SF Great Adventure 10/6/12..First Fright Fest Visit This Season

Sunday, October 7, 2012 2:18 PM

Yep, he's writing about Great Adventure...again.

As many here on CB know, I had been, for several weeks, considering going to Knoebels for the Phoenix Pfall Pfunfest yesterday. Three things ultimately made me decide not to:

1. Tough week to spring for the ticket, as I had to put out a bundle this week for insulin.

2. Lack of desire to drive 3.5 hours home at a late hour with my tired eyes.

3. Lack of desire to hang around for a couple hours in the morning, waiting for Knoebels to "officially" open.

During the week, Gary Dowdell, who posts occasionally here on CB, let me know he'd be at GrAdv on Saturday and Monday. I'm not off for the holidy Monday, so I decided to pop down to hang with Gary for a bit and scope out this year's version of FrightFest.

There was some sort of delay in "ringing up" my parking. Normally, they look at the season pass, see "parking" on it, and you head on in. It was taking a few minutes, so I asked if there was an issue, especially since this was my first time using NEXT season's pass. But no, the woman had hit a wrong button on her computer/register, and had to wait for a manager to come fix that. I asked her if there were any special events going on today and she says, "Yes. FrightFest." I said no, I mean concerts, organized events, charity things, etc. She said no. She was wrong.

Outside the gates, I saw a registration area/VIP/wristband distribution area for something called Electric Adventure. That turned out to be a very well attended "concert" in the arena, featuring dance music played by DJ's and (maybe?) live performers. I have less than zero interest, but it did affect the crowds, as the park got loaded with teenagers and early twenty-somethings. Mostly girls, many in get-ups suitable for, but not intended for, Halloween. The concert was a mostly all day, free form thing so attendees could come and go as they pleased. A wristband was required, so I guess it was NOT included with park admission. Speaking of park admission, since I get a Season Pass, I hadn't realized the cost of a single day, non-discounted gate admission to theme park only (safari and Waterpark closed) is now over $68 when tax is figured in.

As is always the case now, I had to remove my belt at the metal detectors, which is a pain because I was wearing jeans that were pretty loose at the waist. I also removed my key, coins and credit card to go through. But the beeper was still going off, and it turned out the zippers on the pouch I wear under my arm and under my shirt were setting it off. That hasn't been the case before. So, already beltless and trying to make sure my pants didn't end up arouund my ankles, I had to take off my t-shirt to remove the pouch. And that's not a pretty picture.

Following that Magic Mike moment, I got myself back together and headed to the gate. It was a bit after 10am, and Gary and I were planning to meet by the fountain between 10-10:30. But lo and behold..it's after 10 and they haven't rolled up the entry gates yet. They always open them at 10, and drop the ropes inside the park at 10:30. Not this day. We were kept in a "holding pen," the area between the ticket booths and the entry gates. That area got very crowded very quickly. The gates went up at 10:30.

The meet-up was easy, as Gary and I ended up in adjacent lines at the gates and spotted one another.

We headed first to El Toro, and were in the backseat of the Kia Soul Train almost immediately. We got a total of three rides, not leaving the station. Despite ET's usual morning sluggishness, the rides were quite nice. We then headed to Bizarro for another triple ride, in the back. Audio was on. Ride ran well. The MCBR was not on heavy, so the train FLEW through the initial part of the second half. It was a bit strange to crest the lift hills on those rides and see no cars driving through the safari. The animals were certainly out, enjoying the beautiful early fall weather.

I asked Gary if he wanted to hit Kingda Ka, but he declined and went over to the 3-point basketball shoot for a while. While he did, I walked to Ka, only to find a line with the switchbacks 3/4 full. It appeared it would be at least 1.5 hours, so I passed. I checked in with Gary in between shoots to let him know I was gonna try to grab a spin on Green Lantern. I waited about 5 minutes to get to the single rider line, which was open and quite popular this day. I waited at least 20 minutes ON the stairs. Got my ride..unfortunately, it was near the back. Not my favorite spot, and it banged me around more than a little. The line tripled by the time I got off, and it was only a little past 12:30.

Waited for Gary to finish up, and, with the skyride not running, we walked to Nitro. The line looked to be about 20-30 minutes, and Gary was heading to SFNE. So he split at that point. Gary's a nice fellow, and I always enjoy hanging with him for a bit. We bid adieu and Bon Voyage, and I got on the Nitro line. Turned out to be about 20 minutes. I waited for two rides, then managed to grab three more in empty seats. First two rides in the back were great, but the other three elsewhere..not so much, although I did get some air at spots where I wouldn't expect it...but none on some spots where I DO expect it, especially the finishing bunny hills. Also, the first drop and following climb seems quite jarring.

