California’s Great America
San Jose / Santa Clara, CA
Cedar Fair Entertainment
See our WinterFest 2017 Report Here
Park News - (5/17/2023) California’s Great America has a lot going on this Memorial Day Weekend. For starters the South Bay Shores waterpark will open for the season on Saturday, May 27th (11am to 6pm) for example. On Sunday May 28th the park will put on a Fireworks show at 9:45pM, and from May 27-29th the park will be holding a Military Days promotion where active and retired military members can get a free admisison ticket and a discount offer to purchase up to 6 more tickets. (Details Here)
(4/21/2023) In the fallout of incidents involving teens over the last two weekends, first at Worlds of Fun and then at Kings Island this past weekend, Cedar Fair is now rolling out new Chaperone Policies for most of their parks that should go into effect starting this Saturday.
The new policy going into effect at California’s Great America states that anyone 15 years of age or under will now need to be accompanied by a chaperone, age 21 or over, to remain in the theme park after 4pm. The chaperone must have a valid photo ID and remain with their group throughout their stay. Guests 15 and under found in the park without a chaperone will be asked to leave.
2023 - NorCal Country Fair - (5/5/2023) California’s Great America has announced the arrival of the “NorCal County Fair” at the park on May 26th. This will be a renovated section of the park, creating a fun fairground atmosphere with food, games and even a new ride. Yes, as we expected, the park is adding a Zamperla WindstarZ flat ride called the Pacific Gliders, as well as reopening a renovated version of the old Speedway attraction which will now be called ‘Barney Oldfield’s Redwood Rally”.
For those wondering why they are adding something when the park is eventually closing... well, they just ordered the same ride for Carowinds at the last second as an extra addition to their new expansion, so they probably got a deal for buying two. Also... these are very small flat rides, and they are easy to relocated to a new park when the time comes. So if they keep it until the park closes, they will still get their money’s worth and then be able to send it to a new home.
(5/4/2023) Perhaps it is related to whatever the new project going in is, but CGA’s Instagram account posted a story yesterday with a countdown claiming that an announcement was coming at some point today, so keep your eyes open.
(3/27/23) I had not heard this rumor myself yet, but apparently there has been a quiet rumor started that CGA may be planning on adding a Zamperla WindstarZ flat ride. With spinning ride vehicles for two themed to look like hang gliders, this would go along with the new teaser sign the park just put up saying ‘Get ready to race and soar!”
(3/26/23) So what’s going on at California’s Great America? While the demise of the park was already confirmed to take place no later than the end of the 2033 season, adding anything major to the park’s lineup between now and then was considered highly unlikely. That said, some kind of construction was spotted take place at the park near Drop Tower, with a sign up claiming that “Something Exciting Is Coming Soon… Get Ready to Race and Soar!”
Whatever is coming, it is sure to be something more temporary in nature, or easy to remove or relocate to another park when the time comes. Of course, this also brings up an interesting practice that the park could do over the next decade, possibly leasing a variety of portable rides to come to the park for a season (or part of one) and then depart to go on the road. Alton Towers in the UK engaged in a bit of nostalgia marketing in 2021 and brought in a group of popular flat rides to their park for the season as the “RetroSquad” which did prove successful. Undertaking a similar series of promotions at GCA over the next decade
In the meantime… anyone have a clue what CGA may be up to right now?
(1/2/2023) California’s Great America has sent out a list of new and returning special events happening at the park in 2023, along with an extended operational schedule that will see the park open on weekends throughout the year, starting in January 2023.
April 1-30 - PEANUTS Celebration - A limited time event featuring new musical stage shows, photo opportunities, fun special activities and special PEANUTS inspired food and drinks.
July 19 - Aug. 6 - Carnivale at Orleans Place - A larger than life New Orleans style festival featuring bold Cajun flavors, Big Easy Live Bands, the Spectacle of Color parade with Madri Gras floats, fireworks and more!
