Six Flags Magic Mountain Is California's Coaster-Crazy Headquarters

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••• Six Flags Magic Mountain has the world's largest collection of roller coasters. © Arthur Levine.

Originally, the park's theme had something to do with cute gnomes that lived in a Magic Mountain. After Six Flags came on the scene, it threw out the gnomes, pumped up the testosterone, and created what it has dubbed the "Xtreme" park. With 19 thrill machines, Six Flags Magic Mountain now claims the world's largest arsenal of coasters.

Here's a bit of theme park trivia you can use to amaze and impress your friends: The SeaWorld folks, fresh from successfully developing their beautiful San Diego marine park, originally built Magic Mountain.

But some Shamu-sized problems led them to sell the theme park soon after it opened. There are still cadences of the original whimsical themeing here and there, but when Six Flags banished the gnomes, it also sucked a lot of the fun out of the park.

Today, like most Six Flags properties, Magic Mountain is really more an "iron park," an amusement park filled with a hodgepodge of rides, than a cohesive theme park. But what a collection of coasters.

Magic Mountain transformed the famous Colossus (which was featured in the original Chevy Chase film, Vacation) into Twisted Colossus. It now ranks among the best hybrid wooden and steel coasters.

The park's X2, the world's first "fourth-dimension" coaster, has cars that sit alongside the track and independently spin 360 degrees forwards and backwards. Talk about disorienting! And terrifying. The scream-tastic ride makes the cut for the list of the scariest roller coasters.

Also on the crazy-scary coaster list is Superman: The Escape. It climbs a 415-foot tower, reaches 100 mph, and subjects its riders to 6.5 seconds of weightlessness (all world records when the ride debuted. It still ranks highly among the world's fastest coasters and the tallest coasters).

The floorless coaster, Scream- Ride Out Loud, is one of the best of its kind.

 Goliath, on the other hand, just may be one of parkdom's worst hypercoasters. Its intense positive G forces can induce harrowing grayouts. Stand-up, inverted, flying, kiddie, launched: Name the coaster, and chances are you can find it here.

More than Coasters

It is an enormous park, so be prepared for lots of walking. Magic Mountain has a confusing layout. Many of the paths lead to dead ends, and it can be bewildering to try and navigate from one section of the park to another. Oddly, many of the park's signature roller coasters are set back from the midway and are partially, or nearly totally, hidden from view. I guess this helps create a sense of suspense, but most parks showcase their coasters for maximum visibility.

To reach the "Magic Mountain" at the park's center, you can take the Orient Express cable car or trudge up one of the steep paths. The Ninja suspended coaster at the top is a fun ride that uses the natural topography to send its pivoting cars careening down the hill. A small lift hill starts the coaster, while a larger lift hill delivers the train back up to the station at the ride's end. Also at the top of the hill is Samurai Summit, a Japanese garden with lovely flowers, a babbling brook, and some stunning panoramic views of the park and surrounding hills.

Stressed-out parents take note: Amid Magic Mountain's hyper-adrenalized, scream-filled atmosphere, this is probably the park's lone peaceful spot.

Like most Six Flags parks (and most theme parks for that matter), food is not a strong point. It's the usual suspects of overpriced, bland fast food. Magic Mountain doesn't do a great job with crowd control either. The queues for the major roller coasters, even on relatively low visitation days, can quickly swell. If long waits are an issue, you might want to consider paying extra for Flash Pass, Six Flags' go-to-the-front-of-the-lines program.

Location, Admission, and Operating Calendar

Six Flags Magic Mountain is located just off I-5 in Valencia, California. It is about 30 miles north of Los Angeles. The address is 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway.

Reduced price tickets are available for children (under 48").

2 and under are free. Discounted tickets are often available online. The adjacent Hurricane Harbor water park requires separate admission. Season pass tickets include admission to all Six Flags parks. Discounted tickets are generally available online from Six Flags Magic Mountain.

In 2018, the park switched from a seasonal park that was open on weekends and select days in the off-season to a year-round schedule. It is now open daily all year long.