Six Flags Discovery Kingdom first opened in 1968 as Marine World, a small oceanarium in Redwood City, California. In the mid-1970s, they merged with a failing land-animal park and became Marine World Africa USA.
In late 1985, the increase in value of the property the park occupied became too great of a tax burden. Following an intensive search for a new site, construction began on a new and larger park facility in Vallejo, California, about 55 miles (89 km) north from Redwood City. The new Marine World opened to visitors in 1986, and remained under control of the non-profit Marine World Foundation, using the comic strip character, Garfield as a mascot at various points. The park defaulted on its debt to the city of Vallejo, and became owned by the city in 1996.
Conversion to a theme park
The city then hired Premier Parks (now known as Six Flags Inc.) to manage the park, upgrade it, and improve its attendance. Premier added some non-animal attractions, particularly amusement rides, to increase attendance. In 1997, the park added two major ride attractions, "Popeye's Seaport" and "DinoSphere". Popeye's Seaport offered eleven children's attractions, including an interactive foam ball play structure and an interactive water play area. DinoSphere took the place of the park's Australian Walk-A-Bout attraction (also the former home of the "DINOSAURS!" attraction). DinoSphere was an Iwerks Turbo Theater, capable of seating 100 riders per showing. The theater played the Iwerks film called "Dino Island" for its first season of operation (the theater has since changed films numerous times).
The number of amusement rides increased over the next few years, including the addition of several major roller coasters. In 1998, the park's name changed again, this time to "The New Marine World Theme Park". The 1998 season saw the addition of two major roller coasters, Kong and Boomerang: Coast to Coaster. Kong was relocated from Opryland USA after that park shut down in 1997 and opened at the Marine World in May 1998. Other major additions that year included Hammerhead Shark, a Zamperla Hawk 48 prototype; VooDoo, a Huss Top Spin ride; Monsoon Falls and White Water Safari, Intamin water attractions. DinoSphere also received a new ride film, "Dino Island II: Escape from Dino Island" which featured improved graphics along with a new storyline.
Addition to the Six Flags chain
after more additions of amusement rides, Premier made a name change to Six Flags Marine World in 1999. The most notable result of the name change was the rights to Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes characters. With the new name, the park received the wooden roller coaster called Roar. Built by Great Coasters International Inc., it was the first coaster to feature "Millennium Flyer" trains. The 1999 season also saw the introduction of Tasmanian Devil, a Frisbee flat ride manufactured by Huss Rides, and Scat-A-Bout, a typical Scrambler flat ride. Although both rides opened in 1999, they were purchased by the park in 1998 but not constructed until 1999 because of construction timetables that prevented them being constructed in time for the 1998 season opening. Popeye's Seaport was rebranded "Looney Tunes Seaport" and received the Roadrunner Express kiddie coaster.
In 2000, the park opened its fourth major roller coaster, Medusa. Medusa was designed by Bolliger & Mabillard, and lasts three minutes. Starting with a 150-foot-tall (46 m) drop, it then goes through a 128-foot-tall (39 m) vertical loop, a dive loop, a Zero-G roll, a sea serpent roll, and two corkscrews. Medusa is one of the parks most popular rides. With the addition of Medusa, the park also received the Cobra family coaster and built a new parking lot south of the park.
The park received its fifth major roller coaster in 2001, V2: Vertical Velocity. Built by Intamin, the ride was the first "Spiraling Impulse Coaster" on the west coast and took the record for being the tallest and fastest coaster in Northern California. The ride was plagued with technical issues when it opened, which resulted in extensive down time. The park also eventually turned off the LIM motor on the back tower that held the train in position for a few seconds on its second trip up the tower.The park also added the "Warrior of the Dawn" film to its DinoSphere theater.