I could tell the crowds were following the usual Saturday FrightFest pattern, the park beginning to fill up around 2pm. Batman's line was out in the garden, so I passed. I grabbed a ride on Skull Mountain, and even went on Dark Knight. I had read (possibly here on CB) that there were some new lighting effects, so I tried it. The only thing I saw that I thought was new..and I may just never have noticed it before..was some "burning" oil drums at the very start of the ride. Ride still bites, though. SkyScreamer was operating early, then was closed. I thought it was due to FrightFest activities, but it had re-opened when I got off the Scrambler. It had a monstrous line, so I skipped.

After 3 or so, I didn't do anymore rides. I had planned on leaving when it got crowded, but decided to stay. I got a pretzel to hold me over, and took in the sights..human and otherwise... for the next hour or so. I picked up a FrightFest show schedule and decided to head to the Showcase Theater for GhoulMaster's Ghosts at 5pm. There's a sameness to these Zombie singing/dancing shows, but this one features a few neat effects along with laughably bad lip-synching by the lead. I do miss the Hypnosteria show they've had in the past in that hall.

It was odd, earlier, to see the Big Wheel operating on a FrightFest Saturday. The reason is that everyone's favorite zombie rave, Dead Man's Party, has been re-located to a stage between the Dark Knight building and the old Batman Stunt Show arena. Gives them a lot more room, and as always, it's preceded by the Awakening Of Dr. Fright and the zombie parade. DMP was okay at best. It does now include one of my favorite songs, Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haaa!" Cool pyrotechnics, more comedic relief than in the past, a bit more family-friendly. But I'm still not crazy about it.

I left after that, the midways so crowded you couldn't walk without making contact. It was a gorgeous day, and people definitely came out.

Now (pulls out soapbox)..let's talk about gouging. This is Six Flags, so it goes with the territory. FrightFest essentially boils down to two things: Shows and Walk-through haunts. All shows are included with admission. That's the good news. GrAdv this year features a hayride and 5 Haunted walks: Haunted Heist (laser tag), Voodoo Island, Insanity:Gears Of The MInd, The Manor, and Wasteland. You get one guess how many of those are included with admission.

Answer: Zero. Zip. Nada. Nil.

Hayride is $5, all others are $8.

You can buy a combo for $18 that allows you to do as many of those as you can. Considering what the lines would be like, I'd imagine that number might not be very high. But wait!! For $55 you can get the Scare Pass that gives you front-of-line access to these 6 upcharge haunts.

Great Adventure's pretty good about discounts for SP holders, offering them for FlashPass, some merchandise, some food, some regular upcharge attractions. So I was curious to see what the SP holder discount was on these items for the haunts.

There ain't one.

Matter of fact, they charge SP holders MORE than the unwashed masses. Combo? $25, not $18. Scare Pass? $75, not $55. Can you picture the meeting where the execs set this up? "Well, these people that support us all year have not given us one red cent to get in to FrightFest, so...in keeping with the theme..let's bleed them for even MORE money than John Q. Public is putting out."

If I was someone who was REALLY interested in the walk-throughs, Six Flags Corporate would be hearing from me.

White Castle finished my day on a positive note.

Thanks for reading!

*EDITED TO ADD*...How exactly would they know you're a passholder unless you told them when buying? If I knew I was paying less by not being a passholder, I sure wouldn't mention I WAS one.

Last edited by Mike Gallagher, Sunday, October 7, 2012 7:50 PM
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Sunday, October 7, 2012 11:49 PM

They charge more for passholders because that price is for the entire Fright Fest access to the trails, the lower prices are for 1 day only.

I noticed they didn't open the gates to the park until opening on Friday night either. I don't see how that can work well on busy days, it was bad enough with only a few hundred people waiting on Friday. They need to go back to the old setup. I guess next year they will have to with the Premium Pass "ERT" (you get to go to a ride entrance 10 minutes early but the rides don't open until park opening time)

Last edited by YoshiFan, Sunday, October 7, 2012 11:54 PM
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Monday, October 8, 2012 5:29 AM

^The signs definitely (defiantly?) didn't make that clear.

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Monday, October 8, 2012 3:29 PM

I enjoyed your report Mike. Too bad it was so busy. Looks like you got in a lot of rides though so that's good.

