Everything You Need to Know About Six Flags Great Adventures — One of the Largest Theme Parks in the World
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Just an hour from Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York City, Six Flags Great Adventure in central New Jersey entertains more than 3 million visitors each year. This massive theme park is one of the largest in the world and offers thrill rides, a waterpark, animals safari and character meet-and-greets without necessitating you book flights for the family to head all the way down to Florida.
About the Park
We’ve visited Six Flags Great Adventure several times with my daughter, who’s now 7 years old, and have never run out of activities to enjoy. Like Disneyland and Disney World, this large park consists of many sections that feature rides beyond the typical roller coaster. You’ll need a good chunk of a day, or perhaps a whole weekend to explore it all.
From intense roller coasters like Nitro and The Joker to wooden coasters like El Toro to adrenaline-pumping experiences like Kingda-Ka, the tallest and fastest coaster in North America, there’s something heart-stopping for every member of the family. Besides the thrill rides, teens can belt out karaoke and kids 3 years old and up will meet Looney Tunes characters and enjoy rides like the Bugs Bunny Carousel. Even the youngest park explorer won’t feel left out with rides like Air Jumbo, Buccaneer and the gentle Bugaboo mobiles. My daughter is especially fond of the Enchanted Teacups, a ride that rekindles her memories of the Mad Tea Party at Walt Disney World.
This summer the park also debuted the tallest pendulum ride in the world — Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth.
Who Will Enjoy Six Flags Great Adventure?
The park is known for its roller coasters but if that isn’t your thing, Six Flags also has gentler rides, arcade games and a waterpark (Hurricane Harbor).
Having visited Six Flags many times in more than 10 years, I have found that children, especially second graders to teens, really love the park. With more than 23 rides that have no minimum height requirement (or none if accompanied by an adult) and plenty of shows in kid zones like Adventure Alley, there’s also a lot for young kids to do here.
When to Visit
To get the most of your visit to Six Flags, timing is key. The park opens daily at 10:30am and closes at 9pm during the weekdays and 10pm Friday–Sunday. In general, it’s a good idea to arrive at the park at least a half hour early and go midweek rather than weekends, especially in the peak season of summer.
If you’re planning to visit Hurricane Harbor, it’s best to do so early in the morning or late in the evening.
Special event days and holidays, like July Fourth, as well as seasonal activities like Fright Fest during the Halloween season, will also be extra-busy. The park is open on certain Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in November and December, but it closes for most of the winter from January 2 until late March/early April.
How to Save on Tickets
Families on a budget who want to visit will appreciate the significant savings that come with a membership ($7.10 per person per month for the Gold Plus level, $9.10 for the Platinum level and $12.10 for the Diamond level). If you purchase these memberships during a special sale, you are likely to receive a free upgrade to the next level or get extra discounts. Our family bought tickets on Memorial Day and got our membership bumped from Gold Plus to Platinum. (Not that a membership is a little different than a season pass.)
A Gold Plus pass gives you access to all Six Flags theme parks and outdoor waterparks in North America, billed monthly. It’s the best way to see the park on a budget, if you want to visit more than once (for a family of four, billed monthly, the membership option works out to be $340.80 a year, pretax). A season pass comes out to $89.99 per person (or $360) but doesn’t offer other some of the membership perks like free parking and park discounts, and expires at the end of the season. Only membership passholders get unlimited soft drinks with a refillable plastic cup (and trust me, these alone are a great value, especially on a hot day). You also get free parking and up to 50% off everything purchased in the park, including T-shirts and souvenirs. Season passholders don’t receive these benefits.
It’s worth remembering that if you plan on visiting the park even twice a year (we go several times a year, especially in the offseason to check out rides we haven’t been on), you’ll save money by opting for a membership or season pass instead of purchasing individual tickets at the gate. Parking fees are $30 per visit, so on just two visits you will pay $60 in these fees alone.
Daily passes can cost $52.99 per ticket, so if you visit the park twice, you’ve already spent $423.92 for a family of four, not to mention $60 for parking.
Parking Fees: Daily parking at Six Flags is $30 per car if you buy it at the park, and $25 if you purchase it online. Parking fees are waived if you are a park member or season passholder.
