Following my visits to two major parks (Epcot and SeaWorld) and two smaller attractions (Winter Summerland and Silver Springs), I still had three small parks left on the itinerary for this August 2013 Central Florida trip. First on the agenda was Fun Spot America in Orlando. Known as Fun Spot Action Park up until earlier that summer, the park received a new name in 2013 to celebrate the very significant expansion it underwent during this record year. The expansion saw the park triple in size and add approximately a dozen new rides, including two awesome roller coasters and the world's second tallest skycoaster. In addition, the multi-level go-kart tracks for which the park was already well known remained, giving Fun Spot America quite the variety of worthwhile attractions. As I'd never been to Fun Spot previously, this seemed like a perfect time to do so.
I know the park has continued to grow since this 2013 visit, adding a screamin' swing and a mini-Gatorland exhibit. (I also know there was an air race flat ride that unfortunately only lasted for all of about a day.) Then there's recently been the announcement that the park will expand further still in the upcoming years, potentially adding another new coaster, water attractions, and distinct themed areas. If all of this pans out, Fun Spot America's status as a small park may very well change to that of a full-fledged theme park experience. As it currently stands, Fun Spot is a formidable up-and-coming alternative to the major Orlando parks, and I spent the entire day there enjoying everything it has to offer.
This is the park's spiffy new entrance, towered over by the world's second tallest skycoaster.
At the opposite end of the park is the Revolver ferris wheel, which I imagine must have been Fun Spot's former visual icon. It's still a nice ride offering a complete view of the park's layout and all of its attractions.
The star attraction of course being White Lightning, Orlando's only wooden coaster (currently one of only two wooden coasters operating in all of Florida, along with Coastersaurus at Legoland).
While this may be a *smaller* coaster, it is not a *small* coaster, and it certainly packs all the punch you'd expect from a woodie. The L-shaped out-and-back course includes plenty of twisty curves and ups and downs, including a much appreciated double-up and double-down, all taken at a pace that never lets up.
With the opening of Iron Rattler and Outlaw Run and even Hades 360, 2013 seemed to be the year of the inverting wooden coaster. Despite the new trend, GCI built two great "traditional" wooden coasters that same year (White Lightning and Gold Striker at CGA), and I loved getting to ride them both.
Fun Spot's other new-for-2013 coaster was Freedom Flyer, a Vekoma suspended family coaster. Up to that point, the only other version of this ride I'd been on was Flying Ace Aerial Chase at Carowinds, which was one of my least favorite coasters ever. Fortunately, Freedom Flyer was infinitely superior.
Its layout is much more interesting and unique. I wouldn't necessarily call this hump an airtime hill, but its placement following the ride's initial drop is quite enjoyable nonetheless.
The coaster as a whole is more "stretched out" than a typical Vekoma suspended junior. While these coasters typically consist of a few compact side-by-side spirals, this one seems to span a bit more of Fun Spot's territory.
There are still a couple of spirals here, including the final one leading into the station. The awesome thing is that you don't hit the brake run until in the station itself, so it kind of feels like you are out of control while tearing through the spiral back into the station. But the MOST awesome thing about this coaster is the lack of over-the-shoulder restraints. The pointless OTSRs at Carowinds are what made that ride fail so miserably. Lap bars only here! I know many others have already said it, but I'll go ahead and say it too -- White Lightning and Freedom Flyer really are kind of a perfect coaster combo for a park like Fun Spot.
To be complete, Fun Spot's third coaster is the Sea Serpent kiddie coaster. Didn't ride this one.
Of the new flat rides, Enterprise was probably the largest addition. And the best addition IMO.
Rip Curl also seemed to be promoted as a big new ride.
Other flat rides at the park include a tilt-a-whirl...
...and a scrambler. There's also a double-decker carousel, a slide, and a decent collection of children's rides.
As for water rides, the bumper boats are the only option, though they are guaranteed to pretty much get you soaked -- notice the evil water guns that allow you to drench your fellow riders. I don't know what my problem is, but I'm terrible with these guns. I either can't reach the other boats or shoot right over them, yet everyone else seems to have no problem nailing me. I therefore feel like a sitting duck, but I'm not complaining -- it is nice being cooled off on a hot Florida day. I just wish I could retaliate a little better!
There are bumper cars to go along with the bumper boats. The main car attractions at Fun Spot, however, are...
...the go-karts. There are four separate go-kart tracks, each with its own color to keep it distinct from the others.
The green track, called Commander, is the tallest of the four tracks and has perhaps the greatest variety of elements. The yellow track, called Quad Helix, is the longest of the four tracks and, with its many spirals up and down the multi-story structure, is probably the most visually intriguing.
The blue track, called Conquest, features the steepest and lengthiest "drop" of any of the go-karts. The red track, called Thrasher, is a ground-level-only course that especially emphasizes sharp turns, speed, and racing. I liked all four of these go-kart tracks; I'd be hard-pressed to pick my favorite or least favorite. (Note that there is also a fifth track just for kids.)
Last but not least is the park's skycoaster.
This is the one that glows green in the evening.
At 250 feet, the only skycoaster in the world taller than Orlando's is its older sibling in Kissimmee. (I believe another 250-foot skycoaster has since opened in Australia.) Take a look at the tiny speck at the top -- hard to believe that's people!
But yep, it's people! This ride was great fun (more exciting and thrilling than scary), and a great way to wrap up my Fun Spot America day. I look forward to watching the park's continued future development.
Central Florida's other Fun Spot park is Fun Spot USA in Kissimmee (I know the park has recently changed its name to Fun Spot America to match the Orlando park, but I'll go ahead and still call it Fun Spot USA, since that was its name when I visited in 2013). This Fun Spot doesn't seem to be quite the company's pride and joy the way the Orlando Fun Spot does. Perhaps that's because this is a smaller park without the same room for potential growth. Perhaps it's because Old Town is immediately next door and some of Old Town's ghetto-ness rubs off on Fun Spot (though that's a discussion for another day). At any rate, this park's "star" coaster, a spinning mouse, is definitely no White Lightning. I guess the flat rides and go-karts are mostly comparable between the two Fun Spot parks, but Fun Spot USA's real claim to fame is its skycoaster -- the world's tallest, at 300 feet.
