“He said he was in Paris. He said it was urgent I come.”
“To Paris?” I asked.
“No, to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey…”
This Jackson, NJ location is the is the largest Six Flags in the country. Woo hoo! Having been to several in California, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It was clean, the employees were helpful (except one) and the other visitors weren’t quite as skanky as at other Six Flags parks.
I’ll get to the good stuff in a minute. First: my biggest complaint about the park (I’m putting this at the top because it was so annoying): the locker situation by the rides. Six Flags won’t let you take “loose articles” on most rides. That includes a purse or backpack, cell phone etc. If it’s not tied around your waist, like a fanny pack, you have to pay to lock it up. So my normal-size purse, with its zipper that encloses all contents, had to be stuck in a locker anytime I got in line.
The lockers (which cost $1) are only good for 90 minutes, so if you’re in a longer line, you risk having Six Flags confiscate your stuff. If you move to a different area, you have to move to a new locker every ride or so.
I understand they may not want loose articles falling out, but do they have rules like this at Disneyworld? No. Maybe one of the roller coasters that goes upside down – I can understand it. But the log flume? It reeks of money-making.
I got into an argument with one attendant who wanted me to leave the line (when I was at the front) and go put my bag in a locker. It was our first ride and I hadn’t seen the sign. No attendant in line said anything until I was at the front. By the way, I did see women allowed on with slim bags that crossed over their chests, so maybe that’s the way to go if you don’t have to bring a lot of things with you.
Okay, now for the park.
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If you’re into roller coasters, this is a great place for you. There’s a variety, from the terrifying Kingda Ka to the kiddie coasters. Kingda Ka, by the way, goes straight up in the air (you’re on your back in the car), and then straight down, while spiraling down and you’re facing the ground.
As for the other coasters, there are two wooden ones – El Toro (apparently the longest wooden roller coaster in the world – it looked awesome but the line was too long) and Rolling Thunder. This dual-track wooden coaster is just across from El Toro – no line! It was a lot of fun – Zack’s favorite ride. And the attendants were even making funny jokes while we got set up. You can leave your drink cups and bags next to the boarding area – by the way. That looked safe enough.
The park has several other big coasters, including Bizarro, Superman, Bat Man and Nitro. These are not traditional coasters, in that you might be in a seat that hangs from the rail (or in Superman’s case – you’re positioned like you’re flying). Given the height restrictions, and my ability to get motion-sick, we skipped those rides. Plus several weren’t running, like Superman, the Great American Scream Machine, and Bizarro.
Instead we opted for the smaller coasters like Skull Mountain and the Dark Knight (aka – the other Batman coaster). These are both inside coasters – in the dark.
Skull Mountain is like a rickety, amateur version of Space Mountain. The only “effect” you see during the ride is an orange pumpkin that looks like something out of a cheap fun-house. It’s totally dorky. Plus, the entrance was confusing. You walk down a few hallways and are spit out into the loading area. Only it’s kind of dark and if it’s your first time, you don’t realize that people are standing in some kind of line depending on where they’re getting on the coaster. It just looks like a mass of people – and basically that’s what it is.
The Dark Knight had a cute video you watch when you make it from the outside line into the building. It’s a news conference about the Dark Knight. Then the line takes you through the police headquarters and you get on the coaster. It was kind of fun and the little car spins you through the roller coaster, past some of the Batman characters. Much better done than Skull Mountain.
The Runaway Mine Train was a lot of fun for the whole family. Not too long, but with some good (non-upside down) effects.
The log flume was fun, if it weren’t for the nasty attendant. We rode in the morning, when the line was only 20 minutes. By the afternoon, the line was 90 minutes. Fortunately I hadn’t yet locked my purse up for that afternoon line or I would have been out $1.
The Houdini haunted house was interesting. It looks (and in some ways copies) the Haunted Mansion from Disneyland or Disneyworld. You go into the flickering-light foyer and watch Houdini’s bust talk to you (though it’s hard to hear/understand him). Then you go into a room for him to do his magic. But first you have to put your belongings – including your purse – into the hallway. I was afraid might money might disappear, but fortunately it was there when I got out. The real magic is that Houdini makes the room swing back and forth – and possibly tip upside down. Was it real? Was it an effect? I’ll let you figure it out. I do know I was happy when it was over and I hadn’t thrown up.