Sept. 22 - Oct 29 - Tricks and Treats - The new family-friendly Halloween event will return once again in 2023.
Nov. 24 - Dec. 31 - WinterFest Returns, brighter than ever.
(11/7/22) Just a reminder while California’s Great America is preparing to kick off this year’s WinterFest event, the theme park will also be open on weekends year-round going forward. The concept is to try and hold various themed events throughout the year as extra incentive to visit during the slower times of the year, though the only items on the calendar right now is the Peanuts Celebration in April and mention of some “Friday Night” special events at the park that could happen as early as March offering up live music, entertainment and fun food and drinks.
I imagine we’ll hear more about these once WinterFest is over and 2023 is here, so stay tuned!
(10/23/22) A reader who dropped into California’s Great America to check out the park’s new Tricks and Treats event has sent back an interesting report. They noted that the attendance at the new Tricks and Treats event looks to actually have been pretty good so far. The family friendly event, having dropped the idea of an after-dark scary Haunt, has proven to be quite popular to families with small children, letting them dress up and get candy at various booths set up throughout the park.
During a ride on Drop Tower however our reader noticed something else. While we know the park has been sold and is on a limited lifespan going forward, they discovered that a building in the park had already been demolished. Demolition work looked to have started slowly last week, and by this weekend they noticed that there was nothing left of the building that once sat next to the Grizzly coaster in the middle of a set of midway games.
They sent in a picture of the construction wall blocking off the newly cleared site, and in the old aerial views on Google Maps you can see how the building had been mostly used as a Halloween Haunt maze location for several years now. The funny thing is Screamscape had posted pictures of this same building taken back in February 2022, as crews had begun gutting the interior way back then, tossing all the old carnival / clown themed haunt props in the street, which served as our first rumored report that CGA would be canceling their haunt event going forward before it was later confirmed by the park.
So I guess it makes sense why they would demolish a now unnecessary building now, as eventually they will need to demolish and remove all the major structures on the property before handing it over to the new land owners. But it does make me wonder what other structures in the park may be deemed currently unnecessary and slated for early demolition over the next several months.
(9/22/22) While there won't be a Haunt at California's Great America this year, the park’s replacement “Tricks and Treats” festival is set to start this Friday (Sept. 23rd) and continue on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through to Oct 30th. Follow the link to the official website to see just what is new this year for Tricks and Treats, including some new themed lands added just for the event.
(7/1/22) Winding Down California's Great America: Part 2 - The Rides
Welcome back to Part 2 of our long discussion about the fate of the California’s Great America theme park, including the “wind-down” talk about the park’s rides. Which rides may be sent to other Cedar Fair theme parks, which rides may be sold on the used ride market and lastly and which rides may simply just be future scrap metal?
I teased this one yesterday, but I’m going to start with the park’s roller coasters, starting with what may seem to be an odd choice. Psycho Mouse! Why start there? Because I think there is a good chance that Psycho Mouse could be the first ride to be removed from the park.
If you haven’t seen it, Psycho Mouse is a rare coaster credit, an Arrow Mad Mouse, of which only 4 were ever made. Three of the four went to Cedar Fair parks: California’s Great America, Valleyfair and Michigan’s Adventure. The forth went to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion which was sold after that park closed to a nearby attraction who was never able to reassemble it before they too went out of business, and from there we presume the ride pieces were scrapped.
Why remove Psycho Mouse first? This actually ties into a rumor sent in to Screamscape months ago about what sister park, Cedar Point, had planned for the 2023 season. So far that rumor has held pretty solid, with a new two-story restaurant building being built along the shoreline. The rest of that particular rumor posted in May mentioned that in addition to the restaurant, the plans might see some small rides relocated and some small flat rides added to fill in the gaps along the shoreline between the new restaurant building and Windseeker. At the time I was told that one such addition could very well be a new Wild Mouse coaster, possibly with throw-back branding to serve as a next-generation “Wildcat” coaster for that park. What I intentionally did not report at the time was that this source also told me that the new mouse for Cedar Point would be coming from another Cedar Fair park, and was looking to be Psycho Mouse from CGA. At the time I just didn’t believe that Cedar Fair would have been willing to remove yet another coaster from the California park, which has lost so many over the years, but now that rumor is making a lot more sense.
