California’s Great America Strikes Gold with new Wooden Rollercoaster

Written by Gregg Condon. Posted in Features, In the Parks, Other Destinations

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Published on June 29, 2013 at 2:01 am with 31 Comments

Earlier this spring, Calfornia’s Great America in Santa Clara opened Gold Striker, the “Tallest and Fastest Wooden Coaster in Northern California”. Not only is it the fastest in Northern California, but in our opinion it’s hands-down the best Wooden Coaster in ALL of California.

Coaster Enthusiasts and those who like a good solid ride would be doing themselves a favor to head to Santa Clara and check out this great new ride.

Below is the Press Release from the park regarding the parks opening and some publicity shots sent to us by the park.


“Relentless” And “Awesome” Are Among The Initial Rider Reactions Gold Striker Has The Longest Initial Descent Tunnel On Any Wooden Coaster

SANTA CLARA, CA – California’s Great America has opened Gold Striker, the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California and the early reviews have been stellar.

“Relentless,” “Awesome,” and “The best ever,” are terms guests have used to describe the eighth coaster at California’s Great America. Gold Striker provides the look and feel of the original wood coasters with a fast and smooth ride that represents the best of modern designs.

Inspired and designed with an Old West feel, Gold Striker stands 108 feet at its highest point with a first drop of 103 feet.  Riders will careen along 3,197 feet of track at speeds up to 53.7 miles per hour.

Adding intrigue to Gold Striker is the 174-foot “mine shaft” tunnel that is enclosed by wood on both sides, corrugated metal on top and in-fill underneath the tracks, replicating a true gold mine feel. The “mine shaft” is the longest initial descent tunnel on any wooden roller coaster.

“Gold Striker provides the nostalgia of a wooden coaster, with the smooth ride of a steel coaster. Everyone who enjoys thrill rides will want to experience Gold Striker,” California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg said. “Gold Striker reflects our commitment to providing guests with the best thrills and entertainment value in the region.”

Gold Striker’s name was chosen to recognize the pioneering and adventurous spirit of the California gold-seekers who rushed the area in 1849.

Gold Striker is located in the Celebration Plaza area of California’s Great America and wraps around the park’s Star Tower attraction, providing a stunning visual as guests enter the park.

Gold Striker was custom designed and built for the topography of California’s Great America by Great Coasters International, Inc. (GCI) of Sunbury, Pennsylvania.  Two trains accommodates 24 passengers each (four riders per car and six cars per train) with a capacity of 850 riders per hour.   Guests must be at least 48 inches tall to ride.

California’s Great America is owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, a publicly traded partnership that is listed for trading on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “FUN.”  In addition to California’s Great America, Cedar Fair owns and operates ten other amusement parks, four water parks, one indoor water park, and five hotels.  Cedar Fair also operates the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in California under a management contract.





Ride Review (Sir Clinksalot):
I’ve ridden quite a few wooden coasters and many from the manufacturer of Gold Striker, Great Coasters International. In my opinion this is the best GCI I’ve ridden. The only one that comes close would be Apocalypse at Magic Mountain, but this seems faster. From the second you reach the top of the lift hill until you hit the breaks, the ride doesn’t let up. It’s very rare that a ride will deliver whether you sit in the Front, Middle or Back but Gold Striker did just that. It’s a great ride wherever you sit.


The ride’s entry sign


The themeing of the ride is very “Gold Rush” which shouldn’t be a surprise.


The ride totally changes the look of the entire front area of the park. As you walk to the entrance you can hear the ride, it calls to you like no other ride in the park.


A look at the rides station. It is rather small which requires a grouper. In the end it works because it causes every seat to be filled which in-turn creates shorter waits.



The coaster in action, coming off the first drop.


One of the many banked turns


The Star Tower (Observation Deck) is now completely surrounded by Gold Striker and gives a great view of this amazing ride.


Heading up the tower we get a look at just how twisty this ride truly is.


We do have one minor complaint, there is no shade in the queue. It can get quite warm in the summer in Santa Clara.


In the grand scheme though, this ride is a SOLID 9.5 out of 10. It’s a great ride for a park that has needed something like this for a LONG time. We really hope this is the start of a new age for the park and that Cedar fair will continue to invest some money into this park.

Gold Striker isn’t the only other new thing going on around the park. From the Star Tower you can also get a great view of the new stadium going in next door. Quite literally in the parking lot. Levi’s Stadium will open for the 2014 Season and will be home to my San Francisco 49ers and also Super Bowl L.
Hopefully the new stadium will continue to breathe life into the park, allowing them to also use the Amphitheater and IMAX theater more often.


Just like any good Observation Tower, the Star Tower gives a great birds-eye view of the park and surrounding area.

Around the Park

Let’s take a look around the rest of the park shall we?


Heading back away from Gold Striker the parks other wooden coaster Grizzly just recently had some work done. They also have one great drop tower.


Psycho Mouse is the parks great Mouse Coaster. This is an older design and does have a few banked curves as well as the Trick-Track.



A view of Psycho Mouse from the air



One of my personal favorite rides in the park is the Eagle’s Flight. These Sky Bucket rides are becoming so rare it’s great to see a park take the time, effort and money to keep it open.



The Eagles Flight path goes from back by Psycho Mouse all the way to the front of the park by Flight Deck. Between Eagles Flight and the Star Tower you can get great views of both sides of the park.

Centrifuge is pretty much a Scrambler on Steroids. Great fun.


