Six Flags America - When It's Only 20 Minutes from the House

Six Flags America: Jeffery Beal shines a little much-needed attention on the D.C.-area Six Flags park with this trip report.

From Jeffery Beal
Posted June 13, 2004 at 10:41 PM
When I awoke this Sunday morning, June 13, 2004, (read it as Walter Cronkite would) I had no intentions on visiting Six Flags America. My wife who is out of town at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina had talked me out of going to Hersheypark. She wanted me to wait until she got back into town.

Well I had finished my morning run and it pretty much was an impromptu decision to go to Six Flags America. Hey, the park is only twenty minutes away and with the gray skies and chance of rain I knew the crowds would probably stay away. My original plan was to play golf, but unlike the park, I knew the crowds would show up there and I really did not need the aggravation. I know what you might be saying, going to a theme park, especially a Six Flags theme park was really rolling the dice if I did not want any aggravation in my life today. But, I was itching to ride a few roller coasters and decided to roll the dice. Plus what else was I going to do, go to the mall? Lay on the couch and watch TV? No, I was going to do something unproductive with my life, so Six Flags America it was.

Now I know most people who visit this site have seen the emphasis placed on the Orlando/ Tampa and Southern California parks. The other parks that get some attention are Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Cedar Point. But not much is written about Six Flags America. I wonder why, I asked? Well I would remedy that and give the readers a little insight on this park.

The first thing that would help in your visit is keep your expectations low. This is not Universal's Islands of Adventure, Disney World or Busch Gardens (either park)where the park is heavily themed or kept in immaculate condition. If you do that and go on a day where it appears it might rain, you will probably enjoy your visit here like I did.

Now I have been to this park a couple of times. It has some very good rides and at the top of the list is Superman Ride of Steel, located toward the back of the park in the Gotham City section. I arrived and wouldn't you know it only had a five minute wait even with the ride attendants moving as fast as molasses and two trains running. As many of you have read since the accident on the Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags New England, the restraint system has been modified. Since it was last year when I rode Superman, I really do not know what the modifications are. I know there is a lap bar and two seat belts, one that goes across your lap and one that is attached to the lap bar which attaches to the train.

I rode Superman twice, once from the front and once toward the back. Superman still is a very good ride. This hypercoaster has a 190 foot first drop, attains speeds of 70 mph and gives riders plenty of airtime. However, there is room for critcism. Superman does seem to be riding a little rougher than it did last year and certainly is not as smooth as Bollinger and Mabillard's Apollo's Chariot which, I just recently rode a month ago. Also the seating for Superman is cramped and not nearly as comfortable as compared to Apollo's Chariot. Those criticisms aside it still remains as one of the best coasters out there.

Since the park was not crowded, I decided to pick and choose what I wanted to ride. So, it was on to the second best attraction at Six Flags America, the wooden roller coaster Roar, located in the Skull Island section of the park. Roar only had a two car wait for the front. Once on this coaster, I quickly remembered why I rate this coaster so highly. A spiral drop and the unforseen direction changes this coaster takes are wonderful. This is a great twister coaster that criss-crosses itself 20 times. The guys at Great Coaster International are genuises and build the best wooden twister coasters today. Yes, in case you are asking, I rode this one a couple of times. A couple of teenagers on the ride got off and were discussing that they could not believe a wooden roller coaster could be so thrilling. Note to self: Visit Dollywood, home to GCI's latest masterpiece, Thunderhead.

After Roar, I headed over to the Coyote Creek section, where the inverted coaster Mind Eraser awaited. There was only a one car wait for the front row. The best part of this ride, was the initial drop and getting off this thing. Vekoma's inverted coasters (or Suspended Looping Coasters as they call them) are really forgetable and are no where near the class of Bollinger and Mabillard's inverted coasters. Comparing Vekoma's inverted coasters to B&M's would be like comparing a Ford Pinto to a Mercedes. Mind Eraser was rough and lacks the smooth transitions through the inversions and pacing that the B&M inverted coasters have. Plus this one at Six Flags America needs a paint job. Better yet, they should just tear it down and have B&M put in a inverted coaster. I hope I did not sugar coat my critcisms of this coaster.

