California's Great America

Last updated

California's Great America
Previously known as
    • Marriott's Great America
    •  (197684)
    • Great America
    •  (198592, 2007)
    • Paramount's Great America
    •  (19932006)
California's Great America Logo.svg
California's Great America 2.JPG
Location Santa Clara, California, U.S.
Coordinates 37°23′45.4″N121°58′20.1″W / 37.395944°N 121.972250°W / 37.395944; -121.972250 Coordinates: 37°23′45.4″N121°58′20.1″W / 37.395944°N 121.972250°W / 37.395944; -121.972250
OpenedMarch 20, 1976 (1976-03-20)
Owner Cedar Fair
Operated by Cedar Fair
General managerBarbara-Lea Granter
SloganIt's Amazing in Here
Operating seasonYear-round
Area112 acres (45 ha)
Roller coasters9
Water rides2

California's Great America, often shortened to Great America, is a 112-acre (45 ha) amusement park [1] located in Santa Clara, California. Owned and operated by Cedar Fair, it originally opened in 1976 as one of two parks built by the Marriott Corporation. California's Great America features over 40 rides and attractions, and one of its most notable is Gold Striker, which has been featured as a top-ranked wooden roller coaster in Amusement Today's annual Golden Ticket Awards publication. Other notable rides include RailBlazer, a single-rail coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction, and Flight Deck, an inverted coaster from Bolliger & Mabillard. The park appeared in the 1994 films Beverly Hills Cop III and Getting Even with Dad .


Ownership of the park transitioned several times, beginning with the city of Santa Clara's acquisition from Marriott in 1985. It was then sold to Kings Entertainment Company in 1989 while Santa Clara retained ownership of the land. Paramount Parks acquired the park in 1992, followed by Cedar Fair in 2006. Santa Clara eventually sold the land occupied by the park to Cedar Fair in 2019, who then sold it to Prologis in 2022. While Cedar Fair plans to eventually close the park by 2033, the land rental agreement is a six-year lease through 2028 that gives Prologis the option of extending it another five years.


Marriott & KECO era (1976–1992)

The hotel and restaurant operator Marriott Corporation completed Marriott's Great America on the site of what had been a pear orchard [2] and opened it to the public on March 20, 1976. [3] [4] Admission was US$7.95(equivalent to $38 in 2021) for adults (12 and up) and US$6.95(equivalent to $33 in 2021) for children (4–11). [5] [3] There were 1,500 employees. [3]

Less than two months later, on May 29, the company opened a second Marriott's Great America – later known as Six Flags Great America  – north of Chicago in Gurnee, Illinois. [6] [7] A third park was initially planned for the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area, [6] but the idea was later abandoned after several failed attempts to sway local opposition. [8]

View of California's Great America from above Great america.jpg
View of California's Great America from above

The park, though profitable, was still an earnings disappointment for Marriott, leading the company in 1983 to explore options to sell. An interested party, Caz Development Co., appraised the land value at US$800,000 to $1 million per acre. Marriott also involved the city of Santa Clara in negotiations, which was already leasing 55 acres (22 ha) of parking space for the amusement park. Fearing homebuilding on the land by Caz Development would lower home values of existing homeowners, the city council approved a $101 million purchasing agreement on January 31, 1984, by a 4–3 vote that also had to be approved by city residents. The citywide vote passed, approving the sale by a margin of 3 to 1. Caz Development then sued the city and Marriott in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County to block the transaction. The court nullified the sale, forcing the city to attempt to salvage the deal through negotiations with the other parties. Unable to broker a timely agreement, the city council voted 6–1 to scuttle the sale on February 5, 1985, though the city was still interested in owning the park. After Marriott refunded a $20 million down payment back to the city, negotiations were restarted. All parties were able to agree on a compromise, which was signed in marathon sessions taking place in early June 1985. The city acquired the park for $93.5 million from Marriott, which retained 20 acres (8.1 ha) from the sale for development. Caz Development settled and was allowed to build a hotel and office near the park, which the city renamed Great America.

Kings Entertainment Company, who owned and operated other amusement parks, was hired in 1985 to manage Great America for the city. [9] In 1989, the city sold the park to Kings Entertainment, while retaining ownership of the land that the park occupied. [10] [11] In the agreement, the city would earn 5% of all revenue that exceeds $56 million. [12]

Paramount Parks era (1992–2006)

Three years later, Paramount Communications (formerly Gulf+Western), the owners of Paramount Pictures, sought to join other entertainment companies as a theme park owner. The company acquired Kings Entertainment for $400 million on July 31, 1992, and created Paramount Parks. As part of the acquisition, Paramount purchased the parks owned by Kings: Great America, Kings Dominion, Carowinds, and a 20% stake in Canada's Wonderland; in addition, Paramount would acquire Kings Island, which was operated by Kings for its owner, American Financial Corporation. [13] Viacom, the parent of MTV Networks (including Nickelodeon), then assumed control of Paramount in 1994 by purchasing a controlling interest, [14] allowing Nickelodeon theming and merchandise into the park as well. During the Paramount era, attractions from the Action FX Theatre, Nickelodeon Splat City (later Nickelodeon Central), Drop Zone Stunt Tower, Invertigo, and many more modern thrill ride attractions were added in. Because the park is constrained from further expansion by its location in the center of Silicon Valley, several rides including the classic train ride and the Sky Whirl, a Marriott's Great America signature attraction, were removed to make way for newer attractions.

