Epic Southern California Adventure: Part 1 - Six Flags Magic Mountain

Edited: August 23, 2019, 7:49 AM

As huge theme park and baseball fans, my family and I try to pair the 2 pastimes together when planning vacations, and when one of our local MLB teams announced last fall that one of their West Coast trips in late summer would occur in late July, which we knew would almost assuredly be after the debut of Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, we started planning our 2019 vacation. The last time we had been to Southern California was March 2013 when our son, Zachary, was still too short to ride many of the best rides in the area. Also, every park in the region has added at least one major new attraction over the past 6+ years. Obviously, the biggest incentive to visit Southern California was Galaxy’s Edge, but there were plenty of other new experiences for us on what would become a 15-day whirlwind.

I won’t go into great detail as to all of the planning that went into this trip, but as people who are borderline obsessed with getting the best possible value and stretching every last dollar to the max, I can say that we did just that using multiple strategies including existing season passes to our local theme parks, the LA Go Pass, and other attraction discounts.

After quite a bit of planning, we landed at LAX on an early Tuesday morning ready to begin our adventure. In order to reduce the effect of jet lag, we deliberately planned our first day as a family day. We spent much of the day in Long Beach swimming in the harbor and walking the canals around my wife’s aunt and uncle’s house. After enjoying some relaxing and family time, we were surprised to see that the traffic north to Valencia might allow us to squeeze an hour or 2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain before they closed. Our hotel for the night was just on the other side of the 5 from the park, so spending an hour or so wouldn’t result in a terribly late night. Unfortunately, even walking into SFMM during the last hour on a Tuesday night can see some pretty long lines along with a bunch of attractions that were “temporarily closed”. I was hoping that we could get on 3 or 4 coasters, including either Full Throttle or Twisted Colossus (both had 60+ minute lines), but the night ended up being an almost lost cause with a longer than posted wait for Superman: Escape from Krypton and a fortunate sprint to grab the very last run on Ninja. The experience on this first night was eerily like our experience over a decade ago when we spent 8 hours at the park getting a total of 8 rides (including twice on Scream! since it only had a 20 minute line).

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Fortunately, the next day turned out much better than expected for us, so fortuitous in fact that 4 different coasters went down for extended periods of time either just after or while the train we were riding entered the final brake run. That’s right, X2 and Twisted Colossus (with me and my son on board) and Viper and Full Throttle (with just me) all broke within seconds of completing the course. I must have had some voodoo curse that day, because I’ve never experienced anything quite like it in my life of visiting theme parks. At least the rides decided to break until after we rode, but I started to feel bad for anyone in line behind us as the day wore on, and my path of disruption spread throughout the park.
Over the course of our full day at SFMM we did manage to get on every major coaster and flat ride that was running in the park. Of course when we started planning our trip at the beginning of the year, we thought for sure that West Coast Racers would be running and fully broken-in with reasonable wait times. However, it was clear at the beginning of the summer that the new coaster would unlikely to be finished in time for our trip, and from the looks of it, I would be surprised if the coaster is ready by October. Without West Coast Racers open, Full Throttle and Twisted Colossus were the only new coasters for me since out last visit to the park 6 years ago. I was able to get 2 rides on Full Throttle, but I was not terribly impressed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very solid coaster, but I don’t think I would ever wait an hour for it (I only waited 30 minutes the first ride and less than 10 minutes the second ride after I happened to walk past when it resumed operations after my “breaking” it earlier in the day). The first launch is great, and the HUGE loop offers some incredible hang time. The backwards and forwards launches in the tunnel are nothing spectacular, and the ending of the coaster after coming down from the top of the loop is about as abrupt and anti-climactic as they come. There are plenty of launching coasters that are far better and have much higher capacities than Full Throttle, but I guess it fills a need at SFMM, that is until West Coast Racers opens.

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Unfortunately, Twisted Colossus was only running with 2 trains, so there was no dueling during our only ride of the day – the coaster was up and down all day with lines often extending beyond 75 minutes, so we felt fortunate to get on after just a 30-minute wait. As far as RMCs go, Twisted Colossus is very much like their other creations with rapid changes of direction and non-stop pops of air. However, without the dueling/racing element, the coaster itself is nothing particularly special even when compared to the much smaller Twisted Timbers. Based on my one experience on it, Twisted Colossus would be the lowest rated RMC I’ve ridden (been on Twisted Timbers, Goliath, and Steel Vengeance), but I would be willing to give it another chance if I could get a ride with 3-train operation.

