After leaving the awesome dunes, we had about a 3 hour drive south to our hotel in Hammond, Indiana (which is a Chicago suburb, about an hour from Six Flags Great America). I'd already been warned about this drive and I can confirm that it definitely sucks. I guess I should specify... driving in Michigan doesn't suck. Driving in Michigan is awesome. I drive a lot, and I've never seen driving like Michigan driving. It's a mostly flat state with lots of cities and large expanses of nothingness in between them so 75 MPH speed limits are extremely common and on multiple occasions I saw people doing 90 right in front of a cop where the cop couldn't even be bothered to give a sh*t. You have to be doing at least 95 to 100 MPH before they begin to care.
Since I drive so much, I generally hang around 70-75 out of habit since that's a pretty reasonable speed to drive on an Interstate and hang with the flow of traffic. On tons of occasions I caught myself going slightly below the speed limit in Michigan out of habit so eventually I just set the cruise control for 85 MPH so I wouldn't have the urge to drive at a reasonable speed. This is Michigan and Michigan doesn't have time for such bullsh*t.
Unfortunately once we merged with I-94 and then I-80 / I-90 the fun came to a screeching halt and we found ourselves in traffic hell so we didn't get to our hotel until pretty late (though there was a time change which made it seem like we did a little better than we actually did). Before booking our hotel I was warned by multiple people that a lot of the southern Chicago suburbs were less than ideal so I took extra care in booking this hotel. It was a Comfort Suites, backed away from everything with a limited access parking lot wedged behind the building for easy surveillance and despite every other hotel in the town having tons of reviews about cars being broken into, the reviews of this place were overwhelmingly positive. Unfortunately when we got in to town we needed to grab something to eat so we had to drive around the town a little bit and it was definitely as advertised. Our first thought was White Castle, but as we pulled in we saw a group of 10-15 people beating the sh*t out of eachother in the parking lot so we made a quick 180 and kept driving (quickly, possibly running a red light on purpose on the way out). Eventually we came across a semi safe looking Jimmy John's about a mile away (which I'd never tried before but ended up loving, so much so that we stopped at one in Sandusky on the way home), grabbed dinner and then got over to the hotel ASAP so we wouldn't die.
That was definitely an interesting introduction to the Chicago area, but luckily that was really our only negative experience with the city or it's surroundings. Pro tip: If you're booking a trip to Chicago (and you should because it's a great city), be really careful about where you stay because it's definitely hit or miss. Unfortunately for us, booking a hotel in the south suburbs was kind of a necessity unless we wanted to get up way too early to go to Six Flags or get in way too late from Michigan's Adventure but avoid that if you can (or stay at Comfort Suites). There are probably some other nice areas too that I didn't know about so ask a local or spend a lot of time reading reviews.
Anyway, moving on from that we awoke the next morning, grabbed some breakfast at the hotel, walked out to the car (which against all odds was still there) and hit the road for Six Flags Great America! This was a brand new park for us and we were really excited to check it out. We had about an hour drive to the park and we knew we needed to be there at rope drop but luckily thanks to the time change it felt like an 11:30 AM opening so that was a really easy thing to accomplish. We got to the park with plenty of time to spare and the security line was a breeze (much more efficient that Great Adventure's setup since they have one long line and call you to an available metal detector when it opens up so the line moves the entire time). Within a few minutes we were in the park checking out the awesome entry plaza.
We budgeted for Flash Pass but didn't really want to drop the money on the Platinum Flash Pass so our number one priority was Joker which is a Platinum only ride. It felt really weird being at a brand new park with tons of awesome looking coasters like Goliath, Raging Bull, X Flight and Whizzer and busting it to a clone of a coaster we ride all the time at Great Adventure but it was sort of a necessity so we reluctantly joined the masses, walked over to Joker and were greeted with a totally manageable 15 minute wait.
I've probably already mentioned this, but I really love these rides. They're absolutely out of control, they're perfectly smooth and comfortable (unlike X2, Green Lantern and lots of similar rides) and they pack a ton of thrills into a tiny footprint. Unfortunately, Brit is less than enthused with them because they scare the living sh*t out of her so she wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I was when she figured out that they had a Joker clone and that it would be our first stop.
