Coasters After Dark! April 25th, 2014

Every year early in the season, Six Flags Great Adventure holds the exclusive season passholders night Coasters After Dark, and I'd heard about how it was one of the best nights of the year to avoid long waits for the rides. Since this was my first year with a pass, I made it a point to get back over to the park even though I was just here two weeks ago! My buddy Joey who had come up with me on opening day actually rented a car so we could get up and experience basically having the park to ourselves. 

All week leading up to it the forecast called for light rain, but it turned out to be a pretty great night with the rain holding off until just after we left, and really, really light crowds. We pulled into the lot about 6:10pm, got parked settled and hoofed it over to the gate. One complaint I have is the park did not provide the preferred lot for us the for the night. Its really kinda lame to have to walk through a huge, completely empty part of the parking lot right in front of the main gate. 

We had a little bit of a hold up at the gate, probably due to under staffing as this night apparently gets very low crowds but once we got in we bee-lined through the arcade near the Tea Cups over to El Toro and walked right on. This was the first time I didn't have to wait at least a few minutes for it so I was suddenly in a state of euphoria and disbelief. We rode it in what I am learning is the "magic seat" - the middle row of the last car. It is known as this because you get all of the extreme forces of sitting in the back of El Toro's very long train, but the middle seat is not a wheel seat so its a smooth as a babies ass. After our first ride we walked around (halfway, kinda jumped over the fence near the steps to get back up, an employee caught us and laughed) and rode once more in this same spot. 

Bizarro's Zero-G roll

We tried to get a re-ride on the bull in a different seat but wasn't happening so it was off to Bizarro where we marathoned it three times in a row until on the third ride my stomach decided after the MCBR that I'd had enough. This was the first time in years I felt nausea from a coaster but I guess 21 inversions in 10 minutes might do that. Joey was begging for another ride but I needed a short break. 

We stopped for food and wandered over to Superman: Ultimate Flight for my first ever ride (due to the fact that the line is always insane). Walked right on in first row. This is my first flying coaster and was a much better experience than I expected. The ride is really smooth, and the restraint was much more comfortable than I imagined. 

 Our non-existent wait for Superman!

The rides' signature move - the pretzel loop - is just plain NUTS. You are essentially laying on your stomach on this ride and you go into this loop head over heels. This is easily the strangest sensation I've ever had on a ride. Now I want to ride the more highly ranked flyers like Tatsu

Superman: Ultimate Flight off-ride footage by CoasterStudios

After this we headed for what is in my opinion the parks crowd jewel: Nitro. On our walk over we felt drizzle. Huge bummer, but Great Adventure has a great rain policy - as long as there is no lightning, they will run all of their rides. No lightning so lets do it! 

 No wait for the front row on Nitro

At this point it was completely dark and I had yet to do Nitro in the dark. By the time we got up the steps the drizzle stopped. We walked right on and sat in middle. No wait at all. This is a fantastic ride at night. The coaster drops into the woods outside of the park and it's really dark back there! 

 Nitro's lift at night

When we pulled back in we had some folks waiting for our row, so we walked around for ride two and were able to walked right on to the front row. This was my first time in front and was epic! Delicious wind burn on my face! The station was pretty dead so we took advantage of the parks awesome re-ride policy and jumped into a different seat for our third ride in a row. We then were able to move to my favorite spot on this ride - the back row, and rode it two times without getting up. On that fourth go around I had a tinge of naseua again so I told Joey I was done. But then the operator announced it would be the last train of the night so I soldiered through to make it 5 for 5 on Nitro

 Sky Screamer, Ferris Wheel, and Main Street fountain

Exactly at 9:15pm, just as we were walking out of the main gate, did it start to rain. Perfect timing. I was so happy we didn't let the forecasts deter us and were able to get a great night of riding in a short period of time! I am slightly bummed we didn't get a few more runs on El Toro, but its my only small complaint about the entire fantastic evening.

