VALENCIA, Calif. — The endless traffic in southern California is enough to make you scream, but now there's a new thrill ride here that may make you yell just for pleasure.

"Scream!," a 65-mph, floorless coaster opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain April 12. It brings the total number of roller coasters in the park to 16. Six Flags is just off I-5, approximately 30 miles north of Los Angeles.

The best thrill rides on the planet aren't in Orange County, Calif. — they're at Six Flags. Disneyland this isn't. This is a pure thrill-ride park where you find the world's highest concentration of roller coasters.

Scream! combines traditional coaster technology with a unique, floorless-train design. Riders are strapped into "flying chairs" racing at freeway speeds with their feet dangling in the air — no track above their head, no coach around their seats — screaming through a series of extreme maneuvers: up and over seven 360-degree inversions, flying through numerous twists and turns that span 4,000 feet of track for a thrilling three-minute rush.

In that first drop (150 feet), Scream! inverts riders about 45 degrees, adding to the rush of the floorless effect. The new coaster is smooth, with no jerking, and allows four riders to sit together on each row. At a capacity of 1,600 riders per hour, the lines move fast.

Fifty-four inches or taller is the magic number at Magic Mountain.

Passengers for Scream! and four of its other major coasters must be at least that tall to ride them.

It's wise to go to the south side of the park first thing in the morning because the lines for "X" and Dejavu are usually Magic Mountain's longest. Also, the "X" ride is accessed from an overhead bridge — which helps first-time parkgoers find the attraction.

If you want more than roller coasters, Six Flags has a world-class rapids ride ("Roaring Rapids"), plus three flume-type rides — Log Jammer, Sierra Twist and Arrowhead Splashdown. It also has Tidal Wave, a drop over a 50-foot waterfall that generates a huge wave for spectators.

There's also the separate Hurricane Harbor water park at Magic Mountain. It is open daily from May 10 through Sept. 1 and weekends in September.

There's even "Free-fall," an unrestricted 10-story drop at 55 mph in two seconds, and several spinning-wheel rides that pin passengers to walls. You can also stroll through "Gotham City" and see the Batmobile.

Magic Mountain isn't a good choice for families with all young children. However, it has increased the number of kids' rides in recent years to 16, and so a mixed family of teens/grade-school kids will get their admission's worth of fun.

There are also 23 restaurants and food stands in the park, as well as more than 30 stores and other vendors.

There is also a live Batman and Robin Show, plus a Looney Tunes show for kids.

After a crowded day in the Los Angeles basin, a trip to Magic Mountain is a refreshing change of pace with its open spaces and generally shorter lines.

The park seems perfect for teenagers, who will want to run from one intensive ride to the next, with no ill effects. However, can adults handle all the thrills too? Maybe, but Dramamine and some blindfolds might be required for some.

When I first visited Magic Mountain in 1995, Viper, the largest looping coaster in the world, and Batman the Ride, a floorless coaster, were its icons, along with eight other lesser coasters. Now they've added seven more coaster rides, about one a year.

This spring when I was doing my first ride, Goliath, I realized I was easily the oldest person in line. Teenagers everywhere and no other 40-something adults to be seen. Yet it was fun. I liked "Scream!" and "The Riddler's Revenge" the best. The first-second acceleration on "Superman the Ride" was stunning — more liftoff than a dragster. However, the ride only went about two-thirds of the way up the tower. (You'll want to plug your ears as you walk underneath this ride. Superman's cars roar more than a jet engine!)

"When it comes to thrills, Six Flags hands-down is the industry leader in big-thrill-ride experiences — especially in the highly competitive Southern California theme park market," said Del Holland, Magic Mountain vice president and general manager, in a press release.

So many coasters, so little time. You'll be lucky to ride them all in a single day.

Remember "Wally World" of Chevy Chase's "Vacation" movie fame? Magic Mountain is "WW," and the first ride you spot from the parking lot is "Colossus," a huge, wooden, double-track coaster that at 62 mph is the sixth-fastest "woodie" in the nation.

Unlike Disneyland, you can find discount tickets for as little as $25 here. My family of six parked and did the rides at Magic Mountain for $150. Compare that to a day of Disneyland at $280 for my family.

However, food seems slightly more expensive here than at Disneyland. Try $4.50 for a small serving of french fries.

All Magic Mountain patrons must pass through a metal detector. Because the park is near the mountains, jackets — even in summer — are a wise idea. Weekends and holidays are the park's busiest times.

• As a matter of record, Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, just opened its 16th roller coaster this spring as well — Top Thrill Dragster — to tie Magic Mountain as the world roller coaster leader. (Please see story on T5.)


Lynn Arave and family visited Magic Mountain on April 15, 2003. E-mail: [email protected]