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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Six Flags Great America Visit Report and Thoughts: July 2021

We had our first chance to visit Six Flags Great America this past week. It is a pretty good park, with lots of old and decent planning and landscaping remaining from the old Marriott days, with several classics remaining from the 70s and 80s as well. It is a solid amusement park that is pretty good for a regional chain park. It has held on to the classics much better than the last Six Flags park I visited back in June, Great Adventure. Six Flags Great America is chock full of 70s and 80s holdovers in rides and scenery. The planning aspects of 70s parks just do not seem to get done these days. 
Reflection pools and fountains add so much to the general feel of a park. The reflection pools and fountains at this park, add a good bit of charm and relaxation to the themed areas in addition to actual landscaping and some actual shade in most queues. Holdouts from the 70s and 80s actually remain at the park, and are wildly popular, as opposed to Great Adventure, which has removed most of them.  These classics include the double-decker carousel, Schwarzkopf's Whizzer (one of only two remaining Schwarzkopf Speedracer models), Yankee Clipper (One of only three remaining Arrow Hydroflumes that I am aware of), a Huss Condor, Demon (an Arrow corkscrew coaster that has awesome rock work for visual effects) and more. The day that we visited had extreme heat at around 90 degrees. The Yankee Clipper Hydroflume opens later than the rest of the park, and there were hundreds of people waiting when the ride was first opening, and an hour wait all day. This is a huge testament to just how loved and great of a ride this is.

Unfortunately, Demon has been closed for a few weeks and I missed out on it, but the rock work looks just awesome, and they had music playing around the coaster that was clearly from advertising back when it was new. The lyrics and song definitely share a bit of resemblance to the Move Closer to your World song, which you hear today on WPVI Channel 6 from Philly, and back then on news stations across the country, which makes me love it all the more. 
The first coaster we hopped in line for was Maxx Force, knowing how this ride is an S&S and the ride frequently goes down mechanically and that it has slow guest throughput with its operations. We hopped in the line right away and waited about twenty minutes. I really had no idea what to expect with this one. Kennywood's Steel Curtain is underwhelming to me in regards to the rattling the train does as it goes through the course and with how ridiculously long it takes for one train to move into the station after the other. Seeing how this ride is scaled up with a really quick launch, I was concerned that the ride would be even rougher than Steel Curtain, but it was surprisingly really smooth. 
Having worked at an S&S drop tower before, I felt so disoriented hearing that awesome sound that the air tanks fill up, release to the right level, hearing that air release stop, and knowing that it is going to launch. If you ever want to know every time an S&S tower or air launched coaster is going to go, listen for that shhhhhhhhhhh sound to stop as the air releases to the right level. The launch immediately follows. The launch on Maxx Force is easily the best I have ever experienced. With 0-78MPH acceleration in 1.8 seconds, it is the second fastest operating launch in the world, after Do-Dodonpa at Fuji Q Highland in Japan, another S&S creation, which goes from 0-111.9 MPH in 1.56 seconds. The launch on Maxx Force is so fast that it just takes your breath away. The course has four awesome inversions that are filled with hang time and airtime. My only knock on it is that it has a pretty short layout, even though it is a ton of fun. A solid mid-tier steel coaster. 

The park's ride collection is very well balanced, with nothing that will absolutely blow you away, but nothing that is bad either. This park is home to lots of firsts, including the first B&M invert (Batman the Ride), the second completed B&M Hyper (Raging Bull), the second B&M Flyer (Superman), and the first B&M Wing Rider (X-Flight). 
Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of RMC coasters, though I have to say that Goliath is fantastic and my favorite RMC, and the only one of their hybrid coasters (steel beam track with a few layers of wood underneath) that I have ridden. The quick and snappy layout is great and it would be higher on my overall list if it had more length. I love the fact that the elements have not been drawn out on this ride. The elements and transitions are quick, snappy, and forceful, and do not have the more drawn out and copy-paste aspects of the more recent RMC creations. I feel like recent RMC installations have cut back on intensity. Lately if you close your eyes, you cannot even feel the transitions on RMCs. Goliath was not like this at all. The snappy inversions and transitions, coupled with the extreme airtime make this coaster the exact opposite of RMC's offerings as of late and it is my favorite RMC at this point. It is a very fun, mid-tier ride, that would probably top tier if it were longer. Additionally, props to the crews on Goliath for really getting those trains out quickly. Most RMCs have dismal throughput, but the ride ops were able to just keep loading and dispatching those trains. 
This is easily my favorite RMC, even though it is short. If RMC built their current rides with these snappy transitions, they would not be as programmatic, drawn out, and cookie-cutter. 

