This last Friday was media night for Holiday In The Park at Six Flags Over Georgia and Richard from Metro Atlanta Coaster Club was nice enough to cover the event for us. Be sure to give their page a like if you haven't already as they have some amazing trips planned for 2016.
Thanks to Randy from MACC for the great pics and write-up below
Click on any of the pictures below for a larger version
In 2014, Six Flags Over Georgia expanded its schedule into November, December and January with the return of Holiday In The Park. This marked the first time in nearly a quarter century that SFOG had celebrated the Christmas holidays; the previous attempts in the late 1980s and early 1990s were marked by incredibly cold weather and very little of the park to actually enjoy. The 2014 run fixed those problems both actively and passively; the former by opening up much more of the park, and the latter by having more attractions in the areas that had already been used. Guests responded very positively, so much so that Six Flags announced earlier this year that Holiday In The Park was now a permanent part of the operating schedule.
For 2015, Six Flags made relatively few changes, preferring to take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. Despite a larger number of rides open - including five of the park’s 11 roller coasters - lines were still extensive for some of them during the 2014 edition, which prompted opening individual attractions in formerly closed areas (for example, Superman Ultimate Flight in Cotton States, or Crime Wave in Gotham City) to alleviate overcrowding. 2015 adds all of Gotham City to the roster with its five attractions - two more coasters, the park’s two new rides for the season and the aforementioned Crime Wave. Aside from that, Holiday In The Park 2015 stays the course, which is a very good thing.
Guests enter the park through Main Street Christmas (the Promenade), illuminated by a canopy of some 100,000 LED lights, to say nothing of the lights lining the windows and rooftops. At the end of the street stands the park’s main Christmas tree, which is lit nightly in a brief ceremony. From here, almost all of the park is yours to explore. To the right is S’mores Village (British), home to Georgia Cyclone and several fire pits where guests can make their own s’mores (kits are sold in the nearby Piccadilly Sweets candy store) or just get a touch of warmth if the temperature drops a bit.
Passing through a color-changing tunnel of lights brings visitors to Rejoice! (Peachtree Square). Along with a stained-glass Nativity scene, guests can enjoy the ride that finds most guests calling out to a higher power (the Acrophobia drop tower) or take one of two delightful trips through the park. The Sky Buckets will provide a more gentle overhead view of the park’s illuminations with a round-trip journey to the otherwise-closed Lickskillet section, while the North Pole Express (Six Flags Railroad) takes guests through colorfully-lit trees on the way to the North Pole (French) and a meeting with Santa Claus.
Guests proceeding on foot will enter Georgia Christmas, covered almost completely in peach-colored lights. The Crystal Pistol Music Hall, already dressed to the 9s in holiday splendor, hosts a worthy detour, the charming musical show “Because It’s Christmas”. The plot revolves around two kids who want to send a letter to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve asking him to bring home their military father for the holidays. A chance encounter with one Jack Frost and some industrious elves attracts the Big Guy’s attention. The ending is rather predictable, but like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”, everyone knows the ending to those classic holiday films yet watches them every year, just the same. If someone’s heart is two sizes too small, the cast of this show, performed multiple times each night, will work wonders for them.
Now fully in the holiday mood, it’s time to continue exploring the park. Monster Mansion, the park’s venerable dark ride, received a decor upgrade that saw last year’s unusual glow-sticks in the attraction’s front yard (dubbed by some wags as the “Jedi graveyard”) relocated and replaced by giant sprigs of mistletoe, complete with a new nickname, Mistletoe Mansion. The ride itself has again been given a modest Christmas overlay, with some of the monsters wearing their holiday best. From here, it’s a short walk toward Carousel Hill, passing over a tree-lined bridge en route to the Candlelight Carousel, surrounded by dozens of illuminated trees. Continuing around the park’s main loop brings guests to the North Pole, where every tree (and the Rabun Gap station) is covered in beautiful ice-blue lighting.
Just ahead is Retro Christmas USA, where the 50s theme of the area has been enhanced with 50s-style holiday decor, from oversized ornaments and picture postcards to a blow-up snow globe where you can get a fun photograph taken. Thrill-seekers will be glad to know that Goliath and Dare Devil Dive stand ready to welcome visitors; Dare Devil Dive is the more festive of the two, with a garland Christmas Tree extending down from the top of its vertical lift hill. The adjacent Dare Devil Dive Stage hosts musical performances throughout the day.
