We took a small break after a year of constant construction updates, attraction openings, backstage tours, park updates, trip reports, out of state trips, and of course Halloween and Holiday events. We’ll be back like never before in the new year and are sharing our final thoughts of 2016 with you right now!
Six Flags Magic Mountain
The New Revolution:
Six Flags Magic Mountain refurbished their 1976 vertical looping coaster to become The New Revolution. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the product. The ride has become smoother, it’s quieter, it looks fresh with the complete repaint, and the station and entrance look fantastic. The VR was a cool feature in the beginning, but sure proved to be a capacity nightmare. Unlike other Six Flags properties, there were no efforts to run VR at special times or to separate non-VR and VR riders, creating horribly long lines. In addition the hot summer weather and increasingly less-functioning phones used for the VR lead to many VR headsets malfunctioning. I will not miss this feature now it’ll be taken off The New Revolution for the start of 2017. Our initial review of The New Revolution is available here.
Unlike its Northern California counterpart, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Fright Fest improved incredibly much again. Another capital investment brought the Suicide Squad: A Six Flags Fright Fest Experience with movie photo ops, flame throwers, projection mapping, a light show, and many movie characters. It was put together very nicely and was incredibly popular. Another amazing new attraction was the Aftermath 2: Chaos Rising maze, which is the largest maze in the history of the event. Located on the old Deja Vu footprint it would usually not have a line for the first half of the night. We’re already hearing new attractions are on their way for next year, and we can’t wait! Find the coverage of the event here.
Holiday in the Park
Six Flags Magic Mountain did it again, and we’ll crown them to have the best Holiday event in California! This year’s event included extra shows, themed areas, and VR on The New Revolution (Santa’s Wild Sleigh Ride). This Holiday event combines high energy entertainment and light-packages unlike other event really setting itself apart. In addition, though the park is huge, there are countless holiday characters, themed areas and different foods to enjoy. It was the event’s third year, and we’re convinced the 4th rendition of this popular event will be even better. Check out our coverage of the event here.
The park is adding a new themed area and attraction in 2017. Six Flags Magic Mountain is the only Six Flags park to receive a special version of the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis dark ride with special 180 degree screens, an extra scene, extra pre-show and special character: Harley Quinn! The ride will be located next to Riddler’s Revenge, which will not undergo any changes, and will be part of the refurbished Metropolis area of the park. (Currently known as the Movie District). Rumor has it that 2017 is the year that the Flying Beast from the Far Far East (TATSU) will be receiving its much needed repaint, as well as the arrival of a new restaurant on top of Samurai Summit is rumored. For more details surrounding the park’s newest innovative ride, click here.
Knott’s Berry Farm:
Ghost Town Alive/ GhostRider 2.0
Knott’s Berry Farm went back to its roots this year and refurbished their famous Ghost Town, which they filled with actors for a live entertainment experience. Most importantly the park hired GCI to fully restore the park’s popular, but rough, wooden coaster: GhostRider. The refurbishment included new trains, new track, the removal of the mid-course brake run and some additional banking here and there. The ride turned out amazing and is among the best attractions in California! It’s original slogan (“Best in the West”) once again applies! For our GhostRider review, please click here. 😀
Knott’s Scary Farm
Knott’s Scary Farm is without a doubt one of the best Halloween events the world has ever known, and this year we were just as pleased with the experience as always! The new mazes were amazing, original (besides the Red Barn) and incredibly detailed! Shadowlands must have been my favorite maze of all time. Though the park usually lacks when it comes to the quality of the Scare Zones, the new Hollows Scare Zone was awesome and together with the new Skeleton Key Room experiences made the event even better than last year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring! Curious what we thought of this year’s mazes? Click here!
Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Soak City are both getting several new additions next year! Knott’s Soak City has been subject to small changes over the past few years. These small changes were nothing compared to the park’s huge new 2017 additions. The park will be adding a total of seven new slides to their park’s line up including raft slides and ultra-thrilling drop slides. These slides will be found on two new towers the park will be adding. The Shore Break slide tower and The Wedge slide tower. The park really flew under the radar with much better water parks in the state, this massive water slide fest will definitely up the ante of the park, put it on the map, and add some much needed color. We’re excited to visit Knott’s Soak City in 2017! All Knott’s Soak City 2017 details can be found here.
