Pros: great coasters, good season pass program
Cons: security issues, rides often not open, mediocre food, FastLane creates two classes of visitors
Since my family decided to invest in Six Flags Season Passes this summer - which can be used at almost all of their major parks - Ive decided to start a series titled Summer of Six Flags. As it stands right now, we have plans to hit nine of their parks this year!
Ive been going to Six Flags Great Adventure for more than twenty years now, since I was my daughters age. Quite a bit has changed since then, and only part of it the rides. For a long time from the mid-80's until the mid-90's, I didnt go at all. The park had gotten a bad reputation due to lack of security and enforcement of the rules. That changed around 1995-1996 and for a few years visiting the park was excellent and we invested each year for three consecutive years in season passes. Slowly we began to notice a decline once again, and only visited at all the last few years because of a special deal we got through the Girl Scouts. This year, knowing we would be driving to Texas and crossing paths with quite a few of the parks, we decided it would be worth it to purchase season passes again, even if we had to put up with Six Flags Great Adventure as our home park.
Six Flags Great Adventure is located in central New Jersey at exit 16 off of Interstate 195. This can be reached by either exit 7A on the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway exit 98. New Jersey Transit offers bus service to the park from both the Jersey Shore and the New York City area.
Daily admission is not cheap, which is what makes the season pass plans so attractive. Usually there are specials in the area either on Coke cans or through one of the fast food restaurants, so if you live in the metropolitan NY, New Jersey, or Philadelphia area you can probably find our about this through television commercials.
Currently, theme park only tickets will cost $45.99 for adults. Jr. Admission for those under 54 inches and senior citizens admission costs $29.99. A bounce-back ticket is available for just $12 additional will allow a return ticket for another day.
However, that puts the cost for two days at $67.99. Six Flags Great Adventure season passes are just $69.99 each for an unlimited admission all season, plus admission to most other Six Flags park. The only exclusions are the waterparks and Frontier City in Oklahoma City. Season Passes do include unlimited admission to the Six Flags Safari Park right next to Six Flags Great Adventure. We also received a coupon booklet with each season pass good for discounts on food, plus discounts and free admission for friends.
Parking is additional to these costs. There is a $10 fee for parking, $15 should you want the closer parking. We opted for a Parking season pass for $25, but that is only good for our home park.
Six Flags Great Adventure also offers an option called Fast Lane which allows people to pay money for the privilege of cutting the line. The cost ranges from $30 for the first person, to $70 for 7 people, making it more cost-effective if you can get a few people to go in on it with you. This allows you to carry around an electronic device which will hold your place in the line and allow you to enjoy other rides and attractions and return at the appointed time.
Disney World has a similar system, only they dont charge for it. I really dont like the idea of creating two classes of people in the park based on whether or not you choose to pay more than the already outrageous admission prices. Theres also no guarantee if the ride you make an appointment for breaks down, and you can have spent all that money for nothing.
Six Flags Great Adventure is well-known for its coasters. There are 13 coasters at this park, including the one kiddie-coaster. Thats good, if you can actually hit a day when they are all open. In the past three years, I havent had that happen once.
In fact, having the majority of the rides open at any given time does seem to be a problem for Six Flags Great Adventure. We attended on opening day this year, and the majority of the rides were completely closed for the whole day. Superman, the newest coaster and most popular ride currently in the park didnt even open until about 7 PM, as we were leaving the park. We had stopped at the entrance several times all day long trying to get on it and were always told in an hour or two it would be opening. Medusa, Runaway Train, and Batman didnt open until well after lunch. Viper and Batman and Robin didnt open at all. In fact, I cant remember the last time I saw both sides of Batman and Robin open.
I could maybe understand staffing issues at the beginning of the season, if they didnt somehow manage to staff all of the shops which try and sell souvenirs, temporary and henna tattoos, hair wraps, food, etc. It seems they were more than happy to staff anything that involved taking more money from people already in the park, but to actually have the rides open and working presented a problem.
Back to the rides, Superman creates the illusion of flying as riders are strapped in laying down, face down with the track above them. It tops out at 60 m.p.h. and drops just 115 feet.
Just you ask? Well, that is in comparison to my favorite coaster at the park, Nitro. Nitro is a traditional out-and-back coaster, only its been put on steroids. The first drop comes in at 210 feet and the top speed is 80 m.p.h. Theres only a lap restraint holding you in, giving a great feeling of an open-air ride. The ride is also fairly long at about 4 minutes, with lots of ups-and-downs to give plenty of air-time. There also used to be signs on the way up, letting riders know when they were taller than Niagara Falls, the Eiffel Tower, the Sphinx, etc. This was down when we were there last, but Im hoping its just cause it was so early in the season.
