Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
After spending two days in the park with my 12-year old son (June 20 and 21), I can amend my previous report slightly to state that SFStL is no longer the "dirtiest amusement park" as much has been done to clean up the trash and filth that beset me during my 2008 visit. In fact, I would go so far as to say that other than the Villains Cafe (still an intolerable pit with a really nasty fixin's bar) SFStL is one of the cleaner iron ride parks I have visited in recent memory. Even the bathrooms were in pretty good shape which is a huge step in the right direction and went a long way toward providing me and my son with a positive outlook on the park. Kudos to the park management team and the recently ousted Mark Shapiro for making cleanliness such a key focal point for improvement.
Having written all that, I must still say that SFStL is the most UNKEMPT amusement park I have ever visited. Yeah, they cleaned the place up from a sanitary perspective, but the fact remains that the park just looks old, dilapidated, and washed out. Once you journey past the first 1/3 of the park, everything is in dire need of upkeep. Rides are rusted and in disrepair, buildings all need paint, weeds cover most every inch of available landscaping, and the overall sense one receives is that this place is just really, really old. And not in a charming way but in a "we don't have the money to keep things up the way we should" way.
Before I receive all the hate mail, let me give props where props are due. Half of the parking lot has been repaved and looks swell. The tracks for Mr. Freeze and Ninja both received some paint and they look great, and the retracking love given to the Boss has re-energized the coaster, giving it new life and two new fans (my son and I). Furthermore, the entry plaza and first third of the park look nice, comparable to what you would expect from a regional amusement park that cares a little bit about aesthetics.
But, as if to show the world that they refuse to comply to the new level of beauty requisite at most theme parks, SFStL snubs fans by only going half way. For example, the other half of the aforementioned parking lot appears to have been the victim of a New Madrid earthquake with broken and ruptured asphalt in every available space. The queues for Freeze and Ninja are in dire straits, despite the new paint on the tracks. And the loading house for the Boss is in such a bad state that you'll feel the need to get a tetanus shot if you accidentally touch something! Honestly, the entire back 2/3 of the park is in really poor shape, and despite postings to the contrary, weeds are still a HUGE issue.
So the park is clean but unkempt…who cares, right? Well, I do, but I still managed to have a good time. Casting aside the dozen or so carnival midway rides common to all amusement parks, SFStL has a fairly diverse and exciting collection of rides. Coasters like Evel Knievel, Batman, and the re-tracked Boss go a long way toward pleasing Theme Park Insiders like my son and I, and standout attractions like the Glow-in-the-Park parade seem to indicate that Six Flags is trending in the right direction. Moreover, most of the employees we encountered were upbeat and friendly which is a huge bonus! I still think the park has a long way to go if it wants to rise from third place among Missouri amusement parks, but it certainly is a much better place in 2010 than it was in 2008. Kudos to park management (and to a sorely missed Mark Shapiro) for the improvements.
Anyway, once this thread is posted I will add some picture links to showcase our adventures in SFStL and I will provide a little more commentary about the park and its rides.
As we made our way past the security check point, through the special Discover Card holder entrance, and into the park, we saw that the entry courtyard looked pretty spiffy, but was it all just a facade?
No day would be complete without a gratuitous shot of the Colossus. It’s big, boring, and slow loading… who still rides these things, anyway?
We headed in the direction of Mr. Freeze, but were we entering Weed Island or queuing for an LIM coaster? Oh wait, there IS a ride hidden among all these weeds... it's the recently painted Mr. Freeze! Sadly, the dilapidated look is so "in" at SFStL. I mean, come on, what's wrong with good, old fashioned grass? Is it too hard to grow among all these weeds? If you crane your neck and look past the weeds, you can see the coaster’s over-banked turn. Of course, if you look the other way you’ll see that it really is a jungle out there!
Heading back deeper into the park we entered the re-tracked coaster, Da Boss. While this beast is an intense ride during the day, it is especially good during the darkness of the night. It does, however, have one of the longest queues in the industry. And like I said, dilapidated is "in" at Six Flags Saint Louis. As you finally approach the loading area, you pass some nice signage, some amazing decorations, and wonderful theming. But once you get past all that, the ride is a whole lotta fun. And after you finally emerge from that 570 degree helix you realize just how lucky you are to still be among the living.
Heading to the right corner of the park we encountered the park’s spiffy looking train. We did not take time to ride though as we had coasters to visit. Besides, while the train looked nice, the tracks did not. Are groundskeepers considered Unauthorized Personnel?
Moving on we came to Superman: The Tower of Power. It should be called Superman: The Tower of Wasted Time. Literally three seconds of “fun”. What’s the point?
