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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Vallejo, California, United States
animal theme park, attraction, activities

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (formerly known as Six Flags Marine World, Marine World, The New Marine World Theme Park, and Marine World Africa USA) is a 135-acre (55 ha) animal theme park located in Vallejo, California, roughly halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento on Interstate 80. The park includes a variety of roller coasters and other amusement rides, Discovery Kingdom has been part of the Six Flags chain of amusement parks since 1999.



Early history

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom first opened in 1968 as Marine World, a small zoo in Redwood City, California. In the mid-1970s, it merged with a failing land-animal park called 'Africa, USA' and became Marine World Africa USA.

In late 1985, the increase in value of the park's property became too great a tax burden. Following an intensive search for a new site led by Michael B. Demetrios, construction began on a new and larger park in Vallejo, California, about 55 miles (89 km) north of Redwood City. The new Marine World opened to visitors in 1986 and remained under control of the non-profit Marine World Foundation, using Garfield the cartoon cat as a mascot at various points. The park defaulted on its debt to the city of Vallejo, after which the city took ownership in 1996.

Conversion to a theme park

Vallejo hired Premier Parks (now known as Six Flags Entertainment Corporation) to manage the property, upgrade it, and improve its attendance. Premier added some non-animal attractions, particularly amusement rides, to increase attendance. In 1997, the park added two major ride attractions: "Popeye's Seaport" and "DinoSphere". Popeye's Seaport offered eleven children's' attractions, including an interactive foam ball play structure and an interactive water play area. DinoSphere took the place of the park's Australian Walk-A-Bout attraction (also the former home of the "DINOSAURS!" attraction). DinoSphere was an Iwerks Turbo Theater, capable of seating 100 riders per showing. The theater played the Iwerks film Dino Island for its first season of operation. The theater has since changed films numerous times.

The number of amusement rides increased over the next few years, including the addition of several major roller coasters. In 1998, the park's name changed again, to The New Marine World Theme Park. The 1998 season saw the addition of two major roller coasters: Kong and Boomerang: Coast to Coaster. Kong was relocated from Opryland USA after that park shut down in 1997 and opened at Marine World in May 1998. Other major additions that year included Hammerhead Shark, a Zamperla Prototype Hawk 48; VooDoo, A HUSS Top Spin; Monsoon Falls, and White Water Safari, Intamin water attractions. DinoSphere also received a new ride film, "Dino Island II: Escape from Dino Island", which featured improved special effects along with a new storyline.

Addition to the Six Flags chain

After the final operating day of the 1998 season, October 31, the park officially became Six Flags Marine World. The most notable result of the name change was the addition of Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes characters. With the new name, the park received the wooden roller coaster Roar. Built by Great Coasters International Inc., Roar was the first coaster to feature Millennium Flyer trains. The 1999 season also saw the introduction of Tasmanian Devil, a Frisbee flat ride manufactured by HUSS, and Scat-A-Bout, a typical Scrambler flat ride. Although both rides opened in 1999, they were purchased by the park in 1998 but not constructed until 1999 due to construction timetables that prevented their opening in time for the start of the 1998 season. Popeye's Seaport was rebranded "Looney Tunes Seaport" and received the Roadrunner Express kiddie coaster.

In 2000, the park opened its fourth major roller coaster dubbed Medusa. Medusa was designed by Bolliger & Mabillard. Medusa lasts three minutes; starting with a 150-foot-tall (46 m) drop, it then executes a 128-foot-tall (39 m) vertical loop, a dive loop, a Zero-G roll, a sea serpent roll, and two corkscrews. Medusa is one of the park's most popular rides. With the addition of Medusa, the park also received the Cobra-family coaster and built a new parking lot south of the park.

The park received its fifth major roller coaster in 2001, V2: Vertical Velocity. Built by Intamin, the ride was the first "Spiraling Impulse Coaster" on the West Coast and took the record for being the tallest and fastest coaster in Northern California. The ride was plagued with technical issues when it opened, which resulted in extensive down time. The park also eventually turned off the LIM motor on the back tower that held the train in position for a few seconds on its second trip up the tower. During the same time, the park also added the "Warrior of the Dawn" film to the DinoSphere.

