After a much-needed recent visit to Six Flags Great America (one of the strongest regional parks in the country), we finally felt that we had enough experience with the Six Flags chain of parks to gather a comprehensive ranking.
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We’d wanted to do a Six Flags ranking since launching our Cedar Fair Top 10, but needed some 2020 and 2021 park visits to make it possible. There’s 15 traditional-style Six Flags amusement parks that we’ve divided into three tiers – and for the Top 10 we’ll be dedicating a little more detail unpacking each one.
Six Flags America, Darien Lake, The Great Escape, Frontier City, and La Ronde
In the interest of transparency and smooth reading, parks 15-11 all get to share a general ranking on this list. We had to admit to ourselves that none of these parks are truly “bad” in our minds, but to rank them individually among each other would verge on splitting hairs.
Six Flags America is the largest park of our Bronze Tier, and while the ride lineup is strong, the park suffers from infrastructural and operational shortcomings (which is an especially strong theme for the lower-ranking Six Flags parks). Our 2017 Darien Lake visit wasn’t one of our favorite experiences, but in fairness the park technically wasn’t owned by Six Flags at the time.
Don’t hate us – but La Ronde is actually one of the last major North American parks we’ve yet to visit (in our defense, reviews of the park from friends are so unequivocally dismal that we simply haven’t decided to trouble ourselves with visiting). And that leaves us with the pair of quaint, lovely parks full of charm but merely lacking in the upkeep and budgetary departments: Frontier City and The Great Escape (we enjoyed highlighting these parks and their unique lineups in our 2nd Hand Parks article).
10. Six Flags Over Texas
Starting off our Top 10 is the Six Flags OG (original gangster, not Over Georgia). The cardinal park of the chain is who we have to thank for such second-nature park characteristics as pay-one-price admission and the log flume. The park has always been an odd shape and continues to grow like a weed – rides are scattered haphazardly and midways begin, end, and choke without warning or evidence of a larger master plan. Fans of the classics have a lot to enjoy here, but SFOT also suffers from a lack of major modern rides found in similarly-sized parks.
9. Six Flags Over Georgia
The sequel to Six Flags Over Texas was able to address layout head-scratchings better than their first take, but Six Flags Over Georgia still blossomed in a sort of oblong way. Forested and beautiful, and brimming with a vibrant collection of coasters, Six Flags Over Georgia’s biggest struggle comes from adequate staffing – no park in the chain could be better served with a budget boost in the hiring, training, and staff compensation department.
8. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
From hybrid zoo to marine life park mainstay to regional coaster destination to post-modern DC Comics billboard, Six Flags’ Bay Area acquisition seems to wear more hats than any other park in the chain. Pulled in various directions to stay afloat, the reluctance-turned-unabashed-embrace of DC Comics as a marketing chip echos the park’s original hesitation to mixing rides with animals. Keeping all facets of the park adequately supported is a transparent struggle these days, but there’s hope for more generalized improvements once the comic book growth finally plateaus.
7. Six Flags New England
Well-meaning, and equal parts potential and fulfillment, the former Riverside Amusement Park is the ultimate mid-pack Six Flags property (and we mean that in a good way). With Superman’s trains still a blistering setback and Iron Horse coasters feeling exceedingly commonplace, Six Flags New England is still in need of truly standout coaster. Supporting acts are pleasant and inoffensive (save for Goliath, who, like Superman, suffered from garbage train restraints hindering what should be 10/10 ride. Its future is uncertain), the park grounds are pleasant (if disjointed), and staff are satisfactory – but this park hungers for a premium, signature coaster experience to set itself apart.
6. Six Flags St. Louis
Dubious designation or not, Six Flags is the most underrated park in the chain. Repeat visits yield pleasant interactions with staff, solid operations – and the location/setting is a gift that keeps on giving. Does the park deserve a modern, E-ticket coaster? Certainly, but the trio of top-tier wood coasters (which beautifully illustrate three separate schools of wood coaster design) and the ever-relevant, aging-like-a-fine-wine Mr. Freeze always satisfy. Extra points are due for the dueling log flumes – parallel classics that make for unparalleled satisfaction.
5. Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Fiesta Texas’ only crime is that it lacks classics; when parks like SFOG and SFOT frustrate, there’s a legacy Schwarzkopf looper or a vintage flume ride to ease the woes. Six Flags Fiesta Texas is our 90s baby, with “new” classics from the Time Warner era answering the call, plus a healthy complement of major rides from the Premier Parks era as well. Local management is the star here, with upkeep generally beating out the other US Six Flags parks. An enviable relationship with Alan Schilke yields spoils time and time again, so we’re always curious to see what Fiesta does next.
4. Six Flags Mexico
If Fiesta Texas is the tightest ship in the country, Six Flags Mexico is the top overall operation in the chain, full stop. Culturally rich, topographically compelling, and gorgeously landscaped, it’s impossible not to love Six Flags Mexico. Its lineup doesn’t have the same volume of knockout signature rides as the other parks in our Gold Tier, but there truly never was a more pleasant Six Flags park to simply bask in.
3. Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure (and likewise SFOG, SFMM and others) are on a promising trend of revitalizing major areas of the park. Despite the “bde” of back-to-back, world-record-breaking Intamins in 2005/06, the park crashed hard, with whole areas being rendered useless by the early 2010s. Work was cut out for Great Adventure to “fix” itself and bring each area back online – with the opening of Jersey Devil Coaster, much of that needed work has come to fruition. Ironically, the Kingda Ka and El Toro areas are now in need of the most work, so we’re eager to see where the restorative trend takes us.
2. Six Flags Great America
A surprise superstar of Covid-era travels for us is none other than Milwaukee/Chicago’s hometown hero, Great America. Aside from buildings here and there that could use a splash of paint, or landscaped areas that could do with some weeding, Six Flags Great America shattered our every expectation, especially with post-covid era operational struggles plaguing other major Midwestern parks (we’re looking at you, Cedar Point). Also, Maxx Force is the best new coaster we’ve ridden in the U.S. in years, and cheers to the Great America team for bringing the train ride back online just in time for 4th of July weekend – after over 2 years of dormancy.
1. Six Flags Magic Mountain
“…it had to be you. It had to be you…” Six Flags Magic Mountain is our favorite Six Flags park because of course it is. However, we’re not ones to rely on nostalgia to merit a ranking like this – we actually think Magic Mountain is objectively the best Six Flags park in general. Does it suffer from problem areas that lack polish? Sure, no Six Flags park is truly exempt from that. Is the park so massive that it takes a long time for certain infrastructural needs to be met? Yes, frankly Magic Mountain is so gargantuan that it’s no doubt daunting to govern.
Magic Mountain is #1 for two key reasons: one, the obvious, is that the coaster lineup is simply the best on the planet. Cedar Point fans, plug your ears: Magic Mountain will always win that duel in terms of size, style, and substance – as big Cedar Point fans ourselves, we struggle to even see it as a fair fight. The second, and perhaps more significant reason, is Magic Mountain’s setting. The natural majesty of the park’s elevated desert locale festooned with blue peaks marking the threshold of Southern California – it’s truly one of the most beautiful environments in the country, and one we never grow tired of. And then there’s X2 which remains the country’s most exciting and interesting coaster, no contest.