DAY 1: California's Great America
The day doesn't get off to a great start. After going through security, I am told that my Knott's Berry Farm Platinum Passes will not get me into this park. Knowing that I purposely purchased these passes for this vacation, I argue with the ticket taker until she finally gets her supervisor. Turns out that I first have to go to Guest Relations so that they can issue me a paper ticket. Apparently, the Paramount and Cedar Fair tickets are not yet fully integrated even though it has been almost two years since the merger.
The ride portion of the park was pretty much empty and we walked on several rides including Flight Deck and the Rapids ride. Firefall was having maintanence issues, so we skipped it and headed for Boomerang Bay, the in-park water park.
Despite the light crowds, all of the large lockers were already rented. My wife used her charm and was able to get two smaller lockers for the same price as a large locker. Actually, the price was better because we got two key deposits back at the end of the day.
For some reason, there are no bathroom facilities in the changing rooms, which was slightly inconvenient for the little ones. They did, however, provide more privacy that most water park changing rooms.
There aren't many slides in the water park and it was much more crowded than the ride portion of the park. We had originally planned to rent a cabana, but the park never returned our phone call. In retrospect, this turned out to be a good thing as we didn't spend a lot of time in this portion of the park.
My biggest complaint was that there was a lot of concrete and not a lot of shade which was very painful for the feet. Even the stairs to the slides were extremely hot. This was enough to keep all but me and Becca from riding any of the slide - and we only went on one.
We had pre-booked the Backyard BBQ and headed there next. The first problem was that we had problems finding a staff member who was sure where we should go. The first guessed it was at one section of the park, the second guessed it was in the opposite direction. The next two didn't know at all and didn't volunteer to find someone who did. The final person we asked guessed it was in the same area as the first person did, so we took the chance and actually ended up in the correct place. Unfortunately, we had already wasted a 1/2 hour of our all you can eat time.
The food was definitely not BBQ. Both the hot dogs and the chicken appeared to be boiled with some BBQ sauce added to the chicken after cooking. The potato salad was decent and the garden salad prepackaged. The sodas were served in itty bitty cups. They didn't even bother to mark the ice cream, but we managed to find it anyway.
As advertised, they stopped "serving" the food promptly at 4:30. What was unexpected was the fact that they expected us to immediately leave the area. The first time they came around, my wife simply told them that we weren't finished yet. They tried to tell her that the BBQ closed at 4:30 and she reminded them that the signs simply said that food would be served until 4:30. They relented, we finished and my wife brought the kids to the bathroom to clean up, leaving my son and me at the table. At about 4:50 they returned to tell me that the BBQ had been closed for 20 minutes and we had to leave. I calmly pointed out to them that the rest of my party was in the bathroom and that we would be leaving as soon as they were finished. Their response was that they didn't want to rush us, but we had to leave. I again reminded them that the signage did not say that the BBQ closed at 4:30 and told them that no matter what they were saying we did feel rushed since this was the second time that they had approached us. I then asked for their names and told them that I would be reporting the incident to customer relations.
After dinner we continued around the park and found most of the rides to be walk on. There were no further incidents until one of our daughters ended up with a large splinter in one of the lines. The staff was friendly in directing us to First Aid. The first aid staff was very patient in dealing with our daughter, who because of her autism was not the easiest patient.
We finished the night on Firefall, which had finally reopened. Unfortunately, the fire effects were not working, but it was still a fun ride.
Overall, California's Great America was nicely landscaped and clean and the family gave it thumbs up. Definitely skip the Backyard BBQ and don't expect a great water park.