Six Flags Magic Mountain with a 3-year-old (trip report)

Recently, Magic Mountain was having a special promotion where if you purchased an adult season pass at the currently discounted $59 rate, they would give you a child’s season pass for free. We decided to go ahead and take advantage of the plan, since we live pretty close to the park and also because their season passes are good at all Six Flags parks and we have a June trip to Chicago planned. During that trip, we would like to visit Six Flags Great America , as that is one of the parks getting the new “Wiggles World” section, which our 3-year-old will probably get a big kick out of visiting.

The current annual pass deal also comes with a coupon book that includes a lot of rather nice bonus offers. The coupons included several merchandise and food discounts, several free guest-passes for taking non-season pass holding friends to the parks. These included 1 valid through May, one valid from July-December, and 1 valid at any other Six Flags park besides Magic Mountain. Obviously, these are not minor discount deals and they really do represent a pretty significant added value.

Since the tickets had to be purchased by the end of February to take advantage of the special offer, I actually bought them online several weeks ago. Today was the first opportunity we had to go up and get the tickets processed and spend an afternoon at the park. Right at the start, I really do have to give them points for having an exceptionally smooth and easy system in place for processing season passes that were purchased online ahead of time. They have a processing center outside the park that is specifically for online purchases and we walked in without any wait at all (same-day purchased passes, which would require more time for data entry, are processed inside the park). The whole process involved them scanning the bar-code on the ticket, taking a quick photo, and then handing you your pass. The process took all of about 2 minutes per pass. For our son’s free pass, I did have to sit down at a computer terminal and enter his information into the system, but once that was done the process was the same as for our passes. All in all, I think it was less than 10 minutes from the time we arrived at the processing center until we were ready to go into the park.

Once we got into the park, we decided that we were hungry for pizza and we headed to the Laughing Dragon Pizza Company, a table service pizza restaurant that we had enjoyed on previous visits to the park. This turned out to be an unfortunate choice. For starters, it had been about 4 years since we had been to the park, so our memory of the layout of the park was pretty rusty. As a result of this, we ended up getting confused and going the wrong direction, which resulted in us making the very long (and tiring) walk all the way around the park. What threw us off was that we saw on the map that the restaurant was right next to Superman, so we followed the signs to that ride. What we missed was that the first sign was directing guests to use the Orient Express train ride up the hill, which wasn’t running today. They also have changed the layout of the park up in the area where Tatsu has been added, which also confused us. As a result, we actually ended up walking all the way up and down the hill twice.

Of course, the really big frustration came when we arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by a sign informing us that they weren’t going to be opened today. Their suggested alternative was Moose Burger Lodge, which is the other table-service restaurant in the park. Of course, that restaurant is a pretty long walk from there and has a pretty much completely incompatible menu (burgers, sandwiches, chicken strips, etc.) It isn’t a clear substitute and I really think they need to keep both of the table service restaurants opened, particularly on busy weekend days.

We did end up going to eat at Moose Burger Lodge (basically deciding that we would order a pizza for dinner when we got home…) and it really was a good lunch. We’ve eaten there on most of our previous visits and the food has always generally been good. One thing that did strike us as pretty odd, though, was that they didn’t actually offer a child-sized burger on the kid’s menu. In fact the only choices for a kid (unless you went with the buffet, which we weren’t hungry enough for) are chicken nuggets or corn dog nuggets. We ended up getting our son the corn dog nuggets, which he liked quite a bit, but he was initially a bit disappointed since he had decided he wanted a burger. Magic Mountain is hardly unique among theme parks by having a ridiculously limited children’s menu (Disney is actually quite bad about that now too), but it still was kind of irritating.

One thing we did notice while there is that Moose Burger Lodge now offers a character-brunch featuring the Looney Toons characters in the morning. This is definitely something that we would like to try on a future visit to the park! Our family really enjoys Disney’s character meals and Six Flags really is the one other theme park chain that currently has a stable of characters that I also would think is strong enough for a similar kind of meal.

