This post is part of the Six Flags Great America Ambassador Program
I remember going to Six Flags when I was in high school. I loved riding the rides, playing the games, shopping, and eating the food. I’ve always enjoyed theme parks and Six Flags Great America is no exception. Our kids have been asking (scratch that — begging) to go since we moved here two years ago, so when we pulled into the parking lot recently and they saw where we were headed, we won parents of the year on the spot, with continued, “this is the BEST DAY EVER!” echoed throughout the day and night. And, enjoying Six Flags Great America with kids is easy!
Packing For The Day
Six Flags is a different experience if you’re going as an adult without kids, adult with young kids, and adult with teenagers. We have a nine-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son, so we fell somewhere in between, with the kids being able to ride most of the rides, but still young enough to be off the list for the impressive rides at the park. Preparing for the day trip was a little underwhelming for me; I’m a overpacker by nature, and having been a season pass holder for both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Disneyland, my instinct is to pack snacks, meals, water bottles, and anything else we need for the season/park. But after asking around and doing a little research online, I found out that you can’t bring in outside food or drinks, which was actually nice because it lightened my load for the day.
I did, however, pack one market bag with: an empty water bottle (which was refilled many times throughout the day), sweatshirts, glow bracelets for when it got dark, a pencil case with two memo notebooks and a few pencils/pens (for when the kids got bored in line), my daughter’s emergency bag, my hat, and my phone. I also packed a separate small bag with a battery back up and cord for my phone (I wouldn’t have packed that if I wasn’t taking photos for this story), sunscreen (not really needed for this trip, but I wasn’t sure how much shade there would be), and my debit card and ID.
The Lay of The Land
The first stop when you get to Six Flags Great America is the bag check. Don’t try sneaking in food, they’ll find it. I saw plenty of people with the park’s reusable sports bottle, and with the discount on the refills as well as the bottle holding stations at every ride, the price is well worth the convenience if you’re a season pass holder. I saw one mom carrying SIX in one hand, but don’t worry, the bottles have a loop latch that hooks onto your belt, stroller or backpack to make carrying them a breeze.
After bag check you get your ticket or pass scanned. Once we passed through the main gate, my husband and son each picked up a map to get the lay of the land. I’m very lucky that my husband holds a certificate in Amusement Park Land Navigation, so he made a plan and we followed his lead. His preferred method is to pick left or right (depending on what’s on either side of the entrance) and make a loop around the park following that path. We choose the right-hand side of the park, but had to stop at the double-decker carousel first at the request of my daughter.
The first rollercoaster we rode was the Viper. This roller coaster was running in backwards mode the day we visited, which my daughter did not appreciate, and caused her to refuse to ride any rollercoasters afterwards. So if one of your kids leans more on the timid side of adventure, this may not be the one to do first.
After being in the park for a few hours we had the genius idea to download the app to view wait times. It doesn’t show wait times of the family-friendly rollercoasters, just the biggest and most popular, so if you’re skipping the Joker, Superman and Batman, then it may not be as important to use the app.
After Genny’s declaration that she was done with roller coasters, we utilized the single-rider line a few times. This puts you at the head of the line, but wait times vary depending on the possibility of odd-numbered riders. I was in the single-rider line for The Joker, but when my husband and son had moved halfway through the line when I hadn’t moved an inch, we joined them. As it turns out, my son saw the ride as we were waiting and opted out, so my husband and I got to ride together.
One of the rollercoasters that I was able to convince my daughter to ride (after she defied death on the Viper of course) was the Little Dipper. Built in 1950 and first used at Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park, it’s listed as one of the American Coaster Enthusiast’s classic coasters. Six Flags locations across the country have these iconic rollercoasters, so if you have a season pass and plan on visiting other locations across the country, find out which ones are historic and be sure to ride them for bragging rights.