Viacom went on to acquire CBS in 1999, [15] which made the combined Viacom/CBS the parent company of Great America and several broadcasting affiliates in the Bay Area, including KPIX-TV (CBS) and KBCW (UPN). Viacom/CBS split in 2005, with the re-formed CBS Corporation assuming control of Paramount Parks, until CBS sold that unit to Cedar Fair in 2006. [16]

Cedar Fair era (2006–present)

After Viacom and CBS Corporation split, Paramount Parks became a subsidiary of CBS. The theme park division was promptly put up for sale by CBS. In May 2006, Cedar Fair announced its acquisition of Paramount Parks. [17]

Despite having a license agreement in place to retain Nickelodeon and Paramount branding for several years, [18] Cedar Fair opted to remove them sooner. For the 2007 season, Paramount was dropped from the park's name, reducing it to Great America. [19] The following season, Cedar Fair renamed it California's Great America in recognition of the park's original name. [20] A Huss Rides top spin ride called FireFall was added that year, along with a new ice show in the Great America Theatre that was formerly called Paramount Theatre. [20] Halloween Haunt, a Halloween-themed event held every weekend through the fall, also debuted at the park in 2008. [20] The remaining Nickelodeon themes were replaced with characters and themes from Peanuts , a syndicated comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, for the 2010 season. The children's area was renamed Planet Snoopy. Similar changes were made at other Cedar Fair properties around the country.

On September 19, 2011, Cedar Fair confirmed reports that California's Great America would be sold to JMA Ventures, LLC for $70 million in cash. The sale required approval by the City of Santa Clara, and its city council was scheduled to vote on the matter on December 6, 2011. Cedar Fair, which purchased the park in 2006, expected to use the cash proceeds from the sale to reduce its senior secured debt. [21] However, on December 6, 2011, JMA Ventures cancelled its plans to purchase the amusement park. [22] In the same announcement, Cedar Fair also verified that a long-term agreement was reached with the San Francisco 49ers regarding parking and construction of a new stadium adjacent to Great America. [23] [24] Cedar Fair purchased the land beneath Great America from the city of Santa Clara in March 2019. [1] The city retained the main parking lot in sale. [25]

California's Great America did not operate in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [26] [27] It reopened on May 22, 2021, initially in a limited capacity, where face masks and social distancing were required. [28] Also in 2021, the Boomerang Bay water park reopened as South Bay Shores, featuring new water slides in several areas of the park.

In June 2022, Cedar Fair announced the sale of the land occupied by California's Great America for $310 million to Prologis, a Bay Area logistics real estate company. [29] [30] [31] Cedar Fair stated that the sale will help them lower the company's corporate debt to $2 billion, adding that they intended to close the park by 2033. [29] [30] The terms of the agreement involve Prologis leasing the land for an initial period of six years with the option to renew the lease for an additional five years, [29] [32] although Prologis could terminate Cedar Fair's lease with as little as two years' notice. [33] The mayor of Santa Clara, Lisa M. Gilmor, released a statement saying that the city only found out about the sale when the public did, that city officials planned to speak with Prologis to learn more details, and that the land is zoned for "theme park" use only. [34]


At the park's opening in 1976, the park featured appearances from Looney Tunes characters, including Bugs Bunny. [2] After Marriott sold the Gurnee park to the Six Flags corporation, the rights to the Looney Tunes characters passed along to them, and the 1984 season was their final one. The park began using Hanna-Barbera properties in 1985, including The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, and Yogi Bear. [35] [36] After the park was acquired by Cedar Fair, who held a license for Peanuts characters, the child-themed area was rethemed as Planet Snoopy.

Attractions by type

Intensity rating [37] [38]  (out of 5)
  1 (low)  2 (mild)  3 (moderate)  4 (high)   5 (aggressive)

Note: Number ratings assigned per California's Great America, while the colors are unique to Wikipedia. For more details, refer to the California's Great America Guest Assistance Guide. [38]

Roller coasters

NameImageLocationManufacturerModel NameOpenedRating [37] [38]
Demon Demon (California's Great America) 2.jpg County Fair Arrow Dynamics Custom Looping Coaster19765
Flight Deck Flight Deck (California's Great America) 02.jpg Orleans Place Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted Coaster19935
Gold Striker California's Great Adventure - Aerial view of Gold Striker (4031).jpg Celebration Plaza Great Coasters International Wooden Twister Model20134
Lucy's Crabbie Cabbies California's Great America (14339850981).jpg Planet SnoopyE&F Miler19992
Patriot Patriot at California's Great America (33838683241).jpg Hometown Square Bolliger & Mabillard Stand-up Coaster (1991-2017) Floorless Coaster1991 (2017)5
Psycho Mouse California's Great America 1 2016-08-28.jpg Action Zone Arrow Dynamics Wild mouse 20014
RailBlazer RailBlazer (44990050472).jpg County Fair Rocky Mountain Construction Raptor Track20185
The Grizzly Great America 1 2013-07-11.jpg Action ZoneCurtis D. SummersWooden Double Out and Back Model19864
Woodstock Express WoodstockExpressCaliforniasGreatAmerica.jpg Planet Snoopy Intamin Children's Roller Coaster19873

