Six Flags New England
August 11, 2021

copyright Jay Ducharme 2021

It was difficult to believe that two years had passed since my last visit to Six Flags New England. Actually, Karen and I did sort of visit this past January for the special Holiday in the Park event. But it was a drive-thru event and we had to stay in our cars, gazing from a distance at the sleeping rides and lighted midway. So I don't really count that as a visit. But on this occasion I went with my friend Dave on a stiflingly hot day. The temperature was in the 90s with high humidity, but the rest of the week was predicted to be even worse, closer to 100 degrees.

We arrived at about 11:30. The parking lot was pretty full, but I suspected (and rightly) that because of the extreme heat most of the crowd was heading for the waterpark. We parked in an empty space we found near the parking gates and then trudged across the hot asphalt to the tram. This season, the park had two of them operating, each pulled by a Ford truck. But rather than pulling two or three tram cars as in years past, each truck pulled just one. That meant longer wait times in the hot sun. Eventually we boarded one of the trams and took the short trip to the entrance bridge. We climbed the seemingly endless stairs, crossed the highway and on the other side were greeted with a concourse occupied by white tents. It was a similar setup to what we had seen at Six Flags Great Adventure. The tents housed the security scanners. A long queue line had been constructed hastily with metal stanchions. Rather than have people empty their pockets and bags, you just walked through the scanners and the operator could immediately tell what you were carrying. It sped up what used to be an interminably long process.

Once we made it through the scanners, we emerged in front of the park's ticket booths. But all of them were closed. In the past, Six Flags had "Bring a Friend for Free" days. But since the pandemic, those apparently were scrapped. So I was going to buy Dave's ticket for him, but with all the ticket booths closed I couldn't see a way to do that. I asked a security guard who told me that day passes had to be purchased at Guest Relations, which was to the right of the entry gates. There were three windows open and a fairly long line. So we queued up. After about fifteen minutes I was able to approach one of the windows. I told the attendant I wanted to purchase a day pass. "Are you sure you want to do that?" he asked. I was puzzled by his response. He continued: "If you buy one at this window, it's $79.99. But if you buy one online, it's only $29.99. Wouldn't you rather do that?"

I thanked him for the information, went on my phone and bought Dave's pass through their website, saving me fifty bucks. We then walked over to the entrance where they scanned Dave's ticket from my phone, along with my season pass, and we walked out onto Main Street. Nothing had changed from my last visit, although the park had taken down all the Christmas lights that they used to keep up year-round, leaving a grid of wires above the midway that reminded me of electric lines for trollies. As we reached the bottom of Main Street, I noticed that the park's primary gift shop, Six Flags Emporium, was shuttered. I thought at first that it was because of a lack of help. Earlier in the summer the park was hit by a huge thunderstorm that flooded the midway and also damaged Fireball (the Larson Giant Loop ride in the park's Rockville section). I later found out that the Emporium had been flooded and the floor had to be torn out. I actually would have liked to see the inside, because the Emporium building used to be the park's famous Laff in the Dark fun house. The demolition work supposedly revealed parts of the old ride.

It was past noon, so the first order of business was to find someplace to eat. My first inclination was the GoFresh Cafe, where they had veggie burgers. But it was closed. So was walked to the Looney Tunes section at the other end of the park where there was the Take Six cafe that had salads. But it too was closed. The only places open were the Riverboat Cafe, Johnny Rockets down in the DC Universe area and Primo Pizza, next to the GoFresh Cafe. So we opted for Primo, mainly because it was nearby and air-conditioned. Dave got a slice of pepperoni pizza with fries. I got a slice of cheese pizza and a salad, plus a lemonade. My meager meal came to a whopping $25.66. The pizza was lukewarm and salty. The salad consisted of small bits of lettuce, shredded cheese and croutons. It didn't even come with dressing; I had to ask for it. The guy behind the counter asked me what type I would like and I said ranch. Another worker replied that they only had Caesar dressing. So Caesar it was. We took our time eating so we could escape the heat.