Though I said there isn't much room to grow and expand here, after looking up a bit of the park's history, it appears as though several of the flat rides I rode during this visit (as well as the coaster) are relatively new. Unfortunately, it also looks like a few notable rides were removed prior to this 2013 visit. Fun Spot USA was apparently once home to a dragster-style launched go-kart ride and a pedal-powered looping bike ride (both of which I've ridden other versions of elsewhere), as well as a double-decker ferris wheel (a type of ride I've never experienced). It's too bad these unique attractions couldn't have remained -- Fun Spot USA would certainly benefit from a few additional one-of-a-kind rides. As it currently stands, Fun Spot in Kissimmee isn't exactly on par with Fun Spot in Orlando, though the skycoaster alone makes Fun Spot USA worth a visit.
There's not really a single main entrance (you can kind of get in from several different places), but with the coaster in the foreground and the massive skycoaster in the background, this particular entranceway is the most photogenic.
While Rockstar is a Zamperla spinning coaster and Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom is a Reverchon spinning coaster, they're pretty much the same ride. Fun enough, but nothing you haven't done before. This one was relocated from pre-Legoland Cypress Gardens, so I guess it's nice that a little piece of Central Florida's theme park past lives on.
The skyscraper and slingshot rides behind the coaster are part of Old Town, not Fun Spot. (Though again, Old Town is a discussion for another day...)
The kiddie coaster is called -- Kiddie Coaster. Like Sea Serpent at Fun Spot America, this one was built by Miler. Also like Sea Serpent, I didn't bother riding.
Check out the theming!!!
Aside from the skycoaster, the Hot Seat screamin' swing is the headliner ride at Fun Spot USA. I know Fun Spot America has recently added one of these too, but that one didn't exist yet in 2013, so having a ride unique to this Fun Spot park made Hot Seat even more of a highlight.
While no screamin' swing ever has a long enough duration, I can't fault this one on anything else -- it swung fast and high and gave great out-of-your-seat sensations while swooping from up to down in both the forward and backward directions. I loved it!
Surf's Up, on the other hand...not so much. I thought this might be a fun and unique stand-up version of a Disk'O, but I should have paid more attention before getting on -- it wasn't even on par with a Rockin' Tub. This might be passable with the kiddies, but it's best described as lame for adults -- slow and boring, and I felt pretty silly riding.
Screamer is a ride better suited for kids and adults alike. Not a full-fledged drop tower but definitely a notch above a frog hopper, I actually kind of like these.
Standard flat rides at Fun Spot include a tilt-a-whirl...
...and flying bobs.
Like Fun Spot America, Fun Spot USA has four adult go-kart tracks (there's no kiddie track here). Each one is color-coded to make it easily distinguishable from the others.
As far as the go-karts are concerned, the yellow track, called Vortex, is the main draw. It's multi-leveled and features an especially unique go-kart thrill...
...a steep descent that drops into a crazy banked turnaround. This completely caught me off guard during my first lap -- at full speed it was awesome but also somewhat terrifying. During all subsequent laps I was better prepared to control my kart through the maneuver.
The blue track, called Chaos, is also multi-leveled and actually the longest of Fun Spot USA's four tracks. Interestingly, without any gimmicks to make it stand out against Vortex or Fun Spot America's go-karts, I don't entirely remember it. I do remember enjoying all of the go-kart rides, though, so it must have been fun.
The green Road Course is a flat ground-level track that, with its tight turns and short straightaways, is especially good for racing other drivers.
The red Slick Track, a basic oval course, is also good for racing and lapping other karts. I've been on other slick tracks where it's quite common to spin out if you don't master the curves, but despite its name this one isn't really designed for much "drifting" or "fishtailing" around the turns.
I've saved the best for last -- the skycoaster.
As with all skycoasters, this one begins with your harness being slowly lifted toward the back spire.
Also like other skycoasters, it's more comfortable (and even relaxing) than it looks lying on your belly while strapped into the harness.
The difference between this and all other skycoasters is the ridiculous height the back spire reaches here -- 300 feet! All while strapped into a simple harness and supported by a simple cable.
I thought I might be more freaked out than I actually was -- I felt surprisingly more excited in anticipation of the upcoming drop than nervous about the height.
Pulling your own ripcord, as well as the head-first freefall that follows, are two of the greatest thrills any skycoaster provides. That's especially true from 300 feet up! After the cable catches the harness and you start swinging back and forth under the arc, the ride becomes more pleasant and scenic.
I said the same thing with the Fun Spot America skycoaster, but it's crazy to think that the tiny, barely visible speck up there is people.
But yep, it's people.
The only problem with this ride is now I'm never going to be able to enjoy any other skycoaster quite the same again -- I look at the ones at other parks and they just seem tiny by comparison. I guess I'll have to head back to Kissimmee just to get my skycoaster fix.
And with that I conclude Fun Spot USA. Together with Fun Spot America, these are two fun spots (literally) to get away from the bigger Central Florida parks. Come to Kissimmee for the skycoaster, and go to Orlando for everything else (though to be fair, the skycoaster in Orlando is awesome too, and the "everything else" here is certainly worth trying during your visit -- with the exception of maybe Surf's Up).
After visiting Fun Spot in Orlando and Kissimmee, the final stop of my August 2013 trip was Old Town in Kissimmee, right next door to Fun Spot. Old Town is a very, um, *interesting* park. First of all, the set-up is quite unusual. The front of the park is the location of the slingshot and skyscraper attractions. Operated by a different vendor are some go-karts, bumper cars, and laser tag. Operated by a third vendor, still in the front part of the park, are the ferris wheel, the drop tower, and the relatively new rock wall, ropes course, and zipline attractions. That same vendor operates the roller coaster and kiddie rides at the back of the park. Between the two sections are several blocks of shops, eateries, and (operated by yet another vendor still) the Legends: Haunting at Old Town maze. Unfortunately, August 2013 was after the former Grimm's Haunted House had closed but before Legends had opened, so there was no haunted walk-through during this visit.
