JACKSON, NJ — If you went Six Flags Great Adventure as a kid in the 1980s and ’90s, you no doubt remember taking a drive through the safari park, with ostriches pecking the windows and baboons jumping on cars.
Those days are back. Six Flags will reopen the safari park as a drive-through experience sometime in the coming days, the theme park announced Thursday.
The move is in response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s announcement Wednesday permitting drive-through and in-car gatherings, as long as people stay in their vehicles and keep the windows up unless the vehicles are 6 feet apart.
“WILD NEWS! Our Safari will soon open as a drive-through experience! Get ready to see 1,200 exotic animals from six continents. Reservations and advance tickets will be required – more info to come!” the Six Flags announcement on Facebook said.
Great Adventure and the Wild Safari opened in Jackson in 1974 and were bought by Six Flags in 1977; for years, families could drive through the safari to see the animals up close.
At the end of the 2012 season, Six Flags ended the drive-through experience and replaced it with the Off-Road Safari, where patrons traveled by military-style vehicles driven by a guide through the park and had a stop at Camp Aventura, where people could take a zipline over the safari and see some of the exotic birds and other animals in residence there.
Given social distancing guidelines, having a driver and a group of unrelated people pack into a military vehicle isn’t possible, so the old drive-through experience is being revived.
“Returning to a standalone, drive-through format enables guests to enjoy the Safari’s 1,200 exotic animals from the privacy and safety of their own vehicles while allowing for proper social distancing,” the park said. “The theme park is currently finalizing new safety procedures to protect guests, team members, and animals.”
For those who remember the baboons — and the warnings about not driving through the main portion if you had a car with a vinyl top because they loved to tear the vinyl off — Kristen Fitzgerald, communications director for the park, said the baboons are still part of the safari.
But the need for warnings about vinyl tops is no longer necessary.
“A few years before we transitioned to the truck tours, they were put behind fences,” Fitzgerald said. “So they won’t be jumping on cars like the ‘old, old days!’ “
To prevent overcrowding, the safari experience will require registration using Six Flags’ new online reservation system, park officials said.
Once the opening date is confirmed, pass-holders and single-day ticket holders will be able to make reservations at www.sixflags.com/reserve. All tickets must be purchased online and in advance.
Sales will not be available at the gate, and guests without advance reservations will not be allowed to enter.
Great Adventure and Hurricane Harbor remain closed until further notice, under Murphy’s executive orders and the public health emergency.
When those parks reopen, the guest reservation system, which Six Flags announced on its website earlier in May, “will allow parks to manage daily attendance levels and avoid overcrowding in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control recommendations on social distancing,” the company said.
“The health and safety of our guests and team members is always our highest priority and in the current environment, we certainly want to take extra precautions to create a safe experience for everyone,” Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos said. “We are excited about reopening our parks and getting back to the business of fun; however, we want to do so in the safest possible manner.”
Here is how the reservation system will work for Great Adventure and Hurricane Harbor:
Every guest with a single-day ticket, group ticket, Membership, or Season Pass will be required to make a reservation for a specific visit date. The process will take about 5-7 minutes, during which guests will complete the following steps:
- Enter their online order number, ticket number, or Membership/Season Pass number;
- Select the date they want to visit, and the approximate time they wish to enter the park;
- Watch a brief video that describes our new social distancing and sanitization procedures;
- Acknowledge their understanding of our health policy; and
- Order prepaid parking, if they do not already have a pass.
If all reservations for a particular date are taken, guests will have the option to join a waitlist and Six Flags will contact them automatically if additional inventory is released or a guest cancels. Guests will be contacted electronically (either by email, text, or both) the day before their scheduled visit to confirm their intent to visit and to remind them of the company’s health policy. Guests may cancel their reservation without penalty any time before 8 a.m. local time on the day of their scheduled visit.