SoCal staycation: Six Flags Magic Mountain
There are few places in the world where it’s not only normal but also desirable to laugh uncontrollably and scream like a maniac. Magic Mountain, which generates more than 3,000 jobs for Southern California, is one of them. The theme here is Warner Bros., so you’ll see Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd everywhere amid the whooshing rides, entertainment venues and festive atmosphere.
What’s happening this weekend?
If you don’t feel like putting on a Labor Day spread, Six Flags has a BBQ buffet from 4 to 7 p.m. each day in the Grande Oak Picnic Pavilion West. The barbecue starts Saturday and runs through Monday. In addition to admission prices, cost is $44.98; $38.98 for children less than 48 inches tall.
Historically, Magic Mountain has best been known for its intense roller coasters - which meant that kids under a certain height couldn’t get on many attractions. Although the emphasis is still on stomach-flipping thrills, Six Flags, under new management, is pushing to return its parks to their former glory as family-friendly destinations. 2008 will bring the addition of Thomas Town, a train-themed kids’ play area. Tot-friendly Bugs Bunny World, which has been around for many years, still delights little ones with agreeable rides such as Elmer’s Weather Balloons.
Too much fun
Colossus, big and white, was the world’s tallest coaster when it made its debut in 1978. It’s still a blast, with drops deeper than 100 feet and the genuine click-clack sound of an old-time wooden ride.
Best adventure, or the attraction
Magic Mountain’s signature features are its maximum-intensity rides. The newest one, dragon-themed Tatsu, simulates flight. Riders get strapped into a car standing up; once the car leaves the station, it tilts 90 degrees forward so that riders “fly” around the track Superman-style. The park’s other shriek-inducing thrillers include Viper, Batman, Goliath, Scream, Riddler’s Revenge and X2, a redesign of X with rotating seats and head-first drops.
Keep ‘em happy / No museums, Dad!
Younger kids will especially enjoy the Warner Bros. Kids Club game show, presented in a small outdoor theater with chances for up-close-and-personal interaction with plushy Looney Tunes characters.
Timing is everything
Check Magic Mountain’s website for upcoming events ( www.sixflags.com/magicmountain), and when you arrive, pick up an entertainment schedule at Guest Relations. Halloween fans should visit during Fright Fest; on certain October weekends, intricately costumed and made-up ghouls populate the park, which transforms into a dark underworld of scary mazes and monstrous shows.
Avoid the crowds
It’s almost impossible to avoid crowds at a theme park, but crowds will be lightest in winter or on a summer weekday. To avoid über-long lines, start your day at attractions farthest from the main entrance, and visit food vendors when they’re not having their lunch and dinner rushes.
On a hot day, you can’t miss the water rides. Crowds of chill seekers line up for Jet Stream, Log Jammer, which carries passengers down a steep flue, and Roaring Rapids, which, in 1983, was the park’s largest, most expensive ride. It’s still great fun to careen down an artificial white-water river in sturdy rafts and see who gets the wettest. (Hint: Put your wallet in a front pocket to save it from complete immersion and use the free, convenient lockers for cameras and cellphones.)
The lodgings at Comfort Suites Stevenson Ranch, three miles from the park, are reasonably priced and have bedrooms with doors that close off to the living room; the living room’s pullout couches allow a family of four a comfortably stay. The new Embassy Suites Valencia offers similar accommodations.
Food options at the park are almost limitless. Choose from recognizable chains such as Johnny Rockets, Panda Express or Papa John’s, or oblige your kids by dining with superheroes during the weekends-only Justice League Feast. Dessert, of course, has to be funnel cake.
The park is in the suburb of Valencia, which is in the Santa Clarita Valley about 35 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
-- Avital Binshtock and Los Angeles Times staff writers