When my husband suggested we take advantage of free passes to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, I thought it might be a bit wasted on our kids who were then barely three and not-yet six years old. Also? I had a broken foot and was wearing a walking boot, which is not the best footwear for an amusement park. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised by our great experience there — although I freely admit that it's easier to enjoy something that might cost one's family $120 when it comes for free.
Part zoo, part theme park, Discovery Kingdom offers a fair amount of attractions that suited my young kids. Plenty of rides were just their speed, as were some other physical amusements like a splash pad for hot days and an enclosed multi-level climbing structure with balls that move around. (This terrified my daughter, but my son enjoyed it.)
The characters, which also — surprise — terrified my daughter, are all from the Warner Brothers family, which my kids weren't really familiar with. If you are planning to go, you might want to watch a few Looney Tunes on You Tube in order to reap the benefit of seeing the larger than life versions at Six Flags.
Penguins entertained my kids for quite a while from their tanks, and at one point, the staff member allowed my son to help her scrub the tank. Every 20 or 30 minutes, an aquatic show begins with dolphins or killer whales. If you have to pick just one, I vote for the dolphins. The shows are a nice opportunity to take a break with a snack.
About those snacks: the food at Six Flags gets a really poor rating from my family. You cannot bring food into the park, so one option is to suck it up with the crap they serve, and the other is to eat a lot in the car on the way there and enjoy pretzels and ice cream once in the park. I read a tip online that mentioned great corn on the cob, but I didn't find it. In the parking lot, I observed that some in-the-know families were prepared with a tailgate-style lunch. I imagine they hit the park when it opened, returned to the parking lot for lunch, and then re-entered the park afterward.
Land animals abound as well. We liked all the big cats, impressive mama tigers and the playful babies. We spied an elephant attraction that looked as if you could take a ride, but didn't pursue it.
What you'll spend: Tickets range from $25-$35 per person; parking is $15; and food and drink will probably run $15 for a meal and snack per person. Total: $170 for a family of four.
Until June, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is open on weekends, Friday-Sunday. However, the second half of April, the park is open weekdays and weekends. Summer months feature a fuller schedule of weekday access. Park hours are 10.30 am to 7 pm. Tickets from the Six Flags website are cheaper than tickets at the gate, and sometimes even cheaper are Six Flags tickets through GoldStar, which sells them for half-price (of the highest price).