A visit to California’s Great America

California’s Great America

A visit to California’s Great America was the main reason for coming to California in the first place. The park opened by Marriott in 1976 is one the great American theme parks constructed in the 70s. For the first years of operation, the park offered the same line-up as its sister park in Gurnee, Illinois (nowadays known as Six Flags Great America). In 1985, Marriott sold the park to the City of Santa Clara with Kings Entertainment to operate the park. Four years later, the city sold the park to Kings Entertainment. In 1993, the group was purchased by Paramount and in 2006 by Cedar Fair.

Carousel Columbia

From opening day, the Carousel Columbia is the icon of the park. This double-decker carousel sits majestic at the end of a large pool featuring all kinds of water fountains. It is the first ride guests see when entering the park.

Gold Stiker

The GCI wooden coaster Gold Striker is probably the most popular ride at California’s Great America, due to its location right next to the park’s entrance. Gold Striker’s first drop gives the Star Observation Tower a very nice backdrop.

Like many GCI, the ride starts with a small pre-lift section. With best views onto the observation tower, we then climb the lift hill. When approaching the top of the lift, we then enter a tunnel and shortly thereafter, we take the first drop. After a righthand curve close to the ground, we race over a small bunny hill right next to the station. Following a large incline, we now race through a large left-hand turn consisting of multiple hills. After changing direction, we race over a series of small airtime hills. An inclined left-hand turn then leads us into a series of close to the ground turns before reaching the brake section of the ride.

So far, Gold Striker is probably my least favorite GCI wooden coaster. Albeit the ride maintains its velocity until the end, the ride lacks a bit the airtime and out of control sensation many GCI wooden coasters are known for. Furthermore, it did not run smooth on my day of visit. To be fair, I could only ride it once, so my perception might have changed when experiencing the ride more often.


When filming Berverly Hills Cop III, the Vortex was Paramount’s Great America’s newest roller coaster and hence can be seen a few times within the movie. In 2017, the ride received new trains, transforming the old Stand-Up coaster into a floorless Sit-Down coaster. 

After leaving the station in a lefthand turn, we immediately reach the ride’s lift hill. Once at the top, we plunge down the first drop in a steep curve and into a vertical loop. This is followed by a horseshoe turn around. After a short bend to the right, we take a helix travelling through the loop. Back on the ground, we then take another bend to the right, diving into a corkscrew immediately after. A turn to the right then leads us into the final incline. After a short straight section, we then hit the brakes.

Albeit being the second oldest B&M coaster, Patriot still feels great. I just wish, I could have experienced the ride in its old configuration, as I truly enjoy Stand-Up coasters, yet I don’t mind the fun floorless coaster it currently is.

Whitewater Falls

The Shoot the Chute Whitewater Falls is the large water ride in the front section of the park. The ride made to soak every rider features a nice double drop descent. Interestingly, after my turn, the ride broke down for the day.


California’s Great America has a surprisingly large collection of flat rides made by the German company Schwarzkopf. The very nice looking Berserler is one of them. Unfortunately, the ride was down on my visit to the park.


Railblazer is the second installation of a Raptor Track coaster by RMC: a roller coaster which due to its Monorail-esque track design, allows for very tight and compact elements. Of course, the narrow track doesn’t come without downsides, as the seating arrangement within the cars is not optimal for a great throughput.

After boarding the vehicle, the ride starts with a very fast climb to the top of the lift hill. Once we reached the top, the train descents a small drop and moves through a curve. We now hit a small hill after which the vertical drop of the ride awaits us. As the top of the hill is very tight, we are immediately thrown out of our seats and experience an amazing airtime filled drop shortly after. Faster than we could possibly imagine, we already hit the next valley and make our way towards the top of the Dive Loop. A second later we twist ourselves sideways in a large camelback. Another second later, we initiate a curvy incline leading into the second airtime filled drop. This is followed by a Cutback element and a classic Corkscrew. After another curve we already slam into the brakes and the 50s long journey of endless insanity comes to an end.

Railblazer is absolutely awesome and together with Wonder Woman: Golden Lasso Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas is the best RMC roller coaster I’ve ridden so far. You simply cannot describe the insanity of the layout – you have to experience it. It is just awesome.


The Demon is the classic roller coaster of California’s Great America. Born as Turn of the century, the ride first featured a set of camelbacks which later got replaced by the vertical loops.

The ride starts by entering a dark tunnel. After a short bend, the lift hill is reached. Once at the top, we soon enter a long bend to the left, before taking the big drop. After hitting the ground, we directly hit the vertical loops one after the other, only slightly interrupted by a short straight section. After this breathtaking sensation, we then race through a very funky tunnel featuring some very awesome old-school light effects. Soon after, we take a gentle incline, race through a braking section and initiate our return to the station. A short drop into a rather demonic rock formation is followed by the two iconic corkscrew inversions directing us into the ride’s final helix. Shortly thereafter, we reach the brakes and our great ride comes to an end.


The Grizzly is the park’s large scale wooden roller coaster. The ride based on Coney Island’s Wildcat design starts its journey with a curve leading towards the lift hill. Once at the top, we directly take the big drop of the ride. Interestingly, the valley is slightly bended, leaving us with a rather odd sensation when racing through. After a incline, we take a wide turning curve. After the second drop, we take a very gentle hill with a slight bend to the left. This is followed by another elevated turning curve featuring a ramped entry and exit. After a curve close to the ground, we initiate the second lap through the layout by going parallel to the already experienced track for a while. After the valley following the large turning curve, we then climb into the brake section of the ride.