While we were picking our next rollercoaster, I heard someone yelling that you could win a free Flash Pass. After seeing the benefits of the Flash Pass, I went over to the Sprint tent where I gave my e-mail address and phone number and won… bubbles! Oh well, they kept the kids happy during one of the long waits, so I’ll chalk it up to a win. The best part about the Sprint tent? Free cell phone charging stations, which I can see as an even bigger win if my phone was dying and I needed to keep a child happy with a diversion during a long wait.
Flash Pass, Season Passes, and Premier Dining Passes
While we stood in line for an hour plus for each rollercoaster, we finally got up to the front of the line only to see some people stroll up and jump on the ride ahead of us. We knew they had Flash Passes, so after the millionth time of this happening, we asked the attendant to give us the low-down on these golden tickets. After hearing about them they really seemed like a sweet deal if you’re going to go often enough, and with the majority of the users we saw as teens, I imagined them coming every day in the summer, riding the rides all day and having the best summer of their lives. (or maybe that would just be the best summer of MY life…) For us, getting Flash Passes for the day just wasn’t in the budget, but we did find out that it didn’t cost too much extra to convert our passes from that day into season passes, so it’s something to consider.
If you’re getting season passes, it’s probably a good idea to get Premier Dining Passes too. For around $50 you eat during the whole season, which will pay for itself after the first few visits.
Parent tip: If you buy season passes during the Labor Day special, you’ll pay less than any other time during the year!
Six Flags Great America, like all theme parks, has amazing food. And just like other theme parks, you’re going to pay more than you would outside those walls. Since the park opened at 11:00 a.m., we hit up a favorite burger joint on our way, which held us off until dinnertime. I’m a sucker for hand-dipped corn dogs, and my kids love burgers and hot dogs, and my husband would eat a paper plate if I seasoned it, so we had plenty of options once we realized we were hungry for dinner. For families with allergies, make sure to check out the menu items before going, and take a good look at the Go Fresh Cafe, which has healthier options including gluten-free smoothies. But if your family requires specific food accommodations, I suggest calling beforehand to inquire about bringing your own allergy-friendly food.
Baby-Friendly Places and Lost Kids
Whenever we go on an adventure as a family, we assign buddies: one kid per parent for the day, and the kids understand that they have to stay with their buddy or we (threaten to) go home. But if one of them had somehow slipped out of our sight while we were walking around the busy park that day, they would have been taken to Lost Parents area by the front entrance. Kids can get lost when you’re in a crowded, public place and knowing where to go if it does takes a little bit of the fear away for me. We went over what to do if they were lost (we’ve always taught them to find a worker or a mommy with kids). And we explained to them where they would be taken to the Lost Parents area and that we would come and get them.
If you have younger kids and crawlers, there are two areas that you’ll want to check out. Camp Cartoon and Kidopolis have rides for any age, as well as play areas. If you’re looking for a private nursing area, you can find peace, quiet and privacy at the First Aid station or Kidopolis. If you need a stroller you can find one at New Orleans Place, but get one early because they are first come, first served basis. New Orleans Place is also where you can get a wheelchair.
Fright Fest With The Littles
This time of year Six Flags Great America holds Fright Fest, a ghoulish adventure that starts at 6:00 p.m. after the parade. Once my kids found out there were going to be monsters roaming the streets, they couldn’t stop asking what time it was and counting down to the minute it started. I’m not sure what they pictured in their minds, but I did like that it started when it was still light out, so they could get the hang of what the monsters were supposed to look like before it started scaring them. The clowns near The Joker ride were very impressive, with looks and movements that made me super aware where they were so that they couldn’t run up behind me and jump in front and scare me. As we were leaving we walked through vampire-themed monsters and a few were spider-walking across the ground which seemed to scare my kids the most.
All in all I’m very happy that our family finally went to Six Flags, and I’m even happier that we went during Fright Fest.
Six Flags Great America
1 Great America Pkwy, Gurnee, IL 60031
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What’s your child’s favorite ride at Six Flags?
Disclosure: This post is part of the Six Flags Blogger Ambassador program. The writer received free admission to the park in order to facilitate the story. All thoughts and opinions are her own and no further compensation was received.
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