My other favorite in the park is Medusa. This was one of the first really open air coasters as it has no floor. The seats essentially sit on the track and it feels as if I am flying through the loops and twists, at a top speed of 61 m.p.h. Ive waited a few times for the front row - its definitely worth it on this coaster.
Batman is a suspended coaster. It used to be black, but got a fresh coat of yellow paint this season. The speed is 50 m.p.h. as it dangles riders beneath the track through its own series of loops and twists. If youve never been on a suspended coaster before - give it a try! Even people I know who generally dont like roller coasters like going on a suspended coaster. Next to it is the dual coaster Batman and Robin. Powered by linear induction motors, this ride shoots you out of the station to a speed of 70 m.p.h. in less than four seconds. The ride twists and turns and flips you over until you shoot out of it, seemingly straight up to the sky, only to repeat the entire trip - backwards! I havent been to Six Flags Great Adventure in any time recently where both sides of this coaster have been open.
Another coaster I havent been on in a few years is Viper. This coaster only has a top speed of 48 m.p.h. but incorporates a series of heartline rolls which leaves me completely disoriented, as well as usually knocking my head around and giving me a headache. Theres a warning about wearing earrings going in, and dont try to speak them past the ride operators who do check if you have them in before you ride - trust me, its not worth it!
Great American Scream Machine is a tremendous coaster that can be viewed from the parking lot, and seem quite intimidating as well. It tops out at 68 m.p.h. and includes a first drop of 155 feet, three loops plus a corkscrew. Its an excellent coaster and a pretty long ride as well.
All of these coasters have a 54-inch height restriction.
Fear not, parents of young ones, there are two areas in Six Flags Great Adventure dedicated just to the wee ones. Looney Tunes Seaport and Bugs Bunny Land feature rides for those not brave enough to face the coasters just yet. At 9, my middle daughter and her Girl Scout friends are doing a mixture, hitting coasters like Skull Mountain which is an indoor non-looping coaster which only goes 33 m.p.h., but the effect of being in complete darkness makes it seem much more scary, and at the same time enjoying the simpleness of the kiddie areas. There are plenty of rides for every age to enjoy - if they are all open!
In the summer there are some terrific water rides in the park, such as the Congo Rapids raft ride and Saw Mill Log Flume. Theres also an area called Koala Canyon which is a nice cooling off place for smaller children. Thankfully the under 54-inch rule is pretty strictly enforced here, making this a nice respite from the rest of the park.
There is a stuntman show held at the lake during the day, and in the evening there is usually a fireworks display as well. My kids enjoy the dolphin show, but I think they liked it better when it was a diving show. Still, the shows are decent enough that its a nice way to take a break from walking around the park all day.
There are plenty of food options, ranging from hamburgers and hot dogs to friend chicken and tacos. The food is typical of a theme park - mediocre quality and expensive. We usually try to only eat our lunch at the park and head out to a Cracker Barrel down I195 for dinner. There are McDonalds and KFC outside the park as well, although they usually get crowded in the evenings, especially if theres an early closing time.
We have refillable drink containers we purchase at the beginning of the season and just bring with us for discounted refills whenever we go throughout the year. This works out great as the official policy is that no food or drink is allowed in the park. Weve brought snacks in with us and security has never said anything, but I dont want to push my luck either.
Speaking of security, upon entering the park you will be put through a metal detector and have your bags searched. For this reason, I usually try to keep what we carry to a minimum. One time when we went they confiscated my husbands nail clipper off of his keychain, so make sure you dont have anything like this on your person or you will lose it!
Im not all that impressed with the security inside the park, however. It has gone from years ago when people were afraid of getting thrown out for jumping the line to being a joke again. I really feel its a matter of time before theres a major incident as line jumping goes on regularly as well as other infractions. We once saw a few young teenager beat up one of the costumed characters and take off - they were never caught. This can be quite upsetting to younger kids who are around and witness infractions like this. Security needs to be stricter and start throwing people out again and not rely on the metal detectors to prevent any major incidents from happening!
Because of the security issues and the fact that most of the time when I have visited Ive seen way too many rides closed, I cant recommend this park to regular visitors. The world-class coasters make it worth visiting for the experience of riding them, but for a regular park to visit, my family prefers Dorney Park, HersheyPark, or even Knoebels. They are a bit more of a ride from the metropolitan NYC area, but worth it in my opinion.
Certain information (statistics) in this review was taken from the 2004 Park Map and Guide as well as the Six Flags website: http://www.sixflags.com/parks/greatadventure/index.asp
Other Six Flags reviews:
Six Flags Over Georgia - Atlanta, GA
The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom - Lake George NY
Six Flags New England - Springfield/Agawam, MA
Six Flags Wyandot Lake
Six Flags St. Louis
© 2004 Patti Aliventi