First of all, it's been nearly a year since I was last at Magic Mountain. Last time was my second visit to the park, the first being in 2007. After my last trip, I was so dismayed with the park that I posted up a review on things that I found to be off-putting in an otherwise fun theme park. There were many things I was unhappy about and many things that I felt needed dire attention. The thread can be seen here:
Went to Magic Mountain and wow... just wow...
Today, I went back to the park. I'd read that it's improved, and while I hoped for the best, I didn't expect too much. In fact upon arriving at the parking lot entrance, I saw a sign that said something along the line of "Our park is rated a 10 in cleanliness thanks to you!" Still, I knew not to get my hopes up. Boy, was a I DEAD WRONG. My estimation of what to expect in the park fell WAY short of the experience I was actually provided. It's amazing what just a year can do to a theme park in seemingly bad shape, and it's amazing how someone who felt displeased with the park could go to being impressed with it in one visit. A heads up that the following report is fairly long.
Me and my boyfriend took off this morning at 6:20am from our home in Mission Viejo and we headed to Valencia. We arrived in about an hour and a half with little to no traffic interuptions. Our first visit was to Denny's, where we had breakfast. When we were done, there were still two hours to opening. After sitting around in Denny's, we decided to go to Six Flags and wait it out at the gate. When we got there, there were about three other vehicles in front of us waiting to get in. We waited about a half hour before they opened the parking lot at a little before 9:30am. We then redeemed our parking ticket we bought online and got a good spot right up close to the park. We skipped the tram and walked (which was cool because we ended up beating the tram). There were still about forty five minutes to park opening, so we waited near the gate. As we waited, a young man and young lady entertained the fairly small crowd for a good half hour. The crowd was pretty unresponsive, but you could tell they were intent on putting on a pretty good show and they didn't give up. Then, I was happy to see Mr. Six come dancing out of the park with his theme song playing. I hadn't recalled seeing him in the park before, but here he was... dancing as if he was in his twenties ( ). He was definitely a crowd pleaser, and just what I thought we needed to start off our day in the park.
At 10:30am when the park opened, we walked to X2. There was a small line when we got there, and I was a bit miffed that the ride didn't open until another ten to fifteen minutes. But then it did... and I quickly discovered I'd chosen the craziest coaster to start off my day. Now, I'd been on X before, but not X2. Granted, the experience is pretty much unchanged, but when I rode it the first time on my first visit, it was my final ride and I was very tired, so I didn't remember it too well. When I boarded, suddenly deja vu wasn't just a few rides away, it was in my head. Then as the coaster made it's first drop, I almost thought I'd have a heart attack (and I love coasters!). Luckily that did not happen, but I was glad when it stopped. The good thing was now that I'd started with X2, pretty much everything else should be a breeze.
We then proceeded to The Revolution, which we were told would be down for a half hour, so we headed to Viper (wait time about five minutes, and not one of my favorites due to the mild head beating, but fairly pleasant). After that, we headed to Tatsu (wait time about twenty minutes) which I loved on my first visit but didn't get to ride on the second). I absolutely love Tatsu. After that, we went to Deja Vu (which had no line... I guess people are afraid of it?). This was one I'd never been on. Last time I'd seen it, it gave me shivers, so we passed it by. This time, I convinced myself that I'd give it a go. It was actually pretty fun and not as scary as I thought it would be. The only drawback was that we got cut in front of by another couple so me and my boyfriend had to sit on one of the "separated" rows. On intimidating rides I haven't been on I like having him close for comfort, but I'm a big girl and I took it like a big girl. And I ended up having fun. Though there was a slight delay when we were back in the loading area and we were instructed to wait in our seats as the ride had encountered a glitch. We sat for another five minutes, but definitely not a big deal. After Deja Vu, it was off to Terminator Salvation. We walked right into the pre-show and after that the wait was two or three minutes. I'd been on Terminator last year, and the wait was about two hours. What a difference! It's also my favorite wooden coaster, so of course I enjoyed it. The only downsides were that the on-board audio track was not playing and the tunnel with the mist did not have mist.
