California’s Great America
San Jose / Santa Clara, CA
Cedar Fair Entertainment
Park News - (12/27/17) Congratulations goes out to California's Great America this week. "International Ride Training (IRT) recently named California’s Great America an iROC (International Ride Operator Certification) Audit Excellence Award winner for “overall excellence” in safety, efficiency and professionalism in ten categories. Great America was just one of three such recipients throughout the country."
California’s Great America started off the holiday season on Nov 24th by debuting the second annual Winterfest event. As soon as you walk up to the front gates you’ll notice every object in sight is covered in sparkling lights. In fact, Great America states that they’ve put up 7 million LED lights throughout the park. As you pass through the turnstiles, the front fountains have been covered, and in their place is an ice skating rink, complete with ice walkers for kids to help them stay upright while skating. It’s truly a fun sight seeing people skating in front of Great America’s double-decker carousel.
(12/4/17) Screamscape was invited to check out the opening of WinterFest at California's Great America and we sent our new local man on the spot, Ryan, in to check it out and report back. So without further ado, I'll hand it over to Ryan!
Thirty minutes after opening, the tree lighting ceremony begins. The tree is located directly behind the carousel and is enormous, the pictures simply don’t do it justice. The tree lighting ceremony consist of singers belting out poppy versions of classic Christmas songs. It’s really high energy and the singers are quite good. For the opening day, 49ers five time pro bowler Joe Stanley and his family plugged in the Christmas lights into the giant light socket and the festivities began. The tree is impressive, decorated with giant red ornaments and small mirrors all throughout.
As you begin your journey around Winterfest, you’ll notice just about half the park is open, however there’s more than enough to do. The major roller coasters (Gold Striker, Patriot and Flight Deck) are all open for guests eager to get on their favorite thrill ride. Camp Snoopy is also open so little ones can enjoy rides as well.
As you walk around Winterfest you’ll be amazed at just how many lights there are. Every tree, every building and every ride is adorned with lights of all shapes and sizes, and what surprised me were that the lights were themed to the different areas. In the parks New Orleans area, lights were Mardi Gras colors, purples, yellows and blues. As you get to the ‘America” section, the lights transition to red, white and blues. Campy Snoopy has the best lights, huge traditional Christmas light bulbs hung from every tree. It really does put you in the holiday spirit! There’s little details all around that really impressed me. Those that know Great Americas layout know that it’s one gigantic loop with no way to cut through the middle. Since only half the park is open, they opened up a bypass between the two sides right in the middle of the park through a backstage service road. I was amazed to find that Great America went to great lengths to hide the fact that this is a service road and put up printed skrims on the fences, as well as photo ops all along, one being a giant gingerbread village. They went to great lengths to decorate every square inch of park that was open.
There’s also plenty of live entertainment scattered throughout the park. There’s roaming street characters like Jack Frost and ‘Gingy’ the gingerbread men interacting with guests. There’s carolers, singers, and dancers, all of which were superb. I found myself stopping by the carolers at Hometown Square quite often as their voices really drew you in.
For craft lovers there’s a section named ‘Artisan Alley’ with local craftsman selling their wares, as well local food vendors, the toffee and BBQ sauce kiosks specifically called to me. It’s nice to see local artisans invited to these events to add to the normal amusement park shopping.
As for the rides, Gold Striker continues to run incredibly well, still feeling very fast and almost out of control. Night rides are especially fun on Gold Striker. I was able to ride Patriot as well for the first time since they switched to the floorless trains. Previously the ride was known as Vortex and had Stand Up trains which were really uncomfortable and caused tremendous head banging. I’m happy to report that the new floorless trains provide a much better ride. While the ride isn’t the smoothest floorless coaster I’ve been on, it’s much improved from the Vortex trains, with very little headbanging.
All in all, Winterfest is a great way to kick off the holiday season and I can see this being a regular tradition for Great America. There’s something for all ages at Winterfest, I’d highly recommend if you’re in the bay area to come check it out! I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Great America for hosting me, and a big thanks to Screamscape for inviting me out!
(11/1/17) Sounds like California Great America had a bit of a tough time during the Halloween Haunt the other night. According to various news reports up to 100 different teens may have gotten involved in various fights of some kind during the Saturday night special event, while others claimed their cell phones were somehow stolen. Police were called in to help keep order, but the park was not evacuated.
Sigh... people are always the reason nice things get ruined....
As for phones? Sad... but if you keep your phone INSIDE your pocket, they are kind of hard to steal, as opposed to leaving them hanging half-way out your pocket. Just a tip ladies, plus they'll stay safer when you are riding something, or when you have to sprint away from a ScareActor.
(10/25/17) California’s Great America has confirmed on Facebook that the park’s Logger's Run flume ride will close forever at the end of Oct. 29th, so be sure to take your #FinalPlunge while you still can. The park says it is leaving to make way for “future additions” but based on the location of the flume, I’d guess that those additions will most likely be to the waterpark in the years to come, since the flume kind of sits in the midst of it all.
(9/27/17) California's Great America will hold The Great Pumpkin Fest at the park on weekends from Sept. 30 through Oct. 29 (except Oct 22). The festival is a non-scary daytime fun event for the entire family where guests 12 and under are encourages to race through a hay maze, decorate mini-pumpkins, color PEANUTS pictures and dance in a foam pit, as well as come in costume to enjoy some in-park Trick or Treating.
