On Memorial Day weekend, Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Il., opened its 16th roller coaster to the public, which it bills as the world’s largest loop coaster: the Mardi Gras Hangover. And unlike the other kind of hangover that can result from Mardi Gras festivities, this one will leave only fun memories in its wake.
The 100-foot-tall Mardi Gras Hangover is the largest roller coaster of its type, and features 32 face-off style seats, which means that riders will be both back to back and face to face, and able to view friends, family, and those who were previously complete strangers, as they react to the intensity of the ride. They’ll experience 360 degree revolutions, as well as multiple moments of weightlessness – not to mention hang-time suspended upside down. Riders soar forwards and backwards on a giant, scream-inducing loop. The ride opened officially on May 26th, with members and season pass holders at this Chicago/Milwaukee-area Six Flags theme park getting a first look a few days earlier.
Billed as the ultimate thrill ride, the Mardi Gras Hangover may very well break records, as park president Hank Salemi asserts. “We are recognized throughout the world for our unparalleled collection of groundbreaking rides and attractions…This is a high adrenaline coaster and guests will be eager to ride it again and again.”
Rotating inside the 100-foot-tall loop, riders experience stellar speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, and they complete six loops during the 90-second experience. They also spend several breath-taking seconds suspended completely motionless at the top of the loop at each go-round, adding to the gasp-worthy adventure. Another part of the excitement is the fact the cars circle the loop both backwards and forwards, so that riders get to experience the attraction from all perspectives. Add to that the fact that riders get to have a great view of the park, besides, and the new ride is poised to become a popular part of the park. As park spokesman Tess Claussen says “The perspective from 100-feet in the air is amazing.” For a little perspective on the scale of this ride, the standard Larson giant loop-style ride sold to most theme parks in recent years is 73-feet tall.
Some nit-picking coaster fans have claimed that without a lift hill or launch, and by employing a controlled back and forth motion, the ride isn’t quite a roller coaster. However, Claussen disagrees, noting that it has six inversions and rolls on a track. The ride’s Plainview, Texas manufacturer specializes in loop attractions, in fact these loops are named for their maker as Larson Loops.
But whatever classification riders may debate – and they’ll likely be experiencing too much excitement and thrills to debate it long – the Mardi Gras Hangover makes a dynamic addition to the Mardi Gras area of Six Flags Great America, and an exhilarating ride.
Upping the ante on fun, the park is also running a special Mardi Gras Festival July 28 through August 12th. Fireworks, musical shows, a parade, and themed food items are all on tap. There will be live entertainment on the Mardi Gras stage, and the interactive parade encourages guests to dance in the street with park performers, all while enjoying jubilant, high-energy music and New Orleans-style floats. There are beads to share, stilt walkers to watch, and after the parade, a fifteen-minute music and dance show that lets guests participate by adding their own moves, and possibly stepping into a conga line.
And while Mardi Gras Hangover is the only roller coaster in this section of the park, it isn’t the only ride. Guests seeking a more mellow experience can ride one of this area’s more peaceful attractions, Big Easy Balloons. Park spokesmen note that younger guests particularly enjoy a ride in the balloon baskets as theyspin around the center. The balloons, designed by Zamperla Rides of Italy, drift up and down.
The Hangover may be the most talked-about news at Six Flags Great America, but there’s other excitement for 2018 as well. The park’s operating season will extend this year with a brand-new park-wide event: Six Flags Holiday in the Park. The seasonal event will run from November 23 through December 31st, with the goal being, as Salemi states, to “make Gurnee the premier place to spend the holiday season.” The event will feature a lot of sparkle, with more than one million LED lights, lushly decorated Christmas trees, seasonal food, and holiday décor throughout the park. Included in nightly activities will be what the park calls cutting-edge light shows, a large-scale tree-lighting ceremony, live holiday-themed shows, and fire pits so guests can roast marshmallows and make s’mores as a seasonal treat. Guests can also pose for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus as a part of what should be the Midwestern region’s largest holiday celebration. The event marks the first time in 42 years that the park has expanded its open season with winter festivities.
Also expanding this summer, is a different way of looking at the park’s Giant Drop tower. For just a few days this month – June 21 and 22 – DC Super Heroes Drop of Doom VR comes to Great America. The super hero experience will be free with park admission during its limited run, and mirrors a VR experience added to the Drop of Doom ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita, Calif., earlier this year, with Superman and Wonder Woman arriving to save the day.