4.02.2019

SFDK Park Update - Flash V2, Batman, DC Universe

As the month of March ends and April begins, we coaster enthusiasts celebrate the beginning of theme park season! The weather is becoming more pleasant, and many schools have started their Spring Break vacations which means higher crowd levels. Thrills by the Bay stopped by Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on the last day of March to enjoy a couple rides and see how construction is coming along for the new Batman coaster that’s slated to open later this year. We also saw progress on the transformation of the park’s inverted impulse coaster, Vertical Velocity V2. Let’s take a look at how the park is doing as the Bay comes out of hibernation.

When we arrived Sunday morning, we found there was already a considerable line of cars trying to get into the parking lot. After about 20 minutes in line at last we found a spot and decided to walk to the front gate instead of taking the tram. The weather was beautiful and after a long and rainy winter, the choice to walk was an easy one.



 On the way to the front gate, we were greeted with a large mound of dirt, aka the construction site for the new Batman 4D Free Fly coaster that will be opening later this year. From here we could see that some vertical construction has taken place, namely one support sticking out of the ground. We’re excited to see more of these as the structure takes place in the coming weeks.



Upon arrival at security and the front gate, we immediately noticed the new paint job in progress on V2, which has been confirmed to be rethemed to The Flash as part of this corner of the park becoming DC Universe. Most of the supports just had primer, but we did see some interesting new colors, including a section of the spiral being painted…pink? We’re curious with what this will look like when finished.



Once we got into the park, we saw that the dolphin fountain has made a return (it was gone during Holiday in the Park to make way for the Christmas tree).


Making a left turn at the fountain, we saw that Monsoon Falls is still under refurbishment. As the weather was on the warmer side, this would have been a popular choice with families if it had been open.


Thankfully, The Penguin splash battle ride and the Whitewater Safari rapids were up and running.

In the corner of the park that’s currently undergoing its DC transformation, a new food location has sprung up. Big Belly Burger is open and ready to serve hungry guests as they enjoy the many thrill rides in this area.


 A closer look at the V2 station shows that the transformation is still very much in progress. The old V2 sign is still in place, but the new yellow paint on the supports looks striking.


Walking further down the path, we were met with the other side of the Batman construction site. The framing for the station building has begun construction. We’re curious as to whether the queue will be enclosed in this structure or if there will be outdoor switchbacks. A closer look at the site revealed that some of the track is on the actual construction site so hopefully we’ll see the crew kick it into high gear and get this thing built as soon as possible.



We decided to take a spin on The Joker. Unfortunately, the ride is still running 1 train. We’re starting to get concerned about this because it’s been about half a year that this coaster has been running in single train mode. We waited about 50 minutes to ride, whereas the length of the line could have easily taken 20-25 minutes if the park was running both trains. To be honest, it’s a bit disappointing that we’re not seeing SFDK make any major effort to get the second train online. As crowds started to pick up, we saw the line grow significantly and we can only imagine how long the wait became as more switchbacks were filling up. Hopefully the park can get Joker back to 2-train op soon to improve the guest experience.



Next up on the other side of the park we hit up the oldest ride in the park, Boomerang. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see that the coaster is running relatively smooth (for a Vekoma). It was nice to ride Boomerang and not come off with a headache and sore ears.

Taking a short walk around the park, we have noticed one upgrade to the park restrooms that we like a lot. Most water fountains outside the restrooms have been retrofitted to include a filtered water station. This will be a lifesaver on those hot summer days when food service is slammed and guests want a quick drink of water.



Speaking of busy food locations, right around lunch time we saw that all the restaurants were hit hard with long lines. We’re sure that the Spring Break crowds had something to do with the unusually high food court crowds. However, it’s pretty daunting to walk around and see such massive lines just to get some lunch. We’re hoping that the food service department gets adequately staffed when the summer crowds arrive.



As restaurant and ride lines grew, we took a quick diversion to the butterfly habitat to enjoy some of the natural beauty offered at SFDK.


Many of the little creatures were flying around so quickly it was a bit tricky to photograph them. Can you spot the butterflies in this pic?


Don’t forget about the koi pond too, these big fish are quite impressive to look at.



Our last ride of the afternoon was Medusa. We were pretty impressed with the ride ops who were working hard to dispatch trains promptly. The line was only using a portion of the downstairs switchbacks and moved very quickly.


We’re also thankful that as the centerpiece of the park, Medusa is still running smooth as glass. Pro-tip: if you have a little extra time and patience and you haven’t already done so, wait the extra couple minutes for the front row. It’s quite a rush with all the wind blowing in your face.