2002 saw a notable modification to Vertical Velocity. Due to local building restrictions, the height limit on all roller coasters at the park is 150 feet (46 m), while V2 exceeded that limit by about 36 feet (11 m). Thus, they lowered the reverse tower 36 feet (11 m) and turned the forward tower into a 45° angle with an incline heartline roll that spiraled over the park's main entrance; Vertical Velocity is the only Impulse Coaster to do this. The park re-activated the LIM motor on the reverse tower in the 2002 season; however, the motor failed to hold the train completely in place and slipped significantly. The motor was eventually turned off again in the 2003 season. The park also began to show 7th Portal, a 3-D comic book film by Stan Lee, in the DinoSphere Theater during this season.

The park added its sixth major roller coaster, Zonga, in 2003. Designed by Schwarzkopf, the ride was relocated from Six Flags Astroworld and received major track modification by Premiere Rides before it opened at Marine World. Zonga opened in late April with a sporadic operation. The ride was often closed because of mechanical problems, and when it did operate, it often closed for short periods of time due to ride errors. Eventually the park delayed its opening to 12 noon every day, completely blocking the ride plaza to park guests. Zonga's last season of operation was 2004; it then sat dormant until it was removed in 2006 and placed in the parking lot for storage. By the beginning of the 2007 season, Zonga was removed from the parking lot. It is now operating at the San Marcos National Fair in Mexico. The park also began showing "Stargate SG3000" in its Iwerks 3D Turbo Theater, which finally received new branding and was no longer called "DinoSphere".

2006 saw the addition of Tava's Jungleland, a children's area located in the back of the park near the main land animal displays featuring nine new wild animal displays.

Rebranding to Discovery Kingdom

On January 17, 2007, the park announced its new name: "Six Flags Discovery Kingdom." The new name reflects the image of an animal park, a thrill-ride park, and a marine park. Discovery Park was separated into different themed areas: Land (exotic land animals), Sea (marine mammals) and Sky (roller coasters). US$16 million was spent on modifications including new heavy duty titanium bars in the animal cages, new shows, and converting the 3D theater into a "4D" theater. The park also added a Thomas the Tank Engine-themed children's area called Thomas Town, which opened June 20, 2007.

On June 5, 2007, Six Flags Parks confirmed media reports that Six Flags would exercise their option to buy the park.

In 2008, the park closed the IWerks 3D Turbo Theater due to escalating repair costs on the out–of–date operating system and hardware. The park received its eighth roller coaster named Tony Hawk's Big Spin, which was located on the former Zonga concrete pad. The ride featured a unique layout compared to the three other coasters which share the name, including a base frame instead of permanent concrete footers and a higher top speed. Tony Hawk's Big Spin opened on May 23, 2008. That same year, the park completed its longest operating season offering "Holiday in the Park" through the first week of January.

In 2009, Discovery Kingdom introduced the all–new "Odin's Temple of the Tiger". The new tiger show features the diving white tiger named Odin. Discovery Kingdom also initially acquired two new Bengal tiger cubs, Nalin and Akasha.

In late 2010, Six Flags Parks began the process of removing licensed themes from attractions. They terminated several licenses including those with Thomas the Tank Engine and Tony Hawk. Tony Hawk's Big Spin was renamed and re–themed to Big Spin, then Pandemonium. Big Spin later removed and replaced with Superman Ultimate Flight opening in 2012. Thomas Town was renamed and re–themed as Seaside Junction in time for the 2011 season. For the 2011 season, the park introduced the SkyScreamer. The swing ride is 150 feet (46 m) high and soars in a 98-foot (30 m) circle at speeds over 43 miles per hour (69 km/h). The ride opened on May 27, 2011.

