Six Flags Great Adventure is the record-breaking, iconic amusement park in Jackson, NJ. The park draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country every year so that they can conquer the tallest roller coaster in the world, Kingda Ka, or make their way through the array of family-friendly rides and attractions. With Great Adventure located only about 70-80 minutes from Midtown Manhattan, the park is also a prime spot for NYC families during the summer.
However, Great Adventure can be quite overwhelming for families for two main reasons: crowds and thrill rides. Especially during the summer, the park can get extremely crowded. You might find yourself waiting in line for two to three hours for the popular rides. And while the epic thrill rides – the tallest pendulum in the world, the first ever stand up coaster, and the tallest and fastest drop coaster in the world – are exciting for teenagers, adults, and the thrill-seeking kids, the presence of these enormous rides can be overwhelming for young families. Living only five minutes away from Great Adventure, I’ve grown up at this park with my younger brothers. I know it inside and out. If you’re planning a family trip to Six Flags Great Adventure this summer, check out this guide for how to have the very best experience possible!
Avoid the Crowds
First, let’s tackle the crowd problem. Nobody likes waiting in lines, especially kids who will surely get restless and bored quite quickly. In the heat of the summer, the last thing you want to do is spend more time waiting in line than experiencing the park. And if you live in NYC, it’s not like Great Adventure is in your backyard, so you want to make the most of your day. There are a few strategies I’ve learned over the years to avoid the crowds and the long waits.
No smiling faces as people wait in this long line to ride El Toro at Great Adventure. Photo by AdVenture Capitalist.
While it may be obvious, the early bird gets the worm and on time is late. Whichever cliche you prefer, cliches are overused and typical for a reason: they’re true! If you are only spending one day at the park, get there early for the best parking, the quickest admission, and about an hour or two of shorter lines before the crowds pour in. The park opens at 10:30 am, so I would advise getting there at 10 am. Trust me, you’d much rather wait those 20 or so minutes at the start (by the time you park and get in line for admission) than wait later on in the day as the sun gets hotter and more people arrive.
Similarly, you could get there in the evening, around 5 pm, and stay until close, which is 9:30-10 pm, depending on the day. The evening is typically when a lot of people who spent the morning and afternoon at the park leave, which opens up the rides for you! My family enjoys going in the evening, right after dinner, because we save money on snacks and meals, and the evening sun is a lot cooler than during the day. But the time is totally up to you – a lot of families enjoy the early option so that they have more time at the park, but you can also get on a lot of rides in four to five hours in the evening.
Another way to avoid the crowds is to plan to go to Great Adventure on a rainy day. Yes, you read that right. The crowds are largest on the beautiful sunny days, but on rainy weekdays, you’ll have your pick of rides (sometimes with no line at all). Another helpful tip: weekdays are key! You want to avoid weekends at the park at all costs – rain or shine. Especially for families, the crowds that collect on weekends are very overwhelming just walking through the park, let alone waiting in the long lines. Now, back to the rainy day trick; if it’s thunderstorming, that’s a different story, because then Six Flags will shut down many of the rides for safety. But if you find a day that has scattered showers, put on your raincoats and head to the park.
The drive from NYC to NJ might be a little rainy, but a little rain never hurt (and actually, for your Six Flags trip, it will help!).
Of course, rainy weather is not a common preference, but it really does allow you to get everything done that you want to at the park. And a light drizzle or rain can actually be quite nice on a hot day. If it happens to start pouring rain, the fun doesn’t have to stop. Skull Mountain, The Dark Knight Coaster, Studio 28 Arcade, and Houdini’s Great Escape are great indoor rides and attractions where you’ll stay dry. If you find yourself not near any of these four when the rain starts, pop into a gift shop or restaurant/cafe until the rain calms down. If you couldn’t already tell, my family and I have this strategy mastered. Now, should your trip include Hurricane Harbor, then this rainy day strategy probably won’t apply, but I’ll get to Hurricane Harbor later.
