Saturday, May 21, 2011

Amusement Park: Six Flags Magic Mountain

I'm not a big amusement park gal. My parents were never really theme park aficionados so I never really was brought up to seek them out. My few trips to Magic Mountain bare that out - I've been 4 times my entire life, only twice as an adult that counts (once I was acting as a camp counselor and my charges refused to go on anything outside of Bugs Bunny world and the pirate ship) - including this trip. My friend had a coupon for $25 admission and I decided why not.
Official Description: 
Welcome to Six Flags Magic Mountain, a 260-acre park featuring world-class roller coasters and over 100 rides, games and attractions.

It's the largest amusement park in California, and is especially known for it's two extreme coasters - X2 and Tatsu

The Review
One shouldn't compare (and can't, at least in terms of rides) compare Six Flags to Disneyland because they are apple and orange kind of parks, but having been at Disneyland the day before, I feel it impossible to not compare them.

My first experience with the park was the tram that took me to the park entrance: the loading area was difficult to locate, there's no real structure, just some paint on the ground and nondescript colored-flags in the air. For that matter, signage in the lot was dismal. I didn't even notice there were sign/section markers until my way out of the park - pathetic. Anyway, when I boarded the tram (which had no attendants to help guests on/off or keep count, just to the two tram operators), I noticed peeling paint everywhere, the front look dented and almost rusting and ads plastered on the side for Skittles. At the time, I tweeted that the tram was in the kind of shape that Disney wouldn't allow it into their maintenance bays, let alone actually consider using it for guests.

I did not know just how much foreshadowing this would be.

Once at the park gates and united with my group, I went to purchase tickets - this was surprisingly easy, most people must have bought them online since I had no wait to speak of. I really didn't have a ticket to speak of either: I got a receipt that said "Ticket" printed on it with a bar code. I have to say that this - just feels cheap. I can't think of a truly good reason to do away with tickets, but since they don't let you keep them anyway( which I also find lame because I do like to hold on to them) I guess it doesn't really matter.

Going through security was easy, and then you're funneled into a large holding pen if you get there prior to park opening. It took over 10 minutes to get through the gates and the only thing I can think of is lack of staffing. It's not a huge thing, but it does add to the growing sense of disappointment.

The park itself is clean-enough; unlike Disney where if a piece of litter winds up on the ground, it's gone in under five minutes (if even that) Magic Mountain has signs everywhere (and staffers wearing shirts) that read "Have a [heart] and keep our park clean!" While I totally agree that the public should be respectful of the property, isn't it the parks job to keep the park clean?

The park is also a mess to navigate - there are hills everywhere, and only one - Ninja Summit - has any kind of lift to get you to the top of it. If there was ever a park that screamed for an in-park tram system, this was it. Everything is a hill and not everything neatly flows from section to section. Also, who thought it a great idea to put a food court system under Superman? The ride is loud to the point that you need to cover your ears. Simply awful!

There is a 'flash pass' system integrated into the park. Unlike a Disney fastpass, where you can use your ticket to get (1) pass for a designated time at certain rides (and you can only have one at a time) and lets you enter into a special queue that's generally much shorter than the regular queue, Flash Passes are a pay-only option that more or less do the same thing, though the lines tend to be much much shorter due to the fact that you have to pay. $41/person will get you a basic pass (which will not work for X2) $69/person will get you a "Gold" version which will let you reserve a seat on X2 - for an extra fee (I do not know what the fee is) and "Platinum" will let you access anything and let you ride twice after only one wait for $99/person. You do get a price break for each additional member of your group, but let's put this into perspective. Gate price for the park is $60. There's an online special that lets you pay $35.00 (and this would be why no one is buying at the gate except people like me!). Your opportunity to cut your ride time costs more than your pass! The passes certainly would help, but are decidedly overpriced and Gold level seems pointless - the best reason to buy a pass is if you want to ride X2 which regularly has lines over 2-3 hours long. The basic one shuts you out and if you have to pay more on the Gold - why not go all the way to Platinum instead?

Anyway. You may have noticed that in all this time, I've not mentioned a single ride. I'm not really planning to- it's not that the rides aren't thrills - (X2 and Tatsu are terrifying and will get your heart pounding and screaming and laughing nervously thrilled you're still alive) -it's because there's something else that overshadowed everything else for me:

This park made the most token efforts at ADA compliance I've ever seen. The friend who invited me has a health condition which leaves her unable to do something like walk an amusement park, and therefore brings a wheel chair with her. We're well aware that this isn't the most friendly for that kind of thing - but this place takes the cake. From signs that give wrong information (Gold Rusher says the entrance is at the exit; the attendant snidely told her it was at the entrance), to tiny elevators that barely fit a wheelchair and the attendant, to mind boggling policies that say the guest may only be accommodated by the attendant (two other major parks - Universal and Disney allow a party of four), it was all horrible. The worst bit though, were the ride attendants. On Superman: Escape from Krypton, it said to knock on the door when you arrived. She knocked. And knocked. It took a passenger telling the ride attendant that someone was knocking for the door to finally be opened. On two different occasions, the rest of the party was completely ignored, to the point that at Scream! when we got up there we were rudely told that two of us would have to go through the line and that we'd be able to ride on the same car- but this was after us (the group) asked a guy where to go and he said on up.

We did go to Guest Services and complained, and you know what, it someways dimmed my view even more. The lady said that "they've hired a lot of new employees" which only implies that they don't train them right! The lady did her best to make it right - she gave my friend the card of the supervisor in charge of ADA compliance and she gave us three front of the line passes for our group of our choosing - even making an exception and giving us one for X2, which they don't normally allow on Saturdays. It was nice, but should never have been necessary.

And what's worse? After receiving them and winding up in the queue for Tatsu, the lady only gave us attention when my friend called her over and she didn't seem overly thrilled to do so. We certainly didn't get front of the line privileges at Apocalypse - he only let our group in because they needed four more. The boarding area was also SO small (and again, I got split form the group) that I couldn't even find an attendant- I was supposed to tell them that I was boarding, but had no way of knowing this!

It just so incredibly frustrating and put a damper on an otherwise fun day. I may in fact be done with the park - I'm still not a thrill ride enthusiast and seeing this part of the park, in combination with everything else that I mentioned above  - just makes it an unattractive proposition to me.

My grade: C- for the park as a whole. Had I not experienced any of the issues I'd had with my friend, I'd give the park a C+. The rides are easily a B+ , but it's not really a park for the faint-hearted as most of the rides worth going on are the thrill rides.

No comments:

Post a Comment