatively, I would have liked to just enjoy the view a little bit longer!