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Six Flags isn’t Disneyland—and that’s a good thing

Six Flags

With 17 roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain has the most coasters of any theme park in the world. I’ve visited the park five times in the last month. So I’m writing a review because I’m slightly obsessed and somewhat qualified.

Be forewarned: Six Flags isn’t Disneyland. During one visit I saw a parade of four dancers and a DJ on a float that could fit in the trunk of my Toyota.

The park has a licensing agreement with Warner Brothers, but characters are surprisingly scarce. During my multiple visits I’ve only seen Batman, Robin, and The Flash. And they looked unhappy.

And don’t forget that you’re in the middle of the desert. Most of the queues are unprotected from the blazing hot sun. Most of the eating areas are outside. I thought I was going to have a heart attack (the good kind) when we stumbled across the air conditioned Moose Lodge restaurant. The food is mediocre and overpriced but it’s cold in here so I’ll take two please!

However, you don’t come to Six Flags for the four-person-and-a-DJ parades. You go for the rides; and they are fantastic. Here are the top 15 rides in order of least impressive to most impressive, with a blurb about each.

15. Viper: Opened in 1990. While Viper features seven loops, it suffers from a really rough, unsmooth experience like many of the older rides. It’s worth checking out once. Or not.

14. Ninja: Also not smooth. The best part was how apathetic the announcer was when the ride began: “Thanks for riding Ninja. Hi-yah.” If friends are in from out of town and we skipped Viper and Ninja, I’d be okay with that.

13. Gold Rusher: This was the first roller coaster built at Six Flags. It’s pretty tame and a good starting point for people who aren’t used to intense rides.

12. Roaring Rapids: I list this ride near the unimpressive side because I don’t like water rides very much. But it’s not bad. It’s your typical river rafting ride. It spins around. You hope that the strangers sitting with you get soaked. They don’t. You do. You hate your life until you’re dry.

11. Sky Tower: This isn’t really a ride. It’s an elevator that takes you up 38 stories to an observation deck of the park and the surrounding area. The views are impressive, and I’d imagine very beautiful around sunset.

10. Colossus: Your typical wooden coaster. It’s really bumpy, but I don’t get that same concussion-like sensation of Viper and Ninja. I recommend this.

9. Jet Stream: A water ride where you don’t get too wet. I like it. It’s a flume-style ride with a small drop that’s harmless and fun. When my mom visits, this is the ride we’ll start with.

8. Revolution: The first steel roller coaster with a 360 degree loop that didn’t kill people. A good starting ride for novices.

7. Green Lantern First Flight: This is where the rides get more intense. Green Lantern is the newest addition to the park, so the lines are long. I enjoyed it, but the ride itself was too short for me to want to brave the 45-minute wait unless I’m taking someone for the first time.

6. The Riddler’s Revenge: On this coaster, you stand upright the entire time. It’s a very strange and unique sensation; certainly worth checking out.

5. Apocalypse: This is a modern coaster designed to look and feel like a classic wooden coaster. The result is that it’s faster and smoother than actual wooden coasters. Very cool.

4. Scream / Batman The Ride: For me, these rides are extremely similar, so I’m going to group them. Scream is longer and features a bit more twists and turns. Batman is much faster. They’re both some of the better coasters in the park. Relatively smooth and definitely enjoyable—even better if you sit in the front row (but that goes for pretty much any of these rides).

3. X2: I bet if you polled most people about which ride they like the most, they’d say X2. And when I first rode it, I would have agreed. The seats rotate independently from the actual coaster, which adds an entirely new dimension to the ride. But the first time I was on the ride, the speakers weren’t working. The second time, music was blasting into my ears the entire ride, which was irritating. This is the norm, but it reduced my enjoyment of the ride quite a bit. Also, I highly recommend you rent a locker for this one. On my first ride, my phone almost fell out of my pocket. Still, X2 is truly unique and something everyone should experience.

2. Goliath: Features a 255 foot drop. This was the scariest ride for me because the sensation of dropping is what freaks me the most. Now I’ve ridden multiple times, and wow, it’s incredible.

And finally…

1. Tatsu: You sit in a chair, your shoulders and legs are secured, you’re rotated 90 degrees, and you ride this coaster facing straight down the entire time. At any moment you feel like the harness is going to break and you’re going to be flung through the air to your death. It’s simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. Of all the rides Six Flags has to offer, Tatsu is the clear winner.

Before I wrap up this review, I’d like to make a note about the Flash Pass—Six Flags’s version of the front of the line pass, but it works a bit differently.

You rent a small Tamagotchi-like device that lists most (but not all) of the rides with reservation times. Instead of waiting in line, you select a reservation time. You show up at your reservation time (or anytime after) and it skips you past the bulk of the line.

There are three versions: Standard, Gold, and Platinum. The only difference is the wait time before your reservation. With the standard model, you’ll still wait the same amount of time, but you don’t actually have to wait in line. The Gold supposedly cuts wait time by 50% and the Platinum by 90%. We went with the Gold and were happy with the results on a crowded Sunday.

You can only make one ride reservation at a time, but the nice thing is that you can set the next reservation as soon as the employee puts you through to the ride. The most we waited for a reservation was 20 minutes, but that time was spent riding other rides and walking across the park. I wouldn’t recommend getting the Platinum unless you just won a small lottery.

Overall, Six Flags is a fantastic park with a wide variety of fantastic rides. It’s a park for ride connoisseurs, not necessarily families with kids that want to leisurely stroll around and see tons of characters and get autographs.

Thank God.