A Look at the Marine World Experience at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Theme parks in California are still closed, but back on Fourth of July weekend Six Flags Discovery Kingdom sort of half re-opened its gates. The park originated as an animal park way back in the day, and has always had a pretty sizable collection of animal exhibits (and a few shows). There aren’t as many as there used to be, but the park saw a chance to at least open their animal exhibits, and add a few more interactions with staff. In homage to the original name of the park, Discovery Kingdom called the event the “Marine World Experience”.
Last weekend I was able to make it over to the park to look longingly at their roller coasters, and take in some of the animals, including the growing lion cubs that arrived at the park last year.
Park Reservations and Entry
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is requiring reservations for the experience like the Six Flags Parks that are fully open. You can make them on the same Six Flags reservations page as with the other parks, and it seemed really easy. There were plenty of open time slots, although note the park is only open Fridays-Sundays now. If you’re a pass holder entry is free (you enter your the number on your pass), otherwise you get a ticket when making your reservations.
Entry was a breeze, with contact-less temperature and bag checks, and no waits anywhere. The Thursday I went the park was pretty empty all day, which no doubt helped, but it seemed like they had a good set-up for smooth entry. Masks are required for all guests, and a convenient booth was setup before the temperature check selling face masks for folks who needed them.
Animal Exhibits, Shows, and Interaction.
About 2/3 of Discovery Kingdom is open to guests for the Marine World Experience, basically providing access to all the outdoor animal exhibits. One of the downsides I found was that there didn’t seem to be any maps (which makes sense for sanitary reasons), so if you weren’t familiar with the park it might be a little trickier to find everything. I did see one person with a map, so maybe at Guest Services you could request one?
It looked like all of the parks normal animal shows were in operation, including the dolphin, tiger, and seal/sea lion shows. The stadiums were encouraging social distancing only allowing guests in every 4th row, and I did see employees ask people to move. Luckily the crowds were small enough that it didn’t seem to be an issue.
Along with the regular shows, the park added a bunch of “Caregiver talks” to the lineup. Basically it meant that throughout the day there were animal caretakers at the different exhibits, generally providing some info, showing off some of the animals, and answering questions. The park would always occasionally have people around to answer things, but this seemed a lot more common. It was really easy to just wander to an exhibit and stumble upon a caregiver giving a talk.
The new demos and talks included some new things I hadn’t seen before, like a feeding for a bunch of pinniped (seals, sea lions) pups at the pinniped nursery, caretakers hanging out with exotic birds along the pathway, and watching Captain Lee feed alligators.
The newest and biggest animal attraction is the group of lion cubs that arrived a year ago. The cubs are now starting to get pretty big, but are still active and playful. Caregivers happily spent a long time answering questions about them, explaining their backgrounds, and playing with the lions.
I learned that the park had actually been planning to renovate the entire former Tiger Island – now Cain’s Lion Cub Island – this season, but with the pandemic those plans are on hold. Interestingly, the park had planned to remove the large pool from the exhibit, since Lions tend not to be as fond of water as Tigers, but now that the cubs are getting used to it, they’re considering keeping it. Either way, expect some sort of renovation of the exhibit in the near-ish future.
All in all, it was a nice experience. Do I wish there were roller coasters? Sure, but it was a very relaxing and fun time. Certainly for people trying to get outside and do something safe and engaging, this is a great option (especially if you’re already a passholder).
And I appreciate that the park added some extra interactions and demonstrations with the animal care-takers. I ended up staying at the park longer than expected because I kept going to more talks. I recommend getting the Six Flags app to check the schedule of talks and shows, although it was also easy enough to just wander through and find people giving talks.
For more on the Marine World Experience at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, check out their website. And for info on other theme park re-openings, make sure you’re following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We’ve had lots of coverage from different parks around the country.
Finally, if you didn’t know, Coaster101 has a podcast! You can find it on all of your favorite podcast listening apps, just search for Coaster101 Podcast. Check out our latest on our visit to Kennywood for their re-opening.