Around 3pm, the crowds had arrived in full force and we decided it was time to call it an early day. On the way out, we decided to watch a cycle of Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth from outside the park entrance. We noticed that the ride was still sporting an unusually long cycle with about 12 full height swings. As the ride cycled, we heard the guests’ screams and hollers start to hush a bit (we imagine some of them were starting to feel nauseated). Personally, we think that this cycle time is excessive, and has the potential to make guests sick if they’re not prepared. If you choose to ride Wonder Woman, we suggest trying it at the end of your visit, just in case it does make you feel a bit ill.


Overall, our visit was a fairly pleasant one. Despite the crowds, the park felt pretty chill and it reminded us that SFDK has potential to be an extremely enjoyable park if operations meet expectations. While we walked back to the car, we noticed that parking attendants were directing cars across the street to the fairground dirt lot. This was a sign that park attendance was heavy today. SFDK is definitely not having any problems getting guests through the turnstiles. We just hope that they have a plan to make sure all guests have a great time.



Are you excited for the new Batman coaster? How about V2’s transformation to the Flash? Will you be visiting the park over your Spring Break? Let us know what you’re looking forward to as the busy summer season approaches.


3.25.2019

California's Great America Opening Day 2019 Update



Theme park season is back and we've been itching to visit California's Great America after a really brief off-season (seemed like we just got through WinterFest). After several rather wet weeks leading up to today, it was a refresher to step out of the house or office and enjoy some sunshine while breaking our bodies out of our "winter hibernation mode" and getting reacquainted with lots of walking and partaking outdoor activities.

First 2000 guests got this cool poster of the park's iconic Carousel Columbia


With this said, it wasn't exactly what we'd call a smooth opening day as just after opening ceremony and hitting that 10:00AM mark, it still appeared like there was a cluster of people waiting for rope drop for several minutes. From what we could see, nothing was running. Our plan was to kick off with Gold Striker to no avail - had done Patriot to start the day off. Given the circumstances of many rides being down throughout the day, we had another diversion that kept us busy, making for a unique and fun visit. The park was doing button giveaways throughout the day at various locations with 6 different designs. We were given a card at the front gate that showed the locations and slots to put the buttons onto. Between button collecting, we still managed to squeeze in some rides and even checked out the new Space Beagle show.

Before we had collected the 6 buttons

Mission complete!


Rides we did 1 of each of the following:

Patriot - Ride was a 2 train wait and was our first ride of the day. It was also the only ride running in our vicinity

Demon - 3 train wait, also running really smooth for its age. Whatever CGA's maintenance team is doing with the ride, keep at it!

Flight Deck - Walk-on. We had expected by this time that it would have had a wait with many other rides in the area being closed. Was a nice surprise after a rough start.

Celebration Swings - Well, I don't think I would really count it as a ride but we did have the weirdest experience on it. As soon as we got the all clear for dispatch, the swings lifted about 5 feet, and lowered back to its rest position. Swings had gone down. Also noticing that the swings are rotating at a much lower RPM, appearing to be a much tamer experience from what it was. Over the off-season, the ride had received a new control system. We did not get a chance to retry the swings afterwards.

Gold Striker - Wait was about 10 minutes and running in ok-shape. It wasn't rough but it wasn't exactly the smoothest. It almost felt like we were riding on dodecagonal wheels as it had this constant vibration through the entire ride, a full body massage



Star Tower - We took a spin on Star Tower to get views of the new midways and the park is looking great from above!

Other things to note:

French Quarter Funnel Cakes opened with the park for the 2019 season after a long construction period and it looks nice both inside and out. We really liked the patio just outside of it too. We didn't get any funnel cakes but we did swing by to check it out and to get our souvenir cups.





The front of the park (Carousel Plaza) was repaved and is looking nice. In addition, the restrooms next to the Inside CGA shop are getting renovated. We are a fan of the renovated restrooms as last year they were heated on a cold WinterFest night and were kept rather clean.

New red brick pavers at the main entrance looks nice and makes a good first impression entering the park.

The view from 200 feet up - as shown in background, the front gate restrooms are boarded up. We are hearing that they should be open in a few weeks.
No big stage out in the plaza this year - this opened up the opportunity for a cool mural just behind the small bandstand at the base of the Carousel. CGA's Carousel Columbia is the tallest in the world at 101 feet, beating Six Flags Great America's carousel by a whole foot!


Grizzly and Drop Tower did not open, listed as closed on the website and at the gate. Drop Tower's newly painted cabins look good. Hopefully we can see the queue get a refresher too!

