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  1. #1

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    TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    While not my normal m.o. of a detailed written trip report, I hear that some folks like photos with their TRs. Well, here ya go!


    The primary feature of this park is its proximity to my living room sofa. (Just about 10 miles) But, with some out-of-town first-timers wanting to make a visit, we figured we'd play along and make our first trip to the park in three years.


    This being late in the season, plus the fact that this park is absolutely dreadful about adding major attractions, meant light crowds, and light enthusiasm as well.


    In reality, it's a perfectly pleasant park. Even if it screams 1976, the older areas of the park are actually quite beautiful. Gotta love being able to ride a classic skyride.


    With the park's marquee Invertigo closed (more on that later), the main draw defaulted to Flight Deck, the 1993 B&M inverted.


    No question that what this ride does, it does well. But at a scant 2000+ feet, it really only feels like half a coaster.


    It's got the great and forceful elements an intense inverted should, just not nearly enough of them. I scoff at your mere three inversions!


    Making a loop around the park, we were sure to hit some of the flat rides. This Chance offering looks much more overwhelming than it actually feels.


    The new-for-2009 attraction (if you can believe it), is a Huss TopSpin.


    The ride is pretty much what you'd expect, but the smoke and fire elements were a nice surprise, especially considering it was an empty park in the low season.


    Making our way to the back of the park, we find a rare Arrow Wild Mouse, and one of the biggest ride marquees you'll ever encounter.


    After you ponder whether the coaster is worth such an entrance, you'll actually get treated to a solid ride.


    The trick track and some tight banked turns almost make this version stand out among its peers.


    I'm not sure which is more disappointing, the uncomfortable ride experience, or the overzealous attempt at themeing and immersion. Not a favorite.


    Definitely a favorite. Great views of Silicon Valley (can't quite see our place) plus a gut-wrenching drop and no crowds meant re-rides aplenty.


    I'm hard pressed to find a coaster that offers LESS thrill with MORE roughness. Not quite as painful as the next coaster down, but almost entirely pointless.


    That's an awful lot of wood. (Coincidentally, the ride experience is also awful.)


    Fortunately, I cautioned our friends in advance, so they were well prepared, and are still willing to talk to me.


    The high-profile passenger-stranding lift incident has left Invertigo silent for a while now, knocking out one of the few highlights the park has to offer. Lame.


    If only Demon were so well-hidden that we forgot to ride it.


    What looks like a classic coaster surrounded by lush foliage is actually one of the most unpleasant rides I've come across.


    Rough, jerky, and jarring all at once, it's much more pleasant to sneak a peek than to actually ride it.


    Things are only slightly better over at Vortex. B&M's third coaster has not aged nearly as well as its Inverted counterpart on the other side of the park.


    While not quite as painful as Demon, this standup offers its share of ear abuse. Take off those earrings, folks.


    One big reason we're stuck with outdated attractions are cranky neighbors who fight the park every time they try to add something new. Thanks to them there's no GCI coming anytime soon. Jerks.


    What's left is an odd mix of Marriott themeing, Paramount rides, and Cedar Fair operations. And, with the ongoing real estate issues, don't expect any improvements anytime soon.


    Fortunately, it's not a bad place to spend the day, especially if you can make it back home in about 10 minutes.
    www.gregscoasterphotos.com <- Go there, it's good!

  2. #2

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    I once went there 37 times one summer, I loved the Demon and Grizzley. My fav was the tidalwave. Once on a slow day we were able to ride it 14 straight times without getting off the ride...best summer ever.

  3. #3

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Wow, talk about getting your money's worth from a season pass! I don't think I've been to 37 days worth of amusement parks combined in any one season, let alone at just one park.

    I'm not sure how long it's been, but Griz and Demon have both seen better days. It's tough when Tidal Wave and Stealth get removed when those are left behind to age poorly.

    I also got multiple re-rides on Tidal Wave during my first visit (in 1997), about 20 or 25! Pretty memorable experience, if only because it's the only time I've ever gotten remotely queasy on a ride.
    www.gregscoasterphotos.com <- Go there, it's good!

  4. #4

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    I used to live near silicon valley years ago which meant having an annual pass for Great America.

    While many of the rides listed here are new since I last went there, two rides that did get bad reviews were two that I thoroughly despised. The Grizzly and The Demon (I remember when it was called Turn Of The Century). I would ride the Demon regularly only because it was the best thrill ride available at the time, but the Grizzly gave me a headache everytime I rode it. It's one of the roughest riding wooden coasters that I've ever been on.

  5. #5

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Quote Originally Posted by sarki7 View Post
    Wow, talk about getting your money's worth from a season pass! I don't think I've been to 37 days worth of amusement parks combined in any one season, let alone at just one park.

    I'm not sure how long it's been, but Griz and Demon have both seen better days. It's tough when Tidal Wave and Stealth get removed when those are left behind to age poorly.

    I also got multiple re-rides on Tidal Wave during my first visit (in 1997), about 20 or 25! Pretty memorable experience, if only because it's the only time I've ever gotten remotely queasy on a ride.
    The Tidal Wave is gone??? That was probably one of the best rides in the park back in the late 1980's!!!

