Recently we did something that I never thought I'd be able to do again after my recent health problems - we went to Great Adventure. And I'm gonna write about every single roller coaster we rode. One post each. Starting... soon. Like, maybe tomorrow.
But first, my intro.
We used to call Great Adventure New Jersey's poor-man's Disneyland. It's a pretty big park set in the woods in the middle of nowhere. In the old days, there wasn't much there - three or four roller coasters, a ferris wheel, a log flume. I used to like riding the little train they had that ran around the park and through the woods. But it's really changed a lot in the 30(!) years that I've been going. Today was the first day I think I've ever been there that I didn't go on a single ride that existed when I was a kid. There are still some there - the log flume (which is still literally just called "Log Flume"), the ferris wheel, Rolling Thunder, the Mine Train, a few others. But really, except for maybe the log flume, even I think these are pretty boring by today's standards. One change I'm not too happy about - the Super Teepee is gone! This was iconic of the park in its early days, and I was wondering why I didn't see it. Just one more nail in the coffin of Six Flags theme park uniqueness - someday, they'll all be indistinguishable from each other. Just one big corporate brand, utterly consistent and bland.
So we did nothing but ride the newer coasters all day. We missed out on The Dark Knight, which opened this year, because the line was too long. And like I said, we ignored most of the older ones. But that left plenty for us to fill up our day.
Digression: when I was a kid, nobody had ever heard of Six Flags. Everybody just called the park "Great Adventure". I'm pretty sure people in New Jersey still do, despite Six Flags' best efforts these days. (This New Jerseyan agrees!) Talk about dating myself, but I actually still remember when the park was independent, going back to 1977! (That same year, the movie "Rollercoaster" was released, in which a guy goes around to various amusement parks trying to blow up roller coasters. It was presented in "sensurround", which basically added really loud rumbling low frequencies. I got so scared from the opening scene that I ran out of the theater.)
Not to say Six Flags' involvement in the park has been bad or anything. The place looks a lot better than it did when I was a kid, there are a lot more rides and there's a hell of a lot more to eat and drink. You used to be able to walk from one side of the park to another and not see so much as a water fountain the whole way - and it's a pretty big park. Now you can't throw a rock without hitting a drink stand. It's all overpriced to hell, it's the same four brands and drink flavors throughout the park, and the stands are all staffed by surly idiot kids who'd rather be anywhere else but there. (I had to force some dumb kid who tried to give me an Icee filled with 1/4 Icee and 3/4 foam to give me another one at one point; he didn't see the problem.) But it's still nice on a 95 degree sunny and humid day, when you'd drink horse piss after walking around for five hours if they served it to you cold.
Safety standards are better too, even as the rides themselves get crazier. I can't find a writeup of this anywhere but I clearly remember that when I was a kid, the bumper cars burned down on the day that we were there. I remember that at least one person died. I have a specific and vivid memory of watching the building burn, flames shooting probably 30 feet into the air. In the 1980's, there were other major accidents, the most famous being the burning of the Haunted Castle, which killed eight people. There were a string of other accidents around that same time.
Nowadays, probably the biggest thing you've got to worry about at the park is the Six Flags Corporation trying to rip you off. Look at this crap:
You used to be able to just leave your stuff in a little box near the exit of the ride, and/or take anything with you on the ride that you could comfortably carry. Ok, so maybe they had problems with theft or something, or maybe this slowed down the loading and unloading process, I don't know. But why make us pay for these lockers? We've already given you $50 for a full price ticket (not that anyone actually pays that), $15 for parking, $4 for every drink we drink, plus food, souvenirs, etc.
This $1 charge amounts to an extra fee for all of the bigger rides. What else are you gonna do? The lockers are time-limited, so you can't just leave your stuff in there all day.
Their other new policy: you need to throw out your drink if you haven't finished it by the time you get on the ride. You can't just leave it on the platform until you come back anymore. I saw this in action - they're totally militant about this. Ummm, ok, I can understand theft being a problem with pocketbooks or even souvenir stuffed animals and whatnot... but half-finished drinks? This is clearly just a policy to get you to buy more drinks after you get off the ride.
Oh, and my last complaint is this little aristocracy they've now set up among the park guests. You can now pay extra for both "premiere parking" and a "Flash Pass". Premiere parking lets you park right near the entrance. That's not so bad, but the Flash Pass is an atrocity. It's basically a license to cut in line. Worse still, Flash Pass people get priority for the front seats of all the rides. So you can stand there waiting for hours while Flash Pass customers just jump right in front of you. This actually isn't that new, but it's become insidious. The way amusement parks are supposed to work is that everybody who goes to the park gets equal treatment and has an equal chance to ride the rides. It's not supposed to depend on how much money you make. People, have we forgotten what it means to live in a Democracy??
(This guy has the nerve to complain that they actually wanted to charge him for a Flash Pass and wait in line to buy one, thereby demonstrating everything that's wrong with this country in one seemingly innocent blog post. Here's another one of these people.)
Anyway, it was still a fun time this time, much moreso than the last time we went, which was some kind of major holiday. If we learned one thing from that visit, it's this: do not go to Great Adventure on a major holiday. We managed to get on two rides all day, the lines were so long. I'm talking signs saying "Your wait time from this point: 240 minutes". Nothing like that this time; some rides we literally just walked right up to and got on. Haven't seen that since I was a kid, when the park was just a lot less crowded every day, not just holidays or weekends.
Watch over the next few days for my coaster reports for Kingda Ka, El Toro, Nitro, Medusa, Superman, and... was that it?? Maybe I'll do a single-post roundup of some other coasters we've been on there in the past as well, though that one will be more from memory. (That would include Batman: The Ride, Batman and Robin: The Chiller, Viper, The Great American Scream Machine, Rolling Thunder, Sarajevo Bobsled, Lightning Loops, and the Mine Train.)