In 2012, the park added a steel Premier Rides roller coaster called Superman: Ultimate Flight. It is the tallest inversion roller coaster west of the Mississippi River, measuring 150 feet (46 m) in height. It includes "two upside down twists and two vertical rolls over a track length of 863 feet (263 m)". In some places, riders traverse speeds of 62 miles per hour (100 km/h).

The park added Cirque Dreams for the 2013 season; the show was held seasonally in the Dolphin Theater area. This show combined acrobats and aerialists performing alongside or above dolphins.

In 2014, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom held a press event for the new Tsunami Soaker water ride, during which the park announced a May 31, 2014 opening to the general public. On August 28, 2014, Discovery Kingdom announced the new Dare Devil Chaos Coaster flat ride for the 2015 season. It is a standard 22M Larson Superloop pendulum flat ride that rocks riders back and forth inside a 360 degree loop. It opened to the public on May 23, 2015. On July 16, 2015, the park announced that Roar would close on August 16, 2015.

On September 3, the park announced their tenth major thrill coaster, The Joker, which is a hybrid transformation of the Roar. The conversion will be performed by Rocky Mountain Construction. the coaster will feature a 100-foot height, a 78-degree drop, and three inversions including the world's first step-up under flip inverted roll.

In February 2016, the park opened on a limited and trial run bases Pacific Rim 5-D, an in-theater special effects 3-D movie. The experience is based on the Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi movie “Pacific Rim.” Guests watch part of the movie wearing 3-D glasses while sitting in seats chairs that move, shake and bounce in response to the action on the movie screen. The attraction should be open full-time shortly.

The park's major competition in the San Francisco Bay Area is California's Great America in Santa Clara, next to San Jose.

Seasonal events

Each fall, Discovery Kingdom opens Fright Fest Halloween, consisting of six haunted houses, scare zones, and many ghouls are added throughout the park. Tinseltown Terror haunted house is located in the park's bumper car ride and the Brutal Planet haunted house is located in the Roar plaza. The scare zone is located between Ocean Discovery and the entry plaza, where cockroach eating contests are held. In 2007, Discovery Kingdom introduced the Wheel of Fright and the Coffin of Fear for Fright Fest. 2007 also brought the addition of the Kamp Khaos haunted house, replacing Brutal Planet. Kamp Khaos was placed inside the Monsoon Falls water ride lagoon.

The other major seasonal event, Holiday in the Park, made its debut November 23, 2007. The event features Santa Claus, holiday themed shows, and other seasonal items. That year, Discovery Kingdom also featured the world's largest Christmas tree as part of the celebration. The tree was 125 feet (38 m) tall and had a diameter of 4 feet (1.2 m). Due to its size, a Chinook helicopter was needed to set it into place.

Rides and attractions

Roller coasters

Thrill rides

Family rides

Water rides

Kiddie rides

Looney Tunes Seaport (formerly Popeye's Seaport from 1997 through 1998)
  • Acme Fun Factory – A large indoor play structure where children and their parents can shoot foam balls at targets or each other; opened in 1997.
  • Pepe Le Pew's Rafts of Romance – Small tea cup ride; opened in 1997.
  • Elmer's Weather Balloons (Zamperla Samba Balloons)- A circular ride where kids can spin their cars while the ride changes elevation; opened in 1997.
  • Sylvester's Pounce and Bounce (Zamperla Jumpin' Star) – A children's drop ride; opened in 1999.
  • Bugs Buccaneer (Sartori kiddie swinging ship); opened in 1999.
  • Taz's Typhoon (Zamperla Lolly Swing) – A children's version of the swing ride; opened in 1997.
  • Daffy's Deep Sea Dive (Zamperla Crazy Sub) – A yellow submarine where kids and parents experience quick ascents and sudden drops; opened in 1997.
  • Foghorn Leghorn's Seaport Railway (Zamperla Rio Grande) – Train ride; opened in 1997.
  • Yosemite Sam's Flight School – Small planes where children control how high they go; opened in 1997.
  • Seaport Carousel – A small merry-go-round with exotic animals; opened in 1997.
Tava's Jungleland (all rides opened in 2006)
  • Tava's Elephant Parade – A circular ride where children board small elephants and control their height.
  • Congo Queen (Zamperla Rockin' Tug) – A large Tugboat that rocks and spins.
  • Safari Jeep Tours – Riders board small Jeeps and traverse a track through animal attractions.
  • Nairobi's Lookout Balloons (Zamperla Samba Tower) – Riders board 4-person gondolas and are taken to heights of 35 feet (11 m). Riders are able to spin themselves, which allows the observation tower to become a high speed ride.
  • Frog Hopper – A circular ride with "hopping" cars.
  • Monkey Around (Zamperla Swing Ride) – A swing ride that offers no changes in elevation.
  • Zoe's Tree House (SCS Interactive “Treehouse”) – A large outdoor play structure with slides and look out towers.
Seaside Junction (all rides opened in 2007 in the former "Thomas Town"

