The "Almost Perfect Park" SFGAM 8/11/08

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Sunday, August 17, 2008 1:53 PM
So me and the spouse decided to go visit some friends in Chicago this weekend. Being raised in New York and hearing so much about Chicago, I wanted to see if it measured up to America's largest city. I've been to LA...and eh', it was OK. To me, New York represented everything, from charming neighborhoods, gritty attitudes, good food, big city energy, the whole deal.

Chicago.. .. ..
So the first thing I noticed when I landed at O'hare was how clean and organized the airport was. Wow, JFK this is not. For such a large airport they really manage to keep this place in good shape. We drove through downtown, and the skyline was breath taking. New York's is bigger, but what was absent was the garbage on the sidewalks or the stench of pee on the street corners. The next day we went sight seeing, and I think God laid his hand on this day because it couldn't have been more perfect. It was 72 degrees, slightly windy, and no humidity. We took the Subway (the El as you guys call it), and again I was amazed how organized and clean the system was. We did the landmarks, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, Sears Tower, Wrigley field, and even stopped for some deep dish pizza. We had a blast!

The Plan.. .. ..
Ofcourse, this is a lead in to our visit to the most perfect Six Flags Park I have ever been to. Having grown up going to Great Adventure, I am used to riding the big coasters, but having to deal with the crappy operations. I heard Great America was the better of the four Six Flags flagships, and I wanted to see for myself. We were a group of four, two couples. The other couple was not a fan of roller coasters, but came along anyway. We bribed them with food and free admission since they were driving us to the airport). So we arrived at around 11 on Monday, about 1 hour behind schedule. The plan was to go early and leave at 4 since our flight out of Ohare was at 7.

Entrance.. .. ..
The parking lot was pretty crowded for a monday. I was determined to ride all the coasters before 4pm. Judging by the size of the lines at the gate, I knew we would need a Q-bot to accomplish this. I was disappointed to see that Viper was going to be closed for the day. That was one of the rides I was really looking forward to riding. Oh well! We raced through he turnstiles and took some pictures of the carousel at the entrance. With the exception of Kings Island or Canada's Wonderland, this was the best entrance I have ever laid my eyes on. Even though Great America in CA is it's twin, Six Flags does a much better job at landscaping.

Qbot vs Gold Qbot.. .. ..
Ok, so me being the coaster geek in the group, decided to shell out the beans for the Qbot. I was also sensitive to the whiners I was with because they kept lamenting on how much they hated lines. Fine. I went to the office and looked at the prices. The regular 'Bot was about $58 (regulars, you can correct me if I'm wrong) and the Gold was $156. What flashed into my mind right then was Lord Gonchar and his comments on the virtues of Gold Q-bot. But then I remembered those nice shoes I planned to buy from Nordstrom the following week. I thought about it for a minute, then decided to suspend the shoe idea. Hell, the shoes will still be there, but who knows when I'll make it to Six Flags again.

The first ride.. .. ..
Ok, so things have changed since the first time I used Q-bot at Great Adventure. You don't have to hoof it around the park to reserve rides. You can reserve it from the list on the 'bot itself. To me that was the most remarkable improvement. So we reserved Bull and got in line got in line for Giant Drop. In about 8 minutes, the thing started buzzing!!! What in poo..??? Bull had a 1.5 hour line....and we only had to wait 8 minutes? We stupidly got out line and raced to the bull. See, we didn't know that we could always arrive late to ride. If I remember correctly, the old Q-bot gave you like a 10 minute window. Anyhow, we rode bull in the front. Awesome ride...except for ...you know it...the brake on the camel-back. You could actually feel the train lag as you passed though it. It wasn't as bad as the atrocities on Mantis or Big Bad Wolf. But I just kept thinking how much better the ride would be without it. The ending was amazing, kinda like El Toro with all the twists and turns. 8.5/10

Giant drop.. .. ..
We then reserved Giant Drop, waited 5 minutes and got on. On some rides the, 'bot attendants allowed you to go on early if there were no other people with 'bots waiting...except for that Nazi attendant at The Dark Knight....details to follow. So anyway, Giant Drop was awesome. Our friend Cardigan (yes, his name is Cardigan :-)..) decided to sit this one out since he "hated them drop things" 8/10

American Eagle.. .. ..
There was no Q bot option for American Eagle, but the wait was only 15 minutes anyway. The first leg was enjoyable. The drop was fantastic and we glided over the first two bunny hops. As we crested the turnaround, we hit some mean brakes, the train almost came to a stop. Eh?!?! We sloooooowwwly gained momentum for the return leg and before the final helix....eeeeeerkkzz!! ....We came to a stop again. Snoozefest. I can see why they brake it so much, those turns have little to no banking. but still, what they have is a giant kiddy coaster (Kinda like Colossus at Magic Mountain) 6/10

Iron Wolf..V2..Batman..
All of these rides had a 5 minute wait with Q-bot. Iron Wolf was much better than I envisioned. This was B&M's first, no? There wasn't much head banging and I really loved the quick disorienting transitions 7.5/10. Batman was just as I remembered from Great Adventure, Magic Mountain and Georgia. Only, this one had the best setting, nestled amongst the trees. Still the 2nd best inverted coaster (After DD-Fire) 8/10. V2 was nice, but not my favorite. I am not the biggest fan of impulses, going backwards and forwards gets a little boring. The holding brake was a nice touch though 7.5/10.

