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Great Times at Great America

July 27, 2011

It was at the request of our tween that we be sure to make it to California’s Great America this summer, and it didn’t take much persuasion to get the younger kids on board after taking a peek at the photos of the park online.

After scouring the internet for coupons and codes, I found that the best deal was right there on the Great America website: if we were to buy four or more tickets, each ticket would only cost the equivalent of a child admission ($34.50).  Parking could also be paid for at the time of sale, so we checked out with five tickets and a one-day parking pass and promptly printed them right at home the night before our outing.

Since we planned to go on a Friday, we left Modesto at about 9:30am (though still managed to sit in late-morning Silicon Valley traffic), and arrived in Santa Clara near 11:30am.  Driving to the park, finding parking and making our way through the entrance gate were easy peasy.  There was quite a line for admission tickets, which we bypassed thanks to our pre-purchased tickets.

Our first few rides of the day were family rides: the double-decker Columbia Carousel — the tallest of its kind, and the 200-foot tall Star Tower observation tower.  Though labeled as “low thrill” rides, we enjoyed the chance to ride together and acquaint ourselves with the layout of the park via the Star Tower.

Once we had made our way towards the rear of the park, we found the need to divide and conquer.  Many of the rides in the areas other than KidZville and Planet Snoopy were not suitable for our youngest child, who is only 5 years old.  Being more of a thrill-seeker myself, I took the tween and headed for the nearest roller coaster; my husband took the grade schoolers and stopped for lunch.

Food Festival, located in the “County Fair” area of Great America, had options galore and shaded seating was abundant.  The kids noshed on corn dogs, french fries and [a bit] of a green salad.  Though expensive, the food was quite good for being concession grade; everything seemed freshly made and the portions were large enough without being wasteful.

  • At Food Festival, visitors can choose from tacos, burgers, teriyaki bowls, soft serve and more.
  • Expect to pay $4-6 for a fountain drink, $3.75 for a bottled water, $5-7 for a hot dog or corn dog, and nearly $10 for a complete meal (protein, starch and side).  Pretty awesome in-park deals are offered via text messaging.  At the beginning of your day, text CGAToday to 74674, and you’ll receive at most six texts that day.  Of the five I received, two were for free drinks with purchase, one was for a free appetizer with purchase, and one was for half off a game fee.  Message and/or data rates may apply.
  • Outside food is not allowed inside the park, but there are picnicking areas outside the entrance gate and re-entry after eating is allowed.

Rides for adventurous souls are the meat and potatoes of Great America’s appeal.  There are four main high-thrill roller coasters: Grizzly is the only classic wooden coaster; Demon is a whirling dervish of corkscrew turns; Vortex is a twirling, topsy-turvy coaster that riders will actually stand for; and Flight Deck is the best combination of all the above, during which riders are seated with their legs hanging for an ultimate flying sensation.

(Clockwise from top left: Flight Deck, Demon, Vortex, and Grizzly)

  • The tween said that her favorite coasters were Flight Deck and Grizzly.  The least favorite (by all accounts) was the Vortex, whose very bumpy, jostling ride gave both of us instantaneous headaches.
  • The lines were of course much longer for these rides, but the longest we ever had to wait was 30 minutes prior to boarding.  I’ve experienced longer waits at Great America before, but only on weekends.

KidZville and Planet Snoopy are areas of the park dedicated to those 36-48” tall.  KidZville had only a few rides that enticed our kids (Fender Bender 500, a bumper car ride and the KidZville River Adventure, a walk through water exploration area), so they pushed through to Planet Snoopy where the bulk of their afternoon was spent.

  • Each ride was enjoyed at least twice: Woodstock Express — a small, age-appropriate roller coaster with hills and turns but no sudden falls or inversions — was a favorite, as was the Pumpkin Patch — a ride that took us slowly up 30 feet in the air, spun slowly around and then returned to the ground — but this was mostly due to our own emotional attachment to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charile Brown”.
  • Snoopy’s Splash Dance is a maze of water sprays and misty curtains.  While it does not require a bathing suit, we can say from experience that it’s highly advised.
  • The kids were cast on-the-spot in “Charlie Brown’s Pirate Adventure”, one of many live shows throughout the park, though the only one currently showing in the Peanuts Playhouse.  It was very fun for them to sing and dance along with giant Peanuts characters!  Total photo op!

There was an entire portion of the park we never even made it to.  Boomerang Bay is the water park within a park at California’s Great America, packed to the gills with features: a huge wave pool, inner tube river rides, water slides, and two water play areas for children.  Jackaroo Landing, with smaller-scale slides, bridges, rope ladders and more, looked like immense fun for toddlers and preschoolers; Kookaburra Cay, strictly a “sprayground”, was a perfect spot for little ones who were more timid or needing to wind down.

  • This section of the park operates on a schedule slightly different from that of the rest of the amusement park.  Be sure to check the schedule when planning your trip.
  • Don’t forget the sunblock — there are no mature trees in the area, and shaded seating is sometimes hard to find.
  • Weather in the Bay Area is not nearly as warm as the Central Valley.  Expect, even on days with midday highs in the 90’s, for the evening to cool significantly.  Be prepared with lightweight clothes for changing into after a day of fun in Boomerang Bay.
  • Lockers are available in the Boomerang Bay, as are full-body dryers, which are sort of an experience in of themselves.  Both of these features require additional money.

All in all, we had a great time spending the day at California’s Great America — so much, in fact, that we’re contemplating season passes next summer!

Check out our entire California’s Great America photo album at the Modesto.FindandGoSeek.net Facebook page.  Don’t forget to “like” us while you’re there!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 04:41

    Great info. Love the details about the food, shade (or lack there of) and pricing.

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