All rides where re-themed to "Seaside Junction" in time for the 2011 season.

  • Air Penguins (I.E. Park Mini Flight) – A circular ride where children board small helicopters and control their height. It was known as "Harold the Helicopter" from 2007–2010 in Thomas Town; and re-themed in 2011.
  • Merlin’s Seaside Tours (I.E. Park Unknown Model Name) – It was known as "Bertie the Bus" from 2007–2010 in Thomas Town and re-themed in 2011.
  • Seaside Railway – Train ride around the Shark Experience passing: Tidmouth Shed, Lake Hackenbeck, Hackenbeck Station. It was known as "Thomas the Tank Engine" from 2007–2010 in Thomas Town and re-themed in 2011. Riders used to board into Thomas' coaches Annie and Clarabel. The engine still has Thomas' whistle.

Upcharge attractions

  • Skycoaster – Riders are harnessed to two long cables and hoisted 100 ft (30 m) above the park. The riders must pull a ripcord and drop within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the ground before swinging back and forth for a few minutes. Prices range from $35 for a single rider, $40 for a double (two fliers), and $45 for a triple (three fliers).
  • TRS: Thunder Road Speedway – A high-speed go cart track near ROAR!. Ride duration is 7 minutes.
  • Rockwall Climbing Challenge – Riders climb a 45 ft (14 m) rock wall.

Animal attractions

  • Shark Experience – Guest gets to go "underwater" with sharks as they travel on a moving walkway through an underwater tunnel showing various sharks. Species on display include sandbar sharks, blacktip reef sharks, zebra sharks, and nurse sharks..
  • Jocko's Walrus Experience – Guest can get face to face with the park's two walruses. Walrus training sessions may also be scheduled throughout the day. Featured in the film 50 First Dates.
  • Stingray Bay – Located in Ocean Discovery, guests can touch live southern stingrays.
  • Penguin Passage – Located in Ocean Discovery, guests can come face to face with African penguins.
  • Seal Cove – Also Located in Ocean Discovery guests can feed California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals. Presently under renovation and closed to the public; to reopen in mid-year 2016.
  • Alligator Isle – An exhibit featuring American alligators..
  • Butterfly Garden – Guests enter a large, glass enclosed butterfly garden filled with exotic butterflies.
  • Tava's Elephant Trails – Asian elephants program.
  • Cougar Rocks – Guests can get up close to the park's four cougars.
  • Odin's Tiger Island – Home of the park's ENDANGERED Bengal and Amur tigers.
  • Giraffe Encounter – Guests can get up close and feed the giraffes.
  • Lion's Den – African lion exhibit.
  • Dolphin Harbor – Educational dolphin demonstration presentation.
  • Sea Lion Stadium – Located in Ocean Discovery, home of the park's California sea lion, Pacific harbor seal, and Asian small-clawed otter show.
  • Toyota Stadium - The park's main dolphin show venue; guests can also get up close to the bottlenose dolphins at the viewing windows behind the stadium. Toyota is the sponsor of this display.
  • Odin's Temple of the Tiger – Home to the new Odin's Temple of the Tiger Show, a large amphitheater for guests to view the new show. A small exhibit for viewing the tigers is located outside the stadium.
  • Animal Nursery – Home to baby animals and animals with special needs.
  • Reptile Discovery - Located in Tava's Jungleland, guest can view various reptile species.