2002 saw a notable modification to Vertical Velocity. Because of local building restrictions, the height limit on all roller coasters at the park is 150 feet (46 m), while V2 exceeded that limit by about 36 feet (11 m). Thus, they lowered the reverse tower 36 feet (11 m) and turned the forward tower into a 45° angle with an incline heartline roll that spiraled over the park's main entrance. So far, Vertical Velocity is the only Impulse Coaster to do this. The park turned the LIM motor on the reverse tower back on in 2002 season; however the motor failed to hold the train completely in place and slipped significantly. The motor was eventually turned off again in the 2003 season. Also the park began to show "7th Portal", a 3-D comic book film by Stan Lee, in its DinoSphere Theater.
The park added its sixth major roller coaster, Zonga, in 2003. The ride designed by Schwarzkopf, was relocated from Six Flags AstroWorld, and received major track modification by Premiere Rides before it opened at Marine World. Zonga opened in late April to a sporadic operation. The ride was often closed because of mechanical problems, and when it did operate, it often closed for short periods of time due to ride errors. Eventually the park delayed its opening to 12 noon every day, completely blocking the ride plaza to park guests. Zonga's last season of operation was 2004, it then sat dormant until it was removed in 2006 and placed in the parking lot for storage. By the beginning of the 2007 season, Zonga was removed from the parking lot. It is now operating at the San Marcos National Fair in Mexico.
The park also began showing "Stargate SG3000" in its IWerks 3D Turbo Theater which finally received new branding and was no longer called "DinoSphere". Stargate, however, did not feature the 3D effect and rarely received good reviews from guests.
2006 saw the addition of Tava's Jungleland, a children's area located in the back of the park near the main land animal attractions, featuring nine new attractions for families and small children to enjoy.
Rebranding to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
On January 17, 2007, the park announced its new name, "Six Flags Discovery Kingdom." The new name reflects the image of an animal park, a thrill-ride park, and a marine park. The park was separated into different themed lands of Land, Sea and Sky. $16 million was spent on park improvements including new signage, new shows, and converting the 3D theater into a "4D" theater. The park also added a Thomas the Tank Engine-themed children's area called Thomas Town, which opened June 20, 2007.
The animal aspects of the park have not been removed, and the park continually adds animal attractions every year. Discovery Kingdom continues to showcase its marine mammals and is currently home to the orca Shouka, who was at the Six Flags park in Ohio until 2004. In 2005, the park added "Ocean Discovery", a major interactive marine animal area that lets guest interact and pet sting rays and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins as well as getting up close to South African penguins.
On June 5, 2007, Six Flags confirmed media reports that Six Flags will exercise their option to buy the park.
For 2008, the park featured its longest operating season since it was branded as a Six Flags park. The park has shut down the IWerks 3D Turbo Theater due to escalating repair costs on the out of date operating system and hardware. The park received its 8th roller coaster, Tony Hawk's Big Spin, which is located on the former Zonga concrete pad. The ride features a unique layout compared to the three other coasters which share the name, including a base frame instead of permanent concrete footers and a higher top speed. Tony Hawk's Big Spin opened on May 23, 2008.
In 2009, the park introduced the all new Odin's Temple of the Tiger. The new tiger exhibit and show features the diving, white tiger named Odin. Discovery Kingdom also acquired two new Bengal tiger cubs, Nalin and Akasha.
2009 also saw the addition of the park's official page on Facebook. Fans of the park can stay up to date with all the latest news, updates, and photos from Discovery Kingdom.
In late 2010, Six Flags began the process of removing licensed theming from attractions. They terminated several licenses including their license with Thomas the Tank Engine and Tony Hawk. Tony Hawk's Big Spin was renamed and rethemed to Big Spin, then Pandemonium. Thomas Town will be renamed and rethemed to Seaside Junction in time for the 2011 season.
For the 2011 season, the park introduced the SkyScreamer. The new swing ride is 150 feet (46 m) high and soars in a 98-foot (30 m) circle at speeds over 43 miles per hour (69 km/h). The ride opened on May 27. A few days before July 25, 2011, SkyScreamer at Six Flags St. Louis experienced a major malfunction that has caused it to be closed for the rest of the 2011 season. According to more than one report, something caused the counterweight to suddenly drop to the bottom of the tower, while launching the empty rider carriage to the top, causing damage on both ends. Discovery Kingdom's version was closed as a precaution to allow for further inspection. Discovery Kingdom's SkyScreamer was reopened as of August 12, 2011.
