Register or Login to Hide This Ad for Free!


Getting aHEAD of myself
Advisory Panel
Feb 12, 2011
Last month I had the chance to go to San Antonio and check out two of the area’s theme parks, SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas. I thought I’d share my thoughts on the parks here since neither of these parks get discussed much here, and I thought the parks made for an interesting comparison to some parks we’re more familiar with – namely BGW and SWO, and the East Coast SF parks.

If you’re just here for the coaster reviews, scroll down towards the second half of this post!

For this review, I’ll start with SeaWorld San Antonio. I’ve visited SWO a handful of times so I was very curious to see how its Texan sister park compared. The first impression this park makes is great. You walk up to a large entrance plaza with three huge, glass arches marking the security checkpoint. They were playing beautiful, grand instrumental music. Really set a majestic tone to start the day – exactly what a SeaWorld park should be doing.


However, once inside the park, I was struck by how different it felt from the three SEAS parks I’ve visited before: BGW, SWO, and BGT. There’s really no grand entrance area. You enter into what’s essentially a large swath of asphalt with a few small generic buildings here and there, with their Sesame Street area immediately to the right. The landscaping was decent and the music was pretty, but it was a huge contrast to what I’m accustomed to at the other SEAS parks, which each envelop you in a sort of village when you enter. No big deal, just different.

It quickly became apparent: SeaWorld San Antonio is not a theme park. There are no themed areas to speak of, and there’s no attempt to create any distinct setting through architecture, decor, naming, or music. Contrast that with SWO, which might not have over-the-top theming all over the park, but there’s still a distinct nautical village feel it has overall. Rather, SWSA is a combination amusement park and zoo/marine park through and through. I don’t mean that as a criticism – it’s just a completely different type of park than the other SEAS parks I’ve visited. In some ways, it was actually cool; it felt like a glimpse at the original concept for the SeaWorld parks, when they really were just marine parks with some amusement rides – before SWO (not sure what SWSD is like) evolved into more of an actual theme park.

Of any park I’ve visited, SWSA reminded me the most of Dorney Park. It’s clean and nicely landscaped, but mostly covered in asphalt and lacking in charm. It was also surprisingly small – I’d estimate it’s about a third of the size of BGW. Outside of the entrance area, the music played around the park was 2000s pop (Black Eyed Peas, Owl City, Smash Mouth, etc.). (If SWSA wanted to quickly inject some charm into the park or create some distinct areas within the park, changing the music should be at the top of their to-do list.) The back half of the park does circle a large lake, which was very pretty.

The animal attractions were also well-done, although there weren’t nearly as many as at SWO. Their animal shows were all completely educational, without any music or storytelling – which I appreciated and thought was more valuable than SWO’s theatrical animal productions (although I haven’t been to SWO since 2019, so their shows may have changed since then). The Shamu show was so well done that we saw it twice. A few animal exhibits did feel notably smaller or outdated compared to their SWO counterparts though, such as the penguin exhibit which was squeezed into a single, tiny (and extremely stinky) dark room with very foggy glass.




Now, the part you’ve been waiting for – the rides:

Steel Eel
- A surprise hit. I’m a sucker for these Morgan/Arrow hyper coasters (even though Steel Eel is technically not a hyper coaster), having ridden CP’s Magnum XL-200 and Dorney’s Steel Force. Steel Eel is hands down the best of the three in my opinion. It has fantastic, sustained floater on every hill, awesome pops of air on the bunny hills, great forces, and an interesting layout that stays high up in the air for most of its run. Wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did, but it was just plain fun. (This one does have an odd station though, with no roof over the train, sort of like Emperor’s much-maligned station at SWSD. I can’t imagine how awful it must feel to sit in the station in the Texas summers.)

Wave Breaker - I was especially excited to try this one to get a preview of how DarKoaster will feel. Honestly, the trains didn’t affect the ride experience nearly as much as I thought they would. I thought you’d ride them sort of like in a motocoaster, but the seats are pretty much normal coaster seats. The only real difference is that the restraints make you lean forward slightly more than on a normal coaster, and require you to put a little more of your weight into your hands/arms. It’s mostly just a novelty though, unlike motocoasters which genuinely change the way the ride feels. The ride itself was fine; definitely a family coaster through and through, so it accomplishes its goal well. I did love how it spends almost the entire layout zipping right over the surface of the water. Sadly, the small “dark ride” section of the beginning was barely working at all; despite there being dozens of screens, not a single one was working – only the audio worked. Classic SEAS moment.

