We’re in Washington DC. Well, not exactly in Washington, but in Rosslyn, just on the outskirts. Six Flags America is, compared to the other Six Flags parks we’ve done on this trip, seemingly a lot smaller, but we’ll get into that later. Right now we’re trying to get to it.
The park is located in the state of Maryland, which is on the other side of Washington DC from Arlington, which Rosslyn is in. It’s all a bit confusing. Basically, you’ve got Arlington on the west, Washington DC in the centre (which is not a state or part of a state, it is it’s own thing) and Maryland on the east. The underground Metro service actually goes from Arlington through Washington DC and on into Maryland, at which point we aim to catch a bus.
So, we descend once again into the Pit of the Metro service, already becoming familiar with it’s workings, and actually go through Washington DC for our first time. Yep, our first trip into Washington DC and all we’re doing is passing under it. We emerge on the other side and the Metro eventually turns into a raised train system – instead of going underground, it goes over. Takes a bit of time, but we arrive at what seems to be the end of the line – a Metro station in the middle of a large suburban sprawl.
Next step – bus! Now, this is something different. Well, not really as I’m sure we’ve all ridden buses at some point in our lives, but new for us in America. We’ve arrived early, and the bus is quite small. Well, it seems about the right size for the amount of people you’d imagine use it everyday round here in this sleepy American neighbourhood. Unfortunately there’s a theme park up the road and we’re sharing the bus with probably half it’s employees.
Yep, we’ve got managers, supervisors, ride attendants, lifeguards, hot dog vendors and anyone else you can imagine related to a theme park on this one bus, as well as a few people not related to the park. It’s a huge squeeze (though about the same as most other buses in my local city) and takes a good while.
And then we get to the entrance. The bus drops us, and all the employees, off over the road from the main entrance and we’ve got to cross quite a busy road to get there. Not much of a problem, except we’ve got a good while to wait before we’re allowed in. Soon enough though, the national anthem starts which heralds the beginning of the day, and we’re stood alongside a very patriotic-looking Bugs Bunny, hand on his heart, eyes gazing at the blue American sky and chest swelling with pride.
Before long it was time to head into the park itself. Now, this was a park that we never really thought we’d do – in fact, it wasn’t until after we’d booked the flights, hotels and so on that we found out this park existed and we’d be in the rough vicinity.
You’ll have to bear with me as I don’t recall much of this park apart from the four main coasters, which I’ll get to later. In any case, compared to the other parks we’ve been to so far on this trip, this one appears a bit spartan.
We make our way towards the back half of the park, where the majority of the coasters lie. It took some finding but eventually we notice that there’s a passage underneath one of the wooden roller coasters, Wild One, and come out in the Gotham City area. Right ahead of us is the Joker’s Jinx.
The Joker’s Jinx is a very strange coaster indeed – I’ve never come across anything quite so mad. From the outside it looks like a giant ball of spaghetti and, when riding it, it looks… well, still like a giant ball of spaghetti. The train is launched out of the station, goes through a short tunnel and then enters a maze of green and purple track which loops and turns around itself in an amazingly confined space. It is truly as if a giant came along and crushed a roller coaster into a ball, and somehow the train itself manages to keep the momentum going despite not really being able to use gravity to speed itself up. You don’t simply start at the top and end up at the bottom – it instead goes down, back up and so on several times, again in an amazingly compressed ball.
For our next coaster we make our way to the Batwing, which promises to be stranger still. Until we got to the station itself (not hard considering there was no queue) we didn’t have a clue what this ride did.
What it does is ape a dentist’s chair.
Basically, imagine a flying coaster, like Air at Alton Towers, Manta at SeaWorld Orlando or the Superman coasters I’ve covered so far. You get into a seat and it turns you so that you’re facing downwards, in a “Superman” position.
Imagine that, but the other way round.
Basically, you get into the train which is, at that moment, above the track. The seat reclines backwards, dentist chair style, until it basically becomes a flying coaster, but upside-down. Then, of course, it sets off and goes up the lift hill, whilst you’re facing upwards.
Of course it’s not long until you’re facing downwards (as well as all other directions) which brings us back to a sense of normalcy. Not a bad coaster, I do remember going on this with a child and his mother in the same row. The mother was asking if it was an extreme coaster, which I said it wasn’t. Well, I guess it’s not that extreme for us. A few pocket checks were needed to ensure we hadn’t lost anything though.