After lunch, we headed over to Bugs Bunny World, since this was our first visit to the park with a small child. Their kids’ area is quite good overall, although with a few issues that are probably inherent to Six Flags’ general current struggle as they try to reinvent themselves as more family-oriented parks. One thing that we were generally pleased to see was that nearly all of the rides in Bugs Bunny World are able to accommodate parents riding with their children. Some of them are a pretty tight fit, but the only ride that I saw where they specifically prohibited parents from riding was Goliath, Jr. There was also one other ride (Sylvester’s Bounce and Pounce) where they were allowing parents to ride, but the seats were too small to accommodate any but the most petite adults. My wife and/or I were able to ride with my son on the carousel, Pepe Le Pew’s Tea Party (their version of the Tea Cups ride), Foghorn Leghorn’s Railway (a train ride), Elmer’s Weather Balloons (an elevated spinner ride), and Yosemite Sam’s Flight School (an airplane ride). We were also all able to ride on one of the kid coasters (I can’t remember the name), which actually had no height restriction at all. The only thing we found a bit odd in this respect was that the antique motor cars actually have a 42″ minimum height, even when riding with a parent or other adult.

I was generally pleased with the operation of the whole area. This section was not overly busy today, so they had all of the attractions set up to give really long rides. On some of the attractions, that included automatically giving multiple rides without having to get off. For instance, both the train ride and the roller coaster gave each set of riders two trips through, although the coaster operators did wisely give the opportunity for people to get off after one ride if they wished.

Another good thing that we noticed was that the character visit opportunities were very plentiful. During the couple hours that we were in the Bugs Bunny World area, both Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were in the area pretty much constantly. We also saw both characters in other parts of the park as well as several other characters in various areas. There is also a stage show featuring the Looney Toons characters, but we didn’t have an opportunity to see that this afternoon.

The one big complaint we had in the Bugs Bunny World area was with the Looney Toons Lodge play area. This is a play area that features a lot of equipment for sending little foam rubber balls flying. It also has a couple tall slides. This is, of course, a lot of fun for toddlers and initially our son was having a great time there. They had rules posted basically saying that only children 54″ and accompanying adults are permitted in the area, but it wasn’t long before the room was pretty much overwhelmed by teenagers (and even adults) that were pretty violently throwing the balls at one another and chasing each other around the area with little or no regard for the small children. It finally got bad enough that I went up to the large group of “supervising” employees, who were all engaged in conversation with one another instead of actually paying attention to what was going on, and asked them to please enforce the rules. Their solution to the problem was to shut down all the equipment and announce that the area was “temporarily closing” and that everyone had to leave. Sure, that got rid of the troublemakers, but it also forced parents to drag out screaming toddlers.

Universal Studios Hollywood actually has a nearly identical facility, which has some of the same problems with teens and adults, but they manage it much more effectively. Basically, they just make regular announcements reminding everyone of the rules and they keep a few security guards in the area to back it up. A visible security presence, and front-line employees willing to supervise the facility, was noticeably absent at Magic Mountain.

By late afternoon, we were pretty warm and tired and ready to call it a day. We also decided that we wanted some ice cream before heading home. Our first thought was to stop at the fairly large ice cream parlor at the front of the park. When we got there, though, we found that there was a pretty long line and that there didn’t seem to be any seating area at all. We decided we weren’t too excited to wait in a long line and then search for a bench to eat at, so we ended up making the decision to leave the park and drive over to the Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour over in Santa Clarita. That ended up being a nice ending to the day. :)

My final impression after spending the day at the park is that Magic Mountain does have a pretty good set of children’s facilities and they are at least making some positive moves towards once again becoming more of a family-oriented park. We did have fun there today and I’m sure we will visit several more times before our passes expire at the end of the year. I definitely think the jury is still out on how often we are apt to go (the $15 parking fee, which isn’t included with the passes, is definitely a limiting factor) or whether we are likely to renew those passes.

2 Responses to “Six Flags Magic Mountain with a 3-year-old (trip report)”

  1. Sounds like a good trip, I’m planning a similar one for my own family shortly. Did you decide to renew the passes in the end?

  2. jgraebner says:

    I don’t think we will renew them this year. They turned out to be a good deal for us last year, mainly because we were planning a trip to Chicago and a visit to Six Flags Great America. When we took into account the free child’s pass offer and the free day tickets for friends, the season passes probably cost us slightly less than we would have ended up paying for tickets at Great America, where tickets are actually a bit more expensive, since there is really no local competition.

    We didn’t actually get back to Magic Mountain before the end of the year, though, and I don’t know that we are too likely to go any more than that next year either. Between my son’s fairly young age and circumstances that keep my wife from really doing too many big thrill rides, Magic Mountain just isn’t really all that ideal for us right now. If we go at all next year (I don’t know how likely we will), we probably will just take advantage of whatever discounts are available and buy day tickets.

Leave a Reply