I'm going to start this next trip report with a quick public service announcement. Don't say I don't care about the children...
Got it? Good. Let's go on a journey to "SeaWorld on a budget" in Vallejo, CA.
Alright, alright... that's not nice. I'm sorry. We actually really liked this park, but remember when people were like "Six Flags should buy Busch / SeaWorld. It can't get any worse right?"
No they should not. F*ck you.
Anyway, I guess I should back up. I totally crashed the night before. It wasn't like... "Steel Vengeance on opening day" crash. It was like... "Pinfari invert when it sees a nearby kiddy ride" crash. I think Brit hopped in the shower the night before and I was sitting up on the other bed waiting for her to get out so I could go, and the next thing I knew it was like 5 in the morning (which felt like 8, so I was up) and I was still sitting on the other bed in all of my clothes in the upright position.
I knew Brit could sleep for awhile longer and clearly there was absolutely no rush, so I hopped online for a bit, made myself some hotel room coffee and took the shower that I meant to take about 8 hours ago, checking myself over for tumors in the process.
After awhile, the non jet-lagged world around us started to come to life and after helping ourselves to the continental breakfast downstairs we hopped in the car on the way to Discovery Kingdom. It took awhile to get going in the right direction because ironically, Silicon Valley has horrible horrible data coverage. It was certainty weird driving by the Google building, the Verizon building, the Yahoo building and the Amazon building wondering who we needed to blow to get on the internet and get some directions but... there we were.
After finally connecting to the maps app which led us on an absolutely gorgeous drive (I love the Northern California mountains), we arrived at crackhead SeaWorld. This park is super weird in that the parking lot is absolutely nowhere near the park, and there's a super narrow strip of road that you need to follow to get to the main gate. They had a shuttle bus, but we were a little early thanks to the jet lag so we opted to walk.
I know nothing about the history of this park but... let me guess. The park used to be owned by someone who wasn't Six Flags and it was super nice and basically a zoo. Then, Six Flags bought it and was like "We need to add a massive sh*t ton of rides". They were all excited until they eventually realized that they had no room to add rides without being creative and working around things which was way too much work for them because they're Six Flags so they decided... "eh, f*ck it", let's just build ALL THE RIDES on the old parking lot and then make everyone park super far away but let's not move the main gate because it's too much work".
How did I do? What do I win?
When the park opened we immediately entered and made our way over to the left towards Joker. We weren't exactly sure where we were going, but luckily a lot of other people were doing the same thing so we sort of followed the herd. Along the way, we passed an old thing that was probably a Stingray touch pool but now looks more like a mosquito breeding ground and a cool African penguin exhibit on the other side. That was sort of the tone for the park. Lot's of great, SeaWorld style stuff but lots of budget cut, eyesore stadiums and exhibits throughout the park too. It wasn't particularly bad it was just weird.
Eventually we made our way to Joker but saw that it wasn't running. We opted to stick it out for awhile since V2 wasn't running either, nor was the new frisbee ride. Actually, none of the rides on this side of the park were running aside from Superman.
After about 20-30 minutes we realized that none of those rides were showing any signs of life so we hopped over to Superman. Due to the nearby construction of their figure 8 coaster, Superman was open but you didn't go in through the regular entrance. They sort of rerouted it so that you entered further down in the queue and then entered and exited on the same side of the platform back through the queue gates. While it was convoluted, I was really appreciative of the fact that they didn't take the easy way out and simply close the ride during the construction process.
As for the ride, it was a blast. It has a 2 car train and I always preferred those to the Busch 3 car model. It seems like these have a bit more speed at the top of the hill and deliver way more airtime.
There was still absolutely no sign of life from anything else in the area, so eventually we bailed and made our way over to the other side of the park that was absolutely bustling. Apparently we should have gone over there first, lesson learned.
Medusa was tempting us but we figured it was more sensible to get the sh*t out of the way first so instead of making a good decision and heading right, we took the blue pill and headed left.