In 2012, the park will add a steel Premier Rides roller coaster called Superman: Ultimate Flight. Pandemonium was removed at the end of the 2011 season to make room for the new coaster Superman: Ultimate Flight.
2013 saw the addition of Cirque Dreams, a show performed by aerialists and acrobats in the Dolphin Theater Area.
For 2014, the Tsunami Soaker ride opened.
In 2015, Discovery Kingdom opened the Dare Devil Diver Coaster. This ride is a standard Larson International Super Loop. In July, the park announced the closure of Roar.
The Joker, a Rocky Mountain Construction steel hybrid of Roar, opened at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in 2016.
For the 2017 season, the park opened Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth, a Giant Discovery.
The haunt at Discovery Kingdom is their annual Fright Fest Halloween event. Two haunted houses, scare zones, and many ghouls are added throughout the park. Tinseltown Terror haunted house is located in the park's bumper car ride. Brutal Planet haunted house is normally located in the Roar plaza near where Zonga used to be. The scare zone is located between Ocean Discovery and the entry plaza. This is where the world famous cockroach eating contests are held.
In 2009, two haunted houses were replaced in October with newer ones.
New for 2007, Discovery Kingdom introduced the Wheel of Fright and the Coffin of Fear for Fright Fest. 2007 also brought the addition of the Kamp Khaos haunted house, replacing Brutal Planet. Kamp Khaos was also placed in a new location for a Haunted House, inside the Monsoon Falls water ride lagoon.
The other major seasonal event, Holiday in the Park, made its debut November 23, 2007. The event featured Santa Claus, holiday themed shows, and other seasonal treats. Discovery Kingdom also featured the world's largest Christmas tree as part of the celebration. The tree was 125 feet (38 m) tall and had a diameter of 4 feet (1.2 m). Due to its size, a Chinook helicopter was needed to set it into place.
Rides and Attractions
- Boomerang - A Vekoma Boomerang model. This was the first roller coaster to open at the park.
- Kong - A Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster and the second roller coaster to open at the park. Kong was relocated from the defunct Opyryland USA Themepark in Nashville, Tennessee where it was called "The Hangman", following the 1997 operating season. In 2007, the ride's entrance was moved to Oasis Plaza (near Medusa). Riders now walk under the ride to enter.
- The Joker - Originally known as Roar, The Joker was built by Rocky Mountain Construction with the Iron Horse treatment for the 2016 season. The coaster received Joker themed trains and 3 inversions including a new element marketed as a "step-up under-flip inverted roll."
- Medusa - Built by Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland, Medusa stands 150 ft. tall (46 m) and reaches speeds of 65 mph (105 kmph). When the ride opened in 2000, it featured one of the tallest vertical loops in the world at 128 ft. tall (39 m). Medusa used to share its name with its sister coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure (before it was converted ino Bizarro) but featured a layout more similar to that of Kraken, another B&M Floorless roller coaster built at Sea World Orlando in 2000. The ride was the first coaster to ever feature the "Sea Serpent" element, a variation of B&M's popular "Cobra Roll" element. At 3,985 ft. long (1,215), Medusa is the longest roller coaster in Northern California and shares the height record with V2: Vertical Velocity as the tallest coaster in Northern California (V2 is also located in the park).
- V2: Vertical Velocity - California's first and only Spiraling Impulse Coaster, Vertical Velocity was built by Intamin and opened in 2001. It stood 186 ft. tall (57 m) and reached speeds up to 70 mph (110 kmph). In 2002, the park was forced to modify the ride so tat it no longer exceeded 150 ft. (46 m) due to local height restrictions. In doing so, the front tower waas tilted to a 45 degree angle and the reverse tower lowered to 150 ft. (46 m). The ride still holds the record for the fastest coaster in Northern California.
- Cobra - A 26-foot-tall (7.9 m) family coaster located in Oasis Plaza, Cobra opened in 2000.
- Roadrunner Express - A kiddie coaster located in the park's Looney Tunes Seaport section. Roadrunner Express opened in 1999.
