Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Great Adventure

Kingda Ka

Summer is flying by. We had a week of beachy fun in Delaware with my extended family--30 of us in a rental house. We've gone swimming endlessly, to the movies, read in the hammock, enjoyed air conditioned splendor when it was too sticky outside, caught fireflies, collected shells, seen plays, spent time with friends, had Grandma here for a week from Georgia, worked in the garden, celebrated Ben's birthday and barbecued. There's still a lot more fun to come before we call summer over--but yesterday, we had what the kids have all said is The Best Day EVER. We went to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, a place I haven't been since I was a teenager.

Being me, I have to get my complaints out of the way first. Beginning with ticket prices--which have gone up to $59.99 for a one day ticket! Excuse me?? That is, quite simply, insane. We got four tickets FREE because Julia, Ben and Emma participated in the (pathetic) Read to Succeed Program, where they read for 6 hours and got a ticket in exchange. What a joke--they completed that in days, but hey, we're not complaining, especially since I also got a ticket, being their teacher! The best deal I could find for Matt's and Rachel's ticket was $36.99 each, and then when you add gas, tolls, and $20 parking, $15 for a free-refill soda cup, and the left lung they charge for food...let's just say it's a good thing they have this reading program! Their other moneymaking scheme that pissed me off was the Great Locker Conspiracy. We brought a backpack with us--we needed sunscreen, an extra shirt, wallets, cell phones--the usual. What we didn't know was that many of the rides no longer allow you to bring ANYTHING with you! I have never seen an amusement park where you can't stuff your bag under your legs, but they take it a step further--not only do you have to rent a locker at a buck per rental, you can't even leave your things there half the day till you're through with that part of the park, because lockers have a 2 hour time limit! And yes, before everyone tells me the minutiae of Disney and all the ways they extract money from you, I'll say, Great Adventure is NOT Disney World!

That said, once I shoved all financial thoughts from my mind, we had a great time! The day began on a sour note when we realized that Ben's head didn't quite reach the 54" mark required for the most extreme rides--which he'd been desperate to go on. Nonetheless, he went off with Matt and Emma and rode other things while Rachel, Julia and I waited nearly an hour for the Superman Ultimate Flight coaster. I've never been on a roller coaster tipped forward before, and it was worth the wait! Ben was cheered by the fact that they were able to ride three rides while we only rode one, and happily, the park has plenty of roller coasters for 48"+. There are just six rides that kids under 54" are excluded from, so it isn't too bad. The girls and I loved Nitro and the Batman coaster--which we rode late in the day and went twice in a row with no line! And we all got to have a blast on Rolling Thunder, the Runaway Mine Train, Skull Mountain, and El Toro (which I just have to say I thought was fantastic, and I'm not sure why the under 54" crowd can ride this, but not the extreme rides--it was scary! I guess it has to do with the constraint systems not fitting properly.)

Two rides we found disappointing: the Dark Knight, which has a great setup for the ride, with a line that looks like the Gotham subway, giant TV screens playing Gotham news that Ben assumed was really a news station!, lighting effects and menacing graffiti from the Joker everywhere...but the ride itself was pretty lame. It was dark, but you could still see enough to know where the cars were headed, and there were twists and turns, but no heartstopping drops. The biggest letdown went to Green Lantern--I'd had such high hopes for this ride. I'd never seen a roller coaster where you stood up! And the upside down and twisting straight towards the ground effects looked terrifying. However, my head was rattling back and forth in my constraint like a piece of popcorn, which made it impossible to concentrate on the fun--I was trying so incredibly hard to keep my head and neck stable that the ride was over before I could enjoy it. Also, they adjust the height of the constraints depending on the rider, but there is an unfortunate bar between your legs to keep you steady...let's just say I don't see how men can be comfortable on this ride!

We got soaked on the Congo Rapids--all of us except Emma, who was really disappointed that she had the one seat in our 12-person boat that avoided a huge wave! And Emma loved the Twister, the sort of ride she's never been big enough for before--one of those spins-around-and-tilts-with-gravity-keeping-you-in-place kinds of rides. I asked Matt what he'll do in a couple of years when Ben and Emma can ride whatever they want, and he said that he'll stop going to amusement parks, because I can ride all the insane rides with them and he won't have to. Spoilsport.

We had a sudden rainstorm at lunchtime, which subdued the mood of everyone there. It poured for over an hour and closed many of the rides--the worst part, of course, being that we couldn't tell if it would ever stop! Matt was getting cranky, since walking in the rain is one of his least favorite things to do; but I was NOT going to sit under an overhang somewhere waiting for it to stop! We ate lunch during the deluge (along with everyone else, giving us a 40 minute wait on line for our incredibly pricey burgers and chicken!) but that was as long as I was willing to loiter. We waited in line for rides that were under cover that we probably would have skipped otherwise--tea cups and the carousel, for example. We went to Houdini's Great Escape, the closest thing we found to a haunted house and which has a really cool effect as if the room is turning upside down (in fact, it's just a buccaneer-type ride where the backdrop of the room turns upside down, but the physics of it makes your head spin!) Things were looking grim as the rain continued--but just as suddenly, the rain dried up--and the rest of the day was cooler and the lines were far shorter! I think people may have actually left the park, which was just great for us.

We had to leave around 8pm, which was good in a way as we were all getting tired. It's a 3+ hour drive back home, after all, and Matt went to work today. However, I am plotting that if we go back next year we should make it a long weekend camping trip so that we can use one of the middle days at the park, allowing us to stay till closing. An amusement park at night is particularly magical, and as I said, the lines had opened up ridiculously, which was fantastic. However, I think I can say that nobody was exactly unhappy to collapse into the car and feel the air conditioning!

On our next visit, we plan to ride the few extreme rides we missed. The lines made us avoid a couple of coasters that we thought we'd get back to, but we simply ran out of time. (Another reason to stay till closing!) First on my list will be Kingda Ka--which looks completely impossible! Seriously, it doesn't look like the car could even stay on the tracks. It is described as follows: "Experience the thrill of a lifetime as you shoot 45 stories high at 128 mph on our world-record-breaking Kingda Ka — the tallest coaster in the World, fastest in North America." Who wouldn't want to ride THAT??