Isn't funny how experience changes perspective?
In September of 2014 I visited what many considered to be the worst park in the Six Flags chain. Curious to know what all the hate was about my brother-in-law and I took the three hour drive down to Upper Marlboro, Maryland on a random fall Sunday between Labor Day and Fright Fest. Thanks to the mostly negative reviews the park gets around here we went in with extremely low expectations and we were pleasantly surprised at a number of the new-to-us rides, and enjoyed a mostly empty park all day long, re-riding to our hearts content. While it paled in comparison to my local SFGAdv, I couldn't help come away from the experience with the opinion of "its not that bad".
A long time buddy of mine was bitten by the coaster bug this past summer after visiting Cedar Point, Dorney, Great Adventure, and most recently Hersheypark. With a recently purchased Six Flags 2017 season pass, he now was itching to head down to Maryland to see what was on offer. When he asked me to join him this past Saturday I hesitated at first because of it being a Saturday during Fright Fest, but also that since I visited SFA in 2014, I have have the pleasure of having first visits to a number of truly great parks such as Cedar Point, Kennywood, Hersheypark, Six Flags Over Georgia, Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
After visiting a good number of mostly really nice parks in 2016 I didn't want to muck up the end of my season @ SFA, but to be honest riding coasters anywhere is better than sitting at home, and as a SF passholder, it wouldn't cost me a dime to get in, not to mention the weather was forecast to be a balmy, sunny high of 70, so after some wearing down I agreed to join him. We left Philly @ 9am to make it to the park for the noon opening. The ride down felt fast and was uneventful. We didn't hit a lick of traffic. Instead of taking 95 straight down we took the longer and toll-free way through Delaware and over the awesomely terrifying Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Upon arrival we hit a small line of cars entering the parking lot and got a spot fairly close to the entrance. I find it funny how their lot is a total red herring with its canopy of trees, since you'll find very little of those actually inside the park. We had no issues with our passes either at toll booths or the main gate.
We did have a short wait as we walked up to the entrance right @ noon, but after 10 minutes we were in, and seeing Superman cresting its lift with riders, we headed that way.
Main Street, while fairly generic on its own, was festively decorated with an abundance of faux cobwebs and their very own Blood Fountain. Do all Six Flags parks do this? Just curious. Obviously I know Great Adventure does.
Again with the fake out on the tree tip. The "Chesapeake" area of the park is well covered by a canopy of trees and features a bunch of flats like a Waveswinger, Carousel, Teacups, and a Looney Tunes kiddie area off of it that I still have never stepped foot in. No I haven't gotten that kiddie credit back there. This area also leads to the newer "Mardi Gras" area that features their drop tower, classic (and awesome) woodie Wild One, their new super loop, Larson flyers, and a spinning mouse called Ragin Cajun.
We peeked over there but remained steadfast on our mission to start the day off with some Intamin hyper action, into Gothan City we headed, bypassing the parks godawful B&M standup, and stopping at the excellent Jokers Jinx to watch a few trains launch loudly into that insane spaghetti bowl of track.
First ride of the day: Superman: Ride of Steel. Basically the only ride I was *really* excited to ride today, and my main reason for justifying a visit to this park. The station was empty and we waited two trains for the front row, my buddy insisting on waiting even though I rode the front and back both in 2014 and absolutely preferred the back.
Our first ride was pretty great. As I said I've ridden in the front and back before and this first lap was as expected. While you lose the yank over the drop if you are in the front, I'm also a big fan of the first turn - so close to the ground and a great sense of speed. I have the same issues with this ride as everyone else does: what was Intamin thinking with the giant helices and straight sections? Shoulda woulda coulda? I do think the final three bunnyhops are outstanding, and the two large hills provide some really nice floater, the 2nd more than the 1st.
Of course since it was so dead I asked if we could walk around and ride in the back. However, my buddy was a little thrown after this ride and already mentioned taking a break! LOL! I goaded him onto walking around to Jokers Jinx and giving it a shot and he was OK with that.
I'm a pretty big fan of Jokers Jinx, probably more than I should be. As someone who appreciates the "sound" of coasters, got mad love for the obnoxiously loud launches of these things. I also appreciate that the rides ops use the launch to their advantage with fake countdowns and both in 2014 and today the crew seemed to like working this ride. Also, you gotta love an inverting coaster with lapbars!
Again, we had a one train wait as the station was empty except for a handful of people waiting for the front row. I insisted we try the back as all of my laps during my 2014 visit were in the back and were all exceptional. As usual, the operator came with the funny fake-out launch and off we went. We couldn't help but notice how disgustingly dirty these trains are. The backs of the headrests, the seats, and the absolutely foul looking restraints made me want to jump in the shower and scrub myself for days. But otherwise a great ride! LOL!
Of course even though Gotham so far was a ghost town, the crew was stacking trains in spectacular fashion so I had a few minutes to kill sitting out in the sun on the brake run so I whipped out my phone and took some shots of our surroundings.