So now that you know how to avoid the crowds, let’s get to the rides. Great Adventure is known for their record-breaking thrill rides, but don’t let the insane speeds and heights of these rides fool you: Six Flags is very much a family-oriented park. The family-friendly rides may not get as much attraction, after all, they’re not the tallest nor the fastest nor the most innovative in the world, but these classic rides have been providing family fun for years. Having grown up on these rides, and then watch my brothers grow up on these same rides, I know a thing or two about their allure. If you’re looking for a true family experience, check out the best rides in the park for the whole family to ride together:
The pirate ship is a classic family ride, because it’s sort of in the middle between a ride for young kids and big kids, although there is no minimum height as long as an adult rides with them. But that same feeling in your stomach that you feel on Zumanjaro, the world’s tallest and fastest drop coaster, you also feel on the Buccaneer. Although no minimum height is specified, if your kids are scared of heights and big rides, as I was for most of my childhood, then the Buccaneer may not be the best ride. But if your kids are upset about not being tall enough for the big coasters, then they’ll love the thrill of the Buccaneer.
Check out the height on the classic Buccaneer! Photo by Great Adventure History.
On a hot summer day, you don’t have to head over to Hurricane Harbor to stay cool. Great Adventure has its very own water ride for families. Up to twelve people fit into each raft, so likely you and another family will be paired together. The raft drifts along the river’s current with little waves and water coming from all directions. Much like the Buccaneer, little ones may get scared on this ride with its unexpected twists and turns, so just be mindful of this. The minimum height is 36 inches with an adult.
My all time, childhood favorite ride, the teacups are the perfect ride for families. The best part about the teacups is that the ride is what you make it. There’s a little spinning table in the middle of each teacup to spin, so the faster you spin, the more intense the ride will be! It’s our family joke that our dad makes the teacups a more intense ride than Kingda Ka (the tallest roller coaster in the world) because of how fast he whips our teacup around. The ride often turns into a competition with other teacups to see who can spin the fastest. Whether you just want to sit back and enjoy the light spin or spin the teacup like crazy, the Enchanted Teacups are great for families.
Take a whirl with the Teacups and see how fast you can go!
Parachute Training Center
Edwards AFB: While the 250-foot parachute tower may look intimidating, this ride is one of the smoothest in the park. Kids often ride with their parents on the parachute as they soar to the top of the tower. Enjoy the view at the top for a little while before being gently brought back down to the ground. This is not by any means a version of a drop coaster- it’s a calm and scenic ride, perfect for families. Fun fact: this ride was inspired by the Coney Island original parachute Jump, and it is the largest modern parachute ride ever built. It is also the only remaining ride of its kind in the nation!
Rides for Kids
In addition to rides for the whole family, mom and dad, you don’t have to accompany your children on all the rides at the park. Six Flags has plenty of rides designed specifically for your little ones so that they can experience a miniaturized version of thrill! Most of the rides for kids are grouped together for your convenience, located near Nitro (the huge yellow roller coaster- trust me, you won’t miss it). If you want to head right to the kiddie area as your first destination, when you walk into the park, make a right at the fountain and walk towards the ferris wheel. If you just keep walking straight, passing the ferris wheel on your right, you’ll eventually see the kiddie rides. You could also just look for Nitro – it’s pretty visible from anywhere on that right side of the park. There’s only so much you can tackle in a day, so add these top rides for kids to your Six Flags bucket list:
Bugs Bunny Rides
There are several Bugs Bunny-themed rides in the kiddie section, some of the best being the Camp Carousel and the Ranger Pilots. There’s also the Bugs Bunny National Park Water Tower for kids to play underneath on a hot day.
Kids love soaring around in these mini planes! Photo by Great Adventure History.
A miniature (very miniature) version of the thrilling drop-coaster, Zumanjaro, on the other side of the park, Jumpin’ Joey has kids giggling and laughing nonstop. The little drop ride moves up and down at unexpected times, complete with a thick safety bar that goes across everyone’s laps for safety.
The 242-foot tower of swing, Sky Screamer, isn’t the only place to get your swinging fix in the park. Taz Tornado is a miniature version (or I guess normal version, as Six Flags reinvented the classic kiddie ride into a thrill ride a few summers ago with Sky Screamer) of the swings. Kids love the cool wind whipping through their hair as the swings soar in the sky.
Feel the wind in your hair on these swings for kids! Photo by Great Adventure History.
Daffy Hot Air Balloons
The bright-colored hot air balloons always catch your eye when you walk by. The hot air balloons lift into the air and spin around. Much like the teacups, the hot air balloons can spin as fast your kids want them to with the spinning table in the center!
