Friday, August 6, 2010

A Bizarro Good Time At Six Flags New England - Part 3

Editor's Note: This is the third part of NPN's review of Six Flags New England. Don't miss the first section, located here, as well as the second part.

Let's begin the final section of NewsPlusNotes' look at Six Flags New England. This is going to be a big one, hope you are ready!

No hurricanes to deal with on this sunny day

Six Flags New England has carved out a tropical oasis in the middle of Massachusetts with their Hurricane Harbor water park. Originally opened in 1997, the area was then known as Island Kingdom. It had a wave pool, several slides, and a children's area as well.

Hurricane Bay, one of the many play areas

As the years went by the water park was expanded upon time and time again. In 2003 it was renamed Hurricane Harbor and saw yet another large expansion. What the park now offers is the largest water park in New England - and they're not kidding, this place is huge.

Water + Coaster = Typhoon

A water park of this size is bound to have some unique attractions. Above is Typhoon, a water coaster. Riders sit in three person rafts that are actually pushed up hills and then back down drops using forced water and conveyor belts.

Twists, turns, tunnels, lifts, drops - what more could you want!

Just watching the rafts blast out of the many tunnels and down those steep drops had my mouth watering. These rides have really taken off at parks over the past few years and Six Flags New England was proud to have one of the first when it was added in 2005.

Shark Attack! That's the name of these four slides

As we wandered through Hurricane Harbor I was amazed that around every turn the midways kept stretching on with more slides and attractions. There's tube slides, body slides, wave pools, water play structures, lazy rivers, family raft slides, and a bowl slide - among others. Notice that there were a lot of plurals in that list - Hurricane Harbor is so big it has multiple of certain attractions!

The clouds drift over the Commotion Ocean wave pool

Another great feature of the water park is the private cabanas that are available for rental. No better way to have a contact point for your family while spending the day in Hurricane Harbor. There are actually different sets of cabanas in the park, each offering a different set of amenities. Some even have a flat-screen television and stocked mini-fridge!

Mr. Six knows how to surf! I don't.

Mr. Six's Splash Island is new to Hurricane Harbor for 2010. The children's area combines a miniature wave pool and lazy river in 16,000 square feet of splashing fun. Any area hosted by Mr. Six himself is going to be a lot of fun!

Plenty of water features along the path of the lazy river

Mr. Six's Splash Island has another family friendly feature - it's totally covered to provide protection from that pesky summer sun. Parents can watch their kids splash and play while not having to worry about a full-body sun screen reapplication! This is an idea I expect to see many parks copy in the coming years.

But that's not all that is offered to families. The Baby Care Center I described in the last section is also accessible from the water park. Smart!

I only wish we had more time while visiting so that we could have taken on all the slides that Hurricane Harbor has. Next time, right!

Thomas and friends are waiting for you

While on the subject of taking care of the little ones, we also stopped by to check out Thomas Town. This is another of the park's three areas that are dedicated to kids. Everyone's favorite engine is available for departure each day from the Island of Sodor.

If you look closely I think Thomas needs to see an optometrist

While the ride through Sodor aboard Thomas is the area's star attraction, it offers more than that. Kids can also take a spin on Bertie the Bus or pilot their own Harold the Helicopter. A pop-jet fountain area completes Thomas Town.

The North End stretches out before us

Are your feet sore yet? I hope not - we still have the entire North End of the park to explore! The area contains the last of the park's kids sections - Looney Tunes Movie Town. Taz, Wile E. Coyote, Daffy, Bugs, and the rest of the gang have cooked up plenty of fun. You can even see them compete in the Looney Tunes Dance Off live show!

But for the big kids (i.e. me) there's plenty of thrills to be had. As you walk into the North End the striking color scheme of Flashback quickly catches your attention.

The train got painted?! No that's an advertisement for gum

Flashback is one of the popular Boomerang style coasters. You take the course - with it's steep lifts and multiple inversions - both forwards and backwards. While I've experienced rides of this kind many times before it is still a disorienting experience for me.

Dizzy yet, kids?

Pandemonium combines the spinning motion of the classic tea cup ride with a family roller coaster - and the result is one dizzying good time. The trains seat only four guests, but you face each other in pairs while seated. The cars are locked in place while you head up the lift, but soon after they are free to spin, and the results are fantastic.