New vibrant Drop Tower cabins  complement the tower. Hoping to see a refreshed queue and operator's control booth.

Looking up the tower with its new colors


Unfortunately we had to skip out on RailBlazer. It opened late in the afternoon and was only running 1 train. Everyone flocked over to RailBlazer just as soon as the sound of brakes releasing was made. We'll catch it next time and when it's back in 2-train op.

We had checked out the new Space Beagle show at Peanuts Showplace. It was cute. If you have gone to Knott's recently, this show may look familiar to you. Knott's also has the same show running down there.
First showing of 2019 with a pretty full house.

Did you attend opening day and collect the buttons? How was your opening day? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow our Instagram: @Thrillsbythebay for park updates and photos!

2.10.2019

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Trip Report 2-10-19



Just a few weeks ago we had gone to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for some winter coaster action and faced some of the "off season blues". Unfortunately, it SFDK still feels very limited op with numerous closed major attractions for their winter rehab and Kong still being closed since summer.

V2's old yellow paint is visible after getting power washed...Seems familiar, like a
park just south of here with their 220ft attraction :)


Vertical Velocity is not down though due to mechanical issue or rehab as it had just gotten out of its rehab. It appears that a repainting could be happening as we had seen that the track had been power washed, and flecks of paint all over the queue. Primer has been painted on some of the supports in the station area.

Superman seems like it just got out of its rehab but has been closed once again. This left only Joker, Wonder Woman, and shockingly, Harley Quinn operational. Let's talk about what was running.

Joker is still running single train op but unlike our visit in December where we waited 3 hours for it to open, it had only opened a half hour after the gates opened (along with everything else, unfortunately, more on this in a bit). We were the first riders of the day on it, running pretty smooth but lethargic due to the cooler temps. Was a good "comfort ride."

My chariot of pain awaits...


I decided to give Harley Quinn a second chance after an unpleasant first ride on it late summer. Needless to say, today's ride was only a "courtesy ride" and will likely skip it on future visits. The concept is cool. The execution however was not so good. I had opted to face backwards and was probably the worst possible decision as my head jostled about. Ride felt about as rough as Kong.

Wonder Woman and its extended cycle...left many feeling ill when getting off.


Next up and last ride in the Joker plaza was Wonder Woman. This is the ride that turned us seasoned riders who have been on this several times into chumps as the ride was running some kind of "extended cycle". We are used to it doing about 4-5 swings at its max height but we had watched cycles after do between 12-16 "high swings." Wonder Woman is an already intense experience, and this turned the intensity up significantly leaving us feel ill for pretty much the remainder of the day. We aren't quite sure what was going on with Wonder Woman and why the cycle was extended significantly. This was after a few weeks ago, the ride cycle came to a close after swinging just past the 90-degree mark. Today, the ride had gone from shrieks and whoops of enjoyment to riders being very quiet, likely feeling like us as we had also become very quiet after that 5th swing wondering what was going on. I guess we got a little more than we bargained for?

Taken in lot after experiencing a dead battery - we logged how many swings this was doing
as we waited for help to arrive. Had seen 5 swings once, 12, 14, and 16 many other times, 12 being the most common.
Can't pass up seeing the animals, one of our "mid-day"
things we like to do when taking a breather from rides


One of the often overlooked areas on our visits are the animal areas so we had made it a point to go and say hi to SFDK's animal friends and let our stomachs settle. After a lap through the animals, we had though we were ok enough to go hop on Boomerang and head our way toward Medusa to round out the lap. Unfortunately, one of our party members wasn't quite through with Wonder Woman's illness and got off Boomerang leaving behind a few protein spills.

As much as I love Twix candies, not a fan of the new ad wraps on this coaster...
Or any coaster in that matter. Definitely not the slightest bit subtle with the sponsorships.



This leads to the next thing we want to bring up which is a little concerning. After the episode at Boomerang, we had decided to bring our friend over to First Aid next to the coaster to get taken care of and cleaned up. Unfortunately, the staff there didn't really seem prepared nor fit for the task at hand. Typically, in a situation like this, one would expect something to be given to an ill guest. In the end it was useless to stop by other than to grab a couple napkins to clean up the little bit of the spill on our friend's jacket. We were directed to go to the main gift shop up front to purchase some medication to alleviate the feeling. Overall, the visit to first aid was not a very hospitable experience.

After this and not wanting to upset stomachs any further, we opted to end our visit early. Medusa had just gone down too as we had passed the area. We felt it was in best interest to call it and go grab a bite to eat. This is the first time ever since Medusa had opened that I had visited the park and not been on Medusa. Between its reliability issues and us feeling ill, we opted to pass on anymore rides after the Boomerang episode.

