Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey, USA
I could tell a novel-length story before even getting to the park stuff, so I’ll just cut it short.
We’re moving. I really wanted to sample El Toro this year. I also wanted updated material for my site, especially considering:
-We got rained out of a visit last year.
-I have no photos (or credit) on Kingda Ka.
-After El Toro, things will probably slow at the park and a visit now means no need to return for a few years.
-I wanted to see the park under the new guys control.
Basically the timing was right to return to SF as soon as El Toro opened. All criteria would be met, I could score some new credits and grab new material for Coasterimage. The timing of our move killed that all pretty quickly. I chose to compromise and try to squeeze in a visit before we moved and SFGAdv became too much of a hassle to get to. Not perfect by any means, but I could meet a few objectives and do ‘good enough’ on the rest.
I committed to a date, recruited my little brother as a trip buddy and things seemed good. Then the weather forecast got ugly. Then no hotel rooms of remote quality were available. Then we left.
We drove 6 hours to the single worst hotel ever to book a guest. Still no idea why Choice Hotels or the State of New Jersey allow this property to operate and even less idea why anyone stays in these “just a place to sleep” hotels. I’ve taken 6 showers since I got home and I still feel dirty. The nicest part of the room was the tasteful and complete vandalism of the headboard (warning, explicit content within) and it went downhill from there. For real!
Bottom line: avoid the Econo Lodge Bordentown like it has a disease for which no antidote exists (because it’s probably true).
So why did the self-proclaimed hotel snob choose one-star accommodations? Because they were literally the only overpriced choice within any sane distance of the park. Given the same situation knowing what I know now – we would have just slept in the car along 537 somewhere near the park.
I cannot stress enough that I’m not joking.
Anyway, we were up bright an early to find a steady rain falling. Too much to be a drizzle or a sprinkle, but not enough to be a shower. Just little drops of slowly, but steadily falling rain. Being an optimistic enthusiast, I knew these could potentially be great days to visit parks. The weather still possibly nice enough for a park to operate, but crappy enough to keep people away. I just wasn’t sure I had enough faith in Six Flags knowing it.
We pulled off of 537 and down the winding road to Great Adventure right around the park’s 10am opening time. There was only one other vehicle making the same trek and it seemed to think that speed bumps along the road way indicated the need to slow down…go figure.
We pulled up next to a booth at the parking lot entrance and found a pleasant senior citizen type manning the post. I have to admit to a certain level of sticker shock upon actually hearing the $15 parking price – even after defending it repeatedly around here, but hey, they give you a cool souvenir map that sells in the park for $5 on it’s own and realistically 15 bucks isn’t changing my life in any capacity. If it helps the park clear some debt and improves things in general, then I’m glad to say I contributed.
As she handed over the map and receipt, the woman said, “Have fun in the park!” (or something to that effect) and I replied half-sarcastic and half-jokingly, “Yeah, we sure picked a good day to come.” Booth Grandma got twinkle in her eye and informed us, “You know, you boys did pick a good day. There aren’t many people here and most of the rides should be running.”
We pulled into the lot and saw that she did indeed know her stuff. Coasters were already cycling and the lot was the emptiest I’d ever seen it. In fact it was so empty, it would easy land in the top three emptiest operating amusement park parking lots that I’d ever seen.
‘Twas moments from entry, when all through the place
Not a creature was stirring, not even one face
The car was parked in a close spot with care
In hopes that we were the only ones there
We were nestled all snug in the car
While visions of walk-ons danced in from afar
My brother in pants and I in my shorts
Looked forward to coaster rides of all sorts
With rain coming steady I figured it best not to lug any of the big camera stuff in and besides, this was too good to pass up, I wanted some ride time. I tossed the little camera into my pocket and we headed towards the park.
We got through the gate with the same lack of crowds and immediately got ambushed by the photo tools hanging around the gate like paparazzi outside of Britney Spears' house. After a quick pose, I figured if we followed the golden rule of park visitation on a day like today that we’d sure be doubly rewarded. Off to Medusa we headed.
Along the way we surveyed things and many flats were open, most of the coasters were as well. Chiller was down, obviously. Kingda Ka pretty much had no chance of opening on a windy, rainy day. Runaway mine train was down due to some lap bar thingy they’re working on. The rest of the line-up was up and running. As we got closer to Medusa’s floorless goodness, I marveled at the lack of life to be found in the park. It was really, really, really empty.
