It’s been a while since my family journeyed down to Six Flags. It’s the nearest amusement park to our house (just barely), and while my wife and I used to have season passes before children, the park hasn’t had as much to offer to our family while both R and the Monster were younger. But now that both children are north of three feet tall…
(My usual disclaimer – we did not pay for our tickets for the day at Six Flags, but rather were hosted quite generously by my sister-in-law and her family, who are season passholders and won some free passes.)
It’s been four years since we’ve been to Six Flags on a serious trip to ride rides, so we did our research before going to the park. The first thing that struck us was… how severe their policy is for getting accommodations compared to other parks. We have a letter from the Monster’s developmental pediatrician for most amusement parks that specifies the ‘nature of his disability’ and courses for accommodation (namely, that he’s a child with Autism, and has issues waiting in lines as a symptom of how his Autism affects him). Six Flags, on the other hand wants nothing to do with a diagnosis – they’ll reject your note if you mention it – and wants a fairly detailed letter from your doctor about your disability without a mention of said diagnosis. All of this, mind you, to essentially get the same card as we got four years ago on our last visit. (In theory, it’s a “once and done” with registering, much like at the Busch Gardens parks, but we’d have to go to another park to see if it’s really so easy.)
The new “Attraction Accessibility Pass”, by the by, has a new paragraph that warns now about ‘misuse of the pass’. (I do like that it reminds you that the point of said pass is not to get to ride as many things as you want, but to allow a reasonably normal trip to the park for someone with a disability. It’s a point worth taking to heart when you think about why these programs exist and what you want to get out of them.) I do find it somewhat chilling to mention the idea of ‘civil penalties’ for ‘fraudulent’ use, wonder who it is that intends to decide what constitutes fraud or not… and, honestly? It’s not a license. It’s not a parking placard. I’d love to see Six Flags even attempt to impose ‘civil penalties’ for such a thing, because it’s ludicrous, and seems like a bunch of scaremongering meant to discourage folks from requesting the pass.
And no, the new pass doesn’t cover anything in the water park. More on the waterpark itself in a bit.
Of course, like all passes, you have to specify who’s the person who needs the pass, in our case, the Monster. Sesame Place gives you a bright orange/pink wristband that looks like the Abby’s Magic Pass to get you around. Busch Gardens and Hersheypark give you blue wristbands with the disability symbol on it.
Six Flags America gives you a hand-stamp. (The red bracelet is Monster’s height-check bracelet.)
Seriously. On a day that was predicted to be in the upper-80s, at a park with a water park, they give you a handstamp to show you’re on the accessibility program. And yes, it was gone within about 2 hours between his sweating and getting on a water ride.
The park itself is not terribly sensory-friendly – we did not see a single bathroom that was without powered hand-dryers, and most of the mens’ rooms that we went into also had air-circulation fans blowing at a high volume. We did not see anything to indicate a place where an individual could take a sensory break if needed – we did, due to my nephew’s prize, have access to a cabana near the waterpark which was fairly quiet, but under normal circumstances, those are pricy to say the least.) Their food selection has improved in recent years, and I think you might well be able to find food to suit any individual diet, though Six Flags is adamant about not permitting in outside food of any kind… which might mean needing to retreat to a car for something kept in a cooler.
Supposedly, Six Flags also offers a ‘kid swap’ program (referred to on their Disability page, linked above) to allow for easier riding when you have a group. I can’t find it anywhere on their site, and I will go further to say that in practice, it works horribly – we had to try to use it for Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth after the Monster refused to ride (I stayed on the ground with him) and… the attendants were having nothing of it. It makes a rough situation worse, honestly, when you have to factor in the likelihood that on most rides, one adult in each party may potentially miss out.
The waterpark – Hurricane Harbor – is still very much disability unfriendly. The wave-pool is zero-entry, as are the two children’s splash areas, and there are lifts for the lazy river and one activity pool.. but almost everything involves stairs, with no way to be accommodated in terms of a wait-time or mobility issues to get full enjoyment. This section of the park is not worth the price of admission on a busy day if you need any accommodations whatsoever.
Four years ago, I advised:
I cannot recommend Six Flags America as a destination for parents who have children with Autism.
I’m going to go a step further this time. I do not recommend Six Flags America for a visit for anyone requiring accommodations. Full stop. If this is indicative of the entire Six Flags chain, I would give them a wide berth and go to other parks that actually care about giving meaningful accommodations to their guests.