Six Flags Great Adventure- Holiday in the Park
Growing up around Boston, I am no stranger to the cold. For years, Halloween marked the end of the coaster season in the Northeast. Is riding coasters in the cold really that ludicrous? People go skiing without getting hypothermia; the key is to dress warmly.
Fortunately the Northeastern parks looked themselves in the mirror and realized something. If they opened, the locals would come. My family thought I was insane for visiting Six Flags in sub-freezing temperatures. In fact, they placed a bet whether or not I’d get sick.
I won the bet and had a blast doing it.
Admittedly I was a bit apprehensive to pay Six Flags New England a visit with temperatures below freezing. Last year, the weather gave them all sorts of trouble. Meanwhile, Six Flags Great Adventure spit in the face of all enthusiasts who uttered the words “minimum operating temperatures” and ran their impressive B&M collection into the teens. So I drove the extra distance to New Jersey.
I had no doubt they’d do their usual winter weather policy- visual scan and pray. My only question was whether or not they’d have the attendance numbers to remain open. I gambled since it was a Saturday and fortunately I wasn’t the only one in the mood to celebrate Christmas with some Six Flags.
Not only were they open all day, but every single ride opened for at least part of the day (at least those scheduled to open- see you next year El Toro and Kingda Ka) except for SkyScreamer, although that was no big loss. I’ll ride coasters in the cold, but SkyScreamer is pushing it.
I contemplated heading to Nitro first. I figured it was my civic duty to help the park warm up their hyper coaster. But I was selfish. Instead I made my way towards Cyborg. The ride hadn’t proven itself fully reliable in warm weather, so I could only imagine what would happen on a frigid day.
Since Cyborg was still testing, I walked onto Justice League next door. Hitting Justice League early was a major win since it quickly built up a line. And moments after walking inside, it was apparent why. It was nice and toasty inside. Six Flags must get one heck of a heating bill for this attraction.
My score was infinitely better than every other score in the car. In fact, I got the highest score of the day. I also was the only one in the vehicle and probably the first rider of the day
Being the only one in the car helped me improve my aim during the chaotic train sequence. 8 out of 10
Cyborg ready for riders, so I walked right onto an end seat. I tempered my expectations going into Cyborg. While this gyroscope looked absolutely insane, reviews were less than stellar. Many noted the ride spent more time rocking than flipping.
So imagine my shock when I got at least a dozen flips. The flipping felt slower and more controlled than a top spin, but this resulted in some incredible hangtime. This hangtime combined with the mesmerizing footchoppers of the frame made for one heck of a ride.
Was everyone else wrong? Sort of. As the first riders of the day, I was joined by only three or four other people. I think I rode Cyborg in prime conditions and got a unicorn ride. I am guessing most people who visit Great Adventure don’t rope drop Cyborg. For that reason, they probably ride Cyborg with a full load.
My rider later in the day with a full load had 3-4 flips and after we missed one, we were doomed to uneventfully rock back and forth. So I’d say if you want a good ride on Cyborg, go there first. But even a duller ride on Cyborg is an upgrade over your standard top spin. 8 out of 10
As I made my way through Batman’s queue, I was astounded by how quickly they were dispatching trains. It seemed to fast for one train operations, but I was skeptical they’d actually run two. Well go figure, they had two trains running on an outdoor coaster for HITP.
I’ve definitely gotten more forceful rides on Batman, but the blast of cold wind more than compensated. Growing up, I thought the only inversions I’d ever experience in chilly weather was wiping out in spectacular fashion while tubing. Not anymore. 8 out of 10
Nitro was my next stop and I grabbed two consecutive rides in the back. Further, I ended up riding with a few fellow coaster enthusiasts. One of them recognized me and asked if I was Canobie Coaster. It must have been the wiener dog hat that gave me away.
There are definitely B&M hypers I prefer over Nitro. I’ve also gotten summer rides on Nitro with better airtime, but I think HITP is the best time to ride Nitro. There’s just something absurd about speeding past naked trees and a frozen pond in excess of 80 mph.
