When Six Flags Great America opens its gates for the 2014 season, roller coaster fans will be lining up to battle the Goliath.
The new giant in the world of wooden roller coaster, the Goliath is a triple-world-record-breaking coaster, said Six Flags communications manager Katy Enrique.
“It will be the fastest wooden roller coaster, and will also feature the tallest and steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the world,” she said. “We’re very excited about it.”
Wooden roller coasters have a certain cache among coaster purists. They’re intriguing to a lot of theme parks, she said.
“For one, they’re a staple,” she said. “Every manager theme park has at least one wooden roller coaster. Secondly, it also is undergoing probably some of the biggest roller coaster innovations. Our American Eagle roller coaster for instance, was the longest, tallest, fastest wooden roller coaster of its time.
“But now with Goliath, the track is undergoing major innovation in terms of making it a smoother ride and getting the trains to do elements that they’ve never been able to do before. This will have these overbanked turns, which means your feet will kind of go over your head a little bit when you tilt over to the side, so you’ll be beyond 90 degrees on the track, and then you’re actually going to go upside down two times on Goliath, which is something not many wooden roller coasters do.
“There’s only two others in the world right now that actually go upside down. I think that’s the major draw to these wooden roller coasters — they can do these amazing elements that nobody’s ever seen before, and that’s really due some engineering innovation out there.”
In addition to the 14 heart-clenching roller coasters and 20-acre water park, Six Flags Great America boasts live shows and three children’s themed areas with more than 30 rides. So how are you supposed to get through the two parks in one day?
Let’s be real. Unless you have a flux capacitor stashed in your fanny pack, you probably won’t. That’s why the season pass is recommended.
“It’s definitely challenging for people to come in and do both parks in one day,” she said. “Our season passes are such a great value; we find most of our guests are turning over into seasonal pass holders. It’s nice for season pass holders that there is almost too much to do in one day. It gives them the flexibility to come and experience the park a bunch of different ways throughout the summer and even into the fall.”
Six Flags also offers a monthly payment plan for families, and discounts for online daily ticket sales. There’s also a no-frills Thrill Pass that costs the same as a daily ticket and lets you come back as many times as you want – but it does not include admission to Hurricane Harbor or Fright Fest.
Now, if you are coming to Six Flags with the singular goal of doing all the thrill rides, it is possible to have that kind of an experience.
“We usually tell people to take the park one ticket clockwise. Go into the left and start your day that way, because a lot of people tend to go into the park towards the right for whatever reason. We tell them to go against the flow,” she said.
“Then if they want to do the big coasters, try to get those done in the morning, because that’s when we have the fewest amount of people in the park. Do your Raging Bulls and your Goliaths and your Batmans right away in the morning, then you can kind of work through the rest of the park through the balance of the day. Those biggest coasters are the ones that inevitably the most popular.”
If you’re coming with a minivan full of ankle biters, rest easy. The park was laid out with you in mind.
“Say that you go into Southwest Territory. If you have teenagers with you, they can ride Raging Bull, they can ride Viper, they can ride Giant Drop. Now if you have little kids with you, there are smaller rides in that same area,” she said. “A lot of our territories (have) features for all ages. You will see a big coaster and some of those in-between rides (like) Revolution, Home Town Fun Machine and Triple Play. Then you’ll see kids’ areas throughout the park — Kidzopolis and Camp Cartoon and Little Dipper. So the family can kind of stay together as a unit but still venture off and do their own thing.”
In 2011, Great America underwent a major expansion to its water park, Hurricane Harbor, called Riptide Bay. The five-acre expansion included four new drop slides, a surf rider, an activity pool and another family raft ride.
The Harbor opens at 11:30 a.m. daily starting May 24 and closes around sunset, she said, and closes for good Sept. 1. If you want to do both parks, figure out what’s most important to your family and hit that first. If it’s the water park, going there first might be a good thing — you’ll be dry before the ride home.
“Enjoy all the bigger thrill rides … the drop slides are very popular. The surf ride is very popular. Some of the body slides over by the wave pool are extremely popular, so we recommend people tackle those things first,” she said.
“Then if you just want to bob and float the rest of the day, then you can go into the wave pool and do the lazy river after you’ve gotten everything checked off your to-do list.”
While outside food isn’t allowed in, most people bring coolers and lunch in the parking lot.
“I did that as a kid,” Enrique laughed.
One of the park’s biggest phenoms is Fright Fest, which takes over Six Flags from the end of September through Halloween weekend.
“It’s a festival that continues to amaze us every year,” she said. “Our guests love it and look forward to it and will come out every year no matter what the fall (weather) gives us. Every year, we make Fright Fest bigger and better than the Fright Fest prior.”
This season, look for Fright Fest Six Six Six.
“It’s going to be six weeks of terror, those six weekends starting Sept. 27 to Nov. 2 , six haunted houses and six live shows,” she said. “We’re pushing Fright Fest even more this year. That’s our goal — as our guests continue to enjoy it and ask for more, we’re giving them more.”
The entertainment department puts on a live singing and dancing show in the musical hall, plus a character show in the Mardi Gras area (that’s where you’ll find Tweety and Bugs and Sylvester). Then there’s a Southwest show in the Mooseburger Lodge, and there’s usually something playing the Victorian.
Additionally, adults might enjoy a “Screams and Dreams, Volumes 1-3.”
“It’s basically a history of the park, back in the ’70s when it was built and then through the ’80s and ’90s and into today,” she said. “It’s a fun show for adults who have grown up going to the park, with different owners and expansions. It’s really an interesting history of Great America.”
There are several events at the park, including Teen Truth’s anti-bullying program for students May 21.
“They put on an interactive, multi-media presentation with these middle school and high school students, and they talk about the challenges they are facing with bullying at their schools and online, and how they can make a much more positive and safe environment in their schools,” she said. “It’s a new program … and we’re really looking forward to getting students’ reaction, and hearing if there’s any positive impact when they get back to their schools.”