Following my "wonderful" ride on Mind Eraser, I stopped to watch "Diamond in the Rough" at the Wild West Theatre. This is supposedly new as compared to the previous years addition. The only difference I could readily see is the hero is a woman sheriff. It is a typical wild west stunt show with its obligatory corny jokes, stunts, shoot "em" up action and references to today's pop culture. But you know what, I liked it. I looked around and noticed that, young kids, parents and teenagers alike had a smile on their face. And so did I. It's not Broadway, but then again, if I wanted Broadway, I would have gone to New York instead of Six Flags.

Following the show, I proceeded back to the Gotham City section and immediately got on the front row of Joker's Jinx. Although, this Premier Coaster is not as good as their Batman and Robin: The Chiller located at Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey, it is still a very good ride. The launch is the best part of the ride where you travel from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. Next you go through a spaghetti bowl of 30 verticle curves, 25 horizontal curves and 4 inversions. At least that is what the brochure states. I was not counting. The ride drags a little in the middle, but picks up its intensity toward the end.

Next up was Two Face: The Flip Side. This is a typical inverted boomerang coaster that takes you through it's course forwards and backwards. I know many people don't care for these coasters, but my opinion is the theme park world is better off with them than without them. Plus with this one you are face to face with another rider, which does make it a little more fun than the typical boomerang coaster. It is worth the ride if there is not a long wait.

Since it is located next to Two Face I jumped in line to ride The Wild One, a classic wooden out and back coaster. This coaster had the longest wait of the day of any coaster I rode, nearly 15 minutes. Now you are probably saying how could it be a longer wait than Batwing, the flying coaster in the Gotham City section. I took a peek over at Batwing after I rode Superman, noticed there was a line and that the loading process was unbearably slow, and decided not to ride. Like I said, I did not want any aggravation in my life today and waiting for Batwing may have done that.

But, I digress. Wild One is a nice out and back coaster that provides some nice air time. It is a good coaster that is suitable for the family.

I spent about five hours at the park and enjoyed my day. For parents out there, Six Flags America does have a nice section designed for children around the ages of 3 to 5. The Loony Toons Movie Town section has approximately a dozen rides designed just for them, including Sylvester's Pounce and Bounce, a minature version of the Space Shots found at many parks, and the Great Chase family coaster.

The park also has plenty of flat rides and water rides. Although I'm not really that impressed with it, the Penguin's Blizzard River, a spinning water ride is quite popular and almost always has a line.

What the park could use is a good 4D show and simulator ride. Although not to the standards of Disney or Universal, Six Flags America was clean on this visit, something I could not say on a couple of visits last year. This may have been due to the small crowd today. Who knows?

I know there is a concern about where the park is located. Six Flags America is located in Prince George County, which is known to be a pretty tough county. The park is actually located in a good section of PG county with a large, beautiful church across the street and several middle to upper middle class residential areas populated near the park. Just remember when you exit 495 to 214, you want to go EAST. West on 214 may take you to an area where an MP-5 or M-16 would be recommended.

Hope this helps and I will see you at the parks.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted June 14, 2004 at 6:01 AM
Nice report, Jeffery. In fact, this brings up memories of my only trip to Washington DC and our theme park excursions to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Paramount King's Dominion. While I would definitely recommend BGW, PKD left a little to be desired.

So do us a little favor and let us know how far all the DC-area parks are from DC, and rank them. Is Hersheypark that close? I have been wanting to head back to DC, so this information would be great. In fact, if you want to be thorough about it, submit it as a different article about Washington DC Theme Park Add-Ons or somesuch. Maybe even distances from Baltimore and other large towns in the general area? This could be a great help for tourists to the area.

From Russell Meyer
Posted June 14, 2004 at 6:15 AM
If you're staying somewhere in town, Six Flags America is about 15-20 minutes away. It is about 6 miles east of the beltway (495/95) on Cental Avenue. Kings Dominion is about 45 minutes to an hour away from DC, straight down 95, and about 30 minutes north of Richmond, VA. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a haul and is about 2-2.5 hours from DC (straight down 95 and east on 64) and about 45 minutes east of Richmond. Hersheypark is about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours north of DC, and about and hour north of Baltimore (83 north to 322 east in Harrisburg, PA). Dorney Park is about 2.5 hours north of DC (83 to 81) and Six Flags Great Adventure is about 2.5 hours straight up 95 onto the Jersey Turnpike. So within a reasonable 3 hour drive there are 6 highly rated theme parks in the mid atlantic region.

