Six Flags Great America opened for its 2023 season this past Saturday with new food options and some closed rides hinting at future expansions.
The Gurnee, Illinois park picked a bad weekend to welcome back guests. Just a week after temperatures had soared close to the 80s, the weather was frigid, overcast, and damp, with intermittent rain, flurries and even hail causing rides to temporarily shut down.
Going to Six Flags Great America on opening day is always a risk. It was 80 degrees a week ago! pic.twitter.com/LZl0Wfoj5O
— Theme Park Tribune (@themeparktrib) April 22, 2023
Besides the cold, the most noticeable changes around the park were two shuttered attractions. First, the Buccaneer Battle water ride across from the Demon roller coaster is now officially gone. The ride never opened in 2022 and was removed from park maps for this season, but has yet to be torn down.
The ride opened in 2009, taking over the spot once occupied by the Deja Vu roller coaster. (That Vekoma Giant Inverted Boomerang is still operating at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho.)
The other shuttered attraction is Dare Devil Dive, an upcharge Skycoaster attraction located next to the queue of American Eagle. The ride had been unavailable most of last season.
So what’s new at the park right now? Two new dining locations, for starters. Mijo’s Authentic Mexican Food, a local joint from Kenosha, Wisconsin, has taken over the food stand near Viper.
Next to American Eagle, you’ll find Drizzle, specializing in cheesecakes on a stick.
Other locations are still a work in progress. A new beer garden is under construction in the park’s Southwest Territory section, as is a new VIP lounge and candy store in Hometown Square. Mooseburger Lodge is also undergoing a renovation.
Some of the park’s longer-term closures remain in place. The Sky Trek Tower, the 285-foot observation tower that has stood idle since before the COVID-19 pandemic, remains out of commission. The Emporium store inside Orleans Place was also closed and has rarely been open over the past two seasons.
Other rides were closed on opening day either due to weather, maintenance, or staffing issues. The roller coasters Demon, Little Dipper and Viper did not open at all, as did the Condor spinner. X-Flight and American Eagle opened later in the day.
None of this is necessarily unusual; Great America’s opening day is not an ideal time to visit because the park tends to operate most rides much less efficiently as new staff members get used to their duties and most coasters run only a single train. Combined with bad weather and higher-than-normal crowds, and opening day tends to be among the worst days you can go if you’re expecting to get on many rides.
I personally experienced only one ride during my visit, Whizzer, a family Schwarzkopf coaster that opened with the park in 1976. Even that mild ride felt uncomfortable thanks to the cold wind whipping into my face.
Great America has not yet released its full operating schedule for the 2023 season. Available dates will expand throughout the month of May before the park begins daily operations on May 23, but the park has not announced hours for the park past June 11.