  6. #6

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    I only go to this park to take my 5 year old nephew. If you've never been than it's probably worth a trip but don't expect a six flags experience.
    Quote Originally Posted by Captain_Jenny1987 View Post
    Oh dear sweet zombie jesus on a stick no.

  7. #7

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Loved your report and commentary. Used to go in the 80s, sad to hear about whatever issues the park is having. Would like to see more pics, of the lesser attractions, eating areas, etc.

  8. #8

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    is Top Gun not there anymore? That was my favorite coaster at the park.

  9. #9

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Oathkeeper View Post
    is Top Gun not there anymore? That was my favorite coaster at the park.
    The ride itself is still there, the name was changed to Flight Deck I guess.

    I used to live in Campbell, my family would go during the summer just to get out of the house. Top Gun was my first roller coaster. I sort of miss going but since it's seen better days, I guess I'm not missing much.

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    I really want to stand outside the Prudential Real Estate building next to the park with a bullhorn and curse them out.

    Great America needs that wooden coaster. Firefall was actually the 2008 addition to the park, and they've removed two coasters (Stealth and Greased Lightning) since they added the newest one (Psycho Mouse).

    I'm honestly waiting for Cedar Fair to just wash their hands of the park now, with the crappy neighbors, 49ers Stadium debacle, and the Santa Clara city people who refuse to step in and overrule Prudential on an expansion the park needs.

  11. #11

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Thanks for the great Trip Report! I used to visit this park a lot in the early 80s, but have been maybe just once in the past 10 years. Very sad that the Tidal Wave closed. Is the Pictorium still operational? Last time I was there it looked like it might have closed down.

  12. #12

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Poor maintenance of the park and the owner's seemingly lack of interest in improving the park have led it to it's current state...

    Top Gun was renamed Flight Deck when Paramount (probably owns the name Top Gun) pulled the plug on ownership. Cedar Fair now owns it but you'd never notice except the lack of Paramount memorabilia, etc. that was on display when you entered the park.

    The park also has one of the first IMAX screened theaters, but it has sat unused for about 5 years or more.

    I've written to the park numerous times about the lack of cleanliness in the park, but the teens roaming thru the park have kept the maintenance people very, very busy.

    The parking lot may also be a future home of the SF 49ers. I know, a parking lot, but that's where they'd fit a new stadium in. I'm not going to get into that discussion though!!!
    Disneyland visitor since 1967!

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Actually, from what I know, Cedar Fair (the owners of the park) have nothing to do with the lack of investment in the park. They were actually going to add a massive wooden rollercoaster to the park this season, but the businesses in nearby offices got it postponed because it would cause too much noise (IDIOTS. IF YOU BUILD AN OFFICE NEXT TO A THEME PARK, EXPECT NOISE.) Totally burns by biscuits. The city of Santa Clara refused to get involved in the back and fourth between the park and the surrounding businesses, which also peeves me off royal. Honestly, I don't blame Cedar Fair for the lack of additions. It's obvious Santa Clara could care less.

  14. #14

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    Well to be fair, the city leases this land to both parties. They're looking out for
    their rent checks, and don't see much good getting between two tennants. And really, I'm not sure how much legal right they have here. I would assume the parcels are zoned however they're zoned, and if there is an issue about new construction, I can't imagine it would be anything more than a board review. And those that have happened, the board has pretty much said work it out amongst yourself. In defense of the city, I'm not sure what else it would make sense to do.

    Keep in mind what happened to Geauga Lake before you let Cedar Fair off the hook entirely. Yes, they tried to add a nice GCI coaster, but I imagine their patience is wearing thin with the park, and would seriously consider any number of options that would have potential park goers quite upset. Besides, whining about a football team moving in next door? What's that about?

    Anyway, I appreciate the compliments, thanks guys!
    www.gregscoasterphotos.com <- Go there, it's good!

  15. #15

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    Re: TR: California's Great America (w/photos!)

    I used to have a season pass to this park when I was making regular trips to San Francisco. Been a couple years since my last visit. I remember Tidal Wave (makes one think of water huh?) but locals here (L.A. area) have the exact same ride with Montezuma's Revenge at Knott's. Tidal Wave was a let down for me because the excelleration wasn't anywhere near the g-force rating of Montezuma's plus (and this is a big PLUS, er, MINUS) they applied the brakes in the station when you were travelling backwards. The brakes were applied so strongly that if you were in the front seat, you never even got to the beginning of the back hills slope. Your train stopped before the entire train even made it completely onto the reverse hill slope! Once coming to a stop, the brakes were released and the weight of the rear of the train (which at least got a little taste of the back hill) would come down via gravity to coast the train back into the station. I was SO unimpressed with how they ran this coaster. They could have chopped off the top 2/3's of that reverse hill as the train never came close to using it. Thankfully, Knott's operates theirs fully and has for more than 30 years. Montezuma's Revenge at Knott's has been a favorite of mine since it opened!

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