SFNE/SFGAdv TR: 7/1-7/10 The Highs & Lows of Six Flags

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Friday, July 22, 2005 2:14 AM
SFNE/SFGAdv TR: 7/1-7/10 The Highs & Lows of Six Flags

So this year my family decided to all get Six Flags season passes and plan our vacation around Six Flags parks (last year we did the same with Paramount Parks and the year before with Cedar Fair parks). We hadn’t been to SFNE and had heard nothing but good things about the park and, especially, Superman so we decided to plan a trip up to the Boston area to do a few days at Six Flags New England and then hit Six Flags Great Adventure on the return trip home to round out the week.

The drive up to Massachusetts from the Baltimore, MD area was a long drive, but I had high hopes about what I was to experience in the next few days. The campground we were staying at was about an hour out of Springfield, so early Saturday morning we left hoping to make it to the park for the opening. Mind you this was Fourth of July weekend, so we were expecting large crowds. We approached the park from the south and anyone who’s never been there before would be surprised how the park just seems to pop out of the middle of nowhere. I mean, we were on this little two lane road and I kept watching for a sign to turn off onto a larger road to get to the park, but there it was, in the middle of this tiny little town (we’d find out just how close it was to Springfield on the next days visit when we approached the park from the north).

The park has a very “cozy” feeling as you approach the main gate. I quickly noticed how similar it looked to SFA’s entrance (in fact nearly identical, but it’s no surprise as both parks were flagged at the same time), just much narrower and much less ticket booths. That would be a problem each of the times we visited the park. Limited entrance area lead to large bottle necks every time the park got busy. They kept the lines moving, but often at the expense of security. I carry a multi-compartment bag with me when I go to theme parks where I keep my camera and wallet and such and most of the times I went through the front gate only the main compartment was checked and, at that, they barley glanced to see what was inside. I was even carrying a laser pointer in the small compartment (I had no intention of using it maliciously at the park, I just have it for school and forgot that I had left it in the bag), only once did a guard notice it and say anything about it. I guess I’m just used to going to SFA where the security just seems to be tighter and they always thoroughly search your bags before you enter the park.

As we entered the front gates I was dazzled by the sight of Superman in the distance. The antique carousel at the front of the park also provides some nice eye candy. As I hurried down the main street I glanced at the quaint buildings and admired all the little touches. But then, I reach a fork in the road. To the left or to the right? It seems to the right would be the best way to get to Superman (and it is), but the park has no directional signs anywhere around the park, so you’re on your own if you choose not to use a park map, which I seldom use. Fortunately, the park has few dead ends, save for one big one to Batman if you’re planning to stay out of the waterpark, just a lot of little paths that go all over the place, so you rarely have to backtrack for too long a distance. When I saw the entrance to “DC Superhero Adventure” I knew I was in the right place.

We followed the ramp down to get the best views of Superman. I must say, this path alone ranks right up there with the best of them for best places for a coaster lover to be when not on a coaster itself. You are completely surrounded by the coaster as it whizzes over and under you. There are so many good photo opportunities you could spend the whole day there just clicking pictures, but taking pictures was not what we were there to do. We got in line for the ride of steel and waited about an hour to get on the front seat. The line was lengthy, but seemed to move at a reasonable pace. Reasonable only though, hordes of fastlane users and constant stacking of trains kept the line from moving at a “good” pace.

*Superman: Ride of Steel*
The Good: Superman IS the amazing coaster everyone raves it is. In the front seat it gracefully flies through the course providing many good pops of air and in the back seat it’s like riding a bucking bronco (not in a rough way, just in the amount of air). The design is, in my opinion, nearly flawless with nearly perfect pacing. The tunnels are placed perfectly, the helices are perfectly banked, even the dip after the overbanked turn are all just amazing. Superman is the gem of this little park in Massachusetts.

The Bad: If SFNE is really trying to be the “clean” Six Flags, they need to start by removing the MASSES of gum in the line for Superman, mostly the gum on those metal decorative pieces in the portion of the queue parallel to the station. What’s up with the waiting lines for the front car and the last car? Shouldn’t they have the last seat line separated from the line for the seat in front of it and the line for the front seat separated from the seat behind it? So many times I saw the train leave with no one in the second row or next to last row. That really hurts capacity. Finally, the ride is a decently long ride, so why did I ALWAYS see stacking? And it wasn’t just waiting for 30 seconds or so, it was waiting for a minute or more.

