As summer is in full swing, we thought it appropriate to cover a subject near and dear to our hearts here at CPM – amusement park food! We admit it – we love a good corndog, cotton candy or a churro at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks alike. But when it comes to these culinary delights, not all “fair food” is created equally. Some are simply better than others.
As we kick off, we start with a venue right in our own back yard – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. We get season passes every year. It’s so close, we can go as often as we like and there is a lot to do and see. I have to applaud Six Flags as it is way more than just an amusement park. Not only does Six Flags have really awesome amusement park rides, it is also a zoo, aquarium, water park and playground. There is even an indoor, interactive butterfly garden. There really is something for everyone and, if you don’t find something you want to do, there is plenty of shade to just hang out. Six Flags even does it up for Fright Fest in the fall and Holiday in the Park during the holidays (they make their own snow!!!).
Do you want to get closer to all of the animal action? No problem! Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has many interactive programs. You can do everything from feeding giraffes or lorikeets to swimming with the dolphins, as my friend Reggie did a couple of years back.
But what about the food???
Six Flags has a fair number of eateries: Primo’s Pizza, Johnny Rocket, Panda Express, Cold Stone Creamery, JB’s Smokehouse Barbeque, California Crepes and, my favorite, the Slurpee Stand, just to name a few. You could even order a beer.
The food generally repeats itself throughout the park. For example – the $14.00 order of buffalo wings at Totally Kickin’ Chicken Boneless Wings, really were just the chicken strip basket from Seamoore Cott’s but the strips had been tossed in buffalo sauce.
There aren’t very many healthy options at Six Flags. I was super pleased that JB’s BBQ Smokehouse finally added a few salads to their menu. I was disappointed that the salads start at $12.99 each. So, if you are the kind of person who enjoys a yogurt, granola or apple mid afternoon, it would be best to bring your own.
First, my favorites: besides the Slurpee stand, which until recently had banana as a flavor (please bring back the banana!), I also like the fresh fried mini donuts at California Crepe and the smoked turkey leg at JB’s Smokehouse Barbeque.
The food is generally mediocre. It feels a lot more like fast food, which is disappointing since, here in the Bay Area, we have so many great eateries.
Almost nothing at Six Flags food court comes a la carte, which means that, even if you only want a corn dog, you will get a corn dog and fries. Just want a slice of pizza? Forget it. Every slice of pie comes with either fries or cheese bread. Six Flags calls it a “combo”, though it doesn’t come with a drink.
Basically you can count on $20 per person per meal (with drink) or $10 for a snack with drink. Almost nothing is under $10.00 (did I mention that nothing comes a la carte?) Even the beer and basic funnel cakes are $10.00. I know I mentioned Panda Express, which is generally very reasonably priced, however, in the park, the Panda Express prices are higher than at any other Panda Express restaurant.
Don’t get me wrong – Six Flags has some really great values too. You can buy their refillable sports bottle for $14.00 which allows you free refills on the day of purchase and $.99 refills for the rest of the season. This year, you can actually buy a wristband which allows you unlimited refills all day for $3.99. A super good value. Similarly, you can buy a popcorn bucket and enjoy $.99 refills all year. They used to offer cotton candy or popcorn refills for $.99 but they cut out the cotton candy a few years back.
This year Six Flags rolled out their food season pass. Essentially you pay $69.99 and until September 22, 2013, you can enjoy two meals a day each time you visit. Or you can pay $79.99 to have meals through the end of the operating season. The down side is that those meals don’t include any of what little healthier faire Six Flags offers – no crepes, salads, etc. So you’ll mostly be eating pizza, corn dogs, chicken strips, etc. with fries, of course. The pass also does not include a drink. And there are several restrictions on the pass so read the fine print before you buy.
The food at Six Flags is mostly convenient and they have a great amount of seating in the highly coveted shade! Seriously, the seating is awesome and the staff really does keep the tables clean. The food lines tend to be pretty reasonable unless the park is really packed.
Just a heads up – to protect the animals, Six Flags doesn’t offer straws for their drinks so if you have a medical need for a straw, you may want to bring your own or get buy one of the refillable sports bottles which do have straws. Also, almost every eatery in the park offers the $.99 refills on those sports bottles, which is super convenient.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is fun for the whole family and has some great values, especially for the regulars. I think they could definitely round out their menu options and pricing structure a bit to cater to a wider variety of people. I would also love to see more local joints taking up residence in the park.