At Knott’s Berry Farm itself, the park will bring back the Boysenberry for an extended period of time as well Ghost Town Alive! The Boardwalk will see a new restaurant currently under construction across from Boomerang, but most impressively: the park is adding a Top Scan attraction, the largest in the world, to the WindSeeker lot in Fiesta Village. The ride is custom designed to fit in the spot, is manufactured by Mondial, and will be named Sol Spin. We’re very excited for this rare addition! More details are available here.
Universal Studios Hollywood:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
OMG The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! If it’s not one of your favorite themed areas in the world then I don’t know what to say! 😛 This long-anticipated attraction lived up to the international hype it received with the incredible Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey dark ride, the Flight of the Hippogriff and the rest of Hogsmeade. Though the Flight of the Hippogriff is not necessarily an impressive ride, it does offer a fun quick MACK-quality experience and adds to any coaster enthusiast’s coaster count. The real star of course is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction located within Hogwarts. The robotic arms, combination of screens and physical sets create one of the best rides ever created. The 3D feature on the ride was taken out recently and the ride now operates as a 2D attraction.
The Walking Dead Attraction
As if a giant new themed area with several rides wasn’t enough, the park opened the year-round walk-through experience: The Walking Dead Attraction. The attraction is short and lacks talent, the scenes within are impressive and it’s the type of attraction you go through for the physical sets and well-designed layout. I personally very much enjoyed the attraction for what it is, but like many seem to agree upon, it’s not a highlight attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.
SeaWorld San Diego:
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration
We checked out SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration for the first time this year and had a blast. Besides the fact that we love the park and the attractions offered, this event was one of the better events we’ve been to. It’s a very fun event that offers something no other parks have: animals! The event has well-developed shows, exhibits, an impressive Santa’s Christmas Town, and the perfect balance of lights, which really sets this event apart as one of the best in the state. Read our review of the event here!
Orca Exhibit and Ocean Explorer
SeaWorld San Diego is adding several new attractions in 2017, all of which are under construction as you’ll read this. The park is reconstructing their Shamu Stadium to become a more naturalistic setting and will be showing new demonstrations there next year. The upgrades include waterfalls, rockwork and new stationary screens to reduce the theatrical show aspect and create a natural experience. The underwater viewing area is closed ‘til the reopening of the stadium as the temporary stadium bleachers have been put in the spot for spectators to watch demonstrations in a different pool of the killer whale complex. We very much look forward to the upgraded stadium and experiences next year!
The park is also adding a dark ride, family rides, restaurants, shops and aquariums next year as part of the Ocean Explorer expansion of the park. The dark ride will be submarine themed and go through aquariums as well as other sets. The whole area will be very family friendly and interactive, just like most of the park’s existing exhibits. For those of you wanting more thrills, the park is adding a 150 feet tall coaster in 2018 that will dominate the park’s skyline. More on that on California Coaster Kings soon! All Ocean Explore details are available here.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom:
Pacific Rim 5D
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom reopened their 4D theater after it was used as a storage area for the park for years. The park converted a scene from the Pacific Rim movie to work with the projection system in the theater and launched the attraction ahead of The Joker. Though it was awesome to see the return of the theater, the attraction was a let down. The motion of the seats did not line up with the film, and the movie was simply a scene from the actual Pacific Rim film. To top it all off, someway through the season the park converted the ride into a 2D simulator. The attempt was much appreciated, but the execution was simply not there. For Holiday in the Park the park played a special ice tunnel film, which was reportedly much better than Pacific Rim 5D.
Unlike Pacific Rim 5D, The Joker was an absolute winner for the park! Let’s quickly talk about the ride experience! – There’s a few things that are pretty important to know: often times times a ride delivers somewhat different experiences in the back versus the front of the train. In the Joker’s case, it makes a HUGE difference. The front offers an entirely different ride experience than the back does. If you’re looking to be dragged along the course and experience continuous ejector airtime with a fling of hang-time in the Zero G Roll, then the back is your place to be. If you want be thrown around sideways and experience very nice ‘pops’ of airtime, often quick ejector-filled ones, and want to experience more hang time in the stall, then the front is the place to be.
But in whichever row on the train you ride, it is one marvelous roller coaster. The drop is what you get from mixing Twisted Colossus’ drop with that of local Vortex for example, and is just a very cool one. It’s comparable to a feeling you may get on Superman Ultimate Flight’s drop, depending on the row you’re riding in. But overall it’s a fun little drop. The inversions on the ride, except for the Step Up Under Flip, are filled with hang time, and to the surprise of many, that’s indeed also the case for the Zero G Roll. The Breaking Wave Turn is a very fun element, it throws riders around a bit for the first half, but is silky smooth and ejector filled in the second half, this of course is followed by more ejector, a turn that is not too forceful, and then the Asian Camelback, which may very well be the most interesting element on the ride, as the front vs. back situation on this ride is very noticeable in this element! Overall the ride does a good job combining airtime, ejector mostly, with fun laterals, in a well-paced wonderful RMC creation! – More in our Ride Review!
