A Look Inside the West Coast’s Only Open Theme Park: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s Marine World Experience

With Disneyland’s reopening plans on hold following California Governor Gavin Newsom’s tightened safety regulations for nineteen counties, West Coast families looking for summer fun opportunities have limited options. Living in the Bay Area, I decided to check out Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Like Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, the park is a mix of attractions and animal encounters. With the Governor’s rules allowing for outdoor businesses to operate, the park officially reopens the Marine World Experience on July 4th. We attended a passholder preview today ahead of its official debut.

The Marine World Experience celebrates the park’s history, originally a non-profit marine animal experience that opened in 1968, moving to its current location in 1986 and morphing into a theme park in the late 1990’s. Visitors can experience a mix of walkthrough Animal encounters and live shows in open air amphitheaters. As the only theme park open in the state of California, it offers a rare experience for residents looking for something safe and fun to do together.

Like the theme parks that have already opened in Orlando, a reservation is required in advance. Six Flags offers an easy-to-use calendar system to select an available date and time to enter the park. Discovery Kingdom’s Marine World Experience is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and entry times start as early as 9:30 am to help stagger demand at the main entrance.

Before reaching the entrance, Guests go through a walk-through temperature screening and a hands-free security system that scans entrants for weapons without needing to open bags or empty pockets. Six Flags has an easy to remember six step safety plan that is posted outside the park and repeated over the speakers in the park between background music tracks.

Do the Six

  • Wear your mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your cough
  • Keep your space
  • Sanitize often
  • Have Fun!

Masks are available for sale outside the park including disposable masks for as cheap as $1 and washable reusable masks including licensed DC characters that match some of the theme park’s attractions. Hand sanitizer stations have been added all over the park in addition to some outdoor hand wash stations.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom typically has a capacity of 12,000, but is capping the daily attendance at 2,000 during the Marine World Experience. Walk-though animal experiences have yellow circles on the ground for parties to stand on to help maintain a six-feet distance from other groups.

Land animal experiences include giraffes, lions, cougars, wolves, alligators, and tigers.

Marine animals that Guests can happen upon include sea lions, penguins, and stingrays. The highlight of my day was feeding fish to a sea lion, a small upcharge experience of $6 but well worth it. One of the sea lions was very vocal about making sure he got our attention.

The one indoor animal experience open is a butterfly greenhouse which also includes a koi pond with a waterfall. The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland may be closed, but this offers a nice view of the “Backside of water.”

While the rides aren’t open and some areas of the park without animals are gated off, you can still see many of the attractions. It brought a smile to my face just to see something that looks a lot like Dumbo the Flying Elephant waiting for the day when kids can soar again.

Six theaters offer shows at scheduled times with one to two performances per day. Seating capacity is reduced and groups sit on a marked space with a yellow dot to keep 6-feet apart from other parties in all directions. There are also scheduled animal talks from an animal expert at some of the walk-up areas already discussed.

We experienced three shows during our visit. Each was easy to get into even with the reduced capacity and allowed us to see dolphins, sea lions, and sea otters. We also observed sanitization crews all over the park cleaning high touch surfaces. When we ate lunch, someone came right away to wipe down the table we used as we got up to leave.

With fun themed shops and quick service food options with the ability to bundle them on an affordable meal plan, visiting Six Flags Discovery Kingdom felt like a much needed temporary escape from reality while following their health and safety procedures to make sure our visit was as low risk as possible.

The Marine World Experience at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is available at a reduced price from the park’s typical admission. Entry is just $36.49 per person and season passes are accepted. The park also offers monthly season pass pricing options that make it affordable for residents within a reasonable driving distance to visit again and again this year. With the thought of traveling far scaring many vacationers off, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom just may be the answer for a lot of California residents hoping to make Summer 2020 special.

For more information and to reserve a visit, visit SixFlags.com/DiscoveryKingdom.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).