Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois, USA
My visit to Six Flags Great America turned out to be a comedy of errors. If I thought that I was going to go there and get multiple rides on Goliath – the primary objective of my trip – I had another think coming. I knew that in order to ride this phenom without waiting in line for 2 hours or longer I would have to purchase a Platinum Flash Pass for $105 (regularly $110, $5 discount for season pass holders) so that’s what I did. What I didn’t know is that due to the newness and immense popularity of this ride, severe restrictions had been put in place. For those unfamiliar with the system, a PlatinumFlashPass allows consecutive riding and multiple reservations for any given ride. There is nothing at the park’s FlashPass station or on the website to suggest that the protocol for Goliath would be any different. So after my first ride on this marvel of engineering I attempted to stay on for a second and was told that I could not. When I scrolled through the list of rides in an attempt to reserve Goliath again I discovered that it had disappeared from the screen. The cast member at the FlashPass entrance told me that this was because only one ride is permitted. This is something I should have been told at the outset because let’s face it, as good as Goliath is, it’s not worth $105 a ride! So back I went to the FlashPass station and had a word with the woman who sold me the pass. Because she forgot to inform me that I was limited to one ride she added another reservation for Goliath to my pass. And when I got back to Goliath it was closed!
To pass the time I thought about riding the closest coaster, X-Flight, but the queue was too long and I couldn’t use the FlashPass to reserve it without cancelling Goliath so instead I rode American Eagle. I did eventually get back on Goliath and went on to X-Flight. I thought about riding Demon but a train was stuck on the track so that was out for the time being. So I reserved Raging Bull and when I got there discovered that it was down. The easiest coaster to get to from there was Viper and guess what? Viper was closed. Raging Bull did resume operation but I’m not sure about Viper. They got Demon up and running so I rode it and while in the loading station tried to reserve Batman but couldn’t because it was down! Batman did reopen but Vertical Velocity was closed all day. There had been a severe storm in the Chicago area on the previous day and this was causing electrical problems with the rides.
With my flight back to Philly not until 6:45pm the next day, I went back to SFGA, this time without getting a FlashPass. Mistakenly thinking that the park opened at 10:30 am – because this is when the other three Six Flags parks I’ve visited open – I got there half an hour late and there was already a 3-hour wait for Goliath so I had to give it a miss. I managed to get on X-Flight, on which I rode the right side for the first time, pretty quickly, and all I can say is wow! The perception of a near miss with the control tower is heightened from that side because of the way the train rolls over. American Eagle had a longer line than usual because only the blue train was running but it was doable. By this time the queue for X-Flight had extended to a 45-minute wait but fearing that the queue for Raging Bull would be longer I did a repeat ride on X-Flight, waiting it out in the cold and riding it in the rain. The weather had turned really nasty; I was so cold and wet that I went into the first store I could find and bought a Six Flags jacket, waiting for the rain to let up. Seeing that Vertical Velocity was closed for the second day in a row, I got the bright idea of going over to Viper. Not only was it operating; it was a walk-on. Three rides later it was time to leave the park in order to allow enough time to get through the godawful traffic on 294 South towards O’Hare.
Although my visit to Six Flags Great America did not go as planned, I enjoyed it and was glad to have had the opportunity to ride some new coasters. I was also impressed by the fact that a number of park guests, seeing that I was a single rider, approached me and suggested that I go ahead of them in line. This would probably never happen at Great Adventure. Anyway, my impressions of the rides are as follows:
Goliath - Superlative! This record-breaker lives up to all the hype. The first drop was spectacular and the inversions insanely good. Loved the restraints (combination lap bar and shin guard), which heightened the sense of vulnerability.
American Eagle – Much better than anticipated. Having ridden two old wooden clunkers at Canada’s Wonderland 10 days previously, I was delighted to discover that this ride is not especially rough. And how often do you get to ride a racing coaster with a 147-foot drop? What a fun ride!
X-Flight – The biggest surprise of my visit. As a sucker for long drops, I had expected to like Raging Bull more than X-Flight but just the opposite proved to be the case. This coaster is different from anything I’d ridden and pretty intense. The ride ops look really cool in their flight uniforms and the whole layout is impressive. The only downside is the long loading time.