In the summer, the back row is undoubtedly my favorite spot on Nitro. Not in the cold. The masochist in me likes the front row. B&M hypers aren’t the most intense coasters in the world. But if you ride in the front of one with temperatures in the 20s, I could make a case. There are helices that pull stronger Gs, but Nitro’s induced tears that froze before the ride ended. 8.5 out of 10
For B&M fans, HITP is an orgy. For Intamin fans, it’s disappointing until they look into Skull Mountain’s big, black, beady eyes. Skull Mountain may be disguised as a family coaster, but if you look deep into the skull’s eyes and ride in the back row, you will find true enlightenment.
True enlightenment is a crazy pop of ejector air. It’s decidedly out of place on a ride that otherwise does nothing. But to amp up the thrills, Skull Mountain offers heavy metal music and a psychedelic skull. I don’t know how Skull Mountain came to be, but it’s so uniquely good and bad at the same time. 6 out of 10
I’m not going to lie, but after Nitro, the coaster I was most anticipating was Green Lantern. In past visits, I despised that coaster. It unleashed a fury of pain and suffering to my head and groin. But something magical happened a few weeks ago at Six Flags Magic Mountain; I discovered how to ride B&M stand-ups.
I used the exact same trick as before. I ensured there was a sizable gap between my groin and the bicycle seat of death. This forced my shoulders to be in direct contact with the OSTRs, which left my ears safely above the restraint. I could see how this would be uncomfortable for some, but it works for me.
Green Lantern isn’t as good as Riddler’s Revenge. It’s not as forceful and shakier, but it still pulls some strong Gs. I was in disbelief when we returned to the station. I asked if I could reride (PS to all those unknowing, Great Adventure has an incredible reride policy). I never thought I’d see the day 7 out of 10
I went to ride Superman, but was turned away. So instead I rode whatever mumbo jumbo they call their parachute tower. I purposefully rode on the side of Superman to see what was up with the Man of Steel. I saw no sign of a train on the lift. There was no sign of a train on the brake run either. It wasn’t on the lift either.
Had Superman valleyed? It wasn’t inconceivable given the conditions. I scanned the track, but there was still no train. It wasn’t even on the track. I guess I wasn’t riding Superman this day. (Spoiler alert, I did but I wasn’t without a little luck).
I felt compelled to ride the Tea Cups, which were rethemed as the Gingerbread Twist. SFNE has the exact same model and those things spin as easily as a fidget spinner. Great Adventure’s were just as easy to spin, but they appeared to have a cap on their top speed. I kept hitting a wall where the hub just wouldn’t go any faster. It was still dizzying, but I wanted more. 6 out of 10
As many times as I’ve been to Great Adventure, I’ve never ridden Houdini. This seemed like the perfect day to correct that. The building eerily reminds me of the Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion and looks a heck of a lot better than the opera house on SFNE’s version.
The preshow room felt like a furnace. The theming looked identical to SFNE’s, but something was off. The attendant informed us the preshow wasn’t working. Rather than let us continue to the attraction in the next room, they closed down Houdini. I believe it reopened later in the day, but I never returned.
I checked the clock and it was minutes away from the 4:30 showing of Wonder, the park’s winter show. SFNE has a similar show called Frost and there’s no way I could arrive that last minute. SFNE’s is in a tiny little theater. Meanwhile Great Adventure’s is in a massive theater fit for a Broadway show.
So how was the show? Exactly what you’d expect from Six Flags. It wasn’t bad, but there was no flow to the show. It’s a bunch of 2-3 minute circus acts broken up by random musical numbers. Admittedly some were quite cool like the trampoline wall, but others were forgettable like the juggling bit.
Can I also take a moment to discuss the musical selections in the park as a whole. It’s clear the park has a sizable pool of Christmas songs to pick from. This is a contrast to Fright Fest when it seems like you hear just Monster Mash, Thriller, and Ghostbusters on repeat.
However, it seemed like Florin Street Band’s “My Favorite Time of Year” came on every other song. I don’t recall hearing any other song twice, but this dang song kept repeating itself. To be honest, it isn’t a bad song. It was just being played to death like It’s a Small World.
The sun had set and the temperatures dropped into the mid-20s. So you know what that means? Rides pooped themselves and it was time for the maintenance crew to shine. I tip my winter hat to them. They earned every penny of their paycheck.
Nitro was being cranky, so I decided to queue up for the Skyway. With the lights on full display, I figured the queue would only worsen. I ended up waiting maybe 15-20 minutes and the roundtrip journey was an absolute delight.
