I’ve been to Six Flags Great Adventure four times in my life. The first was when I was fairly young and I don’t remember it at all. The next two times were in 2005 when the ride Kingda Ka was made. The first 2005 trip ended in a bad experience because Kinda Ka was having technical difficulties. I then convinced my Dad later that summer to take me and my cousin back with, essentially the sole purpose of riding Kingda Ka.
We went all the way back, a six hour drive down to New Jersey, only to find that once again Kingda Ka was closed! However it eventually opened towards the end of the day and after 3 and half hours in line, we had finally conquered the (at the time) tallest and fastest coaster in the world.
Cut to 2017 and it’s been 12 years since I’ve been to this park. After moving to NY I searched how long of a ride it was from the city to the park. As it turned out, it was only an hour and a half away. And so, last Sunday I hopped on the NJ transit bus from Port Authority in Manhattan to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.
We arrived at SFGA at ~10:00am and waited in a fairly long line to go through security. Being that I had my backpack, I had to wait in a longer line which took forever because that had to search everyone’s bag. When they got to mine, the security guy found the opened green tea I had been hiding. He told me I needed to dump it out into a bucket.
“If it wasn’t opened,” he said, “you could have kept it.” I was so pissed because I had only had one sip of the drink. Not only did it mean I no longer had my green tea, it also meant that had spent X amount of money which I was now literally throwing away, but it also meant waste of a perfectly good bottle of green tea. I hate wasting things. This was strike one.
After going through security I then had to wait in another line to get my ticket scanned. This was super annoying but at ~10:45am I finally got into the park. The first thing I did was to run to Kingda Ka. When I got there however, I was stopped by the fact that you could not bring bags or any loose items into the line. Instead you had to place your items in lockers.
This is already annoying enough but at least at other parks you go to that make you do this you get to put items in for free. At this park, you get squeezed for every dollar they can get and it’s a dollar each time you have to place your items in the locker. The locker is only good for 2 hours. After that it’s an additional dollar per hour. This is simply “highway robbery” because they know they have you by the balls. This was strike two.
I begrudgingly paid the $1 and got in line. To my pleasant surprise, the wait time was only ~10 minutes, a far cry from that first 3 and a half hour wait in 2005. After riding Kingda Ka, I got back in line and rode it again, this time with a ~15 minute wait. I then made my way over to Zumanjaro.
Zumanjaro is a simple elevator drop ride. It was built onto the front structure of Kingda Ka in 2014. It is, apparently, the tallest (at 415 feet) and fastest (at 90mph) drop ride in the world! I typically hate these rides because I really don’t like heights, but yet I love roller coasters… go figure. However, because this one doesn’t launch you from the bottom, it actually wasn’t bad.
Also, because it is attached to Kingda Ka, it somehow makes it feel less heigh. I took the age old advice of “don’t look down” and it truly worked. Instead, I looked up to see how close to the top we were. Once at the top I looked out over Six Flags before dropping five seconds later. All in all not bad.
After that I retrieved my backpack from the locker and went over to El Toro. El Toro was being built the year we went to SFGA twice. It opened a year later in 2006 and has been voted the number one wooden coaster in the world two years in a row. I paid another dollar to put my bag in another locker before getting in line for the ride.
El Toro did not disappoint. It was by far one of the smoothest, if not the smoothest wooden coaster I’ve ever been on. It also has the second biggest drop of any wooden coaster at 176 feet and one of the steepest drops at 76 degrees. It’s also the 4th fastest at 70mph. However, what I thought was really cool was the speed of the lift hill. At 13mph it gets you to the top in no time at all.
After riding “the bull” I went over to Medusa, er, I mean Bizzaro. Formerly know as Medusa, Bizzaro is was repainted and renamed for the 2008 season and theming objects were added. It really does nothing for the ride but I can now say I’ve ridden this floorless coaster with two different names. B&M rides never fail to deliver fun, smooth rides.
I then grabbed my bag from the second locker and got overpriced Mexican food for lunch. After eating lunch, I made my way over to the Green Lantern coaster. Placed in the spot where The Great American Scream Machine used to stand, Green Lantern was relocated from Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom and renamed; it was formerly called Chang.
I was really excited to ride it because I’d never been on it before and because it was only going to be the third stand up coaster I’ver ever been on. However, upon my arrival, it was closed. This was strike three. I was pretty bummed about all of these things and though they may seem minuscule, they cumulatively made for a fairly bad experience.
Disappointed, I then made my way to the other end of the park where I put in my third dollar for the day. There I rode The Dark Knight. This is, arguably the best themed ride in the park. I say that very loosely because it is barely themed. It has a pre-ride show and, because you are supposed to be riding on Gotham City Transit, the queue is subway themed and the cars look like subway trains.
This ride is nothing more than an indoor wild mouse coaster with some lighting and theming objects. It replaced the defunct Batman and Robin: The Chiller for the 2008 season. Sadly, I only ever got to ride Robin in 2005, the Batman side was closed.
After riding The Dark Knight I went over to perhaps my favorite ride in the park, Nitro. Nitro is another B&M coaster, this one however is a hypercoaster with a 215 foot drop. Nitro never fails to be thrilling and enjoyable. After Nitro I rode Batman The Ride, a compact inverted coaster. The ride it so short that the long line did not really justify the wait but oh well, another one to check off the list.
Cut to a montage of me looking at the map, strolling around aimlessly and eventually taking the Skyway gondola. The thing that really sucked about having to pay for locker each time, on top of the cost, was the inconvenience. It was so annoying to not be able to just place your stuff on the other side of the track and pick it up when you got off.
Six Flags Great Adventure as seen from the Skyway gondola
I get that it probably messes with load times but it is ultimately an easier system. It basically made me not want to ride as many rides because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle. For example, I didn’t ride Skull Mountain because I didn’t want to pay a dollar to ride it. Its a fun stupid little coaster but it’s not worth a dollar. Being that going on rides is the whole reason I went to the park, it kind of put a damper on the whole day.
When I got to the other side, I put my bag in a locker… again, before riding El Toro one last time. At an hour and a half, this was my longest wait of the day. The ride was having problems, than ran few trains empty to test them and eventually they had to take 15 to 20 minutes to swap one of the trans off. This meant running a one train operation.
The down side to this was that ranter than loading on train while the other was running, they could only load the train once it was back in the station. This essentially doubled the wait time for the ride. However, as before, it delivered and I was glad I got in two rides on it.
After that I basically had to play the waiting game. The bus back to New York wasn’t set to arrive until 9:30pm and it was only about 7:30pm. I was essentially done for the day, tired and a little depressed. Eventually, after going back and forth for a while I bit the bullet an paid the $12! for a chicken sandwich.
As I exited the park with my overpriced food to wait for the bus, I contemplated dumpster diving through the recycling bucket for my green tea. I bet, if they hadn’t emptied the bucket throughout the day, that it was still in there. That said, it was probably sticky and gross so I decided against it.
As I waited for the bus, I reflected on the day. I thought about the fact that overall, I had a fairly mediocre experience. It really bummed me out because it made me think that I’m getting too old or too jaded for theme parks, something I used to love. Maybe if I’d gone with a friend or bought a locker at the beginning of the day or not had to throw out my green tea or spend so much money it would have been a better experience, I don’t know.
The last thing that bummed me out was that fact that I missed the first bus -my own fault, I refused to wait in the line- and so I had to get on the second one, which stopped in NJ first before going to NY, making the trip that much longer. On top of that, the driver didn’t even collect my bus ticket. Why did I bother paying for a round trip ticket if I could have snuck on for free?
Overall the day was fine, but it may mark the end of an era for theme parks for me, #sad.