Last year, guests had to look longingly into the darkened Gotham City, but this year their path is lit by GloHill (the new home of the glow-sticks) on the way into the new Holiday City. Befitting the residents of the area, the decorations here are purple and green, with garland along the supports and a string-light tree atop the Gotham City Eatery. In place of the Batmobile stands a purple and green Christmas tree festooned with Batman ornaments. Another group of fire pits provide warmth when needed, and after a trip through the chilly air aboard Batman The Ride or the Mind Bender, it will be needed.
Returning back to Retro Christmas USA, it’s only a short walk to the long Georgia Arbor, which heads toward the front of the park. For 2015, the arbor has been decorated with nearly 10,000 dancing lights. Dubbed “Magic of the Season”, the lights perform continually to both classic holiday tunes and arrangements made specially for the show. The sequence restarts roughly every 30 minutes. After enjoying the show for a bit, you can head into Peppermint Plaza (Georgia), whose trees have been transformed into candy canes and where the Georgia Scorcher stand-up coaster continues to put its riders’ feet to the fire.
As if the decorations weren’t enough, the park is filled with live entertainment, including carolers complete in Victorian attire, stilt-walking toy soldiers and, from time to time, Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes friends. Holiday music is played throughout the park, with many tunes fitting the traditional themes of their areas (classic rock in Retro Christmas USA, country/Georgia bands in Georgia Christmas). Apple cider and hot cocoa are available at many restaurants and snack stands; a souvenir mug is available that can be refilled at no charge on the night of purchase and for about $2 afterwards. One restaurant is even offering a holiday dinner option with turkey, dressing and veggies, making it a far cry from traditional park fare. Guests looking for unusual holiday gifts (tacky Christmas sweater with the Superfriends, anyone?) will find plenty of options all over the park.
Back in the late 1980s, the park encountered problems when the limited rides in the park were not capable of running as temperatures dipped. Even in recent seasons during Fright Fest, when October got cooler than normal, attractions like Goliath and Dare Devil Dive started misbehaving. For Holiday, many of the rides have been properly winterized, allowing for successful operations at lower temperatures. Needless to say, Goliath’s 70mph wind chill can be a bit much when temps enter the 40s, as they did in 2014, but the ride itself was still performing admirably. Speaking of temperatures, the park had gas heaters at various locations in 2014, and appear to have installed them in more locations for this coming year, and the Crystal Pistol still offers a huge heated space, perfect for warming up.
As good as Holiday In The Park is, there is room for improvement. The decor can be exceptional in some areas, but sparse in others, notably the overlay for Monster Mansion. The 2014 run started light, but more decorations were added as the holiday season continued. 2015, as seen during a media preview prior to the grand opening for the general public, may be starting on the same foot, with very little actually overlaid. Hopefully future viewings will be more festive, but that raises the question as to why they aren’t starting with it more fully prepared. Even in their new location, the glow-sticks still don’t make much sense (who decorates like this in real life?), but it’s not as jarring as it was when they were in front of Monster Mansion. One area with a bit less going on this year is Bugs Bunny World, although its transformation into Bugs Bunny Boomtown for 2016 is the main culprit here.
On the plus side, the park employees are very friendly and keep attractions moving at a good pace. The decor that is in place is beautiful, and gives the park a very unique look that is perfect for photography. The teams running the rides appear to have learned from last year’s mistakes and already have the more popular coasters running at greater capacities, but since maintenance still has to be done, don’t be surprised if certain rides still just have a single train on the track. Therefore, if riding attractions is a primary goal, be sure to arrive at the start of the event and ride first, then enjoy the festivities after sundown. Hours have been modified for 2015, with post-Christmas hours from 2pm-10pm instead of last year’s noon-8pm (pre-Christmas continues 4pm-10pm). If it were me, I’d love to see a 12:30am closing on December 31 become a thing, especially with the Peach Drop potentially entering its final year (if it runs for 2015/16 at all). Imagine the Acrophobia Drop instead …
Just as Six Flags’ Fright Fest finds itself being compared against SCarowinds, Holiday In The Park invariably finds itself compared against a similar park with a well-regarded holiday event, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. In both cases, Six Flags is still the underdog, but with Fright Fest continuing to improve and Holiday In The Park off to a very good start, the future is beginning to look brighter as Six Flags prepares to enter its second half-century of operation. Hopefully its popularity will increase, benefitting Corporate’s 4th Quarter reporting and maybe prompting the park to add either Cotton States or Lickskillet to the available roster for 2016.