Kong was a complete walk-on, though they seemed to have enough queue space for the entire state of California if they all randomly decided one day that they love awful coasters and wanted to go and ride Kong at the exact same time.
I don't remember much about this ride other than the fact that it was ugly and it sucked. Maybe I'm trying to subconsciously put it out of my mind.
Up next was Medusa, which I was really excited to ride so that it could restore my faith in floorless coasters after Patriot. You don't really hear much about this ride, but that's really true of every coaster in Northern California. Going in, I simply assumed that that was due to the fact that (like most floorless coasters) it was a really good ride, but nothing mind blowing. Either way, there's no such thing as a bad floorless (well... I wouldn't have thought so until the previous night) so I knew that we were in for a treat.
The ride station is very nice, as is the queue area. While this is a "parking lot coaster", it's no longer all that apparent when riding it and it's not apparent at all from the ground. By B&M standards, it's a quirky ride. It starts out in a familiar way with a loop, dive loop and barrel roll but then it goes nuts. The cobra roll is replaced with a weird thing that sends the train flying in the same direction it came from which is pretty different and a nice change of pace, then the ride flies up into the brakes and (in my opinion) that's where Medusa really gets going which is the exact opposite of what I'd say for the other floorless coasters.
The brake run barely kicks on at all, and the ride absolutely divebombs off of the midcourse with insane speed. You're immediately launched into a high speed corkscrew under the brake run before diving right back down, pretty much at ground level and whipping into another corkscrew. At that point, most floorless coasters would just pussyfoot around and hop back to the station in totally uninteresting ways, but Medusa whips you through a really tight, forceful and fun turn (which is one of my favorite things on the whole ride) before banking left and flying into the brakes.
This is my new favorite floorless and it's not close. The view from the lift is magnificent, the first half is great, I like the fact that it mixes things up with that weird element before the brake run, the dive off the midcourse is probably my favorite thing on the ride and the second half is (by B&M floorless standards) highly aggressive but the ride is totally smooth throughout. I won't lie, I rarely get "annoyed" at parks but we were a little irritated between the fact that the RMC was showing no signs of life and neither was half the park and we had just taken a massive beating from Kong, but Medusa instantly put us both in a great mood. What a phenomenal coaster. It blew our expectations away.
We exited the ride, planning to knock out the Boomerang or family coaster next but as we glanced across the park we could see the wheel spinning atop Joker which (pathetic as it is) was exciting progress so we made our way over. We expected to find a huge line and a closed ride still going through test runs, but when we got back near the entrance we saw a loaded train ascending the lift. Awesome!
We were prepared to buy Flash Pass since it was so cheap, but honestly it just wasn't warranted. I don't think we saw a single line for any ride all day that was beyond the merge point and thankfully Joker was in that same boat.
As RMCs go, I have a hard time thinking of one that gets less attention than Joker. Again, it could be it's location and yes it may not be the flashiest RMC out there but make no mistake, this is a GREAT ride.
This ride is pretty unique as RMCs go because it actually starts out by following the course of the original ride. Sure, it probably adds in some height and tightens up the transitions, but aside from a few random barrel rolls (because they can't help themselves) it feels like a super smooth GCI with swooping turns and banked drops. Eventually though, RMC couldn't behave any more and they decided to do what they do best ad just go bullsh*t. The ride has an awesome stall (which is probably my favorite part of the ride) which is really their way of telling you that from there on out you're in for some crazy sh*t. From then on, it's just a sea of outward banks, barrel rolls, overbanks and violent airtime hills.
I loved it, and (despite the fact that it lacked the "oh sh*t" handles she loves so much) I was happy to find that Brit did too. We excitedly exited the ride, ready to go straight back around but stopped in our tracks when a loaded V2 train rocketed out of the station.
Going in, I really didn't think we'd get to ride this thing and I was at peace with that. Apparently it had spent the better part of a year standing but not operating and it's just absurdly unreliable all around. When we walked by in the morning the gates were far away from the queue entrance, blocking the entire ride area and there was no sign of the ride crew so we had no hope of the ride opening knowing it's track record. Knowing all of this, we booked it over there and took the next available row. Beggars can't be choosers, just get us on it before it breaks.