The rides were scheduled to be open from 2 pm to 11 pm the day I was there. I arrived around 3 pm and felt the park should more appropriately be called Ghost Town rather than Old Town -- it was literally empty. I hardly even saw an employee. Feeling too awkward to stay, I decided to go play miniature golf for a while at the neighboring Pirate's Cove (Old Town is on one side of Fun Spot and Pirate's Cove is on the other) and then return later. A thunderstorm delayed my return until about 8 pm. I had no interest in the go-karts, bumper cars, or laser tag, so I rode the slingshot and skyscraper first, then went to purchase my tickets for the other rides. It was about 9 pm and the rides closed at 11, so when I asked for an all-day ride wristband the employee looked at me like I was crazy. He said he couldn't sell me a wristband with the park closing in just two hours. I said I'd like to ride the coaster, drop tower, and ferris wheel, plus try the rock wall, ropes course, and zipline, all of which I could do in two hours. If I purchased those tickets separately it would cost more than the wristband. He said he'd have to call his manager! Let me emphasize that this employee was by no means rude; he just seemed so bewildered. The manager said I could purchase the wristband as long as I understood that I only had two hours left to get my money's worth out of it. Yep, I understood! I'll have more *interesting* stories to share with the pictures that follow.
All of this was back in 2013, and I guess the only things that currently remain at Old Town are the slingshot and skyscraper rides, plus the go-karts, bumper cars, and laser tag. No more coaster, other rides, or ropes course (even the Legends: Haunting maze has already closed up shop). It would sound like there's therefore little reason to return to Old Town, with the exception of the recent announcement that Fun Spot has come to an agreement to operate some rides on Old Town property. In my Fun Spot report above, I noted that that park doesn't have much room to expand, so this seems like a great idea -- buy out and take over Old Town, allowing Fun Spot to grow and making Old Town, well, better!
The ferris wheel was the final ride I got to during the night, at around 10:45 pm. There were no employees stationed there, so I asked one of the many employees working the ropes course if she could run the ferris wheel for me. With the sigh and eye roll I received, you'd think she was my teenage daughter and I was telling her to go clean her room. She reluctantly walked the few steps over to the ferris wheel, but as I tried to get on by myself she said there needed to be two riders per car. The friend I was with only purchased tickets for the roller coaster and drop tower, so didn't have a wristband. I said okay, we'll go buy a few more tickets and come right back. Of course nobody was manning the ticket booth either. The "ferris wheel employee" saw this, and just shrugged with an "oh well, too bad, so sad" attitude and walked away. Would it have been too much for her to find someone to sell us a few tickets? Apparently. Though some of Old Town's employees were a little confused or on autopilot, most were at least friendly. This was the only one I encountered who was downright unpleasant. I'll go even further than that -- she was a hardcore b*tch. Suffice it to say I never rode the ferris wheel.
The skyscraper was the first ride we did at Old Town, after the thunderstorm had passed. These employees were fun and friendly but did originally say they couldn't operate the skyscraper when there was lightning anywhere in the vicinity. They did say they could operate the slingshot though. (??? It seems the slingshot would be just as much of a lightning rod as the skyscraper, but whatever.) As we were about to walk over to the slingshot instead, the employee decided "You can go ahead and ride this one, the lightning's not that close." (!!!)
Called Vomatron (cool name), this is advertised as astronaut training-level intensity. While it is super fun, these skyscraper rides really aren't as extreme as they look. They're thrilling and enjoyable without being the least bit sickening, so maybe Vomatron isn't the most appropriate name. Anyway, the freakiest part is being stopped at the top while the bottom half is loaded or unloaded, as the entire structure kind of wobbles. Plus I kept hoping we wouldn't be struck by lightning.
Human Slingshot is another one that's probably scarier to look at than to ride. That's not to imply it isn't a rush; it is. It's just surprisingly smooth and pleasant -- the launch, flipping, and bobbing up and down are not at all jarring. Plus the height, which looks so intimidating attached to just two simple cables, isn't so scary while riding because everything's happening so fast.
Three, two, one...
...blast off! Like the skycoaster rides at both Fun Spot parks, Vomatron and Human Slingshot are not cheap, but they're such visually iconic, eye-catching attractions in Central Florida that they're worth doing just to say you did.
Super Shot is one of those drop towers that takes you up real slow and then drops the instant you reach the top -- no pause at all to let you know the drop is imminent. It also comes to a very sudden stop at the bottom, producing some mild whiplash as your head continues downward while the rest of your body has already stopped. Nothing too severe or uncomfortable, though, and I actually really like this type of drop tower. It's not Intamin or S&S but it's fun. As an added bonus, the employee we found to operate this ride for us was the polar opposite of the "ferris wheel employee" -- she couldn't have been happier or friendlier.
Billed as the newest attraction at Old Town is the AMPVenture Experience, featuring an obstacle ropes course, a rock climbing wall, and a zipline.
I've only ever done a few of these obstacle courses, and this would rank as one of the better ones. The structure is compact but large due to four stories of obstacles being stacked on top of each other.
Every level of obstacle difficulty is present, from very easy to moderately challenging to so difficult I couldn't make it across a couple. Some of these most difficult ones are physically challenging, so that by the time you're done with the course you're soaked in sweat like you would be following a lengthy workout. Others are just plain freaky -- once your legs start trembling high above the ground, you might have to call it quits on that obstacle, or else wind up stuck dangling from the harness after you've fallen off.
The rock wall is also quite the challenging workout. I thought because this was called the AMPVenture "Experience" you might have to do all of it in order -- make it up the wall first, followed by the entire obstacle course, and then finish with the zipline to get back down. While that would be a cool concept, it probably wouldn't be practical, as several people I watched couldn't make it up the wall (I'm happy to report I did!). Therefore, all three (rock wall, rope course, zipline) are separate-ticket attractions. Note the platform at the top right of the picture -- that's the starting point for the zipline.
