Which Theme Parks Should I Visit in 2013?

Coaster Critic Updates

Coney Island - Theme Park TravelLast year, my plans changed from “Going for the Giga” up in Toronto, to a return trip to Chi-town for X-Flight plus a first time trip to Six Flags St. Louis. This year, there are three long distance trips that I’m weighing. It’d be great to do at least two, but realistically, I may only get to do one. It’d be great to get the take of my readers as I’m sure many of you have been to these parks and can speak to less known rides or factors that I’m not even aware of.

While I do not typically chase a higher coaster count and tend to go for quality rather than just re-riding a clone just for the credit, the total number of rides is a factor. A bigger factor is the number of marquee or signature rides that I’ll encounter. To me, this means coasters that are special either in terms of their reputation, uniqueness, or my own personal interest. Below I’ve listed each of the trips I’m considering:

Silver Dollar City + Worlds of Fun
I wouldn’t be racking up a ton of new coasters on a Missouri trip, but the variety and uniqueness would definitely be a draw. Worlds of Fun is a smaller park in terms of roller coasters, but it does look to offer some quality, or at least new experiences for me. I haven’t ridden a new B&M inverted coaster in years (Patriot). I’ve heard good things about the terrain woodie Prowler and hyper coasters (Mamba) and large woodies (Timber Wolf) are always a draw for me.

Silver Dollar City is home to one of the most anticipated new coasters of 2013. Outlaw Run looks amazing! Check out the latest Outlaw Run test videos. SDC also has a cool-looking B&M looper in Wildfire and a rare S&S air-launched coaster called Powder Keg.
Total Number of Coasters: 12
Number of Marquee Coasters: 7 = Silver Dollar City (3) + Worlds of Fun (4)

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom + Great America + Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Superman Ultimate Flight - Six Flags Discovery KingdomNorthern California is another potential trip. Discovery Kingdom is one of the two Six Flags parks in the U.S. that I haven’t visited. The main draws would be 2012’s Superman Ultimate Flight. For a compact launch coaster, it looks really eventful and probably worth a considerable wait. SFDC also has V2 which looks a little different than other impulse coasters I’ve ridden and Medusa is the park’s B&M floorless looper with a rare sea serpent roll element.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk would add some history and a small amusement experience. Parks like these are great for picture taking and sometimes you can find odd flat rides that have become rare. It’s not every day that you get to ride a coaster from 1924 (Giant Dipper) and by the time I get out there the park’s new spinning coaster Undertow should be ready.

Gold Striker - Californias Great AmericaCalifornia’s Great America offers Gold Striker, a new for 2013 woodie from Great Coasters International. There’s also Flight Deck, which is B&M’s first custom inverted coaster. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but either way, I’m intrigued. There’s also an extended Mega Disko at Great America that was formerly called Survivor the Ride. After a visit to Dollywood last summer, I have a new-found respect for these rides and this version has a longer track with a small hill in the middle.

Total Number of Roller Coasters: 16
Number of Marquee Coasters: 6 = SF Discovery Kingdom (3) + Great America (2) + SC Beach Boardwalk (1)
Other Noteworthy Rides: Tiki Twirl (Formerly Survivor: The Ride)

Canada’s Wonderland + Martin’s Fantasy Island + Marineland
Like a Cedar Point north of the border, Canada’s Wonderland is the largest theme park (in terms of roller coasters) that I Leviathan - Canadas Wonderland - New Roller Coasterhaven’t visited. The Toronto area park boasts 16 roller coasters and about 14 for adults. And there’s some quality and lots of diversity in the lineup too. From the unreal one-two punch of their hyper coaster Behemoth and their giga coaster Leviathan to Vortex their Arrow suspended coaster (which is a near extinct ride type).

I’ve been to Darien Lake and Waldameer a number of times, but I haven’t visited nearby amusement park Martin’s Fantasy Island. It’s small, but it does have a CCI woodie in Silver Comet. It made the Top 50 in the Internet Coaster Poll right after Santa Cruz’s Giant Dipper and The Beast!

Marineland’s massive Arrow terrain looper, Dragon Mountain, has always interested me. Even though it’s not highly regarded, I’ve always had a soft spot for lengthy terrain rides.

Total Number of Roller Coasters: 17
Number of Marquee Coasters: 7 = Canada’s Wonderland (5) + Martin’s Fantasy Island (1)+ Marineland (1)

A Few Stroller Pushing Trips Too
There’ll also be a number of drive-able family trips. We’re looking to visit Sesame Place, maybe Dutch Wonderland, and also Hersheypark. We’ll be in Atlanta and the family’s never been to Six Flags Over Georgia (just me), so we might squeeze in that park as well. And, I know that at least my older daughter will be interested in hunting dinosaurs at our home park’s new Dinosaurs Alive Attraction. We visit family in Virginia often and the kids haven’t been to my home park growing up Kings Dominion. Maybe we’ll check out the new Snoopy area that they’ve added.