Railblazer - As the park’s newest roller coaster, this is going to be a tough one to predict when it will leave. The compact ride would be an easy fit into just about any of Cedar Fair’s theme parks, but the lower throughput of the attraction would essentially make it not worth adding to Cedar Fair’s most attended parks, with possibly an exception could be made to bring it to Knott’s Berry Farm simply because space is always at a premium there at a compact high thrill coaster could be made to work. Otherwise, I’d think Railblazer could find a home at any number of Cedar Fair parks including: Valleyfair, Michigan’s Adventure, Dorney Park, Kings Dominion, Carowinds or Worlds of Fun.
For a moment I’ll discuss Gold Striker… and as a fairly new wooden coaster the loss of this ride is going to disappoint a lot of roller coaster fans. While some may say they could move it to any number of parks… the reality of moving a wooden coaster is that the end result is a ride built with all new wood that may reuse the old trains and maybe some mechanical hardware (lift motor, brakes, station and control systems…). In the end the “new” version is really more of a clone of the old design, rather than an actual move of the old ride. This doesn’t mean we may not see a new ‘Gold Striker’ rise in the future at another park, only that it really wont be the actual ride that ran in California. Symbolically… I’d like to nominate Carowinds to get a new Gold Striker, simply because the park is down to just one wooden coaster (Hurler) that really just isn’t all that great to begin with. So bring in Gold Striker, and then let RMC have a crack at transforming Hurler at Carowinds the way they did at Kings Dominion.
Flight Deck… the coaster formerly known as Top Gun. It served as California’s first B&M Inverted coaster, opening way back in 1993, a year before Batman opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain. For the most part B&M coasters seem to age well, though we all know how Incredible Hulk was torn down and rebuilt from scratch because of wear and tear at Florida’s Islands of Adventure. Nemesis at Alton Towers is also slated to undergo the same procedure starting later this year, and Nemesis is a year younger than Flight Deck. Given the age of Flight Deck and the fact that the layout also features a drop below grade near the end where the coaster soars just above a body of water, finding a new home for Flight Deck may be slightly more challenging than you might think. But it is also worth remembering that CGA lies in the heart of America’s “Earthquake Country”, where all structures, including rides, are built to withstand seismic events. This could mean changes to the density of the support structure, as well as changes to how footers are made, how deep into the ground they go and so on. If Flight Deck is still in very good shape, I’m sure Cedar Fair could find a way to move it. Park’s that could benefit may include Valleyfair, Kings Dominion, or even Canada’s Wonderland and Michigan’s Adventure. (I know the later two already have inverted coasters, but adding a B&M to a park that only has an old Vekoma Hang ‘n Bang model can only be seen as an improvement.)
Patriot is another troublesome one to think about. On the surface is is one of the oldest B&M coasters ever built (1991) starting off as a Stand-Up coaster, only to be converted into a Floorless coaster in 2017. The fad of converting old Stand-ups into Floorless coasters was a short lived one, that also saw the very first B&M coaster (Iron Wolf) gets transformed into a Floorless coaster at Six Flags America in 2019. Cedar Fair also converted Mantis at Cedar Point in 2015, renaming it Rougarou in the process. So it would come down to determining if there is still enough life left in Patriot to be worth moving it elsewhere in much the same way Flight Deck will also have to be evaluated. In the case they opt not to move or sell this coaster to an outside company, there is a chance it may still be of use to Cedar Fair, as they could take the new trains and new station hardware required for Floorless operations and transfer it all to the one B&M Stand-Up left in the chain, Vortex at Carowinds, and convert that coaster to become a new Floorless ride.