When we finished, we headed back outside into the blast furnace and walked down the stairs into the DC area. Our first ride of the day was going to be Superman, one of the greatest steel coasters ever built. It was hard to believe that the ride was already 21 years old. When it first opened, it was a revelation; no other coaster was so well paced, so smooth and had so much airtime. Although it had gotten a bit rougher since then, it was still a great ride. When we arrived at the entrance, a line was spilling out onto the midway. But thankfully it was people waiting for lockers. So we entered the exterior queue that was shaped like Superman's logo. When it was constructed, the railings were separated by little bushes about a foot high. Those bushes were now a thick hedge about six feet tall, forming an imposing maze. About half of the queue line had been blocked off, so it didn't take long to get up to the station. The park was running an efficient two-train operation. We lined up for the front seat, which took a little longer but was worth it. After about 20 minutes, we were slowly being pulled up the 200-foot hill. The park had turned off the misters in the tunnels, unfortunate since they would have been really refreshing. The ride delivered its signature ejector airtime and was a thrill from start to finish. It's aged very well.

I stopped at a nearby concession to get an Icee, but was confronted with a set of peculiar choices. The apparent flavors were Frozen Fire, Polar Freeze and Amnesia. I had to ask the attendant what that meant. So he explained that they were cherry, blueberry and Coke, and were mixed with soft serve ice cream. So I tried the Frozen Fire. It was actually really good and gave me a welcome dose of brain freeze.

Dave was going to try the park's new ride, Supergirl (basically a Huss Enterprise with ski-lift style seats). But it went down. Ironically throughout the entire park were video screens running a strange promo where a narrator bragged about how every day, Six Flags had "professionals" who inspected every ride. They said that if a ride went down, it was nothing to worry about and was actually a good sign that the ride's safety systems were working as planned. It showed that the park was doing its job. It was an interesting attempt at making breakdowns look beneficial. The big irony was that during that promo, most of the video screens we saw would freeze up and then go black.

Dave wanted to take a ride on Wicked Cyclone, the park's steel transformation of their venerable old wooden Cyclone coaster. So we headed for the queue, which was completely empty. That surprised me because it was one of the best rides in the park, and usually had a good crowd. But then, the midway itself was fairly empty. We were able to walk right up into a nearly empty station and queue up for the front seat. A minute or so later we were seated in the ornate train and were rolling up the steep lift. The ride delivered one remarkable moment after another, from the fake-out turns to the gut-punching airtime, it was a powerful yet smooth coaster. It was also one that was exhausting. And I think I got some hearing damage. Two girls behind us were screaming their lungs out, right into our ears.

From there we headed over to Blizzard River, the park's raft ride and the only water ride remaining at the park (outside of the waterpark). It was a perfect day for it, since it normally was a drenching experience. Mercifully, the entire queue line was covered. Although this ride had one of the highest capacities in the park, the line moved really slowly. It turned out that the crew was sending the large rafts out only partially filled, sometimes with just two people in them. That's what happened with us; Dave and I were seated opposite each other in an otherwise empty raft. We were dispatched and bounced up the short lift. The raft repeately was bumping against the sides of the trough, sending us spinning relentlessly through the winding course. There were two waterfalls. The first one missed us. The second one completely drenched Dave. I escaped nearly dry.

Aftter that we walked across the midway to one of Dave's favorite rides, Pandemonium, the park's spinning coaster. Dave aptly described it as a combination of a roller coaster and a Tilt-a-Whirl. That experience would have done me in for the rest of the day, so I let Dave go solo on that one. Instead, I went to a nearby concession to get a bottle of water (which cost an exhorbitant $5). After Dave finished his spin cycle, he wanted to get some ice cream. So we headed into Crackaxle Canyon to Coaster Creamery (what used to be Cold Stone Creamery). On the way, we stopped at the Stampede Bumper Cars since there was no line. We waited just one cycle to board. Strangely, the ride attendants filled all but one car that was trapped in the middle of a traffic jam. Instead of letting someone else occupy it, an attendant spent about ten minutes laboriously prying it out and then wheeling it off to the end of the arena. When I ride bumper cars, I like to circle the outer edges of the arena and just cruise around. But some kid had it in for me and kept going out of his way to ram me every chance he got. My neck was sore after that.