Help Me Out
Which of the long distance coaster trips should I do? Are there non-coasters that I need to consider? Are there a few rides that are so bad they should be taken out of consideration? I’d love to get your feedback. Leave a comment below. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

23 Comments

  1. Joel, if you're gonna fly/drive halfway across the country to California, don't hold back to only 3 parks! Hit up Magic Mountain for Full Throttle, Knott's Berry Farm, and Disneyland! All three got/are getting some decent new rides this/ last year (Full Throttle, that one small coaster I forgot, and Cars Land)! Make this the best summer…. EVER.

    Also, if you wanna do a Missouri trip and throw in Six Flags STL, post it on here so I can join you!

    • Wouldn't North Carolina to California be all the way across the country? 🙂 Anyway, I do need to return to SoCal at some point, as I've only done 75% of SFMM, most of Knott's and the Santa Monica Pier, but I won't be able to afford another flight to get from SoCal to NoCal and then another hotel stay or two. Aside from that, the time away from family generally makes these trips quick-hitters. I'd love to do a 5-day Cali theme park tour, but it's not likely.

  2. I have to agree with Pie Dude. If you're going to come all the way out west, you need to swing by SoCal and at least hit a couple of the major parks. In fact, I would argue that a dedicated SoCal trip might prove more rewarding than a NorCal trip if you can't do both.

    I'm not sure if you're a member of ACE, but their 2014 Coaster Con (annual convention) will be held at the NorCal parks you mention. That would be an awesome trip to make, as you would get additional perks not afforded through a personal trip, like ERT, behind-the-scenes tours, and interaction with folks in the industry.

    My first recommendation would be the California trip (north, south, or both). As fantastic as Outlaw Run looks, I think I'd actually rate the Wonderland trip as second. I think there's more to see and experience, giving you more bang for your buck. However, the bottom line is they all sound like great trips. Go with the one that sounds and works best for you.

    • Yep. If I did the marquee coaster count for SoCal it'd be similar to NorCal, so you have a point. I need to get back to SoCal for a number of reasons (Transformers Ride, Full Throttle, Disney Parks, etc), but I can at least say that I've been to SoCal before. I haven't been to any parks in the San Fran area.

  3. Never been to America so cant really comment on the riding experience of any of these but just from knowing about the coasters mentioned its a hard pick. For me the Silver Doller City trip and the Canada's Wonderland trip are neck and neck (slight advantage to Canada for the number of quality rides) but Outlaw Run looks amazing and being that I have a massive thing for woodies that would be the number one trip I would be making.

    Hopefully one day we in the UK will have this dilemma in picking where to go, at the moment its just either AT, TP, Blackpool. And im still preying for one of those lovely woodies to make it across the pond.

  4. If it were me, I'd go for the Silver Dollar City and Worlds of Fun as I've not visited either one. If you go the Northern California route I would advise you to plan an extra day or to to check out Point Reyes National Sea Shore, Muir Woods National Monument, and Monterrey Bay.

    • Thanks for the points of interest tips. That's another factor that I forgot to mention. My trip to NYC a few years ago only had The Cyclone and Rye Playland (this was before the new Coney Island parks), but the experience of traveling through NYC was fun in itself. I'd probably love those attractions, but with family I don't tend to stay away too long. Thanks!

  5. Hi Joel

    I’m the guy who wrote on your site that I’d rather be doing some ironing rather than riding the latter half of LEVIATHAN.
    _
    Here’s my take: Ontario Canada is a beautiful province with a long history with the USA: the war of 1812 was a bloody 4 year affair in which thousands of soldiers (on both sides) lost their lives as America so desperately wanted to annex the land into the land of the free and the home of the brave. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, there is a provision in the American Constitution allowing for Ontario to become part of the USA if we ever decided we’d like to join.

    Anyway, there’s much to be experienced here in terms of our two country’s shared history especially now since we’ve been marking the 200th anniversary of that decisive war. Plus, the underground railroad led to “the great white north” and there are historical markers here that speak to that.

    Anyhow, from an amusement park perspective, I used to call the formerly PCW Paramount’s Cloned Wonderland because the only custom coaster we had was the Vortex. Every coaster here was a clone. Only since the miraculous takeover by cedar fair have we gotten back on the world stage with 2 new customs. Otherwise you’ve likely ridden all our clones here before – yes, even vortex since Kings Island cloned it for their park. A sad but true legacy of the Taft/Paramount years.

    something to think about while making your decvision.

