The Lone Star Coaster Round-Up (Part 2)

Edited: April 12, 2019, 3:38 PM

The drive between Dallas and San Antonio takes about four and a half hours. By the time we exited Six Flags Over Texas, it was already 8:30 P.M., so with a rather lengthy dinner stop at McDonald's it ended up being close to 2 A.M. by the time we pulled into our hotel in San Antonio. Naturally, as soon as we got into the room, it was off to bed for everyone. Our first day had been a blast, but the next would be my most anticipated park of the trip.

The Lone Star Coaster Round-Up
Part 2: Nos Gusta La Fiesta

IMG_5612

While a few states contain more than one Six Flags park, Texas is the only one in which both are major parks. Six Flags Fiesta Texas, located on the outskirts of San Antonio, is one of the more unique in the chain. Built on the site of a depleted limestone quarry, Fiesta Texas opened their gates in spring of 1992 after nearly two years of construction. The park opened with four themed areas and a small waterpark, though a fifth themed area was added a few years later. Eventually, the park was acquired by Time Warner, who operated two Six Flags properties in Texas: Over Texas in Arlington, and AstroWorld in Houston. The next season, the park gained the Six Flags name, and it was rapidly expanded to take advantage of the San Antonio market. Today, SFFT is a major theme park and one of the properties Six Flags often uses as a test park, installing attractions here before expanding them to other properties in the chain.

55218822_10157485388218825_1745691291410235392_n

Literally a Texan waffle (photo by Evan)

With our visit to the park falling on a Friday (specifically March 22nd), we figured crowds would be light and there would be no need to worry about arriving before opening. Therefore, we took our time with a breakfast of Texas waffles, then went to a nearby Target to pick up a few supplies before heading to the park. When we got to the park about 15 minutes before opening, we were met with a line at least 30 cars long at the parking booth. Not a great start to the day by any means. However, reasoning that the delay may have been due to only three of the booths being staffed, we parked and headed to the gate. At 10:28, we were walking through the metal detectors.

IMG_5613

And just beyond the metal detectors, we were met with this crowd.

We weren't inside the park until 11:03. Strike one for Fiesta Texas.

For reasons unknown, on this particular day Six Flags Fiesta Texas was experiencing a much larger crowd than even the park expected. I overheard a couple employees commenting that spring break was supposed to be over, yet it was clear this was going to be a very busy Friday. Resolving to do the best we could, we immediately took off to our first coaster of the day.

IMG_5614

RMCs are a good way to wake up in the morning.

Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster was the first Raptor built by Rocky Mountain Construction. Designed as a small footprint coaster that can be easily mass produced, this ride packs all the thrills and intensity of a full-sized RMC into a super short layout. The inline seating of the trains provides an additional level of thrill as the seating position has riders straddling the single rail track.

55920858_10213709492667327_2760641051852013568_n

Wonder Woman's hundred foot vertical first drop (photo by Scott)

It is an insane ride...almost too insane, if I'm being completely honest. After three rides on this coaster's identical twin at California's Great America last fall, I was left with bruises on my shoulders that took over a week to heal. While this one ran better and is a very good ride, it's still a bit too much for my personal taste, and the only other RMC it outranks is Kentucky Kingdom's Storm Chaser. Capacity on this coaster is also atrocious...even running three trains with no stacking, I'd estimate they were only doing about 400 riders per hour (we had about a 20 minute wait despite none of the switchbacks being used).

IMG_5645

Onward to Rockville's other coasters!

With Wonder Woman out of the way, we headed over to Batman The Ride, only to find it closed. No worries...we'll just check back later. Rockville's other coaster, Poltergeist, was on the list of rides closed for the day, so we decided to head over to Spassburg for Superman Krypton Coaster. Well...it was closed. At this point, I pulled up the Six Flags App and we made a horrifying realization. Excluding the kiddie area, SFFT has 26 rides. At this point, an hour and a half after opening on a day with only seven hours of operation, there were precisely seven operating. Five of the park's ten coasters had yet to open for the day. Most of them never did. And this was not a light day by any means. Strike two for Fiesta Texas.

IMG_5616

Most anticipated coaster of the trip right here.

Fortunately, Iron Rattler was among the few rides operating, and this was one we all wanted to ride. Unfortunately, the ride was running one train despite the crowds. As a result, what should have been a 20 minute wait took nearly an hour, and listening to other guests in the line we weren't the only ones frustrated. It seemed clear that the park had expected a crowd 20-30% of the one they got and had staffed appropriately. This, combined with the numerous down rides, caused everyone to queue up for the small fraction of attractions that were actually operating. In time, however, we found ourselves stepping into the snake-themed trains for a race around the track.

IMG_5615

This ride is BIG...hard to imagine it was once a regular wood coaster.