After Terminator, we headed to Superman the Escape.... which was a total walk-on. There were about four people in front of us in other lines... so when the doors opened we just walked onto the ride vehicle. I'd noticed from outside of the park that the Superman statue on the top of the tower was gone! And after riding it, it confirmed that he was indeed gone. Oh well, he was a bit scary looking anyway. After that, we mosied on over to Gold Rusher, which was another I'd not been on. It was okay, and it was also a walk-on. Next up was Riddler's Revenge. I was a bit sad that the lights and projectors weren't on, but maybe this was because it was daytime? Anyway, it was pretty fun as usual but I don't care for the little bicycle seats much. Ouch! This was also one with a longer wait time, as we waited about ten to fifteen minutes (still not bad!). Then we proceeded to Batman: The Ride, which was another walk-on. My boyfriend also pointed out that they painted the entire track black and blue versus the old grey. The trains were also coated with fresh paint. Now, last time, this ride was the one that stood out to me the most of being in rough shape. The queue was littered in stickers and chewing gum. There were bugs collecting in the light bulbs, and some of the bulbs were out. The decorative fan that actually spins was not on, nor was the light that lights it up. It was just filthy! This time this wasn't the case at all! It was like Cinderella's mice friends went in and cleaned up the place. Man, was it sparkling! NO gum, NO bugs in light bulbs, NO dead light bulbs, and the fan was spinning and lit up! What a change! And of course, seeing that they moved the Batmobile so that you can see it when you exit the ride was another nice touch. They still haven't fixed the Batman sign in the loading area or the televisions that show the clip of the Bat Plane.
After Batman, we went to Colossus, which I think is fun, but a bit noisy and bumpy and definitely old and rusty. It's definitely in need of some TLC. In fact, my boyfriend suggested it would be cool if they demolished it and then rebuilt it just as it was. I think that would be pretty cool, but some might take issue with something like that. After riding Colossus (which was another walk-on), we headed to two of my favorites... Scream and then Goliath, which were both walk-ons. We then decided to get some food in our stomachs as it was now about 3:15. Yes, we rode every coaster in the park except for Revolution in about four and a half hours. We decided to eat at Longhorns Barbecue, which is a new eatery near the bumper cars. It's supposed to be Texas-style barbecue. As a native Texan, I think they did a darn good job. I had a BBQ beef brisket sandwich with BBQ beans and my boyfriend had a BBQ chicken sandwich with potatoe salad. They also have their own lemonade... both regular and pink. We had pink lemonade. Wow! What delicious lemonade! Plus the food was GREAT! It didn't taste anything like what you would expect to chow down in a theme park. It was really, really good and I hope to visit them again in the future. The prices were fairly decent for a theme park at $9.99 per plate, which as I mentioned, came with one side.
After we ate, we walked around a bit to walk off our food. I don't like riding too soon after I eat as I once had a bad experience on Star Tours immediately after eating dinner in DL. So we walked around and then boarded the Bucaneer (the swinging boat) and the Gullywasher (rotating swings). They were fun, but there was hardly anyone to join us on our rides. We then walked toward the carousel. On the way, we spotted some Canadian Geese. They tend to be very tame as I learned on my last visit to MM so I got up close to one and started photographing and taking video of it. They're such beautiful birds. When we made it to the carousel, I realized that it's another one of those things that can really benefit from some TLC. I'm sure it's old, but you can tell it's been neglected for so long. The horses are flaking paint and are scuffed up, and the brass poles are stained and do not shine. The wood inside the canopy is also dirty and chipping in some areas. I hope this is something that gets fixed, but I can see how it might be overlooked when you have a park full of amazing coasters that are the main attraction. After the carousel, I felt I was ready to ride coasters again, so we went to The Revolution... the only coaster we'd not ridden yet. In the past, I've not favored it as a ride as it tends to beat my head up really bad. If you're short, this tends to be more of a problem than if you're taller. And well, being more on the short side, my head was in pain when I got off. I decided that would probably be my last ride on Revolution for a long time unless they find a way to correct that problem. I realize the signs say to keep your head back, but I think that actually makes it worse on some parts of the ride.
Anyhow, after that we were ready to revisit our favorite coasters. As my head was throbbing from Revolution, my boyfriend boarded Viper on his own. We then went to Tatsu again. By then, my head was better so I got on and enjoyed. After Tatsu, it was off to Terminator Salvation. This was one of the highlights of our day. Again, the ride was pretty much a walk-on, but it was so dead that the ride operators let us ride not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times on the ride without ever leaving our seats! They were really cool about it too. They'd make us get into the spirit if we wanted to ride again and really made the whole experience fun. I'd never done something like this at any theme park, so we enjoyed our four consecutive rides on Terminator... which I think is such an awesome ride. After fighting for our survival against machines, we headed to Scream for another ride. It's such a fun ride! And it was still a walk-on. We then went to Goliath and got on a second time. We LOVE Goliath. In fact, we went to visit him immediately after and then were allowed to stay on the train for another ride. That's four times total for the day, and it turned out to be the perfect ending to an unexpectedly memorable and fun day.
