California’s Great America — Savvy Deals & Tips
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.
California’s Great America 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.
California’s Great America 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.
California’s Great America 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.
California’s Great America Events
Great America has several special events that take place during holidays: Red, White & Brews for 4th of July; Halloween Haunt; and WinterFest. (See below for seasonal deals and pricing.)
California’s Great America Food
Fast food (aka junk food) is available all through the park, along with beverages (including beer). Pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, all your summertime favorites. Expect the prices to be jacked up, though, typical of theme parks.
California’s Great America Discount Tickets
Savvy tip — Children under 3 get in free (no admission ticket needed). When coupons are available, I’ll post them here.
Source 1. Best Price: Discount Tickets $40 off. This source has a good price but keep in mind the service fee of $4 (last I checked). This major discount ticket source has the cheapest tickets, but to access their deals you do have to sign in (free) to receive their e-newsletter (you can unsubscribe anytime). These are “any day” tickets, but note the expiration date.
Source 2. Easiest: Discount Tickets $29 Off. via aRes with service fees of only $2. No signup or sign in required. This source is listed second but probably has more tickets. They let you skip the line and go straight to the gate. And these are also “any day” tickets (sometimes the Goldstar ones are, too.
Source 3. Combo Attraction Pass: Save 20% to 55% with Go San Francisco Card. This discount card includes tickets to Great America as an option.
Check out their custom “build your own” option that lets you choose as few as two activities (so you pay way less). But the more attractions you choose, though, the more you save.
This pass 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 you put on the card.
4. AAA Discount: Over the years these come an go. Check with your local AAA office to see if they still offer a discount (I’m told they are not as good as the deals above, but let me know what you find out).
Hotels Near Great America
Hotels Near California’s Great America: Hotels.com offers this page to compare prices for hotels near Great America. A few I’ve seen near the park:
- 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 and Location
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.
Available for rent in different areas of the main park and in Boomerang Bay (but they’ll cost you around $15-25).
A limited number of wheelchairs are available for rent (first-come, first-served) just inside the Front Gate.