While the queue and the rides operation were questionable, the ride itself is in my opinion a perfect 10 if there every was such a thing. Superman: Ride of Steel now tops my coaster ranking by leaps and bounds (pun definitely intended). From Superman, we headed over to Poison Ivy’s Twisted Train. Nice little coaster with some wonderful landscaping. From there it was off to Batman: the Dark Knight.

*Batman: the Dark Knight*
The Good: Batman is quite the action packed little coaster. It’s not very big, and it’s not long, but there is a lot that happens from beginning to end. It’s sort of like the floorless version of Batman: the Ride.

The Bad: Unfortunately, this coaster was not the highlight of my trip. First of all, I’m a firm believer that the only real place you can truly experience the effect of a floorless coaster is in the front seat and to find that it was completely assigned seating was the biggest damper. The coaster seems placed terribly, almost like they put it there just because it was the only place they had the room. I’d say something about it not being in the right themed area, but I’m sure someone would quickly point out Two Face at SFA as a similar example, so I won’t fault it for that. The queue’s decently nice, but that line just seems to move ever too slow. Stacking here was worse than anywhere else in the park with most trains waiting two or more minutes on the final brake. The ride also seemed pretty jittery as you approached the back of the train, unusual for any Beemer.

It was a fun little ride, but nothing to write home about or anything. We next made our way over to the Batman Thrill Spectacular Stunt Show. I’ve seen the one at SFA before and instantly noticed the similarities between the sets. However, the SFNE version features Two Face and the Riddler instead of the Joker as SFA’s does. The show was okay, but the stunts were fairly dry. I also felt that the show really didn’t have a plot line and trying to squeeze two villains in (neither are seen at the same time because they are played by the same person) just made the show that much less interesting. Even the “set explosion” at the end seemed fairly lackluster in comparison to other Batman shows I’ve seen. After that it was onto Mr. Six’s Pandemonium. The brightly colored ride fits right in with its location and they did a beautiful job at placing the ride. It looks like it’s always been there.

*Mr. Six’s Pandemonium*
The Good: Pandemonium is an action packed ride from start to finish, yet is fun and gentle enough for the whole family to enjoy. The queue line music fits the ride perfectly while the station announcement is well fitted to the ride. The cars are comfortable and able to accommodate guests of almost every size. I’d love to see more of these rides come to more Six Flags parks.

The Bad: Pandemonium is a capacity nightmare. There is only room in the station for two cars at a time, one loading and the other unloading, and each car can only hold four people. As such, stacking was always a problem and a ride that was designed to accommodate three or four cars on the circuit at any one time only ever had one or two cars on the ride portion at a time. To make matters worse, the fastlane riders make the line move that much slower for the people waiting in line as each group in fast lane tends to need a full car. The line is ALL out in the sun with no misting or anything and while the songs are good, the queue line music set is too short meaning you end up hearing that darn Venga Boys song at least three or four times when the queue is full. I think the whole matter could be made better by one of two solutions in future installments: 1. Have the cars always moving at a slow pace in the station as on many standard wild mouse coasters or 2. Design the station to allow two trains to load and unload simultaneously. I guess it would work fine the way it is now if they had a way to let people off the opposite side of the car that they got on.

From there we headed to Cyclone...

*Cyclone*
The Good: Well, it’s a credit...

The Bad: For starters, it’s not handicapped accessible (my mom is handicapped so I notice those things), not that anyone handicapped would want to ride this monster anyways. The coaster is in horrible disrepair. The trains squeak, the paint is chipped, it just looks like a mess. They were only running one train. Is that all they have? I mean sure the line wasn’t that long, but with only one train it moved excruciatingly slow. The station was silent without any formal station announcements or queue line music. That, added to the chain linked fences that tightly hugged the ramp portion of the queue line, really made the ride feal like a prison camp. And the ride itself, where do I start?!? For starters, it moves excruciatingly slow around many parts of the ride, though I guess that’s a good thing, because most of the rest of the ride is pretty rough. And this isn’t “Old GCI rough” where the coaster has a little bit of a shake for most of the ride. Oh no, in fact much of it is reasonably smooth, but then JAM, it feels like you’re getting hit in the back with a baseball bat. I wondered at first why so few people were putting their hands up for most of the ride, but when I got off I could see why. It’s by far NOT the worst coaster I’ve ever been on, but lets just say I had no intentions of riding it a second time in the two days we were at the park.

