The year 2022 has brought some degree of normalcy back to the world, which allowed us to once again combine our love of baseball, food, and theme parks into a 11-day jaunt through the great State of Texas. I’m not sure why, but despite the grandeur and magnificence of the fireworks on the National Mall in Washington, DC (30 minutes from our house), we have routinely found ourselves aligning our summer vacations around the holiday. The driving force for our scheduling this year was a desire to visit the newest MLB ballpark in Arlington, Texas - Globe Life Field (my wife and I took a tour of Globe Life Park, the Rangers’ previous ballpark a few years ago), where the Texas Rangers would host the Washington Nationals over the last weekend of June. The rest of our trip planning revolved around the various theme parks and water parks in north and central Texas, many of which we have visited before, but would be first time experiences for our 12-year old son Zachary, who has become quite the coaster aficionado.
We have season/annual passes to Sea World, Six Flags, and Cedar Fair parks, so parking and admission to all but one of the parks we visited on this trip would be covered by those passes. We are also fortunate to have family that lives in the Dallas area and arranged for some time to visit with them at the end of our trip, allowing for some decompression and relaxation (something we rarely do on vacation) before returning home.
While it’s been almost 6 years since we’ve been to Six Flags Over Texas, there haven’t been a lot of major additions to the park since our last visit. The park announced the addition of Aquaman Power Wave, a Mack shuttle coaster with a splashdown pool, way back in 2019, but as we arrived in the park on June 24, it was clear that it would still a while before SFoT would be ready to officially add to their coaster collection. We kind of expected that Aquaman wouldn’t be running during our trip, but it was pretty surprising to see how far the installation is from completion, especially since construction began in mid-2020. In fact, the park just recently announced that the attraction would not open until 2023.
The park has added a few smaller rides since our last visit including The Joker, an S&S 4-D Free Spin coaster, The Riddler Revenge, a Zamperla spinning pendulum, Catwoman Whip, an open-car Enterprise, and Harlen Quinn Spinsanity, a Tourbillon gyro-spinner that wasn’t running during our visit. There’s not much to say about these rides since they’re pretty standard flat rides you can find all over the country, but they’re all within steps of each other in the Gotham area of the park along with Batman the Ride and Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast. Much of the theming for the flat rides is weak even by Six Flags standards, and especially so for this particular Six Flags park where the older parts of the park still maintain the original “flag”-based theming created by Angus Wynne back in 1961 (the name “Six Flags” references the different flags that have flown over Texas including France, Spain, Mexico, Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the United States). The theming for both Batman and Mr. Freeze is excellent, though very similar to their clones elsewhere around the country, and their interior air-conditioned queues were much appreciated in the Texas heat that regularly topped triple digits throughout our vacation.
While Mr. Freeze was not running on our first day at the park, it was back up on Saturday morning when we are able to grab a few rides before heading to the baseball game. I’m somewhat surprised Six Flags didn’t buy more clones of this attraction (the other copy of this coaster is in St. Louis), because it is a really good shuttle-coaster with decent capacity given the double-loading platform – far superior to the other Premier shuttle coaster from this generation - Batman and Robin: The Chiller that was removed nearly a decade ago from Six Flags Great Adventure.
Unlike many launching roller coasters, Mr. Freeze starts out with a backwards launch (hence the name “Reverse Blast”) before zipping through an inverted top hat, overbanked turn, and up a 218’ vertical spike. As the train nears the top of the spike, LIMs motors give the train an extra boost up the track before the train dives back through the course with riders facing forward. For a coaster that doesn’t take up a lot of real estate, it packs punch, and is easily one of the top 3 coasters in the park (along with Titan and New Texas Giant).
Batman: The Ride is a stalwart of the theme park world that has been cloned numerous times, including two other coasters we would ride later during this trip alone. The version here is very much like other Six Flags installations around the country with a meandering queue through an exterior courtyard before entering the Batcave that serves as the coaster’s station. Unlike the version we ride most often in New Jersey, the air conditioning here actually works, probably essential given normal summer temperatures. The coaster itself is a blur of five inversions and intense helixes that prove why this particular layout has been copied so many times in addition to the superb reliability and capacity that B&M bring to the table in all of their creations.
Technically the Texas Skyscreamer is part of the Gotham area of the park but doesn’t have any Batman (or any other) theming whatsoever. However, for what this swing ride lacks in theming, it makes up for in size standing at 400 feet tall, which until the Orlando Star Flyer at ICON Park opened was the tallest in the world. My wife and I had ridden this on our previous trip, but we had to convince Zach (in a very “been there, done that” mood at the time) to wait the whopping two cycles to get on because he assumed it was just like other versions of the attraction we have ridden before at Six Flags America and SFGAdv. He begrudgingly acknowledged that the about-eight-minute wait was worth it.