As for the rest… the Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbies kiddie coaster could go just about anywhere that doesn’t already have a similar ride, inside or outside the company. Grizzly is likely done for, with the rare California style morgan coaster trains likely to be sold to someone like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk that could use them for parts to maintain their own similar trains on the Giant Dipper. Demon… alas… Demon is more like likely to be destined for the scrap pile, along with a likely donation of one of the lead cars to the National Roller Coaster Museum.
As for the rest of the park… it’s full of a ton of rides that may or may not be saved or sold. First and foremost, and this will likely be one of the last rides to go, but the park’s beautiful Columbia Carousel simply must find a new home somewhere in the Cedar Fair system. The two-story carousel and surrounding structure is an iconic part of the original “Mariott’s Great America” park design. Placed just inside the entrance of both parks, it serves the same visual purpose as the Eiffel Tower clones at Kings Dominion and Kings Island, or even the Castle at Disneyland. I would say it is essential this set-up is saved somehow and moved to a new park that could benefit from the addition of such a beautiful structure just inside their own main gate. At this point I’d write off Kings Island and Kings Dominion simply because they already have the Eiffel Towers. Many other parks also already have their own carousels… some considered to be historic in one way or another, so it’s a bit hard to guess where this could end up.
While this list is far from complete, a few other rides I’d consider would be a must for saving from the park would be the park’s Berserker (Bayern Kurve). While Knoebels is working to restore and merge the pieces from two former traveling rides to make a new operational model for the 2023, California’s Great America has the last currently functioning Bayern Kurve ride in all of North America. Other rides likely to be saved include the Delirium (Pendilum ride), Flying Eagle (Flying Scooters), Tiki Twirl (Zamperla Disk’O Coaster), the Barney Oldfield Speedway cars, GR8 SK8, the Liberty Twirler (Scrambler) and maybe the Peanuts Pirates (Huss Breakdance).
There are a few other flats that could be saved and sold, depending on their condition, like the Pumpkin Patch and Peanuts 500 kiddie rides. The fact that these have Peanuts theming already on them would make them easy to move to another park in the system that has a Camp Snoopy style area. Saving Whitewater Falls or Orbit (I think a Huss Enterprise?) will depend on the ride’s condition, or if they feel it could be better used as parts for another existing ride in the chain elsewhere. Meanwhile some of the park’s biggest landmarks, like the Star Tower and Drop Tower rides are likely to simply be torn down along with the park’s Delta Flyer / Eagle’s Flight aerial gondola ride (1976). There are getting to be fewer and fewer parks out there still running their old Von Roll 101 Sky Rides, and from what I’ve been told, these aerial tramway systems are not allowed to be moved and rebuilt once taken down.
In closing, a reader tagged us in a video posting from the mayor of Santa Clara, who states that even they were completely surprised by the announcement that Cedar Fair had sold the land under the park with the intention of eventually closing the park for good. While there is likely little the Mayor can do, she did mention for the community they would like to see the park stay. She also ends with an interesting note that despite the sale to the new owner, for the time being the current site of California’s Great America is zoned only to be an amusement park and nothing else. So whatever plans the new owners have, they will have to request to undergo the rezoning of the property with the City before they can use it for anything else.
(6/30/22) Winding Down California's Great America: Part 1 - The Park
Since the announcement was made about the sale of the land under California’s Great America I’ve been putting a little thought into how things are likely to go down next with the park. For starters, if you were still hoping for new attractions, like that Hypercoaster the park got approval from the FAA to build a few years ago, you can forget all about new attractions. At least in terms of new permanent attractions. It isn’t entirely unheard of for a park to find someone willing to lease out some portable rides and attractions for the summer. I know we saw Alton Towers in the UK do that last season with some success as part of a Retro themed 80’s summer celebration event.
