Trip Report: AJ's Epic Theme Park Summer-Part 11 (Six Flags Great Adventure)

January 9, 2015, 4:24 PM

Part 11: Six Flags Great Adventure-August 3rd, 2014

As I stated previously, Six Flags Great America provided us with a typical Six Flags experience. The day was full of annoyances including horrible operations, insane crowds, and poor customer service. Based on my previous experience at Six Flags Great Adventure (on TPR's North East 2011 tour), I figured this would be a better day. Fortunately, my guess ended up being correct, and our day at the park was more or less the polar opposite of that day at SFGAm.

Six Flags Great Adventure

IMG_3779

Based on my previous visit to Six Flags Great Adventure, I initially wasn't all that excited about a return visit. There isn't anything wrong with the park, but I'm a SFMM local and other than El Toro SFMM has a version of everything at SFGAdv (often a superior version). However, when checking out the park I was reminded of the Safari Off Road Adventure and 2012 additions, so my interest increased somewhat.

Originally, Six Flags Great Adventure was supposed to be a full East Coast Bash. However, due to delays in working out the details the event didn't happen. However, we were still offered quite a few great perks. With our hotel only 30 minutes from the park, a 9 AM departure got us there in plenty of time to get Flash Passes and get inside before opening. Once inside, we were met by a couple park managers, who took us through a backstage pass over to Kingda Ka to ride the first trains of the day. Our group took the first three trains, and we all got not one but two rides before the public was allowed to board.

After Kingda Ka, we were taken back to the new Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom in order to get first rides on this too (the opening was delayed). Robb and Elissa's 8 year old daughter definitely showed her bravery here, riding an attraction that several adult TPR members were too scared to try. I really liked Zumanjaro, but I have to give a slight edge to the very similar Lex Luthor due to the added thrill of tower sway caused by Superman (Zumanjaro and Kingda Ka cannot run together).

Exiting Zumanjaro, we expected it would be time to head out on our own. However, park representatives gave us one more surprise: Exit access to the Safari Off Road Adventure.

IMG_3772

Although the ride is now included on Flash Pass, it often gets huge waits so this was a very welcome surprise. The ride itself was really good, better than even the San Diego Safari Park's tour (and from what I heard, better than Disney's Kilimanjaro Safaris). My only issue with the ride is the length: The ride is at least an hour, and combined with the wait it is difficult to justify the attraction for a first time visitor.

IMG_3774

I did like the midway rest stop, but I wish there was more to do there as the limited exhibits and wait to re-board the vehicles makes exiting barely worthwhile.

Upon return to the park, we were set loose to explore SFGAdv on our own. My Flash Pass group (those who I hung out with at Wildwater Kingdom) was mostly first-timers, so we spent the day collecting credits and doing other unique attractions. The day was not without difficulty, as wet weather seemed to be causing an abnormal number of technical issues with the park's headliner coasters (Bizarro, El Toro, and Nitro all broke down on us at some point). At 9:45 P.M. we headed to El Toro to return Q-bots, then got ready for the ultimate way to end a TPR trip: An hour of night ERT on El Toro.

Coaster Reviews:

IMG_3766

I have been to over 70 different parks. Among them, only two (Cedar Point and Six Flags Magic Mountain) have a better coaster collection than Six Flags Great Adventure. The park's collection contains El Toro, arguably the best roller coaster in North America, as well as Kingda Ka and Nitro, two top tier steel coasters. The park's remaining coasters mostly range from decent to great, with a few clones thrown in for good measure.

Kingda Ka: The world's tallest and North America's fastest coaster is also one of the most extreme rides I've been on. The ride is the definition of a one-trick pony, but it has one really good trick. While not as good as Top Thrill Dragster, I still really like Kingda Ka and rank it second of the four North American accelerators. I just wish the ride wasn't so shaky if you sit anywhere but the front car. A

Runaway Mine Train: While just an okay ride, Runaway Mine Train is one of the better Arrow mine trains. The ride has an unusual layout, is smoother than some, and actually does feature a small amount of airtime. Fun if there's no wait, but not a must ride by any means. C

Superman-Ultimate Flight: A good, but not great flying coaster. The pretzel loop is just as good as always, but the rest of the ride is pretty dull and fairly short. For whatever reason, I thought this was weaker than the SFGAm version. C+

Green Lantern: Back in 2011, I really liked this coaster. The ride was still good, but it has gotten somewhat rough. Still, it's a long stand-up coaster with a good sequence of elements that doesn't get repetitive, and is a better ride than its predecessor Mantis (though the Rougarou transformation will probably change that). While Green Lantern isn't the greatest ride, it's still not the worst B&M at SFGAdv in my opinion. B-

Batman The Ride: Another Batman clone, this one seems to be the weakest of the five I've tried. It's still a forceful ride and just as good as any other Batman, but I'm just not a particularly big fan of these coasters. They're a little too short and repetitive for my tastes, plus I don't like non-stop positive g-force. I still like this better than a couple of the park's B&M's, I just don't find it a must ride. B

