First thing you need to know about the amusement park in Jackson, NJ: It’s called Great Adventure, not “Six Flags.” This regional permutation of the Six Flags name has always been a fun place to go with your youth group or whatnot, with someone else picking up the tab. But can you, as a broke city kid, satiate your desire for summer thrills and chills of the ultra high-velocity variety that Coney Island just can’t offer? You can, and here’s how:
One slight disclaimer: When we visited the park earlier this summer for the first time in a decade, we found it ain’t the imagination wonderland and cartoon-character forest of the past. Perhaps due to the company’s recent bankruptcy woes, Six Flags has sold basically every square inch of the park as ad space. The Great American Scream Machine? Yeah, those screams are brought to you by Axe body spray. Even the poor summer-job teens announcing ride safety rules have been reduced to shilling for Johnny Rockets.
Still, despite all that, the park does have Kingda Ka, which sends you hurtling 45 stories at 128 mph, which, we can confirm, is pretty freaking sweet.
Regularly priced tickets at $55 a pop?? No deal! Let’s do better:
Buy tickets online instead of at the park, and they’re only $35, plus you can print them out at home and skip the line (sooo… do people not have the internet still?).
Scour for codes
Various companies make discount deals with Great Adventure. Right now, if you enter the word COLDSTONE in the “promo code” box in the top right corner of the homepage, you can buy a ticket for the kids’ price of $30. Last month, Discover card offered a four-pack of tickets for $100. It’s worth your effort to Google “Great Adventure discount codes” or “Six Flags coupons” and check sites like these to see what deals are available.
Have a Coke
In perhaps one of the longest standing cross-promotions since Ecto Cooler, Coca Cola has had a deal with Six Flags since we were in Little League: bring in a Coke can for buy-one-get-one free tickets on weekdays. That means bring a buddy, and it’s only $25 a pop (plus soda cost).
NJ Transit will take you directly to the park from the Port Authority. The ride takes almost two hours, but it’ll save you loads over renting a car: Bus fare is $17.50 each way, which sounds kind of steep until you consider that Great Adventure charges $15 for parking, alone. Three buses leave the station: at 9:30, 10 and 11:20 on the weekends and 9:30 on weekdays, and departure times from the park for New York vary based on the day. Look for Route 308 toward Six Flags Great Adventure.
Also, NJ Transit has a special package rate of $61 for round-trip fare, park admission and safari admission. More on the the schedule and the package deals here.
Under no circumstances save for unrelenting and inescapable zombie apocalypse should you eat any of the food inside the park. Almost all the dining options have been sold out to corporate franchises, who offer you all the comforts of the anywhere-rest-stop food at a stunning 40 percent markup. Look ma, we’re on vacation and we still get to eat Papa John’s, Coldstone Creamery and Johnny Rockets! All washed down with a souvenir cup of Coca-Cola for just $12.99 (actual price). Just say no, kids.
Instead, if you happen to drive, pack some sandwiches in coolers and throw them in the trunk. You can leave the park and return as often as you like: Just get your hand stamped on the way out and return through the re-entry gate.
If you’re on the bus, eat some snacks on the ride down. If you get hungry from all the thrills and spills, go for a walk: There are a few fast-food joints about a half-mile down the road from the park entrance, including Dunkin Donuts, Burger King (BK!) and WaWa. Still corporate franschises, yes, but with prices you can stomach.
Beat the crowds?
Lines will be long (an hour or more) for the most popular rides, and with New Jersey’s tweenster set determined to glob up the park with their Silly Banded, Team-Jacob-shirted masses every summer day, there’s not much you can do about it ’til the fall. However, going on a weekday helps, as does getting there early.
Or go to the park on a rainy day. Even if it’s just a misty drizzle, the precipitation scares off the crowds, and you can get your brain scattered by Batman: The Ride over and over.
Leave everything behind
No phone, no iPod, no wallet, no handbag or man-bag. You can’t bring anything on the rides with you because it will fall out, and Great Adventure no longer lets you store belongings on the ride platform. You can get a locker, but they cost $1 per ride or $11 for the day.
Wear sneakers, not sandals. You’ll have to take off your sandals on many of the rides anyway.
Go the day after an accident
Not to be ghoulish, and we hope this never occurs, but if there is a major accident, the following day may be the best day to ever go to the park. We went to the Louisville Six Flags the day after this happened and the place was empty. We basically walked on to each ride without breaking stride (except for that one ride, which was closed).
Also, this has to be the safest time to go. Statistics, people. Statistics.
THE OTHER PARKS ON-SITE
Great Adventure claims its Wild Safari is the biggest safari outside of Africa. It’s cool to see. Once, maybe. But don’t sweat about missing it. Hurricane Harbor is a separate admission too. We have yet to check it out, but the $33 ticket price and the mediocre reviews from friends in Jersey mean you can probably skip it.
Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari, 1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson, NJ