Otherwise, with nothing ‘new’ expected in terms of hardware to come, then the next best guess would be that all future promotions for the park would likely be event based: holiday celebrations, food festivals, beer and music festivals, and so on. But even those will only last as long as the park’s attendance levels will support them. What served as essentially an 11-year death sentence for the park is somewhat unusual, though currently Elitch Gardens in Colorado is also operating under a similar concept, with the land under that park already determined to undergo redevelopment into a new mixed-use urban landscape for the city of Denver.
Then there is that phrase that Cedar Fair used… that called for the “eventual wind-down of the park”. Winding-down the operations of the park seems to imply that California’s Great America will not be run the same as it is today for the next 11 years and then simply pull the plug on it all. Instead we can likely see the park slowly begin to scale back as Cedar Fair looks to take advantage of the park’s most valuable assets, the rides, by either moving them to other Cedar Fair parks, or just selling the ones that they don’t need on the used ride marketplace.
Believe me… there will be buyers waiting for the very moment that Cedar Fair is willing to put various rides up for sale on the chance that they aren’t transferred to other parks in the chain. This is one of the nations most well known theme parks with a reputation for taking care of their attractions, so I’d be surprised if some phone calls haven't’ already been made.
Before we take a look at which rides will likely be transferred out, I’m must also say that we need to remember what happened after Cedar Fair bought and then decided to close the Geauga Lake theme park in Ohio. In that case the theme park itself was closed very quickly and the various rides shipped out to other parks over the next 12-18 months. What remained however was the waterpark, which Cedar Fair kept running for several more years as a stand-alone attraction. So while California’s Great America may have 11 years to operate, who is to say that the final 4-6 years may not see it run simply as a waterpark only? After all, CGA just expanded and reopened the park’s waterpark, South Bay Shores, one year ago and they’ll want to recoup as much of those costs as possible before shutting down, so don’t be surprised if the last thing that remains of CGA at the end is a waterpark and maybe a kiddie land.
For now, I’m going to let everyone chew on this information for a little bit, but I’ll be back with a new update tomorrow where we look at the park’s list of rides, and just where they may go. For now I’ll leave you with one possible hint… as a previous rumor sent by way now makes a lot more sense than it did before. As such, there is a chance that one roller coaster at California’s Great America just might be leaving before the end of the year. If what I had heard previously holds true, it may already have a new home eagerly awaiting it for the 2023 season.
(6/28/22) Cedar Fair surprised everyone on Monday afternoon when the theme park chain announced that they were going to take advantage of an offer to sell the land under their California’s Great America theme park to Prologis, Inc. The $310 million deal includes a lease-agreement that will allow Cedar Fair to continue to operate the theme park up to 11 years, which will result in the closing of the theme park by the end of the term in 2033.
It is worth noting that Cedar Fair itself just bought the property under the park in 2019 from the City of Santa Clara and had talked about some extensive plans in development that would see the property grow in many ways. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic that resulted in a number of Cedar Fair theme parks being kept closed for extended periods of time, including two in California that were kept closed for over a year, resulted in some financial hardships. Selling off the land here along with the slow “wind-down” of operations at the park will allow the company to put the proceeds of the sale “to support planned acceleration of strategic priorities including deleveraging and reinvesting in high-return projects within the portfolio”.
This is sad however, as the park is not only well known within the theme park industry, but also serves as the only major theme park to exist between the San Francisco and Los Angeles markets. This will leave the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom park just to the north of San Francisco as the only major theme park in the area, along with the much smaller smaller Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk park along the coastline to the west.
There will be other impacts from this change to come as well, including the eventual removal and likely relocation of a number of the park’s major rides that will likely be sent to other Cedar Fair theme parks. Stay tunes for more info as we get it.
2023 - Special Events - (8/12/22) According to a chain-wide press release from Cedar Fair, it mentions that the park will add some expanded food options next season along with a new PEANUTS Celebration event for a limited-time.