The Dark Joke.. .. ..
The longest line of the day, we had to wait 15 minutes on the Q-bot. We had Papa John's pizza while we waited. Yum yum yum! We went there 5 minutes early and the attendant gave me a nasty look and told me I had to wait. Wench! Other people came up who were also early and she gave them the same cold response...Joo have to wait!! When it was our turn she buzzed me in, gave me another nasty look and beckoned the group to enter. Eh. Inside the building was the most insane line...that didn't move! The Q-bot line was another 25 minutes long, and they would select about 20 people to enter the pre-show room every 10 minutes. It would suck having to wait in the regular queue..for a mouse in the dark. The pre-show was ok. And from reports I heard this was the best part of the ride. The ride was .. not bad. There were a few pops of air and the unbraked hairpins were ferosh! I still felt bad for the poor souls who had to wait 2 hours. Like the movie, I think this ride was way over hyped...6.5/10

Superman.. .. ..
Another long line...and we only had to wait 10 minutes. The Q'bot line ran parallel to the regular line and I could hear the comments of disgust...oh, those are the flashpass people cutting the line. I was tempted to give the pager a kiss as I walked pass them..hehehe. The ride was..eh'...just like the one at great adventure. After the pretzel loop it was just yawn, then brakes. 7.5/10

Anton Goodness.. .. ..
A ride that I was excited to ride was Whizzer, an Anton classic. By this time it was about 4:30 (30 minutes behind schedule), but I was determined to ride. The wait was 5 minutes, and we hurried up the walkway. I didn't realize how snug the seats were, I guess I have gained a couple lbs since I rode Jumbo Jet at Coney Island which had a similar seating arrangement. Time for another Beyonce crash diet. Anyhow, I really loved this ride. I was amazed how the ride managed to keep it's pace during the course. The final helix was my favorite. 8/10

Home.. .. ..
I rushed to the flashpass office to return the 'bot. I think I am now a convert and I don't see how I can do without this on subsequent six flags visits. We rant to the car and head out. ...Wham!! we were hit with traffic from the construction on I-94. Oh well, I just went to sleep. When I woke up were were at O'hare...at 6:15...we just made it in time for check in.

Man you guys in Chicago have it made. If it wasn't for the cold, wind and the snow thing I would definitely consider living there. Plus, you have a pretty nice park to visit 5 months of the year. So ... is Great America perfect? nah, it has its negatives, much like the city it is in...but its pretty darn close in my opinion. Thanks for reading.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008 6:00 PM
I am glad to hear you enjoyed yourself at SFGAm. It is my home park and I always enjoy reading people's TR's. I still like Raging Bull immensely, despite what others say. Too bad you couldn't ride Viper, it is my 2nd favorite in the park to Bull. I take it you didn't have time to visit HH?
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Sunday, August 17, 2008 6:14 PM
Well, that settles it. My wife's best friend from childhood moved to Chicago last year, now I have a good reason to go there and make a trip of it. I have heard good things about this park before, but with the new SF regime in place, it sounds like a "can't miss."

Side note, did you notice single rider lines at all?

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Sunday, August 17, 2008 9:09 PM
Nice TR, delan... :)

Whizzer is indeed one of the best non-inverting coasters out there. Still amazes me that there were even rumors of its demise for S:UF....and that they persist.

I love the park, and Chicago is pretty great...but the icy winters...no thanks! ;)

Final thought: As highly as you thought of the park, the locals are pretty consistent in proclaiming that the park has gone *somewhat* downhill under the new regime. (Not terrible, but not what it had been)On my few visits under both regimes, I can't say that their wrong on that. It's kinda weird that SFMM and SFGAdv are doing so much better under Shapiro/Snyder....but that SFoT and SFGAm are getting less love from their locals.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008 9:26 PM
I went to SFGA last week for the first time. I found it to be clean, the staff friendly and beautifully landscaped. They were even running 3 trains on Bull which I found outstanding for a SF park. I loved it. My only complaint was $15 for a hamburger, fry and coke. *** Edited 8/18/2008 1:26:52 AM UTC by Steve Perry***
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Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:46 PM
Six Flags Great America is a fun park. But we locals have reason to complain. Under Shapiro Great America is a after thought. With only one coaster painted BULL the rest look worn and sad. M.M. and Great Adventure are getting all the love. Multiple Coasters being painted, as well as buildings. So Gurnee shouldn't look as good? Good thing you left before dark you missed our sad burned out or unlit stituation. Columbia at night is a joke, half the flats have sections of lights out. The parks Grand Ave. Sign and American Flag haven,t been lighted at night for two years. So... maybe that,s why on Saturday at Indiana Beach we ran into several Great America Pass holders. Funny all the negative comments regarding Dark Night, while Steel Hawg was a crowd favorite. Later that evening while dining at The Sky Room Resturant, when the singer asked how many people where here from Chicago half the resturant raised their hands. The couple next to us even commented that they where escaping Six Flags. A big laugh went up in the crowd. It's not Great America but Corporate Six Flags that people despise. Shapiro and Company have taken a crown jewel of the center of the country, and reduced it to also ran status.
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