From Cyclone we were onto the parks other wooden coaster, Thunderbolt. Ya, I realizes it may seem like we were jumping all over the park, but each of the times we passed the line for Mind Eraser or Flashback, the line was just too long to wait.

*Thunderbolt*
The Good: It’s funny how Thunderbolt is the older of the two wooden coasters but yet is in so much better shape. The whole coaster has a “classic” feel to it with the retro sign, the well done station announcement, the single lapbars per row, the skid brakes, the double down. It was a great ride with some nice pops of air throughout.

The Bad: Again, my biggest problem was the assigned seating. I was really hoping to get a front seat ride on this classic but never got the opportunity. The ride also seemed a little short, but overall it was a great ride. Once again the one train operation was a bit frustrating.

That just about wraps up my first day at the park. We also hit Scream that day (more on that later), but the lines were long and the park was crowded. On the following Tuesday, we returned to the park for our second day. The park seemed less crowded, but the lines were just as long. We started with a re-ride on Pandemonium, then headed over to check out Blizzard River. I really liked the themeing of this ride. From the station to the snow covered banks, the engulfing fog and the building you go through at the end all were really wonderful, especially for a Six Flags park. However, I did feel it lacked any really good rapids, and I didn’t get as wet as I hoped I would (maybe it was just the seat I was in). I also wasn’t too pleased to see so many boats go so empty, especially when there seemed to be so few boats on the circuit as it was. Many times I saw boats go with two or three empty seats, just filling those seats would seem so easy yet would increase capacity so much. From there we headed over to Flashback.

*Flashback*
The Good: I like the music in the station...

The Bad: It’s unfortunate you cannot hear the music as well in the line itself. Also not a fan (once again) of the lack of choice in seating. Other than that, it’s just another standard boomerang with very strong brakes.

From there only one coaster remained: Mind Eraser.

*Mind Eraser*
The Good: The queue line comes oh so close to Superman providing for some really great views.

The Bad: One train operation?!? What the heck? Both days we were at the park they only had one train operation. I’d like to hope this was actually because of a problem with the train because with one train, the line moved WAY too slow. So slow that I had to wait over an hour to ride (believe me, I never would have waited that long if I knew I would be back to SFNE any time soon). Like most other Vekoma SLCs, it’s not the greatest of rides, with several spots being relatively rough.

From there we did a few more re-rides. For some reason Superman had nearly no line at all so we got another front row seat on that followed by a back seat ride. Also pulled my Dad onto Batman once after which my sister and I went for one more ride on Thunderbolt. That was a fun experience that trip because the operator parked the train wrong so we got to ride twice after only waiting in line once. We also rode Scream once again. The first day we had been at the park, they were running two towers launching up and the third launching down, but on this trip they had two of the towers launching on combo so we had to go for a ride. This is definitely the best program of the three because you essentially get the launch up and the launch down in the same ride. However, my overall impression of S&S Towers remains the same: I like the launch up side more than the launch down side. Why? It’s different. The launch down side (to me) is no different than any other freefall and if I want a standard freefall, I have one of the tallest and best in the world just a couple hours down the road from me at Kings Dominion. But the launch up side is just such a unique feeling. After that we essentially packed up and left.

*Overall Impressions of the Park*
The Good: SFNE is a wonderfully developed park. Everything around the park has a niche and it fills its niche nicely. Call my odd, but I really like the station announcements on the rides that have them, especially Superman, Blizzard River, Pandemonium, Thunderbolt, and Poison Ivy. I think the DC Superhero Adventure area of the park is easily the best of its type (including the Gotham City areas of other SF parks) of any of the Six Flags parks out there. The landscaping and themeing in that area is absolutely wonderful. However, the themeing that really got me was that in Crackaxle Canyon. That area of the park was just absolutely first class. Hurricane Harbor is easily one of the most beautiful Six Flags Waterparks (inside or outside a parks gate). I love the grounded ship near Shipwreck Falls and I love even more that you can soak the people on the bridge with geysers that shoot from their back.