Dark Knight: A Mack mouse in a box, the same basic ride as SFGAm's version. SFGAdv still requires viewing of the preshow and not all of the effects work anymore, so this version isn't very good. Just as it was in 2011, Dark Knight remains my least favorite wild mouse. D-

Skull Mountain:

IMG_3782

While this is little more than a family coaster in the dark, Skull Mountain is a unique attraction. It's got a pretty good first drop and a layout that is difficult to follow, so this is a pretty fun ride. It's no Space Mountain, but it's not a Dark Knight either. C

Nitro:

IMG_3783

I've been on eight B&M hypers, and Nitro is not only my favorite but also one of my favorite steel coasters overall. Nitro is a nice long ride that's full of airtime and is glass smooth throughout. The ride also has a good moment of positive g-force and a couple elements not found on other hypers. Nitro is not only the best steel coaster at SFGAdv, but one of the best in the country. A

Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train: It's little more than a family coaster, but this is still a fun ride. My favorite of the Tivoli coasters (even better than Jaguar), this ride is worth it just for the laughs of watching the extremely long train navigate the course. C

Bizarro: In 2011, I didn't care for this coaster as it was a rougher version of Scream with the worst operations at the park and a horrible soundtrack. In 2014, the ride was much smoother with a better crew and no soundtrack. The ride is now really good, with an excellent first half, a decent second half, and a much better setting than Scream. Not the best floorless coaster, but one of the better ones. A-

El Toro:

IMG_3768

I have been on over 350 roller coasters, and El Toro is my second favorite overall. The ride is simply amazing: excellent first drop, tons of airtime, a non-stop sequence of elements featuring both out and back and twister sections, and a reasonably long ride. Seriously, there is not a single dull moment on this coaster. The airtime is so strong it feels like the ride just wants to rip you out of your seat and fling you across the park, and this ride just does things no wooden coaster should ever do. I will say that the restraints on this coaster tend to be a bit tight and this is probably the most restrictive coaster in the country (or close to it), but most riders will be glad of how secure they feel. I do understand that the ride may not be everybody's favorite, but there is no denying that it is one of the absolute best rides in not only the US but also the world. I have only ever given two coasters an A+ rating, and El Toro is one of them. A+

Six Flags Great Adventure Coaster Ranking:

Must Ride:

1. El Toro
2. Nitro
3. Kingda Ka
4. Bizarro

Good Coasters

5. Batman The Ride
6. Green Lantern

Average Coasters:

7. Superman-Ultimate Flight
8. Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train
9. Skull Mountain
10. Runaway Mine Train

Credit Coaster:

11. Dark Knight

Non-Coaster Summary:

IMG_3780

When I visited SFGAdv in 2011, I thought that except for the kiddie rides the park had a pretty poor selection of non-coaster attractions. Since then, however, the park has mostly redone Adventure Alley and added both the Safari Off Road Adventure and Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom (as well as a few minor attractions). While the non-coaster collection is not amazing, I now think it may be the best in the Six Flags chain.

Technically, my favorite non-coaster ride at the park is the SkyWay, but that is mainly due to how much I like these rides than because it is the best. That said, SFGAdv's model is particularly unique as they have a rare double Von Roll skyride. As mentioned previously, I really liked both Zumanjaro and the Safari Off Road Adventure, both of which are relatively unique and are must rides for most visitors.

IMG_3777

In addition, I enjoyed Parachute Training Center: Edwards AFB Jump Tower simply because it is the last of its kind in operation. The best non-coaster attraction at the park, however, is Houdini's Great Escape. This ride is one of two Vekoma Mad House attractions in North America and has theming that is only a step down from a Disney attraction. It's not an intense ride, though it can be disorienting as the room spins around riders.

IMG_3781

In addition to what I've mentioned, SFGAdv also has a SkyScreamer, a couple decent water rides, and around 10 or so standard flats, plus several kids areas for the younger set.

Overall Thoughts:

IMG_3778

Six Flags Great Adventure represents the experience all Six Flags parks should provide. The park has an excellent collection of coasters as well as a decent selection of non-coaster rides for all members of the family. The park is reasonably clean, reasonably landscaped, and reasonably themed. Food selection is better than average for the Six Flags chain, with a number of good options other than standard theme park fare. The employees are all pretty good, and in general operations are nothing to complain about. Sure, there are issues I have with the park, but I can't think of any major ones and a lot of the common Six Flags issues weren't present here.

Is Six Flags Great Adventure the best Six Flags park? Out of all the properties I've visited, I would probably say so. However, there is one exception: If you want to ride coasters and only care about riding coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain is probably the better park. While SFGAdv does have El Toro, SFMM does have more coasters and more top tier coasters than SFGAdv. However, for the full park experience I would pick SFGAdv any time. It's not as good as the top Cedar Fair parks, but it's not a bad park at all.

