California’s Great America Struggles Against Mediocrity, Part Two

Written by Marc Ricketts. Posted in Features, Weekend Update

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GA-Opening-Two

Published on June 15, 2014 at 12:30 am with 19 Comments

Marc Ricketts continues his visit to California’s Great America. You can read part one [HERE]. ~~Rick

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California’s Great America
by Marc Ricketts

Water and boats are a necessary component of every park.

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Behind that splash above is a glimpse of Boomerang Bay, the small water park located where Stealth once stood. There isn’t much besides 3 raft slides, a couple of body slides, a wave pool, lazy river and children’s play area. Great America insists upon marketing this area in a blatantly deceptive way by touting two parks for one ticket. But this isn’t a separate gate like Hurricane Harbor; it is simply an area inside the park. It would be like hearing an ad that says “Your ticket grants you admission to Disneyland and Toontown”. Anyway, it was closed on a May weekday.

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This water feature has been around for a while.

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It is no linger “green slime” because this area is no longer full of Nick Toons or Rugrats because it is now, not just a camp, but Planet Snoopy.

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In back is the Green Slime Mine Train; no, it’s Runaway Reptar; I mean, what is it now?

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Oh yes, a new color and name and ready to roll. It is a pretty good introductory coaster for a kid, though.

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And a little orange paint and those Wild Thornberries’ coconuts become pumpkins.

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Make way for Snoopy, Sponge Bob. And as can you see, the gondolas here still provide that bird’s eye view of the park.

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There is live entertainment scattered throughout ranging from that which is aimed directly at the children to a high energy shown performed by veterans of America’s Got Talent. A baseball focused show called Team Charlie Brown inhabits the spot that hosted dolphin shows in the early years. On a fairly busy Saturday there was a very small turnout for the musical with songs like “Centerfield” recorded with some Peanuts lyrics as the team gathers for the start of their season. It was established that more than 50 people are required to do The Wave.

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In Kidzville, The Great Zindini performs The Magic Hat. There is a lot more “has anybody seen my hat” shtick than actual magic with the obligatory opportunities for the youngest to get involved. Older kids can get involved in the On The Mic! Karaoke show at the 50s Gazebo.

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Over in the Great America Theater, in blissful air conditioned comfort, a talented cast skates, jumps, twirls and spins through Aerial Ice Extreme. This season’s debut performance featured a large, enthusiastic crowd that regularly cheered during a non-stop exhibition of athletic ability under colorful lights to a pounding soundtrack. It was sort of like combining a rave, ice dancing and Cirque de Solei with a side trip involving an “intruder” on the stage. I confess to preferring skaters that carry sticks and hit people, but full props on this show, possibly the most successful production they’ve ever presented.

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The summer will also include Friday night movies in June (all Disney or Pixar titles) along with fireworks every Friday and Saturday in July and August. And opening June 14 is On Broadway, a revue of show tunes to be presented in the Showtime Theater.

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And it ends like it starts, with a roller coaster. Flight Deck began its life as Top Gun during the Paramount era. After building several Batman inverted coasters, B&M started doing custom designs beginning with this one. It is a very good ride with a great initial drop and effective use of an adjacent lake. With the former movie tie-in, there was some attention to detail in the aircraft carrier themed queue, and the black paint was covered with red this year.

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So there it is. A decent enough park with some good rides, but a place taking baby steps towards being something a little more. It will be interesting to see if they keep moving in that direction. They no longer bother people about glasses that are strapped on tight, so there’s reason to be hopeful.

HEY! WHILE YOU’RE IN THE AREA.

If you’re looking for a more substantial water park experience, there is a larger collection of slides and water activities in San Jose’s Lake Cunningham Regional Park. Raging Waters has a full complement of liquid fun when a few small slides won’t do, and is open daily through mid-August continuing on weekends into early September.

Remember, part one of Marc’s excellent article can be viewed [HERE].

About Marc Ricketts

Marc Ricketts is a writer/photographer who has not yet outgrown roller coasters, and provides news and information about San Francisco Bay Area destinations. Mark's columns can frequently be found on MiceChat in our Weekend Updates.

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19 Comments

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  1. [...] post California’s Great America Struggles Against Mediocrity, Part Two appeared first on [...]

  2. The Great America Theater was originally named “Grand Music Hall” and had some really cool musical shows back in the early years such as “Music America”, “Silver Screen”, “Holiday!” and “The Evolution of Rock”. The Showtime Theater was originally named “Theatre Royale” and featured Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. characters in a musical revue. I always watched and enjoyed these shows whenever visiting the park back then.

