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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Having a great day at Six Flags America

Six Flags America

Main Street 1776

The first impression on entering Six Flags America is extremely positive. From 1776 Main Street, the paths lead to the themed areas Looney Tunes Movie Town, Chesapeake, Mardi Gras and the extremely attractive Hurricane Harbor water park, which is also included in the admission price. In addition to the carousel, wave swinger and teacup ride, you can also take a ride on the vintage cars of Minuteman Motors.

Looney Tunes Movie Town

Looney Tunes Movie Town, home to Zamperla’s Great Chase rollercoaster, is one of two children’s areas at the theme park.  In this area, there is a good chance you will meet your favourite Looney Tunes characters.

Mardi Gras

The Mardi Gras themed area offers a very nice ambience and some very cool rides. In addition to the French Quarter Flyers – the classic flying scooters – there is the Big Easy Speedway go-kart track, the Chance Rides Falling Star Zydeco Zinger, which unfortunately can only be ridden in twos, the Bourbon Street Fireball flat ride and the absolutely brilliant Intamin Voodoo Drop freefall tower. You can also experience the Ragin’ Cajun and Wild One roller coasters in this area.

Ragin’ Cajun

The Reverchon Spinning Coaster Ragin’ Cajun fits perfectly into the Mardi Gras themed area, which is perhaps due to the fact that the ride was already operated in the Mardi Gras themed area of the Six Flags Great America theme park between 2004 and 2013. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to experience the ride on the day I visited.

Wild One

Although the Wild One wooden coaster only came to the park in 1986, it is the second oldest roller coaster in America. Prior to that, the wooden giant stood for 68 years at Paragon Park in Massachusetts, where the ride was known as the Giant Coaster. Wild One is now over 100 years old.

The ride on Wild One starts out quite leisurely with a long straight and a left turn before reaching the ride’s lift hill. Once at the top, you immediately enter the first drop. With a lot of speed you then go over the first airtime hill and immediately under the final drop of the park’s former log flume, which makes for a great near miss moment. After a double up you enter the high turn, which you ride at a good speed. With the best view of the now clearly visible remains of the log flume, the ride continues with a double down into the depths. Two big hills are on the way. A couple of smaller hills along the Mardi Gras themed area follow. After a left turn, the ride enters the big helix which is the finale of the ride.

The Wild One wooden roller coaster has a very fast-paced layout, but it slows down considerably towards the end. Unfortunately, the ride was also quite rough, which is why I ended up leaving it at one ride.

Gotham City

There are also plenty of rides in the Gotham City themed area. Alongside the classic Riddle Me This Round-Up ride, there is the absolutely fantastic Harley Quinn Spinsanity swing ride and the giant Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth Star Flyer.

Joker’s Jinx

After boarding the Joker’s Jinx we take off straight from the station. At full speed we immediately enter the extremely pressurised Cobra Roll before flying over the ground after two headstands. After a pressure packed valley we head straight up a sidewinder before cruising through the top of the ride. After a few turns we pass through a strange straight before entering the lower part of the ride. In a constant up and down motion we spiral down before changing direction after a wide left turn. We quickly approach the ground again before changing direction again. After two more steep turns close to the ground, we find ourselves upside down for a fourth time in a corkscrew, whereupon we reach the braking section and soon find ourselves back in the station.

The launch coaster Joker’s Jinx is a very solid roller coaster with a nice track design. It’s nice to ride the Flight of Fear coaster in an open area and see the spaghetti bowl in its full glory.

Penguin’s Blizzard River

A ride on a WhiteWaterWest Spinning Rapids Ride is always a pleasure. Unfortunately, Penguin’s Blizzard River was still closed for the season on the day I visited.

Superman Ride of Steel

There is hardly a better roller coaster than an Intamin mega coaster. The roller coasters, which are usually 200 feet high, offer a fast ride with a lot of airtime. At least that’s the case with the newer rides. Six Flags America’s Superman Ride of Steel is a carbon copy of the Ride of Steel coaster at Darien Lake, and the initial installation focused on a pronounced speed profile.

After the first drop, the ride goes straight into a low to the ground right turn and then over a large camelback. This is followed by a very long straight before entering a very flat 540° helix. Still at very high speeds, the track continues straight for a while before the second airtime hill follows. This is followed by another long straight and the second big helix of the ride. The finale is a bit unusual, consisting of three airtime hills before hitting the brakes.

Superman Ride of Steel is not a bad roller coaster, but not a good one either. Despite the excellent smoothness, the airtime and the high speed, the ride is a bit boring; after all, most of the ride is just long straights or even longer helices.


Either Six Flags America has a lot of space or they had big plans when they opened the Batwing coaster. Vekoma’s Flying Dutchman stands a bit apart from the rest of the park.