Dining Package: A Season Dining Pass costs $39.99 per person and includes lunch and a snack each time you enter the park. You can add this option when you purchase a season pass or a membership. A Deluxe Dining Pass (with a free upgrade to Premium) costs $84.99 per person and gets you lunch, dinner and a snack each time you visit. If you’re a family of four and plan to visit many times, the meal savings add up.
Coca-Cola Discounts: Right now, you can save $15 on daily tickets by presenting a Coke can at the ticket booth, or buy your tickets online from this site to save up to $25.
AAA Member Discounts: If you are an AAA member, get up to 30% off tickets purchased online and 33% off the processing fee. Members also get a 10% discount on all gifts, candy and photo products.
Six Flags Great Adventure is divided into sections:
Main Street is what visitors see first. Lots of souvenir shops line the thoroughfare and the middle of the street has a fountain where Looney Tunes characters, like Sylvester, Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird, tend to hover before the park closes.
Off to one side of Main Street, you’ll pass through Fantasy Forest, which features lots of rides for the very little ones, including Houdini’s Great Escape, a carousel and the Enchanted Teacups.
The retro-themed Adventure Alley features several classic family rides, such as the Big Wheel and SkyScreamer. The former is 150-foot-tall Ferris wheel, recently restored, that park-goers have been riding since Six Flags opened in 1974. SkyScreamer, living up to its name, is a 242-foot-tall tower swinger that spins up to 40 miles per hour. Both rides offer great views of the park.
Sitting at the edge of the park, Adventure Seaport is geared to younger kids, with plenty of pint-sized rides and Looney Tunes characters. It consists of two main areas: Safari Kids and Looney Tunes Seaport. Highlights include Sky Zooma, Air Safari and Bugaboo. Sky Zooma is a spinning hot-air balloon ride that rises about 15 feet in the air, allowing for a bird’s-eye view of Safari Kids. Air Safari allows your kids to pretend to be pilots, while Bugaboo is a colorful, spinning bug ride.
Adventure Seaport features two other rides: Nitro and Congo Rapids. Congo Rapids’ white-water rafting experience is great for families; the hypercoaster Nitro is for thrill-seekers.
The Boardwalk is a vast plaza flanked by games you can play for a fee, like Strongman Challenge, with lots of stuffed toys as prizes. It is also home to the Superman and Green Lantern roller coasters.
The Golden Kingdom
This section features two main rides: Kingda Ka, with a 418-foot drop, and Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, which lifts you up 415 feet before a 90-mile-per-hour drop.
Plaza del Carnaval
This Mexican-inspired area features Six Flags’ popular wooden roller coaster, El Toro, and Rolling Thunder. It also offers good grab-and-go Mexican food at Macho Nacho.
Frontier Adventures features Western-themed rides, like the Saw Mill Log Flume and Bizarro, a floorless, looping coaster. The Saw Mill Log Flume is especially fun on a hot day. Sometimes you get hit with a few drops of water but you also may get doused, so pack a towel for this ride.
This is also home to the Safari Off Road Adventure (included in the price of admission). This 350-acre preserve contains more than 1,200 animals from six continents. Perfect for all ages, this special part of the park can take an hour or more to explore via off-road trucks driven by park employees.
The Lakefront features scary rides like Skull Mountain and the swinging pirate-ship ride, Buccaneer. Both rides can get crowded, especially on weekends, so head here early.
This Hollywood-themed area features rides with a DC focus, such as the popular indoor coaster, Batman: The Ride, and the Dark Knight coaster.
Top off a day at Six Flags with a visit to Hurricane Harbor (included with your season pass or membership). This waterpark features thrill rides like Hurricane Mountain and Big Wave Racer (height requirement: 42 inches).
If it’s time to dial back the thrills, you can take a dip in the Blue Lagoon wave pool or allow the mellow current of the 2,150-foot lazy river, Taak it Eez Ee Creek, to steer you around the waterpark. Hurricane Harbor is a park highlight during warmer months.
The very young and toddler set can also have fun at Discovery Bay, a shallow-water playground for kids.
Beyond the Rides
Entertainment: Kidz Karaoke is a stage where singers 13 and under can wow the audience. Each night, 45 minutes before the park closes, there’s a Block Party at the Main Street fountain with Looney Tunes characters.
