“Even if you’re a patient person, you can’t be patient for this!” – Senior OK Intern
Back before the internet and cellphones, when I was a teenager, I visited Six Flags (then known as Adventure World) and remember it primarily as a teen hangout. The OK Amusement Park Assessment Review Team (four staffers ages 7, 9, almost 37 and just 62), decided there was no better time than now to check out what was being billed as the new-and-improved Six Flags, and we were pleasantly surprised at the changes that have taken place since that long ago visit. Six Flags is located in Largo, Maryland about 30 minutes from Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. It includes two main areas — the waterpark, Hurricane Harbor and the main amusement park. It was a beautiful sunny morning, so we opted to start out in Hurricane Harbor.
Hurricane Harbor is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s definitely a nice addition to the amusement park side of Six Flags, and admission is included in your ticket price. My biggest memory of the waterpark was how dirty things were – from the water to the bathrooms – so I must admit I was quite hesitant going into this review.
To get to the waterpark you must first walk through an area flanked by games for kids to play and now “conveniently” they accept credit cards to play said games. We ended up bypassing these as the OK interns were very excited to get to the waterpark.
Our first stop was at the women’s locker room, and we are happy to report that it was clean and orderly. There are plenty of bathrooms, shower stalls and regular changing stalls, but it probably gets crowded on a weekend. The floors were clean, but as the day wore on you could start to see the wear and tear on the bathrooms. Nothing you wouldn’t expect from a big amusement park.
We opted to rent a locker in the waterpark for the duration of our stay (you can also rent lockers in other places throughout the park). It is well-worth the money to be able to store your things in one safe place and not have to lug everything around. We put on our lotion beforehand and carried our beach towels from place to place.
Locker rental daily rates range in price from a small ($11) or large ($15) to family ($17). We rented a large locker and could fit two filled bags in it with some room to spare. When you rent the locker, you’ll receive a wristband that one person in your party wears. Cool bonus feature: when you hold the wristband up to an electronic sensor the locker opens, even if you don’t say something that sounds like a magic spell.
Onto the waterpark! We wanted to start out slow and opted to visit Crocodile Cal’s Caribbean Beach House. It’s a five-story interactive tree house that spurts water from every which way. There’s the standard bucket up top that will delight children with a huge downpour of water every so often. There are at least seven different water slides for all ages and stages. The water is pretty shallow in most parts and there is a beach entry for the littlest swimmers.
We were very impressed by the lifeguards throughout the entire waterpark. They were almost overly attentive in some areas, but it was a nice change from the usual slack-a-dasical attitude lifeguards have, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. They stopped kids from running, getting out of the water in the wrong place and from horseplay. We even saw lifeguards practicing safety drills throughout the park.
Hurricane Harbor has lots of waterslides, so there is something for all levels and interests. Bahama Blast, a family raft ride (must be 42″ with an adult; 48″ without an adult) was our next stop. It turns out you have to lug a huge four-person “round” raft up several flights of stairs. This isn’t for the faint of heart. I run marathons and would call myself in decent shape; but was huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top with our raft in hand.
Seconds after we hopped into the raft we were spiraling down a tube that was enclosed at times and not at others. It was awesome, belly-turning fun, but we’d recommend it only for those who love waterslides. I thought this slide would be a more gentle ride down for my 7-year old, more timid waterslide rider. Not so, Bahama Blast is just that — it blasts you down quickly and it is great fun!
The 7 year old and 62 year old headed back over to Crocodile Cal’s while the two other reviewers went on two other waterslides: Paradise Plunge and Reef Runner. These are two-person and single tubes that you carry up several flights of stairs before plunging down a tube slide. We went on the two-person tube and the slides were invigorating! The lifeguards were attentive both at the top and bottom.
Next we headed to Castaway Creek, a lazy river where kids 36″ and over can ride solo in a tube. It was nice and relaxing and the kids enjoyed splashing around while lollygagging around the river. Afterwards they played in the pool that was in the center of the lazy river and included the Vortex/Riptide waterslides; Calypso Cannonball tube slides and Bamboo Chutes kiddie slides.
We then went to Hurricane Bay, one of the largest wave pools in the country. Back in the day, Hurricane Bay was well-known for having hair nets, band-aids and other strange foreign objects, so we are happy to report there has been a successful makeover. The water was clean, the lifeguards were on top of things and the wave pool was not crowded. Waves are intermittent and can get up to 4 feet tall.
Infants and weak swimmers are not allowed past a certain point and again the lifeguards were on hand to make sure that did not happen. The OK-interns rated Hurricane Bay as one of their favorite places. They could splash, bobble up and down and just have fun. In front of Hurricane Bay there is a large open area with dozens of lounge chairs. This lawn is a green carpet, which has definitely seen better days. It might bother some people, but it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect in an older park.
