More thrills than ever at Six Flags Great America
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media April 26, 2012 10:50AM
Great America and Hurricane Harbor
♦ 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee
♦ May 5-Oct. 28 (Hurricane Harbor opens May 26)
♦ Tickets, $59.99, $39.99 child under 48 inches, 2 and under free. Parking, $20.
♦ (847) 249-4636
Updated: May 21, 2012 6:50PM
Get ready to lose your mind — and perhaps your lunch — on the newest addition to the Six Flags coaster collection.
Joining the ranks of Six Flags Great America’s coaster collection is the revolutionary X-Flight coaster. Six Flags Great America in Gurnee opens May 5.
“X-Flight is a wing coaster,” said Six Flags spokeswoman Jennifer Savage.
Riders sit in pairs suspended on the outside of the track with feet dangling, so there’s nothing below riders but air.
“It’s like a feeling of flying on the edge of a plane,” she said. “You’re really feeling these twists and turns and drops very differently.”
The X-Flight has 3,000 feet of track. It plunges the rider down 12 stories, soars at speeds of 55 miles per hour, and flips the rider upside down no fewer than five times.
There there’s the barrel roll and the zero-gravity roll.
“The zero-G roll is something that gives you a feel of complete weightlessness. So that’s a really cool element,” she said. “When you come off the main hill, you actually go into something called a dive drop. It flips you right away. So there’s all kinds of these unique experiences on top of feeling like you’re sitting out there and your feet are dangling.”
The coaster also employs extreme fly-throughs to simulate near-misses, she said.
“There’s a tower and the coaster looks like it’s going straight towards it before it makes a last-minute flip to fit through a key-hole cutout,” she said. “There are a lot of near-misses and (other) interactive elements, like water and mist elements.”
The X-Flight was designed by the same team who made favorites Raging Bull, Batman: The Ride and Superman: Ultimate Flight.
“We’re really excited to be bringing it here,” she said.
Construction began last fall, and the mild winter allowed for optimum construction. There will be a sneak preview May 12 and 13 for season pass holders. The ride opens for all guests on May 16.
They even had a webcam positioned on the ride in the off-season for fans to check on the progress.
Six Flags Great America has prided itself on adding new coasters and experiences each year. Just last year, they expanded Riptide Bay in the neighboring Hurricane Harbor Water Park. Hurricane Harbor is included in Great America’s ticket price.
“We’re always looking on ways to expend and be better,” she said. “We go back to our guests and do a lot of surveys and listen to their feedback. Every year, it might not be a coaster. It might be a more family-oriented thing. This year, it was loud and clear what our guests wanted. We needed some thrills. We needed that big, thrilling coaster.”
A ticket to Six Flags gets you into both parks. Check the Web site for online specials.
Season tickets, Savage said, are the way to go. It gives families the freedom to not feel like they have to do everything in both parks in one day.
“It’s really not that much more than a one-day admission ticket and you can come back as many times as you like,” she said. “Even if you come twice it pays for itself. I think that offers families a lot of range in doing what they want each day. It gives you a lot more freedom and is a great deal. I think it’s the best value.”
The Flash Pass is a pass that lets the buyer jump to the front of the line for certain rides. It was introduced a few years ago and will be used in Hurricane Harbor for the first time this summer in the form of waterproof wristbands that will hold a guest’s place in line — kind of like a buzzer in a restaurant.
Also new this year is the Extreme Pass, which Savage calls the ultimate VIP experience.
“You get all the perks of a season pass, but you also get some additional things like express entrance into the park, express entrance into the water park, you get free holiday picnic meals, you get one ride exit pass every time you visit that gets you to the front of any ride you choose,” she said. “It gives you a lot of neat perks.”
Fright Fest begins Oct. 1, and is the time of year when Six Flags is turned into a Halloween playground. It’s one of the most popular times at the park.
While they aren’t ready to make any announcements as to this year’s activities, Savage said, there are plans underway to bring new and exciting things to this year’s Fright Fest.
“I love that time at the park. It’s just a lot of fun, and it’s been hugely popular,” she said. “We’re actually expanding hours and even some days because of that popularity. We’re definitely going to bring some new things to the table this year.”
The park debuted a new haunted house last year, and a show called “Love at First Fright” has been with Great America since the beginning of Fright Fest.
“It’s just a hit, it’s a staple,” she said. “Our new haunted house was a hit last year … which is why we are definitely bringing more new stuff to the table this year.”
Great America will have a few special events this summer, including a special opening weekend celebration.
“It is Batman: The Ride’s 20th anniversary, and so we are going to celebrate opening weekend May 5 and 6. You can buy a special online ticket for $20, in honor of the ride’s 20th anniversary,” she said. “That’s a great deal. It’s a fun way to celebrate the anniversary.”
4th Fest is the park’s Fourth of July celebration, which culminates in an impressive 45-minute fireworks display.
“We also have patriotic parades, characters and live entertainment all over the park,” she said. “It’s a very fun day and we have special foods and picnic offers.”
Before that, Bourbon Street comes to Northern Illinois with a new event called Mardi Gras Festival on June 23 and 24.
“It’s all-encompassing Mardi Gras,” she said. “We’re going to have live music, dueling pianos and bands all over the place; we’re going to have special parades and fireworks, and a lot of New Orleans-style food and drinks.”
Overall, she thinks summer 2012 is going to be one for the record books at the park.
“This year is going to be more exciting and more thrilling,” she said. “We know everyone is going to want to try this thrilling new ride. I think you’re going to feel that excitement, and we’ve got a lot of other … ways to enjoy the park. You can build your trip based on you and your family’s needs. I think people have a lot of different options this year.”