We got to Medusa and the only other people to be seen were a couple exiting the ride. We nabbed a walk-on, front row, solo ride. When we returned to the station, there were people waiting for both the front and back rows, but we were informed we could fill in any row not being waited for. We picked an arbitrary row in the middle and scored a back-to-back. (more on Medusa a little later)
That felt good enough for now so we decided to start working back through the park. We circle back around to Plaza Del Carnaval for a quick glance at El Toro. I decided to snag what will surely become the most overtaken photo of the ride. Trust me, you’ll see that shot a gazillion times this year. It’s just too good and too easy. Once it’s open, wait for a train to come over that hill, frame up the shot a little better and click your way to photo gold.
We were also in the vicinity to jump on Rolling Thunder. To my simultaneous delight and dismay, it was the right side running. Delightful in that I’d never ridden that side (and it became #250 – the latest in a long line of ridiculous milestone credits) and dismay in the form of…well…a ride on Rolling Thunder. I have to admit the ride wasn’t as horrible as I remembered the other side being, but it still qualified as sucky.
The bonus here was a crew that was having a lot of fun. Personalized, humorous attempt at the spiels (not unlike the Cedar Point of old) that included lines like, “Enjoy your ride on the coaster that stands next to the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster.” Lots of smiles in general and certainly a far cry from the indifference that made me hate this park the first time I visited it in 2002.
We were offered the re-ride option but decided one lap was enough and we moved over to the Boardwalk area of the park as the rain began to fall a little harder. In an attempt to escape the rain for a few moments we ducked into the queue for Spongebob 3D and found only two other people waiting to ride. I really like the ride and have sampled it at more parks than I care to mention – it always delivers a good time.
From there we hit Superman and found it running two trains. We also found where most of the people at the park were. A one-train wait and we were off. No re-rides as all rows were being waited for at this point. So we hopped into the GASM queue and walked-on to a back row ride that was surprisingly intense (in a good way) and again skipped the re-ride for now. Crew here was solid, but not exceptional. There was one woman positioning herself near the exit and telling people at random to have a nice day – not unlike the stewardesses when you exit an airplane.
Upon exiting GASM, I noticed the designated smoking spot to the side of the ride and we stopped real quick-like. This would be a good time to point out that many parks have designated smoking areas, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a park the size of SFGAdv with so few available. There is literally something like 5 or 6 in the whole park and on top of that, they’re all in odd out of the way places…so much so that we never did find all of them – even with help from park maps. Oddly enough, it was still adequate (from a smoker’s POV), but it made me think of other parks where you’ll find 10, 12, 15 or more spots throughout the park and most are just to the side of major pathways. If you’re the militant, anti-smoke type then get your ass out to Great Adventure. The only smoke you’ll be forced to encounter will be from the idiots who ignore any established rules (like smoking in queues) and no amount of regulation will stop those folks. At any rate, I found the limited number of out-of-the-way designated smoking areas to be a surprise for a park of that size, but not that big of an inconvenience as a smoker. We all win!
Rain was still falling a bit harder at this point so we ducked into Nathan’s and grabbed drinks and sat inside for a few moments waiting for it to slow again. For the record, a large coke and bottle of water came to a total of $7.15 – I’ll make no judgment on that and leave it for you.
After a bit, we peeked into the Relaxation Station to see what it was all about. Not necessarily my thing, but I did notice more than a few people checking them out during the day. Not sure if it was massages, internet, huffing oxygen or just general curiosity like ours, but these spots were attracting people.
We continued crossing the park and ducked in for a lap on Skull Mountain. Half-empty trains, but no re-ride offer. Still a cute little coaster for what it’s worth.
We kept on our way to Movie Town and saw Batman cycling empty trains and got excited only to find it wasn’t accepting riders yet. So it was off to Nitro.
We walked on to a middle row and scored two re-rides before being forced to move on by waiting riders. The crew here rivaled the best. All throughout the day, no matter when we stopped back and who was doing what, they were all great. The British dude working the controls had such a genuine and casual spiel (with the cool accent to boot) assuring us that Nitro was an awesome ride, spouting ride stats in imperial measurements and then tossing a bit of worldliness in by reciting them in metric measurements as well. Telling us to enjoy the best ride in the park and then defending the claim to riders who questioned him with replies of, “Kingda Ka!” One girl checking lap bars would offer a smile and a, “Hello” no matter how many times in a row she had just done the same.
After our three Nitro laps, we circled Movie Town and head back across the park. We stopped at Houdini’s Great Escape and ducked out of the rain again. Surprisingly, we walked right on with a group that totaled 10 or 12 at most. I find this attraction fun in a cheesy way. The pre-show room is theme park cheese at it’s finest. The ride itself is forgettable, but the real fun comes in watching other riders and their reaction to the whole trick. I’m still amazed at how many people come off thinking they went upside-down.