Raging Bull – I had thought that it might be a repeat of Nitro or other B&M hypers I’d ridden but it turned out to be refreshingly different, with more variety. Good, long ride. One thing that struck me as odd is that after coming off the hammerhead turn following the first drop the train slows perceptibly while ascending the next hill and it felt as if it might lose power, a concern considering the number of downed rides that day, but this is evidently how it normally operates. I found it interesting that whereas the helix on Nitro comes before the brake run, the helix on Raging Bull comes afterward.
Demon – The first three quarters of the ride were fine and the tunnel with special lighting effects was pretty cool but the two dive loops at the end were murder. Too rough to be enjoyable.
Batman – Very cool but a case of been there done that, as it’s essentially the same ride as Batman at Great Adventure.
Viper – Another pleasant surprise! I wasn’t expecting much from this coaster but it far exceeded my expectations. Yes, it’s a bit rough but not unduly or uncomfortably so. Once over the first drop, it never lets up and there are a couple of very good airtime hills mid-course. Good to the last drop and thoroughly enjoyable.
The trim brake on Bull's second hill is a well known and often maligned aspect of the ride. I've heard that it was fantastic when it opened before that trim neutered the first half of the course, but for now it's pretty close to the bottom of my list of hypers. Viper is definitely underrated. It has nice long three bench cars and is quite smooth with decent air.
Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."
Bummer about Goliath and the Flash Pass. But great to hear that it's as good as it looks. It's been many years since I've been, but Viper has always been an excellent ride. I hesitate to call it "underrated" because everyone seems to love it.
Please tell me you didn't skip Whizzer. I know your days were hectic and it seems like you were running around an awful lot, But Whizzer is a unique, one of a kind experience.
Yeah, I missed Whizzer b/c I really didn't know anything about it. Had printed out a list of the rides and researched a couple of them, circling the ones I definitely wanted to ride, but this one escaped my attention. And yes, I was running around a lot. Didn't know the layout of the park at all and found myself going around in circles. As to Goliath, a bummer indeed. The cast member at the Flash Pass entrance said that the people selling the Flash Passes should tell park guests that only one ride was permitted, and indeed they should. Viper will be added to my list of top ten wooden coasters. I really got a kick out of it. And I don't know why, but I got good vibes about both Viper and American Eagle before even riding them. When riding a woodie for the first time I usually sit near the front to get a reading on how rough the ride is, but with both of these coasters I headed straight for the back and this was the right decision.
Park map. They have them everywhere, even on line so you can look before you go. Park times and schedules can be found pretty easily, too.
You missed a great ride in Whizzer- it's extremely rare and one of the last of its kind in the world. The park and the people of Chicagoland are so lucky to have it, and it's been spared the wrecking ball a couple of times. And speaking of preservation, another great story there is Little Dipper and I suspect you overlooked that one too. I don't know the focus of your writings, but I would think that you, as a blogger, would pay better attention to these things. It would surely help you build some cred.
Your reviews of rides often involve comparisons to other rides, and that's fine as a point of reference, but not very interesting. If we, your readers, haven't been to Great Adventure, then you're just talking to yourself. Unless it's an absolute stamped out clone, each coaster out there stands alone on its own merits. Raging Bull can never be a "repeat" of Nitro or any other ride, (and I'm relieved to see you found it otherwise), but did you know it was the very first B&M hyper? A ride of that type or height had never been seen before. So every Nitro, Goliath, and Diamondback that followed all took their cues from it, if anything.
And speaking of clones, you're right about Batman, it sure is "been there, done that". But another historical fact is Chicago's ride is the original, and that innovative prototype changed the world as we knew it. Every other Batman clone and every Raptor, Montu and Banshee we enjoy today is on account of that ride. To me a spin on the first inverted coaster ever is worth the time and worthy of a mention.
And sorry, dear- not to be too critical or give you a job review. I look forward to your stories and can't wait for the next one. But Bobbie, the hapless way you go about these trips never ceases to amaze me. I'm glad at least this time there was no major travel snafu. Or..... was there?