Our final stop in the waterpark was Buccaneer Beach. This area is great for the littlest kids and consists of two pools with loads of interactive features. The area is aimed at children 54″ and lower with an adult. There’s a pirate ship, water squirting out of the pool bottom and a huge octopus over a submarine in the center where kids can climb in and around.
There are several other waterslides in the park, including the Tornado (a six-story funnel of “fun”), Tony Hawk’s Halfpipe (a water ramp that can “skateboard” on), Hammerhead (a tube slide in the dark) and Mako (a tube slide that is half-open and half-enclosed). Note: on all waterslides you have to carry your tube up the stairs.
The Amusement Park
After a fun-filled morning we headed to the amusement park side of Six Flags. Map in hand, we let the kids decide where we should head first and they chose the Great Race, an antique car ride. The OK interns were thrilled that they would have the chance to drive their own car. The OK adults were excited that this was the only place they’d be driving for a long time! The Great Race features antique cars that seat 4-5 people (no lap children) that are driven around a track for about 5 minutes.
There was no wait for a car but we were disappointed at this ride (the only one) because the attendants were less than helpful and more interested in texting or talking with each other. We took the experience for what it was and we were off to the Looney Tunes Movie Town, a section made just for the littlest of amusement park patrons.
Looney Tunes Movie Town offers rides geared mostly for kids ages 2 to 8 or 9 depending on their height. All of the rides are very mild and are a great introduction for children. The 9-year old OK intern went on the Great Chase first, a family-friendly roller coaster. It takes kids up a modest incline and brings them around the track to where they begin; the ride goes about three times around the loop. We tried to go onto Sylvester’s Pounce and Bounce where kids are taken 20 feet in the air before a short free fall; however one intern was too tall to ride.
So instead we hit up several others to include the Tinsel Town Train, Pepe LePew’s Tea Party (kids spin around in tea cups) and Yosemite Sam’s Hollywood Flight School (kids take flight in mini-airplanes). Ride operators in the Looney Tunes Movie Town area were attentive to the children and appeared interested in what they were doing. The max height limit is generally between 52″ and 54″, so it depended on who was doing the measuring as to whether or not the 9-year old could ride.
Following the foray into Looney Tunes Movie Town, we took a ride on the Capital Railways, which is new for 2009. Capital Railways takes you on a relaxing ride around the park in a full-size locomotive. It was a great way to chill out for a few before we headed out to see some other attractions. The ride was slow and covered; so on a hot day, it would be a nice change of pace from being in the hot sun.During our train ride we were able to peep all of the roller coasters in the park. Back when I was in leg warmers, I would have eagerly tried all the roller coasters, but now that I have children and a minivan, my threshold for taking chances has definitely gone down. They are still fun to watch though! Experts tell me that Six Flags has some really awesome coasters. Here they are, in train view order:
- The Wild One is a classic wooden roller coaster. You must be at least 48″ to ride.
- Superman: Ride of Steel is a 20-story mega-coaster. You must be a minimum of 54″ to ride and a maximum of 76″. This ride was not running while we were at the park; there were operators working on fixing something with the ride.
- Batwing is a face-down coaster and you must be at least 54″ to ride.
- The Joker’s Jinx is probably the scariest and coolest looking roller coaster I have seen in a while. This coaster takes you from 0 to 60 mph in under 3 seconds. You’ll twist and turn like no other! You must be 54″ minimum to ride.
- Two other coasters that we saw were The Roar, a wooden coaster that criss-crosses itself 20 times and The Mind Eraser, a coaster that you ride with your feet dangling in the air.
After our tame train ride and seeing the excitement of the roller coasters, we walked around and decided to try out two water rides, favorites from my years as a teen. Skull Mountain was the first and is a cruise through a pitch dark tunnel, high speed twists and turns where you are then dumped into a chute of water. 46″ minimum to ride and great fun! The second was Shipwreck Falls, a boat of sorts that takes you up an incline, around a curve (all in water) to plunge down and be engulfed by the water and then soaked. Warning: You will get completely soaked on these rides so do not bring anything that you do not want wet. For those who opt not to go on Shipwreck Falls, you can stand on the bridge that the boat goes under and get soaked by the spray. On a hot summer day these are great rides in addition to Renegade Rapids (a white water raft ride) and The Penguins Blizzard River.
We capped our visit with a ride on Around the World in 80 Days, a fun ferris wheel. You have to be 42″ to ride alone; under 42″ with a companion over 54″. There were several rides that we weren’t able to get to. Here are a few worth mentioning and hopefully you’ll have some braver folks in your group who will try them out and report back to Our Kids.
- Flying Carousel is a high-flying swing ride. Must be 48″ minimum to ride.
- Cyclone is a ride where spinning gondolas send riders back and forth.
- Tower of Doom is a high-speed free fall from 140 feet in the air. Make sure to leave those flip-flops at the bottom!
- Falling Star and High Seas are both giant rides where you rotate and swing around.
- The Octopus spins riders up and down on its tentacles. 51″ minimum to ride.