After that we hit an arcade and pissed away a little time and money. My brother came ridiculously close to scoring a Nintendo DS – so much so that an employee came over and said he couldn’t believe we didn’t get the prize and that it was the closest he’s seen anyone come without getting it.
By now it was 1pm or thereabout and we knew the rain wasn’t letting up so I decided to just say, “to hell with it” and abandoned the idea of getting my cameras and any good photos or video and with the park so empty we silently decided to keep marching back and forth taking multiple laps on all the open coasters. Might as well make the most of it!
Back over to Medusa where we score another trio of re-rides after our initial walk-on. The crew was indifferent, but in a decent way if that makes sense. Sometimes it just feels like you’re an inconvenience to their social time, but while this crew didn’t offer much, they didn’t seem annoyed to be at work. Whoever was on the mic always offered something little like, “How was your ride” when the train returned or something similar at dispatch. Acceptable and pleasant.
As we exited Medusa we saw El Toro make it’s first test run of the day. We stopped and watched as much as we could and hurried up past Runaway Mine Train for a better look. At this point I snagged a really crappy video clip (hey, it was taken with a consumer-level digital still camera) of part of the next test run. The coaster appeared to run flawlessly to us and we waited for another run that didn’t happen. I snapped some photos while we waited. We decided to circle around the coaster for a better look from the other side.
I must say that the new Plaza del Carnaval area rivals all but the best park theming I’ve seen. As blasphemous as it may be to say, the way the music blends in and out with the sounds of the surrounding areas reminded me an awful lot of island hopping at IOA. (I later felt the same effect, but on a greater level, when checking out the Golden Kingdom) We admired the entrance to El Toro a bit and decided that it was weird that the bull statue seemed to be anatomically correct. We watched the crew work on some landscaping along the queue.
After a few moments, we figured another run wasn’t happening anytime soon so we decided to punish ourselves with another Rolling Thunder lap. This time the crew had a thing going where every time the ops yelled, “Toro” everyone had to reply with, “Ole!” I though this was pretty cool. It kept the handful of people ‘up’ and they were selling excitement about the new coaster right next door. We waited for the single train to return, took out place in the front seat and while waiting to dispatch saw Toro climbing the lift again. My initial disappointment was erased when I realized the timing was perfect for us to watch the El Toro train rip through the finale inside of Rolling Thunder’s infield while we climbed the lift on Rolling Thunder. A lesser man would have pulled the camera from his pocket and begun snapping away from the lift hill.
After our lap (we skipped the re-ride again) we waited around a bit hoping for another test run. No luck there, but we did like the way the track in the turnaround banked hard and then immediately banked hard the other way with an incline between. We never did see another test run.
We moved on repeating our first pattern and made our way to Superman again. It was here that we encountered a true and typical Six Flags moment. We made our way through the façade and down the long winding queue, up the stairs and into the station to find ourselves all alone. A train was in the station with mechanics working, prodding and exploring it. We stood there a minute or two before a ride op informed us that the ride was down. In the time it took us to backtrack we passed more than a few people making the same fruitless trek that we had. Come on! Close the queue already! Lame.
Since we were here, we went for another lap on Scream Machine. A walk-on back seat ride followed by a solo re-ride in the front and we’d had enough. I still don’t get the idea that this ride is rough. It’s much more intense than I remembered and it seemed to be running really aggressively, but I still haven’t suffered headbanging brutality on this or any of the old Arrow’s. My non-enthusiast brother didn’t seem to mind and I dig the old Arrow coasters. Good times.
From there it was back across the park to Nitro. This time we saw the fullest station of the day on any ride. At this point they were running full trains. We got one lap, circled back around and took another. Still nothing more than a one-train wait. (I know, I know. Gonch! The guy who made ‘Nyquil’ annoying is taking lap after lap on Nitro!? More on this later)
At this point we decided to stop for something to eat. We peeked inside Granny’s Country Kitchen but decided against chicken. It was here that I had my second bout of sticker shock. While looking at the menu, I noticed that the family meal (12 pcs of chicken, rolls or biscuits, etc) was listed at $44.99! It just hit me kind of hard for some reason. In hindsight I think it’s that ‘perception of value’ thing we always talk about around here. I mean if you do the math on 4 meals and drinks, the total is close, but somehow seeing it listed there as amusement park food closing in on $50, it seemed silly. But in the end, people were seated and eating, so people are paying. Again, if it helps set things straight at the SF parks, then more power to all involved and furthermore, good for them.
