Here is a short video of some of the attractions and scenery you can find at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL (Video by me!):
A couple of weeks ago, I won a facebook contest on Great America’s page for free Magiquest for the entire season for four people. With this prize being worth nearly as much as four season passes to the park, I embarked from Chicago to Gurnee on Sunday, May 2nd. Six Flags Great America is actually located in Gurnee, IL, about 40 minutes or so north of Chicago. It is located off I-94 Edens Expressway making it a relatively easy theme park to get to. We arrived right at 10am (opening) and were greeted by a large line of cars trying to get in for parking. Little did I know, there were a Karate Kid competition, a dance competition, and the day after prom for ¾ of the high schools in Northern Illinois. In other words, it was looking like it was going to be a busy day. For Christmas, my grandmother got me a Season Pass with parking in advance. Because my picture on my pass was out of date (four years old), I was only given a voucher to get into the park and then go and get a new pass. Thank goodness that I was given the parking pass because parking at Great America is $25 for the front lot and $15 for the back lot. At an additional $70 a pass, the Parking Pass is a great deal if you expect to go to Great America at least three times.
After entering the park, I went and picked up my certificate for Magiquest and we headed to get are new season passes in Hometown Square. It was pretty crowded, but that was expected since it was the fourth day the park was open to the public. As we were waiting, we saw posters of some of the new items at Great America including keeping the park open til 11pm on 17 nights during the season (mostly Friday Fright Fests and early June and August), the holiday picnics, their new light parade, and, of course, Magiquest. My other brother and his friends were coming in another car so we waited for them in the Firehouse Papa John’s next to season pass processing. My brother with me was starving so we got the Papa John Cheese Sticks which was like half of a personal pizza with no sauce. I mention this because it probably is the best thing that I have had at Great America without being too much money (about $3.50).
We went to Magiquest next which is situated in the old games alley across from the Wiggles World and American Eagle Roller Coaster. Magiquest is an interactive game that individuals pick a wand, personalize it with a topper, and go on quests to collect rune stones that give the wand powers to fight goblins, dragons, and help pixies. Some of the effects are physical while others are found on a screen. It was very similar to the Kim Possible game at EPCOT, but more interactivity and in a smaller space. I foolishly picked the quest to find one of the more difficult rune stones (Ice Arrows) and spent a good 45 minutes on that quest. I then found out to do one of the adventures; I would need three rune stones to help the fairies find their precious stone. Those three stones were found in less than 30 minutes. The adventure for the fairies’ stone was simple enough until we had to use our new powers to heal and shine the stone in which I kept missing very quick ques and cause me to have to start over and listen to the Queen Fairy’s speech once again. One of the cast members, who are dressed in medieval garb (nice touch), had to help me and she even had a bit of problems. Maybe it was just a bad string, but hopefully they can fix this. The wands are actually pretty cool and can store all your information within making it a quite sophisticated piece. The biggest letdown to this experience is the price of it all. While I am honored and happy to win the prize of playing for free for the entire season, it is around $17 for the wand, $13 for the Topper, and $45 for unlimited making it as much as a Season Pass. I played it a second time and my cardboard card that said I have unlimited for 2010 went missing. I did not notice until I was at home and contacted them immediately. Hopefully it will all be sorted out, but is still an open case as this is being written. I am hoping that they can either replace the card (which is cardboard and weak) or that it is saved on my wand.
We continued with the rest of the park and found that there were very short lines for everything which was a surprise based on all the events at the park. I was able to see the construction of the Little Dipper Roller Coaster, but it looks far from over. They claim it will be ready for Memorial Day Weekend and I hope it is, but I think they are cutting it very close. However, it is a smaller wooden roller coaster which is not taking up as much room as I thought so it could be done quite quickly. It will become on of the “oldest” attractions at the park due to it being from the children’s amusement park, Kiddieland, which closed down last season in Melrose Park, IL. We had lunch at Mooseburger Lodge, which usually is pretty good despite being a tiny bit overpriced, but we had the worst food I have ever had there. Little bacon on my burger and the bun was sopping wet. Still, it is one of the few places in Great America that you can buy beer (woo hoo!). Great America does do an excellent job on its roller coasters providing different types and different levels of thrill so that a 5 year can go on a couple to the teen who wants the top thrills. One of my favorites is the Whizzer which is the oldest roller coaster that opened with the park. It is quite the family roller coaster, but is thrilling enough for an adult too. I like it because it has a spiral lift and really caters to everybody who rides. It is tough to describe, but the only comparable roller coaster I can think of is Space Mountain.
The only problem that I had the entire day in which Great America could have easily have controlled was when I got a picture from Raging Bull. Because of the angle of the camera and the way we sat, our whole group of six was found in the picture. I went and purchased four key chains, but was surprised to find when I looked that them that one of our friend’s head was cut off by the Raging Bull Frame. I immediately turned around and asked if they could fix the picture or if I could have my money back. The cast member did change the frame so that we can all see, but said he had to wait for a manager to approve the print. I was confused since they could override it when the picture came out blurry or wrong paper, but I said I would wait. Ten minutes pass and the manager has still not come to the booth. I asked again when he was coming and was told that he was coming from the front of the park and it would take a few minutes to get to our location. I asked if I could just get a refund and forget about the picture, but I was told I could not because it would need Manager’s approval so I was stuck there either way. Another ten minutes went by and he finally showed up, completely ignored me without a smile, and approved the transaction print. This instance reminded me that while Six Flags Great America is a fine theme park, they still have some work to do to catch up with Disney and Universal.
All in all, the trip was a great success and Great America is looking better than it ever was, but, as with all Six Flags Parks, they have a little work to do, but I believe that Great America is a shining example of how Six Flags can improve with rides, variety, cleanliness, and themeing. It also proves that you can get quality that you would find at the Florida parks, but at a fraction of the price. Please, if you can, come and visit Six Flags Great America for its spectacular roller coasters and scenery. As usual, I will be going back many times this season. Come join me!
Say what you want about SFMM in Southern California (we last went there in 2003), IMHO Six Flags Great America is truly the Flagship park in the chain.
I was hoping that my trip report was to turn into a bit of a discussion about Six Flags in general. It is starting to make me wonder which Six Flags Park is giving the rest a bad name? I am not trying to be confrontational, but I am generally Curious/
Interesting on the Flagship status you give to the parks. I always thought SFOT was the flagship park or perhaps SFGAdv being the most popular based on the results to the right of this discussion.
I am doing Walk in the Parks at Great America and I am gathering interesting results based upon the parks raising money. While there are some stellar people rasing a ton of money, certain parks seem to bring in the charity money including SFOT, SFOGA, and SFGAdv. SFGA has a respectable amount too, but some, like SFStL seem to be struggling a bit. I do not know if that says anything about the park or anything, but an interesting note!
The Whizzer is much like one of my favorite former rides at Worlds of Fun, the Zambezi Zinger. I would like to visit your SF park just to get a reminder of a truly excellent whole-family coaster!
Anyway, good stuff. I appreciate (and sympathize with) your dedication and effort in promoting your hometown park.