Hello! I'm far from being a regular poster on here, but I promised a report a few months ago when I was asking for Six Flags advice, so here it is!
We headed down to Six Flags on a Sunday, having spent the previous 2 1/2 days in New York, and to be honest, it was a slow start to the morning. We had decided against taking the bus from NY to Six Flags in favour of hiring a car from Newark airport, so we could have a drive through 'real' America.
So anyway, we didn't arrive at our destination until around 12.30. On a blistering hot weekend like the one we experienced, I was fearing the worst - massive queues! However, I couldn't be more delighted than when we turned up to be greeted by a car park which was only around a quarter full. Something like that anyway, as I was soon distracted by the view...
..Yeah.. it's quite big.
So, out of the car, and the fair walk to the entrance. We had pre-booked, so avoided the first queue and went straight to the turnstiles. Now, unlike UK parks, you have to empty your pockets and walk through a metal detector here (security almost everywhere in the states is high these days though), but once we were through that, we were in!
You're handed a massive map (opens out to A3) and greeted with a nice little water fountain and a decision on whether to head east towards Ka, El Toro and friends, or west towards Nitro and Batman. We chose east... and first up to 'ease us in' was the short but very sweet B&M flyer, Superman: Ultimate Flight.
First of all, the huge queues we'd anticipated earlier just weren't there, which was superb. We were in line for maybe 15 minutes to get onto Superman, and that included waiting an extra few minutes to ride at the front, which was well worth it.
Of course, the only real comparison I can draw is to Air, which is longer and probably has more going on in terms of barrel rolls and the big sweeping bend at the end, however Superman has something a bit special in it's arsenal - the pretzel loop! And wow, what a unique feeling that is, as you go from floaty negative g, to full force on your back, pinning you into your seat and then back round again. It's also pretty bizarre to be briefly traveling head first towards the ground! You hit a crafty barrel roll on the way back up to the station, and that's it, ride over. Like I said, short but sweet.
Overall though, a really good start to the day.
So we did the logical thing, and moved on to the next big coaster, which just happened to be one of Six Flags' 'flag'ship (sorry) rides - The Great American Scream Machine. I say flagship because this was their first truly big crowd puller back in 1982 (I think) when it was built, and it's not hard to see why.
At the time of it's build it was the tallest of it's kind and boasted 7 inversions, which is still a fairly impressive count by today's standards.
From a rider's perspective, you can tell it's an old coaster. Much like Corkscrew when that was still in operation. However, GASM still has the thrills and spills to stand up to many of it's modern counter parts, including the double loop (which I don't believe I've experienced before).
All in all, a very solid coaster which is showing signs of age, but in some cases, that's not always a bad thing. :)
Next up was the first of the really big attractions. The tallest and fastest coaster in the world... Kingda Ka!
Firstly a gripe regarding their loading system. They have 2 loading bays (like Air) each capable of loading 2 cars at once. So effectively they can run 4 cars at a time which in theory should lead to super-fast throughput. This isn't the case. For some reason, possibly the fact that they need to operate a switch-track both before and after the station, loading took an age. Compared to Stealth for example, which generally seems to eat queues with just a single station, this didn't really seem to make much sense, especially when you consider it's a short ride.
Anyway, after loitering around waiting to board a train for a little while, we were on!
Unlike Stealth, you don't launch from the station. You're carried out through the switch-track section and queue behind the car in front.
Then, again unlike Stealth, where you're given a little count down, you just shoot off! The only warning you get is feeling the brakes release shortly before the launch.. and bam! 3.5 seconds later you're hitting speeds of 128mph and hurtling towards the 456 foot high top hat!
The overall experience? Well... kind of underwhelming actually. Don't get me wrong, it's still a huge adrenalin rush, but ultimately, it's just a big Stealth. And having ridden Stealth 6 times, I was aware of what to expect, and also aware that nothing beats your first experience on an Intamin launch coaster. So it was good, very good, but not great.
