Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: The Six Flags Magic Money-Sucking Machine Aug20

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Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: The Six Flags Magic Money-Sucking Machine


a blogumn by Jersey Joe

The roller coasters, the thrills, the heart pounding rides!  No summer would be complete without a visit to the old amusement park.  The rides and attractions have really come a long way thanks to technology.  Riders are pushed to the limits with coasters that climb straight up, or a giant sling shot that sends you up in the air with G forces that only pilots get to experience, and you can even – fly!  Like everyone else, the amusement parks have been hit hard by our troubled economy.  I recently made my annual visit to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey and while it was a blast, these people have really made it an art to suck the money right out of your wallet.  But, a smart rider can still enjoy the rides, without having to take out a second mortgage.

In 1961, the Six Flags chain started with a single park, Six Flags Over Texas.  The six flags stand for the six different flags that have flown over that state.  (Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States of America.)  The company merged with the New York Railroad and through partnerships with The Pennsylvania Railroad was able to construct several of its early parks.  Eventually, the company bought out many independent parks and itself was bought out by Time Warner in the early 90’s.

Before you even enter the park, you can cut the admission price and your wait time in the entrance line in half.  By purchasing your tickets online at, you can knock 30 bucks off of the $59.99 admission price.  You will also have the opportunity to print your tickets at home, just as I did.  The bonus is, when you arrive at the park, you can walk past the first ticket window straight to the entrance turnstile.  Here, they will scan the barcode on your printout ticket — and you’re in.  The only danger I could see in doing this is if there was a last second emergency and you couldn’t make it to the park.  The tickets are non-refundable, just like a sporting event.  But, over the past few years, I’ve found this is the way to go.

By the way, if you are driving (and there’s no other way to get to our Six Flags, except for a New Jersey bus) the cost is $15 to park.  Ka-ching!

Once you enter the park, you’ve got a decision to make.  Six Flags offers a device called The Flash PassThe Flash Pass gives you the option of skipping the line at most of their major attractions.  I would never go to the park without getting one, but of course, you’re going to pay.

It’s a short walk from the main gate to the Flash Pass building.  To get inside, there is a line.  Once in, you are forced to watch an obnoxious five minute video on what the Flash Pass is.  The vast majority of people in line are not paying any attention at all to the video.  I’m sure this is for some type of legal disclaimer, but it’s really too long.  Have a worker explain what it is or give me a brochure and let’s move on, instead of making excited children and adults wait.

Once at the desk, you have three different Flash Pass options and none are cheap.

The Silver Flash Pass will reserve your space in line and tell you to report back at a given time.  This is the one I usually go with and it’s $42 for two people.  You will wait the same amount of time as the other people on line, but you don’t have to actually be in the line.  You are free to walk around and play games, eat, or whatever.

The Gold Flash Pass will also reserve your space in line, but with a reduced wait time.  This is just over $100 for two people.

Finally, they have introduced the Platinum Flash Pass.  Your wait in line will only be a few minutes, meaning you get to ride over and over again.  The cost is over $200 for two people.  Ouch!

They will require a member of your party to surrender their driver’s license in exchange for purchasing the pass.  Also, if it’s lost or stolen, you owe the park $200.

As you see, the passes have their benefits, but you’ve got to be willing to pay.  Try and do this with a big family and you’re going to feel the pain in your wallet.  The sad fact is the wait time for most rides is an hour to two hours minimum on an average day.  To make the most of your time, you really need to get one of these.  But, the cost of the day has started to add up.

We quickly reserved our first ride, Superman: The Ride.  I love this thing; you lie down flat, and actually fly around loops and even upside down.  We had a little over an hour to wait, so we decided to grab some lunch.

After walking for a bit, we settled on Johnny Rockets.  I love Johnny Rockets; their burgers are some of the best.  (I’ll save that for another blogumn.)  We waited in line for only a few minutes, to find that this Johnny Rockets did not have burgers!  A hamburger restaurant with no burgers!!!  Go figure!  They only have a few items on their menu… a Six Flags sampler which was chicken fingers, onion rings, and French fries, or a bucket of Tyson Anytizers, which is just a bucket of chicken fingers.

Now, there was no way to know these were the only items on the menu, because the menu board was three giant monitors THAT WERE PLAYING ADVERTISEMENTS!  My first thought – are you freaking kidding?  I had to wait until the ad for The Other Guys was done playing, for the menu to flip over and reveal.  I went with the sampler and added a medium Coke for $12.