Fright Fest is sadly the park’s weakest annual event, and with the insanely high prices for maze passes this year, the event (though crowded) saw no lines for mazes. The line up of mazes had a poor execution and the true highlight of the event was again CarnEvil, one of the best mazes the park has ever produced. The park did introduce Rage of the Gargoyles this Fright Fest which was AWESOME! Kong, the park’s SLC, got some major track work done, the ride received larger restraints so the VR headsets wouldn’t hit the restraints and overall it turned out fantastically well! We’re hearing the VR will return in the future! Here’s our friend Jeremy riding the Rage of the Gargoyles:
Holiday in the Park
The park’s version of Holiday in the Park is by far one of the best events around and the park always delivers when it comes to the Holidays. This year was no exception, and after a rather somber Fright Fest season, Holiday in the Park was a much welcomed event. The park has several Holiday themed shows, millions of lights, special foods, fire pits, themed areas, and special Holiday light packages on coasters!
Next year will be the year the park continues their transformation into a typical Six Flags property. The park is expanding their DC Comics IP after adding both The Penguin and The Joker this year, the park is adding a Wonder Woman themed ride next year. The cool thing, it’s a 150 feet tall Zamperla Discovery (Giant Frisbee) which will stand as tall as the park’s tallest attractions and will swing closely in between the Joker and Superman Ultimate Flight! The park’s inside-facing smaller Huss Frisbee will also stick around, offering two unique Frisbee experiences at the park! We’re very much looking forward to Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth! Read more about the ride here!
California’s Great America:
Mass Effect: New Earth
California’s Great America invested in a rather unique experience based off of the popular Mass Effect video game and it couldn’t have turned out any better! One of the park’s very best attractions is a well-developed 4D sci-fi experience. With a live-actor, the world’s largest LED screen, smell effects, dozens of customized speakers and comfortable seats, there’s no 4D theater attraction that comes even close to what this ride has to offer. Check out our viral report here to learn more!
Halloween Haunt 2016 was another great year for the event, when it comes to their mazes. Sadly the event was so incredibly understaffed again that many mazes had hardly any actors in them, taking away from the experience quite a bit. The park’s annual Haunt event benefits from the strong Cedar Fair line-up of attractions that rotate meaning that set wise the event was very impressive. The separate Skeleton Key rooms, though not as great as the SoCal Knott’s Scary Farm versions, were awesome this year. We look forward to next year’s Halloween Haunt… hopefully they manage to finally properly staff the event. Find this year’s Maze Reviews here!
California’s Great America is the last of the major Californian theme-parks to board the Holiday event train. Though the event is separate and not included with the lower tier season passes, the event is rather small and clearly in its early stage. With only a select few rides operating and several up-charge attractions the event has a long way to go. But for the small event they did put together, it is quite impressive and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope this is the beginning of a much larger event where the entirety of the park will be used and the park will eventually become a year-round attraction, like the majority of theme parks in the state! Check out our overview of the event here!
The park is adding one of the more exciting attractions in California for 2017. The park’s famous stand-up coaster Vortex is being transformed into a blue-and-white, American-themed, Floorless coaster! We are excited for this upgrade of Vortex. The ride lost popularity over the years and wasn’t the smoothest coaster around. Blowing new life into this coaster is great! Even greater is the fact that it adds new color to the park, a completely new and smooth ride experience, and the name is perfect for the park. The coaster is relatively small, and occupies a smaller footprint. So that won’t only make this Floorless Coaster one of the smallest Floorless Coasters around, it also works great space-wise for the park. Replacing Vortex with a whole new ride wouldn’t have left for much space to work with. Patriot on the other hand is like adding a new Coaster with inversions and comfort. Let’s hope they add a roof to that station We look forward to covering the transformation, and eventually the opening of course! Check out the ride details here.
Though we made plenty of visits to parks like Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Disneyland Resort parks this year, we are expanding our coverage of these parks in 2017 and thus left them out of this Final Thoughts article. We also have visited quite some out-of-state theme parks and coasters this year, most of which you can find on our dedicated Out of State page!
A happy New Year from all of us here at California Coaster Kings, we can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2017!