Six Flags New England
December 30, 2018

copyright Jay Ducharme 2018

I never thought I'd find myself writing a trip report in the dead of winter. But for the second year running, Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA, extended their operating season through New Year's Day with their Holiday in the Park event. While a long-time practice at parks in warmer climates, this was a risky gamble in New England where deep snow and frigid temperatures don't exactly make for an inviting day at an amusement park, especially one with very few indoor facilities. During their previous attempt, the park shuttered well before Christmas because of continual below-zero temperatures and few guests. This season, however, nature was more forgiving, with temperatures generally around freezing or slightly above.

Our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids came for a visit over the holidays. We brought them to the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, the Children's Museum and the Dr. Seuss museum in Springfield. And on one of their final days with us, we took an evening trip to Six Flags.

The park opened at 3:00; we arrived at about 3:30, and I was impressed that the parking lot was already about half full. The park had rented a charter bus to shuttle guests from the parking lot to the bridge. That was considerate, even though many guests decided to walk instead. We climbed the long staircase up to the bridge. On the other side we were greeted with a crowded park entrance. The concourse was a veritable sea of people, many families with small children and strollers backed up at the security checkpoints (which used to be the ticket gates). Ticketing had been moved to the Guest Services building off to the right. Karen and I had our season passes, which also got us free parking. The park was also running a bring-a-guest-for-free special for season passholders. So we had to pay only $10 for each of the grandkids. That was a welcome bargain.

From there we went through security and then over to the main entrance. After passing through the ticket stations, we veered to the former Thomas the Tank Engine land, which was now fairly barren. The New England Express train ride was still operational, but if you didn't already know it was there you'd never know a ride was hidden behind the season pass building that blocked it. We queued up and were on the next train out. The area was nicely decorated with lots of lights and holiday scenery. It was still daylight out, though; it probably would have looked more impressive after dark.

After that short trip, we headed down Main Street which had a dense canopy of LED lighting overhead that continually changed colors. At the bottom of that street were two performers on stilts, dressed up to look like toy soldiers. All of the buildings were covered in LED lights. I had seen them on my last visit to the park (since evidently the park leaves them up all year round), but this was the first time I had seen them illuminated. There was Christmas music continually playing throughout the park, and the lights danced to the beat. The lighting was especially effective during pieces by Mannheim Steamroller that featured a strong beat. Tweety and Sylvester appeared outside the Looney Tunes Emporium at the bottom of Main Street, and the kids paused for a photograph.

We then headed left toward the north end of the park. There were fenced-off fire pits set up along the midway with a giant Smores sign above them. Guests were standing around warming themselves, but I didn't see anyone actually making Smores. And the attendants there didn't appear to have any Graham crackers, chocolate nor marshmallows. By then it was starting to get dark, and the lighting displays were looking more spectacular. Along the north midway was a giant Christmas tree made of light bulb strings. It had been attached to one of the dormant New England Skyway pylons. We stopped off at The Great Chase, the junior Miler roller coaster. Isabelle rode with Karen and I rode with Ben. Ben and I ended up in the front seat. That little ride packed a punch! As Ben got off the ride, he exclaimed, "That was super-fast!"

From there we walked into the nearby Looney Tunes Movietown. All the kiddie rides were running, and the area had a sizeable crowd. The kids went on Wile E. Coyote's Speed Trap, a kiddie whip themed to race cars. As I looked around the park, I was surprised at how many rides weren't running. The only adult ride running in the north end was Flashback, the boomerang coaster. Its bigger brother nearby, Goliath, wasn't running. Down at the other end of the park, Joker was running. But Wicked Cyclone, which used similar technology, wasn't. The Sky Screamer was silent, as was Pandemonium. I could understand Blizzard River being closed. But it appeared that the park concentrated on having kiddie rides running and little else. For season passholders, that wasn't a huge issue since the park was basically free for us. But for guests paying full price to get in, I could see how they might get a big upset.

Andrew took the kids on the Balloon Race ride. It seemed to take forever to load. There was a single operator who looked really cold. After about ten minutes, the ride started up. It didn't last long, and that was probably intentional given the frigid temperatures.

We walked through Crackaxle Canyon, which was pretty quiet. The enclosed bumper cars were doing a good business. Then we headed south to the Kidzopolis area. The park had placed a giant lighted Christmas ornament in the middle of the midway, a sort of tunnel to walk through. It was the most impressive decoration in the park. That whole area was decked out, especially the Krazy Kars track overlooking the DC area. Something that struck me as odd though -- and this was true throughout the whole park -- was that they stopped lighting trees about halfway up their trunks. It looked like they had simply run out of light strings. That said, the lighting below that point was well done. One scene at the Krazy Kars track featured an eagle swooping down onto a sloth of polar bears. Andrew took the kids on the Zoom Jets there, and after that everyone was getting a bit numb so we called it a night.

Overall, I was impressed by Holiday in the Park. There was nothing else like it in the New England area. For season passholders, it was a nice addition to the park's usual offerings. For guests without passes, though, I'm not sure how much value they'd get out of it. There wasn't really a whole lot to do, outside of a few flat ride, two coasters and the kiddie rides. If the park wanted to continue this tradition, they probably would need to invest in more indoor attractions. I was thinking about the Parthenon at Mt. Olympus Theme Park, which is an entire indoor amusement park within the outdoor amusement park. The only think holding back Six Flags' winter event is the severity of the New England weather. If the park can find a way to mitigate that, they could have a very successful winter season for years to come.

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