Judge Roy Scream, an early 80’s down-and-back woodie that is completely outside the original dimensions of the park, though shown on the map as part of Gotham, is worth a spin for coaster counters looking for the credit. However, it’s probably not worth the long walk and mediocre layout to your average theme park fan. There are far better wooden coasters out there, but the odd positioning of this ride has probably contributed to its longevity.
I’m not sure if the DC theming outside of the Gotham area will eventually be consolidated when Aquaman opens, because it’s a bit all over the place with DC, Looney Toons, and generically themed rides all lumped in the central part of the park. Justice League Battle for Metropolis is one of those oddly positioned attractions, which is probably a function of being the first installation of the ride in the country. However, it’s clear that Six Flags is growing tired of maintaining this attraction, which many feared when the chain announced they would be stepping into the world of highly themed dark rides. We only took one spin on the shooting gallery-style dark ride, but some of the effects were not working (including the mist projectors, which are my favorite), and the projections were all really dim and only displayed in 2-D. It’s possible that the park is only running in 2-D to reduce the potential health hazards of requiring 3-D glasses, but the versions of the attraction in New Jersey and Georgia were both running in 3-D last year when COVID was a greater concern. There are rumors that most, if not all, versions of the attraction are running in 2-D this year as a cost cutting measure and having experienced it here for the first time in 2-D, it’s a pretty significant downgrade.
Across the way from Justice League is Pandemonium, which is a stock-model spinning coaster from Gerstlauer. I prefer the random spinning, face to face seating, and banked turns of Pandemonium (and it’s identically named clone we rode later in this trip at Six Flags Fiesta Texas) to most wild mouse coasters, and it’s worth a ride or two for us since we don’t have a coaster like this at any of our local parks.
Progressing towards the back of the park is probably one of the best themed attractions on the eastern half of the park, Runaway Mine Train. This triple-lift Arrow mine train was the first of its kind built in 1966 and is the second oldest tubular steel roller coaster operating in the country behind Matterhorn Bobsleds. Not only does the coaster have a great layout, finishing with a perilous plunge through an underwater tunnel, but it has classic Western-style scenes along the course including the Ace Hotel and Saloon. Riding this coaster will immediately make well-traveled coaster fans ponder where Disney got the inspiration for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Further around the back side of the park is Superman Tower of Power. Again, the use of DC theming here makes little sense, especially since the surrounding area is clearly in a Western motif. Superman Tower of Power is an S&S Power Tower that uses air to launch riders up and down the 325 foot tall structure. However, unlike most versions of this ride where you are either launched up or down, this attraction combines both ride programs into a single cycle, giving guests the best of both worlds.
At the very back of the park is Shock Wave, a double-looping Schwartzkopf coaster that boasts some of the highest G-forces on any roller coaster (up to 5.9 G’s). Like many Schwartzkopf loopers, the ride is surprisingly smooth, no doubt improved by the lock of OTSRs, and the circular loops (instead of elliptical-shaped loops on more modern coasters) generate the high G-forces riders experience. The generic layout and lack of theming through make this a one-and-done coaster in my opinion.
Back towards the front of the park is the “newest” attraction for 2022, Pirates of Speelunker Cave. This flume-based attraction has been re-envisioned to harken back to its original form, similar to what Six Flags Over Georgia did with Monster Mansion last year. The obvious comparisons to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean will be made, but this ride mixes 60’s-era weirdness with modern technology to bring a host of characters to life. It’s a much smaller scale attraction compared to PotC, and costumed ride ops were positioned outside the queue to encourage guests to hop in the non-existent line, but this is what regional parks need to do more of to earn repeat visits from locals and season passholders. Thrill rides and record-breaking coasters are clearly what Six Flags specializes in, but when they put their mind to it, they can also do decent dark rides and well themed attractions that provide a good change of pace (and dose of cool air conditioning) away from “bigger, taller, longer, faster.”
Adjacent to Pirates of Speelunker Cave in the France section of the park is Runaway Mountain which we didn’t ride on our previous trip to this park. Based on its exterior appearance, I expected this indoor coaster to be more or less identical to Skull Mountain at SFGAdv. However, this is a smaller and actually pretty fun little indoor ride that isn’t as painful as some compact indoor coasters. The short trains and awkward loading platform where guests get on and off from the same side of the train probably mean capacity is extremely limited with slow moving lines, but given the low crowds during our visit, we were able to walk on this clever little coaster.
