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Monday, October 24, 2011

Six Flags gets scary for Halloween

Every October, we visit Six Flags over Georgia for their annual Fright Fest. The park gets decked out for the holiday, and character actors provide extras like trick-or-treating, spooky story time and musical performances. I remember being chased around the candy store by a creepy actor when I was in middle school, and every year I take my daughter for some pre-Halloween horrors.

Side note: I don't know why being immersed in a world of monsters and murderers is considered a fun thing for kids, but they love it, so... I'll just try not to over-think it.

We got our tickets free online (hooray for Coke Rewards), skipped the Flash Passes, packed a cooler and met some family at the site.

Parking, by the way, was 15-freaking-dollars-what-the-hell-people!

Cobwebs and gnarly branches stretched over the landscape, building facades and ride terminals. Theme music like "Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder and "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins played on rotation from the loudspeakers. The park train had been turned into a haunted attraction. The Dodge City Bumper Cars were enclosed and filled with smoke machines and lasers. The old-timey Hanson Cars track was lined with large-scale story boards containing a Halloween story for children. Seven-year-old Jackson and 6-year-old Emerson - were excited, "oooh"-ing and pointing at everything they saw. Thirteen-year-old Jacob was appropriately cool, but also pleased.

The park is not crowded at this time of year. Once school starts back and Little League is in full competition, people just can't schedule the time - so lines were short and frustrations were low. We jumped onto the Log Jamboree immediately, and then the Monster Manson. Hey, we had little kids with us. We started light.

We moved on to the kids' area, Bugs Bunny World, where we rode the Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster, a surprisingly fast and furious mini-roller coaster.

The Batman coaster was closed down for repairs, something that disappointed us all - and later in the day, the newer Dare Devil Dive also closed. So we hopped over to the haunted carousel; Up, Up and Away, the hot air balloon ride; and the Rockin' Tugboat. Let me tell you something important: That tugboat looks like a little kids' ride, and it doesn't do much in comparison to the roller coasters I adore. But that effer boat is the only ride in the park that can make me throw up. I never, ever ride it. We lost Jackson and his grandmother to the aftereffects, and left them with my iPod while they recovered.

Then we hopped it over to the Scream Machine - because we were doing things in no flippin' order, whatsoever.

The Great American Scream Machine, a wooden coaster. When it opened in 1973, it was the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world, and riders were given a "Red Badge of Courage" button for riding the coaster.
This is where we ran into trouble.

"I'M NOT GOEEND TA RIDE IT!" Emerson screamed.


Y'all. I realize that we should be sensitive to our children's feelings. We should not push them further than they can handle. But I do not do dramatics. And I know my child. She's a daredevil, and she would like it. Screeching is just the way she expresses nervousness. Or... anything, really.

Long story short, she rode that dang thing with my arms wrapped tightly around her, assuring her at every turn.

Afterwards, she jumped up and down with glee: "DAT WAS AWESOOOOOME!" she shrieked.


We moved on to the Dahlonega Mine Train (inexplicably long line, with a lady I think might have been a hooker), the Dodge City Bumper Cars (dead spot in the middle, so we didn't actually get to go anywhere), the Hanson Cars (Emerson is not getting her license until she's 35), then back to the Log Jamboree. Speaking of water rides, Thunder River and Splash Mountain are not open in October. Boo, Six Flags!

Then we took a break. Depending on where you are in the park, where you're parked and how many people are leaving at the same time, it can take between 20 and 45 minutes to get back to your car. Leaving as the park closes, parked at the back of the lot and insist on waiting for a tram? You'll probably die while waiting to get to your car. People will assume your corpse is part of the holiday decor and they won't realize what happened until they clean up in November. It will make the national news.

But at 3 p.m., parked close and willing to walk? No time at all.

We raided sandwiches, chips, cookies, and bottles of water from the cooler and made a picnic on the ground behind the car. My little Hyundai hatchback was nicely sheltered by the two obnoxiously oversized, matching Suburbans on either side of us. We even had room to lie down and enjoy the clouds go by overhead. Thanks, fossil fuel wasters! We nourished, hydrated and chilled for about 45 minutes, then went back inside.

As the day goes on, the park gets more crowded. The lines were longer, but there were things we all still wanted to ride. In checking out rides and finding them closed (Batman, Thunder River, Dare Devil, Splash Mountain) or embroiled in ridiculously long lines, we saw that the Ninja only had about a three-minute wait. Emerson was just tall enough to ride.

Yay! What 6-year-old girl would be afraid of this, right? The Ninja was originally built for Conko's Party Pier in New Jersey, where it was known as Kamikaze. It was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia in 1992 and was the tallest roller coaster in the park at that time.

Oddly, this did not actually make her happy. Her shrieks could be heard for miles. No, these were not the kind of shrieks that your child issues when legitimately scared or hurt. This is just her normal speaking voice when she gets slightly nervous. Little Miss Drama Queen takes everything to 11.

"Do I have to ride it?!" she shrieked. I nodded.


"Let's just go ride the Wheelie," Jacob suggested.

For some reason I'll never figure out, the Wheelie is a very popular ride. We waited in line for 30 minutes, the longest wait we had all day. Emerson alternated between excitement at riding the Wheelie and pouting at the thought of riding the Ninja.

"But I don' wanna ride anyfing what goes upside-down," she explained.
I pointed to the Wheelie. "You mean like that?"
She frowned and kicked the pole in front of her.

