The Six Flags Great America VIP Tour experience - a review
By Jan CornellI recently had the opportunity to visit Six Flags Great America on a VIP Pass. (For those who are unaware of this option, a link to the Six Flags website with all the details is at the end of this article.)
Published: August 22, 2008 at 10:19 AM
Briefly, the VIP Pass is an all-inclusive admission ticket with attractive additional benefits, including:
The only thing I can think of that the VIP Pass doesn’t include is merchandise in the shops.
The VIP pass is expensive — for Six Flags Great America it costs $299 per person, with a four person minimum. The price does vary per park. For example, at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom (in Louisville) the VIP Pass costs $199.
I took three of my kids, aged 16, 14 and 10. The website said the tour would begin at 11 AM. Unfortunately for us, the park’s operating hours changed on the day of our tour, because school was back in session in Gurnee. Closing time moved up to 7 PM, from 10 PM. I asked if we could begin at 10 AM and they allowed us to do so with no problem. The shortened hours had another implication as well. There were no shows, as most of the performers had to go back to school.
We arrived at Six Flags and parked, as instructed, in the Front Parking Lot. The fee for parking there was $25. I paid this up front, and was later reimbursed for the expense. We made our way to the main gate and were directed to Guest Relations, to await our tour guide. I must say that all the personnel were very helpful and friendly throughout the day, by the way.
In a few minutes, our 19-year-old tour guide Bill showed up. He was a very personable and clean-cut young man who had just graduated high school. This was his fourth season working at the park. Apparently only people with a lot of experience are allowed to host the VIP tours. He told me he had worked pretty much every job in the park during his tenure there. At first we were apprehensive as we realized that he was to accompany our little group for the entire day. Those fears were completely unfounded, however. He was totally unobtrusive and proved to be indispensable in many ways. One particularly valuable asset he offered was an encyclopedic knowledge of the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. Our paths often took us through shops, back passages and so on, and there were very few wasted steps during our day. He offered recommendations on restaurants. And he functioned almost like a butler, getting drinks, getting snacks, and so on. We later remarked that we felt guilty because we’re so used to doing things for ourselves, and here we were being waited on hand and foot most solicitously!
He also recommended an overall strategy for approaching the park. We brought our bathing suits, intending to hit the water park (Hurricane Harbor) at some point throughout the day. We thought we should go there in the afternoon, after everyone was hot and tired. But Bill pointed out that the VIP Pass doesn’t confer any real advantages in the water park. The front-of-the-line privilege is implemented by taking one in via the attraction’s exit. But in the water park, the exit is usually a water slide! So he recommended doing Hurricane Harbor in the morning instead, when the crowd was thinnest. Well, we ended up spending only 15 minutes in the water at the end of the day, as it turned out. We were itching to start riding the coasters!
Bill took our bathing suits and stored them for us. No need to rent a locker for VIPs! He then took us around the park in a circular path. We had wanted to ride Superman first, but it had not yet opened. Some of the rides don’t open until 11 AM. So he started with the rides that had already opened. Our first coaster was the Ragin’ Cajun. (For details and reviews of any individual ride at the park, see Theme Park Insider's Six Flags Great America page.)
At any rate, we proceeded around the park from there. We would get to a ride and Bill would lead us up the exit ramp. Over his shoulder, he had a satchel with “VIP Tour” emblazoned on it, so there were never any questions from the ride attendants. He would take us straight to the front of the loading area. As passengers disembarked, he let us in the back gate and we took our seats in the front car, before the gates were opened for the next group of riders. We heard maybe one or two negative comments about us from other riders the whole day. At one ride, when someone complained to Kate (my 16-year-old), Bill told them she was a German pop star. They quieted right down!
After perhaps two hours, we had ridden most of the “Maximum Thrill” rides. Yet we were completely relaxed and felt quite fresh, because we had no waits whatsoever. My personal favorites: The American Eagle and Raging Bull.
Next, the kids wanted to focus on the arcades and carnival games. We went to an arcade and Bill produced four cards, each loaded with $10, to swipe at the machines. He reloaded them whenever we asked. The arcade machines offered some nice prizes, particularly electronics — think iPods, cameras, and so on. We didn’t manage to win any of those.
The carnival games were a different story, however. They are normally quite expensive to play, in my opinion. For example, there was a game in which one threw a ball in an effort to tumble a tower of three blocks on the first try. It cost $3 a ball, or two for $5. But with unlimited games, one can simply play again, and again, and again, until victory (or exhaustion!) At that particular booth I’m certain that between the four of us we made over a hundred throws. But we brought home two electric guitars! They were Chinese knockoffs of the Fender Stratocaster and would normally go for $200 to $300 at retail — quite a nice prize, actually. John, my 14-year-old, is presently taking guitar lessons, and he was ecstatic. He won an acoustic guitar as well, at another booth. We also won two enormous stuffed Tweety Birds, a giant stuffed gecko, and a slew of smaller animals, before it dawned on us that the four of us had to get all this stuff back to Michigan (a seven-hour drive) in a Mini Cooper! Anyhow, Bill got on his radio and summoned one of his minions to cart away our winnings, for retrieval at the end of the day. We never had to carry anything for ourselves throughout the entire day, incidentally.
Next we broke for lunch. Bill recommended the ribs at the Mooseburger Lodge, one of the park’s sit-down restaurants. His suggestion was spot on. The ribs were amazingly good, particularly for a theme park. They were tender, moist, and delicious.
After lunch we continued to hit the coasters, focusing mainly on those of the Maximum Thrill category. We did take time to enjoy the Dare Devil Dive. This is an attraction that normally entails an extra fee but is included in the VIP Pass. It involves strapping on a harness, being hoisted up 125 feet in the air and then pulling a ripcord. This releases the harness and you swing as if on an enormous swing set. It was a lot of fun.
Then the younger two kids wanted to hit the water park. By now it was 4:30 PM. We found to our dismay that the water park closed at 5 PM. So we split up. Bill directed myself, John and Claire to the water park and he took Kate with him to go on more rides. He actually rode with her on some of them so she wouldn’t have to ride solo — all part of the job, I suppose!
We then met back up and ended the day with repeats of favorite rides and a few more games. We were tired, stuffed, and in my case, a bit nauseated — my 50-year-old stomach just doesn’t tolerate rides the way it used to! But we were all very happy.
For more information on the VIP Tour at Six Flags Great America visit http://www.sixflags.com/greatAmerica
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