Today we have an amazing offseason look at California's Great America where some major changes have been made in just a couple of short months since Winterfest.
But more than that, some new developments related to the parks master plan have made this park really one of the parks to look towards for the next decade as becoming one of the top parks in the country. Let's take a look.
Written by Andrew Cunningham
If you had asked me ten years ago about the future of California’s Great America, I would have told you to book a trip while you still can. I, like many others, was convinced that this park would eventually be a distant memory, most likely replaced by a tech campus or condos. But here we are, 2017, and Great America has laid the groundwork to become a rising star in the Cedar Fair chain. After the impressive debuts of Winterfest and Mass Effect: New Earth in 2016, the park was granted approval of a new master plan that, among other things, makes it easier for them to add new attractions and raises their height ceiling to 250 feet.
We were fortunate enough to tag along with ACE Norcal on a preseason tour of the park. This year is all about Patriot, so lets take a look around!
It seems like so long ago that we were saying farewell (or perhaps, good riddance) to Vortex and California’s Great America. This B&M coaster sits in the middle of the park, and despite it’s fun, snappy little layout, the coaster was both an eyesore and and pain to ride.
One of the best things about Patriot is that its bright colors bring life to the surrounding midways. Since the ride is placed in a central area of the park, it interacts with several different midways. Instead of clunky standup trains rattling along faded track, guests throughout the park will see the flashy new floorless trains whipping around the bright blue twists and turns.
Great America is intent on improving the guest experience beyond the Patriot conversion. The entire Celebration Plaza area, where Patriot’s entrance is located, is getting a facelift for the summer. There is still a lot of construction activity going on, but it’s all looking amazing!
One of the coolest new additions to the area will be the live entertainment. Unique characters, or “citizens’, will roam the midway and interact with guests around Patriot. This is similar to Ghost Town Alive at Knotts Berry Farm.
Overall, there is still some work to be done around the park before opening day, but things are really looking great!
Thank you to California’s Great America for a wonderful tour! We are very excited for the park to open for the season, and even more excited to see new changes evolve over the next several years!
Last week the inaugural WinterFest at California's Great America kicked off and from all indications it was a great openining for what will hopefully become an amazing annual holiday event in the Bay Area.
Be sure to check out all of the amaznig pictures below and let us know what you think. Click here for more information on WinterFest 2016.
Written by Andrew Cunningham
California’s Great America rolled out their very first WinterFest event last week, and we happily showed up to experience this great seasonal addition to the park.
WinterFest includes a huge variety of holiday lights, some special activities that are exclusive to the event, and limited rides and attractions. Overall, there are nine uniquely themed areas throughout the park: Snowflake Lake, Celebration Plaza, Orleans Plaza, Coca-Cola Polar Bear Plaza, Crafter’s Corner, Planet Snoopy, Candy Cane Lane, Toyland, and Hometown Square.
When you enter the park, you immediately find yourself at Snowflake Lake. The park’s iconic front entrance has been converted into an ice skating rink, and the neighboring observation tower has taken on a new theme as The North Pole.
Immediately behind Snowflake Lake and The Carousel Columbia is the park’s enormous Christmas tree. The tree anchors Celebration Plaza and is one of the most popular photo spots of the event.
To fit the new holiday theme of Celebration Plaza, the nearby Gold Striker gift shop was rethemed into a Christmas shop, complete with some (awesome) unique park merchandise and holiday displays.
Moving on from Celebration Plaza, Orleans Square was completely covered with very colorful lights.
One thing worth mentioning: Flight Deck and Gold Striker are the only two major thrill rides operating at WinterFest, and both had very long queues. I hope that Patriot will be added to the lineup next year to help spread out the crowds :-)
Coca-Cola Polar Bear Plaza takes up the area in front of FireFall. This area was featured a variety of nostalgic Coke advertisements, a meet-and-greet with a Coca-Cola Polar Bear, and a ton of red and white lights.
Sitting just beyond the Coke Plaza is Crafter’s Corner, an area dedicated to local Bay Area merchants. There are a series of booths set up in front of Mass Effect, each selling uniques gift items. We took a look at some grilling spices, soaps that look and smell like desserts, and some funny drink coasters.
The park has a backstage corridor, Candy Cane Lane, setup to connect Crafter’s Corner to Toyland, since the back loop of the park is not open past Planet Snoopy. This was a fun little area with cool gingerbread displays.
Closing the loop back to the front of the park, Hometown Square was covered with more traditional Christmas decorations.
Underneath Patriot, the park had live Reindeer for guests to interact with. This seemed like a very popular attraction for the kids in attendance!
That just about does it for my trip around WinterFest at California’s Great America! Many thanks to the park for inviting us out to check out the event. The event is off to a great start and I definitely recommend checking it out!
Last week we were invited to opening night of Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America. This event is one of the biggest Halloween event’s in the Bay area and once again the park did a fantastic job.
Written by Stephen Harrington
There are 8 houses with 5 different “Skeleton Key” rooms, which sound very similar with what Knott’s is doing, and possibly the Cedar Fair chain. Really the fact is that each Skeleton Key room is it’s own little mini-haunt. I will not be giving any spoilers away for the “Skeleton Key” rooms other than to say it is worth it to upgrade to Frightlane plus and include the rooms.
The “Skeleton Key” rooms were very strong in their showings. The other nice thing about opening night is the crowds were thin. The next few weekends are probably going to be the best times to visit if you are worried about crowds.
Once we start getting into October and closer to Halloween, the crowd levels will increase. Another nice thing about coming during haunt is the rides are open and tonight was pretty much walk on for the coasters and very minimal wait for the major attractions.
However, hopefully it was opening night hiccups, there was a noticeable lack of talent in the houses. We will be back before the end of the run to see the differences compared to opening night. Also a majority of the houses are repeat and some of them, hate to say it need to be retired.
Rumor has it, if possible, stay for the evenings closing ceremony for possible spoilers and hints for next season. We unfortunately couldn’t stay last night to hear for ourselves.
House reviews, no spoilers-
New for this year was also FearVR. Samsung Gear VR is taking over the amusement world. It is a 4D $10 upcharge attraction. It is also very unique. If you decide to give it a shot, look around with the Gear on, there is so much to look at. If you missed our review of FearVR and thoughts on it's sudden closure be sure to check it out here.
Skeleton Key Rooms- California’s Great America has 5 Skeleton Key rooms which are their own separate entities. There is “Bone Crusher,” “Dominated,” “Vanity,” “Hoarder House,” and “Sorority Slaughter.” While short, the theming was amazing, and the actors owned their roles. Definitely worth the price to upgrade to fastlane plus.
There also also four shows during the run. Last night we were only able to catch “Blood Drums” so on our next visit we’ll be sure to catch the other shows.
Once again if you get a chance to come out to California’s Great America Halloween Haunt you won’t be disappointed. There were some opening night hiccups, as to be expected, but we will be back later in the run to see the differences and changes.
Thank’s again to California’s Great America for having us out and we’ll see you in the fog!