Ride count:

El Toro 2x
Bizarro 3x
Superman 1x
Nitro 5x


Great Adventure Opening Day: April 12th, 2014

 Opening day and the people are here

Well after a very long and painful off-season opening day is finally here. After a few early morning snarls involving picking folks up and somehow getting a bit lost, we arrived at Six Flags Great Adventure around 11:30 on Saturday, April 12th to a much more crowded parking lot than expected. It was an absolutely perfect day weather wise so it wasn't too much of a surprise. Joining me was my fiance Dawn - a definite coaster fan that has not been to the park since the late 90s, along with two friends named Joey - one a lifelong friend who is a borderline enthusiast and visits frequently, and another who is soon moving across the country in a month so this was kind of a bittersweet send off for him, in a way. We dubbed our crew "3 Joey's and a Dawn". 

 Opening Day crew "3 Joeys and a Dawn"

Once we got into through security and the main gate my seasoned SFGAdv buddy spotted Houdini's Great Escape and asked if any of us had ever tried it. We hadn't, and he literally dragged us into the queue. None of us knew what to expect and he wouldn't tell us. It's half dark walk through, half dark ride. Pretty cool experience but the type of ride you don't tell someone about before they have ridden it, so I'll leave it at that. ;) Now let's do some coasters.

Since my fiance hasn't done many of the big dogs here, we knew we had to ease her in. We decided to first check out the season pass processing line (very long! we'll come back later...) and head for Runaway Mine Train. We figured it's the oldest coaster in the park, a real classic, and was a great (albeit rough) warm up before we dove in head first. We walked on, and sat close to the front. Noticed this here first and again on a few other coasters, but was a little weird/unnerving seeing so many operators checking their manuals but reminded myself its opening day & better safe than sorry I suppose. One of my riding buddies lost his hat to the RMT. Doh! (First rule of coaster riding: no hats!!)

Runaway Mine Train

Even though my fiance is a bigger fan of woodies, she was having cold feet about El Toro once she was standing next to it, so we goaded her into going on Bizarro since it was close by and not extreme in terms of height and speed. The line reached halfway down the steps and was very crowded in the station but we didn’t wait long, maybe 15 minutes tops. Very slow dispatches on this gave me worries of what we might experience elsewhere. Once we got on, it rode great, and it reminded me why it’s one of my favorites in the park, and my fiance LOVED it. The only effect I noticed working were the fireballs, and maybe its just me but they seemed enormous. The zero-G roll on this ride is my favorite element. One of my favorite sensations all day. Okay, now we're really warmed up. Time for the bull? 

On our way to Bizarro

It was probably close to 1pm, and was a 30 minute wait for El Toro. We hadn't seen it run very often and at one point after Runaway Mine Train we stood watching Toro and were actually worried it wasn't running at all. We made our way over and once in line trains were dispatching very infrequently. Once we got into the station it became apparent they were having issues with the restraint sensors. Watched quite a few people get off (2nd thoughts?) after issues with their restraints. Finally, we were seated and on the move and it was fantastic. This thing is an airtime machine and probably the closest I'll ever get to riding an actual bull.

El Toro's massive lift, first drop & first airtime hill
I had my mind set on Nitro from the moment we pulled up to the park so I suggested we jump on the Skyway (cable cars) for a quick shortcut across the park. Such a perfect day. Great views from up there, including the still ridiculously long line for pass processing, you can see it in the bottom right hand corner of this picture. 

 View from the Skyway

Upon touching down we discovered the line for Nitro was about 20 minutes. On this and Bizarro (and later Skull Mountain) the stations got pretty crowded/somewhat chaotic, I wished they would have had someone at the top of the steps or something to only allow a certain amount of folks in to avoid this. Not a huge deal though. Operations on Nitro are a well oiled machine, even on opening day. The ride was amazing as always. It was the fiances first hyper coaster and she felt the restraint was not enough for the rides' intensity (this is my favorite part of the experience, we agreed to disagree). I sat 2nd row far left and on that second hill/first turn thought I was being throw off the side for a second there. Amazing!

Nitro's crazy tall lift hill. 