Given its layout, you really can't help running around in circles at SFGA :-)
Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
Yes, I did know that Raging Bull was the first B&M hyper. When I referred to a repeat of Nitro, I just meant that most of the B&M hypers have common elements, especially the hammerhead turns. And the pre-drop on Raging Bull is sort of like the pre-drop on Apollo's Chariot. Good point about not comparing B&M coasters on a forum on which many readers may never have ridden Nitro. I tend to use Nitro as a frame of reference only b/c it's the first steel coaster I ever rode and a landmark for me, as it took me a year and half from the first time I rode El Toro to get up the courage to ride Nitro, as I grew up with woodies and steel coasters were an alien species to me. I swore I'd never get on a steel coaster and now I'm in love with Leviathan! Anyway, Nitro is sort of like my first date and will always be special to me for that reason.
Sorry I missed Whizzer. The others I rode were coasters I'd heard of and had some rudimentary knowledge about. I passed by Whizzer and couldn't see beyond the entrance to see what it looked like. Also, I saw that there were families with small children waiting to ride it so assumed that it was a kiddie ride. DUH!
I suppose that the way I approach these parks is somewhat haphazard. In this case the only reason for going to SFGAM was to ride Goliath and you know how that turned out, so anything else I got to ride was just icing on the cake.
I just wrote a bunch of reviews of the rides at SFGAM for my website. Again, I find that I can't resist the temptation to make some comparisons. As an example, I think that Lightning Racer is a great coaster but the fact that the drop is 90 feet and on American Eagle 147 feet is something that impresses me so much that I consider it worth mentioning. You've probably seen websites on which there are showdowns between coasters that fall into the same category: e.g., Millennium Force v. I-305 and Kingda Ka v. Top Thrill Dragster. However, I do think it might be better for the sake of clarity, in reviewing a coaster, to stick to the subject at hand and not drag other coasters into it.
Nah, no travel snafus other than the traffic back to O'Hare. The people at Enterprise Rent-A-Car told me it's like that most of the time so man am I glad I don't live in the Chicago area.
Yeah, traffic there sucks. It doesn't take us much time to drive from Ohio to Chicago- until we get to Chicago. But I guess nine million people have to go somewhere, sometime, right? I know those that prefer a flight to Milwaukee then the drive down to Six Flags. Some say it's about the same considering traffic, and it's especially convenient if the Dells are involved in the trip at all.
I should try to keep better in mind that all of us are different. I knew that your main reason for going to SF was to get Goliath, and I have a feeling if there had been better access that you would've sat there the entire time. And that's fine. I'm the type of enthusiast that, especially when I'm at a park for the first time, makes sure I get every single ride they have at least once, and if for some reason there's one I can't get I'm mad about it. But I keep a pretty good list, so numbers are important to me- I just can't bring myself to pass by a ride because it looks vaguely like something I've been on somewhere else, or because it's a standard production model that appears everywhere, or because that type of ride doesn't always appeal to me, or because it's for kids. And I've wasted a lot of time at parks doing so, some would say foolishly, but I feel I just have to do it. That's just me.
I had a "Bobbie Moment" once (although I hadn't yet coined that clever phrase) when I got back to Ohio from a trip to your home park, Great Adventure. I was showing my partner the park map and realized to my horror that I had somehow missed the Dark Knight coaster. I knew in the back of my mind you had one, but I guess I had forgotten about it. I was over there a lot for Batman and especially Nitro, of course, but never once went around the corner to find the entrance to the indoor mouse. And no big deal - It's just a standard Mack mouse in a building and it sucks anyway, right? Well, I was inconsolable. I don't know when or if I'll ever get back there, it's missing from my list, and it was all my fault. Ugh.
As far as comparing rides goes, for us it's natural. When enthusiast friends found out I'd ridden Banshee I got hit with the questions. "What does it compare to?" " Was it kind of like Alpengeist? Or more like Montu?" And I could answer because they understand. I don't know who the target audience for your website is, but if it's strictly other coaster fans then your job is easier.
Have you ever linked us to your site? Some here put a little link to other things they do in their signature. I'd be interested to read it sometime.