Next door to this ride is a Superman ride. Rather than being a flying coaster like the other Superman rides so far, this one is a standard above-the-tracks steel coaster (hence the name – Superman: Ride Of Steel). Probably the best coaster in the park, it has no inversions but is a great, smooth ride.
Our fourth coaster, the Mind Eraser, took a bit more searching. Located in the Coyote Creek area back near the entrance, this is a suspended looping coaster that’s painted orange and is quite compressed, which batters us a bit. I’d say it’s like Infusion at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, in that it’s quite compressed, but rougher. Not a fan – I think we only did this once or twice.
The nearby Roar proved okay, and I don’t actually recall much of this ride, likewise the Wild One over on the other side.
Lunch was a difficulty. The bread and butter of theme park food consists of basically burgers and fries, and we’ve been trying to eat other meals where we can (with a fair bit of success). We like our veg, and it seems quite difficult to find them in America unless you prepare them yourselves, at least on the holidays we go on. As such, we planned lunch early and found a restaurant which sounded like it did proper sit-down meals with a fair amount of choice. However, when we went the place was closed, and even past the advertised opening time that section of the park was deserted with the restaurant seemingly having no interest in opening. We look in the map and, with a great deal of reluctance, have to plump for having burgers and fries.
I haven’t mentioned yet that the park was quite quiet. Indeed, queues were practically non-existant. However, the park doesn’t really have much and the weather, at least early on, is a tad overcast. It seemed like it had been raining overnight and there were still a few puddles around.
Theming around this park at least is also clearly not on a par with the other Six Flags parks we’ve visited, or Cedar Point. Indeed, I’d guess that if we were to compare them to UK parks, the other parks would be Alton Towers compared to this park’s Lightwater Valley. That’s nothing against Lightwater Valley – I love going there and I know they are trying hard with what cash and resources they have. However, like in that park, this park seems to have a few attractions seemingly with a lot of empty space around.
One such attraction is the Penguin’s Blizzard River, a small free-standing raft ride which goes up a hill, round a few corners and then down with a few things spraying you. A fairly unremarkable ride.
Probably worthy of more note was this park’s Skull Mountain, a water ride and not, like Six Flags Great Adventure, an indoor coaster. This ride was actually giving it’s final voyages which made us decide to go on it, as we normally avoid water rides. It’s alright – a few drops, some props by the side – nothing worth writing home about.
I do have to confess that that’s about it for this park. It’s not a big park but we do stay until closing, doing repeat rides on Batwing, Superman and Joker’s Jinx (though I did start to feel a bit ill after a few rides too many on Joker’s Jinx).
And yep, there was also a flume ride, a tradition in American parks where kids can stand and get soaked from a bridge if they don’t feel like riding. Why not?
Oh – as for dinner, we decide that in the absence of actual food we like, we’d eat ice cream (I don’t think that can be classed as “actual food”). Going to a place called the Cold Stone Creamery, we each get a HUGE ice cream which must probably contain at least a litre, plus cone. Damn good, and reasonably priced. Thankfully the weather had warmed up by that stage.
Also – the ride attendants. Now, at Six Flags Great America they said funny things when the ride was about to set off and were generally chatty. At Cedar Point they kept on saying “Ride On” as the ride was setting off. At Six Flags Great Adventure they did the visual check.
Here they high-five you.
Dear God, who the hell thought that one up? And it’s not just as you’re about to set off – they seem to want to high-five you at any opportunity. You get high-fived as you go into the entrance of the ride. It’s probably not far-off to say they employ high-fivers who wait in bushes, leaping out and high-fiving unwary passers-by.
Oh, and Joker’s Jinx entrance guy – I saw what you were scratching. Your hand is warm and sweaty. Please don’t.
I now realise that I have to give some sort of conclusion about the park, and I would have to say it’s “meh”. It’s not the best park but we didn’t expect it to be – the park, to us, has had no hype. It’s the worst out of the four parks we’ve visited so far, but it’s still provided us with some good fun. The selection of rides and food isn’t big – in fact it’s pretty standard – but it’s better than nothing. If we were to do this trip again I’d still go if I was in Washington DC, but if we weren’t visiting Washington I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it, unlike Cedar Point. If I were to grade it I’d give it a C – it has some good points and bad points, and is decidedly average.
Leaving the park at closing, we thankfully make it onto the bus before the majority of staff, back onto the train and back to the hotel. The next day we’ve got the first day of Washington DC to see.