It seems that big things are happening in theme parks all over the country this weekend, and amidst these feasts of Volcano Bays, Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakouts and Pandoras, a few crumbs have dribbled down to our parks here by The Bay. Let’s take a quick look at what’s happening at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Great America.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Less than a week before the debut of her first feature film, Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth opens to the public today after two days of passholder previews. Work was frantic and down to the wire with this being the scene a mere 4 weeks ago. . .
With a conflict during Saturday’s media event, I was on hand for the 1st ever ride by non employees during Friday’s passholder preview. Wonder Woman is a spinning pendulum ride similar to rides like Delirium at Great America or La Revolucion at Knotts, with a twist; the seats face outward as they spin and the entire pendulum swings up 120° at 70mph topping out 147 feet above the ground!
I remember as a child thinking 90 seconds wasn’t nearly enough on rides like Dumbo and Scramblers, but after a Tilt a Whirl ride operator at the Santa Clara County Fair 17 years ago left us on for 5-6 minutes, my desire to spin was permanently altered. I can usually handle once a day if it’s a unique take on the concept, and Delirium fits the bill, but at the end I’m always glad it didn’t last 10 seconds longer.
Meanwhile back on Wonder Woman, we were all securely attached to the seats, a bit narrow but not uncomfortable. Instead of the floor slowly lowering, the platform separates into sections that pull back much quicker. The spin and swing begin simultaneously, but it only does 6 RPM, so it’s easier on the stomach. The swing doesn’t physically take riders fully upside down, but it does so psychologically. The slower spin also means time to take in the ever changing views. I particularly liked The Joker from above, with the walkway from the parking lot teaming with mobs of middle school kids also interesting.
Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth is a solid addition to the DC corner of the park (they’ve pretty much backed off of the Land, Sea and Sky concept). I was even able to have a second go, though a third was not in the cards. And if your little princess simply refuses to change, she can at least be a superhero princess.
There is also a new character to meet now, in fact the park does a good job with character encounters with various Loony Toons, and not just the Rascally Rabbit but guys like Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzales making appearances.
But it’s a busy holiday weekend, so if it’s a hot day grab one of those cups of ice water Discovery Kingdom considerately supplies, because there’s another stop to make.
California’s Great America
In a continuation of last year’s Winterfest and Taste of Orleans Great America is hosting the all new Red White and Brews festival this weekend (including Memorial Day, last chance for current & former military personnel to get free admission) as well as June 3-4. This time the fun is happening in Hometown Square, and the location and some subtle tweaks from Taste of Orleans show have combined for an improved experience while still having its own identity. Hometown Square is perhaps the most inviting section of the park with a lot of space, benches and shade. With the addition of an outdoor stage for live music, dueling pianos in the Gazebo and plenty of food and drink all festooned with bunting do combine to give the feel of a small town holiday festival.
All of the special offerings can be purchased separately, and most are also included with a $25 tasting ticket. Individual food items are $5.99, wine is $8.99 for 6 oz pours, beer is $10.99 for 16 oz cups. With the drink tickets giving six 6 oz tastes of either, the wine is certainly the best value of the bunch. The plastic souvenir cup is included with the drink ticket.
For an additional $15 the drinker on the go could help pedal the Beer Bike (beer included!) steered by a sober driver.
While there was a multitude of drink options, the food ticket gets one 5 specific items plus a choice of 2 desserts. The jumbo smoked chicken drums had a distinct smoky flavor, though not terribly jumbo, and could have been hotter.
Spicy roasted corn on the cobb was a bit much, kind of overwhelming, but that’s personal preference, it all tasted find, just not my thing. I was stopped as I walked to our table for inquiries, and my son Colin found it quite appealing.
The pulled pork bun was tasty, hot with a decent pork to bun ratio.
Tombstone sliders were put together when ordered, and the pairing of 2 meats and other ingredients combined for a real winner in every way.
It was downright cruel of them to force choosing between strawberry shortcake or warm apple pie bacon and cheddar parfait, but both are good choices, plenty of fruit and assembled freshly although it could be argued that all the ingredients tend to compete in the latter.
And then…..bacon wrapped chicken…….hearts. At first thought, maybe it’s just a name like pigs on a blanket. It should be stated without duress that your humble narrator doesn’t react particularly well to food items that would seem to be the result of a dare or losing a bet. The taste was OK, but it was a bit toothsome for our preferences.
Live music was continuous from 11AM to 9PM. In between 90 minute sets by bands on the main stage were hour long interludes by the dueling pianos in the Gazebo. With songs drawn from the like of Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and The Beatles plus John Denver and the spawn of Billy Ray’s fakey flakey heart, both ends of the musical spectrum were represented.
Side Saddle & Co played traditional bluegrass in the spirit of Bill Monroe’s high lonesome sound with well known standards like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Rocky Top”.
Here we see Fast Times performing a disco variation of Let it Go. There will now be a moment of silence to allow the full horror of that to sink in.
As more folks discovered the music Whiskey Pass kept us moving forward with the kind of gritty country music heard in pickup trucks hauling 2x4s from the lumber yard as opposed to the pickup trucks hauling kitty litter home from the Costco.
By the time the sun was sinking the California Cowboys were rising, fashionably late, the lounges fronting the stage claimed and the harmonies were tight. They were more straightforward country than Whiskey Pass, and although the result of a call for line dancers led to more of a line segment, it was an energetic set that had veered from Garth to Queen before all was sung and done with an explosive “Born To Be Wild” Finale.
I want to take a moment to salute the yellow shirted men and women doing a fantastic job of keeping things neat and clean, offering to take used food items for guests and just being responsive and persistent in keeping it all tidy. And while we’re mentioning the unsung heroes the audio techs kept the sound for everyone sharp and clear.
It all added up to a fun time at California’s Great America. They’re also wrapping up some construction at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and we will continue our Summer of The Boardwalk coverage during their 110th anniversary year, but that will have to wait until the next Day by The Bay.