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One of the other new attractions for me at SFMM was its version of Justice League. We rode one of the first iterations of this ride at Six Flags St. Louis the very first day it was open to the public as well as the ones at SFGAdv and SFoT. The one at SFMM is a bit different, but I was really annoyed with the way they were operating the attraction. They were holding guests outside, and then allowing groups to enter each of the pre-show areas. The final pre-show area boasts a sign for a single rider line that we were going to use to bypass the last few minutes of the line in the loading station. However, the ride op managing the entrance would not allow us to enter the single rider line even though we insisted on riding separately. My wife and I are pretty accomplished at shooting-gallery style attractions and prefer to ride in different cars so we aren’t competing against each other for targets. The ride op said if we entered the line as a group, we had to ride as a group, and we ended up at the back of the normal line. It only took us an extra 3-5 minutes to board, but it was frustrating to see an empty seat on virtually every car as we slowly made our way to the front. I’d also mention that it was over 100 degrees outside, and the attraction had plenty of room for guests to wait inside, but they were still forcing people to wait outside in the heat and slowly queued groups into the pre-show area. In general, Six Flags hasn’t done a very good job of managing the queues for any of the Justice League attractions we’ve been on, but this one was by far the most inefficient we’ve encountered. The ride itself is pretty similar to the others with a few added surprises. However, considering it’s the newest installation, I was disappointed to see so many affects and props that were already broken or out of sync. This was something I noted when Six Flags first announced that they were installing these high tech dark rides, and it’s clear that even their flagship park is not up to the task of maintaining it.

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The other new attraction for us was Crazanity. My son was really excited for this one, because it would be the very first spinning pendulum ride he’s ever been on. I was skeptical that what is billed as the biggest and tallest of these type of rides would differentiate itself from the other ones I’ve been on, but it really delivered. The ride does take a long time to build up speed and reach its maximum height, but when it does, it is quite intense. Other rides like this are appealing because of the airtime at the top of the swings. Crazanity does provide some incredible periods of airtime, but what caught me by surprise was the intense positive g’s that you feel at the bottom of the swings. Bigger is definitely better when it comes to this attraction, but I still don’t think I would wait more than 30 minutes even for this over-sized flat ride.

My son was also looking forward to riding X2 and Goliath. I knew the lines for X2 would be pretty long all day (it was 45 minutes the night before), so we went straight there when the park opened, and after some initial technical difficulties, we were on the front row. The experience on this coaster is still like nothing else in the country, but I wonder if at some point S&S will find a way to eliminate the “bobble” in the rotation gear – there’s quite a bit of play in the gears so as the seats rotate, the motion is very loose or jiggly. I wouldn’t say that X2 has gotten rough per se, but the seat rotation could be a lot smoother. As per a typical Six Flags experience, the music and fire effects were not working, but I don’t think my son really noticed as he was mesmerized with the motions on this coaster.

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I expected for us to only get maybe one or 2 rides on Goliath, but by midday, the lines were showing on the app at 10 minutes. We took the long walk through the giant letters back to the station to find the coaster was walk-on. Maybe it was the intense heat of the day, or maybe we were just lucky, but I certainly wasn’t complaining about getting to ride on the hypercoaster a half-dozen times. I’m not sure if it was my memory or my aging body, but the MCBR was barely slowing the train, making the helixes more forceful than I recall.

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Over the course of the day, I rode every major coaster in the park except for Revolution, which consistently had a 30 minute line because of single train operation. Of the entire coaster collection at SFMM, I still think Tatsu is the best of the bunch.

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Riddler’s Revenge is still the best stand-up coaster I’ve ridden, though their ranks are quickly thinning, and Viper is a throwback to a time when the speed and number of inversions trumped rider comfort.

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Batman: The Ride may be a clone, but it is still one of the better layouts for an inverted coaster.

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We did eat inside the park thanks to our season dining plan, and the food that we had was actually quite good. We had carne asada nachos for our lunch meal from Food Etc (near Goliath), which were filling and flavorful, and an order of sweet and spicy wings with fries from the High Octane Wings (near full throttle) for our dinner meal. Even though we were going to visit Disneyland later in our trip, we decided to use our snack credit on a Dole Whip Float, which I though was really good, but my son thought was way too sweet with syrupy pineapple juice serving as the base for the Dole Whip soft serve.

