The Lone Star Coaster Round-Up (Part 1)

Edited: April 5, 2019, 11:24 PM

Howdy ya'll! AJ here, back with another trip report from my latest theme park adventure. Over the last few years, my theme park travels have taken me to the Midwest, East Coast, and Deep South, as well as the Holy Grail that is Florida, but one notable destination has always eluded me. Since 2015, I have made constant plans to visit it, and every year those plans have been either cancelled or preempted. However, March 2019 it was finally time to check this destination off my list. But where could it be? Well, it's one of the few places bigger than California and a rare location where the parks operate year-round. This spring, my destination of choice was Texas.

Last summer's Keystone, Timbers, and Vengeance Tour paid off not only on the tour itself, but also afterward. As the organizer (and thus the person in charge of all the hotel bookings), I was able to reap the reward of several free nights at hotels. Furthermore, good timing on my part netted a round-trip flight from John Wayne Airport to Dallas for just $120. With these discounts, as well as passes to every park on the trip, I was able to do a five-night tour of Texas for less than the cost of renewing by Disneyland AP (which, coincidentally, expires today). But as usual, I would not be traveling alone. Let's meet our tour participants...

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The three amigos of this tour: AJ (left), Scott (middle), Evan (right).

I, AJ, am the organizer of this tour (and more yet to come). When I'm not traveling I work teaching math, physics, and chemistry to high school students. Theme park wise, I've visited over 90 parks and just shy of 500 different coasters. Joining me is Evan, who you may remember from last summer's tour. He and I met on a tour with Theme Park Review in 2014, and since then he's traveled with me on a majority of my tours. A former SFMM ride op, he currently does freelance graphics design. Also on this tour is Scott, a good friend of mine from all the way back in elementary school. A graduate student with one year of study left, this was Scott's first time joining one of my tours as the costs and timing worked out for him.

Now get ready as we embark on a three part journey covering my five day tour of the best parks the Lone Star state has to offer.

The Lone Star Coaster Round-Up
Part 1: The Six Flags of Texas

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In the world of theme parks, Disney is often the first name that comes to mind. While Disneyland was not the world's first theme park, it was the one that popularized the idea of a modern theme park, and Walt Disney World proved that a destination resort centered on these attractions was a viable concept. However, there was another major player in the birth of the modern theme park that is often overlooked. It's not Universal, Disney's biggest rival in the industry. It's not Anheuser-Busch, who created the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens properties, merging an animal park and an amusement park into one. Instead, it is Six Flags, the creator of the regional theme park.

In the late 1950s, a real estate developer by the name of Angus G Wynne Jr. paid a visit to Disneyland. Following his time there, he decided that his home state of Texas should host a regional theme park of its own. On a budget of ten million dollars and with a year for construction, Six Flags Over Texas rose from the ground between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. The park opened with six themed areas, each based around a country that had claimed dominion over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. Upon opening, this park had several major differences from its contemporaries: It was the first pay one price park, where everything was covered under a single admission fee ($2.75 at opening), the first theme park where large-scale shows were a featured attraction, and it was home to the first attraction ever manufactured by Intamin, the Jet Set (a small spinner similar to Disney's rocket jets). Opening day on August 5th, 1961 saw over 8,000 attendees, and in an inaugural season with less than 50 operating days, the park attracted more than a half-million visitors. The success of this park continued, eventually spawning the entire Six Flags chain, now the largest regional park chain in North America.

My visit to Six Flags Over Texas was a highly anticipated one, as it was a park I'd been itching to visit for over a decade. As the original Six Flags, as well as one of the Six Flags scenarios in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2, it was a place that had intrigued me since the days the Texas Giant was featured in many of the roller coaster specials on TV. Unfortunately, it was also a place with a less than stellar reputation, as numerous friends complained about issues at the park on their visits. Slow operations, rude employees, strange policies, long lines...those had been the stories of many visits since 2013 or so. Therefore, as we arrived at the park on Thursday, March 21st, I was slightly apprehensive about everything going wrong, but approached the day with a good attitude. As it turns out...

We had the best day possible at Six Flags Over Texas!

Granted, that doesn't mean everything was perfect, but true perfection is impossible to achieve. Anyway...we arrived at the park about a half-hour before opening to find a fairly empty parking lot. Unlike some Six Flags parks, the walk to the gate wasn't too bad here, and before we knew it we were inside. With a bit of time before rope drop, we were subjected to a lame Six Flags dance party while those with more expensive memberships got early access. Scott wandered into a gift shop to escape the party (and to purchase some sunglasses), but before long he returned and we double-checked the map to make sure we were all on the same page. At 10:30, the rope dropped and we headed directly to our first destination...Gotham City.