As you leave France and work further around the park, the section themed to the Republic of Texas beckons. This area of the park features two of the best roller coasters in the park, New Texas Giant and Titan. Titan is a clone of Goliath from SFMM, providing excellent views of AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field, and Fort Worth in the western distance 15+ miles away. As with Goliath, Titan is all about positive G’s, which is contrary to most hypercoasters that maximize airtime and negative G’s. Also like Goliath, the MCBRs bring the train almost to a full stop to keep the G’s during the final diving helix manageable. While Goliath (and by extension Titan) will always be compared to Millennium Force, because they opened in the same year as part of the coaster wars between Cedar Point and SFMM, I don’t think Millennium Force’s design is significantly better than Goliath/Titan, as many coaster fans claim.
Next to Titan is New Texas Giant, which was the first existing wooden coaster to be converted by RMC into a hybrid design. If you’ve never ridden an RMC before, New Texas Giant is probably one of the best coasters with a wooden structure you’ve ever ridden. However, if you’ve experienced many of RMC’s newer creations around the country like Steel Vengeance, Twisted Timbers, and Twisted Colossus, you will be disappointed not only at New Texas Giant’s lack of inversions, but the uninspired layout that is heavy on left turns. The tunnel near the end of the course is pretty good, and there are plenty of moments of airtime indicative of RMC designs, but New Texas Giant is still my least favorite RMC. That’s not to say it’s a bad coaster, I’d probably still put it somewhere in the top third of hundreds of coasters I’ve ridden, but RMC clearly wasn’t ready to unleash their mastery of hybrid coaster design when they built New Texas Giant. I guess everyone has to start somewhere.
Making our way back towards the front of the park, we came across the lone water ride that was operating during our two days in the park (temperatures exceeded 100F both days), El Aserradero, one of the oldest log flumes in operation. To add insult to injury, only one of the two log flume courses was running, so if the park was even moderately crowded, I could only imagine how long the lines would have been for this attraction. It’s a decent log flume characterized by meandering troughs through wooded terrain, but there is very little theming along the way.
Near the log flume is a tight packing of rides including El Diablo (Larsen Loop), Conquistador (pirate ship),
La Fiesta de las Tazas (teacup), and the only noteworthy ride in the area, La Vibora. La Vibora is an Intamin bobsled-style roller coaster, which ended up being one of the longest lines we waited in at SFoT due to its low capacity of single car trains that can only hold up to six riders at a time, in single-file fashion. This coaster is a neat change of pace, but clearly inferior to the other bobsled coaster we’ve ridden at Kings Dominion - Reptilian (formerly Avalanche Bobsled). La Vibora is certainly a unique experience, and there aren’t many bobsled coasters remaining in the world, but even the most enthusiastic coaster fan might struggle to find the patience to stand in the longest line at SFoT to ride this a second time.
Towards the front of the park is one final flat ride, El Sombrero, a “crazy camel” flat ride. I’ve always been intrigued by these old-school flat rides, because parks always seem to find interesting ways to theme them. At Valley Fair, there’s one themed to look like a roulette wheel. At Busch Gardens Tampa, there was one that takes the name to heart with camels spinning around. Here, guests ride in a sombrero that spins around and tips up and down creating a unique set of sensations. For all the different types of flat rides in the world, this model has probably the most different ways it’s been themed.
Six Flags Over Texas might be the original park in what is now a very successful chain of theme parks, but it’s not the best, and the addition of Aquaman Power Wave probably won’t change that. The inconsistent theming is pretty disappointing, especially considering the remnants of the park’s original theming still remain and the recent attempts to apply DC theming to some of the park’s newer attractions. We also had some time to experience Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Arlington, which used to be part of the Wet ‘n Wild chain of water parks. While this water park carries the Six Flags branding, and has a few newer slides, you could instantly tell it was a Wet ‘n Wild seeing some of the older slides and attractions that had a distinctively dated look. Hurricane Harbor was a nice respite from the 100-degree heat, tough walking barefoot on the blazing concrete was like walking on hot coals. Given the size of the Dallas/Fort Worth region and proximity to Six Flags’ corporate headquarters, I expected this water park to be far nicer and modernized. That’s kind of how I feel about SFoT as well, especially when you contrast it with Six Flags Fiesta Texas, which I’ll talk about in a later report.
Speaking of modernized, the Texas Rangers have the newest stadium in MLB, which is a bit surprising since their old stadium was only 26 years old when Globe Life Field opened in 2020 to host the MLB Playoffs and World Series.
However, after experiencing the intense Texas summer heat, I now understand why the club pushed to build an indoor stadium equipped with air conditioning. We were definitely appreciative of the climate control as we watched the Washington Nationals battle the Rangers on a day when it was 102 degrees before we walked inside the ballpark.
After our first three days in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, it was time to move on to the next leg of our vacation. Coming up, Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
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