No offense to Frontier City, but every few years, it's fun to shake things up in the thrills 'n' spills department by venturing south of the Red River " specifically, to Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
The park is a mere three-and-a-half-hour drive from the metro. Getting there is easier if one follows the directions on Six Flags' own Web site, and not the needlessly complex set generated by Mapquest or Google Maps. Trust me and my car full of impatient children on this one.
Six Flags Inc. filed for bankruptcy in June, and the weakened economy's effect on attendance was evident on my family's recent Friday visit, but this is to visitors' benefit. With lines ranging from nonexistent to a 15-minute wait, tops, we were able to ride everything we wanted in four hours. Plus, you can score discounts online.
More than 50 rides await " some just for risk-takers and some made for fraidy cats. On the brave and bold side, several can be found in the park's Gotham City area, where the Batman: The Ride roller coaster turns through several corkscrews and loops at up to 50 mph. Unlike standard coasters, riders dangle from seats, rather than sit in cars, heightening the feeling of flight.
STOMACH, MEET NECK
Not fast or frightening enough? The Mr. Freeze coaster takes riders to a dead end nearly 24 stories in the air, and then drops them backward, reaching a top speed of 70 mph. For more "stomach, meet neck" sensations, the Superman: Tower of Power lifts passengers more than 32 stories up before plummeting back to the ground at 45 mph.
Still more coasters await in other park areas, including the ever-popular Shock Wave, with its one-two punch of consecutive, upside-down turns, and the Texas Giant, considered to be the top wooden coaster in the world. It's certainly fast at 62 mph, but a word of warning to your spine: It's also quite shaky.
Littler kids wanting to experience coaster chills minus the tears should hop aboard The Runaway Mine Train " still my favorite over the decades. There's even a pint-sized version called The Mini Mine Train that's totally toddler-friendly.
Since the family that screams together stays together, moderate rides allow for all-ages fun. The Texas Chute Out allows for a spectacular view of the entire park and its surrounding area from a 200-foot perch before gently soaring to earth, and El Aserradero is the requisite log ride " so mild, we didn't even get wet.
For tired feet, the Texas Depot train can transport you from one end of the grounds to another. But those who choose to hoof it from attraction to attraction will find a park that is well-kept up and generally clean, making for a more pleasant visit. "Rod Lott