Here’s Part Two of Marc Ricketts photo essay on the enigmatic Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Park in Vallejo, California. You can get caught up on Part One of this report HERE. ~~Rick
Before we carry on I’ll pass along that the unusually large crowd I encountered on a non-holiday weekend in June was nowhere to be seen when my son visited on a July Tuesday. He reports that Medusa was a walk-on at 5PM, so weekdays are the way to go if possible.
Those visiting Six Flags Discovery Kingdom who have no desire to hit all the coasters don’t usually have to worry about long waits regardless, with the exception of the water rides on warmer days. There are no themed attractions now that the Turbo Theater simulator closed some years back, but the standard amusements and spinners one would expect are here to be found. Six Flags means the Looney Tunes are in the house, with personal appearances and familiar rides adorned with Bugs, Daffy, et al.
Seaside Junction, a smaller area for the younger guests, was originally home to Thomas the Tank Engine, but has now gone generic. Those that haven’t visited the park recently will recall that the train used to travel for a fair distance beside the shore of Lake Chabot (not to be confused with a larger lake of the same name near Oakland). The current route consists of a quick circuit around the Shark Experience building.
The food court in this area has many choices and many hungry people. But take a look in the other direction.
As one moves beyond the coasters and rides, the spaces start to be more open, the walkways are clearer. The adjacent water serves to emphasize these qualities. Entering the quieter section of Discovery Kingdom, the Butterfly Habitat is the first diversion encountered.
Here one can escape the dry warmth of Vallejo for the steamy hot interior of a green house filled with tropical flora, a small waterfall, and a wide variety of multi-colored butterflies. That banana looks too nasty for one of Gru’s Minions to desire, but the insects seen to enjoy it.
Most exit straight through the gift shop (of course there’s a gift shop), but exiting to the left leads to a quiet path that is brief but usually deserted (remain calm, it still goes through the gift shop).
It is just the start of a much different atmosphere than is found elsewhere. It’s truly a welcome respite to have an area like this to just slow down and breathe for a moment. After a morning that may have begun by racing all the other guests to the park’s coasters, the back of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom provides a quiet balance to the earlier frenzy.
Directly, the exhibits of land animals appear, starting with a small pavilion housing a variety of reptiles, foreign and domestic.
All right, I understand not everybody was that kid that thought snakes were really cool (guilty), and some may prefer a more warm blooded critter. Here’s one that covered in fur, and it’s a tall one. In fact, the giraffe feeding opportunity may be the best of the bunch. Held once a day, it consists of a large tub of fruits and vegetables. Although only one piece may be taken at a time, there is no limit to the number of repeat trips through the line.
Feeding the tiger, however, is not advised. I was, however, directly behind him when I saw hi……..you know what? Let’s move on.
The side of the park also contains the third children’s area, Tava’s Jungleland, with a small collection of rides and play areas.
Oh look, a flying elephant; that’s clever.
Maybe you’ve already ridden a flying elephant elsewhere? Perhaps riding an actual elephant is more your speed.
It doesn’t take all that many steps before that blissful solitude gives way to extreme crowditude, as seen in these photos taken in locations that are only about two minutes apart.
Now to be fair, a show had recently ended in the vicinity of that second photo, but that is usually true in this area since it is near most of the performance venues. So let’s pass the last land(ish) animal, yes it’s another reptile…..
…..and on with the show. And there are many. Starting an hour after park opening, a show is commencing somewhere almost every half hour. Since most are presented only once or twice per day, it is imperative that the day’s schedule be studied soon after entering the park. They range from the simple training session in the walrus pool to the tightly choreographed “Cirque Dreams Splashtastic” which combines music, acrobatics and dolphins. Odin’s Temple of the Tiger is an amphitheater that sat unused for years; during this time there was a smaller presentation in the tiger exhibit, but now the big cats have moved back to the big room, although the shows white namesake has retired. Additional shows spotlight birds, small critters, and, of course, seals and sea lions in the comic “Pinnipeds of the Caribbean” show about pirates. Where do they get these clever ideas?
On this day I went to the Toyota Stadium to see the dolphin show “Drench”. This venue was home to an Orca named Shouka for several years, but she was ultimately sent to Sea World due to a desire to find her compatible companionship after an unsuccessful attempt with a dolphin at Discovery Kingdom. With the large space available here, they are able to have four dolphins on stage (in pool?) together.
One thing that is certain when it comes to shows with marine mammals is that the audience no longer needs to have everything explained to them. We all get that hand signals communicate the trainer’s intentions. We’ve seen enough National Geographic programs to know about dolphins. So there is now a lot more doing and a lot less explaining. Combined with music and video, this show has a much better flow than similar shows from the past. Just remember, the show’s name was deliberate.
Cirque Dreams “Splashtastic” debuted in 2013, and this summer show goes far beyond the traditional dolphin show with acrobats, performers wearing inexplicable costumes and extensive use of your favorite color; it’s bound to be up there somewhere. Seriously, the average tie dye shirt looks positively subtle after this one. There is undoubtedly some deeply rooted symbolism at the core of it all, but it’s been decades since I sat through an art history course, and am not currently practiced in such lofty pontification. But it is a fun show from the surprisingly entertaining preshow involving performers within the audience to the final splash. So we’ll wrap up with a look at a 2013 performance of “Cirque Dreams Splashtastic”, and be back soon for another Day by The Bay.
Read Part One of this report [HERE].
While You’re In The Area!
Got a sweet tooth? Fifteen minutes away from Discovery Kingdom is the Jelly Belly Factory, known for their jelly beans in which both shell and filling are flavored, plus a myriad of flavors from Very Cherry and Buttered Popcorn to the worst of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Tours of the factory are free, and if you don’t mind less than perfection in the bean’s appearance, you can get a lot for a little in the outlet shop. [LINK]
Great America invites you to enjoy Guest Appreciation Day on Saturday, August 2, 2014. Enjoy rides and so much more for a full day of family fun and adventure! We’ll have $1 hot dogs, $1 cotton candy, & $1 popcorn, plus several $1 games. We’ll show a Saturday night movie on the 32-foot screen, keep Boomerang Bay open until 8 PM, and host a special fireworks extravaganza! Plus, Season Passholders can bring up to 6 guests for just $14.99* each!
Sharks in the Dark
” Sleep in the shark aquarium
• Squid dissection, tour, and themed games
• Special Shark Week surprise in next newsletter
August 8 is our last public Sharks in the Dark event until 2015! You can spend the night with these incredible and often misunderstood sea creatures swimming around you. Sharks in the Dark provides an educational experience, up-close observation and an unforgettable slumber party.
Friday, September 5 – Saturday, September 6, 2014
Overnight Camping on the Boardwalk
Walk of Hope
Sponsored by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to benefit the American Cancer Society.