- Superman: Ultimate Flight - A steel Premier Rides roller coaster opened in 2012, and has an equal height to V2 and Medusa .
- VooDoo – VooDoo opened in 1998 and was the first Huss Top Spin ride on the west coast. VooDoo is located at the back of the park near Tava's Jungleland.
- Tazmanian Devil – A HUSS Frisbee ride. Opened in 1999, riders board a giant disk that spins and swings at high speeds for approximately 2 minutes.
- Hammerhead Shark – Riders board one of 2 giant arms and experience 7 vertical loops before completing their 90 second ride. This was the first Zamperla Hawk 48 Ride to ever be built; opened in 1998.
- SkyScreamer – A Funtime Star Flyer. Climb 15 stories and swing at 150 feet (46 m) up in the air at 43 mph (69 km/h). SkyScreamer is the same height as Medusa and opened in 2011.
- Wave Swinger – A Zamperla swing ride; opened in 1998.
- Boardwalk Bumper Buggies – Bumper cars; opened in 1998.
- The Ark – A swinging ship; opened in 1998.
- Scat-A-Bout – A Scrambler type attraction; opened in 1999.
- Wave Jumper – A circular ride where riders board Orca shaped gondolas and rise into the air approx 15 ft (4.6 m); opened in 1999.
- Monkey Business – Teacups ride; opened in 1998.
- Thrilla Gorilla – Riders board one of the 16 cars and spin around a giant gorilla at high speeds with sudden changes in elevation; opened in 1998.
- White Water Safari (Intamin River Rapids water ride) – opened in 1999, it is a classic white water raft ride. Featuring an overhanging waterfall and several 'rapids' area. Two locations with four coin-operated hoses each allow non-riders to spray riders.
- Monsoon Falls (Intamin Spillwater water ride) – opened in 1998, it is a short brief ride which begins on a 50 ft (15 m) climb, the riders are then subjected to a full drop that results in a splash tall enough to reach pedestrians exiting the ride on the overcrossing walkway. This ride also has several coin-operated hoses allowing observers to spray riders and pedestrians on the walkway.
Looney Tunes Seaport (formerly Popeye's Seaport from 1997 to 1998)
- Acme Foam Factory – A large indoor play structure where children and their parents can shoot foam balls at targets or each other; opened in 1997. All foam balls were removed in 2007. Six Flags has not commented on why the balls were removed. Balls returned early summer 2007 after the installation of plastic flaps at the door.
- Acme Water Works – A large interactive water play structure; opened in 1997.
- Pepe Le Pew's Rafts of Romance – Small tea cup ride; opened in 1997.
- Elmer's Weather Balloons (Zamperla Samba Balloons)- A circular ride where kids can spin their cars while the ride changes elevation; opened in 1997.
- Sylvester's Pounce and Bounce (Zamperla Jumpin' Star) – A children's drop ride; opened in 1999.
- Bugs Buccaneer (Sartori kiddie swinging ship); opened in 1999.
- Taz's Typhoon (Zamperla Lolly Swing) – A children's version of the swing ride; opened in 1997.
- Daffy's Deep Sea Dive (Zamperla Crazy Sub) – A yellow submarine where kids and their parents experience quick ascents and sudden drops; opened in 1997.
- Foghorn Leghorn's Seaport Railway (Zamperla Rio Grande) – Train ride; opened in 1997.
- Yosemite Sam's Flight School – Pint sized planes where children control how high they go; opened in 1997.
- Seaport Carousel – A small merry-go-round with exotic animals; opened in 1997.
Tava's Jungleland (all rides opened in 2006)
- Tava's Elephant Parade – A circular ride where children board small elephants and control their height.
- Congo Queen (Zamperla Rockin' Tug) – A large Tugboat that rocks and spins.
- Safari Jeep Tours – Riders board small Jeeps and traverse a track through animal attractions.
- Nairobi's Lookout Balloons (Zamperla Samba Tower) – Riders board 4-person gondolas and are taken to heights of 35 feet (11 m). Riders are able to spin themselves which allows this tame observation tower become a high speed thrill ride.