A look at the parks Log Flume. Sadly these are becoming more rare in California these days too.


Great America also has an included Waterpark “Boomerang Bay”. On most days during the summer the waterpark will be busier than the rest of the park, and for good reason.



Once you exit Eagles Flight you are right next to one of the parks other signature coasters, Flight Deck. Even after 20 years it still packs a punch and is one of the better B&M Inverted coasters.


Signature shot


This seemed to be like a rather new addition to the park, with over 30 beers on tap it could be great for upcoming game days. Just sayin’.


The park also has a nice collection of flat rides like the Flyers

So, do you plan on heading out to ride Gold Striker? Have you already ridden it? Give us your thoughts below.




About Gregg Condon

Gregg Condon, also affectionately known as Sir Clinksalot, is MiceChat's Six Flags reporter. He is frequently featured in MiceChat's In The Parks columns.

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  • fnord

    If I want a quality amusement park experience in n california, it’s sc beach boardwalk
    for me. Then the Disney museum. Then even Gilroy gardens, I hear it has kickass gardens
    and atmosphere. I’ve been burned too many times by GCI, and even if it seems great now,
    Cedar fair treats their woodies just like 6 flags, so before long it will be rough, while the Giant Dipper will still be delivering excellent rides in Santa Cruz!

  • glowman

    Why doesn’t Knott’s smooth out Ghostrider so that it is a rideable coaster? I understand that coasters that get the “track topper” treatment turn into smooth and faster coasters. I have to admit that when the ride opened I thought it was great, but now I will not ride it until it is smoothed out. I know there are usually long lines, but I feel that many of those are not re-riders.

    • Gregg Condon

      If Ghostrider got the topper track it would be great. But I’m with you, I haven’t ridden Ghostrider in well over a year and have no plans to anytime soon.

  • partyhare

    I will go there for the very first time in August! a great year too, with Gold Striker looking so awesome! I went on Roar at Discovery Kingdom and was not impressed.
    I am really interested to compare Great America to its old sister park in Gurnee, IL. I went there this year already, so it would be cool to compare how Cedar Fair and Six Flags would develop a concept park differently.

    • Gregg Condon

      When I first rode Roar in 2005 I thought it was great. But as I mentioned in an earlier response regarding Ghostrider at Knott’s there seems to be some bad omen for wooden coasters in CA. Even Apocalypse at SFMM was a bit rough the last time I rode it a couple of months ago.
      I’m not sure what it is with wooden coasters in this state as they don’t have to deal with the harsh weather that other parks deal with on a year-in/year-out basis.

      I really think a lot of it has to do with the longer operating seasons in CA. Other parks are closed half of the year which allows them to properly maintain their wooden coasters. In the case of Knott’s and Magic Mountain they are essentially year-round parks and to close their wooden coasters for even 3 months a year is asking too much. Sadly I think that’s exactly what’s needed.

  • MickeysImagination

    And now for something completely different…

    I live in Milwaukee, which has my home park being SFGAm (Gurnee IL), the sister park to CaGAm, both of which were one time Marriott’s Great America . This has been some of the better photo’s showing off some of the changes from over the years. The biggest change to me is seeing Carousel Plaza open directly onto Hometown Square; the loss of the Great America Scenic Railway, the Hometown Square Station with trestle and also no railroad berm is a bit jarring. Next is not having the Yankee Clipper and only the Loggers Run. Nice to see that the Eagles Flight/Delta Flyer sky ride still operational. Lastly, it is amazing how the outside world has encroached on this park, in Gurnee there are still homes that back up to the property, plenty of open space and no parking ramps.


    • Gregg Condon

      I visited the Chicago park a couple of years ago and I have to say, sadly, that the two parks don’t compare. The Chicago park reminded me of the Mariott’s Great America of my childhood (from what I can remember) and Six Flags has really done a great job of keeping a lot of the themeing in the park while adding in the thrills that Six Flags is known for. It’s probably my favorite Six Flags park.
      None of the coasters there are going to make any top 10 lists but it’s an amazing all-around park.

      I think CGA is a good all-around park as well but I really hope they are going to continue to do work around the park, which I know they will.

  • churros9

    No love for the Demon?

  • sarki7

    Unfortunately Gold Striker is closed until further notice. It was only opened with a temporary permit that has since expired, and it is currently violating noise ordinances, according to Prudential anyway:

    For those concerned about its longevity, you only need to look to Santa Cruz to see how proper maintenance can keep a coaster going decade after decade in the Giant Dipper. If you need more contemporary evidence, take a look at the GCI installation at SF Magic Mountain. Apocalypse is still running great several years after it opened. If CGA gives this ride the attention it deserves, there’s no reason it won’t remain a top notch coaster for a long time. That may be a big “if”, but it’s certainly possible.

  • Gregg Condon

    According to the parks Facebook page the ride has reopened with an additional 70ft tunnel.

    While it sucks that the noise restriction is there, and it wasn’t that loud in the first place (IMO), I think all of the tunnels actually makes it more unique.

  • sarki7

    Good news, back in action!

  • Gullywhumper

    I grew up going to this park, I remember when it opened just prior to the Bicentennial, Bugs Bunny visited our local mall in Stockton, Weberstown Mall, to promote the new “Mariott’s Great America”. It was great to have a local amusement park! In recent years its been going down hill, I hope Cedar Fair continues to fix it up. Matt Ouimet seems to be good for Cedar Fair Parks, if the improvement of both Knott’s Berry Farm and California’s Great America are any indication.