After leaving the obstacle course structure, the zipline travels across the front of Old Town to a separate tower, then heads back again. It's fun enough, but certainly not the most spectacular zipline ever, making it the "weakest" of the three AMPVenture experiences.
I should also note that the employees working AMPVenture were great -- very enthusiastic, energetic, and encouraging. It's too bad this was such a short-lived attraction (it made for a welcome addition to the park), but I guess if all the rides operated by this particular vendor at Old Town had to go, so did AMPVenture. (Speaking of short-lived attractions, apparently a falling star-type ride, called Flying Dutchman, had only opened a year or so earlier but was already gone by this 2013 visit. Does anybody have any insight into its brief history?)
You may have noticed it's now very late -- that's when we finally got to ride the Windstorm coaster. When we first bought our tickets we saw the coaster wasn't running, so we asked the employee if it was in fact scheduled to open that night. That's another thing he checked with his manager, who said it would depend on whether they could get it up and running after being wet from the storm. We spent most of our time at the front part of the park, but occasionally checked back on the coaster. Each time it was still sitting motionless, so each time we asked a different employee about its status, and each time that employee called the manager. I can totally picture the manager receiving all these calls about the coaster, thinking it must be in high demand tonight so he'd better get it open, not realizing it was the same person inquiring each time! After the final inquiry, a very quiet female employee wandered over to the coaster and began testing it. The chain had a hard time getting the train up the lift for a while, but once it finally made two complete circuits she let us on, never speaking a word. We had the train to ourselves, but one other group saw us riding and came over to ride once we got off. After they got off and there was no one else in line, the employee wandered away and the coaster never ran again that night!!!!! As for the ride itself, it's a typical compact carnival-style coaster -- nothing exceptional except for the forceful twisting dive midway through. (I had been on a copy of this previously when it existed at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, though apparently this one was Zamperla and that one was S.D.C.)
Old Town's other coaster is a wacky worm kiddie coaster. I didn't ride, but it did seem to be running more consistently than Windstorm. Except for Windstorm and a tilt-a-whirl, all of the rides at the back part of the park are kiddie rides.
And here's the same shot from earlier in the day (when the park was literally empty). All in all, this visit to Old Town was one of the weirdest park visits I've ever had. As you can see by reading my comments, I did enjoy several of the attractions; it's the operations, though, that were *just a bit* unusual.
As mentioned, I spent some time at the Pirate's Cove miniature golf course next door.
I guess there are three or four Pirate's Cove / Pirate's Island mini golf courses in the area, which is interesting since this one wasn't at all crowded. I don't know if that's normally the case or if this just wasn't a busy day in general for attractions on Highway 192, but the lack of crowds certainly made the visit more relaxing and pleasant for me.
The theming is quite nice and the course is exceptionally well maintained.
There are two separate 18-hole courses (Captain's course and Blackbeard's Challenge course). It was kind of an off day mini golf-wise for me and I sadly scored well over par on both of them.
Some more great theming.
That now concludes my 2013 trip (only three years after the fact!), which means 2014 is up next...
Great TR. I'm enjoying a new Old Town TR considering it is much different there now. I went to Old Town around 7 years ago now, and it was just as ghetto then. A weird and oddly entertaining experience.
coasterbill wrote: That's not normal. I love that insane, high speed Paratrooper of death.
djcoastermark wrote:yeah, that paratrooper has to be the most insane out of control, my god is it supposed to run that fast, scary ride forwards and backwards. I ride it every time I go.
Huh, I did ride it, but don't remember it leaving an impression on me one way or another. I wish I'd known it had a reputation beforehand, as I would have paid more attention!
Anyway, I'm now finally getting to my August 2014 vacation (a trip report two-and-a-half years after the trip itself isn't too unreasonable, right?!). Like August 2012 and August 2013, theme parks and roller coasters were the main emphasis here, though I did include a few related but non-coaster attractions as well. Also like 2012 and 2013, the trip was divided into two parts, though this year the two parts were pretty continuous with each other.
The first park of part 1 of my August 2014 trip was Lake Winnepesaukah in Rossville, Georgia (though it's advertised as being in Chattanooga, Tennessee). This was my first visit to Lake Winnie, and I was very much looking forward to several of its older, more classic attractions -- the Cannon Ball roller coaster, the Boat Chute flume ride, the Fly-O-Plane flat ride, and the Wacky Factory dark ride. There are of course newer, more modern rides as well, but this park definitely has a "slower paced, simpler days" type of charm to it. The large lake the park surrounds, which can be viewed by the peaceful and scenic train, skyway, and paddle boat rides, definitely contributes to that more relaxed, old-time feel.
Here we are at Lake Winnie. Fortunately even the park refers to itself by that name, so we don't have to repeatedly say Lake Winnepesaukah.
True to its namesake, there's a large central lake on park property. We'll come back to it later.
First, though, let's check out the Cannon Ball roller coaster.
Cannon Ball runs along the back of Lake Winnie, behind the lake and water park. It isn't a terribly long or huge ride, but it's fun. If you've been on an out-and-back wooden coaster from the 1960's or 1970's before, you probably pretty much know what to expect from Cannon Ball.
The park's newer coaster is Wild Lightnin'.
A steel mouse coaster, this one looks pretty standard and typical.
However, it's actually a pretty aggressive model that really slams you to the side during each turn. For that reason, I kind of loved it! I certainly wouldn't say it's a better coaster than Cannon Ball, but it was definitely more of an unexpected surprise.
The park's third and final coaster is the Wacky Worm.
These are so ubiquitous everywhere, but I've never brought myself to actually ride one before. Did I end up riding this one?
I did! And I took a POV shot as proof -- my first ever wacky worm coaster! (My thoughts -- they're about as exciting as they look.)
The classic and unique Boat Chute flume ride begins by leisurely floating through a very long, very pitch-black tunnel. I imagine particularly adventurous guests might use the opportunity as a "tunnel of love"...
The boat emerges from the tunnel to climb a lift hill.
The drop then follows after that.
Like most flume rides, you'll get splashed, but not soaked.
A slow return to the station concludes the excursion.