Thrill rides

NameImageLocationManufacturerModel NameOpenedRating [37] [38]
Delirium 2016.05.29 California's Great America (27093022540).jpg All American CornersChance RidesRevolution 3220025
Drop Tower Great America 7 2013-09-15.jpg Action Zone Intamin Giant Drop19964
Orbit Orbit at California's Great America (cropped).jpg All American Corners Schwarzkopf Enterprise 19764
Thunder RacewayAction ZoneGo Kart Ride20014
Tiki Twirl 2016.05.29 California's Great America (27297748861).jpg Action Zone Zamperla Disk'O Coaster20064
Xtreme SkyflyerHometown SquareSkycoaster19974

Park areas

Themed areas within California's Great America

The park is divided into several themed areas, laid out along an oval pathway nicknamed the "Duell Loop", which the park's designer, Randall Duell, had incorporated into several theme parks, including the Six Flags Great America sister park in Gurnee. This allows all areas of the park to be serviced from a central corridor, while visitors can experience the entire park by completing a single lap around it. [39] In aerial photographs, the central service corridor in the Santa Clara park is visible as a straight road running almost directly north–south, terminating under the Patriot roller coaster. At the park's opening in 1976, there were five themed areas: [6]

From the main entrance, visitors enter Celebration Plaza (originally Carousel Plaza); proceeding clockwise (turning left after passing Carousel Columbia), the themed areas are: [40]

The entrance to the South Bay Shores water park is in All American Corners, near the bridge to Planet Snoopy. [40] Typical visitor guide maps show the main entrance, which is in the northwest corner of the park, at the bottom of the map. [41] [43] [40]

Action Zone

The Action Zone was divided from The Great Midwest Livestock Exposition and County Fair.

RideImageOpenedManufacturerModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Centrifuge Centrifuge (California's Great America).jpg 1976SchwarzkopfCalypsoOriginally known as Fiddler's Fling. Its Six Flags counterpart retains that name as of today.3
Drop Tower California's Great America 5.JPG 1996 Intamin Giant DropA 227 ft-tall (69 m) tower where riders descend at speeds up to 100 km/h (62 mph) while free falling in cars that hold up to four passengers. Originally known as Drop Zone: Stunt Tower from 1996 to 2007. [44] 4
Eagle's Flight California's Great America (14156671349).jpg 1976 Von Roll Gondola liftEagle's Flight is the name for the Action Zone gondola station3
Psycho Mouse California's Great America (14342536344).jpg 2001 Arrow Dynamics Wild mouse roller coasterThe last Mad Mouse to be produced by Arrow Dynamics.4
The Grizzly 2016.05.29 California's Great America (26760853214).jpg 1986Kings IslandWooden roller coasterModeled after the original Coney Island Wildcat.4
Thunder Raceway2001 Go-kart trackPay-per ride attraction.4
Tiki Twirl Tiki Twirl 02.jpg 2006 Zamperla Disk'OOriginally known as Survivor: The Ride! from 2006 to 2011.4

All American Corners

Aerial view of the former Yukon Territory and Yankee Harbor (2017) from the Eagle's Flight/Delta Flyer Von Roll skyride; the Logger's Run log flume loading carousel is prominent in the right foreground, while the HMB Endeavor Looping Starship and lighthouse are on the left. A large waterslide for Boomerang Bay can be seen in the background. Aerial view of California's Great America 3.JPG
Aerial view of the former Yukon Territory and Yankee Harbor (2017) from the Eagle's Flight/Delta Flyer Von Roll skyride; the Logger's Run log flume loading carousel is prominent in the right foreground, while the HMB Endeavor Looping Starship and lighthouse are on the left. A large waterslide for Boomerang Bay can be seen in the background.

All American Plaza was formed by consolidating Yankee Harbor, Yukon Territory, and the southern portion of Orleans Place. These areas were delineated by covered bridges: Yankee Harbor was between the covered bridges leading to Orleans Place to the north and Fort Fun on the south, while Yukon Territory was separated from Yankee Harbor by a boardwalk next to The Revolution (later H.M.B. Endeavor) Looping Starship ride and lighthouse; another covered bridge led from Yukon Territory to County Fair, [45] which is now part of Action Zone). [40]

The signature rides in Yankee Harbor and Yukon Territory were the interlocking log flumes, which shared the same space on the east side of the park and had an entrance in each areas, flanking The Revolution and lighthouse. [45] [46] Much of what was Yukon Territory was renamed Nickelodeon Central by 2003, which was an extension of the Fort Fun/KidZville children's area. [41]

This area was renamed All American Corners by 2009. [43] The expansion of South Bay Shores in 2019–20 annexed a portion of All American Corners, including the lighthouse replica that was next to The Revolution/HMB Endeavor. [40]

RideImageOpenedManufacturerModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Delirium Ride at California's Great America.JPG 2002 Chance Rides Revolution 32Designed by KMG of the Netherlands.5
Flying Eagles California's Great America (14341537522).jpg 2002 Larson International Flying Scooters Cars can reach an overall height of 28 feet during ride operation.3
Liberty Twirler

Liberty Twirler.jpg

2022 Eli Bridge Company Scrambler (ride) A classic scrambler ride.3
Mass Effect: New Earth 2016.05.29 California's Great America (26761931673).jpg 2016
Iwerks Entertainment 4-D TheaterOriginally 'Action Theater' with several shows on two screens; debuted in March 1994 with Days of Thunder . [47] 3
Orbit Orbit at California's Great America (cropped).jpg 1976 Schwarzkopf Enterprise Originally the Orleans Orbit.4
Rip Roaring Rapids California's Great America (14320186596).jpg 1988 Intamin river rafting ride Riders careen through the concrete channels in 6-person rafts while facing rapids, whirlpools, and waterfalls. [48] 4

Celebration Plaza

Celebration Plaza is the park's entrance plaza, with often-photographed features including the reflecting pool, Carousel Columbia, and the park's name in flowers. By 1988, the area had been renamed Carousel Plaza and was separated from the adjoining Hometown Square by the park's perimeter railroad, which ran on an elevated track immediately behind the giant carousel. [45] After the railroad and trolley were removed in 2000, the Hometown Square area was consolidated and renamed Celebration Plaza, [41] although the area briefly bore the name Hollywood Plaza as well. [49] The Hometown Square area was re-separated in 2021. [40]

RideImageOpenedManufacturerModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Carousel Columbia Carousel Columbia (2477448809).jpg 1976 Chance Rides Double Decker Carousel A double-decker carousel that has over 100 horses and stands at an overall height of 101 feet (31 m).1
Gold Striker California's Great America (14320112146).jpg 2013 Great Coasters International Wooden roller coaster Featured as a top 50 wooden roller coaster in Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Awards [50] 4
Star Tower California's Great America (14156752950).jpg 1979 Intamin Gyro TowerPassengers ride in a rotating cabin where it reaches a height of 200 feet (61 m) while taking in the surrounding views.2

County Fair

This walkway/arbor in County Fair is a prominent part of the western arm, formerly Festival Plaza (2017). California's Great America 3 2017-08-01.jpg
This walkway/arbor in County Fair is a prominent part of the western arm, formerly Festival Plaza (2017).

County Fair was originally named The Great Midwest Livestock Exposition and County Fair; portions of it were split off to form Action Zone and Festival Plaza, but the latter was re-annexed into County Fair later. The original area, named The Great Midwest Livestock Exposition and County Fair, occupied most of the park's southern area, extending from a covered bridge into Yukon Territory (near the Centrifuge ride) to another bridge into Hometown Square (next to Whitewater Falls). [45] [40] Passenger service was provided by the park's perimeter railroad from Hometown Square, which stopped at the Fairground Junction station next to the picnic grounds and The Edge ride, and the Eagle's Flight station on the park's Von Roll gondola from Orleans Place. [45] [46]

By 2003, the area had been divided in two, with County Fair remaining in the southern part next to Nickelodeon Central (formed from the former Yukon Territory) while the western arm had been renamed Festival Plaza; the dividing line was the semi-circular Games Gallery, which hosted typical carnival games. [41] By 2009, the former County Fair at the park's southern end was renamed the Action Zone, while Festival Plaza assumed the County Fair name. [43] [40]

In early 2011, the park made the decision to relocate Invertigo to another Cedar Fair property, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, stating that it was necessary to make room for a future attraction. [51] [52] RailBlazer, a single-rail roller coaster, eventually opened in its place in 2018. [53]

RideImageOpenedManufacturerModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Barney Oldfield Speedway1976 Arrow Dynamics Antique Car ridePassengers ride in old-styled cars on a track around the Grizzly.2
Berserker California's Great America (14342545854).jpg 1976 Schwarzkopf Bayern KurveOriginally known as Yukon Yahoo.3
Demon Demon (California's Great America) 2.jpg 1976 Arrow Dynamics Looping CoasterOriginally opened as "Turn of the Century" in 1976. [2] Reconfigured and renamed "Demon" in 1980. [54] 5
RailBlazer RailBlazer (44990050472).jpg 2018 Rocky Mountain Construction Single RailReplaced Invertigo, a roller coaster which closed on January 27, 20115

Hometown Square

Hometown Square was annexed into Celebration Plaza, but was restored to a separate area later. Transportation within the park was provided by the perimeter railroad, which had one station in Hometown Square adjacent to Carousel Columbia connecting to a second station in County Fair where the Psycho Mouse roller coaster is today, and also by the trolley system, which ran in a square loop around the eponymous square in front of the Great America Theater, routed via Carousel Plaza through Orleans Place, where it terminated in another loop near where the Flying Eagles ride is today. [45]

After the park's perimeter railroad and trolley were removed, the Hometown Square area was combined with Celebration Plaza by 2003; [41] the areas were divided again by 2021. [40]

RideImageOpenedManufacturerModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Celebration Swings California's Great America (14156694409).jpg 2001 Zierer Wave swinger Originally operated at Carowinds as Whirling Dervish from 1979 to 2000.3
Patriot Patriot at California's Great America (33838589881).jpg 2017
B&M Floorless coaster A floorless coaster where passengers descend down a 91 ft (28 m) drop at speeds of up to 45 mph (72 km/h) while navigating through one loop and a corkscrew along the 1,920 ft (590 m) track. Formerly known as Vortex from 1991 to 2016 as a Stand-Up coaster. [55] 5
Whitewater Falls Water ride at Great America.jpg 1990 Intamin SpillwaterA shoot-the-chutes water ride where 20 passengers sit in a large boat that eventually descends down a 50 ft (15 m) drop at up to 44 mph (71 km/h), creating a 20-foot-tall (6.1 m) wave. [56] 4
Xtreme Skyflyer 1997 Skycoaster SkycoasterPay-per-ride attraction. [57] 4

Orleans Place

Orleans Place was renamed Pavilion Plaza at one point, reflecting its entrance to the picnic area named Great America Pavilion. Originally, Orleans Place extended from Celebration/Carousel Plaza to a covered bridge leading to Yankee Harbor and was divided in half by the perimeter railroad; [45] the portion south of the railroad (including the trolley station/loop and the Orleans Orbit and Rip Roaring Rapids rides, [45] approximately where Pizza Orleans is today) [40] was annexed into All American Plaza when that area was formed by consolidating Yankee Village and Yukon Territory by 2003. [58] [41] The site of the trolley station/loop is now marked by the "1950s gazebo" in All American Corners. [40]

RideImageOpenedManufacturerModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Delta Flyer 2016.05.29 California's Great America (26760874924).jpg 1976Von RollGondola lineDelta Flyer is the name for the Orleans Place station.3
Flight Deck Flight Deck (California's Great America) 02.jpg 1993 Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted roller coaster Formerly known as Top Gun. Maximum speed 50 mph (80 km/h). [59] 5
Rue Le Dodge Great America 19 2013-07-15.jpg 1976Soli Bumper Cars A classic bumper car ride.4

Planet Snoopy

The original Fort Fun area (now Planet Snoopy) in 2017, from the Eagle's Flight/Delta Flyer Von Roll skyride 2017.04.09 California's Great America (33125113654).jpg
The original Fort Fun area (now Planet Snoopy) in 2017, from the Eagle's Flight/Delta Flyer Von Roll skyride

Planet Snoopy is California's Great America's kids area, which opened in 2010. The area was originally named Fort Fun and has seen the most name changes as brand licenses were updated following multiple ownership changes, including Kids Kingdom, Smurf Woods, Nickelodeon Central, and KidZville.

The original Fort Fun was a 1 acre (0.40 ha) area for children located in the center of the park, accessible only by footbridges over water from Yukon Territory. [45] [46] [60] Smurf Woods opened in 1987 [61] and was physically separated from Fort Fun by Yukon Territory. [45] [46]

By 1999, the water physically separating Fort Fun from Yukon Territory had been filled [58] and by 2003, Smurf Woods had been replaced by Nickelodeon Central, which had annexed much of the former Yukon Territory and was adjoining Fort Fun, which had been renamed KidZville. [41] The Nickelodeon Central area was renamed Planet Snoopy in 2010 [62] and by 2016, the Planet Snoopy area had expanded to its present size by annexing the former KidZville/Fort Fun children's area. [63]

RideImageOpenedManufactureModelNotesRating [37] [38]
Character Carousel1976CarouselPreviously included Hanna-Barbera characters1
Flying Ace1999ZamperlaCrazy BusOriginally known as KidzAir2
GR8 SK82015Interactive RidesSky SkaterOriginally at Knott's Berry Farm as Joe Cool's GR8 SK8.3
Joe Cool's Dodgem School1999Kiddie bumper carsOriginally known as Fender Bender 500.2
Kite-Eating Tree1999ZamperlaMini Drop TowerOriginally known as Junior Jump Club.2
Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie California's Great America (14339850981).jpg 1999E&F Miler Kiddie roller coaster Originally known as Taxi Jam.2
Peanuts 5002015Originally operated at Knott's Berry Farm as Charlie Brown's Speedway.2
PEANUTS Pirates California's Great America (14156526089).jpg 2003HussBreakdance 4Originally known as SpongeBob's Boat Mobiles.2
Planet Snoopy Construction Zone2014PlaygroundOriginally known as KidZ Construction Co.1
Sally's Love Buggies 7375 Crabolio (51060850691).jpg 2003Originally known as Dora's Dune Buggies2
Sally's Swing SetFamily Wave SwingerOriginally known as Swing Swing Swing2
Snoopy's Space Buggies2015ZamperlaJump Around2
Snoopy's Space Race1976Originally known as Buzzy Bee and later Ghost Chasers.1
The Pumpkin Patch California's Great America (14156526919).jpg 2003Originally known as Wild Thornberry's Treetop Lookout2
Woodstock Express California's Great America (14156528069).jpg 1987 Intamin Steel roller coaster Originally known as Blue Streak, Rugrats Runaway Reptar3

South Bay Shores

South Bay Shores is a water park located within California's Great America that opened in 2004 as Crocodile Dundee's Boomerang Bay. The name was later shortened to just Boomerang Bay in 2007. In August 2019, it was announced that Boomerang Bay would be expanded and renamed South Bay Shores. Access to the water park is included with the price of admission to California's Great America.

Time Capsule

A time capsule was buried at then Paramount's Great America in the former KidZville area of the park on March 29, 2002. The time capsule is set to open on March 29, 2152. The time capsule reads, "At this site is buried a time capsule with essays by students in second through twelfth grades in the Santa Clara Unified School District and other local schools. What will the next 150 years in Santa Clara be like? In honor of the City of Santa Clara's sesquicentennial 1852-2002."

Defunct attractions

Past rides and attractions include:

RideImageOpenedManufacturer, typeLocationClosedNotesRating [37] [38] [64]
H.M.B. Endeavor 2016.05.29 California's Great America (27297704431).jpg 1987 Intamin Looping Starship All American Plaza (or All American Corners)2017Removed after the 2017 season due to an expansion of South Bay Shores. Originally named The Revolution.4
Snoopy's Splash Dance 2017.04.09 California's Great America (33155613343).jpg Kiddie splash walk-throughPlanet Snoopy2017Removed after the 2017 season due to an expansion of South Bay ShoresN/A
Logger's Run 2016.05.29 California's Great America (27270725742).jpg log flume All American Plaza (or All American Corners)2017Removed after the 2017 season due to an expansion of South Bay Shores4
Firefall California's Great America (14156505749).jpg 2008 HUSS Park Attractions Top Spin All American Plaza (or All American Corners)2016Relocated from Geauga Lake, where it had been named Texas Twister; unexpectedly closed following the 2016 season.

Replaced by Liberty Twirler.

Vortex California's Great America (14320030556).jpg 1991 Bolliger & Mabillard stand-up roller coaster Hometown Square2016Converted into a Floorless Coaster called Patriot for 20175
Invertigo Invertigo At Great America.jpg 1998 Vekoma inverted shuttle coaster Festival Plaza (later County Fair)2011The first of its kind in North America; [65] relocated to Dorney Park until its closure in 2018.5
Stealth Stealth (California's Great America) 1.jpg 2000 Vekoma flying roller coaster All American Plaza2003Tested in 1999; [66] relocated to Carowinds in 2004 and renamed Nighthawk to make way for Boomerang Bay
Great America Scenic Railway1976Custom 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroadStations in Hometown Square and County Fair2000Traversed the perimeter of the park
Yankee Clipper1976 Arrow Dynamics log flumeAll American Corners (Yankee Harbor)1998Interlocked with Logger's Run and was removed to make room for Stealth
Greased Lightnin' Paramount's Great America 2000.jpg 1977 Anton Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop roller coasterAll American Corners (Yankee Harbor)2002Originally called The Tidal Wave; renamed in 1999
IMAX Pictorium Theater1978IMAX movie theaterCelebration Plaza2001First IMAX theater in California; premiered Man Belongs to the Earth . [67]
The Edge1983Intamin Freefall Action Zone (County Fair)1995A first-generation Freefall ride
Skyhawk1989Intamin flight trainer simulatorHometown Square2000
Sky Whirl 1976Intamin Triple Tree Wheel (Ferris wheel)County Fair1997Several sister rides were custom manufactured for various Marriott Corporation amusement parks
Lobster1976 Octopus rideAll American Corners (Yankee Harbor)1993Removed to make room for Action Theater
Bottom's Up Trabant flat rideHometown Square1988
Triple Play1976Huss Troika Hometown Square2004Formerly situated next to Patriot
Smurf Woods1987Kids-themed areaNow Planet Snoopy1990sThemed to The Smurfs
Nickelodeon Central 1990s1997Based on shows from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.
KidZville California's Great America (14156525579).jpg 19982010Incorporates themes from Hanna-Barbera after the acquisition by Paramount, including Scooby-Doo, Flintstones, and Jetsons [68]
Whizzer 1976Anton Schwarzkopf steel family roller coasterHometown Square1988Originally named Willard's Whizzer [2]
Trolley Cars1976 Trolley Hometown Square and Orleans Place via Celebration Squarec.2000Traveled to other locations within Great America
Dolphin and Seal ShowDaily shows featuring dolphins and sealsPlanet Snoopy (Fort Fun)1989During the Marriott era; as with other parks in the chain, the show was removed after Paramount Parks began managing park operations. The remaining structure was later converted to Peanuts Playhouse Theater
Cajun CarpetHuss Rainbow flat rideOrleans Place1989Formerly located near Orbit and Rip Roaring Rapids. [69]
Gulf Coaster 1976steel kiddie coaster 1980
Ameri-Go-Round 1976 Philadelphia Toboggan Company carouselCounty Fair1995Replaced by Drop Tower. [70] Originally built in 1918 for the Cincinnati Zoo; after closing at Great America, donated to Woodland Park Zoo and reopened in 2006.
Hilltopper Himalaya flat ride1984
Saskatchewan Scrambler Scrambler flat rideYukon Territory / County Fair1991Renamed Industrial Revolution after move

Fast Lane

Fast Lane, first introduced at a Cedar Fair park in July 2011, is a secondary queue system that offers shorter wait times on the park's most popular rides. [71] FastLane is a system where in addition to a standard admission charge, visitors can purchase a wrist band. The band grants access to the Fast Lane queue. In theory, a limited number of wrist bands are available each day. [72]

Former Halloween Haunt event

Halloween Haunt California's Great America logo.jpg

Halloween Haunt was a seasonal event at California's Great America, that began in the fall after the park has transitioned to weekend-only operation. It debuted in 2008 and last ran in 2021, and typically ran from mid-September through late October to coincide with Halloween, featuring haunted houses, mazes, live shows, and scare actors roaming throughout the park. [73] [74] Most rides and attractions remained in operation during this time, and the park's hours of operation were extended on Fridays and Saturdays. [73] [75] The event last operated on October 31, 2021.

On February 25, 2022, California's Great America announced that Halloween Haunt is being replaced for the 2022 season with a family-friendly, scare-free Halloween event called "Tricks and Treats". [76] There will not be an adult, nighttime Halloween event at California’s Great America in 2022, although the Halloween Haunt event continues to run at several other Cedar Fair parks.

Haunt attractions

Entry gate for the Tooth Fairy maze (2019) Not just decorated for Halloween, Great America, Santa Clara (48984247948).jpg
Entry gate for the Tooth Fairy maze (2019)

The last year of Halloween Haunt in 2021 featured five mazes, one scare zone, two party zones, and three live shows. [77]

BackwoodsMazeCelebration Plaza [78]
Blood DrumsLive showOrleans Place [79]
Hometown HarvestParty zoneHometown Square
Killer Clown TownScare zonePlanet Snoopy [80]
Madame Marie's Massacre ManorMazeHometown Square [81]
Opening ScaresLive showCelebration Plaza [82]
Roadkill RoadhouseMazeCelebration Plaza [83]
Tooth FairyMazeAction Zone [84]
Wax Museum BlackoutMazeAll American Corners [85]
NytewalkersLive showCelebration Plaza
Voodoo Party ZoneParty zoneOrleans Place