The Bad: The park seems like it’s put together haphazardly. It’s trying to be a theme park, but areas of the park either have no theme or a mixed theme (I guess that’s why they’re simply called the North and South Ends respectively). If these areas could be developed to one theme, it would improve the park so much for me. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dead end in Crackaxle Canyon or the serious dead end at Batman (when you were staying out of Hurricane Harbor). I was appalled by the amount of smoking in line and I was disturbed that the ride operators weren’t saying anything about it. I was shocked by the amount of line jumping, mostly by people who were already in line allowing people who weren’t in line before to join them in there place in line. SFNE has completely turned me off to the idea of Q-bot. While they have perfected the system by installing the necessary extra lines and placing the scanning boxes in the right place, I just don’t think it’s fair to the other guests in line. I mean, I’m a college student, I can’t afford $20 extra to essentially cut in line. But, I’m sure the park is making a ton of money off it, so I’m sure you won’t see it go away any time soon. I was also bothered by the number of down rides: Hodini’s Great Escape, Chaos, the Sky Ride, Nightwing and that Joker themed dark ride (meaning NO flats in Superhero Adventure when I went).

Other than that, I enjoyed my stay at SFNE, however, if I returned there, it would be essentially just for Superman: Ride of Steel. That coaster won a place in my heart. No offense to anyone else that likes the park, but I just don’t feel that they have a good enough selection of coasters to make the trip worth while more than every few years or so.

From there we went onto SFGAdv, our first day being Friday July 8th: the day the remnants of Hurricane Cindy were scheduled to hit the Jackson, NJ area. We had heard that the rain was forecasted to slow down from a downpour to a trickle by afternoon, so we slept in and arrived at the park around noon. The rain was now just a drizzle, but it was fairly cloudy and fairly cold. We pulled into an essentially empty parking lot and made our way through the gates into an essentially empty park. There was some sort of concert at the park that night and, I must say, I’d guess if it weren’t for that concert, they would have shut down the park for lack of people. Keep in mind that it was rainy all day, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, but NEVER with any thunder or lightning so all the rides remained open. We hadn’t been to SFGAdv since the year Nitro was built, so Superman was new to us. As such, we made our way there first (and that’s really the only coaster I’ll go into much detail on).

*Superman: Ultimate Flight*
The Good: As only my second flyer (Batwing at SFA being my first), I really didn’t know what to expect from Superman. I really liked the restraints, they were exceptionally comfortable (at least when the ride is moving) and they were much easier to operate than the Vekoma flyer restraints. I also really liked the pretzel loop and even more enjoyed the placement of the on-ride photo at the bottom of the pretzel loop.

The Bad: I wasn’t a big fan of hanging from the restraints going up the lift or waiting on the final brake. The ride is also so short that stacking is inevitable. I also felt that after the pretzel loop, the ride was fairly bland and boring. I know I’ve heard it before, but if you could build a flying coaster with the restraints of a B&M flyer, but the layout of a Vekoma flyer, then you would truly have a great flyer.

We got two rides, one in the front seat and one in the back seat with absolutely no waiting. In fact, we had gone for the back first, then when we got off, we saw no one was waiting for the front so we just stayed on the platform and walked up to the front seat (as the ride ops were allowing all day) They were running both trains and loading both trains. From there it was off to Great American Scream Machine. Running and loading two trains with no wait at all. This old girl hasn’t changed much over the last few years. It’s still not the greatest of rides, but it’s fun every now and again. The new paint looks wonderful.

From there we wandered through the Golden Kingdom on our way to Rolling Thunder. I must say that this area is simply amazing. Even with Kingda Ka down, I was glad to spend time in this area admiring the work. I’d like to hope that SFI will put this much attention to detail in all their future expansions of ALL their parks (more on the Golden Kingdom later). After emerging from the Golden Kingdom, we made our way to the loading platform of Rolling Thunder. They were running one train on each side and were actually racing the two trains. There was no wait at all (once again), so we got a quick ride on each side. I was honestly amazed at what a great ride I got. Maybe it was because the track was wet or maybe it was because of some offseason work, but Rolling Thunder was giving an amazingly good ride! I was pleased!

We headed over to the minetrain coaster next observing the former Viper site. For those not in the NJ area, here’s a brief Viper update. The coaster is completely gone along with the footers, but the station remains perfectly intact. The Viper trains are still on-site and can be found in the turnaround of Rolling Thunder. The only current land clearing is in the old Viper spot. My guess is that the new wooden coaster will reuse the old Viper station, and could actually be a smaller Intamin wooden coaster (like Balder) as opposed to the record breaker that some are hoping for. A smaller twister type coaster would fit the old Viper spot just fine.