It might not sound or look all that exciting, and perhaps it isn't, but the Boat Chute is arguably Lake Winnie's most popular attraction nonetheless. Having been around for 90 years and being a "homemade" ride add immeasurably to its appeal.
The fact that it splashes down directly into the park's lake is icing on the cake. Highly worth checking out.
Another *interesting* one is Wacky Factory (I guess the "wacky" in Wacky Factory means "bizarre"). This is a relatively new re-theme of their original dark ride, which I understand featured two stories, a little "coaster" dip, and a spookhouse theme. Now all on a single level, the ride consists more of a funhouse theme. While I imagine it was better in its previous incarnation, it's probably more family-friendly now, but don't expect anything coherent or comprehensible.
Moving on to the flat rides, let's begin with Fly-O-Plane, another old-school attraction unique to the park. It looks great, but it was slightly aggravating -- it wasn't all that easy to control, so getting it to actually flip was a bit frustrating. Most of the time I was just sort of stuck in a "not-quite-upside-down" position. The ride attendant tried to give pointers prior to each ride, but he admitted most guests aren't very successful. I bet with lots of practice though it would be doable, and I bet all that practicing would be a fun challenge.
There are plenty of other carnival-style flat rides at Lake Winnie. The swings are one of the most popular, with a perfect placement on the edge of the lake so you get to swing out over it during your ride.
The pirate ship also extends out over the lake.
It swings up to a pretty steep angle too -- swinging ships with that quality rank among my very favorite flat rides.
Also fun is the magic carpet ride themed to a covered wagon.
A troika-ish ride.
A round up. (I guess this one has since been replaced by some kind of twister top spin ride.)
Lake Winnie's drop tower, Oh-Zone, is just like the model I described in my Old Town report above. While I wouldn't rank these as high as an Intamin or S&S drop tower, I am a fan -- they're more intense than they look.
Fire Ball is a Larson super loop.
I believe this is an older, smaller model than the one that's been popping up all over the place these days -- it kind of looks the same, but it did have a slightly more cramped, carny-version feel to it.
Other rides at the park include spinning balloons, a giant slide, a frog hopper, and several kiddie rides, plus the water park's slides. There's also a selection of gentle, scenic attractions, starting with the Tour Train.
The Tour Train encircles the park, passing pretty much every ride and waterslide. In addition, it travels around the entire lake, taking you through some of the forested back areas that you can't access any other way.
The Antique Cars also have a nice setting among the trees.
Lake Winnie has a standard carnival-type ferris wheel (not a complaint, as these can be just as fun as the larger, more modern versions), but the best thing about Lake Winnie's ferris wheel...
...is the view of the lake and park that it provides.
A two-coasters-climbing-their-lift-hills shot from the ferris wheel. (Aside from the ferris wheel, another popular family-friendly classic at Lake Winnie is the carrousel, which isn't set out over the lake but rather over a separate pool. For whatever reason I didn't get a picture of it, but you can glimpse a peek at the carrousel in the Wacky Factory picture above.)
In addition to the train and ferris wheel, two other great ways to view the park and lake are the Alpine Way skyway and the paddle boats.
Let's start with a ride on Alpine Way.
Alpine Way begins in the back half of the park and travels over the lake toward the front half of the park.
Right before the turnaround it passes directly over the Boat Chute.
You then get to relaxingly return to the back half of the park. Great views of the lake and attractions the entire way.
The paddle boats provide a lake-level view of the same sights.
I can't remember the exact time limit, but I seem to recall being out on the lake for quite a while, plus having pretty much free reign to go wherever I wanted, providing ample opportunity for photo ops and making the paddle boats very worthwhile.
A couple other odds and ends. There's a simple but attractive playground tucked away in the back of the park, as well as a water play area and a small mini golf course. Plenty of activities therefore for the little ones.
There's even a museum dedicated to Lake Winnie's history. Interesting and informative, plus the air conditioning felt great!!!
As the sun sets over Lake Winnie, our visit is brought to a close. While all classic parks have a special charm, I really feel the lake itself adds that something extra to Lake Winnie's appeal.
Following Lake Winnie it was on to Six Flags Over Georgia. One of the original Six Flags parks, the various areas themed to Georgia's history still give the park an early Six Flags feel, despite the many modernizations that have of course occurred over the years. I had first visited SFOG in 2010, and the main changes between that visit and this 2014 visit were the additions of Dare Devil Dive and Sky Screamer, plus the new Hurricane Harbor. In my opinion, though, Goliath remained the top attraction at the park (with Acrophobia a close #2).
One of the key things that caught my attention at Six Flags Over Georgia was the noticeable lack of flat rides. There was a decent selection of kiddie rides in Bugs Bunny World and a fine selection of family rides throughout the park (Monster Mansion, carousel, antique cars, railroad, sky buckets), but as far as actual adult flat rides go there was Sky Screamer, a wave swinger, bumper cars, and that's about it. The park must have noticed this too, as that's where they seem to have focused their attention the last few years since this 2014 visit. A Larson loop, a tilt-a-whirl, flyers, a tsunami soaker-style ride, a medium-sized drop tower, and I guess a few others just for the kiddies have all been added. Sounds like a fun lineup, and I'm sure those additions make the park feel much more well rounded.
We'll start with my favorite ride at SFOG, Goliath.
Goliath is kind of unique in that its first drop is actually a few feet shorter than the second drop, which is therefore the "big drop" on the coaster. Neither drop ends up reaching 200 feet, but the lift hill does, qualifying this as a true hypercoaster. Regardless, the first THREE drops on this ride all certainly feel very large and are awesome fun.
It's interesting, the first time I rode Goliath back in 2010 it ranked as my least favorite B&M hypercoaster. Rather than the enjoyable negative g's experienced on most B&Ms as you crest each hill, I experienced more positive g's at the bottom of each hill on this one, which isn't as pleasant a sensation. Not sure what the difference was between that earlier trip and this one, but I was so happy to have all the negative g's return during my many rides in 2014. Goliath now ranks up there right along with all my other B&M hypercoasters (I've still somehow managed to only ride four -- Goliath, Nitro at SFGAd, Apollo's Chariot at BGW, and Intimidator at Carowinds).
