My brother and I decided recently to check out many of the amusement parks within a day's drive. We love riding coasters and strongly dislike long wait times for rides, so we figured that this would be a great time of year to embark on our quest to hit parks we've seen and heard good things about from other posters on this forum. We've taken trips to Dollywood, Six Flags Over Georgia, Canada's Wonderland, Holiday World, Dorney Park and Cedar Point all within the last month (so we, more than most, are happy about the recent drop in gas prices!).
We had planned on taking this trip several weeks ago, but thanks to some bad weather on the east coast we had to postpone. We looked at the weather forecast for Jackson, NJ on Friday and decided to head out to Great Adventure on Saturday for a Sunday visit. Unfortunately, we had to be back in Cincinnati by midnight so we knew we could only spend until 3 at the park, at the absolute latest.
We arrived at in the parking lot right at 10:30. The lot was rather empty upon arrival, which meant that we would probably have short wait times, at least for a while. Because of our time situation we knew that we wanted to get on all of the big coasters that we could and then see if there was time for anything else. We headed into the park, ducked left and headed straight for El Toro.
**NOTE** I'll simply list the rides we took on in order, give a quick review of that ride, and post some general observations at the end.
El Toro (wait time: 10 minutes, last row): I was looking forward to this ride the most. I've heard so many good things about this ride and the backseat in particular. The very fast chain lift is as advertised. The first three hills, particularly the first drop are absolutely terrific in the back. You fly over the first two airtime hills so quickly on this ride that you can't believe that's possible on a coaster, much less one that's wooden! The remainder of the ride, however, didn't do much for me. The twister section was good but I felt as though the ride really lost it's punch after those first three hills. The ride just seems as though it loses a lot of steam the last quarter of the ride, and we got off the ride feeling as if the ride left a lot to be desired. This feeling would change with a subsequent ride. Grade: B+
Batman, the Ride (walk on to last row): We rode this same ride at SFOG. We were impressed with how big a punch this ride packed both at SFOG and here, although we both felt the one at SFOG was a slightly more forceful. The zero-g roll on this ride is terrific and the forces, particularly for such a compact ride are impressive. Would be an "A" if the ride were longer. Grade: B+
Nitro (2 rides, 5 mins and 10 mins, last row): Last Row on Night Row! This coaster looks great as you're walking through the queue, as you can see most of the ride as you're meandering through what seems like a never-ending maze of switchbacks (which, thankfully weren't being used!) to get back to the station. We got to the station and waited two trains for the last row. The first drop is terrific. The twisty air you get on the two hills (the second and fifth as you turn to the left) in the back was really nice. The helix was good. The drop off the blocks was a surprising yank-you-out-of-your-seat moment. The remainder of the ride is just OK, but I do like the fact that the ride is long, has a beautiful layout, delivers some nice speed and is more than rerideable. We later took a ride in the second row, but there's not a lot of airtime up there, so I'd be much more apt to head to the back on subsequent visits. IMO, the ride is better than Goliath @ SFOG, but not as good as Behemoth @ CW. Grade: B+ in back row, B in the second row
Skull Mountain (walk on to third to last row): I believe The Interpreter mentioned that there was a nice pop of airtime on the drop towards the back, so with that in mind we headed to ride. The majority of the ride is extremely dark, and as advertised the drop does bring you out of your seat. The rest of the ride does some twisting and turning in the dark, but there aren't any additional cool moments of excitement that even come close to the first drop. It's a nice family friendly coaster, but I wouldn't wait more than 10 minutes for it. Grade: C+
Medusa (30 mins, last row): We wanted to ride this after El Toro but the sign said that it wouldn't open until noon (does anyone know whether this is true all the time?). Anyway, the Medusa line being half an hour (when our longest wait to the point was slightly less than 10 minutes) was a wake up call that the park was starting to get busy. The ride itself was a little above average. The zero-g roll in the back is outstanding, and the rest of the ride is fun. I have a feeling that this ride is probably better up front, but with the slow load times and the line slowly lengthening we couldn't stick around to find out. Grade: B
El Toro (45 mins, third row): We arrived at the entrance at 1, and the sign said 90 mins, which combined with the fact that the first ride wasn't mindblowing made my brother initially want to head to do something else (or head home) but I knew from reading previous trip reports that we could probably cut that figure in half. 45 minutes later we were in the third row of the front car. I didn't get the "El Toro is one of the best wooden coasters in the world" argument until the end of this ride, as the ride was simply fantastic. The ejector airtime is still there the first three hills, but the ride itself offers much more through the second half of the course up front because you feel the elements more. The moment of airtime just as you're going under Rolling Thunder is beyond amazing. The ride still peters out toward the end, though. Having ridden the Voyage two weeks ago I'll interject this; El Toro's first half is better, but Voyage's second half is MUCH better. The ride experiences are apples to oranges, though, so let's just say they're both great coasters and leave it there. This is the must ride at this park. Grade: A
We didn't do the following due to time constraints:
Superman: Ultimate Flight (we already rode at SFOG)
Kingda Ka (didn't open until just after 1, and we had ridden TTD a few weeks ago)
Great American Scream Machine (didn't want the headaches driving home!)
Rolling Thunder (only operating one side)
The Dark Knight (heard enough negative reviews and we just didn't have the time)
Overall, I thought the park was quite nice. The setting is beautiful with many rides overlooking the water and the trees with fall colors. The rides we did experience were enjoyable. Ride operations, for the most part, were satisfactory, with the exception of the Medusa crew who were stacking trains on every run. I can't think of any B&M that has three trains running on its course where I've ever seen stacking of all three trains the whole time, turning a line which should have been 15 minutes (tops) into 30. The only other complaint I have are the "Wait Time" signs. These signs, as mentioned by some others, are clearly there to promote Flash Pass sales. I'll save my thoughts on Flash Pass/other means of pay-to-cut systems for another time, but suffice it to say I thought this was a little underhanded. Other than that, the park is definitely worth visiting! El Toro is definitely one of the best coasters out there and if you get to the park just for this ride it's worth it. Thanks for reading!