I feel like most of us parents don’t realize how fortunate we are to live so close to a major theme park. While it may have turned 40 this year, nothing about it seems old or boring. With its massive roller coasters, kids areas and water park, Great America makes for an appealing place for the whole family to have fun. Plus, as Lake County families, we don’t have to drive hours or spend a fortune to go there!
This year my son turned three and is tall enough to go on many rides so I decided to get season passes. However, I knew NOTHING about going to Great America with little kids. Nothing. Now it is halfway through the Great America season, and I feel like a seasoned Great-America veteran. Some hacks I have learned on my own, and others I have learned from our Facebook readers. I thought I would share the best tips with you.
- Get your child measured and ask for the height wristband so they don’t have to get measured at each ride.
“If you have smaller kids, take the time to get them the height wristbands [at the Ride Information Center.]. Especially if they are just barely over any of the height requirements. Saves them from being measured for every ride and also from possibly being told no by someone who measures incorrectly. When you get the band, they also give you the list of rides that go with that height saving you from having to walk up to each ride to check the height stick.” ~Samantha on Facebook
“You can also get the bands at any ride that measures.” ~Margaret on Facebook
- Buy that overpriced green cup. For $29.99 you get free drinks all season.
I never thought I would say paying $30 for a drink was worth it. But trust me on this — it is here. My family isn’t grossed out by sharing drinks. We all share the same green cup and just keep getting refills on it to save money. I also wrote my name on the cup. Because everyone in the park has the same cup and it’s often in the bucket at the ride entrance I want to make sure I get the right cup back after the ride. The cup is nice because it’s handle comes unclipped and you can put it around a stroller handle so you don’t have to carry as much.
“If you plan on going more than once buy the green sports bottle …free drinks all season. Or if just one day buy the red one. .free refills all day and get water cups to give some to everyone.” ~Andrea on Facebook
- Use the Kid Swap Program so adults can ride big rides, too.
“You can use Kid Swap so adults can ride some bigger rides, too.” ~ Pamela on facebook
I knew nothing about the Kid Swap Program. When I read Pamela’s comment I had to Google it. It sounded too good to be true. This program allows you to ride all the big rides while keeping your littles safe. Basically, your whole family will wait together for the ride. When it’s time to get on simply tell the ride attendant that you are using the Kid Swap Program. One parent will then get on the ride while the child and other adult wait behind. When the ride returns, the adults then switch. With this program, you will all get to ride what you want to ride and your littles will stay safe.
“I hooked a leash onto my stroller for my five year old to hold. I don’t have to worry if she’s a few steps behind me.” ~Angie on Facebook
- Know what days to go and when to avoid
“Try to avoid the bring a friend free days, super crowded!” ~Holli on Facebook.
When you sign up for a season pass, Great America provides you with a list of days that you can bring a friend for free. I have gone on those days and the rides in the kid areas aren’t too crazy, but if you want to go on any sort of grown-up ride, avoid these days. Check out the list for what days to avoid.
“Stay away from the first week of August when the free passes (for the school reading programs) expire!!” ~Ann on Facebook.
“Go early. Enter before the opening time. The lines are shorter before lunch.” ~ Donna on Facebook
“Go on cool and cloudy days; they are not as busy.” ~Jessie on Facebook.
“I’ve heard Wednesdays are a good day to go, not as crowded = shorter lines” ~Kelly on Facebook.
Also if you plan to go to Fright Fest, keep in mind that before 6:00 p.m. is family time there. The monsters aren’t out yet, so it’s less scary for little ones. I plan on taking my three-year-old, but I will leave at 5:00 p.m. to make sure we get out of there in time.
- Know where to cool down
Most of the park is in full sun, and it can get very hot. Hot kids can get crabby. I take my son to one of the shows during this time. The buildings have air conditioning, which is great during hot summer days. Check the showtimes ahead from any of the park map kiosks.
There is also a spray park area in Kidzopolis. I always bring extra clothes in case my son wants to play in the water there.
” If you bring a water bottle, they will refill it with ice water for free at any stand that sells beverages” ~Mark on Facebook
- Use the family bathroom in Kidzopolis
I try to always use the bathroom in Kidzopolis (the area with all the kids’ rides and the spray park). It is a family bathroom, and not usually very popular so I don’t usually have to wait in a long line. It is big enough for me to bring my entire stroller in, change my son’s clothes and has a stall with a door so you can bring the whole family in. Somehow this bathroom has always seemed cleaner to me than the other ones as well.
- If you plan on going next year buy the season pass in the fall
“The best time to buy the season pass is in the fall. If you buy one for the following year then, you get to go to Fright Fest for free and there’s usually an upgrade to get free parking for the entire year.” ~Sheila on Facebook.
- Take advantage of the Equal Access pass if someone in your family needs it. *Editor’s Note 6/2017 – You now need a doctors note for an equal access pass**
My younger brother one year had broken his leg and was in a wheelchair for the summer. He didn’t want to miss out on fun while at the park. They told us to go to the Ride Information Building and get an equal access pass. Using this pass we got to go through the exit of the rides and have virtually no wait time. Best of all we had no headaches of trying to push a wheelchair through the lines. This is a great thing to get if someone in your family truly needs it and not many people know it exists. However, there are criminal penalties if someone is found to be using it who do not truly need it.
- You cannot bring food into the park
There is a big sign up above the entrance of the park that says only one small water bottle is allowed. They do search bags at the entrance of the park, and you don’t want to have to walk all the way back to the car to leave it. I have been able to bring in a couple bags of fruit snacks for my son, but I wouldn’t try anything I wouldn’t mind tossing.
Want more tips, check out our Kid’s Guide to Great America!
Do you have any tips that are not listed? Leave them in the comments!