As for the ride itself, it was awesome. Brit didn't hate it as much as she expected to (I think she's slowly warming up to these things, lol) and I absolutely loved it. I've never had a bad ride on a Joker clone and while I may be in the minority, I'd be totally fine with every Six Flags park eventually getting one. Joker gets a big thumbs up from me.
After Joker we decided to make our way over to it's (for now) neighbor, Vertical Velocity. I wanted to knock this one out early since it's an Intamin and it's been my experience that any time you see an Intamin launch coaster actually operating you'd be wise to ride it quickly before it inevitably f*cks itself and goes down for a prolonged mechanical issue. It's located right next to Joker, so riding it next was a no brainer.
The ride was still a walk on so we immediately hopped into an empty row and within a few minutes we were strapped in and ready to get twisted. I've got to admit, I've ridden a bunch of these but for whatever reason this one seemed to have a much more powerful first launch than any of the others. My neck actually snapped back pretty hard and I was concerned for a few minutes that I'd be feeling that one for the rest of the day (which thankfully wasn't the case) but I guess the ride promised us velocity and it delivered so I can't say I wasn't warned.
As expected, the ride was great. While it did provide the customary nut crushing that Intamin Impulse coasters are always so happy to provide, it makes up for it by providing a great ride experience. We don't want kids anyway so it's cool, I forgive you Intamin.
One thing that was a but of a bummer was that the holding brake no longer works but that seems to be typical of most of these rides at this point. It would have been cool, but it's not a huge deal. The ride is still awesome and it's in a super cool location over the water. I approve!
Wanting to keep the mojo going and knock out as many coasters as possible before the lines got long, our next stop was Little Dipper. As I said earlier, I'm not big on kids coasters but as was the case with Michigan's Adventure, this park's kids coaster collection was semi respectable and we ended up knocking them both out back to back. I won't hop on a Miller Oval or tiny Zamperla kiddie clone (unless I've been drinking apparently, hey Hersheypark... Cocoa Cruiser 4 Lyfe!!111) but both of these seemed respectable and they were both a lot of fun. Little Dipper was first since we knew it generally got long lines and after a 20 minute wait we were treated to a really fun little ride. I love the fact that Six Flags saved this coaster and embraces it's history with vintage photographs and historical information all over the queue. It's a really un-Six Flags-like thing to do but it's really cool.
Next up was Spacely's Sprocket Rockets which we had no intention of riding but after seeing it and realizing it was actually a pretty decent sized little coaster we took it for a spin. This ride is honestly really good, it sort of reminds me of Harley Quinn at Great Adventure in that it's way more enjoyable than it has any right to be. I'd happily ride the thing again even though I no longer need the credit. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that the kids area around Spacely's Sprocket Rockets is really nice and totally unlike any other Six Flags kids area. How did Six Flags ever get the rights to Hanna-Barbera? I thought Paramount parks used to have a stranglehold on that one? That little area was really nice, we were definitely impressed.
^Taken after getting off of Spacely's Sprocket Rockets. This coaster is absolutely amazing looking and while we were on a mission to knock out all of the unreliable rides and non flash pass rides early in the day we couldn't help but think about how ridiculously hyped we were to ride it. Who wouldn't be? The structure is absolutely amazing, the ride looks absolutely brilliant and overall it's just one of the most majestic looking coasters I've ever seen in my life.
Also pictured: Goliath photobombing in the background.
After basking in the sheer brilliance of the park's 2018 addition and thinking about how jealous we were of the fact that this park was going to have both the tallest wood coaster in the world AND the tallest loop coaster in the world we decided to make a quick stop at the world's nastiest restrooms over by Batman before heading over to the looming RMC awesomeness (generally this park was really, really nice but they really out six flagged themselves with that restroom... OMG, overflowing toilets galore).
Anyway after getting out of there as quickly as possible we couldn't help but notice that Batman was still a complete walk-on so we actually changed up our plans a little bit and decided to hitch a ride with the Caped Crusader real quick before heading to Goliath.
As you probably already know, I love the sh*t out of Batman (oh sh*t, we've got a hot take over here). I know people sometimes complain about these things since they're cloned so much, but that never made sense to me. Complaining that there are too many Batman clones would be like complaining that there were too many rainbows, or too many puppies, or too many liquor stores. Honestly, the more the merrier. These things ALWAYS deliver amazing rides, and I'm always thrilled when I get to ride one.