The positive g-forces are still very present on Goliath, in the form of this infamous helix. It's a doozy, among B&M's most forceful elements. (I felt I was going to black out during this helix back in 2010 more than I've felt on any other ride ever. I must have been especially sensitive during that earlier visit.)
The track has an L-shaped layout, with the helix as the turnaround at the far end. This is the fun swooping turn leading into the final return stretch.
That final stretch features three back-to-back-to-back camelback hills that are as good as any B&M hypercoaster moment. I probably rode Goliath half a dozen times during this visit and absolutely loved it each time.
New for me in 2014 was Dare Devil Dive.
This was just my second Gerstlauer eurofighter, following Mystery Mine at Dollywood.
With lap bar restraints rather than over-the-shoulder restraints, Dare Devil Dive was a smoother coaster than Mystery Mine (no longer any head banging, but still a little head rattling), though I still prefer Mystery Mine for its overall ride experience.
The vertical lift and beyond vertical drop are trademark elements of these coasters.
They're also what make the ride so visually appealing.
In addition, this one has a unique train design and a touch of theming that the track and train pass through. Speaking of theming, has the VR treatment the coaster received in 2016 already been removed? I know the wait time for Dare Devil Dive had become interminable with VR added, and, given my limited but less than positive experience with VR so far, I don't imagine it would be very enjoyable on this coaster.
Though I've been focusing on the lift and drop, I shouldn't ignore the rest of the ride's twisted, inverted layout. I liked Dare Devil Dive, but unlike Goliath, I didn't feel the need to ride over and over again (I rode twice).
Mind Bender, on the other hand, did merit several rides. One of the older coasters at the park, Mind Bender still seems to have a reputation as one of the best.
A Schwarzkopf creation, this is a much more sprawled out coaster than their usual compact designs (it felt like a cross between Revolution at SFMM and Shockwave at SFOT). Nice airtime coming off the hills, the perfectly intense vertical loops, the "tilted" loop that's definitely more of a drop than a true inversion but great fun whatever you call it, and the forested setting all make Mind Bender a winner.
In addition to Goliath, the park has a selection of other B&M coasters, Superman Ultimate Flight of course being the flying representative.
Like almost every B&M flying coaster, the pretzel loop is prominently featured as the star element here.
Of the four B&M flyers I've ridden (this one, Superman at SFGAd, Tatsu at SFMM, and Manta at SWO), all except Tatsu have the pretzel loop right at the beginning of the ride. I don't know if Tatsu's loop just happens to be more forceful anyway, or if placing it at the end rather than at the beginning really does make a difference, but I don't think any of the other pretzel loops come close to matching Tatsu's intensity. They are intense, yes, but not Tatsu-level. Following the loop, Superman actually becomes more pleasant than extreme (don't get me wrong -- it's still very enjoyable).
Six Flags Over Georgia has a Batman B&M inverted coaster.
I don't have too much to say here. If you've been on a Batman clone before, you know what to expect -- a short but fast and furious coaster that packs quite a punch.
I will say the colors of this one are quite striking.
There's also Georgia Scorcher, a B&M stand-up.
I haven't been on all of B&M's stand-up coasters, but compared to the ones I have ridden, Georgia Scorcher isn't the best (that would be Riddler's Revenge at SFMM) but it isn't the worst either (that would be Vortex at CGA). I like the straight, rather than curved, first drop into the vertical loop, and the ride (along with Goliath) does look good from outside the park entrance, interacting with guests arriving and leaving. However, like pretty much all of these stand-up coasters, it's becoming unpleasantly rough and headbanging.
Speaking of unpleasantly rough and headbanging, up next is Ninja (now Blue Hawk).
It looks like an Arrow, though it's actually a Vekoma, but either way you know to be prepared for the worst. I didn't find this one to be headbanging so much as neckbanging, as the OTSRs were positioned right along my shoulders. For whatever strange reason, I still sort of liked it; I guess I can tolerate the roughness and enjoy the insane twistiness of these Vekoma and Arrow megaloopers more than others. Plus I've always been a sucker for the way they look -- some of the most photogenic coasters in existence in my opinion.
Six Flags Over Georgia has two wooden coasters, Georgia Cyclone being the newer (but still "classic" relative to today's standards) of the two.
I've been on the Coney Island Cyclone as well as a few other coasters that bear its namesake (Georgia Cyclone, the defunct Texas Cyclone at Astroworld, the defunct and infamous Psyclone at Magic Mountain). Back in 2010, Georgia Cyclone was by far the most brutal of any of the above. Psyclone always had the negative reputation, but that ride was tame compared to Georgia Cyclone. After riding in 2010, I classified Georgia Cyclone as "so intolerable it was almost good" -- it was worth enduring the ride's beating just to say you've experienced a coaster that ridiculous.
Happily, between 2010 and this 2014 visit, Georgia Cyclone was retracked or received some topper track or something, and the ride was infinitely improved. Still shaky and rough, but shaky and rough the way a 25-year-old wooden coaster is supposed to be.
The same could be said for Great American Scream Machine, which is almost 20 years older than Georgia Cyclone, and even though I ended up liking that one I'd have to give the edge to this one as my favorite of the two. There's something about a classic out-and-back wooden coaster that's hard to beat.
You'll definitely have several "lifting out of your seat" moments, both on the larger hills and on these wonderful bunny hops that end the ride. It's kind of hard to resist laughing out loud as you bounce over them before slamming into the brake run.
The placement is perfect too, situated along the field and over the lake in the back of the park.
Dahlonega Mine Train is the park's original coaster and the second mine train Arrow ever built (following Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Over Texas).
Very similar to the Texas ride, Dahlonega Mine Train features three lift hills but spends most of its time meandering around near ground level. Coasters have come a long way since this one opened in 1967, but it's great still having it at the park -- it's like a trip back in time.
The park's final coaster is the Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster kiddie coaster. Two items to note about this one: 1. I was extremely impressed with the amount of theming for a kiddie coaster. (I know the ride has recently been rethemed as the Joker's Funhouse coaster; hopefully the level of detail has remained.)
