Dear Coaster Friends,
I would like to drop my uninformed opinion on this topic that seems to be a flash point in the community. I have always heard from friends and fellow enthusiasts that Six Flags is an inferior brand. I have heard many people use them as the butt of a joke, and so have I. I like to joke around and I am a sarcastic person in general, so I usually joke in a way to highlight the silliness I see. I never felt the need to weigh in on this issue, because most of my experience has not been at Cedar Fair Parks. I live in the northeast and Cedar Fair does not have a solid footprint out here. The parks I visit the most are: Great Adventure, Six Flags New England, Lake Compounce, Hersheypark, and Dorney Park. Obviously I have been trying to stretch out, but all of those parks are in a few hours drive. They are easy for me to visit and I feel very familiar with them as I have been going to them for many years.
Up until the last two years Dorney was the only Cedar Fair park I had visited, but last year I added Kings Dominion, and this year I went to Carowinds. So my experience is still limited but I made some very ironic observations. I had a great time at all three parks, I really enjoy visiting new places too, I am saying that because I don’t want to be negative. However I did notice some flaws, and I was amused that I was having the opposite experience that I was told I was going to have. Some might even say I had a Six Flags day…
So what is a Six Flags day? Well according to my interactions with other enthusiasts it would be a sampling of several perceived flaws, or common annoyances that are created by the park operations. These annoyances or flaws are really just reoccurring themes that people like to joke about. When you are having a Six Flags day you might be plagued with bad ops. This could mean rides are down for maintenance or aren’t staffed, trains are stacked, and dispatches are slow. Another common place for criticism is seating policies. Enthusiast like to pick their own row, but they say Six Flags assigns seating. Enthusiasts do not like to be told to leave the station when rows are empty, they feel they should be able to stay on the train or fill from the exit side once the gates are closed. General park ambiance is another contrast enthusiasts like to make; Six Flags is all advertisements and asphalt, while Cedar Fair is beautiful gardens and paver stones. The last area would be park services food choices, merchandise, and customer services. So what did I observe? Where have I had Six Flags days? Not where you would expect, but you probably already knew that.
Slow ops are the bane of every enthusiasts existence. Now you would probably expect me to call out Great Adventure here, but I just can’t. Great Adventure is a park that is always busy, they have giant queue lines because the crowd size is measurably larger. Taking that into account I will call them inconsistent. The two places that jump out as slow to me are Carowinds and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. They took forever dispatching trains when I visited these two parks, and I didn’t think Carowinds was really that busy. They were both stacking trains, or even worse running a single train with a full queue. Carowinds additionally commits the crime of assigning seats and then, brace yourself, stapling me in with all their might! This is the only park I have ever experienced across the board assigned seating. The extra layer of irony was that they were still sending out trains that weren’t full because they were micromanaging their guests access to the station. The extreme stapling of the restrains is something I have experienced from time to time, but not every ride as if it were park policy like at Carowinds. I am not bashing Carowinds, just observing some irony. They have Fury 325, a friendly staff, Fury 325, very clean bathrooms, and Fury 325 so it is a must visit.
I know BGW isn’t Cedar Fair but they are a darling of the enthusiast community, and they gave me a Six Flags day. I would trade every flower in the place if the ride operators would at least walk quickly while checking restraints. While I’m picking on BGW I feel like I need to point out that they opened late, they did have have advertisements from third parties around the park, and many attractions were closed all day or opened a few hours late. I also had a great time, really enjoyed the ride line up, and the food was awesome probably the best at any park I have visited.
Customer service is another hot button topic, but I have not found an appreciable difference between customer service at any of the parks I have visited based on interactions with the staff. I do have a few that I think stand out and a few that were lacking. Dorney Park has opened late every time I have visited since it became a Cedar Fair park, while Six Flags has let me in early from time to time, but always on time. I am a very punctual person so this may just be something I am especially aware of. Kings Dominion had a great staff all around, everyone I interacted with from the guy sweeping the floor, to ride ops, to the GM were all attentive and helpful. They were all generally enthusiastic and I had fun, because I felt they were happy at work. They did have one staff issue, and this was probably because it was early in the season. They did not operate every ride, and they didn’t race Racer 75. Kings Dominion struck the perfect balance between efficiency and hospitality with the attractions that were open. At Carowinds and BGW the staff was very hospitable, but at the cost of efficiency. When dispatches are slow stop asking people if they are having a good time and put your finger on the button! The flip side to this would be when staff is totally disconnected from the guests. Hersheypark, my favorite park, I feel like I am not even acknowledged by a majority of the staff. I feel Dorney is the same way where the staff is just silently buzzing around me as they do their jobs.
Eating junk food is another thing I look forward to when at the parks. I again have noticed that people bash Six Flags for only having hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken fingers. The implication is that everywhere else you are spoiled for choice, and the offerings at Cedar Fair are superior. This has not really been my impression, both chains have a mix of chain food options and typical cafeteria style food service you may expect to find at places like amusement parks, zoos, amphitheaters, and sport venues. I found the offerings at Cedar Fair and Six Flags to be nearly identical. Many chain offerings are in both brand of parks. The stand outs to me are outside of those chains; Hersheypark, all the Disney Parks, both Busch Gardens, and Knoebels.
I have never had a bad day at any park, I have been disappointed. However any disappointment has not overshadowed the fun and escape from reality an amusement or theme park has to offer. So where have I had a Six Flags day? It has mostly been outside the Six Flags chain, so in the argument to pick winners and losers who really wins. Well I do, because if you come down hard for or against something that is nearly identical to the other choices I know you are a fanboy and that is all the help I need to process that info. Everyone is entitled to a favorite, I have mine too, but one superlative does not have to be a negative for another. For example just because the Whopper is my favorite doesn’t change the taste of a Big Mac. Please send all hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and have a Six Flags day.