Magic Mountain

At the end of September I had the opportunity to take a work trip for the first time in over 3 years and I took advantage since the destination was the Los Angeles metro area. I had meetings in El Segundo over the course of two days and my entire family joined me on the West Coast as the following week was “Fall Break” for the younger kids. Rae even took a few days off of classes to spend some time with us, soaking up the sun and exploring LA.

We stayed in Burbank (in the Flats near the 134) where Jenn, Rae, and Evie had spent the better part of 3 weeks earlier in the Summer. Evie had taken classes at several prominent dance studios – both in and around Hollywood and the Valley – and they fell in love with that area. Our Airbnb was the guest house (what Angelenos call an ADU – Accessory Dwelling Unit) on a palm tree-lined residential street just down the street from the Studios and a short drive from the 134, the 5, and beautiful downtown Burbank. If you just heard Gary Owens intone that last phrase, congratulations, you’re middle aged.

We went on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour on the first Saturday and got all the Gilmore Girls intel the tour guide would give us. I believe she called us “the most easily impressed group” she’d ever led. We oooh’d and ahhh’d every building from the Stars Hollow gazebo, to Luke’s Diner (Williams Hardware), to the house which on one side belongs to Lorelei but from the opposite side is Sookie St. James house.

We joked about Kirk waking up on a roof naked, though I’m fairly certain that was at the Dragonfly Inn, not Lorelai’s house.

Sure we enjoyed the Friends fountain and famous couch as well as the exterior to Abbott Elementary, but Gilmore Girls views really were the highlights of he tour for us.

That very same day – on the first night of Fright Night – we drove about 25 miles north of Burbank to Six Flags Magic Mountain. It was our first visit to a Six Flags park that wasn’t Six Flags Over Georgia and we were able to take advantage of our Season Pass status to get free parking and admission to the park! It wasn’t easy navigating a strange theme park entirely in the dark, with ghouls, ghosts, and guests roaming everywhere (it was busy!) but we managed.

What makes Magic Mountain such an amazing theme park is the fact that it has twenty, yes TWENTY, roller coasters. A few of those are kiddie and family coasters but the park has an amazing collection of classic thrill rides like Revolution (featured in National Lampoon’s Vacation), modern conversions like Twisted Colossus (again, the original ride is in National Lampoon’s Vacation), to the newest coaster in the Six Flags chain, Wonder Woman Flight of Courage.

Here’s a breakdown of the coasters we rode, in the order in which we initially rode them, and my mini-review of each one. Keep in mind that we made 3 trips across two consecutive Saturdays, with a weekday trip in the middle, so I was able to ride a few of these multiple times.