2. This is a little larger than your typical kiddie coaster, more like a family coaster that would fall somewhere between a kiddie and an adult coaster. An adult could therefore ride without a child and not feel too silly doing so. Kind of interesting though that the park doesn't have a coaster for the smallest children to ride.
With Canyon Blaster, I scored all eleven of Six Flags Over Georgia's eleven coaster credits!
The usual three water rides -- a whitewater raft, a boat flume, and a log flume -- can all be found at the park. Thunder River gets my vote as best of the three.
Thunder River takes up a large chunk of territory and feels secluded from the rest of the park due to all the surrounding rocks and greenery. It's therefore easy to imagine you're really rafting down a forested river, rather than being on a theme park ride. It also has the potential to drench you, which is refreshingly appreciated. They really did a great job with this one -- a perfect example of what a river rapids ride should be.
Splashwater Falls is also in a pretty nice location, between Dahlonega Mine Train and the hill in the center of the park.
It too provides quite the soaking -- very welcome on a hot August Georgia day.
Log Jamboree is located near the front of the park and feels like a typical early Six Flags log ride -- not very long with a drop that's not all that huge, but still relaxing and fun. Plus it offers some nice views of Goliath, Georgia Scorcher, Dare Devil Dive, and Mind Bender.
Monster Mansion is the water/dark ride retheme of the former Monster Plantation. That conversion took place the year before my first Six Flags Over Georgia visit, so I never got to experience Monster Plantation myself, but videos I've seen look pretty similar to the current Monster Mansion theme.
It's kind of corny and cheesy, and seems to have a mostly kid's ride reputation, but it should definitely satisfy dark ride enthusiasts as well. Especially the part where you enter "the marsh," during which it becomes more of a classic spookhouse ride. That's my favorite part, though I enjoyed the rest of it too -- it's unique and elaborate for a Six Flags park.
Other family rides include the sky buckets...
...the railroad and the antique cars. This particular shot was taken from one of my favorite spots at SFOG -- the top of the hill in the center of the park, where another family ride (the carousel) is located. This area is so quiet and shaded and relaxing that it's the perfect place to get away from the crowds and heat.
The Hanson Cars encircle the hill (and therefore the carousel and couple other kiddie rides on the hill -- a rockin' tug and spinning balloons). It's a great setting except for the amount of space available, leading to quite possibly the shortest antique car ride I've ever encountered!
The Dodge City bumper cars, located next to Superman, have since been removed to make way for the Justice League.
Gotham City Crime Wave, near Mind Bender and Batman, is perhaps the best themed wave swinger I've ever seen. Note that I've shown or mentioned every flat ride in the park during 2014, which is to say -- not many. I remember an enterprise and an indoor scrambler back during my 2010 visit, but those were both gone by this visit. My home Six Flags park, SFMM, has always had a reputation for lacking flat rides, but SFOG is the park that I feel really deserved that reputation. As stated in my intro description, quite a few flat rides have fortunately been added since 2014 to remedy this situation. (Hopefully SFMM follows suit.)
Two final thrill rides remain.
Sky Screamer is a 240-foot Star Flyer, which I guess would be classified as a "medium sized" model.
The only Star Flyer I'd been on prior to this one was the 150-foot-tall ride at SFDK. That was a gentle introduction to the genre, and this one served as a nice transition to the terrifyingly huge 400-foot version.
We'll wrap up SFOG with one of the park's very best -- Acrophobia.
Acrophobia easily ranks as one of my absolute favorite drop tower rides. The "floorless, tilting" seats add so much (I've never found the seats to be uncomfortable), as does the slow, revolving trip to the top (it's not the tallest drop tower in existence, but it certainly feels huge while you're up there). The main thing I love is of course the drop itself. The instant the gondola is released, you get forceful out-of-your-seat airtime, which is sustained all the way down. Acrophobia also comes closest to that breathtaking "knock the wind out of you" sensation that I used to get on freefall rides as a kid but sadly don't experience too much on most other drop towers anymore.
I'm not sure how I feel about VR being added to Acrophobia; the ride is pretty much perfect the way it is, so there's really no need to mess with it. I'll save judgment until I try it though -- after all, I'll take any excuse to ride again!
I consider the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Georgia Aquarium to be the "big three" aquariums in the United States. While I've been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium several times, I'd never before visited either of the other two. Being in Atlanta, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give Georgia Aquarium a try. The newest of the three (opened in 2005), it's currently the largest aquarium in the country (it was the largest in the world for a while), and features a couple inhabitants you can't find elsewhere in the U.S. -- whale sharks and manta rays. The whale sharks in particular seem to be the aquarium's headliners.
I very much liked the layout of the place -- the main entrance leads to a central courtyard that houses the food court and gift shop, and all of the major exhibit galleries branch off of that courtyard, forming more or less a circle around it. It's a very logical organization that ensures you know exactly what the aquarium exhibits are, which you've already seen, and which you still need to see. During my visit in 2014, there was also a temporary exhibit set up -- Sea Monsters Revealed, which was basically an aquatic version of the Human Bodies exhibit you may be familiar with. That Sea Monsters attraction alone made this entire Georgia Aquarium trip well worth it.
The aquarium exterior makes for a nice looking building in downtown Atlanta.
These fish greet you immediately upon entering, in the hallway leading from the main entrance to the aquarium's central courtyard.
While all of the aquarium galleries are large, Ocean Voyager is the especially huge one. Let's begin here...
Ocean Voyager can be viewed in one of two ways. First, there's this massive underwater observation tunnel. (Notice how busy the aquarium was! I didn't mind; it didn't detract from the visit.)
One of the many fish that call Ocean Voyager home, a grouper, as seen from the tunnel.
The main stars of Ocean Voyager are the aquarium's whale sharks, seen here through an enormous observation window -- the second of the exhibit's viewing opportunities.
Whale sharks are the largest living fish species and definitely look it -- they're gigantic even in this towering exhibit.