From John K
Posted June 14, 2004 at 9:45 AM
the way theme parks are being runned, well you never know what to expect so set low expections when you visit any theme park. Remember theme parks are runned by humans, not computers/robots although they would do better

All theme parks are kicking off their summer season within a week, expect to have some great crowds at the parks, yet expect to have some rowdy people also.

A very large percent of the crowd at every theme enjoy their day like Jeff did. You never make epxectations.

If you visit Six Flags magic mountain, the only expectation you should make is the park having large crowds, although attendance has been going down the past few years not only at MM but most other parks, attendance at magic mountain on saturday/sunday is around 27,000-35,000, thats a lot.

The number one most popular ride at SFMM last summer was Goliath with 1.6 million riders, #2 was Viper with 1.5 million, #3 was scream with 1.3 million riders, Batman was 4th with 1.2 million, while riddlers came in 5th with just about a million. Since X was closed every wednesday last summer, it was ranked 11th. Arrowhead Splashdown was ranked 10th. Ranked 15th and last of the top 15 was Flashback with 50,000. That's pretty good for that ride lol. How much is 50,000? Put together two crowded saturdays at that'll go beyond 50,000

So it's gonna be awesome see how theme parks do this summer, universal with their big hit, revenge of the mummy, Disney CoA with Tower of terror, hurricane harbor's tornado, Seaworld with Journey to Atlantis. So we got some big hits at theme parks not only SoCal but all over the US.Mgaic Mountain...not looking that great for the summer with no new ride, however does have bright future with plans of taking down Flashback and adding a new ride. I hear there are plans of building 6 new coaster over the next 10 years, they plan for a new one next summer

From Jeffery Beal
Posted June 14, 2004 at 5:24 PM
Kevin, thanks for the compliment. Regarding the travel times to the several parks in the DC region, Russell is pretty much on the mark. I would add one caveat that DC/ Baltimore traffic can get quite hectic and depending on what time you leave you could easily add 30 to 60 minutes to your travel time to any of these parks.

From DC, Hersheypark, Six Flags Great Adventure, Kings Dominion and Dorney Park can be done in a day trip. I believe Busch Gardens Williamsburg is just far enough away that you would want to considered a couple travel days.

As to ranking these parks. Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Hersheypark offer something for everyone. I have several relatives, including my Mom, who like to visit theme parks, but don't care much for roller coasters or water rides. I would not consider taking them to Kings Dominion or either of the Six Flags. They like shows and other attractions and none of these parks have particularly enough shows to keep them entertained throughout the day. Hersheypark and Busch Gardens does. Plus, much like my wife and I, I have several relatives and a Brother who are thrillride enthusiasts. I can take all of them to either of these parks and know everyone will come away with a good experience. Both of these parks generally attract a more family oriented crowd as compared to the other parks, are clean, and have pretty good food relative to other theme parks. So that goes into consideration as well when my older relatives are tagging along.

If you only have a crowd that is interested in roller coasters and not much else, then Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey is the place to go. Although, they could use a nice wood twister coaster (made by GCI, of course), Six Flags Great Adventure's collection of steel coasters are arguably the best of any park in the United States (I better duck).

Six Flags Great Adventure's B&M designed Nitro hypercoaster is consistently rated as one of the top 5 roller coasters in the U.S. Batman-The Ride, the original inverted coaster, still is highly regarded. The floorless coaster, Medusa, is considered by many to be the best of it's type. Batman and Robin: The Chiller is one of the most intense rides I have been on and is highly regarded. The Superman: Ultimate Flight flying coaster is consistently earning well deserved kudos.

Six Flags America and Kings Dominion I would recommend for thrill seekers and those with young children. Both of these parks have plenty of attractions for the youngest thrill seekers. However, if you want a little more from your theme park experience, I would recommend Hersheypark or Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Although it is in my plans to visit in the next year or two, I have not been to Dorney Park and so I have not formed an opinion yet. I have, however, heard good things about Dorney Park.

A visit to Hersheypark with my wife will probably happen within the next couple of months. I will submit a trip report. If it is anything like my last trip there, expect glowing reviews. Probably a Six Flags Great Adventure trip will be on the agenda this year just so I can ride Nitro.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.