We all agreed to skip Batman as it was the only coaster that all of us had done before and we all agreed it was a little rough and not worth a wait if there was one. We popped out to the parking lot for a quick bite of Wawa hoagies we had packed in the car. After re-entering, we wandered over to check out the pass processing line again (still ain't waiting in that line!) and made a bee-line for El Toro. The line was now twice as long as our first ride so we headed for the Boardwalk area as only one of us (not me) had done Superman: Ultimate Flight or Green Lantern before and I wanted to try both. 

 Superman and Green Lantern spotted from the Skyway

We spotted almost no one in line for Green Lantern and went for it. I learned I am not a fan of stand-up coasters. The thing is smooth as it should be for a B&M coaster, it has a really nice drop and has some amazing forces but my fiance summed it up mid ride as she screamed "I'm glad I don't have balls!". You see, while you are standing, you are forced to "sit" on a tiny bicycle seat so when those intense positive G-forces hit during inversions, there's only one place to take the brunt of that force. Not a pleasant feeling. From the lift we were able to see what looked like a decent sized line for Superman so we agreed to skip it. I still have not done a flying coaster. This is a reason to come back. 

We headed back to Nitro for round two and the fiance sat this one out. Too intense for her. The other three of us did the back row and it was, as expected, even better than the first ride earlier in the day. It was while we were about to board when my eyes spotted a weave on the break run catwalk! Too funny. So what next? We hit Skull Mountain since it is in the area. 

There was no line unless you count the crush of people in the station once got through the long and winding queue. It was really hot in the station. We waited maybe 10 minutes total and the dispatches were, like Nitro, extremely fast with efficient operators. This is a ridiculous "junior" coaster in the pitch dark but super fun classic, I don’t care what anybody says. Its tiny but not being able to see anything makes it very intense. 

  El Toro by sunset

It was getting later and we knew we only had another hour or two before closing, so we hopped the Skyway once again in an effort to get a second spin on El Toro. The line was almost nothing at this point and we got on very quickly, maybe a 10 minute wait, tops. At some point in the day we had overheard chatter about someone getting hit in the face by a rogue cell phone from a rider on El Toro. While waiting for this ride we did hear a very aggressive announcement regarding being ejected by the park for a year if you have loose articles on train, so guessing that was due to the guy getting hit by the cell phone? 

In addition, as we were about to board, the dispatcher announced that the train before us was the “lucky train” of the day and would get to go around twice! RATS! If only we’d gotten there a minute earlier. I think it's super cool that they do this, gutted it wasn’t us. Lucky bastards! This time we rode closer to the back of the train and holy shit it’s like an entirely different coaster. The entire twisty end section felt incredibly faster.This thing is so smooth though, it amazes me that this is a wooden coaster. I think after Saturday that it may have crept into my top spot. If we had more time I would have waited again for the very very back. Another reason to come back! 

El Toro POV courtesy of ThemeParkReview 

By now it was just starting to get dark and since we were in the area we figured we would end the day with one more spin on Bizarro as the sun set. We had the same wait as earlier the in the day - the line was down the steps, but we got on the ride within 10 minutes. I love this coaster. Its so smooth and the zero-G roll is fantastic. The fire and mist effects make this a great night ride. I was tempted to jump back in line as by now it was practically a walk-on. But the group was collectively getting weary after a pretty full, non-stop day. 

Joey C goofing off in "Attitudes"

We headed out toward the car and I checked the pass processing one last time. Lucky for me the line was really short compared to earlier so I decided to bite the bullet and get in. It was only a 15 minute wait to get all sorted and they sent me on my way. Overall this was a PERFECT start to the season, I got to ride my three faves twice each, and get my Green Lantern credit in and a few other fun things, and got my pass sorted. I think everything we rode had every train running, and it never felt like the park was obnoxiously crowded. And to be honest, didn’t spend much money at all. I did get a funky little key chain while leaving. After that long horrid winter, it definitely feels like summer has finally arrived. :) 

Heading out after dark.
Ride Totals:
El Toro x2
Bizarro x2
Nitro x2
Green Lantern x1
Runaway Mine Train x1

Skull Mountain x1