SFOT June 4/5, Houston area Six Flags passes

Associated parks:

Wasn't planning on going to any Six Flags parks this year, a bit agitated about the whole Houston mess, but then plans changed. Decided to make a trip later this month to Illinois/Indiana and visit Holiay World, Beech Bend, and Indiana Beach. While in the area it makes sense to hit a couple Six Flags I've never been to (St Louis & Great America)and also SFKK again (why not?). In that case I figured I may as well pick up a season pass.

Houstonians can purchase Six Flags season passes right now for $45 at Krogers and online. These can be redemeed at Six Flags Over Texas or Fiesta Texas. Online I only see the option for SFOT, but if you pick up the paper pass in the grocery store it's also redeemable in San Antonio. $48 for a season pass (tax) that I can use for 4 different parks this month and more than likely one more later in the year is not such a bad proposition. So I swallowed a little pride and bought two of the Houston market passes this weekend and headed north to Dallas to redeem them.

Overall I don't have any gripes about the park with the exception of prices. They are so high that it discourages me spending any money in the place. I'm one of those guys who may buy a soda for $2 but wont for $4. I'll just get a cup of free water, and I noticed a LOT more people taking this route at the park this weekend than I have ever noticed before. Yeah it was about 98 degrees outside, but it still surprised me how much free water was being dispensed. Similarly with parking, the price jump is absurd. A couple years ago it was $8 to park and now it's $15! Six Flags Over Texas 2006 parking prices are $15 general, $20 preferred, and $30 valet this year. I believe a parking pass is $60.

Being rather frugal, there's no way I was going to pay $15/day to park at this place if I had a better idea. Fortunately there are a few options for the Arlington park. There's an independant lot just outside the gate charging $9, the walk from here to the front gate is actually shorter than much of the real parking lot. There's no bus system in Arlington but if you stay at certain local hotels there's a trolley shuttle (http://arlingtontrolley.com) that'll save you a bit of coin. And finally there's a couple motels just outside the gate within a short walking distance to the park including Amerisuites, Sleep Inn, La Quinta, Baymont Inn, and the Ranger Inn.


I booked a room at the Ranger Inn thru Expedia for about $50 that Sunday night and opted to just walk to the park. Since I visited Six Flags a couple hours Sunday night and a couple hours Monday morning, this saved me anywhere between $18-$30 in parking or basically halved the cost of a cheap room. The Ranger Inn's nothing fancy, though they have a fridge and microwave in the room. Contintenal breakfast consists of only coffee, juice, cereal, and some danishes. There's a view of Judge Roy Scream right outside the window which is neat if you're a coaster enthusiast. There's also a Cheddar's restaurant within walking distance between the motel and the park with reasonably cheap food and $2.50 margaritas.

Anyway, as for the park. My girlfiend hadn't been since she was a child, so I mainly wanted to bring her around to all the rides. We were able to do this in roughly 8 hours over two days because the crowds were rather light, even with the Latino Festival in swing. To my dismay, Mr Freeze, my favorite coaster in the park failed to operate on either day. Everything else seemed running except the looping swinging ship which is still under construction. The new flat rides are a welcome addition, even though most of them aren't terribly exciting and two were stolen from my home park. I guess it was a little nice to ride our old scrambler in the shadow of Titan, better than it rotting in some parking lot somewhere.

The park seemed clean, we saw a lot of costumed characters milling about, and the coasters were running 2 train operation both days (something the old Six Flags was terrible about except Saturdays). There's a good Chinese acrobat show in the park right now that's definitely worth a pause in the riding to witness. Some of the latino music being performed in front of the carousel was painfully loud, but otherwise the ethnic festival underway wasn't problematic.

We didn't eat anything in the park and only got free water cups, so they the park didn't really make anything off us other than the price of the passes. If food/drink/parking prices weren't beyond reasonable they probably would have. Even the Pink Things have gone up (to $2 from $1 last year). Instead we ate at Cheddars on Sunday night, the Pit Grill coffeeshop for breakfast Monday morning (in the Days Inn strip off Collins, really neat little diner full of senior citizens), and stopped at the Steak 'N Shake on I30 on the way out. We don't have any of these fine establishments in Houston.

I used to live in the Houston area and visited SFAW twice before it closed. Guess how much I spent on food and drink in the park? Zilch. That's right, Nada!

I, too am aware of how much Six Flags food and drink prices are out of line so I filled up before I got to the park. When I left in the evening I went to a Luby's cafeteria and got a nice big meal for around $10.

Compare this with Kennywood where I would go when in Piittsburgh. Here I would make it my plan to eat in the park. I would have two meals plus snacks and drinks while there. I probably spent around $20 total for this. Does this send a message to Six Flags that something is wrong?

By the way, I hope that you soon get a new theme park in your area.

Arthur Bahl

Nice trip report. I plan on hitting SFFT to get my pass, then heading up to SFoT soon after. I haven't been up there in a few years, so it'll be nice to hop back on Judge Roy and Titan again...

I was in Houston about a month ago and it was shocking to see SFAW leveled. I don't know what I expected when I drove past, but a huge lot full of dirt left me speechless.

Hopefully SFFT will be getting some much needed new additions in the coming years so Houstonians don't have to travel too far for a good variey of Coasters/Rides.

Arthur Bahl said:
Compare this with Kennywood where I would go when in Piittsburgh. Here I would make it my plan to eat in the park. I would have two meals plus snacks and drinks while there. I probably spent around $20 total for this. Does this send a message to Six Flags that something is wrong?