We ended up ducking into the Great Character Café for burgers. Two cheeseburger platters, large coke and a bottle of water came to $24 and change. Meh, whattaya gonna do? The food was standard park fare. If you like it, you’d like this. If not, you wouldn’t. Too steep? I didn’t have a problem with it and apparently neither did anyone else sitting there eating. They do have to be pushing the bounds of people’s tolerance though. It’s a point that people seem to either deal with or not. All I know is the place wasn’t empty…not even close.
What is was, however, was filthy. There was no reason for the garbage and soiled tables and it was a big disappointment in contrast to the other obvious steps in the right direction that the park seemed to be making. You blew it here Six Flags.
After the food, I wanted to check out the Golden Kingdom area. I was really blown away. The whole thing is on par with the general theming at ANY park I’ve ever been to – and yes, that includes Orlando!
Every building is well done and fits perfectly. All the little details that make good theme into great theme were covered. The animals on display were totally in place. The music adding to the theme and the way it seems to fade in from nowhere as you get deeper into the Golden Kingdom and then does the same in reverse as you leave. It’s all good. If all the SF parks could get this sort of vibe going on, they’d be in great shape and the $59 entry wouldn’t even be questionable. Color me impressed.
We made our way back to KK and poked around a bit then finished exploring the extremely well done section of park before moving on.
We decided to do the circuit again and beelined our way to Medusa. The plan going in was to pick a row that no one ever seemed to be waiting for and not move until we were forced to. We decided on Row 6. It seems the line for the front filled first, with row 2 and the back row always coming next. After that people seemed to fill in from front to back with the occasional oddball taking next-to-last (row 7) if the back was already spoken for. Row six seemed like the odds-on favorite for several rides.
We ended up scoring 6 consecutive rides without leaving our seats. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a better time on a coaster. We were just having a blast with the ride and the anticipation of pulling into the station to see if someone would be waiting for our row. We came up with increasingly ridiculous poses for the on-ride cameras and found ourselves fighting for breath through the laughter. Just one of those times where the world stops and the moment takes over.
The down side to that many rides is the ability to find every flaw in the ride. I must say after the earlier laps and then these six, I now know this ride like the back of my hand. Sure this was B&M, but there were two really bad spots where the train would shimmy to the point of the kind of headbanging usually reserved for reviews of old Arrow loopers and various Vekoma rides.
The first and lesser spot is coming out of the vertical loop and into the dive loop just as/after you cross under the final brake run. Serious side-to-side action there. Far worse is the transition from the Cobra Roll to the MCBR – it was brutal. No matter how far I tried to lean into the OTSR and get my head out of there, it still felt like being pummeled by a large, angry gorilla. If I develop a case of cauliflower ear, I’m suing everyone involved.
After that 6th lap, there was a group of 4 kids waiting for our seats and we figured we’d been abused enough and headed off. The kicker was that as that train left the station, we noticed that the kids hadn’t taken our seats but opted for row 7. Who knows exactly how many laps we might have gone.
Time to head back over to the Boardwalk to see if Superman was back up.
Along the way we passed Bugs Bunny National Park. Funny how if I had visited with the family I would have spent a large portion of the day here, but on this day I didn’t step foot in there – not even to see how they did with it.
Turns out that Superman was back up and with a grand total of 8 people waiting (it was now running just one train) we wanted to do a front row ride and were willing to wait a train for it. After the ride, I was feeling it. I’ve always heard people take about ‘having enough’ when power riding and I never understood it. This last ride on Superman showed me what that’s all about. The worst part was that the trains weren’t even close to filling and we could’ve easily re-rode this for the rest of the night. My brother wanted to go another lap, but I suggested getting back to Nitro (gasp!) and seeing it they finally had Batman running as the rain had pretty much stopped at this point. I just wanted a chance to regroup.
We made it back to Movie Town and saw Batman carrying riders. We also saw a rather empty station on Nitro. We opted to pounce on Nitro while the getting was good.
We tried our “Row Six Trick” again and got ourselves three consecutive laps without moving. I have to admit. Nitro won me over a little. Everything seemed to be running way fast, way more intense than usual, but Nitro was like night and day when compared to my previous experiences. I could feel the air. I could feel the face-crushing G’s in the helix. I was being tossed out of my seat on the return. It was…dare I say it? Good! I won’t say great, but it definitely moved up a few notches on my ballot for Mitch’s Steel Coaster Poll this year. We could’ve kept going, but my brother was itching to try Batman and honestly, I was still feeling a bit ‘off’.
We queued up for Batman and got a one-train wait, front seat ride. Batman is not the coaster to ride when you’re already feeling it from a day of riding. One lap and my brother was pushing for a re-ride further back the train. I declined.