While back in Gotham we noticed zero signs of life over at Batwing, and while I was not exactly looking forward to riding it (rode it once in 2014 and hated it) my buddy wanted to try it so we planned to keep an eye on it. I also know that it doesn't always open with the park so I had anticipated it opening later in the afternoon.
We headed out of Gotham and took the new path under Wild One that now connects Gotham to Mardi Gras, saving a good 5 minutes of walking time. The path looks great and I have to admit so does the parks new Larson Super Loop, Bourbon Street Fireball. But with the way Jokers Jinx looked I wouldn't expect them to keep it that way...
We noticed Voodoo Drop had absolutely no one in line and since I always love a good drop tower (my buddy hates them) I pulled him into the queue and we were boarded and ascending in just a minute. Even with how short this thing is (140 feet) I still think its a good drop tower. Nice view up top of the area surrounding the park, and a quick forceful drop. I think we were the only people on the ride. Good times!
After our little drop we decided we would head further into Mardi Gras and hit up the new(ish) Hurricanes bar the park opened. This was nice and new when we visited in 2014, and has already started to look a bit rundown. No matter, there were only a handful of people getting drinks this early and our bartender was one of the best employees we ran into all day.
It was also here we noticed the bee and wasp problem this park has. We had already noticed them over at Superman and Jokers Jinx though here they were obviously drawn to the sweet, sweet booze on premise. It was almost unbearable to the point I wasn't sure if I wanted to hang around but the bartender joked with us they were so crazy "because they know they are going to die soon". LOL! I ordered the bars signature drink, appropriately titled "Hurricane", some sort of daiquiri concoction. After serving us our beverages she informed us the park does not have "beer jail", meaning we would take our drinks around the park. Excellent!
From here we headed across the park back into Chesapeake as my buddy wanted to hit up Apocalypse (I know, I know...) and I wanted to give ROAR a shot. I absolutely hated Apocalypse in 2014 and thought ROAR was decent, so I persuaded him to hit that up first before he took the last stand.
On a roll now, we hit ROAR to a completely empty station and were able to hop right in the front row. If I'm not mistaken this was retracked recently and while I couldn't tell the difference between the old track and new track overall the ride wasn't bad.
Nothing notable, no crazy airtime moments, I had a much wilder ride in the back of the train two years ago. But while it was anything to write home about, it wasn't a terrible ride either. I really, really hope this is on the list for an RMC conversion at some point. It doesn't *need* it, but the parks lineup could certainly use it.
My buddy really, really wanted to hurt himself so we headed towards Apocalypse, checking out the parks considerably half-assed Fright Fest decorations. I had absolutely no time for the worst stand-up coaster I have ever ridden so I planned to relax on a bench while he boarded the pain train.
He had literally been talking about riding this from the time we got into the park - apparently theming a ride to look like complete sh*t really draws people to it.
Whatever works. To be fair, he had never ridden a stand-up coaster so even though I warned him they stink his morbid curiosity got the best of him.
Getting off Apocalypse, surprisingly he said he actually really liked it. Different strokes I guess... Since I sat out Crapocalypse I compromised by agreeing to do Mind Eraser, mostly out of the desire to see how terrible it would ride compared to my godawful lap on Morey's Great Nor'easter this summer. Also because it has the advantage in letting you sit the hell down while you ride.
We took off into Coyote Creek (aka Ghost Town for this event?) where we checked out more Fright Fest dex. Lucky me as we got back to the ride a crew member at the entrance stopped us to point at the train sitting on the brake run, informing us the ride was closed. My buddy was hopeful it would run again and she assured us it would, but obviously would not give us a concrete time so we turned around and headed out of the area. YAY!
On our way out we both realized how hungry we had gotten and noticed the Gold Rush Chicken Co. at the front of the section and stopped in. He has a dining pass which they accepted and since we werent starving agreed to split an order of chicken fingers and fries. There weren't very many people here and our order was out in a flash. I wish I had taken a picture of it but we agreed the food was actually really good. Then again, I tend to think of chicken fingers and fries as Six Flags culinary specialty.
We had packed a small cooler with some beers so we took a couple minutes to pop out to the car after our lunch and have a breather and a brew. On the way out I stopped in the Looney Tunes Emporium near the front gate and spotted a clearance rack with a bunch of magnets (yall know I cant resist). I managed to pick up two pretty cool ones for only $3.50. The weather outside was absolutely gorgeous and we almost forgot we were at a park and had more stuff we wanted to ride! We noticed a steady stream of cars flowing into the lot and headed back in to get a few last rides before we had to head back to Philly.
Heading back in we took a right and headed back into Mardi Gras so we could finally hit up Wild One. Surprisingly this had two switchbacks filled but we went for the second to last row on a wheel seat and got on in less than 15 minutes.