Like New Texas Giant, Iron Rattler is a RMC IBox hybrid, and was their second conversion to open. However, the similarities end there. Taking advantage of the terrain, Iron Rattler is much taller and has a much better first drop, as well as several interactions with the quarry wall and a tunnel through it. The ride also features a zero-g roll inversion halfway through, which is perfectly positioned and perfectly executed to give a nice floating sensation. It isn't as long as New Texas Giant, but it isn't a short ride by any means, and despite 3/4 of the ride duration Iron Rattler packs in just as much airtime. I have been on a total of seven IBox conversions, and while Iron Rattler is not the best (that title remains with Steel Vengeance), it is in the top three and is the best conversion at a Six Flags park. This ride was unanimously voted by our group as the best coaster in Texas, and is sufficient reason that all coaster enthusiasts should seek out a visit to this park.

IMG_5649

As can be seen here, walkways weren't too packed...it was mainly the ride lines.

With so many coasters closed and such long lines for those that were not, we devised a new strategy for the remainder of the day...ride all the open coasters, then bounce and return on a different day. Thanks to the Six Flags pass, it would cost us nothing to return. Unfortunately, this would mean cutting out Schlitterbahn, a park often voted as the best waterpark in the country. Eh...I love waterparks, but I'd rather get as many credits as possible here than spend money to visit a waterpark that was only partially open anyway.

IMG_5618

Much better than the identically named junior coaster at SFMM.

We headed next door to the adjacent Road Runner Express, an Arrow mine train that was listed as a 25 minute wait. The last mine train Arrow built prior to bankruptcy, this ride is fairly large for a family coaster and takes good advantage of the terrain. In fact, this one was good enough that it dethroned Kings Island's Adventure Express as my favorite non-Disney mine train. Well worth the reasonable wait it had.

IMG_5611

Batman Clone #2.

The only other operating non-kiddie coaster in the park was Goliath, so we made our way there next. Why Six Flags decided to relocate this Batman clone from Six Flags New Orleans to this park, I do not know (personally I would have sent it to Six Flags Mexico or Six Flags Discovery Kingdom). Why they decided to call it Goliath when it is among the smaller coasters in the park is an even bigger mystery. That said, after a wait that should have taken less than a half hour but took nearly an hour, we got our ride on this Batman clone. It wasn't the best Batman clone I've been on (certainly not as good as SFOT's), but it wasn't the worst either.

At this point, we'd ridden four coasters in five hours, and were all tired of this park. However, across the park we saw Superman Krypton Coaster running. We headed over there and endured over an hour wait in one of the most bland switchback queues I've ever seen in order to ride. The result? A solid B&M floorless coaster with a nice long layout that takes advantage of the terrain, but lacking anything particularly unique to differentiate it from others. My favorite floorless is still probably Kings Dominion's Dominator, and I'd rank SFDK's Medusa above this one as well, but nevertheless it is still a very fun ride. Sadly, this would be the only ride we got on it...on the day we returned to the park, it was down for the day due to a maintenance issue.

So, to recap, we were inside SFFT for six hours, we rode five of their coasters, and the other four non-kiddie coasters never opened for the day (along with a majority of the non-coaster rides). Strike three for Fiesta Texas. With that, we decided to call it a day and head out, departing from one of the most disappointing experiences I have ever had at a Six Flags park.

But like any good planner, I always build contingencies into my trips. Therefore, we made some adjustments to the schedule and returned to Six Flags Fiesta Texas on Sunday, March 24th. Anticipating Sunday would be just as busy, we arrived at the park a full 40 minutes before opening. And, well...

IMG_5642

Crowd difference on Sunday.

There was no wait to get into the parking lot.

The gates opened 30 minutes early, so we were at the rope well before rope drop.

There were maybe a thousand people in the park at opening.

As a matter of fact, the busiest it got on Sunday was about the same as the crowd when we arrived on Friday. It was a much more enjoyable day to be there. Unfortunately, due to time limitations we only had about four hours in the park on this day, so we opted to use the money saved from cancelling Schlitterbahn to grab a Flash Pass. So...what all did we do in those four hours?

IMG_5646

S&S Free Spin #2.

-Batman The Ride, the original S&S Free Spin, which ran much better than the one at SFOT.

IMG_5650

You know you're a credit counter if...

-Boomerang, a better example of this model than some, but still the same ride that can be ridden at many different parks.

IMG_5644

I'm still surprised only four Six Flags parks got one of these.

-Pandemonium, identical to the installation at SFOT but with slightly more spinning.

-Poltergeist, an outdoor version of Flight of Fear with quite a bit of kick to it.

-Bugs Bunny White Water Rapids, a decent flume ride with a couple good drops and a bit of theming.

IMG_5622

Yo ho, yo ho, a Six Flags life for me.

-Pirates of the Deep Sea, a shooting dark ride that felt like a complete rip-off of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean but done extremely well by Six Flags standards.

-Scream, another S&S combo tower used to fill time before a Flash Pass reservation.

IMG_5619

Yes, we re-rode one of the three Batmans on this tour.

-Re-rides on every major coaster, plus a half-dozen rides on Iron Rattler.