On the whole, our full day at SFMM was better than expected. I’m guessing that the 100+ degree temperatures kept much of the crowds away, but there were still significant lines for the most popular attractions. It was also frustrating with the frequent ride shutdowns and typically poor Six Flags operations that rarely focus on getting as many guests as possible on the rides in addition to the rides that weren’t running at all like Lex Luther Drop of Doom and West Coast Racers. Considering that I was expecting an even worse day at a park we’ve frequently been disappointed with, I can’t complain in being able to ride every major attraction in the park and some of the best attractions multiple times over the course of the day. However, SFMM was planned as just an appetizer for much better themed entertainment to come…

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Next time – Hollywood


Replies (11)

August 22, 2019, 10:50 PM

I haven't been to the west coast SF parks in a while, but based off my experiences the past few years going to all of the east coast ones sadly this trip report pretty confirms my suspicion that SF has gone back to how it was in the early 2000's when they just didn't care about maintenance or ride reliability at all. It seems like all they think about is season pass sales, flash pass sales, dining sales, and photo sales.

It's a shame and makes our country look bad. We always think of us having unquestionably the best theme parks in the world but SF's decline in quality has been bringing it down bigtime. The guy who runs the themeparkworldwide youtube channel did a USA road trip this summer and said he thought the parks in the USA were low quality and not as good as the parks in Europe. But he loves the American Disney/Sea World Busch/Universal/SDC/Dollywood/some of the CF parks...so he basically really likes all the parks except SF parks, but SF has so many parks that his overall impression was that American parks aren't good.

Heck I haven't been to SFMM since before Full Throttle was built and I have been to socal like 5x since then...that should give you a good idea of what I think of SFMM

Edited: August 23, 2019, 7:50 AM

I will cut SFMM some slack given that the temperature topped out at 104 degrees on the full day we were there. Some equipment simply can't operate flawlessly under those conditions, but I was pretty surprised at the frequency of the shutdowns that seemed to follow me around the park throughout the day. This visit to SFMM was definitely better than any previous visit to the park in terms of the number of attractions we were able to experience and the overall length of waits, but our previous encounters at the park were always during "off-season" weekends (early spring and late fall) when the park was operating with a skeleton crew and single train operations on virtually every single coaster. Compared to our previous experiences, this visit could be considered pretty darn great, but when held against what we've experienced at other parks around the country and when considering the overall potential of SFMM, I would rate our experience as slightly below average.

I do think the 100+ degree temperatures kept the crowds manageable, and do wonder what it would have been like if we had visited on a Saturday under these same conditions.

August 23, 2019, 10:27 AM

I have to be honest - I don't know that I'll head back to SFMM, maybe ever. I grew up in Southern California, and I've ridden almost everything it's released over the last 30 years. But, the rude/oblivious staff, lack of upkeep, and the sheer lack of guest safety (due to other guests, not ride operations) have caused me to avoid this park. These aren't atypical for Six Flags parks, but this one is particularly poorly run.

August 23, 2019, 1:24 PM

Excellent report, Russell! It sounds like you had a pretty good day at the park, though not an optimal day. As a SFMM local, I will say that the most recent peak for the park was in 2015/2016, and since then they've slowly declined in quality. Justice League was a loss for the park, and then when they switched to 365 day operation they weren't given the budget to properly staff all departments for it, which has led to maintenance issues, longer than usual train refurbs, and construction delays on new projects (though about 2/3 of WCR's delays are not the fault of the park). As a result, the park has been pretty hit or miss for the past couple years. In the past two years, I'd say about a quarter of my visits were great, a quarter were disappointing, and the rest were average. That said, having visited all but two of the Six Flags parks, I tend to look at SFMM as the median park in the chain...about half the others provide a better experience, and half are subpar.

I agree with you about Full Throttle, and consider that one of the supporting coasters at SFMM (aka not a must ride, but worth doing if the wait is reasonable). The first half of the ride is great, but the second half has always been disappointing. Another 1,000 ft would have made this a top notch launch coaster, but sadly the project was compromised by budget cuts. I am a little surprised you didn't like Twisted Colossus more. Even without dueling, I think that's one of the better RMCs (I have it ranked above two of the three you listed), but with dueling I'd take it over even Steel Vengeance. Sadly, maintenance delays have made two train operation more common than three these days, which not only eliminates dueling but seriously hurts capacity on such a long ride.

Once again, great job with the trip report! I look forward to seeing more takes on my local parks from a non-local. Now to get back to my own trip report...

Edited: August 23, 2019, 2:28 PM

I hear you AJ, and maybe I'm being a bit harsh on SFMM considering that this was by far our best visit to the park (have been 3 other times before). However, I view SFMM as the company's flagship park, and the only one that is open 365 days a year. If they can't keep attractions running, then perhaps they need to rethink their operational schedule, or at least schedule staggered downtime for the attractions so they aren't breaking down every day.

