Longtime readers know I have a fair bit of experience with Disney World vacations. I’ve been going to DW since I was a kid, and I’ve gone back again with my kids several times, planning a number of vacations in the process. When I go to Disney, I know the parks pretty much inside out, and it’s really easy to just go and have a good time.
With little kids, I haven’t been too antsy to jump at a Six Flags trip anytime soon, but the opportunity arose, and most of my kids are tall enough to go on all the rides (can you believe DC is 54″ with shoes on?), so I pulled the trigger and bought tickets.
(Of course, since this is me, “pulling the trigger” involved a slew of internet searches for the best possible price. We were going Labor Day weekend, so the odds of getting a good coupon seemed slim. However, with a fair bit of searching, I discovered there was a solid AAA discount for the park, which brought the tickets down from $60/person to $40/person. When we arrived at the gates, they had another deal going: for an additional $20/person, we could upgrade our tickets to season passes good for the rest of this year and all of next. Denisa and I thought about it throughout the day, but we finally decided against it. Six Flags New England is 4.5 hours away, and we just weren’t convinced yet our kids were old enough that we’d want to be going multiple times per year. That might change in the future.)
We got to the park around 10:30, expecting it to be mobbed. The good news? It wasn’t. Not even slightly. The longest line we waited in turned out to be the second time we went on Bizarro, and that was still under an hour. Not quite Ridemax awesome, but still not too awful.
TRC and DC saw the coasters and were a bit intimidated at first. Disney does a really solid job of hiding the fact that you’re going to be on a rollercoaster. Six Flags is all about emphasizing it. But we rushed over to Batman and walked right on–no wait! Both the kids had a blast and immediately wanted to go again. (DC: six year old with no fear whatsoever.) Over the course of the day we rode Batman twice, did Mind Eraser, Bizarro twice, Wild Mouse, a slew of kids rides, Blizzard River, Flashback, the swings–you name it. We didn’t do any of the water park, mainly because we thought it was going to be too chilly. (It wasn’t–some water rides would have been perfect to cool down. But maybe that’s where all the crowds were? No clue.)
TRC was pretty apprehensive about going on Bizarro–and DC flat out decided against it. I can’t blame them. It starts off with a 221 foot drop, reaches speeds up to 80mph, and pretty much looks taller than Everest when you’re standing beneath it. Still, TRC decided to go, and it was a blast to get to go with him–seeing the difference between how nervous he was before we went and how excited he was after it was over. Here’s a POV view of the ride, in case you’re curious:
Overall, we had a really fun time. Is it better than Disney? I don’t really think so, with the single exception being if you’re in the market for pure thrills. It’s got a slew of coasters that are just a blast, and that’s something Disney has clearly decided not to fight. The Mouse focuses on the whole experience, and Six Flags seemed purely concentrated on thrills, thrills, and more thrills.
Some other notes: I felt like Six Flags really tried its darnedest to squeeze every cent out of me that it could. No outside food or drink is one thing, but the food they actually have in the park left much to be desired, too. Disney food isn’t awesome (unless you know where to go), but it has way more options and isn’t as overpriced as Six Flags. And then there’s the constant merchandising, with “games of skill,” arcades, and add on rides. (The one bright spot? I bought a giant slushy cup that came with free refills all day for $10. We shared it as a family and refilled the thing 8 times. That felt like a really good deal, and it helped a lot to keep us cool and hydrated (and full of sugar.))
Maybe some of the nickel and diming wouldn’t have felt as bad if the ambiance were a bit better, but some of those rides were just worn down and dirty. Not fairground dirty, but still a lot worse than I’ve come to expect from my amusement parks. It was also really noisy almost everywhere you went. With Disney, there’s usually some out of the way places you can go to escape the crowds and noise, and that didn’t seem to be the case here. Maybe I just don’t know the park well enough. But when we left, my voice was really tired from a lot of yelling.
Still, all told we had a great time. I’d definitely go again. Yes, it’s expensive, but not nearly as expensive as Disney if you catch the deals right, and I love me some roller coasters. (Total cost for a family of 4 (baby was free)? $160 for tickets, $20 for parking, $40 for food (and we went way light on the food in the park), for a grand total of $220 just for the park. Add hotel and gas and tolls to that, and you’re looking at $500 for the whole trip. It’s definitely more economical if you have something else calling you to the area. Something like . . . a BYU game.) It’s not really a replacement for Disney at all, though. “Magical” isn’t a word I’d used to describe Six Flags anytime soon. And that’s okay. Sometimes you want magic, and sometimes you just want steel roller coasters.
Anyway–there you have it. If any of you have any questions or suggestions on how to do it more awesomer next time, I’m all eyeballs.