How to Conquer the Park With Kids of Different Ages & Interests
With the wide range of rides for all ages, visiting Great Adventure with your family can be a little difficult to navigate if your kids are of all different ages. It can also become an issue if you have one thrill-seeker and another who is very afraid of heights. So how do you make everyone happy during your Six Flags trip? My advice is to split the day half and half: the first half is family time and the second half is the “let’s make sure we all get to the rides we want” time.
First, make sure that you establish with your kids beforehand that you will spend the first few hours all together. That way, they know exactly what to expect walking into the park. During this first half of the day, try to stick to rides and attractions that you want to do together as a family. Take family photos, ride the family rides, and eat lunch together. There is so much to do and experience as a family at the park, so make sure that you get this family time in before you split up to head to the thrill or kiddie rides.
Family time is key! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
Once family time is over (you’ll know when your kids who are tall enough for the big rides start begging to get in line for one of these thrillers), mom and dad can split up with the kids. My dad used to take my brother and I around to the thrill rides, while my mom took my youngest brother around to the kiddie rides when we were younger. It’s great to set a time and a place that you want to meet back up. I always found the fountain to be a good meet-up spot. It’s near the entrance and centered in the middle of the park. After you meet back up and head to the exit, stop in the gift shops on your way out, or enjoy a cup of Dippin’ Dots as one last family memory at the park together!
Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom and Kingda Ka better be on your bucket list for the thrill seekers out there during splitting up time! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
And don’t forget about Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth, the brand NEW world’s tallest pendulum! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
Speaking of food in the park, Six Flags is overloading with places to eat. But be mindful that the prices for food and drinks are very expensive. Six Flags is smart – they don’t allow you to bring food into the park, so they know that you’ll pay for a snack when you’re hungry. I recommend eating before you come to the park. That way, you’ll likely only have to pay for one meal or snack when you’re there. However, the park has some great family-friendly places to grab a bite. If you’re planning on eating at the park, check out these top places for families:
Looney Tunes Camp Kitchen
Located right near all of the kiddie rides, this is a convenient spot to eat lunch with plenty of options for kids. In addition to meals, the restaurant also has snacks, such as popcorn, cotton candy, and hot pretzels if you’re looking for a quick bite.
Totally Kickin’ Chicken
Located next to El Toro, this restaurant has a delicious selection of chicken tenders – a childhood favorite. They also have chicken wings and a variety of sauces. If you find yourself near El Diablo or El Toro, then this is a great place to sit down and enjoy lunch.
These pizzerias are located in a few locations around the park, so you’ll likely come across one as you’re walking around. While the pizza slices are a bit expensive, they’re also huge and super cheesy, so in a way, you get your money’s worth. Their french fries are also amazing, and they have healthy salads as well.
There are two Johnny Rockets: one right near the entrance of the park and one near Nitro. If you’re unsure of where to eat, you can’t go wrong with this well-known restaurant. Enjoy milkshakes, burgers, hot dogs, french fries, and more!
Who doesn’t love a classic chocolate milkshake? Extra whipped cream? Yes please! Photo by @johnnyrockets Instagram.
This popular way to eat ice cream is all over the park in both carts and established places. Kids love seeing all of the colorful dots, and of course, eating them to cool off!
Ice cream is overrated. Cool off with Dippin’ Dots instead. Just kidding, ice cream, we still love you, but Dippin’ Dots are pretty cool. Photo by @dippindots Instagram.
Another great option on a hot summer day, Italian Ice from Rita’s is a delicious treat for all ages. If your kids are more into ice cream, they also have soft-serve ice cream. Try the vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles!
Not even half of all Rita’s Italian Ice flavors…Photo by Rita’s Italian Ice.
If you feel that your dietary needs are not met at the park (or you’re on a budget!), you can still pack lunch in a cooler. You won’t be able to bring your lunch into the park, but leave it in the car and return midday. Six Flags allows you to leave the park and return, as long as you get your hand stamped. So when your family starts getting hungry, you can head back to the parking lot and enjoy your lunch outside or in the car before heading back into the park. There’s also a WaWa just before the entrance into the park, so if you want to stop and grab food for a cheaper price on your way to the park, WaWa is a good option. But again, do not bring food or beverages to the front gate!