Six Flags Great Adventure does an awesome job with their lights. They left no open area of the park untouched. It was a beautiful contrast to the screams coming from Joker, Green Lantern, and Superman. And Superman? Wait, after not running all afternoon they finally got Superman open? I love Great Adventure. 9 out of 10
I probably should have gone straight for Superman, but I had no faith in Joker. I have had terrible luck with Great Adventure’s Joker over the years. I have seen it closed during the spring, summer, and winter. For that reason, I figured it was only a matter of time before it gave up for the night. But much to my amazement, somehow, someway Joker (to my knowledge) didn’t close once during my visit.
Joker’s few riders were complaining about the no loose articles, but I reluctantly complied and stored all my belongings in the nearby fluffy, fluffy bunnies filled with medicine and goo. One observation though, what happens on a busy day? There did not seem to be nearly enough available for a coaster forcing all riders to use one.
It was a given that Joker wouldn’t be as wild as Arashi, but this one can’t match the free spins at Fiesta Texas or SFNE. I got one good flip at the top and some well-timed rocks on the raven turns, but that was it. Still it’s an unpredictable coaster that fits in well with the park’s lineup. 7 out of 10
I journeyed over to Superman, noticing along the way that Green Lantern was suffering from frostbite. I queued up for Superman’s front row. There was a group of four ahead of me, but one of the riders chickened out which allowed me to board earlier. This ended up being extremely fortunate for me.
Superman was its normal self. The pretzel loop has you thinking you are in for one intense ride, but the rest of the coaster doesn’t do much of anything. The flying position is fun, but it’s painful to know how awesome the other flyers are such as Tatsu, Manta, and Flying Dinosaur. 7 out of 10
One of the biggest benefits of riding Superman during HITP is one-train operations. That sounds like an odd comment, but it means that you spend no extra time in the flying position. Well that’s assuming the ride works as intended. Superman liked flying so much that he wouldn’t come down.
We were stuck hanging for 15 minutes. Apparently row 8’s release pin wasn’t cooperating. The crew manually adjusted it and we returned to terra firma. That probably should have been a sign to run away, but I got back in line. After a successful test train, they loaded another train. When it returned to the station, row 8’s release pin again wouldn’t cooperate.
I hadn’t seen Green Lantern dispatch a train, so I figured it was still down. The empty station seemed to confirm my thoughts. But Green Lantern wasn’t down. No, it just didn’t have enough riders to run. I waited it out and 10 minutes later, I was enjoying a front row ride on a coaster I used to despise more than the movie it’s named after. And I hate that movie.
I saw Superman successfully cycle a train, so I made my way through that line (which seems gratuitously long I may add). But when I reached the station, row 8 again had an issue. At that point, I realized I wasn’t riding Superman again in 2018.
After grabbing a turkey bowl, I queued up for Nitro. When I reached the station, the operators were huddled in a corner. Were they hugging for warmth? It seemed entirely reasonable on such a chilly night. No, Nitro too was being temperamental.
The operators encouraged everyone to enjoy other attractions. It sure was tempting, especially since Batman was cycling trains like a champ. But I decided to wait it out. I wanted at least one night ride on Nitro and I figured it was entirely possible it would reopen for just 10-15 minutes before dying.
The delay ended up taking 30-40 minutes. It ended up being a quick fix by maintenance, but it took a very long time for them to arrive because every other ride seemed to be breaking down as well. Eventually, I was being taken 230 feet above the clouds and plunged into a dark abyss.
I ended up having a lovely 8-9 ride marathon on Nitro. My face was freezing, but it was exhilarating. There was no other place I wanted to end my night. But thanks to idiots, we can’t have nice things. Some moron had decided to force open an air gate, which shut the ride down.
Since I had gotten my Nitro fix, I scurried over to Batman for the last train of the night. The coaster was now down to one train, so it must have gone down at some point during the day. But it was having no troubles now. Batman soared through the night.
If you told me I’d ever visit Six Flags Great Adventure a few years ago on a day when the world’s tallest coaster and arguably the world’s best coaster were both closed, I’d call you cuckoo. But that’s just how good of an event Holiday in the Park is. Great Adventure has some serious balls running their B&Ms in the cold and I applaud them for it.
And to be perfectly honest, if El Toro and Kingda Ka weren’t located in the back of the park, I could see them being stubborn enough to try and open them.