Six Flags America is a smallish, more compact park than others that are farther away, but even spending six hours at the park we weren’t able to get to all the rides or see any shows. Consult the Six Flags website for a current listing of shows at the park. Also worth noting is the 2009 Starburst Summer Concert Series which takes place weekly through August.
Gourmet and healthy food it is not, so food is not a highlight of the park. No outside food is allowed inside Six Flags. You are however allowed one unopened bottle of water and we highly recommend that you take advantage of that option. As you would expect, food is pretty pricey.
During our adventure we stopped briefly to eat lunch. We dined at Papaya Pete’s Chicken Hut, which offers various chicken sandwiches, french fries, popcorn shrimp and a kids meal. The adults had a crispy chicken sandwich and grilled chicken sandwich both with fries. We paid $7.99 plus tax for the adult entries. The best deal by far is the kids meal. For $8.99 plus tax, kids get a souvenir bucket filled with applesauce, a cheese stick, fries and popcorn chicken. They also get their choice of drink in a souvenir cup.
Other choices for dining in the waterpark included Subway, Papa Johns, Beachside Burgers and Hurricane Hot Dog. There was a cute place called Calypso’s; which served ice cold beer, wine coolers and small appetizers. Caribbean music was piped in throughout the different dining areas. Deserts in the form of funnel cakes and Ben & Jerry’s were available as well.
Later in the afternoon we decided to have some ice cream. We first stopped in the Cold Stone Creamery on Main Street. They offer a pretty nice selection, but they only have waffle cones that were much too large for our party. We headed over to Ben & Jerry’s for a soft serve ice-cream cone. The food was yummy; however the prices were very high. It was $5.29 plus tax for a soft serve cone.
Dining options in the amusement park include a Johnny Rockets restaurant, Panda Express, Papa John’s, Subway and other grill type places. You can view a detailed list online. Note: peanut oil is used in the preparation of menu items, so if you have allergies in the family as is often the case these days, contact Park Security or Guest Relations when you arrive to bring in special dietary foods. If you don’t mind paying amusement park prices then you have wide selection. If you’re trying to save a little money, consider tail gaiting. You can get your hand stamped at the exit/re-entry gate; head to your car for a bite to eat and then go back for more fun at Six Flags.
- Expect to pay $15 for parking.
- General admission to the park is $49.99; Junior admission under 48″ is $24.99; and under 2 is free. If you purchase your tickets online, you can buy one for $49.99 and get one free.
- If before you visit you know you’ll want to go back more than once, purchase a 2009 Play Pass. You get unlimited visits on regular operating days during the 2009 season and access to Fright Fest.
- If you had a ton of fun and know you’ll be back to Six Flags in one season; consider turning in your one-day admission and purchase a 2009 season pass for $19.99 plus tax. Details are at Guest Relations.
- Purchase a flash pass for $15. The Flash Pass reduces your wait time on select rides. I would imagine this would be invaluable on busy weekdays or weekends.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Consult the Six Flags website for hours of operation. Generally they start their season in April (weekends only) and open during the week starting in May. Weekdays continue through Labor Day and then the park stays open on weekends only through the end of October.
- In addition to the amusement park rides, waterpark and food; Six Flags also has arcade games and carnival games. There are also vendors scattered that do tattoos on kids. Our interns are Harry Potter fans and got a lightening bolt and snake on their arms. Tattoos last from 2 to 4 weeks, but a word of caution. You have to let them dry after they are applied or the tattoo will get messed up (as one of ours did). Tattoos start at $5.
- Six Flags has a guest code of conduct and from all appearances it seems to be enforced. There is a dress code, behavior and language rules that apply. Six Flags allows smoking in designated areas and pets are not permitted in the park with the exception of service animals.
- Don’t forget: your towels, a change of clothes (don’t forget the underwear), sunscreen, hats, sunglasses. Bring a camera; lots of fun photo opportunities are available.
- Appropriate bathing suits may only be worn inside Hurricane Harbor. Regular clothing must be worn in the amusement park.
- The park accepts American Express, MasterCard, VISA and Discover Card for park admission, at gift shops and many food locations. Personal checks are not accepted.
- There are plenty of gift shops throughout the park. We didn’t have enough time to check them out; but they offer everything from Six Flags apparel to Looney Tunes apparel, collector’s items; along with kids super heroes apparel.
- There are plenty of bathrooms, a first aid station, water fountains and ATMs throughout the park.
- You can bring your own stroller; but if you don’t feel like it you can rent one at the park. A limited number are available.
- Consider dressing your kids in the same color shirt for easy identification. And make sure that all children you bring to the park know their parents name, their phone number and address if possible.
- Before visiting Six Flags, consult the park FAQ for a full list of things to know.
We visited Six Flags on a Monday, and I am convinced it saved us from a lot of waiting in line for rides, food and general activities. Head to Six Flags on a weekday; the earlier the better. No lines, clean facilities, lots of options = maximum fun.