Day 12 & 13 - Six Flags Great Adventure
Well oh well, the vacation is drawing to a close, and what a way to end the show. Six Flags Great Adventure has always been one of the big boys, and this park didn't disappoint. It's almost up there with Cedar Point and SFMM but just falls short with it's line up. Again, my opinions might not be the general consensus, but I thought the park was run really well. In comparison to SF America, amazingly well.
These two days were the same two days when your drought began so needless to say we couldn't stay until the evening, calling it a day at 4pm on our first day and much earlier on the Thursday as we had a flight to catch. We were actually going to drop by Philly on the last day but doing the Rocky steps vs another few rides on El Toro & Nitro, no comparison. Thank you incredibly affordable Six Flags season pass. Paying the extortionate parking fee (and it really is crazy, look it up if you don't know) makes a visit to SFGAdv a little less sweet, but we enjoyed nevertheless.
First off, NO QUEUES! OK, there were a couple of exceptions. Superman had the one of the slowest queues ever to exist, so get it done first or second if you're scared about Kingda breaking down. Green Lantern also had en epic queue and having ridden Riddlers at Magical Desert Mountain Land until the cows come home, we skipped this although it did look colorful. But rides that look pretty don't always give a pretty ride right? Imagine this: El Toro walk on, Nitro walk on, Kingda almost walk on, the stifling heat might have kept many away but I couldn't believe our luck yet again.
The infamous visual check was ridiculous, it's a great idea but I'm not convinced when the staff are doing that hand above eyes gesture while rocking side to side violently and without purpose that it does much good for safety. Obviously it's there following one or several incidents but it seems a bit much. At least they are making a great effort and I can't criticize that.
On the whole, I was really surprised with the efficiency of operations at the park, again Superman being the devastating exception. Very clean, friendly staff, decent food options, a bit of a random layout (Bizzaro placement for example) but generally not too big. A pleasant park with some truly stand out rides but a lot of mediocre filler too. It felt a bit like it's outgrown it's original purpose and could do with (cue bad use of made-up language) an "epic-izing" of it's entrance plaza and park areas to re-iterate that it's one of the big players in the States.
We didn't do the safari, I'm not sure if Six Flags is capable of running a Safari to the standards we'd hope for, it's better than a zoo but still, not sure, so we missed it out. I've read mixed reviews about it, it's a shame we missed it but there were other priorities, we'll leave the animal welfare to Disney & Busch for now.
Unfortunately (sod's law!) I forgot amid all the exhaustion to recharge the camera, so we couldn't take footage on the second visit that I'd hoped to of the various areas of the park, not that there were many sights to see, so most of the pictures are of the coasters.
Dark Knight Coaster 5/10 - I'm sure this one was once a little more entertaining, and it sure was speedy (brakes anyone?), but what happened to the theme elements during the ride? I made out some at the start and then it was just a ride in complete darkness? It's very confusing to have an elaborately themed start to then just ride a wild mouse in the dark. No pics sorry folks.
Skull Mountain 4/10 - A giant helix in a warehouse with a fun first drop, can't elaborate much more than that. Do not wait more than 10 minutes for this.
Bizzaro 8/10 - This was actually my favorite floorless of the trip, although the audio is a complete waste of time. Why invest all that money when all it does is bombard you with non-stop random movie quotes that you can barely hear? Even if they played that theme song you hear on the brake run throughout the actual ride itself it would be much, much better. I liked the scattering of theming throughout the course and flames are always a plus. What a strange location though, I realize (notice how I'm using a "Z" instead of the British "S" as I know most of you are across the pond and love you all, but lets not get into the whole "tomatoes" pronunciation debate...) there are serious logistical reasons behind the choice but it should be themed to the Wild West or Snickers or something. A nice forceful ride with a zero-g roll!
Superman Ultimate Flight 8/10 - Actually pretty darn good, expected to be greatly disappointed but nice pacing and gave the appropriate flying feel. After Air any one of these will never be a disappointment, but boy oh boy just grit your teeth when in line and if you're hanging in the brake run for less than 4 minutes consider it your lucky day.
Runaway Mine Train 5/10 - Not much to say about this one either, not that great but good enough for it's age, some jarring "designed with a ruler" transitions to brace for though.
Kingda Ka 7/10 - So this is the coaster the WORLD raves about, well, sorry Six Flags but Cedar Point is way ahead of you with their superior version, what's a few feet between friends anyway? This feels like driving a Chevy Aveo through pothole ridden NYC at 128mph in a magnitude 9 earthquake, I was seriously concerned that the train would shatter into a thousand pieces at any moment. Zero airtime over the top (and we did this ride 3 times), a "dragging" launch which lacks the initial punch. OTSRs lower the score further. It may be the World's tallest but after riding this we experienced less gratification than winning the spelling bee at a rural school in Oklahoma consisting of 2 pupils, 1 teacher and a donkey.