Twisted Colossus is still a great coaster, and I would easily place it in my top 25, but I thought it was a bit generic for my taste. The second lift hill in the middle didn't help much, especially with no train on the other side to taunt on the way up. Again, I'd like to take a few runs on it when it's running 3 trains, but based on my one ride I just can't put it over the other RMCs I've been on. There was no singular element that stood out while the other 3 RMCs I've experienced do (Steel Vengeance's outward-banked airtime hill, Twisted Timber's spiraling drop, and Goliath's hanging inversion). I also factor in the wait time into my ranking of a coaster, and while we ended up waiting just under 30 minutes to ride, the line for Twisted Colossus was regularly over an hour, which was not helped by the frequent downtime we noticed throughout our time in the park. There are very few roller coasters that I would wait over an hour for (unless it's for the first time), and Twisted Colossus doesn't fall into that select group.

Actually, I forgot that I've ridden the New Texas Giant, which I would definitely rank below Twisted Colossus.

September 4, 2019, 1:39 PM

Nice report, Russell! This is a good read. I've wanted to go to Magic Mountain since I took up coasters 9 years ago but have been intimidated by what I perceive as the difficulty & expense of getting there from LAX by Lyft or Uber. If Twisted Colossus is better than New Texas Giant, it's certainly worth trying out. New Texas Giant is one of my favorite coasters; I can think of few coasters which I find as enjoyable to ride as this one. On the subject of NTG, I always thought that SFOT was the company's flagship park but can see why you give MM that designation. As to Justice League, I've ridden the installations at SFOT & SFGADV and find it annoying that it's necessary to wait in the regular queue and endure the pre-show before ever getting to the single rider queue. This didn't make any difference at SFOT because I entered the attraction just before park closing and there was no wait whatsoever but under normal circumstances it's an exercise in patience.

September 4, 2019, 2:13 PM

@Bobbie - I think it's a general problem with all SF single rider lines. On attractions where they do have them (which is far too few IMHO), you are still forced to wait through most of the regular line before the single rider line splits off. What advantage is it to have a single rider line if it's only going to cut off 10 minutes of a 60-minute wait. What's worse is when you're standing in line for say Green Lantern or Joker at SFGAdv and see train after train going by with single empty seats, but you're stuck just trying to get to the point in the queue where the single rider line splits off.

I can appreciate that managing a single rider line takes some extra effort and usually an extra employee on the load platform, but if you're going to design one, at least do it right and when it's open, have the staff available to properly manage it.

September 5, 2019, 1:51 PM

Russell, could you please explain what you did to get the photos up? I just tried to start a new thread but don't understand the instructions for adding photos. It's a different process from submitting a review to Robert. I couldn't get anything but the HTML codes for the photos to show up so ended up deleting the thread.

Edited: September 5, 2019, 2:06 PM

You either have to code the URLs in HTML manually, or copy the embed coding from the site that's "hosting" your photos - I use Flikr, which can give you the straight URL or the embed coding depending on how you want to share it - Youtube does the same for videos.

The important part is that you have to make sure the photos/videos are set to "public", or you'll just end up with empty boxes. Unless you want people rifling through your personal cloud storage, I highly recommend using a host like Flikr or Google Photos instead of generic cloud storage sites.

September 5, 2019, 4:33 PM

Thanks, Russell. I did copy the embed codes from Photobucket but that didn't work. Surprisingly, our IT manager at work, who's vastly knowledgeable, couldn't figure this out either. Why is nothing ever simple?

Edited: September 6, 2019, 7:33 AM

@Bobbie - I caught a quick glance of your Coasting for Kids story before you took it down, and I noticed that your photo links did not have the proper HTML coding. If those were indeed the "embed" links from Photobucket, they were not written in HTML. Try manually coding the links as such (remove all of the quotation marks - I have to use those to keep the code from running and be visible in the post)...

"<"a href=URL">""<"/a">"

Copy and paste the URL of your image where the "URL" is located in the code above. I believe Robert has automatically built in image size limits into the website, so you don't need to add the extra coding to adjust the size of the picture (if you do need to adjust photo sizes, there is additional HTML coding that you insert between the URL and the end code tag - there are some pretty easy HTML tutorials you can search on Google). If that still doesn't work, you might want to use a different photo hosting website. I'm not familiar with Photobucket, but Flikr seems to work great for me. I only put the photos I share here on that server so I don't have to worry about space issues since I'm approaching 1 TB of photos in my archive (I keep master files and a full off-line backup on portable hard drives - I take my photo storage very seriously after having a hard drive fail and my old optical disc backup was incomplete). If you're using Photobucket as your primary photo storage solution, you might want to try just copying images you share on TPI to Flikr, though I would strongly recommend having some type of off-line backup in addition to your cloud storage.




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