So that was our day as far as the attractions go. But it only confirms what I already knew... that the rides at MM are awesome. I also mentioned how Batman: The Ride was such a dramatic improvement from our previous visit. But what else made the park so much better than previous visits? Well, I'll tell you...
Remember that sign that said the park's cleanliness was a 10? Well, they weren't kidding. The park's cleanliness IS a 10. Gone were the overfilled trash cans, shortage of custodians, and gum and trash lying around the park. The park was SPARKLING. There were custodians in many areas throughout the day doing all sorts of tasks. I sneezed at one point and one of them said "bless you." Around 5:00pm, there was a custodian cleaning the glass cases of the game machines... with a smile on his face and nicely speaking to guests who were passing by. Heck, during lunch, a napkin blew off our table and before I could go retrieve it, a custodian was already picking it up. It seems that even though the crowd was very light, the park was still making sure it put on a good show by staffing plenty of custodians in all areas of the park to handle any situation in which they were needed. Oh, and another thing: the restrooms were clean as can be. And... I'm going to say it: Magic Mountain's restrooms are CLEANER than Disneyland's. Not a single restroom visit went by that I didn't see a custodian in or around the restroom. Not one. And they were friendly, too. That brings me to one of the biggest changes... the employees.
If Disneyland wants to keep its reputation of having the warmest cast in the theme park business, they better get to work. Never have I ever been treated by employees at any theme park the way I was treated by Magic Mountain's employees today. Almost all of them were always smiling, always energetic, and always enthusiastic about what they were doing. From the managers to the ride operators, to the restaurant workers to the custodians, every single employee was nice. AND, none of them were ever too busy to say hi and ask how our day was going or to simply say "Have a Six Flags Day!" There were random employees that would pass us by with a smile or a warm greeting. The ride operators are what we noticed the biggest changes in. In most all cases, they were enthusiastic and energetic as they spoke to guests boarding rides... trying to warm them up for the ride they were about to enjoy. There were plenty of staff to make sure everyone was properly restrained... something I'd not seen in the past. All ride operators were absolutely making sure everyone was safe and that the guests were having a good time. On most rides, operators would clap as we'd return to the loading area. Most of them would high five us as we exited. It seems the park is really focusing on providing their ride operaors with good training on safley operaing the rides and providing great guest service. They all seemed to be watching each other for their "clear" and "go ahead" signals. One of the ride operators for the bumper cars, which we did not ride, would even sing a song every now and then. We heard him while we had lunch. Another good example was Terminator Salvation. All the staff at that ride were dressed in army uniforms and about half of them were in character. They would guide us as if we were in training camp and they were instructing us to move from room to room of the pre-show area in order to survive from the machines. How cool is that?
Another thing I wanted to mention is the walk-around characters. There were always characters in various locations. We came across and took pictures with Baman, Flash, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, and Mr. Six. They were all in character and there were no lines of anyone waiting to take pictures with them as we see at Disneyland. I noticed also that the same Batman was working from park opening to park closing (which was also the case with many ride operators as it seems the park was giving them full-time shifts rather than the constant rotating we see at the DLR). Last time, we only saw the characters in the morning. After that, there were none. Seeing them throughout the day was definitely a plus as it gives more people a chance to see them and take pictures with them.
Finally, I do want to mention the rest of the parkgoers. The park was very light in attendance, but there were still some people that were rowdy and some that others might consider off-putting. However, I noted that their were actually less of these type of people (maybe because it was a less busy day). BUT, at the same time, we did notice more families in the park and more people behaving well and following directions from ride operators. It seems like the park is succeeding in drawing in more familes and people of different ages (we even saw some elderly women having a good time on the carousel).
In conclusion, I went into the park expecting little. I went in with the mindset I had from my last visit. Yes, I'd heard things had improved, but I didn't expect that things had taken a complete turnaround. The park is nice and clean, the restrooms are clean as can be, and the staff is friendlier and more professional than in other parks. There are also more walk-around characters and there are more families enjoying the park. There is still work to be done on some attractions, but Magic Mountain seems to have all the things that really count down to a tee. You really get the sense that you're in a place where the staff cares and you know you can have a good time while at the same time enjoying a clean park. My boyfriend, who has been visiting the park since he was a child, told me that today was the most fun and enjoyable day he's had at Magic Mountain in many years. I am now a believer in Six Flags Magic Mountain and am absolutely and undoubtedly impressed with how far the park has come in one year. I anticipate visiting again before long and encourage anyone who has written off the park for its previous shortcomings to give it another chance. You'll be glad you did.