Pros:Wonderful animal shows and exhibits. Many thrilling roller coaster type rides. Low admission price.
Cons:Expensive dining, $10 parking.
The Bottom Line: The setting is beautiful, surrounded by a lake and rolling green hills. Marine World is much better than Great America.
Summary: I went to Marine World with low expectations, after reading the bad reviews. I was pleasantly surprised. Was it Disneyland? Of course not. But does anybody seriously believe Six Flags is trying to be "the Magic Kingdom of the bay area?" Was it as terrible as some described? No. I also had visited this park when it was know as Marine World Africa USA. As far as I recall all of the animal exhibits from those days are still there and just as charming as ever, in addition Six Flags has since added the large Orca Stadium and Ocean Discovery area with new dolphin, penguin and stingray exhibits which I enjoyed.
Parking lot: It was a good little walk, but certainly not a mile. As for trams, I saw plenty and did ride one back to my car at the end of the day with no waiting at all.
Park employees: All of the park employees that I interacted with seemed nice enough. One even walked me halfway through the park to show me where to find an attraction. I grew up in Orange County and had a number of friends who worked at Disneyland. All of them referred to the place as Dismal-land because they all hated working there. I'm sure they tried to put their happiest faces on while at work, but when encountering negative people I bet their smiles faded.
Animal Exhibits: All of the animal enclosures / habitats seemed at least as nice if not nicer than at the zoo here in San Francisco. I particularly enjoyed the lorikeet aviary, which was filled with incredibly beautiful and friendly birds that were eager to perch themselves on my finger for photographs. At the orca (killer whale) show, they displayed a moving video of orcas in the wild, which made me feel bad for the orca confined for the rest of its life in their swimming pool. Orcas are extremely intelligent animals and in the wild they usually spend their entire life with their family members, so I do think it is sad that this orca lives in solitary at Marine World. They said that the animal was born in captivity, so it never knew the joy of living in the open ocean but I would guess that it still misses be with other orcas. My advice to Marine World would be to stop playing the video reminding everyone how happy this orca would be if it lived in the ocean. As for the dolphins, of course I don't know for sure, but they seemed happy and like they were having fun. I looked through a fence into the dolphin "research center" where 5 or 6 dolphins were playfully swimming around with no trainer encouraging them to do tricks. In fact, there were a couple of rubber balls in the pool that the dolphins were picking up in their mouths and throwing around, much like children playing with a ball - they looked happy
Thrill Rides: I found them to be exiting! There are a number of not so exciting "off the rack" type rides at the park as well. I ignored those rides. With the shows happening all day and the many exciting rides, there were plenty of activities for a full day and no reason to waste time on some of the lesser rides.
Food: I got a Subway sandwich which was exactly the same as a Subway sandwich anywhere, except for the higher price, which I expected. I would have liked to have had a beer as well, but at $9 a cup it was out of the question.
Park Cleanliness: I did see the wall covered with chewing gum with embedded coins while waiting in line for the Medusa roller coaster. It is too bad that some people get a kick out of destroying property like that. Six Flags should do something, like clean off the wall! Other than that wall, I thought the park was very clean overall.
Ticket Prices and Height Requirements: My full day adult admission ticket purchased at my local Albertson's Market only cost $26 - Admission to Disneyland is twice as expensive and almost prohibitively expensive for four people. Prices based on height don't seem unfair to me. Especially since many ride requirements are based on height. One reviewer complains that his child was denied admission to one of the rides because she wasn't tall enough - did he also complain at the admission gate because she got into the park for a lower price based on her height? This reviewer asserts that height requirements are a "judgment call". I disagree, height restrictions on thrill rides are a safety issue, I'd wonder about a parent who would compromise his child's safety to avoid the height restrictions. I'd venture to say that age based pricing is a "judgment call". I'm sure we've all witnessed the person claiming that their 15 year old is age 10 or younger to get reduced admission. By pricing admission according to height, everyone is treated objectively. After all, it is much harder to fake a persons height than it is to make wild claims about their age.
Final thoughts: I had an extremely enjoyable day at the park and I am very glad that I didn't let the negative reviews here dissuade me from going.
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