Great White - My first time riding one of these B&M Batman invert clones. Not much to say about this one. The forces are decent and the inversions were unusually tight, but at the end of the day it’s a solidly low-mid tier B&M invert. Nothing wrong with that.


Texas Stingray - My new #1 wooden coaster. It’s a crime that this coaster hasn’t gotten more attention from enthusiasts. It is the perfect modern wooden coaster in every way. Its layout is unique, twisting and ducking under itself in more unconventional ways than previous GCI efforts. Its airtime straddles that fine line between floater and ejector, and every airtime moment hits perfectly. It’s filled with great positive G and lateral forces. It’s glass-smooth, even more so than InvadR. It’s an incredibly long ride that just keeps going. And most importantly, it never loses its pace – despite the long layout, this thing absolutely flies from the moment it leaves the lift to the moment it hits the brake run. More famous GCIs like Mystic Timbers don’t even compete in the same league as this coaster. An absolute gem for SWSA, and I could’ve ridden it all day.

Tidal Surge - A S&S Screamin’ Swing, but I just wanted to highlight how massive this thing is. You can really feel how much bigger it is than Finnegan’s Flyer, and it really dials up the intensity. The best part about this ride is the placement they chose though. It’s as close to the shoreline of SWSA’s big lake as it could possibly, and that fact combined with how long the ride’s arms are means that you soar ridiculously far over the water. The water fills your entire field of vision when facing down at it, and you feel like you’re swooping straight into the lake if you’re facing the other direction. An incredibly cool experience. Makes me wish BGW had placed Finnegan’s somewhere over the Rhine instead of that little pond by Killarney (unrelated to my perpetual bitterness for the FF ruining that tranquil corner of the park).

Note about operations: they were kind of terrible. Most rides were operating with skeleton crews, and the employees there just felt uninterested in their jobs – playing on their phones, walking away, not paying attention, etc. There was an aura somewhere between indifference and rudeness among most of the employees, and that was a trend we noticed throughout the day, excluding the always-amazing animal handlers. (For comparison, and not to spoil my SFFT review, but nearly every one of SFFT’s employees were cheerful, attentive, hard-working, and made us feel like they wanted us there).

One really cool thing about SWSA is that your admission to SWSA also includes admission to Discovery Point, SWSA’s sort of mini version of Orlando’s Discovery Cove. You have to exit SWSA to enter Discovery Point, which (along with Aquatica) is connected to SWSA via a central plaza within the security gate, sort of like a mini version of Universal’s CityWalk, which was cool. Discovery Point itself was great, with good looks at their dolphin, shark, and sea lion exhibits. It was also, in contrast to SWSA, beautifully themed – brimming with rock work, island-style architecture, thematic music, and a clearly carefully thought-out design. A great addition for the day.

To conclude, SWSA feels nothing like the other SEAS parks I’ve visited at all. If not for the familiar animal shows and some familiar SEAS signatures (looking at you, 5% surcharge), I wouldn’t have guessed this was a SEAS park at all. It definitely felt more like Six Flags America or Dorney than BGW, BGT, or SWO. But I can’t stress enough that I didn’t mean this in a bad way. Even though the park was different than I expected, it was still somehow one of the most fun days I’ve had in a theme park in a long time. The rides were great, the animal exhibits were fantastic, and the park’s small size and emphasis on exhibits made it just an unpretentious, low-stress experience.

If you’re looking for a great theme park experience, I don’t recommend SWSA (spoiler: go to SFFT). But if you’re an enthusiast looking for a standout coaster or two (Texas Stingray, and to a lesser extent Steel Eel), or a family looking for a solid day at the park and seeing some animals, SWSA is perfect. I had a great time.

Stay tuned for my Six Flags Fiesta Texas review coming soon!
Last edited:
Consider Donating to Hide This Ad