Well, back to the park, the minetrain coaster was next (though the name escapes me). One train operation, but with no lines it really didn’t matter. The coaster seemed to be running really fast, but again that could have been because of the rain. From there, we rushed over to Medusa. It seems SFGAdv has learned a little trick from SFA: have two trains running but only load one of them. Not that it mattered or anything because most trains were going out only about a third full. We got one ride in the front row followed by two consecutive rides in the back row. Medusa is still one of my favorite floorless coasters out there. From there we decided it was time to get to the other side of the park. On the way we hit up the log flume by Medusa (stayed relatively dry despite the rain until some guy got us completely drenched by one of the water cannons at the end), then hit Hudini’s Great Escape (must have fixed the problems with this one because it was running fine), tried to hit Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure Train (for the credit) and Skull Mountain but both were closed, all before making our was to Nitro.

Now, when I first rode Nitro a few years ago, I really didn’t like it all that much, but I guess something was different this time. Maybe it was because it was a walk on for the front or back row, maybe it was the rain, or maybe it was something else, but I REALLY enjoyed Nitro that day. We had one ride in the front and two in the back row without ever needing to leave the loading platform. They had two train operation (loading both) and the ride was running fantastically. My only complaint about the ride is the bunny hops at the end. If they weren’t down a little further (all the way to the ground) you would get SO much more airtime.

From Nitro we had a quick ride on Batman: the Ride. Once again it was two train operation only loading one train. There was a wait from the front, but none for the back. It was almost too intense this time and we opted for only one ride, not that we had a choice as the station had quickly become crowded by a group of people as our train reentered the station. From Batman it was off to the Chiller. A bummer that only Robin is in operation, but it is much better with just lapbars. Once again no waiting.

We did all this riding in the course of a little over four hours, so that should give you an idea of how empty the park was. From there we decided to head back to “camp” to change into some dry clothes and hope for a better day the following day. The next morning the sun was shining and we were ready to ride. We got to the park around 11am and opted to do the drive thru animal safari. Why can’t people understand the concepts of “Don’t feed the animals” and “Keep your windows up”??? I’m also a little bummed that they fenced off the baboons. Those little guys had so much fun ripping stuff off people’s cars!

When we got to the park gate we were overwhelmed by a flood of people. The entire area between the entrance gate and the ticket booths was a sea of people with little order. The “Express Lane” for season passholders was hardly an express lane as most of the people in the lane were not even season pass holders and you really had to fight to keep your position because there were no set “lines” to go into the park, just a mass of people all trying to get through the same few security checkpoints. And for security... just because there are a lot of people doesn’t mean you cant give up security. They didn’t even check in my bag to see what I was bringing into the park. Almost scary considering they heard it beep when it went through the metal detector.

When we got through the gate we decided that it was going to be an “all shows” day. The lines for the coasters were just ridiculous with most queues being completely full or close to it. Our first show was “Spirit of the Tiger.” I must say I love how well hidden this theater is. You’d completely miss the theater itself if you weren’t looking for it. However, I do wish there was a second exit. There wasn’t as much “tiger” in it as I expected as a good part of the show was acrobatics and gymnastics, but I guess this is for the better as the tigers grow accustomed to their new home and new trainers. Need to have something extra incase the tigers aren’t up to performing. I also love how they have the whole stage area covered by that large drape before the show. It was really good. But if you plan on seeing it, don’t expect to see simply a show about tigers, “Spirit of the Tiger” is like Cirque du Solie crossed with Animal Planet. From there we weren’t to see the magic show. It was alright, but the music was too loud and I had seen most of the tricks before, so I wasn’t all that impressed.

Next up was the show I was looking forward to most: Batman vs. Catwoman. This show didn’t let down. Simply amazing. I could go on forever about this show, but I’ll stick to the highlights. I loved how they made the laser shoot all over the set, I loved when the laser shot down the power lines, I loved the balloon, and I loved how the set was set up such that they never needed any breaks for a stage crew to move anything around or reset any parts of the set. I was absolutely amazed and wished I could see it again. There is just so much going on that you tend to miss one thing as you focus on other things.

From there we went to the dolphin show... very cute with VERY well trained dolphins and sealions. After that we saw Weekend Warriors, the water stunt show. I wasn’t impressed at all, in fact, I though it was pretty lame. The stunts were pretty good, but the fact that they needed to try to put a story to it all just didn’t work at all.

Overall, my Great Adventure trip was a lot of fun and I’ll be sure to return later this year when Kingda Ka reopens.

Well, took me long enough to write that, and probably took you long enough to read that, but I hope you enjoyed!

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Friday, July 22, 2005 5:30 PM
Good TR. I love rainy days. :)
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