So to address about park opening - this has been an ongoing thing throughout the 2018 season and has sadly carried into 2019 where rides are not opening with the park. We've seen between 30 minutes to an hour for a plaza to wake up. We have seen upset guests asking about what rides are even open as a whole section sits dormant.

We at Thrills by the Bay do not like to highlight the negative aspects of a park but feel like an ongoing situation like this is worth bringing up. Membership early entrance is nearly useless as well. Six Flags Magic Mountain down south had made use of membership early entry and had select rides open to kick off the day, a nice incentive for partaking in their membership program.

Guests paying full price (in this case, full price after city fees and convenience fees raising an online single day ticket to nearly the price of a season pass purchased during the annual Flash Sale) feel burned with a park in "limited op" mode. The further sting is felt when much of the star attractions are all down in 1 sitting. We hope Six Flags Discovery Kingdom can get themselves out of this rut that's been forming.

On the plus side, the park was very quiet today and we can only imagine how successful the day could have been if there was more to offer, plus if things had opened on time. Keeping in mind, on busy days, these same things have happened leaving many including ourselves frustrated as we try to keep an open mind.


To end on a positive note - we are seeing progress at the Batman site! Track is on site (We didn't get any photos of the track unfortunately, didn't want to raise any flags snooping around in a storage area). Trenches have been made and foundations are getting prepped for concrete! We are excited to see this come to the Joker plaza after a disappointing 2018 attraction.

Nice to see progress on our way out! Hope these upcoming storms don't hinder this project too much.


View from Joker's station - lots of dirt has been pushed around, rebar and framing set up. Last time it was just a vacant plot.
Thanks for reading our quick update - had hoped to get more but after the experience on Wonder Woman and feeling ill for a while, we weren't quite all together :)

We hope to be back again soon to follow up on progress and hope we can see better operations for this park!


2.03.2019

California's Great America Drop Tower - Fresh Paint in 2019!

After a jam packed 2018 with midway improvements, new attraction, new restaurants, and a boatload of live entertainment, 2019 is shaping up to be a more "chill" season while making continued efforts to beautify California's Great America. In a recent blog post from CGA, Drop Tower, the park's tallest attraction will be getting a brand new color scheme for 2019.

The new color setup is inspired by CA's giant Sequoia trees, transitioning from a rich brown tone at the base of the tower to a vibrant green as you head toward the top. We think this new color setup will breathe fresh life into the area and will really stand out even outside of the park's boundaries.

In this mockup, we can see the new color scheme. The tower used in this photo however
is from Canada's Wonderland, as evidenced with Leviathan's track to the right.

Last week, the Base Painters crew was hard at work being hoisted up the tower to degrease and power wash the tower to remove all of the grime and residue that may have built up over the years of operation, to ensure a fresh, clean surface for the new paint to adhere to.

As viewed from outside the park, you can see the paint crew at the top of the tower.
Just to the left on the tower, you can see the original "Drop Zone green" scheme from the 90s as well as
a hint of orange that was once on the multi-colored tower.


What is interesting is the fact that this isn't the only ride that will be sporting an outdoors-y California theme in the western side of the park. Last year, RailBlazer was the first in the area to introduce this California outdoors/nature theme, and neighboring rides Berserker and White Water Falls received new/updated main ID signs to fit in the theme giving the area a fresh look. Further down the midway, the old Fan-Attic store across from the Tooth Fairy maze was redone as "California Trails." Grizzly just happens to be a natural fit too, no pun intended.

Berserker received a new sign in 2018 to blend in with the RailBlazer area



White Water Falls also received a brand new sign that fits nice with the area.




This isn't the first Cedar Fair park to try and establish a fresh new theme to an otherwise aging area of a park. Carowinds is revamping on their areas as the "Blue Ridge Junction" to tie in with their new Copperhead Strike coaster, and last year, Kings Dominion freshened up their area around their Twisted Timbers attraction with the whole apple orchard theme. Knott's has also over the years freshened up their Boardwalk section and with the recent addition of HangTime, really breathed life into that area.

Drop Tower opened in 1996 and at the time, it was the world's tallest freefall attraction on the planet. Drop Tower is a "2nd generation" freefall manufacutured by Intamin, who had also manufactured the defunct "1st generation" freefall known as "The Edge" which once resided just down the midway (where Thunder Road go-karts are now).

What are your thoughts on the new Drop Tower color scheme? Let us know in the comments below!