Classic faces on all three riders!

While the ride is certainly disorienting, it's actually not so much that you feel sick. It's a laugh generator, too. You can't help but giggle looking at the people across from you while on the ride - especially if they happen to be a little scared!

An icy river awaits in the summer sun

One attraction that is darn near impossible to photograph is Blizzard River. This river rapids ride features some unique and thorough theming; the entire course is covered in fake snow and ice, and riders are sure to receive a nice soaking along the way.

But all this park exploring makes a person hungry. Thankfully, Six Flags New England scores extremely high on my list of theme parks with great food. Typically, amusement parks aren't known for their delicacies, instead offering the standard 'fried everything.' While at the park we enjoyed lunch that was about as atypical for a park as I've seen - fresh made-to-order wraps and salads that were larger than the portions at many chain restaurants.

Amusement park food is never cheap, that's a fact of life. But if you're into getting your money's worth then you'll be pleasantly surprised here. We were.

Intimidating view, no?

Tucked near the back of the North End is a large white wooden coaster that's quite hard not to notice. The Cyclone stands over 100 ft. tall and it's structure wraps around itself in a way that makes it difficult to anticipate its layout.

Why didn't I take this photo a second earlier?

The ride starts off with a smaller drop, and after that the train begins to weave through the structure encountering larger drops, tight curves, and what feels like ever-increasing speed. The Cyclone is a wild ride that keeps riders guessing what's coming next right up to the final brakes.

Feel like hanging out upside down today?

If the Cyclone wasn't enough thrills the Catapult is waiting right next door. The ride is quite unique, only two of them exist in the world. The massive size of the ride - not to mention the crazy aerial maneuvers it performs - makes watching it quite the spectator sport.

Yes, they are inverted at 105' in the air

There are two large platforms of seats on either end of the main arm. After everyone is boarded the entire arm lifts up to 65 feet in the air. At that point, the entire thing starts rotating vertically, taking riders fully upside down as it goes. To make things even more exciting, it stops and one point and reverses direction, so that each side of the arm takes the trip backwards, too.

Crack-Axle Canyon, tucked neatly between the Cyclone and the park's entrance area, resembles a rustic Western town. The area has wonderful theming that gives it an authentic feel, and the landscaping plays heavily into this.

Time for some real magic!

One of Crack-Axle's more unique rides is Houdini - the Great Escape. The 'mystery house' style attraction comes complete with a pre-show that introduces guests to the history of Houdini himself, and explains that if we are lucky the legend himself may appear to us from beyond the grave. What happens next is disorienting, spooky, and definitely magical. I won't ruin it for you with any more details but it's worth checking out.

How pretty!

The Shoot-The-Chutes is a staple ride in the industry, but I had to remark that the one at Six Flags New England, named Shipwreck Falls, has to be one of the prettiest around. The overgrown landscape, combined with the waterfalls and additional theming makes the area a peaceful retreat from the busy midways.

But it is important to remember that there is a big splash ride in the middle of the area! Here we see one of Shipwreck's boats making quite an entrance into the lagoon. And the crowd on the bridge can't wait to get soaked - again!

Time to take a spin on the Thunderbolt

Six Flags New England's oldest roller coaster is the Thunderbolt, dating back to 1941. The park has actually had four other wooden rides in their long history, dating back to when they started out as a trolley park. Thunderbolt isn't the tallest or fastest coaster at the park, but it serves the family crowd especially well.

Now that's how to have fun on a roller coaster

The coaster has a classic double-layer figure eight layout - simple but effective. It's important to remember that classic rides didn't depend on magnetic launches or past vertical drops to thrill passengers. Instead you simply needed a fun layout, some air-time hills, and a moderate drop or two. Thunderbolt sums up that style of ride perfectly.

Mr. Six has to wave goodbye!

Phew - while that was an exhaustive tour of Six Flags New England it was worth it - the park is quite wonderful and worthy of such an expansive review.

If you want to visit and explore on your own, I suggest starting to plan on the Six Flags New England official website. It's always up to date with park information and the latest special events.

Stay tuned for the last park on our trip, Lake Compounce.