In the so-called Mid-City of Arlington, Texas, nigh unto the Ballpark in Arlington where the Texas Rangers play baseball, lies the Metroplex equivalent of the Magical Kingdom: the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. While there are other Six Flags parks scattered across the USA, this is the original.
It’s so-called because the flags of six nations have indeed flown over Texas, being those of Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederacy (and then back, of course, to the U.S.). This is an important part of Texas tradition, and if you grow up here it’s drilled into you during the Texas History classes you have to take in 7th and 11th grades. Now, it’s possible that the flags of other countries may have briefly flow over our state — for example, there’s some indication that there might have been a short-lived British outpost here in the very early days of European colonization — but the Big Six are the ones everyone recognizes.
But back to the theme park that’s styled itself after this particular piece of Texas lore.
Six Flags Over Texas isn’t the biggest theme park ever — it’s not a patch on any of the bigger Disney properties, I’d imagine — but at 212 acres, it’s pretty darn large. Biggest I’ve ever seen, anyway, and a lot bigger than the 75 acres operated by Astroworld in Houston — which I was far more familiar with until I moved to Dallas, being from southeast Texas, originally. (Sadly, Astroworld went the way of the dodo back in 2005). I’ve been to Six Flags in Arlington a couple of times in the past 15 years, and let’s just say that it’s far too big for me to want to trudge around in, especially in the summer. Sadly, they haven’t yet started offering the use of electric carts to get around in — except for Park employees, the bastards — so it can be a struggle to just get from here to there. Hell, take a look at one of the parking lots alone.
I think that lot’s bigger than Astroworld was. Oh, it’s empty now, since it was December when I took this picture, but last time I visited I had to park on the far end (about where I was parked here), and I recall that it took about a half-hour just to walk from there into the park proper. Of course, part of that was because we were delayed by these friendly critters — or probably their ancestors, since it was about ten years ago now.
There’s a big lake on one end of the park, next to the big parking lot in the above picture, and I’ve always been a sucker for large bodies of water. With the water comes these guys, and of course the ducks and geese are notorious freeloaders. If you try to ignore them, they’ll make sure you pay attention. That’s okay, though; they’re actually cool to watch, although you have to be careful, because they can bite. Hard. Let ’em get those bills into you, and it’s easy to believe they’re descended from dinosaurs — which in fact they are.
Anyhow — the last time I ventured into the wilds of Six Flags it was July, and it was, oh, about 2,000 degrees outside, with -20% humidity. That was during the Big Drought just past, and I only went because my baby sister (who was a teen then) got a couple of free tickets somehow. She was always winning free crap back then on Radio Disney*, or maybe she got it through school; I can’t recall. In any case, the only other time I went, it was to squire my girlfriend’s niece and nephews around the park. Great company both times, but the weather made it quite the miserable experience, especially for someone who’s too much of a wuss to ride the roller coasters and the other really scary rides. Well, okay, I did ride one roller coaster there once, but it was an indoor coaster and was entirely in the dark. As I discovered, that just made for a new dimension of frightening experience. Here’s an example of a ride I’ll never ride on:
I did ride this one next to it, the parachute ride, a few times, mostly because the line was short.
The parachute ride wasn’t so bad, but the Looney Tunes Bumper Cars are more my speed, if you must know. I don’t really like sudden drops and changes of direction and accelerations that threaten to squeeze your brains out of your ears. I suppose I’d make a crappy astronaut. But that’s hardly the fault of Six Flags. They try hard, and I think they do an excellent job. They offer 50+ rides and copious other attractions, among them the ones in the following picture, which include a roller coaster, bungee-jumping cranes, the Superman Tower of Power acceleration drop (they’re big on DC Comics characters at Six Flags), and of course the observation tower. I’ve been up in the tower — again, a low-thrill ride with a short line — and you can see most of the Metroplex from up there.
Not only do they have all this, they’ve also got plenty of concessions to help you combat your hunger and thirst on those days (i.e., most of the season) when the elements conspire to suck every drop of moisture and erg of energy out of you. All this is, of course, carefully calculated to drain every dollar of disposable income out of your hide, and they helpfully provide ATM machines throughout the park so you can go right ahead and spend your retirement funds, too. It all starts with that $47 General Admission fee they charge anyone over four feet tall to get into the park, which by itself is enough to make my credit card crawl off into a corner and die. Kids less than four feet tall only have to pay $35, and kids under two years old are free. I’m not sure how they handle adults under four feet tall, but I’d guess they have to pay full price. Now, they do have some occasional coupons that cut the price significantly, and they’re ready to cut you a deal if you have 10 or more people in your party, but let’s just say that it’s hella expensive and leave it at that. Then, once inside, expect to pay five dollars for a pizza slice and a like price for a soda. Be sure to get a big soda so you can occasionally refill it at a water fountain. They do provide those for free — though of course, they won’t complain if you’d rather buy a cold bottle of water from one of the vendors.
As with most amusement parks, if the place is crowded (and it generally will be), you’ll end up spending way more time standing in lines, penned up like cattle in a maze, than you will having fun. (And if you think standing in lines is fun, do me a favor — get professional help, okay?). There is, however, a way around this. If you don’t mind spending a little extra cash, you can buy a Flash Pass. What this does is let you reserve your place in line while you’re off doing other things. You use a little device called a Q-bot that holds your place electronically. When your turn approaches, the handheld beeper-like device alerts you, so you can drop everything and scurry over to the ride for your two minutes of fun. It’s kind of like getting a cut in line, and believe me, most of the people who’ve been waiting physically rather than electronically aren’t going to appreciate it — but then, if you’re using a Flash Pass, you’ve paid a pretty penny for it. The price of this service varies per year and service level (and they haven’t posted the 2008 fees as of this writing), but expect to pay $31-50 for it on top of your general admission, although the cost decreases a little as the number of guests in your party increases. It’s easy to reserve more attractions and rides than you can handle, but one good thing about this service is that you can also cancel items with ease. All in all, the price of the Flash Pass may be worth the expense, since it’ll literally save you hours of standing in line. In my experience, long lines is why I don’t got to amusement parks much, and why I miss out on a lot of rides if I do: I just don’t have the patience to stand in lines forever.
There are plenty of other things to do while waiting to ride, say, Tony Hawk’s Big Spin, the new ride for 2008 (which you won’t find me riding anyway, thanks). There are all those mild rides I like, plus numerous entertainment venues, various events, shopping, and food (lots of that). Then too, there are all the park’s theme areas, where you can wander around and enjoy the ambience: the Old South, Texas, Mexico and Spain, Boomtown, Goodtimes Square — and especially Looney Tunes USA, the premier theme area at this particular Six Flags. (They’re big on Looney Tunes here, too. ) If all that fails to capture your attention, then you can always go back to standing in line.
*Same reason I went to that N*Sync concert back in the 1990s. Another New Miserable Experience, to rip off a Gin Blossoms album title.