    On the plus side, wonderland is by far the prettiest park around, bar its unhealthy proximity to the highwAy. Pls feel free to send me an email if you would like further detailing or just wanna reply. 😀

  6. I think I'd be most interested in seeing a Leviathan and Behemoth review. All of these are great ideas. If you come down to Six Flags Over Georgia, let me know 🙂

  7. Silver Dollar City.. We can ride Outlaw Run together and I can accompany you through the park on Powder Keg is amazing for a non-looping coaster. Wildfire is cool and don't forget they got Thunderation coaster from the early 80's..

    • Good point. I love a good mine train coaster. They should have their own coaster poll if you ask me!

  8. If you go to Canada's Wonderland swing by and pick me up man!!! Personally I'm torn between the Canada trip and Silver dollar city. I think you won't go wrong wherever you go.

    • If I go to CW, it'd be via plane to Buffalo. Not sure I could pick you up on the way 🙂

      • Haha yeah that is a smart choice. Wife and I drove up to Niagara a couple of years ago and it was a long drive from Northern Va. Flying is the way to go for sure from where you live.

  9. I'm between the silver dollar city trip, and the california trip. I'd definitely chose california if you go to magic mountain for full throttle! It looks amazing. However Outlaw Run is gonna be something to remember.

  10. In my opinion, the only notable rides at Canada's Wonderland are Behemoth and Leviathan, and since Leviathan is very similar to the many B&M Hypers out there, I will say you should visit MO and Northern California.

    • Your point is exactly why I shifted my focus from CW to SFGAM for X-Flight. Plus I figured I could get in both of America's new wing coasters with Dollywood nearby and I did.

  11. Come to my home park north of the border! You’ll love it! The foods not that good but the rides are great! Don’t go to MarineLand like you said though. It’s a dump.

  12. 1) Six Flags Discovery Kingdom + Great America + Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or 2) Silver Dollar City + Worlds of Fun

    I think # 1 since you haven't been to SFDK before and a classic woody sounds amazing.

  13. If it were me, I'd say Northern California and Canada because I feel like you'd get more out of it, but Cedar Point may be a solid park to hit this year. Gatekeeper looks pretty sweet. Let me know if you do go, maybe I'll join you.

  14. As much as I enjoy California trips of any kind, I’d say MO simply because Outlaw Run looks epic and SDC seems to have the quality over quantity mentality and Worlds of Fun has always been a park that’s intruiged me with Mamba/Prowler/and Patriot leading the lineup. As for a secondary trip I’d go California. I’ve always really enjoyed Medusa, Roar, and V2 at SFDK, plus Superman looks pretty awesome. The Boardwalk’s Giant Dipper is well worth the trek to the coast not even taking Undertow into consideration, and Great America is actually a good park if you ask me despite the fact that Flight Deck was previously the only really good coaster there since Stealth was moved to Carowinds. The rest of the park’s non-coaster lineup is superb and Gold Striker looks like it may pack in a good thrill. As for the third option, Canada’s Wonderland is a good park, but the only 2 notable coasters out of their extensive lineup is their pair of B&M’s. Vortex and Sky Rider were the only other 2 I even enjoyed and could ride more than once. Marineland is absolute crap, though I have a soft spot for old Arrow loopers and enjoyed Dragon Mountain. Finally, Martin’s Fantasy Island is a nice couple hour diversion and the Silver Comet, while not the smoothest, was fun. So Canada would be dead last for me. Hope you can make a couple of those trips and I’d be happy to drive down and give the NorCal park tour if you head west.

  15. "There’s also Flight Deck, which is B&M’s first custom inverted coaster. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but either way, I’m intrigued."

    Flight Deck is excellent, one of B&M's best.

    Their inverted coasters generally fall into the before 2000 category (forceful) and post 2000 (not forceful). Flight Deck is similar to Raptor (Cedar Point) and Afterburn (Carowinds).

    Unfortunately, Vortex at CGA is terrible. Vortex at Carowinds is OK, not great, not bad. I like stand up B&M's such as Georgia Scorcher and Riddler but CGA Vortex is the only B&M I've been on (out of 30) that I'd vote to recycle into scrap. Even Iron Wolf was better.

    I haven't been to Worlds of Fun but if Patriot rides like Talon at Dorney Park it would be OK but not worthy of a long distance trip. I was disappointed by Steel Force(less) at Dorney and assume that Mamba is similar. Prowler looks very good but Outlaw Run looks like world class insanity (in a good way).

  16. You should deffenitly hit up worlds of fun and silver dollar city. How many amusment parks have there own cave? Silver dollar city does. Yes they are not jam packed with coasters but they are always got something going on. Plus silver dollar city is open during the Christmas season always a good idea.

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