Essentially, we did three times as much on Sunday as we did on Friday despite only having four hours of park time. Part of that was certainly due to the Flash Pass, but I've got a feeling we would have been able to easily hit everything in a day without it on Sunday.

IMG_5648

I love the setting of this park...one of the best in the chain for sure.

At the end of the day, I had two visits to Six Flags Fiesta Texas that were practically polar opposites of each other. One was among the worst visits I've ever had at Six Flags, while the other was outstanding. What does this say about the park? Mainly that it is horribly inconsistent, which is a real shame but goes to show why no park should be judged on a single bad visit. There's certainly plenty to like about Fiesta Texas...the park is among the best themed in the chain with an outstanding setting, it's got one of the better coaster collections (certainly better than SFOT taken as a whole) with many among the better examples of their type, and the park has a good variety of attractions. Unfortunately, inconsistency in operations does diminish my opinion of the park, as does their tendency to run one train on coasters even when busy. I will end with this...I enjoyed SFFT, and I would absolutely make a return visit if I were to return to San Antonio. Did I leave craving a return visit? No, I didn't, and if I had to pick one I'd probably go back to SFOT over SFFT. That said, both are solid parks well worth visiting for the traveling enthusiast.

IMG_5651

Goodbye Fiesta Texas...hopefully my return will be on a good day.

Coaster Ranking:

1. Iron Rattler - 9.5/10
2. Superman Krypton Coaster - 9/10
3. Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster - 8.5/10
4. Poltergeist - 7.5/10
5. Goliath - 7.5/10
6. Batman The Ride - 7/10
7. Road Runner Express - 6.5/10
8. Pandemonium - 6/10
9. Boomerang - 5.5/10

Overall Park Score: 8/10

Now, since I'm sure some of you are curious, here are a couple other lists that may be of interest.

RMC Rankings:

1. Steel Vengeance (Cedar Point)
2. Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion)
3. Lightning Rod (Dollywood)
4. Iron Rattler (Six Flags Fiesta Texas)
5. Twisted Colossus (Six Flags Magic Mountain)
6. New Texas Giant (Six Flags Over Texas)
7. Joker (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom)
8. Goliath (Six Flags Great America)
9. Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster (Six Flags Fiesta Texas)
10. Storm Chaser (Kentucky Kingdom)
11. RailBlazer (California's Great America)

Six Flags Rankings:

1. Six Flags Great Adventure
2. Six Flags Magic Mountain
3. Six Flags Great America
4. Six Flags Over Texas
5. Six Flags Over Georgia
6. Six Flags Fiesta Texas
7. Six Flags New England
8. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
9. Six Flags America
10. Six Flags St. Louis
11. Six Flags Darien Lake
12. Great Escape
13. La Ronde

Replies (4)

April 12, 2019, 3:36 PM

Thanks, AJ! Great report!

April 15, 2019, 8:04 PM

I’m glad your return visit was better as I love this park - but I’m totally bummed you missed out on Schlitterbahn - one of the most amazing and different parks I have ever experienced.

Edited: April 16, 2019, 5:34 AM

Great rounduP. Sounds like someone in SF’s forecasting team really messed up.

I think low demand days are a great way to judge a park’s commitment to a quality experience - how do you ensure that guests get thr quality experience they paid for whilst breaking even. It sounds like SFFT hasn’t got the mix right.

I would suggest it’s better for the guest experience if you’re going to close rides that aren’t water rides, it’s better to alternate throughout the day which ride(s) are closed

I remember once visiting a bush league park in Australia (Magic Mountain in Meriumbula). Although it was off season they ensured every ride operated, the ride ops alternating rides every few hours (and I imagine breaks too). Left us feeling like we got our moneys worth because we rode everything, even if it meant riding the alpine slide again because the go kart operator hadn’t moved to the coaster yet.

Edited: April 24, 2019, 8:47 AM

Thanks AJ. Really appreciate this report. Especially your differing experiences at Fiesta Texas. I can certainly understand your frustration with how Six Flags parks are inconsistently managed. We have similar experiences with our home park, SFOG park on occasion. With unemployment being so low, they have days in which some rides and food stands are not open due to lack of staff.

Liked your feedback on the unique aspects of Fiesta Texas. Especially the Roadrunner express mine train surpassing the Adventure Express at KI. I'm a fan of well-done mine trains and was pretty impressed by Adventure Express during my last visit to KI. Your report certainly makes me want to bump up that trip to Texas higher on my bucket list. Just wish that Dallas and San Antonio were not so far apart.

Also appreciated your rankings of the Six Flags parks and was a little surprised to see SFOG ranked higher than Fiesta Texas. But I think it's spot in the middle of the list is about right. Not as good as the Six Flags "flagship parks", but better than the 2nd-tier Six Flags parks. The change in park leadership (Dale Kaetzel) a few years ago has SFOG moving in the right direction. The previous park president had been in place too long, IMHO.




Theme Park Guides

What's New and Under Construction

Universal Orlando

Walt Disney World

Disneyland