Safety is always a number one priority, especially in a park full of thousands of people with huge thrill rides. Six Flags is committed to providing a safe experience for all families. Six Flags ride operations staff thoroughly inspects the rides every day before the park opens, and park attendants check harnesses and seat belts on every single ride. If a ride closes because of “technical difficulties,” don’t be discouraged. The park would not reopen the ride if it was not 100 percent safe. Kingda Ka is one of those rides that shuts down every now and then, but do not worry when this happens!
No matter how crazy these record-breaking rides look, they’re guaranteed to be safe! By the way, check out this ride: Superman. You ride laying on your stomach! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
Personal Items Safety
In terms of storing small backpacks or cell phones, there are locker kiosks located near all of the major coasters, so basically all over the park. I always use the lockers whenever I go. While you could keep your phone in your pocket, it is highly discouraged on the thrill rides. Also, if you get to the front of the line and the park attendees see any loose articles on you – phone, sunglasses, etc. – you will have to leave your articles on the side, in the open cubbies on the platform. It is much better to just put all of your belongings safely into a locker beforehand to avoid this situation! The lockers are not expensive and they’re very spacious, so you can likely use one locker for the whole family. I always like to recollect my belongings from the locker when I get off the ride. While you could leave them in the locker as you head to another ride, you don’t want to have to walk all the way back to your locker later. It’s also comforting to know that your personal belongings are somewhere near you.
Storage lockers with an electronic passcode keep your personal items safe! Photo by Six Flags.
Six Flags has a wonderful First Aid Center located in the Boardwalk area, behind Garden State Grill. Should your kids get a little cut or scrape, head over there to get it all cleaned up. They’re very kind and accommodating at the First Aid Center – your kids will be ready for more family fun in no time!
Events & Other Activities
The summer is packed with events and special activities for you and your family! The fun doesn’t stop with the rides, because Six Flags is committed to providing family experiences and memories in all aspects. Check out some of these family-oriented events and activities:
July 4th Fest (July 3-6)
The Macy’s Fireworks Show is stunning, but Great Adventure does July 4th pretty well. There’s plenty of giveaways, coca-cola samples, games, and, of course, fireworks! The show starts at 10 pm.
After a long day at the park, enjoy a beautiful fireworks show to celebrate the 4th of July!
Medieval Times Knight Demonstration (July 27)
Six Flags is bringing the Medieval Times experience to you this summer! Knights, queens, and lords will gather for Q&As, giveaways, photo opportunities, and a duel. The Medieval Times Knight Demonstration and all of the festivities are included with park admission.
Watch the Knights battle it out at Great Adventure! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
Character Meet & Greet
Your favorite Looney Tunes Characters are all around the park, excited to meet you! High five Bugs Bunny and take pictures with all of the Looney Tunes. You’ll find these characters near the park entrance and the Kiddie area.
Meet your favorite Looney Tunes characters!
If you happen to stay until closing, end the night at the park dancing it out with the Looney Tunes characters. 45 minutes before closing, head to the Main Street Fountain near the entrance/exit, and hang with the Looney Tunes and street performers.
Bring your kids to the dance floor for this block party! Photo by Ricky Bambara.
Six Flags has a lot of games, located all over the park. There’s the indoor Studio 28 Arcade and a large cluster of games near the Superman and Green Lantern coasters. While games are always fun to play, here’s a little tip: the games are designed to be extremely difficult to win, and often the gaming sessions turn into a spiral of dollar bills lost. There is so much that you can do at the park for free with your general admission ticket. Take advantage of all of the rides first! My parents always set a limit for the games before we entered the park. The prizes are tempting, as many are superhero themed. But try to gear your trip more towards the amazing rides and included special events. Yet if you’re looking for game suggestions, my family loves the water shooting race and the giant crane near Superman and Green Lantern, and my younger brothers like to play the basketball challenge. But the best advice I have for games is to limit the number of games and attempts per game and to play the games that you think you can win. Mom and dad, even if you win the prize for your kids, they’ll love the feeling of proudly carrying around their stuffed animal or wearing their cape for the rest of the day.
