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    Posted August 14, 2013 by
    Vallejo, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel photo of the day

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    The best designed theme parks have a weenie that is meant to draw you into the park. For example, as you enter, Disneyland Sleeping Beauty's Castle serves as a visual reference from the time you cross under the railroad tracks into the park. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has no such weenie. In fact, the entire entrance is like an afterthought carved between the rides. This lack of focus is a kind of metaphor for the park’s history.

    Marine World opened in Redwood City, California in 1968. (1) The park widened its focus in 1972 by absorbing a failing land animal park and renaming themselves Marine World Africa USA. (2) In 1986 the park moved to it’s current location in Vallejo, California and received its third name, New Marine World. (3) Following a tax default, the city of Vallejo gained ownership and licensed operation of the park to Premier Parks, which added thrill rides as another focus. Premier Parks then purchased Six Flags and once again the name was changed to Six Flags Marine World. In 2007 it was rechristened with it’s current name and an official theme of Sea, Land and Sky. Sky represents the thrill rides.

    My family last visited this park in 2008 and, with the exception of some complaints about the management the park, had enjoyed ourselves. With the draw of a roller coaster, Superman Ultimate Flight, that has opened since that last trip, we decided to take a detour on a recent trip to Lake Tahoe to give the park a second try.

    Our first impression of the park was that the management situation had not really improved. Despite a rapidly filling parking lot (and a $20 parking fee) they were only running one tram which resulted in a long wait. Using my Discover Card, we were able to use an express entrance and made a beeline towards the new coaster. Unfortunately, it was having technical issues and was not open. We turned around and headed for the park’s wooden coaster, Roar, but it was also not open. This is really something that they should have told people entering the park as these two rides are off the beaten path and we would have chosen a different route if we had this information.

    Surprisingly, even with it’s only neighbors closed, V2: Vertical Velocity was still basically a walk on and became our first ride of the day. This is a unique inverted impulse coaster that is propelled forwards and backwards through the station into two inclines. Because of Vallejo’s strict building height limits, the park was forced to change the design of this ride so that, unlike all other similar coasters, it actually turns the rider upside down. (4) It is also one of the few rides that I have ever encountered where I saw a rider turned away for being too tall.

    Next, we checked out some of the animal exhibits. The penguin enclosure was a stand out as it was nicely designed and gave an up close view of these endangered birds in action. Actually, it sometimes seemed that the humans were the ones on display. Watching the kids around the exhibit also drove home the advantage of a live interaction. These squeals of delight are not something you usually see as they are watching the television.

    We managed to catch the Superman ride as it finally opened. It definitely lived up to the anticipation. Like V2, you are propelled back and forth through the station, but on this coaster you eventually make a full circuit. The unique elements include an inline twist, taken at a slow speed at the coaster’s highest point and a non-inverting loop, which twists you around the outside of the loops structure without turning you upside down. To further enhance the experience, you are held in without the use of an over the shoulder restraint.

    With the exception of Cobra, all of the coasters made up for their restricted heights with unique elements and constant action. Roar was particularly satisfying as I spent most of my ride in the last row getting thrown up out of my seat. The floorless coaster, Medusa, also packed a nice punch but was build over an old part of the parking lot. Why does Six Flags not realize that if you are going to remove the floor of the car, you should provide something more to enhance the experience than fading parking spaces.

    Too many parks have removed entertainment offerings, but Discovery Kingdom has plenty. To my family, Joco’s Walrus Demonstration Show was a standout. Their newest show, Cirque Dreams Splashtastic, fell a little short. It tried to be too much at once and the circus acts took attention away from the dolphins. I would have like to have seen more interplay between the two.

    Sometimes not having a focus can work against a park, but in this case Discovery Kingdom uses it to their advantage. The park has something for everyone and, therefore, passed Walt’s test of being a place where the whole family can play together. I know that my family thoroughly enjoyed their day.
    (1) http://www.blooloop.com/features/amusement-parks-six-flags-discovery-kingdom-a-p/61
    (2) http://rollercoaster.wikia.com/wiki/Six_Flags_Discovery_Kingdom
    (3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Flags_Discovery_Kingdom
    (4) http://rcdb.com/1143.htm
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