The ride was really cool, and while I don't know if I prefer the weird angled twisting thing to the standard vertical twist I do know that it was cool to ride something a little different. One thing I did like was that no matter where you sat, you got through the whole twist so this might actually be the only impulse coaster that I would consider a back seat ride. That said, I never got the opportunity to ride it in the front so that statement doesn't really hold much water.
As we came to a stop, we noticed after awhile that the restraints weren't planning to pop up. We probably sat there for a solid 20 minutes before we were manually released, and I don't believe the ride opened again for the remainder of the day (though we did see some empty test runs). We walked off feeling really fortunate that we managed to get that ride in.
After we were finally free from our restraints we decided to hit the one remaining adult coaster before switching gears and doing some animal stuff (which was music to Brit's ears). Unfortunately for us, the one remaining coaster wasn't exactly a good one.
Not much to report here. The ride sucked and we were the only ones on the entire train because literally everyone else seems to hate it as much as we do. I actually do enjoy some Boomerangs and when they're smooth they can be a lot of fun but this one was trash.
After facing the Boom-tensity, it was time for something I had been absolutely giddy about since the moment it was announced. Every once in awhile parks do things that don't seem to make any sense from their perspective, but you feel like you need to sit there, not question your good fortune and just happily take it. It doesn't happen often (I feel like Cedar Fair paying to relocate Demon Drop may have been the last time), but when it does it's awesome. I'm so happy this exists. I don't get it, but I love it...
We used to LOVE riding Escape from Dino Island at Great Adventure. At this point, it's objectively highly dated sh*t but f*ck your objectivity because it's fantastic. This was pretty much the only ride we had to wait for all day (thanks to a few breakdowns it was about 40 minutes) but some things in life are worth waiting for. We weren't about to leave. If we left, Tony would have died. That will never happen under my watch.
Brit had never ridden this brilliance before but I sort of figured she'd end up liking it by default just because there were dinosaurs and my assumption turned out to be right. I would have been thrilled just to ride the thing, but when I saw that they were even running the terrible pre-show my excitement level went through the roof.
I won't bother reviewing this experience because I wouldn't be objective anyway. I can't be. It's Dino island. Dino... F*cking... Island. In 2018... WTF?
While in line for Dino Island, we had pulled out a show schedule and noticed that (unlike CERTAIN Six Flags parks), the park still had a tiger show. We couldn't turn that down, but the frequent dino island breakdowns forced us to cut if close so after we heroically saved Tony from Dino Island we booked it over to the tiger show with only a minute or two to spare.
As the show dumped, it sort of led you into another show starting about 10 minutes later in the theater nextdoor. This one was geared towards kids, but still entertaining. The park showcased a great collection of smaller animals as well as some cool bird species. It reminded me a lot of the predator show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
The park has an animal trail of sorts that runs from near that theater back around the far side of the park. As we started to follow it, we were quickly reminded that we were in a Six Flags park. "What's supposed to be in here?" and "Well, I guess the <<insert animal>> isn't here" were the operative phrases of the day, but to be fair there were still some cool things to check out.
This is going to sound weird, but I think my favorite thing along the trail was actually the butterfly garden. I know that sounds really f*cking dumb, but we've been to a good deal of zoos and aquariums and it's rare to find one of these. Even when you do, they rarely have THIS MANY butterflies. They were everywhere, some of them were huge and the Six Flags patrons were generally respectful of them which probably wouldn't have been the case at Great Adventure.
As we exited the butterfly garden, we realized we hadn't eaten since breakfast and we were starving. A quick check of the map showed that there was a JB's just ahead, so we decided to press on and stay on the path by the lake.
It turned out that the JB's was COMPLETE trash, but the nearby Macho Nacho actually looked decent and they had a great outdoor seating area by the lake. Passing up a JB's for a Macho f*cking Nacho? What's wrong with me?