Yes, if you're flying in for SFGrAm, look into MKE. I have no idea what airplane tickets cost, but for sure your rental car will be cheaper, and your airport experience much more pleasant. ORD is a nightmare.
I think it's natural for us, as coastertools, to compare rides. In fact, for me, it's very hard not to. I completely understand the Nitro comparison. Even though I'd ridden Raging Bull first, Nitro was my second B+M hyper, and lets face it, most B+M hypers are similar in layout to Nitro. I've ridden many of them, but Nitro holds nostalgic memories specific to me that makes it my favorite. Perhaps if I rode it this afternoon, the magic would be lost, but for now, the feeling stands.
A quick check on RCDB before a park visit can help lots too. In fact, on last summer's visit to Mt. Olympus, I did not even know Opa existed. We were in line for Hades 360 and I looked something about it up on RCDB on my phone. Wait... there's another coaster here? Who knew? (of course we all know it's not there any more.) But hey... a credit's a credit, right?
I'm cannot see why anyone would say that Viper would suggest that this coaster is great or a surprise. My brother and i rode it 4 times on July the 3rd. It is the worst coaster in the park for adults. I rated it a 7.5 out of 10. We rode Viper 2 times in the back seat, and 2 times in the front seats. My brother got his head banged both times on the 2 front rides. Last July 4th we rode the same coaster backwards. Night and day from this year dude. Last year backwards viper was a 9 out of 10. Not enough airtime this year on viper
Yeah, Tommy, ORD is the worst. I'm sorry I didn't fly on Southwest into and out of Midway but I chose to fly US Airways into ORD b/c it's closer to SFGA. When I flew in I managed to get to Gurnee is about 30 minutes; it was the return trip that took over an hour. And yes, it would be cheaper to rent a car at MKE. The demand at ORD is such that they can jack up the prices. Renting a car in Toronto was a lot cheaper.
RCMAC is absolutely right that if Goliath was more readily available I would probably have ridden it almost - almost - to the exclusion of other rides. That's what I did at Silver Dollar City last year, rode Outlaw Run over and over although I knew that there were other coasters in the park. I did ride a couple of others. I could sense beforehand that both Outlaw Run and Goliath were my type of ride. I really like what RMC has done. Last year I rode 2 new coasters - Outlaw Run and Gatekeeper - and although Gatekeeper was certainly very good, it just didn't blow me away the way Outlaw Run did because it wasn't my type of ride. The fact that it was easy to get on Outlaw Run and difficult to get on Goliath says something about both parks. Certainly Silver Dollar City is a very popular destination but evidently doesn't have the traffic of SFGAM.
As to comparing rides, it does seem to come with the territory. I am especially sensitized to the restraints and can't help noticing that the lap bars on Nitro feel inadequate compared with those on Behemoth. I know a guy who doesn't feel safe riding Nitro b/c the restraints aren't tight enough and this is mainly b/c the ride ops don't usually bother to push them down as far as they will go and it's very difficult to do this yourself. Last week I was at Hersheypark and had a real struggle with the restraints on Stormrunner b/c it requires a certain amount of muscle and effort to pull them down.And on X-Flight the harness felt distinctly uncomfortable in the loading station so I was afraid that it would cause problems during the ride but luckily it didn't and as soon as the train was in motion I forgot all about the harness.
Might consider putting a link to my site if I can ever resolve the problems with it. Comments on the main page have been disabled and the way I set it up, it's impossible for anyone to leave comments about coaster reviews. I've been back and forth with Squarespace about this and they tell that b/c the reviews are pages and not posts, there's nothing they can do about it.
I see that another Coaster Buzzer posted a trip report about SFGA and didn't share my enthusiasm for Goliath. Oh well, to each his own. Last night I started watching a 16-minute video about Goliath and the guy rambled on and on about how it was the best coaster he'd ever ridden; finally I shut it off, having heard enough.
As to Viper, I remain a convert and did not find it rough when sitting in the back. According to RCDA, it's the "mirror image" of the Coney Island Cyclone but has none of the punishing roughness of the Cyclone. When I rode the Cyclone, I sustained an injury that prompted the ride ops to call a doctor. Of course Viper isn't nearly as old as the Cyclone so it could be expected to be in better condition.
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