Theme park-ologist Crystal Lindell has 10 tips for a greater Great America visit

A skyline of roller coasters, the smell of funnel cake and sunscreen in the air and Mr. Six dancing to your left – isn’t Six Flags Great America, well, great?

I’m what you’d call a self-taught expert on the Gurnee-based theme park, and, over the last few years, I’ve become quite savvy when it comes to its ins and outs. Have no fear though, you too can get through a day there like a pro.

I’ve compiled an unofficial guide to get the most of your day – from which bathrooms to use to the best time of day to ride the Raging Bull. Have fun!

10. Use the Washington Street entrance. You’re likely going to spend most of your day in line, so you should try to avoid it while your in the car. The best way to do this is to use the Washington Street entrance at the south side of the park. You’ll avoid the Interstate 94 crowds and get to drive underneath the American Eagle – a great way to get in the roller coaster state of mind.

9. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to go. Everyone thinks Mondays are the secret weekday weapon, but because everyone thinks that, they aren’t. If you want to avoid long lines at the coasters and huge crowds at the wave pool, try to hit the park mid-week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best, although Thursdays are a close second. For those stuck in Monday-through-Friday jobs and therefore are forced to go on a weekend, Sundays slightly edge out Saturdays. I call it the “church effect.”

8. Never pay full-price for parking – it’s not worth it. Parking is so necessary that it’s basically a part of the admission cost. But there is a way to save a little money here. The park charges two different rates for two different lots – $25 for the close spots and $15 for the general lot. I recommend never paying the $25; the lot isn’t that much closer and you can use the $10 you saved to buy a funnel cake.

7. Never pay full-price admission! There’s an exclamation mark on this tip for a reason. There is never a time when you should pay the adult gate price of $54.99. Ever. It’s so outrageously high that it’s just $20 less than the $74.99 season pass, which you know, is good for an entire SEASON! You’re in luck though because I guarantee you can get discounts – just buy online, buy from a Jewel grocery store or bring an empty Coke can.

6.Thirsty? Drink water for free. Little known fact – the food vendors at Great America will give you a free cup of water if you ask for it. You’re welcome.

5. Use the secret bathrooms. Never, ever, ever use the bathrooms by the front gate. They’re way too busy. Instead, go to your right as you enter the park, and then around the corner. There, to your left, across from the Whizzer roller coaster and behind the bushes, are what I like to call the secret bathrooms. No, wait. I promise.

4. Hit the Raging Bull early. The Raging Bull roller coaster is the most popular ride in the park, but everyone likes to ride it at night. If you want to get on without waiting two hours, hit it first thing. Then, you might get lucky and have to wait just 45 minutes.

3. Use the side locker rooms in the water park. When you enter Hurricane Harbor, Great America’s water park, you might be tempted to hit the first set of lockers you see. Don’t. Instead, walk around the bathroom building and there you’ll find a whole separate section of lockers and benches; chances are you’ll be able to lather up on the sunscreen while stretching out your arms.

2. Don’t hunt for Tweety. So, the whole goal for your day is for your kid to get a picture with Tweety? Don’t spend all your time bird-hunting. Instead, check out the new “character stands” which detail which character will be there and when.

1. Face your fears and have fun! The reason I love Great America so much can be summed up in one word – fear. Last summer I went on the Dare Devil Dive – a bungee-cord like ride that (unfortunately) costs extra. I was so freaked out that when I finally got back on solid ground my legs were shaking, but knowing I had conquered the ride made me feel like I could do anything – even wait two hours for the Raging Bull.


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