But the coaster has nothing to hide. Once you have sat down on the train, pushed the bar down and put on the two-piece vest, the ride can begin. What you think is the back row turns out to be the front, thanks to an ingenious folding mechanism. Lying on your back, you leave the station and immediately enter the lift hill after a turn. Once at the top, we first enter a curve which gradually increases its banking and brings us into flying position. Looking down, we immediately enter the ride’s biggest drop. We enjoy our flight for a while in a big, steep turn, before lying elegantly on our backs in the next turn. After a descent we enter a loop which is simply breathtaking in this riding position. After a headstand 3/4 of the way through the loop, we whiz through the valley and change riding position again in a steep turn. Now we fly through a flat valley and a steep turn before turning twice on our own axis in a double inline twist. Finally we fly through a low to the ground helix before being flipped on our backs in a fly-to-lie element and shortly after reaching the brake section of the ride.

The ride on the Batwing is truly breathtaking. It’s just a shame that there are so few of the Flying Dutchman left. Compared to other Flying Coasters in America, Batwing has the edge and offers a really nice mix of positive forces and the feeling of weightlessness during all the flight manoeuvres. All in all, a great ride.

Whistlestop Park

Whistlestop Park is the second of the theme park’s two children’s areas. In addition to several rides from Zamperla, there is a miniature version of the Whistlestop Train to match the large Capital Railways park railway.


The Chesapeake themed area is also home to some really cool flat rides, including Pirates Flight – a rare Flying Dutchman from Intamin – the High Seas pirate boat and a classic Eli Bridge scrambler called Cyclone.


Like Ragin’ Cajun, Firebird was originally located at Six Flags Great America. Formerly known as Iron Wolf and Apocalypse, it is B&M’s first roller coaster. From 1990 to 2018, the coaster could be ridden standing up, but since 2019 it has been a sit-down floorless coaster.

The ride on Firebird starts immediately after a dip as you enter the lift. Once at the top, the ride descends in an increasingly steep curve. With a lot of pressure we then enter the loop of the ride. We gain height in a right turn. Another descent takes us parallel to the loop, where we enter a horizontal loop that circles and crosses the loop once. After a straight, which used to be a block brake, we descend again and at the same time enter the second inversion of the ride. After the corkscrew, it goes through a steep turn and a fun combination of figure-eight turns into the final braking section.

Unfortunately, B&M’s first ride is no longer a good coaster. Where you used to be able to ride a merciless stand-up coaster, you are now beaten by the restraints. The ride should have been demolished rather than desperately given a new lease of life. As an apocalyptic bird, the ride doesn’t really fit in with the pirate theme, but it looks good.


The wooden coaster Roar is the second coaster from GCI. Similar to Wildcat at Hersheypark, the twisting and playful layout promises plenty of action. It is the only GCI wooden coaster to use classic PTC trains instead of the Millennium Flyer.

The ride on Roar starts with a long right turn. After two short changes of direction you reach the lift hill. At the top we immediately enter a steep turn. A short climb then leads us into a steep left-hander, after which we cross the hill we just rode over at a 90 degree angle. After a classic camel-back, we take a steep, high-altitude turn over hill and dale before plunging down again. With a lot of momentum we now take a bend close to the ground and a hill directly into the next steep bend. Now we race through a covered section of track right across the course. Following a Bayernkurve and several low-hanging hills, we enter the final right-hander and slam on the brakes.

Like Wildcat at Hersheypark, Roar is a really good wooden coaster. The ride has a great layout with a really good flow and a consistently high speed. The ride characteristics are also really good for a wooden coaster of this age, which is why I rode several laps in a row.

Shipwreck Falls

Man, I love a good Shoot the Chutes, especially when it is an O.D. Hopkins ride. Unfortunately, like all the water rides on the day I visited, Shipwreck Falls was still closed for the season.

Coyote Creek

Der letzte Themenbereich in Six Flags America ist Coyote Creek. Dieser Western-Themenbereich ist wirklich gut gemacht und bietet neben dem Autoscooter Los Coches Locos auch das HUSS Break Dance Rodeo und die extrem coole (und leider geschlossene) Wasserbahn Renegade Rapids. Außerdem gibt es einen stilechten Saloon, der als Hauptrestaurant des Parks dient.

Mind Eraser

The main attraction of the Coyote Creek themed area is the Mind Eraser from Vekoma. The classic suspended looping coaster offers the tried and tested layout with roll over, sidewinder and the two inline twists towards the end of the ride. The ride characteristics during the ride are fine, so you can get on without hesitation.

Pictures Six Flags America

Conclusion Six Flags America

I really enjoyed Six Flags America. The park is really well designed for a Six Flags park. There are some very coherent themed areas and an extremely large number of flat rides, which makes the park feel more like a European theme park. I can’t agree with the often criticised slow loading times of the roller coasters, as on the day I visited there was not much going on, thanks to the forecast rain. As a result, I was able to ride every ride without having to wait. I also like the fact that the staff here are quite well equipped (with headsets etc), so that the trains were always sent on their way quite quickly. In short, I had a pretty good time at the park.