Pacific Gliders and Drop Tower

Even though California’s Great America is closing in a few years, the park is still adding a few rides here and there. With the addition of the Pacific Gliders flat ride this year, the whole section of the park got a small make-over and even the old Intamin Drop Tower shines in a new light. The ride on the drop tower is a delight, even though not all gondolas were available during my visit.

Psycho Mouse

One of the rarest roller coaster models is Arrow’s Psycho Mouse. Born during the big popularity boom of the modern Steel Wild Mouse roller coasters in the 90s, this Arrow creation sure takes some adventurous new routes. While the first half of the ride does not differentiate too much from its German role model, it’s the part after the hairpin bends which characterises this model.  After the sloped curve, we directly take the large drop of the ride. Then, after passing through a brake section, we take a slightly inclined curve to the right which directs us into a medium sized drop. Another brake section is followed by a curve and two back-to-back drops. Last but not least, our return to the station in initiated by two inclined curves with a straight middle section in between. Soon after, we hit the brakes and our great ride comes to an end.


The second classic Schwarzkopf ride on our tour through the park is the Centrifuge. Interestingly, the ride is one of the last remaining Calypso rides by the German manufacturer and hence a ride everyone should enjoy on his visit to the theme park.

Woodstock Express

I normally don’t struggle to get into a roller coaster, yet the belts on the Woodstock Express were extremely tight. The small family roller coaster is one of the oldest rides to be manufactured by Intamin and features very gentle slopes and a helix.

Planet Snoopy

I always enjoy the large Snoopy areas in the Cedar Fair parks, as they always provide a good amount of rides for the whole family. At California’s Great America, the most noticeable among them are the HUSS Break Dance Peanuts Pirates, the children’s roller coaster Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbies and the seesaw Gr8 Sk8 – a ride which many people might have experienced as X-Scream at a height of 264 m on top of the Statosphere Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada. 


The swing ride Delirium is right next to the entrance to the water park South Bay Shores – which was already closed for the season. The ride on the Chance Rides Fireball offers a great and intense cycle.


Next to the Rip Roaring Rapids – a Rapids Ride by Intamin, which was not in Operation during my visit –, you can find the Orbit. This treasure of a flat ride, is one of the last Schwarzkopf Enterprise rides left in operation and therefore an absolute must-do ride for every enthusiast.

Flight Deck

Flight Deck, originally known as Top Gun, is the park’s medium sized Inverted Coaster. After climbing the lift hill, the ride directly guides us into the vertical loop after a steep curve to the left. After experiencing a lot of pressure, we then gain some altitude in a very tight helix. After another drop, we then fly over the entrance area of a nearby theatre in a nice Zero-G Roll. We then turn left, race through an elevated bend and take a drop into the ride’s final inversion – a very powerful corkscrew. After being whipped to the side, we then experience a very tight helix over a lake, whereupon we take a curve into the brakes and our very powerful rides soon comes to a stop.    

Pictures California’s Great America

Conclusion California’s Great America

My visit to California’s Great America was a delight. It was the last park on my trip through California and I truly enjoyed the park, as it has a very nice family-friendly atmosphere. The park still feels like one of the Great American theme parks built in the 70s and has a great line-up of rides on offer. It’s sad to see it gone in a few years of time; especially since its only competitor is a rather underwhelming Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.  

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Belmont Park

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Theme Park:Belmont Park (since 1925)
Address:3146 Mission Blvd
92109 San Diego
Operated by:San Diego Coaster Co.

Belmont Park not far from SeaWorld San Diego is a small Seaside Amusement Park in San Diego, CA, which opened its doors in 1925. A lot has changed here over the years, but the park’s main attraction has always been the wooden roller coaster Giant Dipper. Other attractions in the park include an ice cream-themed Tilt-a-Whirl, the Chance Rides Fireball Beach Blaster and the interactive looping rides Octotron and Flip Out.

Giant Dipper

After leaving the station on a bend, we immediately enter a long tunnel, at the end of which the ride’s lift hill awaits us. This takes us to a starting height of around 22 metres. Once at the top, we immediately ride down a tight steep curve, which is a little too steep in the valley and shakes us back and forth a little, just before we take on a big hill. After a long double down, we reach the other end of the rollercoaster and change direction in a big turnaround, just like the first drop. Well shaken, we hurtle over a series of hills to the other end of the ride, where another steep turn awaits us. This is also followed by a series of classic airtime hills. Finally, the track takes us through a long Bavarian curve before we reach the ride’s braking section.

The Giant Dipper at Belmont Park has a pretty daring layout for a wooden roller coaster that is almost 100 years old and, unfortunately, it rides accordingly. The steeply inclined valleys are somewhat reminiscent of the French funfair rollercoaster The King, but we don’t necessarily have to expect to get a wipeout on this one – instead, we either make an uncomfortable acquaintance with the side wall of the train or our seat neighbours. I therefore decided not to go on another ride.

Pictures Belmont Park

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Oktoberfest Hannover (2014)

The Oktoberfest in Hanover is the smallest funfair of the three funfairs of the city. While it mostly is just a showground for the showman of the region, it sometimes also features a bunch of interesting rides. Fans of Schwarzkopf rides should definately come to Hanover once in their lifetime, as you can ride the only Buggy Swing ever built: Heiße Räder.


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