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S&S Free Spin #1

Our first coaster of the day, as well as my first coaster in Texas (Evan had visited SFOT previously, and Scott went to the defunct Six Flags AstroWorld many years ago) was the Joker. An S&S Free Spin, this ride was very similar to the one I experienced at Six Flags Great Adventure last summer. However, there was one notable difference...SFOT's didn't flip. Instead, we had only a gentle rocking sensation as the cars traversed the track, leading to a fairly dull ride.

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Batman clone #1

Slightly underwhelmed, we made our way over to Batman The Ride, the first of three identical B&M inverts on this trip. As far as the Six Flags Batman coasters go, this was among the newer models, and I'd say it may have been my favorite of the bunch.

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The Dark Knight corkscrews.

While not quite as forceful as some, the ride has a really elaborate queue line with theming far above average by the standards of Six Flags, and the ride is maintained quite well for a 20 year old B&M.

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The worst part of this ride? It's based on the worst Batman film.

Speaking of well-themed Six Flags coasters, our next ride was Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast. A Premier LIM Shuttle Loop coaster, I rode the twin to this ride at Six Flags St. Louis on a visit eight years ago. I remember thinking that version was good, but not among my favorites. Either my recollection of the ride was off or this version runs significantly better, because Mr. Freeze was awesome! A long winding queue through Freeze's ice cream factory leads to a boarding area specially designed to accommodate two trains on a shuttle coaster. Like Superman: Escape from Krypton, trains run backwards here, and the launch out of the station is quite intense. You're immediately thrown into a top hat, which results in positive g's, hangtime, and more positives all in the span of about five seconds. A large turnaround leads to the spike, where you are launched backwards straight up to the very top before plummeting forward and doing it all again. It's a short ride, but super intense and thrilling enough that even coaster veterans will probably be a tad freaked out.

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Texas: The Ride

With that, we conquered the Gotham City section of the park and then made our way across to the Texas section. Here, it was time to tackle the best coaster at the park: New Texas Giant.

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It's not quite vertical, but it's still pretty steep.

The original RMC, this ride has a layout much like Steel Vengeance but lacking the flair of the latter. A 153 ft. first drop at a mere 79 degree angle kicks off a ride that feels much like a traditional wood coaster with a couple overbanks thrown in.

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This one feels like both a wooden coaster and a bucking bronco.

No inversions on this ride, and while there is abundant airtime it is more of the strong floater variety than the "toss you across the park" ejector RMC has become known for.

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One downside, however, is the location on flat, empty land (or is that Texas theming?)

So, how does the ride stack up? Well, it's not the best ride RMC has ever created, but it's still really, really good. I've been on close to 500 coasters, and New Texas Giant is still good enough to make my top twenty. No, it's not as extreme as many other RMCs, but it has an excellent flow to it and provides a nice long ride.

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Texas-sized picnic pavilions (photo by Evan)

The best coaster down, we now turned to the biggest. Titan, a mega coaster built by Giovanola, retains its title as the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the state of Texas.

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Goliath clone...oh wait, it's not quite a clone.

Those who have visited SFMM would probably recognize this ride as a near-clone of Goliath, and the ride experience did feel about the same. While a bit lacking in airtime, the ride is full of positive g's during two massive helixes and runs super smooth. Personally, as I'm not the biggest fan of positive g's, I'd probably say Goliath is a tiny bit better, but Titan is still a fantastic ride and an absolute must-do for those visiting SFOT.

By this point, it was about an hour into the operating day and we'd already tackled five of the six major coasters (the sixth, Shock Wave, had not opened for the day yet). I won't bore you with a play by play of everything else we did, but here are the most notable rides:

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One of SFOT's many firsts.

-Runaway Mine Train, the first Arrow mine train ever built, and still one of the better examples of this type of ride.

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How wild is a half-acre of snakes?

-Mini Mine Train, which was exactly as advertised...a miniature version of the Runaway Mine Train.

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Schwarzkopf goodness...sadly the only one on this trip.

-Shock Wave, a classic Schwarzkopf coaster and the first ride to feature two vertical loops.

-Judge Roy Scream, a classic wooden out and back that is unfortunately lacking in airtime.

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How many acres of snakes is this?

-La Vibora, a rare Intamin Swiss Bob transplanted from SFMM that was quite novel but not the most comfortable (and also featured the longest wait of the day).

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Six Flags + indoor coaster = an interesting experience

-Runaway Mountain, a very bizarre indoor family coaster that felt very much like a windstorm coaster with highly unusual trains.

-El Aserradero, the first log flume ever built and the wettest water ride we rode on the trip.

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Good ride, cringy voice acting.

-Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, the first installation of this mass produced dark ride, though we unfortunately suffered a screen glitch on our ride and didn't get to see the ending.