    As for the Green Slime/Runaway Reptar/Woodstock Express children’s coaster, it was originally known as the Blue Streak” to tie into the Smurf Woods theme. Even though I don’t go to this park anymore, I enjoyed your two posts on CGA. Thanks, Rick.

  3. I’m astounded by some of the pics posted. They are identical to Disney’s California Adventure. How embarrassing for Great America to be associated with DCA. I’d sue Disney for copyright infringement, on it’s slumlord theme park.

    • How exactly is Great America identical to DCA?

      • They’re BOTH dumps and a waste of money.

      • Tooncity, are you related to CaptainAction? Your posts share some similarities…

    • I honestly don’t get your comment unless you were comparing early-2000′s DCA with the current Great America. Yes DCA still has a coupe of attractions that need to go, such as Goofy’s Sky School, but nit much else anymore.

  4. Thanks for another great article. The Great America Theater has had some great shows over the years and was always worth the stop if you could get into the theater. On busy days you often had to queue for the next show. Amazingly, for all the times I went to the park in my youth, I don’t think I’ve ever been inside the Showtime Theater.

    Is the large kids play area still around? I assume it was the inspiration for the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. I remember lots of bridges and things to climb, although in a more condensed location without any theming.

    • There was a large play structure in the area that is now Planet Snoopy. I think it was gone before my son was 5, and he’s 18 now. There is another play area in the back of Kidzville, but I didn’t get back to it to see if it had changed. They’ve had a variety of play areas over the years, including these little mushroom houses some may remember. Some of these were in the corporate picnic area the last time I was in it. Thanks for taking a look.

      Cheers,

      Marc

      • Originally there was the “Fort Fun” play area and “Lil’ Dodgems” in the Yukon Territory theme area. Later it became “Kids Kingdom”. After Marriott sold the park, the area became Smurf Woods hence the little mushroom houses and Blue Streak children’s coaster nearby.

  5. After they built Gold Rush I thought maybe I should go back. Everyone says it’s a good ride but honestly it’s not enough.

    If I even spent more than a day in SF (it’s only about 2 hours away) I might consider going there, but I usually just make day trips.

  6. Interesting read(s), thanks for bringing these articles to us Rick!

    As a tourist it is unlikely that I would put the time aside for this park in its current form, but hopefully it does serve the local and regional community well.
    Does anyone know what the attendance is for this park?

    I’m sure it’s challenging for this set up to attract people when you are in a state with some of the finest theme parks just hours away. Why would you settle when you can have Disneyland? None the less, I really appreciate being able to see this park and what it offers to its guests.

    Thanks again!

  7. Glad to see they still have their skyway and have some shows. Still, they need to have a couple more non-coaster rides for me to go back. I’d just get sad walking around the park looking where the train, triple wheel, cars, 2nd log ride, etc used to be.

  8. Actually, they ARE still bothering people who have secured glasses. I was just there last month and they refused to let me wear my prescription glasses (with the wrap around ear cable temples) on Tiki Twirl (hardly an “Extreme” ride).

    It’s hard for me to be objective about Great America. I grew up in that park. I remember it when it was brand new. Now, I take my kids and it’s depressing to see only the barest traces of what used to be fairly decked-out themed areas. It’s not bad per se, it’s just that I remember it as being so much more detailed and vibrant of a park back in the day. Or maybe that’s just the rose colored glasses of looking back at my youth…

    Still, it’s not a bad park. My kids really enjoy it. Usually I just let them take off while I stroll around and take in an occasional ride or two or maybe a show.

    • I don’t think you’re looking through rose colored glasses when it comes to California’s Great America. It definitely was a better park back when it was Marriott’s. I grew up on the park since it was brand new too and it definitely had an central theme and was more balanced back then. Now it’s pretty much a mutated mess.

  9. “I confess to preferring skaters that carry sticks and hit people…” Got a good chuckle from that line. :-)

    I also got a good chuckle from the “Aircraft Carrier” theming. I served aboard aircraft carriers when I was in the Navy. Those sets look more like a life-sized GI-Joe aircraft carrier than a real aircraft carrier. Of course, tourists probably wouldn’t like looking at drab, gray walls with regular sewage spills.

  10. Oh, and “Flight Deck” appears to be a clone of the “Alpengeist” coaster at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. Great coaster!

    • “Flight Deck” is not a clone of “Alpengeist”. Other than the fact that they’re both B&M inverted coasters, their layouts are completely different. “Alpengeist is substantially larger, higher and longer than “Flight Deck” and with twice as many inversions.

  11. What’s so bad about Great America? I loved it! Here’s a “fun” story that happened in a recent trip, they played the F.U.N. song from spongebob at planet snoopy! Not, only that, but we were near what used to be the spongebob ride too! I almost cried! XD