CALIFORNIA’S GREAT AMERICA
San Jose / Santa Clara, CA
Cedar Fair Entertainment
Review by: Ryan
(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!
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.
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!