ABOUT THE REPORTER
Tom Kelley is a lifelong amusement park fan and since 1996 has been a member of American Coaster Enthusiasts, a roller coaster fan club. He grew up in northern Ohio near Cedar Point, an amusement park on Lake Erie known for its roller coaster collection.
HURRICANE HARBOR BY THE NUMBERS
76: Number of concrete trucks it took to pour the Calypso Bay wave pool foundation.
276: Number of slide pieces that make up the Bonzai Pipelines.
300,000: Gallons of water per hour pumped through Tsunami Surge.
Looks like the Georgia Cyclone isn’t the only thing taking Six Flags Over Georgia by storm.
Hurricane Harbor, a 7-acre water park, has made landfall in the back of the amusement park, bringing new ways to get you wet and cool you off.
The area features three major new attractions: a wave pool and two water slide towers. It also incorporates the park’s former Skull Island water playground area, which has been refurbished in a beach motif and renamed Paradise Island.
Hurricane Harbor, which has no additional admission fee, also has changing rooms, a snack bar, shops that sell beachwear and plenty of tables, chairs and lounges for relaxation. It’s all nestled alongside the Great American Scream Machine roller coaster, which adds a boardwalk flavor to the area’s coastal feel.
“It’s the perfect complement to our 11 world-class roller coasters,” said Dale Kaetzel, president of Six Flags Over Georgia. The addition of Hurricane Harbor “makes for an all-day experience, particularly for visitors from out of town,” he added. “It has things to do for all ages.” What does he like best about Hurricane Harbor? “Seeing the pure joy and relaxation on people’s faces.”
So, how do the attractions stack up?
- Calypso Bay, a pool that generates 4-foot-tall waves, dominates Hurricane Harbor. The waves are surprisingly powerful, and you can body surf, bob around in inflatable tubes or just hop around and get wet. The crowd loved Calypso Bay. And there's no line to wait in.
- Bonzai Pipelines is a trio of winding tube slides, each with a different and distinct experience, that you ride on rafts that seat one or two people. The purple-pink slide seems to be the favorite; midway through the ride, your raft circles around a whirlpool-like bowl before dropping through its center and down through another enclosed tube. The green and yellow slides have no special features but maintain momentum better throughout the twists and turns. The green slide seems to be speedier than the yellow, though the latter isn't slow by any means.
- Tsunami Surge provides the biggest thrill at Hurricane Harbor. A raft that seats up to four people heads down the initial drop into a whirlpool bowl similar to the pink Bonzai Pipeline. But after that, the real fun begins. After a second steep drop, your raft heads up a near-vertical wall, pauses in a moment of weightlessness, then plunges back down before curving into a landing pool. Helpful tip: More people (and more weight) in your raft will send it higher up the wall.
- Paradise Island features an assortment of ways for kids to get soaked, including small slides, sprayers, fountains and overhead buckets that periodically dump water.
Though cool and relaxing, Hurricane Harbor can also be a bit of a workout. Bobbing around in Calypso Bay is refreshing, but once you get out, you can feel how you’ve been pummeled by the power of the waves.
And the slides feature long climbs up plenty of steps. Bonzai Pipelines is the equivalent of a four-story hike, while Tsunami Surge is five stories tall. And the rafts are not exactly light, especially the four-seater on Tsunami Surge. But the fun and excitement are well worth the effort, and you can skip the stair-climbing routine at the gym the next day.