Nitro 9/10 - Let's end the report with the 2 coasters we all know this park holds up high and says "hey, we got these suckas so there Cedar Fair!". First off, Nitro. Now this may or not be a consensual view, but this is only my second B&M hyper, again one of the "old school", but I thought that Apollo's Chariot slightly had the edge. Nitro has the trim before the turn around which kills some speed, the mid course brakes are a little harsher too but the ride still doesn't disappoint! I wish more coasters had the pre-dip before the main drop as I've discovered this bit of extra speed makes for a great moment in the back seats. Throughout our two days at this fantastic park, we must have ridden Nitro about 8 times when we could have been queuing for lesser appreciated rides. This thing had us by the cojones and kept us running round for more. The crew on Nitro were enthusiastic and pushing those trains out like there was no tomorrow, quite a feat in the stifling heat! A really really great ride that everyone loved.
El Toro 9/10 - Okay El Toro fan boys & girls, you've got it right, mostly. I don't seem to get the pre-ride nerves much these days but that first drop is beyond comprehension, the speed the train goes up the lift hill is also quite disconcerting so needless to say that first ride was a memorable one. Whilst this is an outstanding wooden coaster, it's a strange one, isn't it? It's not silky smooth as I was led to believe, it still feels a bit like wood, but those hills are steel-like. For some bizarre reason, after that first drop and couple of hills, this coaster became a little less mesmerizing and more just very very good.
I've read the hype for years now, so for some reason when riding it for real, I couldn't help but feel it lacked a breathtaking second half. Sure, it does it's best with what it has, and THAT hill is great fun although a bit smaller than I had envisaged. Maybe I expected the ride to end with some repetitive ejector hills or to be a little taller (yes taller!). It's a strong 9/10, and considering it had next to no line all day we should have ridden this more and more to get a much better feel for it. Was it end of the trip burnout or just finally experiencing what you've waited so long to do, always inevitably creating a slight anti-climax? Don't get me wrong folks, this is an amazing coaster, I just wish it was a 10 for me. Personally, I blame Skyrush for setting the bar so high for consistent ejector and a lift hill that doesn't slow down at the top.
We loved the heck out of this park, so much that we returned for a second day, albeit just for 3 hours and having a season pass made the decision much easier to make. This is a strong property in the Six Flags chain, not quite SFMM (how many times have I said this during the trip reports? sorry about that!) but very good for it's size, clean and efficient. A fitting end to our vacation and a much needed boost to restore my faith in the Six Flags machine after our day at "you know where".
After the park we headed to Target for some last bits and bobs to take back home and drove to Newark airport, where it all began some 13 days ago when our wallets were considerable heavier.
No I'm not Joey Greco of Cheaters fame and I'm not going to make some hypnotic philosophical statement about the state of your infidelity, this is my conclusion about our wonderful vacation. I only mention Cheaters because for some reason beyond my comprehension it's taken on a life of it's own over here in gloomy Britain. There are so many things wrong with this World that I'm tempted to make a tree house in the forest and chew on birch leaves for the rest of my life, who's with me?
Back on topic, I don't have to keep repeating myself but I will, we had an AMAZING time, much better than I expected, certainly much smoother than I expected given the ambitious nature of the tour, and it was a TOUR not a vacation that's for sure. The parks I hoped to like didn't disappoint, the park that I expected us to be let down by didn't disappoint either, it let us down exactly how I thought it would. The strange thing on reflection is that I suppose after my years of reading about these places, there was a certain lack of surprise. But somehow I managed to put all this behind me as soon as we walked through the gates and enjoyed each park for what it was and what it stood for. I still have a warm spot for Kennywood, it just captured a different era and didn't seem like it was trying too hard to be modern and "down with the kidz".
Knoebels was authentically cute as expected, Cedar Point was the mass sprawl of thrill machines in a spectacular location as expected, and Busch Gardens was the beautiful park with the perfect blend of coaster that it has always promised to be.
To be honest, the surprise was Hershey Park. Skyrush was a considerable part of this, but we just really enjoyed our brief time there and wish we had factored in more time for it. It's not in your face, doesn't boast to have the greatest coasters or be the best themed, but this park has some kick-butt rides that they aren't scared to trim and the park has so many scenic corners and different areas that are nice to explore. Much bigger than I thought it would be, two thumbs up from us, or should that be four?
The problem now for us is that everything we seem to be able to ride within this country or nearby seems like a bit of a let down. Maybe time will heal, but doing a crazy trip like this sets the bar so high that it's difficult to match that level of greatness closer to home. I think Germany may have to be a priority for us soon, I know that no doubt we'll end up in Florida soon enough too, but I'm worried that even there we'll be rolling our eyes and sighing. Be warned, do this same tour and what you thought you enjoyed will be changed forever!
I hope some of you have enjoyed reading the trip reports as much I've enjoyed putting them together as a first time trip report writer. Until the next one, happy riding! (coasters that is, or in any other context with the proviso that it's safe and legal)