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When Superman isn't worthy of a roller coaster.

-Superman Tower of Power, the tallest S&S combo tower in the world, and also the winner of the worst operations award with only one tower running.

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Well, everything IS bigger in Texas.

-Texas SkyScreamer, a 400 ft tall swing on a stick ride that was a nice reminder there are still some rides that legitimately scare me.

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This sign exaggerates...but dispatches were generally quite good.

Throughout the day, one thing became clear about SFOT...although the park was moderately busy, this is a park that handles crowds well. It is spread out so visitors scatter throughout the park rather than clustering in one area, and operations are probably the most efficient I've seen at a Six Flags park not named Great Adventure. Our longest wait of the day was about 25-30 minutes for La Vibora, but most waits were under 15 minutes throughout the day. This meant that we were able to complete everything on our priority list, as well as get re-rides on the park's best attractions (two rides each on Batman, Mr. Freeze, and Shock Wave, and three on New Texas Giant and Titan).

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New Texas Giant from a distance.

Beyond the operations, Six Flags Over Texas is also one of the nicer parks in terms of theming and landscaping. While the original six themes do not have the prominence they once did, various areas of the park share uniform consistency in terms of architecture design and ride names. Landscaping is decent throughout the park, though they could use a bit more shade in areas. Food and drink offerings were your typical Six Flags fare, which meant we ended up with burgers at Johnny Rockets as the safe option.

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The Gotham City section of the park.

As mentioned above, the day was not without a couple annoyances. For one, a couple of the more interesting rides were closed, including their tourbillion (I still have yet to experience one of these) and a Looney Tunes dark ride that flooded last year and has been closed since. Granted, we knew about both of these in advance, and a couple other rides we expected to be closed (including Joker) were actually in operation. The main frustration of the day was that someone accidentally took Evan's hat and glasses from the Batman bins, resulting in about 30 minutes at lost and found to end our day. The hat was recovered...the glasses are still missing (as far as I know).

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SFOT is a tad heavy on the stock attractions, however.

Overall, Six Flags Over Texas not only met my expectations, but exceeded them in some areas. The park has a very well rounded selection of attractions, and while the coaster collection isn't as strong as many other parks in the chain, the collection they've got has a nice balance and some unique rides. Operations were quite good, keeping lines very manageable throughout the day. The park is quite nice, with more theme than most regional parks and plenty to fill a full day. While not my favorite Six Flags park, it is one I'd absolutely recommend, and while I'm not sure I'd make a special trip to return I definitely plan to stop by should I find myself in Dallas again.

Coaster Ranking:

1. New Texas Giant - 9/10
2. Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast - 8.5/10
3. Titan - 8/10
4. Shock Wave - 8/10
5. Batman The Ride - 7.5/10
6. Judge Roy Scream - 6.5/10
7. Runaway Mountain - 6.5/10
8. Runaway Mine Train - 6.5/10
9. Pandemonium - 6/10
10. Joker - 6/10
11. La Vibora - 6/10
12. Mini Mine Train - 4/10

Overall Park Score: 8/10

Replies (3)

April 6, 2019, 11:32 AM

Thanks for the TR, I miss the days when long informative text trip reports were the norm. Nowadays with the popularity of youtube we are flooded with trip reports of teenager/20 year old "bro's" going around acting like fools.

I've always found it strange how of all the parks they own, they decided to send Batman from New Orleans to Fiesta Texas when the exact same ride is not only at SFOT but also right down the street at Sea World, and was already over 10 years old at that point. That to me goes right up there in the hall of fame for ridiculous SF management decisions, right behind building a crappy used SLC at a park that already has an awesome B&M invert (which from what I understand was done to fulfill a requirement with the Montreal government to invest a certain amount in the park...but still). The lack of long-term vision for these parks is sad to see when they keep slapping things in there for the sake of short term marketing.

While Six Flags short-term piecemeal strategy has always irked me I guess we shouldn't expect much different from a company that charges like $65 for an entire year of visits.

Edited: April 9, 2019, 9:54 AM

Thanks AJ. Really enjoy your reports and perspective. I have not been to the lone star state in 30+ years, but have SFOT and Fiesta Texas on the short list of parks to visit. Especially when they are essentially free with my SFOG pass. Visited SFOT many, many years ago (mid 70s) when I was only 9 or 10. Don't remember much, other than my 1st experience with a log ride. Look forward to seeing your next report.

April 9, 2019, 7:55 PM

The Texas Giant is really great, as is many of their other attractions. I think Justice League is overrated, but it is a fun park to visit, and I think they have made it much better over the years. Fiesta Texas is great too, and the Iron Rattler is almost as good as the Giant. For some reason Fiesta seems cleaner and better laid out, but Arlington does have more extreme rides.

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