This went on for a while, until all I had to do was look at her and nod in a faux-menacing way. Then she would throw her body around like it was made of Jell-O. It was kind of hilarious, actually. But I decided to put a stop to the stubborn pretend hysterics with psychology. And Mom said I'd never use my college minor. Of course I will, Mom - to torture my own child.

"You know what? Maybe we shouldn't ride the Wheelie," I said. "If you don't want to go upside-down, this isn't a good idea."


"Well, then, you might as well ride the Ninja."

I hate to tell you how easy it was to manipulate her into insisting that we ride the Ninja. But it was like a scene from Bugs Bunny:

Me: "Yes!"
Her: "No!"
Me: "Yes!"
Her: "No!"
Me: "No!"
Her: "Yes! NinJA! NinJA! NinJA!"

Bottom line, she got on the roller coaster without further problems. We strapped in, and the ride started. Everything was fine. Really...

...until a quarter of the way of the very first hill, when she started kicking wildly.


Holy. Crapturds.

I began looking for a way off the coaster... but there was nothing I could do. I couldn't even hold her hand, because the overhead restraints are like iron maidens. I settled for folding her legs in mine.

"Emmie, honey, it's only three minutes and it's very safe. Deep breaths, baby. Take deep breaths. Remember our yoga?"

No bueno. She was too far gone. As we crested the hill and began our descent, she screamed one long keening note.

I am the worst mother in the world.

At the bottom, she went suddenly silent.

"Oh. My. God. My child has fainted," I thought. "She is unconscious, and they will call an ambulance, and they will revive her with smelling salts, and give her an IV of saline to hydrate her. She will tell them how I manipulated her into riding this stupid, effer roller coaster. Then they will take her away and put her in foster care and I won't see her again until she shows up on my doorstep, pregnant, at 16 years old."

Just as I was resigning myself to kidnapping her from her foster parents and spending the rest of my life traversing the globe on the lam... the most glorious sound I've ever heard. "Haaa! Ha hahahahahaaaaa!"

She was laughing! She was NOT lolling unconscious in her restraints! She was laughing, and she laughed all the way to the end of the ride!

"DAT WAS AWESOME!" she screamed again as we got off the roller coaster. She flew into a fierce hug with her monster mother, and kissed me on the cheek.

"Fanks, mom! You show me dat my fears of dis roller coaster were wrong!" she laughed, and skipped towards the exit. "I rided a big-girl roller coaster! I'm seven years old, now!"

She was ecstatic. And, apparently, a year older. I stumbled behind her, bewildered. Excuse me, Universe, but - what? Are you supposed to reward crappy parenting?!

Oh, well. No harm, no foul.

We had declared it her turn to pick a ride if she rode the Ninja, and she did. So it was her call.

"Pick something fun, Emmie," Jacob pleaded.

I don't think the Convoy Grande, a children's ride that moves at a speed best described as "glacial," is what he had in mind. But that was her choice. Even more unfortunate for Jacob, they wouldn't let me on the ride with Emerson so my good-sport nephew went with her.

In a race between this convoy and a turtle, it would be a photo finish.
This tall, masculine teenager gangling off the sides of this low-speed parade of toddler-sized Tonka trucks was about the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.

"Go, Speed Racer!" I shouted as he chugged by.
"Shut up!" he hollered, with a grin that has slain a dozen middle-school girls.

They went around a couple more times while I laughed until I choked.

"Slow down, Lightning McQueen! Too fast!" I yelled.
I'd repeat what he said, but he was speaking in sign language... sort of.

We let Emmie run around the children's area some more, riding the Fiesta Wheel, Little Aviator, Santa Maria and Tweety's Tree House. She ran from character to character, collecting candy - that Jacob and I very thoughtfully ate for her. Because we were being helpers.

Night was falling. Sweet! That's when the monster actors are out in full force. Zombies. Swamp things. Vampires. Random furry crazy-toothed animals. This was the best part!

Except, no. Nope, nope, nope. Two lame-o zombies, both protected by park personnel, is all we saw.

Where were these dudes? I want to hang out with them!
No matter. We'd had ridden everything Emerson was tall enough to get on, and Jacob had taken care of the larger stuff - Goliath, the Georgia Scorcher - before we even met up with him. Plus, it was pitch dark and we had been there for 10 hours.

We skipped the line for the trams and walked to our car, playing keep-away from each other with the candy bag... what there was left of it. Emerson was asleep before we hit the expressway, and Jacob and I laughed all the way home.

Like all of our visits in October, this trip to Six Flags was complaint-free. We'll be back next year.

If you go (in October):

Bring: sunscreen, a jacket for later in the day, $15 for parking, $10 per person for the Haunted House, good walking shoes, a small backpack to carry snacks and water bottles.

Leave: grumpiness, fear, tiredness.


  1. Hahaha. I went this past Saturday with 4 kids and a similar experience plus a $90 lunch for 6 people, should have packed that cooler...dang.

    Really enjoying your blog!

  2. I hope that you didn't torture your children the way we do ours. It breeds character. But one day they will get revenge...

    Food is where they get you, man! I'm a cooler-toting maniac. I even have an insulated cooler TOTE ( that doubles as a purse when needed. LOVE that thing!

    Thanks so much for reading!

  3. I wish I could have gone with you! I hate it that I missed torturing Jacob on the baby ride!

  4. I wish you could have gone, too! Except I don't know who this is - LOL! But, hey, the more the merrier!