Kids will also enjoy the show “Shuffling Into Adventure with Jordan and Sam” at the outdoor Adventure Theater. It’s about the quest for an alligator in the heart of the Everglades and is a dose of fun for all ages; plus, it’s a respite from running between roller coasters and rides.
If you don’t want to commit time and ride The Safari (which takes about an hour), try visiting the Wild Walkway at the Golden Kingdom and see exotic animals, including lions and alligators. Note that animals are available only between 10:30am and 4:30pm.
Dining: Six Flags has typical amusement park fare; the funnel cakes are especially popular. There are several vendors serving Dippin’ Dots ice cream, and a few Coca-Cola refill stations (one right near Main Street) where members can refill their plastic cups throughout the day with beverages that include Dasani water and Vitamin Water.
Popular casual dining options include Chop Six (try their orange chicken) and Panda Express. Good grab-and-go Mexican fare, including guacamole, chips and salsa, is available at Macho Nacho in Plaza de Carnaval (where El Toro is located). There are also many pizza and Italian places, like Primo’s Pasta, that serve spaghetti, meatballs and other types of pasta.
For healthy eats, visit Go Fresh Express. It offers salads and wraps. Ichiban Tea House, which has lean-protein options, smoothies and fresh juices, is another choice for those watching their carb intake. And there’s Yum Yum Café, which serves black bean burgers, falafel sandwiches and even gluten-free options. For grab-and-go dining, head to Kingdom Gyro for gyros and hummus plates.
Don’t expect table service here as most dining venues offer counter service and you seat yourself. You can bring your own food to the park (there are benches and public seating areas), but consider the membership options that give you a lunch and snack as well as dinner, depending on which level you buy.
How to Minimize Lines
A visit to Six Flags is rarely crowd-free, especially on weekends. Most of the popular rides like Batman and Kingda-Ka can have wait times over 60 and even 90 minutes (especially if you want to get into the first row). If that sounds too long, buy FLASH Passes that help you skip the lines (a regular season FLASH pass costs $299 per person or $45 per day).
There are a number of FLASH Pass options, and the passes are valid for the most popular rides, including El Toro, Safari, The Dark Knight coaster and others. For a full list of rides on which the pass is valid, visit this site.
Basic FLASH Pass: This costs $45 per person per day and functions as a reservation. This means basic passholders don’t have to wait in line and instead use their free time (which is the same as the current wait time) to explore other rides in the park. When it’s their time to board the ride, they enter at the special FLASH pass entrance.
Gold FLASH Pass: This pass costs $80, but it shaves up to 50% off the wait time.
Platinum FLASH Pass: This pass, at $120, eliminates up to 90% of the current wait time for rides. If you’re planning on riding a popular ride on a jam-packed day, this pass is worth it.
Where to Stay
There aren’t too many points hotels in the immediate area of Six Flags Great Adventure, but if you’ve got Hilton Honors points, you can stay around 15 minutes away at the Hampton Inn & Suites Robbinsville for 30,000 points per night, or the Hilton Garden Inn Hamilton or Homewood Suites by Hilton Hamilton. Both of those go for 40,000 points per night.
The Residence Inn Hamilton is a Category 3 property that goes for 17,500 Marriott points per night. If you have World of Hyatt points, use them at the Hyatt Regency Princeton (8,000 points per night). Staying there will place you about 30 minutes away from the park.
In addition to the rides, Six Flags hosts many seasonal and themed activities throughout the year. These include:
July 4 Fest: From July 3–6 you can stop by for Coca-Cola cold samples, fun games, giveaways and fireworks at the park.
Live Concerts: Some bands like CNCO perform live at the North Star Arena. Check the website for a calendar of event listings.
Fright Fest: This spooky party for Halloween means zombies in the park and ghouls sneaking up on you as you walk the midways, not to mention haunted mazes.
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When it comes to rides, Six Flags matches the diverse thrills of Disney World but is much more manageable in size and offers lots of options for all ages. Plus, buying up to the FLASH Pass ensures you don’t have to wait for a ride. Six Flags Great Adventure is worth the drive for those in and around the Northeast.
Featured image courtesy of Six Flags via Facebook
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