Admittedly, there was also an extra level of excitement for me since I knew this was the first Batman clone. This feeling was enhanced by the fact that a lot of the queue theming was still in place (unlike with Great Adventure's version) and the station theming was also. Normally I like these things in the front, but since the front row line was insane we decided to head to the back row instead. Generally you don't get the views back there, but you do get a little bit more intensity so I was definitely okay with that trade-off.
The ride was (of course) awesome and you could tell that it fit in with it's surroundings here a little better than it did at most other parks. The generous amount of trees on the second half of the ride and the finale over the water were awesome enhancements to an already great layout. Batman was spectacular as always, and it was really cool to finally be able to ride the original.
When we got off Batman we were definitely feeling good about things. We'd already ridden a ton of coasters without any lines and we were starting to think Flash Pass may not be necessary at all. So far we were having a great day, we loved the park, we loved the coasters, the weather was perfect and there were no lines! Riding high, we walked over to Goliath, stopping again to admire how awesome it looked and watch the train fly through that crazy stall.
After watching it for a minute or two, we finally made our way around the bend and approached the entrance. We were super hyped, totally ready to go and...
... holy sh*t. We found the crowds. When we got to the entrance, we realized Goliath was easily rocking an hour wait. We pulled queue-times and realized that Whizzer, X Flight, Superman, Raging Bull and others were too so we decided it was finally time to admit defeat and head back to the Flash Pass building. Oh well, it was a valiant effort.
When we got to the Flash Pass building, we were pleased to see that (unlike at Great Adventure) you weren't forced to stand in line to watch a mind-numbingly stupid movie about how to use the thing and were free to proceed right to the counter. One thing we weren't pleased to see was that even though the website only lists Joker as Platinum Only
, that wasn't quite accurate. Goliath was only available on Gold and Platinum and even then you're only allowed 2 reservations with Gold and 3 with Platinum. In addition, Justice League (which wasn't a priority but we'd have loved to ride if we didn't have to wait) was also Platinum only.
In the end we decided on regular Flash Pass since we figured we could stand in the Goliath line while waiting for other rides even if we did have to wait the full queue time and it had always been our experience that at Great Adventure the listed queue times on Flash Pass regular were always way shorter than the actual wait times and wait times posted on the Six Flags app. As it turned out, this proved to be the case at Great America too.
Initially we planned to reserve Goliath, but since we couldn't we figured we'd reserve something nearby instead and slowly make our way over to Goliath later. Whizzer was posting an hour wait and despite the brilliant weather, clouds and scattered showers were in the forecast so we figured we'd be safe and hit it now since I had heard it doesn't always run in rain. Despite the posted hour wait and full queue house overflowing on the midway, it popped up as a 20 minute wait so we reserved it, grabbed a snack and walked around hometown square to kill a little time before our ride (noting that this park was REALLY, REALLY nice and didn't feel like a Six Flags park at all).
Aside from Goliath, I was probably more excited to ride Whizzer than any other coaster in the park. Whizzer is totally unlike any coaster I had ever seen before, and given the manufacturer I knew it was guaranteed to be amazing. I wasn't expecting major thrills or anything, but I knew we were in for a super cool and totally unique ride experience. When it was finally time to ride, we excitedly scanned the Flash Pass, walked up the steps and were immediately dumped directly into the station. Awesome!
I guess if you want to get technical, it really didn't dump us into a "station". Whizzer doesn't really have a station, it's basically just an open platform exposed to the elements with an awesome view of the ride...
by! (my apologies, I can't help what I do)
We hopped into the back row and a few minutes later we rolled out of the station and started ascending the awesome spiral lift. We were both really cooled out by the thing before the ride had really even started, but once it dropped off the lift we quickly realized that we had seriously underestimated the thrill factor of this thing. The ride absolutely tears through the course, flying by tons of trees, supports and track in the process. It's butter smooth and the layout is completely awesome as it darts through the trees, over water and at one point comes within inches of the ground on a high speed turn. Whizzer is awesome. It's easily one of the best coasters in the park and somehow it actually managed to exceed my ridiculously high expectations. While it's not the most thrilling ride in the park, it's undoubtedly the most unique and despite it's appearance it's really no slouch in the thrills department either. If they had actually gone along with that plan to remove this thing for Superman that would have been an absolute tragedy. Whizzer is amazing and I hope it keeps on whizzin' forever (sort of like me the morning after that 20 drink day in Wildwood).