I don't know. There are definitely people willing to pay those prices for the food and drinks. Whether the raised prices offset the number of people who choose not to eat at the parks any longer is a good question and I'm going to presume they've run the numbers and think the market will bear these increases.

I hope that their astronomical prices backfire on them so they won't keep ripping people off. I know that this stuff is expensive elsewhere, but Mark Shapiro has not made me happy with this.

Some of the parking was already TOO much last year, and they went and raised it again this year--and not just by a little. SFA and SFGAdv took a 50% jump! And $3.99 for the largest soda is too high, IMO. I still think they increased the wrong prices. Season passes should have gone up--almost everything else should have stayed the same.

When it comes to food and drink prices there are other matters to consider.

First of all there is the negative goodwill that high prices cause. This may be more the case with Six Flags than with other chains. This high pricing can cause some people to look less favorably on the parks no matter how good they are in other respects.

Another factor involves the people that just stay out of the park altogether rather than feel ripped off. They do something else that they consider to be a better value.

Finally, there is competition. Some people might decide to go to another park, even one with a lesser assortment of rides, because the other park does things that enhance the overall park experience and value. This is especially true with families. There are people that bypass SFKK to go to HW. As LC grows, it will be interesting to see the effect on SFNE. The food pricing issue might be one of the reasons why there are no Six Flags parks in Pennsylvania (along with the overall quality of the PA parks).

One interesting thing to look at will be the effect of pricing changes at parks such as CP and GL. What will more reasonable prices have on these parks and their competition?

Arthur Bahl

There's not much park competition here in Texas except for the SeaWorld in San Antonio. I'm not sure what the prices are like there, but they DO give you free beer and wine coolers in the hospitality venue if you're...thirsty.

It's interesting how Six Flags claims their "per caps" are up but attendance is down. Sure, if you raise the prices so high that a family spends a fortune and feels robbed then they aren't likely to return to the park. Hence lower attendance. A family spending $100/trip twice is better than spending $150 once, right?

That's another reason why we need a new park in Houston that is not a Six Flags park.

Regarding Sea World, I don't know how their food pricing is now but my past experience with Busch parks was that the food and drink prices were quite reasonable for a theme park. Busch's policy seems to have been to collect more at the gate as opposed to other places.

Arthur Bahl

well i live n houston and i only went to six flags here just to activate my season pass. the biggest coaster we had was 110 feet tall. the problem was that our park didnt have any land to expand. the park was no bigger than my backyard. this park was the only one that i have been to in the middle of the city. majic mountain and most other parks are out of town. that is the reason the attendance was so low. . no one and i mean no one planned a trip to six flags astroworld. if u have been anywhere else houstons park would make u laugh. maybe someone will open a real park with rides taller than my house out here in the suburbs where they have more room to expand.
SFAW attendance wasn't that low, btw. It usually equalled or beat Fiesta Texas. Six Flags just used that as an excuse to give the media, when in reality attendance was dropping chainwide.
The prices are outrageous. Personally, I don't like the Red Zone takeover. They are corporate morons who think that raising prices is the right way to go. Well, it isn't. They have done some good things for the parks, such as improving food and customer service, but these dingbats have no concept or understanding of what they're doing. Someone should start a petition demanding that the prices be lowered. Let's explain to these people that raising prices doesn't pay back a debt.

John Moore

I believe that Six Flags will feel the true effect of their audacious price increases next year when a lot of families that were upset with the $15 parking and the always high food prices decide to go to another park or to find something else to do instead.

This year they might bite the bullet rather than turn away at the parking gate with screaming kids in the car but some will vow, "Never Again". They then find something else to do to keep the kids happy in the future.

Arthur Bahl

Someone should start a petition demanding that the prices be lowered.

A petition isn't getting it done. About the only thing that will get their attention is a drop in attendance and per-cap spenidng.

Translation: don't go. And, if you do go, don't buy anything.

For better or worse, attendance *is* down, but not that sharply (and may in part be due to havning two fewer operating parks---I don't know how they account for this) and per-capita spending is up.

And, Arthur, I recognize you feel strongly about the prices. Seeing as how you complain about them in nearly every thread you post in, it would be hard not to.

Will the price changes catch up with them? If so, I think we'll find out well before next season. If people are really that ticked off, word of mouth will start cutting into this season's gate.

*** Edited 6/8/2006 12:26:43 AM UTC by Brian Noble***

Fierce Pancake said:
two were stolen from my home park

When I hear that, I picture two guys dressed in black with SFoT nametags trying to break into the control panel of a scrambler with a coat hanger.

On that topic, I've since heard that one of the Astroworld rides destined for SFOT was damaged pretty badly in transit and they had to rush in La Ronde's old troika for parts. Crazy Legs is apparently some mix of parts from both those rides. Kind of a shame, troikas are already a little rare and now there's one from two.
I feel that I have said enough about Six Flags pricing for the time being. Now it is just a matter of seeing how the GP responds to their policies.

Meanwhile, I will make most of my park visits to parks that appear to show a better appreciation of guests as more than a bottomlesss wallet. KW is my home park and there is nothing about their food, drink, or parking pricing that I can find fault with. In the future, my main visits elsewhere will be to parks such as KB, HW, LC and the small traditional parks. I am also interested in going to CP, GL, and HP as well. As for Six Flags, it will require something really special to get me into their parks and with CP within easy reach, I can easily get to a park that can deliver most of these ultimate thrills at a price that is more reasonable.

I have never had anything against the Six Flags parks themselves. All of my experiences at the parks were good ones. I just believe that more reasonably priced food would make the experience even better. *** Edited 6/8/2006 10:14:12 AM UTC by Arthur Bahl***

Arthur Bahl

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