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Monday, October 8, 2012 6:36 PM

Thanks for the TR... :)

We got to GAdv this Friday, and Toro is still Toro to me. Wow, I just plain love that silly thing. We got in right at opening and scored several re-rides to start off the day. The remainder of the riding was all icing....or gravy.

Meet-ups with great friends always rocks....esp. the day after escaping from family visits. ;~P

Brief P.S. -

GAdv took my 2013 parking-included pass from SFoG, so I'm left with a paid parking voucher for GAdv good any day in 2012 - if someone wants to claim that, let me know and I can mail it out.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 1:04 AM

Deja vu.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 1:05 AM

Deja vu again!

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 12:00 PM

Nice report Mike!

It was nice that the park wasn't particularly busy early. The El Toro rides were great as always. I do wish I had stayed to get that Nitro ride with you, as it was shut down for rain when I came back to visit on Sunday evening and down on Monday morning. Rats! Oh well, some things just aren't meant to be. Having said that, it was great seeing you again and getting in some rides with short waits. Hopefully you can make it back out to this part of the country again next year!

On a sidenote, there's a restaurant in Brick called Juana Banana that makes outstanding rotisserie chicken. It's a Colombian restaurant and the rest of their stuff is pretty good, but their chicken is absolutely delicious.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 1:24 PM

You were in Brick and didn't have a Windmill hot dog? (shakes head sadly)

How did you end up knowing about a restaurant in Brick, anyway? What did you search online?

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 1:33 PM

bunky - sorry, I saw the duplicate before I saw your post...connection issues on my end.

Nonetheless, you were right prior to me deleting... :~P

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012 2:48 PM

I just like teasing ya. I figured it was a glitch of some sort.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012 1:10 PM

I don't know why anyone would pay admission to SF and then pay more for the haunted houses. However, they get such a big crowd. I was at Dorney Saturday and they had 15 haunted attractions all included in admission!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012 8:18 PM

I have since found out those Passholder prices for the Combo and Scare Pass were indeed for the ENIRETY of Fright Fest.

I was at GAdv this past Saturday, and I have never...in the modern era (Post-Ka/Toro/Nitro/Medusa) seen lines like that. I used to see three hour lines for the Log Flume and raft ride back in the late 70's and through the 80's. But this was unreal.

Superman had a 3-4 hour line by 12pm (one train.) Ka's queue was almost back to the bathrooms in late afternoon. Toro's was off the ride's boundaries, back to the pathway leading to the bridge to Bizarro. Nitro's entire line was full and nearly to the Cold Stone. Bizarro was out to the lockers. This was even before darkness fell. I only saw one Terror Trail "line"..for Wasteland, at Congo Rapids...and it wasn't even a line..just a mass of humanity. My friend Jen treated me to a Flash Pass as a late birthday present, and she's on a bum ankle. If we hadn't done that, we would have been fortunate to get on five rides...and we were there from opening to almost 8:30. Cars were parked literally all over the parking lot, lined spaces, lanes, and pedestrian walkways be damned. There was a backup to the WaWa on 537 outside the park as I drove out, people heading "in." I'd bet that if those people even got IN, they didn't get to do anything.

I'll be there to close the season Sunday, but I expect nothing like that. I AM worried about Dorney Saturday, though...

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012 8:56 PM

I heard they stayed open until midnight because of the crowds. I was there last Friday night and saw they had overflow queues set up with trashcans and rope that I figured was for Saturday. It's crazy to think how long the lines are with a full queue let alone with overflow queues. I'm planning on going back Friday night again since I figure that should be the least crowded of the last 3 days the park is open (this past Friday nothing except Green Lantern was more than 10 minutes).

Normally I would have said Dorney wouldn't be that crowded especially after being there this past Sunday and all coasters except Wild Mouse had no wait but someone on a Dorney site said that last Saturday they were using the overflow lot which I was really surprised to hear since I thought Haunt never gets that crowded compared to Fright Fest.

Last edited by YoshiFan, Wednesday, October 24, 2012 8:57 PM
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Friday, October 26, 2012 2:49 PM

I didn't realize the park was THAT crowded. Wow! I have only been there once where it was that crowded, and the El Toro line was wrapping around almost to the bridge at the BACK of the coaster.
It can get ridiculous!

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Saturday, October 27, 2012 10:48 AM

YoshiFan said:

Normally I would have said Dorney wouldn't be that crowded especially after being there this past Sunday and all coasters except Wild Mouse had no wait but someone on a Dorney site said that last Saturday they were using the overflow lot which I was really surprised to hear since I thought Haunt never gets that crowded compared to Fright Fest.

Holy run-on sentence, Batman! ;)

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