(9/7/17) New park filing with FAA to built 240 ft tall ride... see more here.
2018 - Railblazer - (11/6/17) An interesting video showing off a close up view of the prototype Raptor track system set up at the RMC HQ was posted this week. Below that is more of the same tour, but this time taken inside the RMC facility buildings where they create just about everything for these coasters in-house. This should give those fans eagerly awaiting Wonder Woman and Railblazer some fun insight into what they will experience in 2018.
(10/25/17) A new construction update showing off the progress on the Railblazer site has been posted to ACENorCal as pieces for the new coaster have begun to arrive.
(9/27/17) A new construction update on Railblazer at CGA can be found posted to CoasterDemon this week.
(8/17/17) California's Great America has announced Railblazer for 2018, and as rumored, this is an RMC Raptor style coaster that appears to be a mirror image of the same one going into Six Flags Fiesta Texas. However that is where the similarities will end, because Railblazer will have trains themed as if you were riding an ATV and a stunning landscape full of tunnels, fake rock-work, ditches, water and more as you go on a wild off-road journey that includes a 100 foot tall vertical drop and 3 inversions along the way.
The scenery on this ride is just stunning, so check out the animated preview videos below and prepare yourself for one heck of a wild ride. Oh... and if the artwork is accurate, Railblazer will also feature 3 trains.
(8/12/17) Screamscape sources have confirmed that Railblazer will indeed be a mirror image clone of the Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster, but with only two trains instead of three, which more than likely means that it wont have the same moving platform station feature the Six Flags ride will have either.
(8/11/17) A construction update from CGA has been posted to Coaster Demon this week, showing off the latest progress on SR-1 (aka: Railblazer) and interesting things now painted on the construction wall that features a history of the park's previous coasters.
As for the coaster itself... the latest rumor I've heard about Railblazer is that it may very well be a mirror-image clone, or near clone, to the Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster announced for Six Flags Fiesta Texas last week. With the official announcement coming next week, we wont have to wait much longer to find out.
2019 - 240 Ft Attraction - Planning - (9/9/17) Just wanted to point out, as a reader did for me, that the work schedule on the project application submitted to the FAA shows construction to take place between Sept. 2018 and April 2019, so this would indeed be for a 2019 attraction. So the question remains... it is a tower ride or a coaster?
(9/7/17) A reader sent in a link to an interesting find on the FAA website showing off a proposal seeking FAA permission to built a new 240 foot tall ride. Any theme park located near a major airport has to jump through this hoop, and while the park isn’t named, the city of San Jose, CA is mentioned along with the exact Latitude and Longitude location for the proposed structure. Just plug these into Google Maps and you can see the basic location where the tallest point on the new thrill ride would be located, which appears to be on the site of the Peanuts Pirates ride.
With a go-kart track not too far away, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used the general area between the two for this if it turns out to be the proposed hypercoaster project the park has mentioned before. I’ve heard other mention a Star Flyer style ride, but I’m not sure that would be right for this location which is very close to the park’s aerial gondola line, Eagle’s Flight.
???? - Future Park Plans - (1/26/17) Good news for California's Great America as CoasterDemon reports that the Santa Clara City Council has unanimously approved of the park's new master plan and needed rezoning. Meanwhile Coaster101 got a look at the expanded final proposal from the park, as presented to the council, which offers a few more details about just what they have planned for the park. Items of interest include mention of a launched coaster, a steel hypercoaster, as new flume ride, suspended family coaster and even a new family/child friendly sized wooden coaster.
(12/12/16) According to an article posted by the NoCal ACE website California's Great America is gearing up a new 20-year Masterplan for the park that would see a number of new 200 foot tall (and taller) rides into the park's future as well as an expanded waterpark and some remodeling of the park's main entrance. In fact, it seems a 200+ page report on their future plans has already been published for public viewing on the City of Santa Clara's website ahead of a planned meeting to go over it that may take place as early as December 19th.
(3/31/16) Cedar Fair and California's Great America made a huge announcement a few hours ago regarding the park's future. Not only did they announce their intention to buy the land under the park that will soon be put up for sale by the city, but they have also applied to make zoning changes for the property that will allow them to add more new tall rides to the park (over 200 ft) without jumping through as many hoops as before, or annoying complaints from neighboring office buildings.
Add onto this a new plan that would see a new entertainment complex built just outside the park's main gate that would incorporate the existing amphitheater, but would be open to the general public. In other words, it looks like they intend to build their own version of a Universal CityWalk project, which certainly would help keep the site alive and active all year round, though size-wise a better comparison may be to think of it being more like the Marketplace outside Knott's Berry Farm. Some great images of the new proposed use map for the property and other important notices can be found at GreatAmericanThrills.
Looking at the new map, a few interesting items stand out to me right away, such as #10 where they plan to build a "Major Attraction" such as a "Steel Roller Coaster" or "Water Coaster" on the site of the old Invertigo. There are several spots listed as #11, where they are planning new family attractions (kiddie coasters, climb & play structure or family flat rides), plans to build a Ropes Course and Dinosaur's Alive attraction in the Grizzly / Demon area of the park, further expansion of Planet Snoopy, a re-branding and expansion of the waterpark, as well as plans to build a new dedicated entrance to the waterpark from the new Entertainment District, and plans to "Re-market" the Vortex Roller Coaster (likely the rumored conversation from Stand-Up to a Floorless coaster).