“But it’s the X-Flight! Please, please take me with you! I have to go to Great America!”
It’s been a while since I’ve made the trek to Great America. The family vacation to Walt Disney World raised the bar, and it was going to take the promise of a revolutionary coaster—the X-Flight—and a couple of begging teens, to get me to go. The long and short of it? I did go—and here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about a visit:
You don’t have to like coasters to enjoy the park—but it helps
Roller coaster junkies love Great America for a reason—it’s got more thrill rides than you can shake a stick at. The newest? X-Flight, one of the world’s first wing coasters, and one of just two in the United States. Riders sit aside the track, with nothing above or below, making for a thrilling ride.
Best bet: Head straight to the back of the park for this ride, then circle back and take on the American Eagle or Raging Bull—both ride entrances are relatively close to X-Flight and may save you some time.
Girlfriend tip: There with your kids and not a line-waiting kind of gal? Pop a squat in the shade at the County Fair Food Court, bring a book, and let the kids find you for lunch.
Have wallet, will eat—there’s no shortage of theme park food
Making the mad dash to the coasters, one of the first things I noticed about the park (besides how well-kept it is—and it is!) was the plethora of food options. Everything from the familiar Johnny Rockets to standard food court fare. One thing to keep in mind is this: you will spend a fair amount on grub, so be prepared (3 pops and a single pretzel cost us $19.50.)
Best bet: If you’re a season pass kind of family, you may want to explore the new food pass ($60) offered this season. With it, you’ll get a lunch and dinner from a select menu with every visit.
Girlfriend tip: If you like to live on a budget, you can still make it work—the park offers re-entry stamps, meaning you can pack a cooler, head back to the car for a quick lunch break (sans crowds!) Finding the cheapest lunch not a concern? Consider renting a King Cabana ($250) at Hurricane Harbor—it seats up to 8, includes a fully stocked refrigerator, a safe for your valuables and also has a 32-inch flatscreen for when you just can’t take a break from the TV.
With so much to do, chances are you won’t ride ‘em all in a day—so relax
There are close to 50 thrill and family rides—so many even the most-seasoned line waiter won’t have enough time in the day to hit them all. You can avoid anxiety over which rides to choose altogether with the purchase of a season pass ($60 – $200)—something families with older kids may consider once the kids are too big for neighborhood pool passes.
Best bet: The regular season pass pays for itself in two visits—well worth considering earlier in the season. The XTreme Pass offers a number of discounts, coupons and bring a friend free options. There’s also the Flash Pass, which is priced based upon the number of people in your party, and has limited availability.
Girlfriend tip: You’re going to be sick of lines about two hours in, so choose your rides wisely and practice yoga poses while on queue. Namaste!