Monday, July 27, 2009

Six Flags: Such a bad environment?

For the first time in more than a decade, I drove up to Six Flags Great America Thursday morning (half-hr. drive). I had been meaning to go up for a number of years, and a great deal on admission and parking ($27 inclusive) convinced me. I arrived at 10:20, 20 minutes after the park opened, and waited about 10 minutes to acquire a parking space. (I parked in Robin 54.*) There is Preferred Parking for an extra $10. From regular parking, it's a five- or ten-minute walk to the entrance. Be prepared to walk all day; Six Flags is really big.

I was about to channel the President of the United States: "There are some who say...." Yes, some orthodox Jews advise against going to Six Flags because other guests are not appropriate dressed or may not behave in an appropriate manner. Allow me to address that. Most people are dressed for summer--i.e., t-shirt and shorts. Six Flags is pretty strict about what people wear and how they behave. For example, someone wearing Drew Peterson's favorite t-shirt, "It's not my job to blow sunshine up your ass," would be turned away at the gate. Profanity and unruly behavior are prohibited, as is smoking--a huge plus. Yes, cleavage is often visible. Yes, some guys have tattoo sleeves. Yes, ladies' shorts have become shorter over the past two or three years. All that is on display at Six Flags. On the other hand, the bare midriff trend of the 1990's has all but disappeared. I saw many more headscarves than bare midriffs. There were plenty of church groups and one Jewish Council of Youth Services camp, all of which were proudly wearing their group t-shirts. On Raging Bull, I sat next to a trio of girls from East Chicago's Christian Revival Center, whose initials, hilariously, are cRc. The girls were wearing frum denim skirts and looked at first glance like orthodox Jewish teenagers. So there is a mix of "shopping-mall America" and religious groups, all having a great time. I should note that I did not go to Hurricane Harbor, a water park about one-sixth the size of the rest of Six Flags. Admission to the water park is included with Six Flags admission. July 23 was not a particularly warm day, and it ended up raining between 5 and 7pm. Six Flags strictly prohibits swimwear outside the water park, so there are no women wearing bikini tops instead of t-shirts outside Hurricane Harbor.

Superman: Ultimate Flight - lots of fun. Spectacular and worth the wait in line. After loading, in which riders sit upright in the seats, the metal floor drops, and the seats rotate 90 degrees, so riders are facing the ground (to give the illusion of flying like Superman). The girls sitting in front of me left their flip-flops at the boarding area, so I was treated to watching their feet for the entire ride. Thank you.

Vertical Velocity - I'm still trying to figure out the physics of this ride. How does it propel and accelerate the train so quickly? The ride simply sends a train full of riders straight up, backward, straight up, and so on a few times. It shook me up a little bit.

Batman the Ride - Still lots of fun. Riders are suspended from the track rather than sitting in normal train cars.

Does the train that loops the park only have one stop, at the front of the park? That's not very practical. At one time, Six Flags had a skyway (with cabs that held 2-4 people) that ran between the front of the park and the American Eagle, in County Fair at the rear of the park. Now the skyway station in County Fair is a funnel cake shoppe. Oh well. Walt Disney World took down its skyway, too, which ran from Adventureland to Tomorrowland. Very convenient.

Buccaneer Battle - not a roller coaster but a pirate ship ride in which riders (and spectators) can shoot water at each other. Unfortunately the pumps are hand-powered, not electric. Quite a workout!

American Eagle, the Demon and Iron Wolf - I did not ride because I was worried about motion sickness.

Dare Devil Dive - free-fall from 125 feet - $35 single rider, $25 double, $20/ea for three riders. Fun to watch people strap in, hoisted up on a pulley system and dropped. Not worth it in my estimation. I think when MGM Grand Adventures existed behind MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, it only charged $18 or $20 for a single rider.

The Viper - fun wooden roller coaster.

Raging Bull - fantastic roller coaster with huge initial drop.

Giant Drop - Vertical drop, like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or The Edge, a ride that Six Flags installed in 1983 and removed after an accident. Fun to watch. (I did not ride.)

The Dark Knight - boy, was this disappointing. I advise against waiting longer than 30 minutes for this ride, and I waited for more than an hour. Remember Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World? (It still exists at Disneyland Resort. At Disney World, it's a shoppe for Snow White.) It's like Mr. Toad with a small vertical drop. Instead of an electric car, the car is propelled by gravity from that initial drop. Lots of sudden twists and turns. The concept is excellent--the Gotham subway run amok after being overtaken by the Joker and his crew. But it doesn't last long enough for riders to enjoy it.

Flash Pass - Walt Disney World doesn't charge for its "Fast Pass" (yet). Six Flags charges $27 for one person to use the Flash Pass; the cost decreases incrementally to $87 for six. The pass, which looks like a Tomagochi toy, allows guests to enjoy the park while "waiting" in line. Probably worth it, especially if the park is crowded. It was not crowded on Thursday, and some of those roller coaster lines were pretty darn long.

The digital screens showing Six Flags ads to the ride queues get annoying very quickly.

My family and I had at least two unpleasant experiences from theme park guests smoking cigarettes near us. One family member was burned waiting for a parking tram at Walt Disney World. Standing in line for a ride next to someone smoking is so unpleasant because there is no way to avoid his noxious odor. I am so pleased that Six Flags took care of that. Every employee wears a button that says "Smoke-Free Park." That's not 100 percent true. Smokers can light up in designated areas all over the park, but they are strictly forbidden from smoking on the walking paths and in the ride queues. That makes all the difference. There's no need to worry about people sneaking a puff because the penalty is ejection from the park. Thank you, Six Flags.

Kosher: Well, there are several very expensive Ben & Jerry's locations, Cold Stone Creamery and novelty ice cream sold at concession stands. One restaurant, the Pink Flamingo, has fresh fruit. And Six Flags says food can be brought in if guests demonstrate a dietary restriction. So leave it in the car or bring a note from your rabbi.

*People who deliberately take more than one space should have their vehicles booted. It just means a longer walk for everyone else.

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