Sesame Place San Diego

1st July 2023

The park now known as Sesame Place San Diego began life in 1997 as White Water Canyon, a western-themed water park with sixteen waterslides and a wave pool. Just one year after opening the operators filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Cedar Fair came to the rescue, purchasing the business and rebranding it as Knott’s Soak City USA. In 2012, it was sold again, this time to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, who rebranded it as Aquatica Sea Diego. The conversion to Sesame Place took place during 2020 and 2021.

Sesame Place

The rebrand brought with it a collection of eight dry rides, all targeted at younger visitors – and honestly adult visitors who don’t already have SeaWorld season passes should probably give it a miss unless you really like water parks. The only attraction I wanted to ride was Super Grover’s Box Car Derby (#3068), a Zierer Force 190 coaster and the eighth example of the type. I enjoyed my own private exclusive ride session, completing both a front and back seat ride before any other guests arrived. With that done I took a few overview photographs before making a rapid exit.


Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

1st July 2023

There are two locations called Magic Mountain in California. The one with the alpine coaster can be found at Big Bear Lake, roughly three hours drive from Sesame Place San Diego. For the first time this trip the drive took almost exactly what Google Maps said it should, and better yet, a good chunk of the journey routed through San Bernardino National Forest with its spectacular natural scenery.

As is usual for alpine coasters in America I was required to complete a legal waiver before I could purchase tickets. A member of staff looked over my shoulder while I went through the procedure on a tablet computer, after which he handed me an orange wristband that I was asked to show when I got to the ticket desk – and again before boarding Mineshaft Coaster. The ticket price today was $20 with no discounts available for repeats, which was a shame as I’d have been sorely tempted; the layout had two substantial drops and some particularly forceful turns, making it one of the better examples of the type that I’ve encountered in my travels.


Castle Park

1st July 2023

My third visit to Castle Park, fifteen years and change after my first, was made primarily to tick off a Fabbri Power Mouse that eluded me on both previous visits. When jotting down notes I inadvertently corrupted the second letter of Screamin Demon (#3069) – and honestly, “Steamin” is an eminently appropriate description for a ride that had no redeeming features whatsoever. I waited half an hour as one of the three cars was out of service, and once aboard was treated to a lap where I enjoyed almost (but not quite) a half rotation of my car punctuated by several unpleasant slams to the side. It's easy to see why it stood SBNO for six years.

Dragon Flyers

I walked around the park looking for other rides of interest in the hope of justifying the $55 cost of admission and parking, but the few attractions that caught my eye were closed for maintenance, including the Dragon’s Tower (double shot), Dragon Flyers (pictured above), and a large flume that would have been perfect in the hot weather. After about ten minutes I decided to cut my losses and retired to the air conditioned comfort of my car. As I drove away I found myself thinking that I could have had three rides on Mineshaft Coaster for (almost) the same money; readers retracing my steps might want to do just that.


John's Incredible Pizza Carson

1st July 2023

I’d been expecting a raised eyebrow or two when buying admission to John’s Incredible Pizza without children in tow, but I need not have worried; there was no human interaction required (or indeed possible) at the entrance. Instead, a small cattle grid area led to a row of self-service ticketing machines where admission and game cards could be purchased using a credit card. There was no signage to indicate how many points were required for the roller coaster, so I bought the minimum possible number figuring that I’d top up once inside. (As of this writing the figure is 14, equivalent to $3.50, though that could easily change by the time these words are read.)

Crazy 8’s (#3070) is a standard figure eight spinner. The only distinguishing feature of my ride today was that the spinning mechanism didn’t unlock correctly on the initial dispatch, giving me one full lap with the car facing rigidly forward. There was a pretty nasty thump as we completed lap one, after which rotation continued as normal. I rather suspect that wasn’t supposed to happen, though I didn’t hang around long enough to watch another cycle.


I’m not going to describe the buffet food as terrible, only because that word has too many positive connotations (particularly in French, remarkably enough). It may have medical value as a method of relieving constipation. I ate one plate worth, and soon after wished that I hadn’t. Locals with a particularly strong constitution (or for preference excess Imodium in their medicine cabinets) can buy annual passes entitling them to one visit per month. The idea fills me with existential dread, but I guess I’m not the target market.