- Frog Hopper – A circular ride with "hopping" cars.
- Safari River Journey – A slow ride for small children that spins in a small water way. Closed in 2007, Replaced by animal attraction in October 2008.
- Monkey Around (Zamperla Swing Ride) – A tame swing ride that offers no changes in elevation.
- Zoe's Tree House (SCS Interactive “Treehouse”) – A large outdoor play structure with slides and look out towers.
- Air Penguins (I.E. Park Mini Flight) – A circular ride where children board small helicopters and control their height. It was known as Harold the Helicopter from 2007 to 2010 in Thomas Town; and now rethemed in 2011.
- Merlin’s Seaside Tours (I.E. Park Unknown Model Name) – It was known as Bertie the Bus from 2007 to 2010 in Thomas Town; and now rethemed in 2011.
- Seaside Railway – Train ride around the Shark Experience passing: Tidmouth Shed, Lake Hackenbeck, Hackenbeck Station. It was known as Thomas the Tank Engine from 2007–2010 in Thomas Town; and now rethemed in 2011. Riders used to board into Thomas' coaches Annie and Clarabel. The engine still has Thomas' whistle.
- Skycoaster – Riders are harnessed to two long cables and hoisted 100 ft (30 m) above the park. The riders must pull a ripcord and drop within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the ground before swinging back and forth for a few minutes. Prices range from $35 for a Single Rider, $40 for a Double (two fliers), and $45 for a Triple (three fliers).
- TRS: Thunder Road Speedway – A high speed go cart track near ROAR!. Prices range from $10 per driver, $4 per passenger. Ride duration is 7 minutes.
- Rockwall Climbing Challenge – Riders climb a 45 ft (14 m) rock wall. Price range is $7 per 1 climb.
- Shark Experience – Guest gets to go "underwater" with sharks as they travel on a moving walkway with a glass dome above them showing an underwater shark habitat. Featured in the film 50 First Dates.
- Jocko's Walrus Experience – Guest can get face to face with 3 walruses. Featured in the film 50 First Dates.
- Dolphin Discovery – Guest can pay $149.99 per person and receive a 1 on 1 training session with the park's dolphins.
- Dolphin Encounter – Located in Ocean Discovery, guests can feed, play and touch dolphins for a small fee or view them at the pool for free.
- Sting Ray Bay – Located in Ocean Discovery, guests can touch live sting rays.
- Penguin Passage – Located in Ocean Discovery, guests can come face to face with South African Penguins.
- Seal Cove – Located in Ocean Discovery, guests can feed California Sea Lions and Pacific Harbor Seals.
- Alligator Isle – An animal exhibit featuring North American Alligators.
- Butterfly Habitat – Guests enter a large, humid glass building filled with exotic butterflies.
- Tava's Elephant Trails – Guests can view African Elephants as well as ride them and face them in a tug-o-war (part of the Elephant Show).
- Cougar Rocks – Guests can get up close to the park's 4 Cougars.
- Cheetah Exhibit – Guests can view the park's cheetahs.
- Odin's Tiger Island – Home of the park's Bengal and Siberian Tigers. Guests can view tigers on exhibit.
- Nairobi's Giraffe Dock – Guests can get up close and feed the park's Giraffes.
- Leo's Lion Lair – The park's African Lion exhibit.
- Merlin's Dolphin Harbor – Home to the park's Dolphin Show, guests can also get up close to the dolphins at the viewing window in the main plaza. Ironically, Merlin the Dolphin does not live in this stadium; his home is Shouka Stadium. Featured in the film 50 First Dates.
- Shouka Stadium – Home of the park's Orca named Shouka. Guests can view Shouka at the viewing windows in the back of the stadium in between shows. Also home to Merlin the dolphin.
- Odie's Sea Lion Stadium – Located in Ocean Discovery, home of the park's Sea Lion Show.
- Bird Theater – Home of the Bird Show.
- Odin's Temple of the Tiger – Home to Odin's Temple of the Tiger, Tiger Show, with a larger amphitheatre for guests to view the new show.
