Southern California is known in the vacation universe for a lot of things, not the least of which are the several world-class theme parks within easy driving distance of each other. How has Six Flags Magic Mountain created a niche for itself amongst rather heavy-duty competition?
Roller coasters. Lots of ‘em. Steel, wood, hanging, rotating, high, low, single, double, dropping, flinging, seated, standing—you name it and it’s here.Nearly 20 of ‘em at last count, depending on exactly what you call a coaster. And most of them are serious business.
Now remember that there are dozens of other attractions that don’t qualify as thrill rides, but are a lot of fun. The reputation has been mostly built on thrill rides, but they do offer a lot more. (But if you take away the thrill rides, Six Flags admittedly is certainly not as amazing as Disneyland. If you were to try and compare them that way, you may be disappointed with Magic Mountain. On the other hand, Six Flags Magic Mountain is included some discount pass programs that do not include Disneyland.)
It also hasn’t hurt Six Flags Magic Mountain to let the knuckleheads from the Warner Bros Looney Tunes cartoons take over “management” of the park, adding considerable personality to the place. (The piano duet in the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is still one of my favorite scenes.) Imagine Bugs Bunny being in charge of corporate finances and Yosemite Sam handling park security.
By the way, we’ve noticed that teenagers and young adults seem to appreciate the coolness of these crazy characters. There are specified meeting places around the park where you can rub up against Bugs, Daffy, Pepe and the rest at specified times during the day. You’d be surprised how much attention they get from older kids as well as the little ones.
Of course Baby Boomers love the Looney Tunes wackos even more. If you are not familiar with these "slightly eccentric" celebrities, see if you can find their body of work on the TV (some markets have oldies or childrens' stations that run them. You can also find some episodes on various websites.
So, if you are a thrill ride junkie, or if you really love Bugs, Yosemite, Taz, Tweetie, Porky and the rest, come on out to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, about a 30-40 minute drive north of downtown L.A. (assuming light traffic; plan on 9 hours in rush hour).
And don’t forget about Hurricane Harbor, the 22-acre water park adjacent to the main park entrance. It is a very respectable destination in its own right, and a great way to make this a 2-day or 3-day (if you’re a real fan) destination.
The place really is built around a (very small) mountain—more of a hill really. But the rolling terrain has been made good use of by the designers.
We’ve been told that Wile E. Coyote has had no involvement in the design of the coasters, which is borne out by their long-standing record of safety. But some of them do look like something out of a Loony Tunes script. Or perhaps a Dr. Seuss story.
Here is a somewhat dated quote from the official website:
“The proud holder of 11 world records, Six Flags Magic Mountain features 15 pulse-pounding roller coasters and over 100 rides, games and attractions for the entire family. Magic Mountain's newest roller coaster is the fastest, tallest, and longest flying coaster on earth.” (By the way, it has increased the number of coasters/thrill rides since this propaganda was published.)
Before you reach the main gate you hear the screams and roar of multiple high-speed coasters on their appointed rounds. Travel writer Betsy Malloy writes that the place resonates with the true sounds of a classic amusement park. Stand near a popcorn or cotton candy stand with your eyes closed and you’re back in Coney Island next to the Cyclone Coaster of the 1930s. Well, except for the background music, which is pretty dominant by the way.
You can wander over towards the Movie District where among many other interesting points of interest you’ll find the international headquarters for the ACME company, where the Coyote buys most of the weapons, tools and dynamite used in his efforts to catch the Roadrunner. Saunter over to Gotham City or towards the Colossus County Fair. If you have small children, they’ll love Bugs Bunny World, a charming new area that could almost fit right into Disneyland. And don't miss the brand-new Thomas Town, home of the little train engine and friends.
The marketing folks at SFMM (probably Porky Pig and some of his team) have created a handy table showing some important details about all of the attractions within the park. You can sort the rides into various categories—family, kids, thrill rides—to help you plan your day.
On our pages we’ve provided a bunch of photos of Six Flags Magic Mountain (is it OK if we refer to it as SFMM, or Magic Mountain?) and a link or two to other sites with even more photos. You’ll see that this is the place in Los Angeles County for thrill ride enthusiasts (Knott’s is the place in Orange County; if you’re in San Diego County or the Inland Empire, you gotta drive to Knott’s or SFMM for your serious thrills!).
Now, some balance and full-disclosure, as you’d expect from your Guru. If you really are not a roller coaster fan, the place may not be for you. If you’re accompanying coaster lovers, you’ll be able to amuse yourself and have a good time. The Loony Tune influence adds a great touch of “class” but might not be enough by itself to justify the money and time for somebody who has no interest in thrill rides (there are some moderate thrill rides for those of us who would not appreciate a NASA centrifuge test, so you can find a variety of attractions besides the extreme rides loved by the maniacs).
In the summertime the heat rises into the 80s to 100s; fortunately there’s quite a bit of shade on the tree-covered site. But the lines can be quite long.
The Past: Magic Mountain was built by the Newhall Land and Farming Company in the early 1970s, when Disneyland still sold E tickets and before Disney’s Walt Disney World opened. It has changed over the years, almost being sold for residential development and then receiving a facelift in some areas. But all the while adding new roller coasters and thrill rides along the way, removing old attractions as they went along. By the way, there’s a good history on the park at the Wikipedia site.
The Future: These folks are like most of the major theme parks, and are regularly adding new attractions. Earlier in 2014 they were running a couple of the major roller coasters backwards for added effect. Not only do they build new ever-crazier coasters, but they have upgraded the kids area also. There will be new things for 2015 as well, to keep you coming back. Hit the SFMM website and look for the page with some propaganda on new stuff.
The Neighboring Water Park: Hurricane Harbor water park was developed on 22 acres of the Six Flags Magic Mountain site in 1995, probably conceived in the minds of a creative executive (possibly Daffy Duck?) while wandering around the park on a hot summer day. Although not a totally world-class water park, it is good-sized, with some more exciting water slides for older kids (check the photo for some pretty gnarly slide action).
Hurricane Harbor could make it worth a second day spent in the area, depending on your other vacation plans. (If you want more-serious water park action, look more to Raging Waters out east in San Dimas; that is the largest water park in California, although most of us would not know the difference.) Hurricane Harbor is open from late spring to early fall; it is very popular on hot summer days at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia.
Getting To And From The Park
Six Flags Magic Mountain is not exactly in the heart of Los
Angeles, but it is conveniently located alongside the I-5 freeway.
Click this link for information about
reaching Magic Mountain.
Where To Stay There are a number of suitable hotels near Magic Mountain. You may or may not want to stay nearby, depending on your vacation big picture. Here are some thoughts, suggestions and links to work out lodging at Magic Mountain hotels
Food, Glorious Food!
If you’d like to think about eating (and the budget) click to connect to our page on Six Flags food.
Find Discounts and Packages:
There are a few ways you can save some money on your trip to SFMM. Here are some tips and links to help you find Six Flags discounts and packages.
Six Flags Magic Mountain Tips, Wisdom and What-not: Finally, we’ve got our usual tips, suggestions and other stuff that could help enhance your Six Flags vacation. We've given that page a very clever name: Six Flags vacation.
There are some really cool and useful products out there to make your vacation experience better. Here's the best source you could find for great deals, at The SoCal Guru's Travel Store.