We exited the ride with no real plan. It was now 6pm and the park closed at 8pm. We could do one more circuit of the park. Should we?
We circled back around to the main plaza near the park entrance. It was then that I realized I had a six-hour drive to get him home and then another hour to get home myself. We called it a day.
It’s probably the most hardcore day in terms of riding coasters that I’ve ever done. Over the past few years I’ve gotten used to park hopping with the wife and kids and doing the family thing while fitting in coasters rides. It’s been a long while since I hit a park in this fashion. I had a ton of fun and I need to make time to do it like this more often.
I finally rolled into the driveway a little after 1am and found the family asleep. I still didn’t feel quite right when I hit the mattress a few hours later.
-Overall, I think the park is definitely headed the right way. This was so far from the park I learned to hate in 2002 and 2003 that comparisons almost seem unfair. Operations of multiple trains on a slow day like this, employees that ranged from adequate to downright exceptional, new areas that rival the best out there – all good. None of the shows seemed to be up with the weather and the only two characters we saw all day were Tweety and Sylvester hanging out near the main gate, but they were there all damn day. No superheroes or street characters to be found. Every restroom did indeed have an attendant and the restrooms were very clean. Pricing (something I’ve defended) did seem to be pushing the breaking point, but like I said, people weren’t exactly running scared.
I can’t speak for the chain and I understand the weather made the day a bit of an exception, but SFGAdv is light years beyond where it was just a few years ago. Here’s to hoping things not only keep up, but continue to improve.
*** Edited 6/9/2006 7:05:11 AM UTC by Lord Gonchar***
on a side note, any one know if El Toro is up yet? just wondering...or if its not, if it will be open by June 20th? i know its slated to be on the roster for Coaster Celebration June 17th...
still trying to think of a good signature...
Wonderful trip report!!
- Ryan - http://www.tideblue.com/painter/
I could tell a novel-length story before even getting to the park stuff, so I’ll just cut it short.
I'll keep it shorter. I read the 1st 2 paragraphs, and had enough.
Glad you had a good time and I cannot wait to get back there this year.
I'll keep it shorter. I read the 1st 2 paragraphs, and had enough.
Should've read the last two instead.
Good try though. :)
We rode skyride to skip wlaking across the park and got a nice view of the new wooden coaster (opening next week). I only had my low quality cell phone camera or i would've taken some pics. I rode my first time on Nitro too! AMAZING!! My 2 twin cousins talked me into the front row for my first time and i had no idea what I was in for. The speed is just so intense that I found it hard to keep my eyes open and me head off of the headrest, haha.
The prices were alrite- ive seen more expensive; and we walked into the granny restaurant and walked right out (I couldve sworn they had better food there last time).
Hope you guys enjoyed our local park! Hopefully next time El Toro and Kingdaka will be open for ya.
vacoasterfreak said:on a side note, any one know if El Toro is up yet? just wondering...or if its not, if it will be open by June 20th? i know its slated to be on the roster for Coaster Celebration June 17th...
*It's scheduled for next weekend sometime (not sure which day) so it should be open for the 20th*
Although SFGA is known for it's random and un-announced ride closures. I rode batman this wknd and came back a few hours later for another run at it and found four guys doing maintanence of one of the loops. Hope you have a good time!
I think Nate's TR might be a bit longer.
Here's hoping that it happens again this year in August. *Does rain dance*
Moving out of town, or just a local move?
It's now been 4 or 5 days and I've gotten no reply.
Although for BeastBuzz we did stay at the Marriott. :)
Nice talking to you again yesterday, Intamin Fan. And I'm proud to have converted another 'hotel snob' ;)
Lord Gonchar said:
As of tonight I'm a resident of Ohio, Brett.
Welcome to The Buckeye State, the land of Cedar Fair. I live in the West Central part of OH where CP and KI are both 2 hours away. I wish CP and GL allowed re-rides like that. Does anyone understand why they don't? I have been to both on days that there were plenty of empty seats on trains, but the rule is NO.
I currently only have a season pass to Wyandot Lake (currently six flags) which is actually my closest park, but plan to have a CF pass by the end of the month. Did KI the last two years and thought I'd switch again. Let me know if you would like to meet up, I usually end up going to parks alone! I also hope to get to SFKK by the end of the year. Haven't been there yet, just drove past it.
Finally, why can't you people read the whole thing. As a public librarian, yes thats true...strange hobby for a librarian? :), I can tell you, don't judge a book by its cover, IE the person reading the just the first two paragraphs!
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