Since this wasn't our first Flash Pass rodeo, we had cleared out the reservation for Whizzer as soon as we scanned in so by the time we got off it was almost time to ride our next ride, X Flight (which was posting a 60 minute wait but the Flash Pass had it at 15, score!). X Flight was really the biggest selling point of this park for Brit who absolutely loves B&M wing coasters, especially ones with the wing over drop. For the longest time, her favorite coaster anywhere period was Gatekeeper. She's finally come around to (reluctantly) declaring Maverick as her favorite but she loves the crap out of these things and was really stoked to finally be riding X Flight (the only American wing coaster she had yet to ride).
The line for this thing was huge, stretching almost back to the entrance but we were able to get right to the bottom of the station steps where they were pulsing the line but still letting Flash Pass riders chose their side. We opted for the left (left wing best wing remember) and hopped in line for the front row.
Unfortunately for us our ride would be delayed a little bit since some raving lunatic was convinced that her restraints came up mid ride and was screaming at security and maintenance who had arrived to check things out. Security was being really nice and helpful but this lady was irate and looking for someone to yell at so it became increasingly clear that nothing they could have done would calm her down as she seemed convinced that she had just survived a near brush with death. They spent a solid 20 minutes cycling trains and (of course) the restraints never popped up but the woman wasn't satisfied and wouldn't go away (even when the security guard asked her to walk with him to guest services) because she was too busy b*tching at anyone who was willing to listen to actually let maintenance or security do their jobs.
Eventually after a ton of test runs, another security guard came up and finally convinced her to leave. Once she was out of earshot, maintenance asked the ride host (right within earshot of everyone in the front row queue) if she saw the restraint to which she replied "yeah, it was fine and I told her it was fine", both of them visibly rolled their eyes, maintenance headed down the ramp and they finally re-opened the coaster. I hate people. People who work with the public every day are saints and I have no clue how they do it.
A few minutes later our train rolled in to the unmistakable rhythmic clapping noise of a B&M wing coaster train pulling in to the station (what makes that noise by the way? I love it.). Being the stellar f*cking fiancé that I am I hopped into the inside seat so Brit could have the wing seat and after a quick check of our dangerous death restraints we were all clear and on our way up the lift.
I'm not really very good at ranking coasters, but I can confidently say that this was an awesome wing coaster and probably one of the best. It's really a great ride throughout, but the highlights have to be that awesome wing-over first drop and then the finale which consists of tons of keyholes and head choppers in rapid succession. The hangar facade is pretty much pointless, but once it rounds the curve it heads through the air traffic control tower (which is a great effect) and then immediately after flies through a really weird keyhole made entirely of supports right before flying by a third horizontal near miss support structure. It's a pretty awesome finale that managed to get 3 consecutive exclamations of "OH SH*T!" from me on the way through. There are also some great mist effects near the track that are a nice touch as well. Overall X Flight is a great coaster and one we would definitely be heading back to later on.
The one good thing about listening to that lunatic b*tch and moan was that I had cleared out the reservation again and reserved Superman which had the longest line in the park (110 minutes, why are people so obsessed with these things?) so by the time we got off of X Flight we had really cut into that number by quite a bit. We still had plenty of time left to wait though, and after being deprived for long enough there was no doubt about where we would spend the remainder of that time. It was finally time to check out the park's star attraction, the one, the only (well okay... not the "only" but the "only one that's made out of wood" and... ugh you know what I mean), Goliath!
We made our way over to Goliath and were greeted with a posted 60 minute wait time. That was fine by us since we were really waiting for 2 rides at the same time and for some reason the line did seem to go by pretty quickly. While in line we couldn't help but marvel at the thing. I know everyone says it's the weakest RMC, but it was hard to believe them when staring at that insane drop and a zero G stall that looks like it was dreamed up by Tim Burton while on acid.
For whatever reason, the wait time seemed to go by pretty quickly and in what seemed like no time at all we were up at the station. They had a grouper, but we requested the back seat and she was more than happy to accommodate our request. The next train rolled in to the station to an eruption of cheers and when the gates opened I grabbed our stuff, put it in the bin and excitedly took my seat anticipating the RMC awesomeness that was sure to follow.
Up Next: Part 2!!!