Theme parks are a major thing in California, popular with both locals and visitors from around the world who typically head to SoCal for amusement. Not to be completely outdone, NorCal has upped its game for thrill seekers. Most notable is California’s Great America, in Santa Clara (Silicon Valley, SF South Bay Area).
Why? First: The Patriot — a brand new floorless roller coaster roller coaster that will drop you from 90 nine stories up into a 360-degree loop and corkscrew at up to 45 mph. Second: new longer park hours. And third: a major expansion and overhaul with bigger badder rides to come. I consider it a bonus that Great America is not usually as crowded as the popular SoCal theme parks. Here are just the basics of what you can expect.
RIDES: California’s Great America Theme Park is a 100-acre theme park that offers more water rides than any other park in Northern California. The new Patriot roller coaster is a huge hit already. Then there’s the classic ride called GoldStriker said to be the fastest and tallest wooden roller coaster in Northern California. The big two-story carousel offers a slower pace. And that’s not all. You can spend the day jumping from ride to ride.
For children under a certain height, head to the Barney Oldfield Speedway, Berzerker, Celebration Swings, Delta Flyer/Eagle’s Flight, Flying Eagles, Loggers Run, Star Tower, Whitewater Falls, and Woodstock Express.
WATERPARK: The big and beautiful a 13-acre Boomerang Bay Waterpark is especially popular during the summer months. If you decide to take a dip, it’s like getting two parks for the price of one. For adventures, check out Didgeridoo Falls, Ripsnot Ridge, the Screamin Wombat, and Tasmanian Typhoon. Toting tots? Check out Castaway Creek, Jackaroo Landing and Kookabura Cay.
SHOWS: People are often surprised to find that California’s Great America is a premiere performance venue with some top notch entertainment. For children, Planet Snoopy is the place, featuring the Peanuts gang. Check the schedule when you first arrive to plan your day.
EVENTS: Great America has a new summer festival called Red, White & Brews, featuring regional micro brews, local wine, food, bands, and live music. Check the schedule for summer.
California’s Great America Discount Tickets
WinterFest Holiday Offers: Savvy tip — Children under 3 get in free (no admission ticket needed).
- WinterFest at California’s Great America Discount Tickets $20 + $.4.50 fee via Goldstar (gate price is $34). These are “Any Day” tickets, you don’t have to choose your day when you buy. No coupon code needed or available at this time.
- WinterFest at California’s Great America Discount Tickets $27 + $2 fee (reg. $34) via aRes. “Any Day” tickets (you don’t have to pick your day in advance like you would from the official site, so you can change your mind, like if it rains). And you’ll save off the gate price for each ticket.
- Go San Francisco Attraction Pass: Save 20% to 55% now with a build-your-own option (choose any two or more activities — the more you choose the more you save). This is good for tourists or locals with a few days off to do the town. You have 30 days from first use to try everything on the card for free. You can download a voucher or show on your smart phone. Buy the card and you can choose which of the many attractions and activities you want to do later (including Great America).
- AAA Discount: Check with your local AAA office to see if they still offer a discount.
Hotels Near Great America
Hotels Near California’s Great America: Currently I’m liking Hotels.com for booking (here’s their page for hotels near Great America. A few you’ll find nearby include:
- Ramada Sunnyvale/Silicon Valley
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Santa Clara – Silicon Valley
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Santa Clara
- Best Western Silicon Valley Inn
- Hyatt House Santa Clara
Know Before You Go
- California’s Great America Tickets: See California’s Great America discount tickets from the three trusted sources listed above.
- Address: California’s Great America Theme Park, 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95052. That’s not far from San Jose, about an hour south of San Francisco.
- Open Days and Hours: Open from early March through late December, but hours vary by the day.
- Same Day Re-entry: You can leave the park and return on the same day, but make sure you get your hand stamped at the Front Gate (and don’t forget your ticket stub). your ticket when you re-enter in addition to your hand stamp. If you leave the parking lot, you can re-enter with your parking receipt. The exception is during Haunt, when there’s no re-entry.
- Lockers: Available for rent in different areas of the main park and in Boomerang Bay (but they’ll cost you around $15-25).
- Accessibility: A limited number of wheelchairs are available for rent (first-come, first-served) just inside the Front Gate.
- Official Info: cagreatamerica.com, or see the park map and directions.