We then made our way to the Screamin’ Eagle, the second oldest coaster in the park. The queue was beautiful (not!), and the abundance of pretty decorations (hahaha!) really made the trek a joy (sarcasm). Sadly, the Screamin’ Eagle may look like fun, but it is just too painful for any real enjoyment to be had.
Next we rode the River King Mine Train which is the oldest coaster in the park. Its an okay family ride, but you can really get a good look at the overgrown nature of the park on this coaster. Are groundskeepers really that expensive?
Ninja was next, and yes, those are STRIDE ads on the coaster’s trains. Anything for a buck, eh, Six Flags?
In the bottom right corner of the park sits Gotham City and B&M’s widely cloned Batman coaster. Despite being a clone, it is a very fun ride. It has a short initial drop into a tight loop that sends all your blood rushing straight to your feet. While I like the longer drop of the Patriot at Worlds of Fun, I think the layout on the Batman offers a real nice change of pace. I especially like the feel and placement of Batman’s second loop, although the queuing area and some of the decorations could use a bit of upkeep.
Finally, we headed over to ride Evel Knievel, the compact GCI masterpiece in the left, front corner of the park. On the way we encountered some old friends at a gift shop: Woody and Buzz! It was nice to see Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3 get the love it so richly deserves even at a competitor’s park! Moving past the Disney Store (hee hee), we queued up for the best ride in the park. From the speedy lift hill to the over-banked turn, this coaster is so much fun! Although, it was impossible to miss the fact that even around a newer ride like Evel Knievel, weeds are still a problem.
As night closed in on the park, we settled in for the new Glow-In-The-Park parade. While it was a tad short and had only about a half dozen floats, it was really an impressive close to the night. And a fine way to end our day at Six Flags Saint Louis.
And to bad you haven't seen some of the parks I have over the years. I don't know where I have all those photos and 8mm film of SFStL or you could really judge how the park has changed, and some of that gum looks familiar.
You need to come up to Chicago (actually Gurnee) to see SFGA. I was shocked at those pictures for the most part! Some of that stuff is unacceptable. Also, that front courtyard of the park is not very inspiring!
I will say that hold on to the ferris wheel! SFGA got rid of their's and they are greatly missed!
Perhaps I should come to SFStL to compare and contrast, but I see what you mean! I will take any pictures for you next time!
I wouldn't worry about the weeds in the roller coaster area. Its tough area to maintain. The train tracks are an abomination!
As for Screamin' Eagle, Steve, I rode it about four times on this last visit and I just don't see the fun. Compared to so many other good wooden coasters there is just no need for the pain this ride inflicts. Not to mention the thing looks like it hasn't been painted since 1976. I like the layout and I like the idea, I just don't like the actual ride. If Six Flags would re-track this hunk of junk and give it the same love and attention they are giving to the Texas Giant, then I think it could be a good ride. But for now, it is entirely skip-able, and it is the worst coaster in the park.
However, I kinda liked the overgrowth near the coaster in the one picture. Gave it a mysterious look.
We are considered visiting SF St Louis later this summer (we have SF Georgia season passes so admission would be free). Just wondering if you had any time to check out the adjacent waterpark. If I understood the SF website correctly, that part is included with admission.
Tony Hawk is very similar to Spinning Dragons, the Gerstlauer spinning coaster at my local park (Worlds of Fun), so I neglected to bring it up in my update. Anyway, these spinning coasters are a lot of fun if you can get them spinning. And to be honest one time when my son and I rode Tony Hawk on the same side of the car with no one opposite us, we got to spinning so good I couldn't walk straight when we exited the ride. It was an awesome ride... I just wish it was like that every time. Here's a picture of THBS, if you are interested.
As for the water park, Hurricane Harbor, it is included with your park admission. We did visit on Father's Day, and we went early before the crowds were out of control. I heard from a life guard that by late afternoon the water park was at capacity. Yikes.
Anyway, it is a small water park with a standard collection of raft and body slides, some speed slides, one funnel slide, a lazy river, and a very small wave pool, with very (VERY) weak waves. It is a nice diversion (and it is pretty clean) but that's about it. One note: there is almost no shade in the water park, so wear water shoes or something or your feet will fry.
Hope that info helps, and let me know if you need any other info, I will be glad to share.
And, Josh, trust me, the only people who won't notice the weeds at SFStL are blind people. It is impossible to miss them. Some folks may not care, but they definitely see the problem.
Appreciate the water park tips. I was actually thinking we would hit that area early in the day to avoid the afternoon crowds. I will also advise everyone to bring watershoes or flip-flop sandals (those are a must for me at any water park).
And, FWIW, I stayed at a Comfort Inn & Suites about 20 miles from SFStL in Chesterfield. It was an easy drive in a nice area, and is a must if you are planning to eat dinner outside of the park (which you should!) and you want something besides fast food.
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