Six Flags Theme Park and Apiary

For a few weeks before the wedding, Jamie and I had been discussing what to do the week after the wedding. We knew we’d have the kids, and since our post-wedding budget was what it was, we knew that a big honeymoon was out of the picture. Plus, the kids had just spent a few days with their father at the Jersey shore, and we wanted to go on vacation with them too.

We’d talked about going to Boston, or Washington (I really like going to museums and other Places-of-Historical-Significance, and I feel a deep-seated need to drag whiny, bored children through them as well. I’m sure it has something to do with my own childhood and a desire for vengeance on the world.) or taking day trips to places within easy reach. The kids also really wanted to go to a water park, so we settled on the idea of going to Boston, and stopping at the Six Flags New England Amusement Park and Apiary.

The park is in Springfield, Mass, on our way to Boston, and this late in the season, we got six admissions for the price of one (each person gets six visits for the price of one visit). Our original plan was to do the park, go on to Boston, and then do the park again on the way back.

As it turned out, we never got to Boston, the kids had so much fun at the park that we stayed and did the park for three days in a row.

The park is nice. Much nicer than I expected, actually. All theme parks are ultimately judged in comparison to DisneyWorld, and most theme parks suffer for the comparison. And Six Flags does too. Just not as much as I would have thought. The park is kept pretty clean, the various areas have individual themes that are fairly consistent and well designed, and the rides are pretty good. But of course, the rides are mostly roller coasters and other turn-em-squeeze-em-flip-em county fair type rides.

A bit of background here:
Our kids suffer from a severe case of DisneyWorld-Overexposure-by-Proxy syndrome. They have cousins who have annual passes and vacation club memberships to the Greatest of All Vacation Spots and who go down to Disney, it seems, about every other week. And our kids haven’t been in years. So we get much pressure and a Disney vacation looms in our future like a giant mortgage balloon payment (only Disney will be more expensive).

Plus, our kids hate scary rides and won’t go on anything scarier than the teacups at the county fair. Now, I’ll admit that the teacups are, in fact, much scarier to me than any roller coaster. But kids have iron stomachs, don’t worry about what that carney operator’s last conviction was for, and never seem to notice that funk coming from the skeezy old guy sitting next to you.

Anyway, I thought I could use Six Flags as a kind of barometer — how would a Disney trip go? Because, believe me, if I’m spending six thousand dollars on a trip to an amusement park, we are all going to be d~mn well amused.

The verdict? Positive. On the whole, the big rides at Six Flags are actually much bigger and scarier than at Disney. I haven’t been on the new Everest, but for the most part, Disney coasters are pretty tame. And the kids braved the Thunderbolt and Catwoman’s Whip and Nightwing and other mid-level coasters at Six Flags pretty well. I did find it interesting that they were perfectly willing to fly down a tube of water with nothing but their shorts (and sometimes not even those!) to protect themselves, but a giant steel cage was too much. Disney looks more doable now….

The water park, Hurricane Harbor, was the best water park I’ve been to, but I’ve only been to a couple. The kids loved it, and the crowds in the water park were very manageable while we were there. The slides are great and the kids had loads of fun in the wave pools and the water towers.

The food is spotty. Some is ok, and some is really not so ok. The quality (and curiously, even the vendor) of the chicken strips (a staple food in our house) varied from kiosk to kiosk. There are some chain/branded places like Papa John’s, Ben and Jerry’s, and ColdStone Creamery (I had a bad experience at ColdStone Creamery… they refused to give a 12 year-old a sample. What’s up with that? $7 for a small sundae and you won’t let the kid try the cake flavor?) but for the most part, it’s park-owned food. On the plus side, beer is readily available.

And then there are the bees.

It was truly unbelievable. Every food kiosk, every shrubbery, every soda stand, everywhere…. No matter where you are in the park, there at least three or four bees swarming around. It’s like a kind of ride: The Bee Dodge. To be sure, they’re not killer bees, and they’re not savagely attacking people, but kids, especially little kids, are generally afraid of bees, and they can be a source of tremendous angst and whining. I was the only person in our party that was stung , and that happened while I was inside a closed building.

Overall we were very happy. Six Flags New England has some great coasters and all the standard rafting, log-flume rides that you’d expect from an amusement park. And while they don’t put nearly as much effort into the presentation and overall experience as Disney does, it was well worth the cost, and we’ll be going back again before our six-visit passes expire in October.

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