Past rides and attractions

  • Starfish – A circular Chance Trabant ride located near Ski Stadium. The ride was removed after two accidents sent people to the hospital after being thrown from the ride. The ride area is now the Air Penguins ride in Seaside Junction.
  • Shoreline Express – The park's train system that transported guests from Shark Experience to Animal Adventure near Jambo. Shoreline Express was removed before the 2006 season to make room for Tava's Jungleland and the newly remodeled Lakeside Pavilion. A small area of track surrounding Shark Experience is currently being used for Seaside Railway.
  • Zonga – Built in 2003, this coaster was originally named "Thriller" and traveled Europe, as it was built by Anton Schwarzkopf. For a short time, it also operated as "Texas Tornado" at Six Flags Astroworld. Zonga operated for two years at the park. The ride regularly opened about two hours after the park and had frequent breakdowns, which contributed to closing the ride. The ride stood silent for the 2005 season and was moved to the Discovery Kingdom parking lot where it sat throughout the 2006 season, leaving a large empty concrete area at the front of the park. In early 2007 the ride was shipped off after being purchased.
  • Jambo – One of the first Zamperla "Joker" rides to be installed in the US, the ride opened in 1998 in the rear of the park near VooDoo. The ride operated for the beginning of the 2006 season, but shut down before summer operation. Shortly after, all rides of the same model in the Six Flags chain shut down, and none have reopened. Jambo was removed in the winter before the 2007 season as well as its sister ride, Trailblazer, at Six Flags Great America.
  • 'Round the World Ferris Wheel – A Ferris wheel with balloon gondolas; opened in 1998. In 2007 the ride was removed to make way for the new children's area.
  • Turbo Bungee – Riders are harnessed to bungee cords and jump on a trampoline reaching heights where they are capable of front and back flips. Price was $7 per person for 2 minutes.
  • iWerks 4D Theater – The theater has been known as DinoSphere, Stargate, or iWerks Turbo Theater although it played seven different films in its time. This was the original thrill ride to be built at the park; opened in 1997 as a 3D theater, it was updated for the 2007 season to include 4D effects which include water sprayers, seat vibrators and bubbles. The theater did not open for the 2008 season due to high maintenance costs. The building now houses uniforms and other material for park employees.
  • Safari River Journey – A small children's boat ride that was closed due to lack of rider-ship. Located in Tava's Jungleland.
  • Pandemonium – Opened on May 23, 2008, as Tony Hawk's Big Spin, renamed to Big Spin in late 2010 and then Pandemonium in early 2011. This spinning coaster originally themed to the skateboarder Tony Hawk takes riders in four-passenger "skateboards" and spins them through over 1,300 ft (400 m) of track at 31 mph (50 km/h). Pandemonium has also been awarded by the National Six Flags Corporation as the friendliest and cleanest of them all. It closed on January 1, 2012, to make room for Superman: Ultimate Flight and was relocated to Six Flags México as The Joker, which opened in 2013.
  • Shouka Stadium – Home of the park's orca named Shouka. Guests can view Shouka at the viewing windows in the back of the stadium in between shows. Also was home to Merlin and Cupid, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. It occasionally served as temporary homes the park's other bottlenose dolphins over the years. The stadium is currently on the map as Toyota Stadium featuring the dolphin show DRENCH.
  • Acme Water Works – A large interactive water play structure; opened in 1997. Closed in 2013.
  • Wave Jumper – A circular ride where riders board orca-shaped gondolas and rise into the air approximately 15 ft (4.6 m); opened in 1999 and was removed in 2013 for Tsunami Soaker.
  • Roar - A Great Coasters International wooden coaster. It opened on May 14, 1999, and closed on August 16, 2015.

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