I rate this very high for a wooden coaster based on the handful of rides I got in 2014 and it did not let down today. Plenty of generous airtime and the helix of death at the end is just... wild! This thing amazes me for being 99 years old! I would think with how well it rides the park does take good care of it and I hope they continue to do so. Maybe some paint though? :/
From here we headed back into Gotham using the new shortcut back that runs around Fireball and under Wild One. Of course I had no problem running right to Superman but we stopped at Jokers Jinx as we noticed it was still completely deserted.
Since all of my rides up until now were in the back seat, this time we went for the front. Still a basically empty station so we only had a two train wait. On this lap we couldn't help but notice how the front of the train was more or less rusting away, with two giant rusty holes on either side of the nose of the train. What the hell Six Flags. And can yall clean the seats/restraints while you are at it?
We both really enjoyed our front seat lap on this. It makes me a little butthurt I was not able to ride Flight of Fear @ KD earlier this month. The corkscrew at the end is extremely forceful and one of my favorite parts of the ride.
Back through Whistlestop Park we headed to get back to Superman for another lap. I should mention we still hadn't seen Batwing running at all, but my buddy wanted to ride it so we had been keeping an eye on it. I would have been perfectly fine with it staying closed. Hate the restraints, hate the ultra-slow loading, don't need to it ever again.
Superman now had a line out of the station and down the steps but we still got on in less than 10 minutes. This time I insisted we went for the back row and what a difference! Airtime galore compared to our front seat ride earlier.
Upon exiting after our phenomenal lap on Ride Of Steel, we couldnt help but notice Batwing was finally running... with people on it!
Our plan was to only spend a couple hours here @ SFA, and head back to Philly to be home by evening, and by now it was after 4pm. Notorious for slow loading, I knew if we wanted to hit Batwing it was now or never.
Unfortunately once we got back to the entrance we found a good hundred people already lined up with one train in operation. I am not really sure where any of these people came from, but we got in line with them.
We didn't move at all in line and they were dispatching every 5 minutes so we watched one or two trains go around the track and did the math - we wouldn't be on for at least a half hour. We hung around for a few minutes taking some pretty pictures but we didn't have that kind of time and it would have been more well spent getting more laps on Superman so we ditched Batwing and walked back around to Superman to the same wait down the station steps.
Another 10 minute wait and we jumped on 4th from the back. We managed to not get stapled and had an even better ride than earlier in the day with boatloads of glorious Intamin airtime.
I know I'm preaching to the choir, but this is hands down the best ride here, no contest. On this last lap I had my hands up (obviously) and on the first turn my middle and pointer fingers hit a tree branch! Ouch! Felt like it ripped my fingertips right off, but no notable damage, amazingly.
Snack time on the dining plan meant we wanted to pick up some sort of junk food on the way out. Of course that meant stopping at three different food places to find what we wanted. There is a small food court right as you enter Gotham that has a funnel cake spot so all day we had been talking about how good it smelled. On the way out of Gotham we tried and the line was 15 people deep and not moving at all. We tried another spot in Chesapeake near the Johnny Rockets and they were closed. We headed up to Main Street and found a spot there with a reasonable wait and were able to satiate our lust for sweet grease.
And with that, we were done. We exited to a still steady stream of cars entering the lot and guests queuing at the front gate. We managed to get a good amount of rides in within just under five hours, going at our own pace and relaxing a bit halfway through. I was happy to be able to avoid riding Apocalypse, Mind Eraser and Ragin Cajun, and now that I think about it, save for Voodoo Drop, I managed to only ride coasters with lapbars (score!). And I don't think I mentioned it but everything we rode had at two trains running even though it was pretty quiet until later in the afternoon, so kudos for that.
I can't totally
hate this park but after doing Kings Dominion, Hershey and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in the same month it also was very easy to spot the faded and cracked paint everywhere we looked, the rusting/dirty trains and realize how truly crappy overall this place is. Whether its the park doesn't care or corporate doesn't give them the money for general upkeep I don't know, but its absolutely lacking. The majority of employees and ride ops just seem totally indifferent about their jobs (save for our awesome bartender). I usually thank ride ops when exiting a ride and couldn't help but notice how many of them seemed to not know how to respond to that or just didn't acknowledge me at all.
I know they probably can't do all that much about their bee/wasp problem but almost everywhere we went in the park - especially the food places, were overrun by them. And finally, the trees. OMG please plant some goddamn trees SFA. Please for the love of god. I cannot even begin to imagine visiting this park in the hot summer months.
Unless an RMC ROAR happens, or they blow me away in a couple years with some insane buck wild addition, I really have no reason to visit this park ever again. Going to any park always makes me appreciate what we have at my local Great Adventure, but SFA takes that appreciation to a whole other level.
Superman: Ride of Steel 3x
Jokers Jinx 2x
Wild One 1x
Voodoo Drop 1x
Thanks for reading everyone!