Anyway, it was time to chill for a little bit as the heat was soaring (up to 96F at this point!) and SFGA isn't renowned for it's shaded areas, so we decided to grab a spot of lunch. Half hour later, after an ill advised and really quite foul 'cheese steak' and a little sit down by the lake, it was time to take on the 2 remaining biggies over on the east side of the park. And first up, Bizarro!
Now this was something I was aching to try. Something we simply don't have over here in the UK - a B&M floorless! Not only that, but a B&M floorless with effects!
Again, queue times were low. We practically walked straight into the station, and within no more than 5-10 minutes, we were on!
As you'd expect from B&M, this was smooth. So, sooo smooth. The loop is massive, almost as tall as the main drop itself, the effects are awesome, particularly the huge flames (which are even more impressive and noticeable when sitting at the back) and 'that' cobra roll is just massive. Again, a great ride as you'd expect from B&M. My only criticism would be the soundtrack, which is kind of pointless and gets lost at various points on the ride, but that is a minor gripe.
Fingers crossed we'll see a floorless at one of our main Merlin parks in the near future, because the height and sound restriction should be easily bypassed by one of these babies!
And so, to our final coaster on the east side of the park, and probably Six Flags' most notorious. The woody with the 78 degree drop... El Toro!
First of all, I must say that this thing looks absolutely gorgeous. Both across the smaller lake heading from Bizarro, and from the queue line.
Once again, none existent queues, and we walk straight into the station, wait for a couple of trains to run through, and we're on!
My friend didn't realize at first that you need to put your seat belt on before you pull the lap-bar down, which lead to a couple of onlookers having a laugh, saying things like "I can tell it's your first time - you want make sure that's down all the way!" Followed by a guy at the back ominously declaring; "They'll learn."
So, out of the station we go, and zoom up the lift-hill, which really is quick, and frankly sets the tone for the rest of the ride.
What can I say about El Toro which hasn't been said before? It really is insane from start to finish. MASSIVE pops of air-time, tight bends at high speed, and a superb section where it hits a bend then drops down again, catching you completely off guard.
Fantastic ride, fantastic experience. Why oh why do we not have an Intamin hybrid woody in this country? They're not *that* noisy, and I'd have thought that Thorpe could get permission from something close to the height of El Toro if they've had a coaster of 167 feet approved. Who knows, we may just get our woody there!
Anyway, I digress, partly as I've already written an essay and we're not even on to the west side of the park yet!
So, by this stage, the blazing sun is taking it's toll and we're starting to lag a little. So we get our hands stamped and head out to the car for a little while so we can crank up the air con and listen to our specially prepared CD of determined 80's power rock.
It was also an opportunity to take a few more photos of SFGA's impressive 'skyline'.
Half hour or so later and we're cooled down and ready to rock. Step out of the ice cool car and into the oven-like heat of the New Jersey sun, head back into the park and over to the west side with one particular target in our sights. Nitro.
Nitro, as many of you will be aware, is a B&M hypercoaster, and much like Bizarro and El Toro is something we simply don't have in this country. Standing at 230 feet and reaching speeds of 80mph, all the while being a perfectly smooth ride experience.
Anyway, we enter the station, and like most of the day, queue for around 5 minutes for our ride.
I must start by mentioning the trains. Oh the trains. Big, spacious, comfortable. It's like being upgraded from economy to first class riding this beauty. That's without mentioning the t-bar restraints which curve around your torso. Oh, and your feet dangle down too, so you experience that feeling of almost total exposure.
You depart the station by sweeping down to the left and up the significant lift-hill. Straight away, just from that little section of track from station to hill, you know it's going to be a good ride.
The lift-hill seems to take an age, which just builds the anticipation. You look over your shoulder and you can see the whole park. Look back again and you're almost at the top. The tension is almost unbearable... then you drop.