  • Twisted Colossus – A modern RMC conversion of a classic wooden coaster (Colossus) that is a Möbius strip coaster. You can end up dueling with another train which goes up a lift hill directly beside you. First side is the blue track, second side is green, and both rides are outstanding with plenty of airtime and fun moments including a Top Gun roll where you can wave or give the bird to folks on the other train. It even has the signature RMC pre-lift hill bunny hills that get you excited for the ride to come. No matter which day/time we went this ride was well-staffed and running quickly. I got 5 rides, the most of any coaster in the park, and it’s easy to see why this is a top 3 ride at this park.
  • Wonder Woman Flight of Courage – an RMC single rail “raptor” coaster, this ride is the tallest, fastest, and longest single rail coaster in the world. It features a cool moving train in the station model that lets riders get on and off quickly, which is key since your ride in a single file on each train. I’m not the biggest fan of the restraints on this ride since the comfort collar straps keep you from fulling feeling some of the airtime and ejector moments, but this is a helluva ride. We rode the first time in near total darkness the first night and the combination of the wind, super fast lift hill, and our inexperience with the layout meant I screamed with delight from the first drop until the break run. I got 3 rides of this one and I think it’s my favorite ride in the park. This style of coaster is silky smooth, fast, and has a great mix of forces both positive and negative that make it a real standout.
  • Goliath – Super huge but nothing to write home about. The lift hill takes you over 200 feet in the air but the forces just aren’t that exciting. Only the helix at the end feels extreme, but it’s almost too little, too late. Offers a great view of the park, even in darkness, and if you’re someone who gets triggered by heights this one might definitely give you a thrill.
  • Full Throttle – A great launch coaster with a moment of sheer delight as you hang upside down (and think you’ll roll back to the station) during the second half of the initial loop. The second launch sends you backward, then forward, for a third launch to a top hat over the top of the initial loop. You get another pop of airtime that is ultimately ruined by a break run, but this is still a good ride and it has the best operator banter (“You can scream, you can shout, but it’s too late to get out!”) of any ride in the park. Our operators were even discussing which line to use as the trains loaded. Rode this one twice and would’ve ridden it more but it was always busy. It’s in the front of the park and people flock to it when the park opens.
  • Tatsu – the most amazing flying coaster due to its combination of setting and elements. Better, bar far, than Six Flags Over Georgia’s “Superman: Ultimate Flight” due to Tatsu’s position on the top of “Samurai Summit” in the park. This was tallest/fastest/longest flying coaster when it opened. It gives you some fantastic aerial views of the park and landscape and truly feels like you’re flying. The pretzel loop near the end is crazy. I only got one ride since the coaster was either closed or swamped with guests every subsequent time we walked by. That lift hill is something else too, with your body literally hanging out in space as your crest over the mountain itself.
  • Apocalypse – a crazy fast wooden coaster that nearly deafened me with its rattle. The train passes through the station above the entrance gate mid-ride and that’s a highlight. We only rode it once but I’d gladly do it again.
  • West Coast Racers – Another launch coaster (like Full Throttle) that is also another dueling, Möbius strip coaster (Twisted Colossus). I loved this ride but both Owen and Imogen had painful rides due to the restraints. The second/fourth launches are very forceful and the interplay of the tracks define this ride. Every single ride duels which is a big step up over Twisted Colossus which never dueled on any of my rides.
  • Viper – An Arrow Megalooper coaster that is much-maligned but I thought it was a fun ride. Folks don’t like the older shoulder restraints and some complain about head-banging, but I loved it. Super forceful with three consecutive loops, a batwing, and then two corkscrews, this isn’t a subtle experience and is the kind of thrill ride indicative of the race for taller, faster, more extreme rides of the late 80’s into the early 90’s
  • Riddler’s Revenge – at one time this was the tallest, fastest, and longest standing coaster. I think it still holds two of these titles and I LOVED it. Some folks are put off by the standing part – the bicycle seat can be painful – but if you stand at full height it’s not an issue. Another coaster with a ton of inversions, this ride was amazing from start to finish and even has a little air time. This ride spoiled me for the standing coaster at my home park, Georgia Scorcher, which is short, not very forceful, and not really interesting. This is what a standing coaster could and should be.
  • Goldrusher – the original coaster in the park, dating all the way back to 1971. Not much in terms of force on this old mine train, but the final helix is nice and you can’t beat all the interplay with the hillside track. Good views of of Full Throttle throughout. Rode it once.
  • X2 – the iconic, groundbreaking, 4-D coaster. I don’t think any explanation of what this coaster does or how those forces affect your body would do it justice. I’m including a photo of myself riding below for your amusement. Every person who saw it broke out in laughter, especially my kids and a group of tourists behind us. My favorite parts, in order 1) the lift hill laying on your back which gives a great view of Magic Mountain, 2) the initial drop where your spun face down at over 80 degrees before flipping head over heels through the first loop, and 3) the final break run. Everything between 2 & 3 for me was a blur.
  • Superman: Escape From Krypton – Only the forward-facing side was open and it’s pretty much a one-trick-pony ride. Launching up to 100+ mph out of the station then ascending almost 400 feet in the air, returning in reverse to the station. Folks in line said starting backwards was better, but the rush was fun and you got some hang time at the top. Not worth the hour-plus wait though. Would only ride again if it was going backwards.
  • Ninja – one of the original style suspended coasters, with bucket trains that sway from side to side. This one also traverses down Samurai Summit like Tatsu and, again, the terrain makes the ride. The lift hill back to the station is a bit funky, but this ride is still fun. All coasters should utilize their surroundings in a similar manner, especially on hillsides like this one. I got a ride in the dark and would love to ride it again in the daytime. I hear the line is usually pretty short too.

That’s 13 coasters out of a possible 20, which isn’t bad. That’s more coasters than are even in my home park by 2! Combine the coasters with plenty of fog machines, scare zones with folks leaping out, and multiple haunted houses & mazes, you’ve got some pretty amazing experiences.

I won’t recount all the rides we didn’t ride, but here’s the picture of me riding X2 as promised.

The look of sheer, unadulterated terror on my face doesn’t do the experience of riding this coaster justice. I had a literal nightmare after riding it and I still think I’d do it again just to get a better understanding of what actually happens.

Now in between all these trips to ride rollercoasters at Magic Mountain, Jenn & I still worked our day jobs (on East Coast time), we explored Santa Monica beach, Venice, the Hollywood hills, all throughout the Valley (including the Circus Liquor where Cher in Clueless gets mugged), UCLA’s campus, and ate most dinners out in downtown Burbank.

I’m glossing over a ton of life and lived experiences, but it’s those roller coasters I really wanted to catalog. Maybe I’ll write another post about all the times I mentioned The Big Lebowski as we passed a Ralph’s or all the great West Coast beer I drink over the course of 12 days – and I think I must’ve had 10 new beers to me!

Over the Summer months, especially when Jenn, Rae, and Evie made their first trek to LA, I went to Six Flags Over Georgia with the Owen and Imogen at least twice a week and once on the weekends. I suppose I should recount those rides as well – and their pictures – but I think I’ll leave that post for another time.

For now I’ll just say that Fright Fest is a great time to go to a theme park, get a little bit scared by a ride or a costumed creature, and act like a kid again, if only for the evening.

Until next time, Magic Mountain, I’ll be dreaming (hopefully without nightmares of X2) of you.