Go figure my first trip to a Six Flags would be the weird Six Flags.
See, here's the thing about Portland. We don't have any real amusement parks. Not in the city, not near the city, not within 150 miles of the city. They're not a thing in the Pacific Northwest, for the most part.
Okay. Yes. Someone's going to try and get me with a "gotcha" and point out Oaks Park. Have you been to Oaks Park? It's one of those parking lot carnivals with a more permanent location and a skating rink. The skating rink is pretty cool, and they do a Gay Skate once a month that I hear good things about. But they're an "amusement park" the same way Taco Bell is a "Mexican restaurant." I'll shamelessly admit to enjoying Taco Bell but they're not who I'm thinking of when I crave the good tacos.
The thing that makes Discovery Kingdom weird is that it's an animal park. One of only two in the entire Six Flags chain. It's a weird mix of something that vaguely resembles both a small theme park and a small zoo, not doing either particularly well enough for comfort.
I don't want to make it seem like the animals are abused. They seem fine. But the five minutes the sea lion show dedicated to making sure we all knew the animals wanted to be performing had the opposite of the intended effect on me. Anyone who has to spend that much time making the argument probably isn't making it in good faith.
At several points I found myself noticing that enclosures seemed smaller than what I'm used to seeing at larger zoos I've been to. The Oregon Zoo and Point Defiance Zoo near Tacoma, WA both stand out to me as strong examples of places that felt like they took their mission of conservancy and public education seriously. Neither of them had a show at the "wacky water works" where the microphone kept going out.
It's possible that I'm being a bit unfair, I have strong pro-animal tendencies. Again, none of the animals seemed particularly distressed or poorly cared for. It does seem like Six Flags doesn't really know what to do with an animal park and is trying to operate the entire thing at the lowest possible cost. I would estimate that it seemed like about a third of the rides, including at least two of the large attractions were offline. Some of the sea life tanks looked like they were in need of a solid cleaning.
The tigers seemed happy and well-fed. At a bare minimum they didn't eat any of their handlers while I was there. I feel like that's the gold standard. I'm pretty sure if the tigers weren't happy they wouldn't hesitate to make it known. So there's that, at least.