Oh it's smooth, so smooth and so fast as you reach 80mph at the bottom of the first drop, hit the second hill and twist off to the left and into the New Jersey woodland. Nitro is simply air-time personified. You just feel every millisecond of weightlessness as you drift over hill after hill, interspersed only by the g-force heavy helix which adds a different perspective to the experience, before hitting the break run then drifting over another 5 (or 6, I lost count) smaller camel humps.
Something then happened which I've never done after any other ride. I high 5'd my 2 friends. For a 29 year old bloke, this could be seen as slightly silly behaviour, but Nitro had blown us all away.
Some discussion ensued about how Nitro was the best coaster we'd ever ridden as we queued for Batman, the B&M inverter which I believe touched down around the same time as our beloved Nemesis.
At this point I should stop to mention that this Movietown area of the park is probably the best themed section. The Batman queue line is wonderful, with it's 'future vision of Gotham' backdrop. And in the centre of area... the batmobile!
Anyway, back to the ride. The station was superbly murky, perfectly encapsulating the feeling of a run down Gotham.
The ride experience itself? Well, it may not have the scenery of Nemesis, but it certainly matched it on velocity! There really was no let up. 2 loops, 2 rolls, plenty of sharp twists and turns, all at what felt like ferocious pace and in a small footprint. I was impressed. B&M really were on fire when they built this first batch of inverters. They may not be as silky smooth as the latter day versions such as Nemesis Inferno, but boy do they pack a punch!
Sticking to the Batman theme, it was time for sometime a little less aggressive. SFGA's most recent addition, the indoor wild mouse that is The Dark Knight.
An indoor wild mouse this may be, but this is all about the theming and pre-show, which features a screening of an interview with newly appointed Gotham DA, Harvey Dent, taking questions from the press about crime bosses and Batman which soon starts to go a little glitchy, flicking between the press interview and random scenes from old movies. The lights go out and a loud, clear voice menacingly poses the question: "WHY SO SERIOUSSSS?!" Cue mayhem on the video screen as it cuts manically between shots to form it's own sentance. Get Batman. Oh yes, the Joker has taken over!
After the show, which I have to say, scared the pants off the kids in the auditorium, you exit through to the 'subway' station, and on to your little 'train'.
The ride itself is what you'd expect from any wild mouse, except in the dark and with various lit up side shows going on. The highlight of which is at the end when you're nearly mown down by a subway train crashing through a wall. Nice touch.
That concluded our journey through the major rides at Six Flags Great Adventure, and all was left to do was to race around the park to re-ride Nitro, Kingda Ka, El Toro and Bizarro, and to drive up through New Jersey to Newark airport to drop the car off and head back into our New York base. At Newark airport, though, something strange happened.
We'd decided that, as it was late, we couldn't be arsed to faff around with getting a bus back to Port Authority, then a subway followed by a walk to the hotel, and that we'd just spend a few extra bucks and have a cab take us to our door. So we wander through the terminal looking for the taxi rank, when a guy over hears us and offers us a ride for $65. Fair price we thought, so we follow him out to the car park. Initially, this raises eyebrows as most taxis run from outside the front of the terminal, so we're getting a little concerned at this point. Through the other side of the car park we go and the guy leads us up to a stretched limo and tells us to get in. What a touch! And what a way to end the day as we cruised back through the streets of New York in a limousine. Admittedly, it was a bit battered, I think he'd scammed it through 'unofficial channels', or won it in a poker game or something, but a limo nonetheless.
In retrospect, although Six Flags doesn't have the theming of Alton Towers, and certainly nowhere near the levels of a Disney or Universal park, the coasters really do make up for it. The selection is plain for all to see, with just about everything bar a vertical drop coaster on show, and everything we rode offered a different ride experience. I'd probably have to say it was just about the best park I've been too, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to go there. My only regret is that I know I won't be riding anything like Nitro or El Toro any time soon.
Still, if you're ever in that neck of the woods, I would heartily recommend a visit to Six Flags Great Adventure. Just avoid Ted's Cheese Steaks. :wink:
Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed it!