- Animal Nursery – Home to new arrivals and animals with special needs.
- Reptile Discovery – Located in Tava's Jungleland, guest can view various reptiles.
- Lorikeet Aviary – Located in Tava's Jungleland, guests can interact with the beautiful birds as well as feed them nectar.
- Fennec Fox Exhibit – An open air enclosure allows guests to view these quick desert animals.
- Starfish – A circular Chance Trabant ride located near Ski Stadium. The ride was removed after two accidents sent people to the hospital after being thrown from the ride. The ride area is now the Air Penguins ride in Seaside Junction.
- Shoreline Express – The park's train system that transported guests from Shark Experience to Animal Adventure near Jambo. Shoreline Express was removed before the 2006 season to make room for Tava's Jungleland and the newly remodeled Lakeside Pavilion. A small area of track surrounding Shark Experience is currently being used for Seaside Railway.
- Zonga – Built in 2003, this coaster was originally named "Thriller" and traveled Europe, as it was built by Anton Schwarzkopf. For a short time, it also operated as "Texas Tornado" at Six Flags AstroWorld. Zonga operated for 2 years at the park. The ride regularly opened about two hours after the park and had frequent breakdowns, which contributed to closing down the ride. The ride stood silent for the 2005 season and was moved to the Discovery Kingdom parking lot where it sat throughout the 2006 season, leaving a large empty concrete area at the front of the park. In early 2007 the ride was shipped off after being purchased.
- Jambo – One of the first Zamperla "Joker" rides to be installed in the US, the ride opened in 1998 in the rear of the park near VooDoo. The ride operated for the beginning of the 2006 season, but shut down before summer operation. Shortly after, all rides of the same model in the Six Flags chain shut down, and none have reopened. Jambo was removed in the winter before the 2007 season as well as its sister ride, Trailblazer, at Six Flags Great America.
- 'Round the World Ferris Wheel – A Ferris wheel with balloon gondolas; opened in 1998. In 2007 the ride was removed to make way for the new children's area.
- Turbo Bungee – Riders are harnessed to bungee cords and jump on a trampoline reaching heights where they are capable of front and back flips. Price was $7 per person for 2 minutes.
- iWerks 4D Theater – The theater has been known as either DinoSphere, Stargate, or iWerks Turbo Theater although it has played 7 different films in its time. This was the original thrill ride to be built at the park; opened in 1997 as a 3D theater, it was updated for the 2007 season to include 4D effects which include water sprayers, seat vibrators and bubbles. The theater did not open for the 2008 season due to high maintenance costs. The building sits dormant and untouched.
- Safari River Journey – A small children's boat ride that was closed due to lack of rider-ship. Located in Tava's Jungleland.
- Greased Lightnin'
- Pandemonium – Opened on May 23, 2008 as Tony Hawk's Big Spin, renamed to Big Spin in late 2010 and then Pandemonium in early 2011. This spinning coaster originally themed to the legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk took riders in four-passenger "Skateboards" and spin them through over 1,300 ft (400 m) of track at 31 mph (50 km/h). Pandemonium has also been awarded by the National Six Flags Corporation as the friendliest and cleanest of them all. Closed on January 1, 2012, to make room for Superman: Ultimate Flight.
- Roar - A Great Coasters International wooden coaster. It opened on May 14, 1999 and closed on August 16, 2015. It was given the RMC Iron Horse treatment and is now The Joker.
- Marine World – 1968-Mid '70s
- Marine World Africa USA – Mid '70s–1997
- The New Marine World Theme Park – 1998
- Six Flags Marine World – 1999–2006
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – 2007 – present
There have been countless complaints from various animal rights groups about the treatment of animals at Six Flags. They claim that most of the animals, such as lions, camels, tigers and giraffes, are kept in small, inadequate enclosures. These organizations have also complained that animals sensitive to loud noises, such as fennec foxes and flamingos, are surrounded by roller coasters and loud speakers. One of the complaints involves the treatment of elephants. In Defense of Animals, an animal rights group, is against the idea of elephants performing, and find the elephant enclosure to be too small and barren.