In addition to being popular with aquarium guests, they appear to be popular with the other aquarium fish as well! Despite being huge sharks, they filter feed on plankton, so don't pose any threat to their entourage.
Georgia Aquarium's other unique inhabitants, the manta rays, are also featured as part of Ocean Voyager.
Though they may be dwarfed by the whale sharks, the mantas are incredibly impressive -- far larger than any ray you'll find at your typical aquarium touch pool.
With the manta rays, whale sharks, and even more sharks, cartilaginous fishes are well represented at Ocean Voyager.
The next exhibit gallery is Tropical Diver, showcasing a warm-water coral reef ecosystem.
It's another impressively large aquarium with another impressively large viewing window, featuring a pretty spectacular collection of live corals and reef fish, just like the coral reefs you'd find offshore in the tropics.
There are separate smaller aquarium tanks, each housing various types of coral plus other interesting occupants, such as these razorfish.
This was the strangest aggregation of catfish I'd ever seen.
It wouldn't be an aquarium without sea jellies, which are located within the Tropical Diver gallery.
Close cnidarian cousins of jellies and corals, sea anemones are also prominently displayed throughout.
Leaving the tropics, let's move up to the higher temperate and polar latitudes with Cold Water Quest, the third of the aquarium's exhibit galleries.
Whereas coral reefs are found offshore in tropical warm waters, kelp forests are the predominant offshore ecosystems in the colder temperate ocean.
A photogenically bright garibaldi among the kelp.
A sea dragon.
A spider crab.
Two always-popular aquarium inhabitants reside here at Cold Water Quest -- beluga whales in the Arctic exhibit...
...and penguins in the Antarctic exhibit.
Next is River Scout, where the previous marine emphasis switches to now focus on freshwater.
The exhibit features a fascinating "overhead river" that runs above pretty much the entire gallery. As you can see, it's teeming with fish.
A few non-fish freshwater species also hang out in the river.
Exploring the rest of the River Scout displays, you'll find piranha...
...and this intriguing albino alligator.
The fifth major exhibit gallery is Georgia Explorer, focusing on the local marine life that's found just off of Georgia's coast, as well as the freshwater life you can find within the state itself. This is also the most "interactive" exhibit, featuring the aquarium's touch tanks and other kid-friendly attractions. (My understanding is that Georgia Explorer has since been replaced by a sea lion exhibit. That's too bad -- while I certainly like sea lions and they're always popular at aquariums, I really enjoyed this exhibit too. Plus a Georgia-themed aquarium rightfully belonged at the Georgia Aquarium!)
There are rays aplenty in the Georgia Explorer touch tanks.
All different kinds of rays.
Cool cryptic rays.
Bonnethead sharks are also present.
This a cowry, a type of sea snail.
Georgia Explorer has various aquarium displays showcasing both freshwater...
...and marine life. These very silvery, very flat fish are lookdowns.
The lionfish is native to the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, but has within the last couple of decades been introduced to the western Atlantic Ocean, where it's wreaking havoc on native Atlantic populations and ecosystems.
Despite the fact that it's venomous and an invasive pest species, there's no denying it's an awesome looking fish.
Lots of fun, interactive, and educational exhibits for kids (and adults) throughout the Georgia Explorer gallery.
Dolphin Tales is the aquarium's big indoor stadium show. Instead of simply demonstrating dolphin behaviors, it's more of a production, featuring human actors, video displays, a musical score, and a few other effects -- kind of a wannabe SeaWorld Blue Horizons. If you thought Blue Horizons was schmaltzy, you'll probably hate Dolphin Tales, as it's even worse. Try to ignore all of that though and just enjoy the dolphin acrobatics, which are as always impressive. (If I'm remembering correctly, this may be an upcharge, or at least something you need a Fastpass-style reservation ticket for to guarantee yourself a spot.)
There are viewing windows to observe the dolphins in their "backstage" pools, though again, I believe a ticket is required to enter this entire area. Therefore, unlike the other galleries, you can only spend an allotted amount of time here.
The other show is Deepo's Undersea 3D Wondershow (Deepo is the aquarium's mascot). I did watch this, but I'll be honest, I really don't remember it at all, so I couldn't tell you how it was.
To finish up, let's spend some time at the Sea Monsters Revealed temporary exhibit, which I do very much remember -- it was a highlight of the visit.
Some info on the preparation process in case you're interested. Think Human Bodies with fishes instead of humans.
It's actually not just fish though -- this penguin was the first display immediately inside the exhibit entrance. I've dissected pigeons before and they're challenging enough; I can't imagine how difficult it would be to perfectly dissect and display a penguin.
A few invertebrate specimens as well.
Fishes do comprise the majority of the exhibit, and once again, compared to my attempts at fish dissections, I was in awe at the quality of these.
Perhaps most impressive was this nervous system demonstration. The amount of time, skill, and meticulous care that must have gone into this boggles my mind.
Georgia Aquarium has lots of rays, so you can bet there are lots of rays on display in the Sea Monsters exhibit.
Including the aquarium's signature manta rays.
Plenty of sharks too. (I love the quote.)
A pregnant shark filled with pups.
And sure enough, there's even a whale shark.
Two final specimens to wrap up -- an eel...
...and a sunfish. I can't emphasize enough how impressed I was with this Sea Monsters Revealed exhibit. I don't know if it was a one-time thing or if it's a traveling exhibit that makes its way from aquarium to aquarium, but be on the lookout for it and check it out if you find it! I'm so glad it was here while I was here -- a surprise bonus to an already great Georgia Aquarium visit.
Huge aquarium fan here and the Georgia Aquarium looks fantastic! I've added that to my list of things to check out. Many years ago there was a Body Wars exhibit or something similar that came to DC and I loved it so much I went twice. It was fascinating and the Sea Monsters Revealed exhibit looks outstanding! WOW! I've always talked about how someone ought to have an animal dissection exhibit and to hear it exists is awesome. Now I absolutely need to find out if it's a traveling thing or a permanent installation of sorts.
What kind of camera were you using at the aquarium? Some of your pics turned out great, animals in tanks are often hard to capture.
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