Safari Off Road Adventure
Not only does Great Adventure feature rides and games, but come visit over 1,200 animals from six continents! Included with park admission, explore the 350-acre preserve in a tour, accompanied by skilled drivers and guides. Along the way, you’ll stop at Camp Aventura, the home of the youngest animals, to jump on a zipline, feed giraffes (for an extra cost), see some smaller animals, and even pet these exotic creatures! Camp Aventura also celebrates World Animal Days with games, arts & crafts, and prizes, all related to the animal of the day. If you’re looking for a break from the thrills, embark on this safari adventure.
Get up close and personal with lots of different species at Camp Aventura! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
Aren’t these giraffes just the cutest? Hang out with giraffes on your Safari Off Road Adventure! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
While there is surely a lot to do at Great Adventure, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, the neighboring waterpark, is an (almost) equally exciting experience. However, if you are going to take the trip to Jackson, NJ, I would recommend going to Great Adventure. The park is truly a must-do and a must-see on anybody’s bucket list, especially for families. But if the weather is unbearably hot, Hurricane Harbor may be a better idea. Keep in mind, though, that Hurricane Harbor closes at 6:30 pm (earlier than Great Adventure). Make sure to swim in the wave pool (Blue Lagoon), take a ride in the lazy river, and visit Discovery Bay, the shallow water playground for kids!
If you’re feeling a bit daring, race your family down the Big Wave Racer at Hurricane Harbor! Photo by Hurricane Harbor.
How to Get Discounted or Free Tickets
If you drink Coke, either regular or diet, often, you may have noticed the little print on the side that mentions Six Flags. Well, it’s time to start saving your Coke cans, because they can score you really great discounts at the park. You can either bring a coke can to the front gate on the day that you go to receive a discount on your ticket or buy your ticket online using the Coca-Cola online discount.
Earn $15-$25 off your ticket with coke cans. We love this Six Flags & Coca Cola Partnership!
Six Flags Read to Succeed
Who knew that recreational reading came with rewards beyond the joy of the story? Six Flags encourages kids to read for fun. In order to promote reading as a recreational activity, your kids can actually earn free tickets – all they have to do is complete six hours of reading! The one catch is that your kid’s school has to participate in the program. It’s available to all schools that enroll students in grades K through 6, so check to see if your school participates. And if they don’t, consider pitching the program! It’s both a great encouragement of learning for fun rather than as an obligation and a way to earn free tickets to Six Flags.
Six Flags partners with many schools, public and private, to promote reading and give out free tickets! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
As my brothers and I got older, my parents considered not buying season passes. But my dad always says that if you go twice to the park, you already get your money’s worth if you buy a season pass as opposed to daily tickets. If you think that you might visit the park a few times during the summer, consider buying season passes. Not only will you save money, but members get a lot of special deals, upgrades, and special opportunities, like Members Only Hours, food and beverage deals, and Bring a Friend for Free Days. The season pass also lasts through the fall and the holidays, so you can check out Fright Fest and holiday festivities on weekends during the school year and on winter break.
Come visit Holiday in the Park for a holiday spirit & experience like no other! Photo by Six Flags Great Adventure.
Holiday in the Park might be cold weather on the outside, but it’s full of warm energy & hugs on the inside! Photo by Robert Rosetta.
One more, just because we can’t enough of Holiday in the Park! Photo by Robert Rosetta.
Six Flags Great Adventure is a truly memorable experience. Some of the best memories that I have with my family are at this park, like the day that we planned to go on a rainy day to avoid the crowds, but we got stuck in the pouring rain. We were soaked, but we didn’t really care, because we got to ride all of our favorite rides with no lines! And I’ll always remember the first time I rode Kingda Ka. My dad made us wait for the front row, because according to him, you never actually experience a roller coaster until you ride it front row (for the thrill seekers out there, wait in line to ride front row for at least one coaster during your visit – you’ll forget all about the wait once you feel the excitement of the front row).
With its family rides, special events, and constant thrills to keep you smiling and laughing during your entire visit, Great Adventure is the perfect destination for your family this summer. Family trips can often be stressful, as there is much to remember (don’t forget the sunblock!) and plan, especially for a park that may seem overwhelming at first. Hopefully this guide to Six Flags Great Adventure made your upcoming trip to Jackson, NJ a little easier to navigate. We all need a little NYC escape sometimes, so hop in the car and drive over to Great Adventure. And refer back to this guide for all of the advice, tips, and tricks that you need to conquer the iconic park – family style!