Unfortunately our day was starting to grow short and we were down to our last few hours but the good news was that we had pretty much done everything we wanted to do so we started to focus on re-rides. Along the way, we stopped to take in some of the scenery and atmosphere near the park's main entrance and hub area which was really, really nice.
Our plan for the rest of the day was pretty staightforward... ride the crap out of Medusa, see the park's dolphin show and then spend the last 30 or so minutes riding the crap out of Joker. It seemed simple enough, but it became a bit more complicated when we passed the park's "Cobra" coaster on the way to Medusa.
Cobra is basically a Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy clone which is kind of walking the line between a family coaster and a kiddy ride. We really don't ride kids rides, but Brit's actually ridden Harley Quinn for fun without even needing the credit at Great Adventure so after some debate we deemed it acceptable. Despite the fact that the train was 75,000 cars long (what is with these things? lol) it had a bit of a line so we ended up waiting a few cycles. Of note, the Cobra ride op was awesome and probably the best ride op we've ever seen at a Six Flags park (except Ryan obviously, I mean... come on).
We had a fun little ride on Cobra, and thankfully we found ourselves with plenty of time for a few Medusa rides before we had to catch the dolphin show. The park has a Great Adventure style re-ride policy where you can stay on if there's nobody in your row and seat jumping to empty rows is also allowed so we ended up getting like 4 or 5 rides in in the back 2 rows without having to leave the station.
I couldn't believe it, but this thing was somehow running even better than it was in the morning. That whip off of the midcourse is everything.
We rode Medusa over and over, loving every minute of it until we finally realized it was time to head over to the park's main theater for what seemed to be their "big" show, "Drench".
It definitely felt like a Six-Flags-ified SeaWorld show.
Maybe it's just me but outside of SeaWorld Orlando I just feel like bottlenose dolphin shows usually drag. They have some great moments and they're very acrobatic animals but I feel like they always start out great, end great and they realize that they just don't know what to do for that middle 10 minutes of the show so they just sort of have the dolphins swimming around doing nothing.
Luckily, the show ended with a bang. The dolphins soaked everyone and performed some cool behaviors so overall despite our critiques we left with a really favorable opinion of the show and would absolutely recommend it.
When the show ended we found ourselves with about 40 more minutes to kill and we knew exactly where we planned to kill it. Brit did want to make a quick pit-stop at the Frisbee though which I was all for. Unfortunately as soon as we got there it went down mechanical but neither of us cared all that much as it just meant more Joker rides. Woe is us.
We ended the night with 3 or 4 Joker rides since (as was the case with Medusa), there wasn't much of a line. After what we thought was our last ride of the night one of the employees decided that she wanted to ride, so the ops told everyone that they could stay in their seats and ride again as she jumped in an empty row. I'm pretty sure that despite the fact that she was a ride op on the ride she had never actually been on it since she was absolutely f*cking terrified. Oh well, she may be scarred for life but we had fun.
Our Medusa and Joker marathons (along with a dolphin show intermission) were the perfect way to end an excellent day at the park. While not without it's flaws, Discovery Kingdom was a really great place to spend the day and they have some really solid rides. Medusa is a major sleeper hit and to an extent I think Joker is too because NOBODY talks about it. Throw in the great setting, nice selection of animals and lack of beer jail and you have yourselves a really nice theme park!
We opted to walk again on the way out rather than waiting for the tram, and on the way out we got to witness tons of employees and guests using the Chaos coaster track (which was literally just sitting in the parking lot with no fences around it at all) as a bench to wait for the bus. Occasionally a tram would come by and the driver would yell at them to get off the track, at which time they would until the tram left when they would sit back down and wait for the next tram driver to yell at them again.
It was hilarious, and a perfect way to conclude the day and sort of sum up the park as a whole. Sometimes you walk around feeling like you're at a SeaWorld park and then occasionally you get slapped in the face with a reminder that it's a Six Flags park in the six-flagsiest way possible. With the right mindset that's not a bad thing. It's actually pretty funny when it happens and you just look at eachother like "oh yeah", and laugh.
Up next: The not so dramatic conclusion of our California weekend!