The meals were premade and stacked up along the counter, so it only took a few seconds to receive mine.  But, I got to enjoy another ad for Walgreens, while I waited.  What does Walgreens have to do with food in an amusement park?

As we sat at a table and ate the ads just kept on coming and coming.  Literally, this was something you would see on The Simpsons.  Ads playing for Six Flags season tickets, more movies, an MTV series, and more.  They had the volume cranked so loud, you could not have a conversation.  And these…


…were running every thirty seconds!  Try having a conversation interrupted…


….every thirty seconds for a crummy commercial while you’re trying to eat.  We ran…


…out of there as fast as we could.  It was really, really, really too much and everyone there looked completely annoyed.  But, as we went for the door, I finished my Coke, only to notice – it too was an ad!  It was an ad for Six Flags season tickets on an ad for Coke.  Literally — an ad within an ad!  Wow!

As the day went on, we did enjoy some really great coasters.  The park was quite full, so even with the Flash Pass we waited an hour to 90 minutes for each, but at least we weren’t standing in line.  To kill some time, we ended up in the arcade.

To play a game, it’s not as simple as just sticking in a quarter.  You have to buy a power card and add money to it.  It’s basically a credit card that you swipe to play the games.  Of course, the games are not one credit.  They are 2.3, 3.4, 12.5, etc.  You can really go through the cash if you don’t watch out!

A great attraction the park has installed this season is a miniature bowling alley.  You get to bowl 5 frames for $5 a person.  If you score above 50, you win a prize.  The higher the score – the bigger the prize.  But, what else are you to do while not waiting in line for a ride?  You could eat some more…

It was well into the high 90s outside and thirst was a constant friend.  But, to buy a drink, you’re not getting off cheap.  A bottle of water will run you around $4.50.  Most soft drinks will run you around $6 for a small.  You can buy a souvenir cup for around $12 with free refills, but you have to haul it around all day.

This year, the park has introduced a stand of lockers and banned bringing ANY items up to the loading platform for the larger rides.  In the past, if you won a prize, there would be a box where you would deposit the item and pick it up after your ride.  Now, a new park policy forces riders to pay $1 for a short amount of time, to deposit their items in a stand of lockers at the entrance to the ride.  Another way for the park to make a buck.  I’m sure people complained about their items being taken from rides, but now charging a buck per ride to store your stuff can get high.  Ride ten rides and you will need ten bucks for storage.  You cannot leave your items in these lockers all day, either.  They are only available for a short amount of time, an hour or two… tops.  I didn’t need one, so I can’t be certain of the exact time.

The park also contains a few rides that require an additional charge.  A giant skycoaster ride, another that flings you straight up on a sling shot, a climbing wall, and go-carts that will require you to pay on the spot.

So, as you can see, the costs can add up real quick for a fun day at Six Flags.  We on the east coast are blessed to have Six Flags Great Adventure, which is the largest of their parks.  It really is a beautiful place with a great variety of rides.  I’m looking forward to going back next summer!  But, no matter which Six Flags park you go to — you have to be ready to pay!  I’m certainly not targeting Six Flags only.  Most amusement parks can be very expensive.  I’m simply sharing my recent experience and hope that it will aid you in planning not only your next trip to Six Flags, but to any amusement park.  If you plan ahead and use a budget, you can maximize your dollar.

THE 411


What: Amusement park chain with 17 current parks in operation in the United States, Mexico, and Canada

Cost of entry: $59.99 full price adult for a ride all day pass.

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: There’s no way you can’t have a blast with a visit to a Six Flags park.  Their parks have some of the best roller coasters out there.  You do have to watch the spending, since the “little things” can add up very quickly.  Plan ahead.  Eat before you arrive at the park.  If you can afford it, purchase the Flash Pass to cut your wait time in lines for rides.  Without it, you will spend hours in line and only get to enjoy a few rides.  The lines are guaranteed to be long in each park, especially in the summer. Also, I strongly prefer to stick with an even number in a group when going to an amusement park.  Nobody wants to be alone, or have to sit out and wait on a ride.  Try to go with an even number so no one is ever forced to be left out or sit alone.  Also, I probably wouldn’t consider going here with a large family due to the cost factor.  Like sporting events and concerts, the cost for food and drink are out of control.  These parks suck the money out of your wallet faster than Vegas.  Be prepared and know what you have to spend to enjoy your time there the most.