Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
Why would I subject myself and my family to that? My son (7) earned a free ticket for completing a first-grade reading program during the school year, so we felt obligated to honor him with a trip to the park. He's a big wave pool fan, so the new Hurricane Harbor waterpark made it inevitable.
It was Wednesday, July 27th, highs only expected in the mid-70s - at least the weather was very good! We arrived right at the opening (10:00AM) and got a GREAT parking space (here's a tip - off to the north side of the lot where the spaces are perpendicular to the park - spots really close to the gate seem to be available if you arrive early). I was getting hopeful - maybe it wouldn't be too busy?? My hopes would be dashed by mid-day.
We decided to just circle the park. With our 7-year (Daniel) old being the day's focus, it was pointless to try to hit the big rides for early opportunities, because he is too short for all of them. So I agonized at the short line for Superman while we rode Rue La Dodge next to it :( Next was The Condor. Then King Chaos for me and the 13-year old son (Michael) while mom and Daniel rode the Big Easy Balloons. KC was okay, intense for a few seconds, but not enough action. An early boring lunch at the Bayou Grill, then we got soaked on Roaring Rapids (brrr...).
Then disaster struck, well I guess that's a bit harsh. My wife and Michael wanted to ride Ragin' Cajun, which looked pretty fun. Meanwhile Daniel and I hit 4 various small rides that he loved, but I was less impressed by. SFGA has sooo many rides that are just permanently anchored carnival rides. It's disappointing after laying out 40 bucks and paying $3.50 for a fountain soda and $8 for burger earlier on!
Okay, back to disaster. Michael and Anna ended up waiting 1 hour 45 minutes for Ragin' Cajun, eventually riding what they thought was a mediocre ride. Why so long? Long line, "technical difficulties" (someone vomitted on the ride!) that cost 15-20 minutes of ride downtime and too-few cars running. That really cost us a lot of time.
The boys eventually asked to go to Hurricane Harbor once the day warmed up. I told the family I wasn't going to suit up, because I was frustrated with the day so far. So, they got situated and Anna agreed to allow me to roam on my own for an hour or so. That hour or so was spent waiting in line for Raging Bull. RB and Vertical Velocity were two rides that I told myself I'd ride NO MATTER WHAT (I'd never gotten to before). Guess what? VV was shut down for the entire day!!! BIG disappointment, but that's what I tend to expect from Six Flags. Back to RB - even though the wait was nearly 80 minutes, the ride was absolutely fantastic - very exhilirating. A real blast worth the wait. The people watching in line will help the time pass if you're riding alone.
We had dinner at the Crazy Buffalo Saloon - a buffet and sit-down place that's a haven from fast food. Okay food focusing on BBQ, but still better than other fare. Then Chubbasco immediately following dinner - not the brightest move of all time! The boys and I love this one because the "teacups" will spin pretty darn fast. Then we hit several mediocre rides, only to finish with three times straight on Fiddler's Fling. This was actually a great way to end the day, because Daniel discovered during the day that spinning rides were his absolute favorite. I wish I could remember the name of the carnival ride that this imitates (except FF is on an angle, whereas the carnival ride was flat), but it's intense and fast and the centrifugal force that made Daniel slide across the seat into me, no matter what he tried really made his day! It seemed a bit too intense considering only having a lapbar restraint, and the whole ride being on an angle, but I'm sure that's by design. A really good feeling of "if I don't hold on tightly, I'm going to be jettisoned from this thing!" Not really so hot, actually, when riding with a less-than-50 pound boy, but man did he enjoy it.
So, in summary, in the end it was a fun day because the kids had such a great time. Would I have enjoyed the experience minus the "watching your kids have a blast' factor? Probably so, because I'd have ridden intense rides all day and probably had just as good a time. This year the park seemed cleaner (I think they're trying very hard to put on their best face for the grand opening of Hurricane Harbor). HH seems like a nice, but very expensive, water park ($10 for a locker rental?!?!?) - more elongated than most square or circle-shaped parks (i.e., long walks from one side to the other, with really only one attraction fitting into the width of the park at a time). As we walked around SFGA, Anna kept saying "this isn't as clean or nice as Disneyland or LEGOland". After visiting Southern California last summer and getting to experience Disneyland, DCA and LEGOland, other parks really have a lot to live up to (I'm jealous of those of you who live close to Disneyland, if I did, I'd have season passes every year!). I explained Six Flag's rep for unimpressive cleanliness, less inspired theming and more focus on intense rides than the "family togetherness experience" we got from those other three parks. In the end, you take what you can get, but now that I've experienced truly great theme parks in SoCal, SFGA really pales in comparison.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort