There's Something About Six Flags
Mr. Snyder, open up those rides . . .
I like theme parks as much as the next person, unless the next persons are those seated around me, who generally detest them. But even I've had an aversion to our very own Six Flags America, part of the chain controlled by our very own Dan "Washington Redskins" Snyder. I gave up on the place a few years ago when I tried to have fun during its nighttime Halloween-themed celebration and was disgusted by the long lines, high prices and gangs of unuly thuggish patrons.
But when you have a 12-year-old nephew in town and the temperature hits 100 degrees, Six Flags America and its waterpark look very appealing. So last week my wife, my nephew and I headed to the Bowie attraction, lured in part by corporate claims that the park was cleaning up its act.
The good news first: Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the ridiculous prices or maybe it was just because it was a Tuesday, but the place seemed deserted. Even at midday we were able to park near the entrance. The crowd was great -- no packs of teens prowling around creeping us out, and parents generally kept the kids under control. Most guests were good-natured and friendly. And when the temperature nears the century mark, it's nice to be near a pool.
Otherwise, the park disappointed. It seemed more rides were closed than open. Batwing, Joker's Jinx, Two-Face, Skull Mountain, Shipwreck Falls . . . all of them were closed for part or all of the day. The rides that were open featured slow-moving lines, considering the sparse crowd. Understandably, only one train was in operation on the coasters, but on Superman, several seats were broken, extending the wait even more.
Surly, apathetic teens seemed to be running the place, from a grouchy kid yelling at patrons on the Tornado water ride (amazing attraction, though) to one girl who was checking her cell phone when she should have been helping folks on the Mind Eraser. Ride operators and food service folks were more interested in chatting with each other than actually doing their jobs. (One major exception was the remarkable team of lifeguards in the wave pool, all of whom diligently kept the crowd under control. If my nephew hadn't spotted the remains of what appeared to be a diaper float by, it would have been a park highlight.) I understand that it's near the end of the season and minds may have been elsewhere, but it's still a business.
About that business: Six Flags offers great deals on season passes and one-day discounts, but we still ended up paying $35 each to get in, plus $15 to park (which is crazy; even budget-unfriendly Disney -- which recently raised its one-day park fee to $71 --charges 10 bucks). A small Coke goes for almost $4, and we paid more than $6 for a funnel cake. (Yes, I know: We should have brought our own chow.)
And while TV commercials for the park push its cleanliness, that's not really what we found. Food remnants littered the vast sitting area around the wave pool, which in turn attracted packs of bees. We checked periodically on a dish of overturned, abandoned french fries a few feet from the water's edge; they remained in place until the waterpark's closing at 7 p.m.
So, gee. I wasn't knocked out by Six Flags America, and I probably won't be going back anytime soon -- and that's not the way I feel about such spots as Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland, Hersheypark, etc. Anyone out there have their own reports on Six Flags? Was I just there on a bad day?
By John Deiner |
August 17, 2007; 12:29 PM ET
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