Park timeline

  • 2023: Park opens year round, return of Carnivale at Orleans Place and new PEANUTS Celebration.
  • 2022: Scrambler ride Liberty Twirler debuts along with revamped All American Corners area of park, A family-friendly event called Tricks and Treats permanently takes the place of Halloween Haunt. [86]
  • 2021: Renovated South Bay Shores waterpark debuts.
Water slides viewed from the cable car Aerial view of California's Great America 3.JPG
Water slides viewed from the cable car
  • 2019: Drop Tower receives new paint scheme depicting a redwood tree, Pre-K pass is introduced.
  • 2018: Single-rail coaster RailBlazer debuts, Halloween Haunt and WinterFest are expanded.
  • 2017: Patriot is converted to floorless, Vortex is repainted and re-themed, Halloween Haunt and Winterfest expanded. FireFall, Logger's Run, H.M.B Endeavour, Snoopy's Splash Dance, and other structures are removed.
  • 2016: 4D holographic attraction themed to the video game Mass Effect debuts in newly-renovated Action Theater, Winterfest event added, Halloween Haunt expansion. [87] [88]
  • 2015: Planet Snoopy replaces KidZville
  • 2014: Flight Deck repainted red and white, Grizzly retracked and has its loading area painted red and white, Fun TV monitors added to ride line queues, and new flooring in Carousel Columbia. [89]
  • 2013: New wooden coaster "Gold Striker" opens and Happy Feet: Mumble's Wild Ride debuts in the Action Theater.
  • 2012: Demon and Flight Deck repainted, elevator lift entrance for Loggers Run and Vortex, The Grizzly is retracked, Fast Lane added. [90]
The former Invertigo coaster (Removed 2011) Invertigo.jpg
The former Invertigo coaster (Removed 2011)
  • 2011: Invertigo removed and relocated to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom
  • 2010: Planet Snoopy replaces Nickelodeon Central, Hanna Barbera references removed in KidZville
  • 2009: All Wheels Extreme Stunt show; Chipper Lowell Experience show
  • 2008: Park renamed California's Great America; FireFall; Dora's Sing-Along Adventure; Endless Summer On Ice show; Halloween Haunt debuts
  • 2007: Paramount dropped from the name, renamed Great America; Great Barrier Reef Wavepool added to Boomerang Bay; Ed Alonzo Misfit of Magic; Twistin' to the '60s Show
  • 2006: Tiki Twirl (Formerly Survivor: The Ride); Park is sold to Cedar Fair
  • 2005: Boomerang Bay expansion to include lazy river, two other waterslides and a large swimming pool.
  • 2004: Boomerang Bay is added including a complex of children's water slides/play area, a 4-person adult raft/tube ride, a two-person inner-tube water slide and a fully enclosed two-person inner-tube water slide. Triple Play is removed
  • 2003: SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D in the Action Theater; Nickelodeon Central (expansion of Splat City); Stealth (flying steel coaster) is removed and sent to Carowinds as Nighthawk
  • 2002: Delirium; Flying Eagles; Greased Lightning (shuttle loop coaster) is removed; Time Capsule buried
  • 2001: Psycho Mouse; Celebration Swings; Thunder Raceway; Stan Lee's seventh Portal 3D/ Smash Factory in Action Theater
  • 2000: Stealth (flying steel coaster) opens to the public; Scenic Railroad and Skyhawk are removed
  • 1999: KidZVille; Tidal Wave renamed Greased Lightnin'; Stealth is constructed and tested all season; Logger's Run modified to allow construction of Stealth
Complete View of the former Invertigo coaster Invertigo At Great America.jpg
Complete View of the former Invertigo coaster
  • 1998: Invertigo; James Bond: License to Thrill; [69] in the Paramount Action F/X Theater Yankee Clipper is removed
  • 1997: Xtreme Skyflyer; Triple Wheel (originally Sky Whirl) is removed
  • 1996: Drop Tower Scream Zone (Formerly Drop Zone Stunt Tower)
  • 1995: Nickelodeon Splat City; The Edge and Ameri- Go Round are removed.
  • 1994: Action Theater featuring Days of Thunder
  • 1993: Park is renamed Paramount's Great America; Flight Deck (Formerly Top Gun); Lobster is removed
  • 1992: KECO is acquired by Paramount, and renamed Paramount Parks; IMAX Pictorium Theater received a $1.5 million upgrade allowing it to screen 3-D films.
  • 1991: Vortex (March 9); [61] Saskatchewan Scrambler is removed.
  • 1990: Whitewater Falls (March 31) [61]
  • 1989: Skyhawk (March 11); [61] KECO purchases buildings, rides, and equipment from the City of Santa Clara (June 2); [61] Dolphin and Seal show and Cajun Carpet are removed.
  • 1988: Rip Roaring Rapids (March 12). [61] Whizzer and Bottom's Up are removed
  • 1987: Woodstock Express (Formerly Blue Streak/ Green Slime Mine Car Coaster/ Runaway Reptar); Smurf Woods (March 21); [61] Fort Fun (March 21); [61] HMB Endeavor (Formerly known as The Revolution, March 21) [61]
  • 1986: The Grizzly (March 15); [61] Redwood Amphitheater with the Miami Sound Machine (June 14) [61]
  • 1985: Park is renamed Great America.
  • 1985: Park is sold by Marriott corporation to the City of Santa Clara (June 5); [61] management transfers to Kings Entertainment Company (KECO)
  • 1984: Hilltopper is removed.
  • 1983: The Edge (June 18); [61] Red Baron and Ladybugs are removed.
  • 1982: Atari Video Adventure
  • 1980: The Demon (remodeled from Turn of the Century, March 15); [61] Gulf coaster is removed
  • 1979: Star Tower (formerly Sky Tower, March 31) [61]
  • 1978: IMAX Pictorium Theater, with film Man Belongs to the Earth (June 3) [61]
  • 1977: Tidal Wave (July 8) [61]
  • 1976: Marriott's Great America opens (March 20) [61]
California's Great America Star Tower Summit Panorama 2015 (cropped) (downscaled).jpg
A panorama from the peak of Star Tower at California's Great America in 2015

In film and television

Beverly Hills Cop III

Though appearing under the name "Wonder World", Paramount's Great America was used for exterior scenes of the theme park in the 1994 film Beverly Hills Cop III (itself released by Paramount Pictures) after Knott's Berry Farm declined filming rights. [91] [92]

Writer Steven E. de Souza originally wrote the story as more "Die Hard in a theme park". He was told that each of the rides he had designed would cost about $10 million to build and the whole film would cost about $70 million. When box office results for The Distinguished Gentleman came in, Paramount ordered the budget to be cut to $55 million.

Some modifications were made to the Columbia Carousel and Vortex roller coaster. Most of the Sky Whirl/Triple Wheel stunts (renamed "The Spider" for the film) were filmed in a studio. To film the exterior scenes, the motors of the Triple Wheel were left unpowered; instead, to ensure the ride did not move too quickly, some cages were loaded with sandbags to unbalance the mechanism. [93] In this scene, George Lucas has a small part as the man Axel cuts in front of to get on the ride, also known as 'disappointed man' (this can be seen in the credits). John Singleton and Martha Coolidge also made cameo appearances in the film. [94]

Many rides that were seen in the movie including Triple Play/Sky Whirl have since been removed. Also, the carousel at the back of the park (the Ameri-Go-Round, not the Columbia Carousel) was altered. The Ameri-Go-Round carousel has since been removed and Drop Zone is now in its place. The tunnels that supposedly ran under the park are a myth as well. No tunnels run under the park, as many thought after this was released.

The Alien Attack ride featured in the Wonder World theme park was in fact the "Earthquake: The Big One" attraction from the Universal Studios Florida theme park in Orlando, Florida. The "aliens" featured in the ride are suited actors (and not animatronic as suggested in the film) that closely resembled the Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica. [95]

Other appearances


Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Woodstock's Express (California's Great America)</span> Roller coaster

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