Ride Totals:

Batman The Ride: 2
Bizarro: 1
Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train: 1
Dark Knight: 1
El Toro: 12
Green Lantern: 1
Kingda Ka: 2
Nitro: 3
Runaway Mine Train: 1
Skull Mountain: 1
Superman-Ultimate Flight: 1
Congo Rapids: 1
Houdini's Great Escape: 1
Log Flume: 1
Parachute Training Center: Edwards AFB Jump Tower: 1
Safari Off Road Adventure: 1
SkyScreamer: 1
SkyWay: 1
Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom: 1

Total: 34 rides in 13 hours (2.62 rides per hour)

As Six Flags Great Adventure was the last day of the Mini East Coast tour for some, the bus proceeded from the park to Newark Airport. While I was not participating in the New York City add-on, I chose to ride the bus into New York instead. At 1:30 A.M. the bus arrived at the tour hotel where I found my Dad waiting for me.

IMG_3784

We headed back to our hotel in the Time Square area to begin the family portion of this trip: A week in New York and Boston.

Next Time: The final update...a culture trip report about New York and Boston, with a little amusement park action thrown in (namely Coney Island).

Replies (3)

Edited: January 12, 2015, 7:16 AM

Your adventures have definitely been EPIC, AJ! Most people don't visit as many parks in a life time, and you've done it all while you are still a young whipper-snapper! ;) As your adventures are coming to a close, I just want to again note how much I have enjoyed reading your reports. Thank you for sharing.

Questions:

Is the safari ride simply a drive and look at animals tour, or is there more to it? Is there a "story" or "adventure" as part of the experience? Any excitement?

Is Houdini's Great Escape at SFGADV the same set up as at SFNE? If so, I was very disappointed in that attraction. Great big show building, impressive atmosphere, long (probably too long) preshow, and for what? A gently rocking carnival ride. So much pomp and circumstance for so little payoff. Seems like it could have been so much more. But, again, one must remember it is Six Flags and not Disney, so kudos must be granted for at least attempting something different.

You wrote, "Food selection is better than average for the Six Flags chain, with a number of good options other than standard theme park fare." As always I must ask, any details on what stood out from a food perspective?

January 12, 2015, 1:22 PM

Thanks for reading, James. Yes, I've been to way more parks than I ever expected to by this point thanks to the TPR tours I've done. Out of the 70 or so parks I've been to, over 30 of them were on one of the tours. It also helps that my Dad enjoys traveling and I can talk him into stopping at local parks on our trips as long as the visit can be justified. The downside is that I'm running out of new parks to try, at least in the US (the Florida Parks, the Texas parks, Silver Dollar City, a few miscellaneous Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks, and a couple smaller parks are all I've got left of significant interest). I guess it's good to get the traveling done when you can, as I imagine I'll have a lot less time for traveling in the future.

In response to your questions:

1. The Safari Off-Road Adventure is simply an hour-long guided tour with an optional stop in the middle. Up until a couple years ago, the park had an upcharge drive-thru safari, but for several reasons they decided to convert that attraction into the current ride. The road is pretty much the same as that used for the drive-thru safari, but the vehicles can leave the road to get closer to the animals. There's no story or anything like that, but it doesn't really need one.

2. The ride system for Houdini's Great Escape is the same at both parks, and the attractions are similar. I rode both on a trip in 2011 and SFGAdv's seemed the better maintained with more effects during the actual ride (it felt a little more intense as well). The attraction is not meant to be a thrill ride, as Vekoma's Mad House is more about the illusion than the ride itself. No, it's not on par with a Disney E ticket, but it's probably the best themed ride to come out of Six Flags to date and it is a unique attraction for North America.

3. SFGAdv has all the standard theme park options (pizza, burgers, etc.), along with typical Six Flags chain restaurants (Johnny Rockets, Panda Express) but they've also got some less typical options as well. For example, the Boardwalk had a Japanese restaurant and there was a full service Mexican restaurant over by El Toro (I think I remember seeing an Italian restaurant as well). We had dinner at a place that served sandwiches (lunch was typical Six Flags food due to a meal voucher). I may be wrong, but it seemed like there was more variety than most of the Six Flags parks I've visited where you're stuck with burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and chicken strips for the most part.

January 12, 2015, 5:23 PM

Thanks for the responses AJ... SFGAdv is definitely on my bucket list for....some day.

And, yes, definitely get your thrill park touring out of the way now, because it is a lot harder and a lot more expensive later on when you have a full time job and the whole family in tow (although having the family is lot of fun in its own right!).

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Need Discount Tickets?

  Now open, or date announced:

  Still waiting on these:

Get Our Newsletter

Read Robert's Book

Stories from a Theme Park Insider