Similar to Great Adventure though, running through the motions to do all of the rides just feels like work. The rides are great, but waiting at least 25 minutes, and up to an hour, for pretty much everything had that feeling of feeling like work instead of play. Operations were not bad, but not great either, except for a few exceptions, including Goliath as we mentioned earlier.
Demon and Viper
Even Raging Bull had a 40 minute wait, and they opted to add a third train right after we finished our ride. They would dispatch the trains and then there would be a minute wait until the next train got into the station. Those B&M hypers are meant to be running with a huge capacity. Even a full queue, the line should move pretty quickly. I have looked forward to riding this for many years and I have to say that I enjoy it. As opposed to most other B&M hypers, this one is a twister as opposed to an out-and-back. It has several moments of good airtime like you expect on a B&M Hyper, but lots of decent lateral forces. This ride is way different from other B&M Hypers and it is a solid mid tier steel coaster. 
American Eagle is a visually stunning ride that I know could be good, at least through the first two thirds of the ride, with some serious track work. The ride needs serious work though. Even in spite of this though, the ride remains popular. With one side operating, the ride had a 25 minute wait on this visit. I feel that the best thing for this ride would be to get a company like GCI in to do some serious track work and add Millennium Flyer trains, to make the main course run smoothly up through the final part of the ride and then let them change up the boring finale. I do not think that bringing RMC would be a good option for this ride, because there are enough of their zero-g roll variations out there and the first drop, airtime hills, and enormous helix and then ridiculous momentum at the bottom of it is something that should be preserved in wooden coaster form. This could be a top flight coaster with retrack work done by GCI.
X-Flight is a fantastically fun ride. I prefer both Gatekeeper and Thunderbird over it, but it is still a ton of fun. This is such a cool concept and the elements are flawless and smooth, giving you the feeling of flying around the sky in a chair. 

My only complaint about the ride is the lack of shade in the queue area, except for under the station. 
Vertical Velocity on the left. Didn't capture my attention enough while I watched Goliath
Vertical Velocity is what it is, a fun Intamin Impulse Coaster. Did this one ever have the holding brake like Superman/Possessed used to have? That launch felt so weak after riding Maxx Force, but it is still a fun ride. You have to have a ton of rides and coasters for the sheer capacity needs of being a giant amusement park that is situated 45 minutes away from two major cities. 

Little Dipper is a fun little ride for what it is. Saving this is one of the coolest and most savvy things that Six Flags has ever done. Saving a local family favorite coaster, and adding a family coaster in a park filled with thrill rides for pennies on the dollar in a really tiny footprint. This tiny Schmeck and PTC creation is only 700 feet long and 28 feet tall. Not only does the park save a classic ride, it gets a lot of goodwill from the region and the coaster community for saving a ride from which lots of childhood memories were made. 
Raging Bull and Viper
Viper surprised me in how great it was. Smooth and quick layout with lots of airtime, and "near miss" elements as it weaves around the structure of the ride. Much better than I expected.

In the end though, my absolute favorite coaster in the park was Whizzer. As I said earlier, it is one of only two remaining Schwarzkopf Speedracer models, and it remains extremely popular. It had a queue that was halfway full, yet flew because of the high capacity of the ride, taking only about a 20 minute wait. 
The ride had decent crowds all day. The curved lift hill is a brilliant design, and then the seemingly endless turns are tons of fun. The weaving through the woods and over the water is something that is so neat. This ride is priceless and awesome. 
Batman! Is it missing the hoods or was it always hoodless?
Because of the heat and crowds and hopping in the car for the ride to Indiana Beach that evening, and the fact that we rode all of their identical counterparts at Great Adventure a few weeks ago, we opted to skip Superman, Batman, The Dark Knight Coaster, and Joker (in addition to the fact that one ride on an S&S 4D Freespin is enough for me). Sadly, Demon was down and we missed out on that. 
It was a decent day at the park! Six Flags Great America is a place that you have to visit at least once. 

Our 2022 Roller Coaster Calendar is available now! For more info, check out this link. To purchase, use the dropdown menu at the top of the page. 
The calendar features views from: Knoebels, Holiday World, Cedar Point, Morey's Piers, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Kennywood, Hersheypark, Six Flags Great Adventure, Casino Pier, Carowinds, and Waldameer. For more info, check out this link. The calendar and our book on Pennsylvania Amusement Parks are available through the dropdown menus at the top of the page, and the bottom of this article. 

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