Six Flags Great America is located in Gurnee Illinois, around 40 minutes north of Chicago. In 2019 I visited the park twice…well 3 times if you count the day we drove 3 and a half hours from Iowa, just to find out it was closed. So my first tip would be to check the opening hours the morning you plan to visit! (I couldn’t believe it was shut on the Friday of Labor Day weekend in AUGUST…August is peak theme park time in the UK!) I’m a huge fan of theme parks so here are some of my Six Flags Great America tips (near Chicago)!
Disclosure AD: This post contains affiliate links. I was part of the 2019 blogger programme so received complimentary passes for my 2nd visit in exchange for coverage on my blog and social media. As always opinions are 100% my own. For more information check out my Privacy and Disclosure Policy.
Six Flags Great America opens for the 2021 season on April 24th. Check out their website for current visiting policies.
Six Flags Great America Tips
1. Take as little into the park as possible
I try to do this EVERY time I visit a theme park. If you can, don’t take a bag into the park. Obviously you can, but I really don’t like leaving my stuff unattended while I’m on the rides. I either wear clothes that have zipped/buttoned pockets or I’ll have a travel money belt that I wear under my t-shirt. Then I’ll have my phone (camera!) and a coin purse with a bit of cash and a credit card. I even put my car key fob (not the whole bunch of keys) into the coin purse too.
If you plan on going on any water rides, I put these items into a Ziploc bag, just to try and then make them a bit waterproof!
2. Have a game plan
I am terrible for this. If you know that a ride is popular, go to it as early as possible! Make a beeline for it and join the line as soon as the gates open! My second visit was just after the brand new rollercoaster ‘Maxx Force’ opened, so I headed straight for that one first. I joined the line when the wait time was 45 minutes, later on in the day it was well over 90 minutes.
Otherwise head for the rides and attractions that are the furthest away from the entrance. I’ve found that a lot of visitors tend to join the lines that are closest to the gate first. The deeper into the park you go, the wait times will be shorter.
Because theme park tickets are often very expensive, I tend not to then buy fast passes on top. I just try my best to maximise my time using the regular lines.
3. Front row rider lines
As you get closer to the front of the line, many rollercoasters will have a separate line that splits off for the front row rider seats. These lines obviously go much slower, as you are waiting for only a couple of seats, rather than having the option of every other row on the train.
I love being a front row rider but because of just how many rides are at Six Flags, you have to be selective as to how you spend your time queuing. Even in the regular line it’d be a challenge to do most of the rides, after all there are 12 rollercoasters ALONE! So in that case if you were only going to pick 1 ride to be in the front seat, I recommend choosing ‘X Flight’! X Flight is a winged coaster so you have no track above or below your seat, the track is in the middle. At one point you head straight for a wall before the track twists at the last minute and you go through a tiny slot! For a second it looks like you are going to smash straight into the wall!
4. My Favourite Six Flags Great America Rides
So as you can imagine, I think X Flight is one of the best rides at Six Flags Great America! Here’s my top 5 favourites:
- X Flight
- Vertical Velocity (0-70mph in 4 seconds, I LOVE fast acceleration rides! This is an inverted rollercoaster with two 185ft vertical tracks)
- Maxx Force (Another fast acceleration coaster 0-78mph in 2 seconds!)
- Raging Bull (This is the longest ride in the park, with a track length of just under 1 mile)
- Goliath (Goliath is a bit of a brain shaker but I’ve never experienced a rollercoaster like it! When it opened it held 3 ‘wooden rollercoaster’ World Records for being the fastest at 72mph and having the tallest and steepest drop at 180ft high and 85 degrees. It even goes upside down and all you have is a lap bar!)
5. Buy a reusable drink cup
The reusable drink cups are a great way to save money while at Six Flags. I’m terrible for not drinking at all while at theme parks (partly due to lack of carrying a bag around), so for me the drink cup was perfect. If you’re visiting as a couple or are willing to share, it’s a bit of a bargain. The cup costs $20 (including tax) but then you get free unlimited refills for the rest of the day. You only need to refill it 3 times to get your money back (regular single use cups or bottles are between $5 – $7!).
You simply go up to any drink station around the park to refill it. So as a couple we took turns to choose what drink we refilled it with. The person that chose the refill was then responsible for carrying the cup (which has a helpful little handle on the top)! Many of the attractions have special cup holders where you can leave it while on the ride (the holders are numbered so simply remember what number hole you leave the cup in).
If you return to Six Flags for another visit you can take the cup back and they’ll put a different coloured wristband on it. This gives you $1 refills instead of unlimited. It saves you from buying another cup but you do then have to pay each time you refill it rather than have the cashless transaction of the unlimited refills!
6. Food is expensive
No surprise. Food is expensive. But that’s expected at large attractions. If you don’t take your own food, a possible option, like the drink, is to split the food. We didn’t want to eat too much at the park as we didn’t want to puke getting thrown around on rides. But we did get hungry. A chicken strips and fries meal cost around $15, so we shared it and split the price. The chicken strips were actually really good and we ended up with 3 each so it was enough to hold us over. There are several different restaurants nearby outside of the park.
7. Stay in a hotel & park for free or pay to park at Six Flags
I’ve done both.
Parking at Six Flags Great America costs $30 per vehicle. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves with theme parks. Often the parks are in the middle of nowhere so you have no choice but to drive and pay. When you’ve already spent $60 per person for a park ticket, and then have to pay an extra $30 for parking it’s a little annoying. For a couple that then makes the ticket $75 each. (On the visit where I redeemed my free tickets, I did still have to pay for parking).
If you stay at a nearby hotel, you can park at the hotel for free and then walk to the park. We found the Super 8 to be the cheapest hotel to Six Flags…the day we visited the hotel wasn’t much more than the parking fee at the park. It cost around $55 for the night. When we arrived, we let the reception know that we had a booking and could we leave the car even though the room wasn’t ready. They said yes. Super 8 is just under 1 mile from the Six Flags entrance gate and it took around 15 minutes to walk there. Feels a lot longer on the way back, after a whole day walking around the park though!