Bloody appendages, stabbed rats, decapitated creatures, knife-wielding, pig-faced butchers and intestine-covered caskets don’t make for sweet dreams, especially if you’re a six-year-old looking to meet Bugs Bunny for the first time.
Thankfully, the folks at Six Flags Great America realize this. Hence the decision to keep certain portions of the theme park scare-free for its youngest guests during its annual Fright Fest extravaganza, which runs weekends throughout October.
If the popular Gurnee, Illinois, attraction didn’t offer thrills without chills, then there would be no way that I could have spent last Saturday making magical memories with my daughter at Six Flags Great America.
It’s no secret that I birthed a cream puff when it comes to Halloween horrors (Heeeelllo Wal-Mart nightmare), but I also know that I am not alone. Most kids under the age of 12 would be justifiably scared silly if some ax-swinging zombie came staggering up to them moaning about the waterfall of blood cascading down his head and the crow snacking on his exposed guts.
Lucky for us, we got out of the park before the dawn of the marching zombies and other ghastly ghouls. However, before we departed we had an incredible time making merry in Great America’s family-friendly areas, including:
CHARACTER CANDY TRAIL
If you have a Looney Tunes’ lover in your house, then you won’t want to miss the chance to trick-or-treat with Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig, Tweety and Sylvester. Kids are given a treat bag and are allowed to stroll through Yukon Territory alongside their favorite cartoon characters. The day we visited there were three barrels of Halloween candy placed at various spots in the scare-free zone. The goodies were distributed by park staff while the costumed characters hugged, high-fived and posed with their adoring pint-sized fans.
Pros: The characters are fabulously friendly, the candy is great and the location of the trail is exceptional given its close proximity to the ultimate kiddie roller coaster, the “Little Dipper”. The coaster runs on a 700-foot figure eight track with a three story tall hill. My daughter rode it eight times and still whined when it was time to go.
Cons: The characters work in shifts, so if you miss the rotation that includes Daffy I-drove-three-hours-so-my-kid-could-hug-you Duck, then you’ll have to wait 15-20 minutes before your son can shake his tail feathers with the wacky waterfowl.
Great America’s Wiggles World is decked out in cute, not-so scary, Halloween decor. Kids can dance with Wags, Dorothy and Henry during the live show, which takes place daily at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Pros: Since the chaotic summer high-season is over, the lines in Wiggles World are practically non-existent. Consequently, my daughter was able to ride “Bouncing with Wags” 14 times in a row without ever getting out of her seat. Best. Perk. EVER.
Cons: Great America advertised a Wiggles Halloween-themed live show. I sat front and center during both shows and didn’t pick up on even the slightest Halloween theme. Also, because the park’s season is winding down some of its rides are closed, including my daughter’s Wiggles World favorite, “Yummy Yummy Fruit Salad.” A con for her a pro for me.
The other scare-free zone features the Flintstones, the Jetsons and Scooby-Doo surrounded by age appropriate Halloween decorations.
Pro: The rides here, especially “Spacely’s Sprocket Rockets” are ideal for kids 10 and under.
Con: My daughter and I actually got stuck on “Spacely’s Sprocket Rockets.” Seriously. The roller coaster cars pulled out of the station and we sat on the tracks at the bottom of the first hill for about 10 minutes before a maintenance guy could get the ride going again. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining. Of course, by the time we got stuck we had already logged 11 rides in a row. Again, a con for my daughter, for me: divine intervention.
All in all a good time was had by all. I would highly recommend attending Six Flags Great America Fright Fest 2010 with younger children if you plan accordingly. The real spooks don’t come out until 3 p.m., so if arrive at the park when it opens at 10 a.m., you will be able to get in a solid five hours of freak-less fun before the Zombie Jamboree kicks off. However, keep in mind that the kid-friendly scare-free zones are located at the back of the park. Translation: You will have to stroll by a menagerie of skeletons, rubber rats, bats and body parts to get to your destination. I had my daughter hide her face in the hood of her jacket, so she wouldn’t have to view the fog and random carnage that peppers the park before dusk. The only things that really freaked her out were the strategically placed decapitated heads near the game area and the muffled moans being emitted from a coffin that sat next to the double-decker carousel. I told her the cries were coming from someone who had gone into the restroom with a sore stomach. Oh. Yes. I. Did.
If you would like additional information on Fright Fest, including hours, admission prices, discounts, or directions, visit the Six Flags Great America website.
Photo licensed to and permission for use granted by Six Flags Great America.