From there we headed over to Coaster Creamery, which was closed. So instead we walked back toward Main Street. There was a curious phenomenon outside the Riverboat Cafe. It was raining. Dave and I stared at it, but couldn't figure out what was going on. The droplets seemed to be coming from the sky. We couldn't see any misters or spigots. It was actually a little magical, as if a storm cloud was somehow suspended over that small area. Behind that area was the giant green Goliath coaster, once again down for the count. There were rumors that the park was finally going to scrap it, and good riddance. It was a terrible ride. The park should have never gotten ride of the shoot-the-chutes ride that once occupied that spot. Across from the Riverboat Cafe was an ice cream concession, so Dave got himself a treat and we went back over to the air-conditioned Primo Pizza building. Any break from the extreme heat was welcomed.

After resting up, we headed back out and back down the stairs to the DC area to ride Catwoman Whip. I noticed that the ride's pre-recorded announcement added the possessive (Catwoman's Whip) even though the sign didn't have it. We took a seat in the third car of the long train and had a brief but pleasant trip through the greenery. I liked the whooshing sound the train made, almost like a hurricane. But I still think they should have left it themed to Poison Ivy. From there we headed over to the nearby Gotham City Gauntlet, the park's wild mouse coaster. The cars held four people, but for some reason the attendants were seating just two people in a car. So the queue took a while to get through. Thankfully, the queue was shaded. The ride itself was fun, with a real sense of danger at each turn. But the theming (if you can call it that) is some of the worst I've ever seen. I know it's supposed to have a sort of inner-city look, but it seems more like a junkyard. Also, I don't know if it's an inside joke at this park but I hear a lot of coaster operators sending off the trains with, "Enjoy your ride. BYEEEEEEEEEEE!" It's sort of funny the first few time you hear it, but it gets grating really quickly. I've heard same spiel from several operators at the park over the last few years. A lot of guests in line were rolling there eyes each time the operator said it.

Supergirl was finally up and runnning, so Dave queued up to take a ride on it. He said it was a peculiar experience and not all that comfortable. The ride did look great though and was probably pretty impressive to see at night. By that point, it was 4:30 and Dave had had enough. So we called it a day. We passed through the Looney Tunes Emporium, which was stocked mostly with DC comics memorabilia. I suggested taking a ride on the famous 1909 Illions carousel near the front of the park. Some of the horses still looked pretty spectacular, but many of them were pretty beaten up. There were thick leather belts on each horse. I was used to seeing those for securing small children, but the ride operator came over to me and told me to buckle mine. That's the first time I ever had to buckle up on a carousel. The ride had its usual recorded music, but it was a pleasant ride. Afterward I noticed some creepy carving details on the back of the chariots, devilish faces reminding me of Marley's ghost screaming. And then we bid farewell to the park.

Six Flags New England is a park of many contradictions. It's trying to be a family park, but consists mostly of thrill rides. It tries to offer a variety of foods, but does it sort of half-heartedly and falls back to pizza and burgers at most of its eateries. The park's newest ride was actually very similar to the ride that originally occupied that spot (one that was broken down most of the time). It still had two of the best coasters at any park: Superman and Wicked Cyclone. But the venerable Thunderbolt (which we bypassed) seems forgotten, tucked away in a corner even though it could be a world-class ride. It's as if there's something missing from the park, and I'm not sure what it is. Busch Gardens has thrill rides, but it also has beautiful landscaping (and shade) and plenty of relaxing rides families can do together. Knoebels has a mix of thrill rides and family rides. And they also have terrific food at reasonable prices. And as our trip to Legoland demonstrated, there's certainly a demand for parks without major thrill rides, ones that cater to families. Six Flags New England is a park that has a lot of potential, but doesn't seem to know whether it's a family park or a teen thrill park, as if the park itself is in its gawky teenage years. Maybe if they plant more trees on the midway, bring back a shoot-the-chutes or flume ride - or maybe even a dark ride - the park could widen its appeal. Or maybe I'm just getting old. But I'd love to have more reasons to visit my local park more than just once a year.

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