Six Flags Great America Tips – Poorly Run, Still Fun

A client meeting north of Chicago ended early and I pulled into my hotel to see Six Flags Great America across the street. I dropped my briefcase in the room and within half an hour was on The Dark Knight.

I had 5 hours to closing and worked my way roughly from front to back as the back of the park cleared out nearer to closing. I had no time to mess around with anything but the serious roller coasters. Gauging line waits was tricky, the advertised times were not updated, staff were at the front of some lines but were of little help, and some were deceptively short because additional holding areas were closed off.

Six Flags Great America 03

Learn the ropes of the lines

Two rides broke while waiting, Yankee Clipper, which I mistook for another ride anyway, and X Flight. Most rides had broken seats or rows.

Line management is terrible but can be gamed depending on your comfort level. Staff make no effort to fill in seats. Frequently whole rows depart empty because kids want to depart at the same time as friends in several rows. No singles line. There is a for-pay FLASH Pass system that is enforced and works for those who buy in. I was not going to pay $55 for that.

The gaming I observed, and eventually partook in, is twofold:

  1. Upon completion of a ride, in the exiting commotion, grabbing a re-ride on empty seats. Since so many seats are empty I did this a few times without big qualms.
  2. Coming up from the exit to ride. This was practiced less and I was not going to do it until, last coaster of the night, the staff closed the entrance line to Raging Bull just as I was approaching. I felt scummy going up the exit but I admit to doing it. I grabbed an empty seat that help me rationalize.
I talked to a helpful security guard who advised that when everything else is crowded, the great, wooden, side-by-side two track American Eagle roller coaster is generally quiet and she was right. It is way in the back of the back and a very long walk from entrance to ride that discouraged the less motivated.
Six Flags Great America 02

Head for American Eagle at peak times

Many of the new metal coasters are as good or better from the back than the front with much less wait.
There is a big bottleneck around Southwest Territory, rides like Raging Bull and Viper, when the Hurricane Harbor waterpark closes, in this case at 6 pm.
I will separately go through the roller coaststers one by one.
This is the second Six Flags I have visited and I am struck by how little there do with all the great cartoon and comic brands they have. I have to give them credit, though, on the awesome thrill rides.

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  • Craig

    Stephen,

    Another surprise! I didn’t think you were a roller coaster kind of guy!

  • Craig

    Sorry, I meant Stephan

  • @Craig – I have not been to amusement parks much the past years, I would like to get back to doing more. Generally on the road I like to take advantage of the best available, on it’s terms, in this case my neighbor was had roller coasters in his backyard and I came over like a kid seeing seeing a neighbor with a new swimming pool!

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  • I’ve been to 2 six flags parks: Magic Mountain in Socal is my hometown park and then one outside DC/Baltimore was very lame.

  • aadvantagegeek

    “Line management is terrible…Staff make no effort to fill in seats.” – future TSA agents, I’m sure. 😉

  • Wendy

    Well if you ever get up to Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Point has some amazing roller coasters. Currently there are 14 of them for Adults. Two of the oldest wooden coasters in the park are Blue Streak and Cedar Creek Mine ride. The newest is Gate Keeper. If you live near or plan to visit other Cedar Fair parks. I recommend buying a Platinum Season Pass. With that you will get into any Cedar Fair Park in the US and Canada free including free parking during the 2013 Season. A platinum pass is $192 dollars a year currently. If you go 4 times a season you will make money buying the pass. Because its normally $10.00 for the Cedar Point Causeway tolls and parking per day. So we always make sure we bought at least one platinum pass for the free parking.

    Planning a visit to ride Gate Keeper probably during Hallo Weekends in September or October. Best time to go to Cedar Point is the last weekend they are open for the Season. You may have to wear a winter coat and NOT ride any water rides but you don’t have to wait in lines for coasters. So it make it worth it!

  • Good times! Great post.

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  • @Wendy – I have heard the legend of Cedar Point and do absolutely want to make there. Thanks for all the excellent tips.

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  • Shannon

    I can see you on the disovery travel channel. Do you have a thing for cufflink?

  • @Shannon – I do like cufflinks, and it seems a fun way to occasionally have an alter ego at Points, Miles & Martinis.