After that experience, I stayed on the ground as my family and friends went on the Buccaneer swinging pirate ship ride and the Twister, which swung you upside down. Ugh.
The Parachute Training Center was kind of fun – not too scary. Loading and unloading too forever. You can leave your bags on the ground there when you board.
When it’s really hot, head to Congo Rapids, where you’ll squeeze 12 people into a large tire structure and go down some “rapids.” If you’re not wet toward the end, the blast of water will surely drench you and your shoes. Make sure you keep your cell phone (in that fanny pack!) in a Ziploc bag or it many not work after. You’ll make fast friends of everyone in your group – whether you know them or not.
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If it’s not too hot, check out the play structure at the Golden Kingdom. Balin’s Jungleland has some water features in one of the play structures, plus lots to climb on in the dry area. There’s also a tiger show nearby.
Throughout the park are water sprayers for when you get hot. We used those a lot.
There are several rides you have to pay to go on, like Eruption. This is like one of those “drop tower” rides where they raise you up, then you drop down quickly. Here, you’re on elastic cords so you bounce around. It looked like fun and cost $5/person.
The Dare Devil Dive is also with elastic – you get strapped into what looks like a straight-jacket, and raised very high in the air with up to two other people. Then they let you sail – and you go flying back and forth. It looked terrifying, but I was tempted to go. It costs $20 per person for the first ride, then you can go again later that day for $10. Our friends’ kids went – they’re 7. They loved it.
If you’re interested in the Wild Safari next door, you can book a $10 bus ride through there while you’re at Great Adventure. Look for signs, or head over to Balin’s Bazaar in the Golden Kingdom for tickets. Read about the safari here.
TODDLERS – WIGGLES
For the little ones, there’s the Wiggles play land, with 8 or so rides plus shows. We walked by Dorothy the Dinosaur performing, and heard the Big Red Car song playing. It made us really happy that our kids are no longer toddlers.
We didn’t stay for the fireworks show, but heard it was FABULOUS. It was timed to music, and done over the lake there. Next time, we stay. We also missed a dolphin show which was supposed to be good.
You can’t bring your own food in, but they didn’t seem to mind us bringing in water bottles, which we refilled throughout the day at the fountains. You can buy a refillable plastic soda cup for $13 and get free refills that day (or $1 refills on future trips). Not a bad deal if you drink a lot of soda – but then you have to put it in the $1 locker before each ride. Just sayin’.
They have a variety of restaurants, including the Carnegie Deli, Papa John’s Pizza, Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerry’s, Cold Stone Creamery ($7 ice cream cones – beware), and some other fare. They even offer some “healthy” fare – which we didn’t seek out, but the chicken and salad wrap near the log flume was just fine.
Get there early. Pay for the cheaper ($15) parking rather than the VIP ($25) parking. The bigger rides have long lines later in the day. Hit the ones you want early. We did the log flume around 11 a.m. and the line was 20 minutes, though that turned to 90 minutes by the afternoon. And if you don’t need a normal size purse, stick with a fanny pack – or two.
Get discount coupons for Six Flags Great Adventure at Wendy’s. Coupons offer $20 off everyday tickets and $5 off Hurricane Harbor tickets. Each coupon allows four admission discounts through September 5, 2011. You can purchase the tickets at the gate, or at Six Flags online. Use code 301082 for Great Adventure, and 401002 for Hurricane Harbor.
Look for Coke cans that have deals on them. We got free Six Flags Great Adventure tickets for the kids through a reading program at school. They had to read 6 hours and they got free admission to the park. Dunkin Donuts has a buy one full-priced ticket, get one ticket free coupon (Monday-Friday only). Look for it inside the store. The back of the coupon offers $15 off Saturdays and Sundays full priced tickets.
If you’re planning to go more than once, buy a three-park season pass (it also includes their water park, Hurricane Harbor). And if you can manage to get a group of 15 together, you can get a group discount of $26.99 for a day pass.
If you combine parks in one day, know that you only have to pay once for parking. Save your parking ticket so you can show it at the other parking lots.
Their website is confusing. If you end up on the ticket page and you hit “click here for more information” you’ll just be brought back to the same page or to another one that doesn’t offer more helpful information. For more ticket information, you have to click on “buy tickets now” for the actual full price menu. You’re welcome for that bit of helpful information.
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