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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Batman: The Ride may be a clone, but it is still one of the better layouts for an inverted coaster.
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…
Next time – Hollywood
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