Six Flags Great America brings out Goliath for new season

A photo of Six Flags Great America's Goliath in Gurnee, Illinois.
Six Flags Great America prepares for its first season with Goliath, touted as the tallest, fastest and steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. | Courtesy Six Flags

Roller coaster fans — it’s time to take on Goliath.

The new giant in the world of wooden roller coaster, the Goliath (opening soon) is a triple-world-record-breaking coaster, said Six Flags Great America communications manager Katy Enrique.

“It will be the fastest wooden roller coaster, and [features] the tallest and steepest drop [180-feet] 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 major 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 offers a smoother ride and getting the trains to do elements that they’ve never been able to do before.[including] 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.”

Season pass

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? 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 go into the left [once you enter the park] 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,” Enrique 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. ”

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,” Enrique 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.”

Hurricane Harbor

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;it closes for the season 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,” Enrique 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.”

Fright Fest

One of the park’s biggest phenoms is Fright Fest, which takes over Six Flags from the end of September through Halloween weekend. 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,” Enrique said.

Live shows

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.”

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Six Flags Great America, 21 Great America Pkwy., Gurnee

Tickets, $44.99-64.99; season passes also available.

(847) 249-4636

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