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Photo TR: First Time Visit to California's Great America

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Hey everyone! 

I had the opportunity to visit CGA before a wedding weekend, and I had a great time with long time coaster friend Andrew! I was supposed to visit during Winterfest in 2019 but the area had historic flooding so this is my first CGA visit. 

I visited on a Sunday, and everything worked out as I planned. I flew into San Jose (SJC) airport, which is 15 minutes from the park. It's a small airport so I was able to get off the plane, swing by my hotel, and be at the park all in 45 minutes. How awesome is that! 

Fast lane was pre-purchased since I only had 6 hours at the park, and it definitely saved time allowing me to walk on all coasters.

First Impressions:

I know of the Marriott background and the similarities with Chicago's Gurnee's Six Flags Great America and it was fun to see the double decker carousel and pool entry with the observation tower again. What I wasn't aware, is that the park shares the parking lot with Levi Stadium where the 49'ers play. It's hilarious how far out this place is from San Francisco, it's about as far away from Chicago as SFGAm is. But man holy shit Levi Stadium is MASSIVE and the park is closed if there's a football game. Thankfully my buddy picked the right wedding weekend to allow me to get to CGA 😛

It didn't take long for me to recognize CGA is a beautiful park featuring the PNW/Bay area's stunning redwoods, foliage, and natural beauty. There's really not an ugly spot in this park, other than some of the dated dining options that they seem to be turning around. The new waterpark look fantastic complete with its own set of characters meandering the park for photo ops and interactions. 


The day started out fine and the Railblazer ops were very consistent all day, but the crews really faded down the stretch. Gold Striker was the most frustrating as there were supervisors in the station yet they let trains stack for 5 minutes. Flight Deck, Grizzly, Drop Tower, were rivaling BGT for worst ops I've seen this year. 

Seat selection is usually never an issue in America unless it's Hagrid's Motor Bike Adventure but CGA gave me two wildly different answers:

Me: "Hey, I'd love to wait for the front seat, I don't mind an extra cycle."

Normal Op: "Sure go for it"

That's what I got the first couple hours, then, the final few hours of the visit.

Me: "Hey, can I wait for the back/front?"

Op: "Oh yeah, no, we don't do that. Some guests have gotten really unruly with us over picking seats."

????????????????????????? The worst example was asking for Flight Deck's back seat and the op wouldn't budge, put me in the front, and then left the back 2 rows empty 🤣 This also happened on Railblazer once, and it's like, really? There's only 8 seats..... cmon! It's just mind numbing and frustrating at times.


Railblazer - How could I not start here? With the issues surrounding the single rail coasters this year I was really wondering if I was going to miss out on one again. Not this time, I finally got to ride! A few things surprised me before I even got on the ride: it really looks like a hotwheels car zipping around the track, it's very raw - it's very bare bones and mechanically loud at times, the lift chain starts on the lift, and the ride itself looks good and fits well. 

It's just so fast, it reminded me of Arashi. It's a crazy experience that's crazy fun but I didn't come away loving the thing. The airtime is so abrupt and violent, those shoulder straps aren't really necessary right? I enjoyed the front more than the back, the airtime is just as nuts but it felt more comfortable, and the view is pretty awesome. After about 5 or 6 rides, the next day my shoulders were pretty bruised, hah.

Demon - Just a classic Arrow that's still in great shape. The corkscrews were really smooth and the first drop always provides a good pop of air. Love the vintage effects/lights just like the sister park!

Grizzly - Oh boy, the wooden coaster that consistently was voted one of the worst roller coasters in the world! Now I know why. This might as well be classified as a junior woodie. Anyone over 6' is going to not have a good time getting in these old arrow-mine-train ala CP lap bar things. It wasn't very painful, but the operations were. This coaster just doesn't do anything, it's gotta be the next ride to be taken out. 

Drop Tower - A great Intamin tower, stellar views of the mountains! 

Himalaya - Not that great of a cycle but it's one of the last ones out there.

Mass Effect - A solid offering for what you are limited with when working with the 4D theaters. I'm not familiar with the game but it's easily understood and there's an actor or two performing with the show. 

Flight Deck - I wanted to like this invert a bit more, but it only does so much. It does everything very well, though! I wish I could have had that back row ride but I won't complain about 2x in the front. 

Patriot - Almost forgot about this one! Not much to say here, it's like a shortened Georgia Scorcher layout, it did have a cool little sideways dive into the corkscrew.

Gold Striker - Here is the unanimously best coaster at the park and the most well rounded coaster in the park! After all of these other short but sweet coasters, Gold Striker offers a lengthy airtime filled twisted rugged ride up down and all around the front side of the park. From the looks off ride, you'd think the big turnarounds would sap speed and not offer much like some older GCI's but this GCI is an awesome combo of the newfound relentless speed in the newer GCI's. I absolutely loved the unique tunneled drop that sends the train rocketing around the twisted air hills, dives in and out of the structure, and it's so hard to predict what is coming next. Gold Striker, Renegade, and Mystic Timbers are all in an elite GCI tier in my book. 

Final thoughts: 

This park really needs Megabyte/Orion. All but Gold Striker are very short coasters, even though they are good coasters, a lengthy re-ridable coaster is just what this park needs. Fast lane wasn't really needed, especially if you have a full day. The park needs to continue updating their food and beverage offerings. There was not a sit down restaurant, it was all quick service and there was not an adult offering like a bar for adults, so I think there's a missed opportunity here. It's hard to beat the setting in San Jose, it's absolutely beautiful. 


Flying over the Great Salt Lake on the way. Lagoon is somewhere around here!


Hey bert! Love this view again, the classic Great America entrance. 


Railblazer was my first stop, first time on a single rail!


The ride is a blur after you're chucked off this steep drop!


It's so hard to even register when you're upside-down, you're traveling on the track so fast!


Look at how beautiful this park is! The Pacific North West and Bay Area is just so wonderful. 


New water park expansion and the giant Levi Stadium in the background along with the mountains!


I see you, vintage B&M goodness!


Palm trees redwoods, B&M's, mountains, ahhhh..


Flight Deck didn't disappoint, it absolutely flies through the inversons.


The signature finale!


This is Grizzly's train. The lap bars aren't individual, nor are they individual row, they are connected to the row behind/in front of you to your car. So if you have 2 kids behind you and a friend that's 6'3" next to you, that bar is gonna have to be smashed into your groin. Ouch! 3. Three! Seatbelts and this coaster doesn't even need a lap bar.


Mass Effect was a good effort for one of those 4D simulators. 


Almost forgot about this old stand up turned Rougarou-like. Meh.



Hey BGT, get your shit together!!!


Back over for some more Railblazer fun!


Loved this bonkers part!


This is probably the main reason why my shoulders were purple the next day.


This is at a Cedar Fair park. Yep! The whole park looks like this.


Sadly the food and bev is the only ugly part of the park. This 'sports bar' supposedly had staff working but were nowhere to be found, and looks like it hadn't been updated since 1992. Couldn't even get a snack or drink here.


Alright let's end the day with some Gold Striker rides! 


Love how it wraps around the observation tower. 


This GCI is a tangled mess of head choppers, hand choppers, crazy twists, airtime, and relentless speed and laterals!


Even the pre-lift section gives you a taste of the craziness to come.


It's tough to get photos of this thing, and it'll take many laps to figure out the layout. 


The rushhhh of striking gold!


Absolutely ripping through the course!


This twisted downhill airtime hill was the stand out 'holy shit' moment for me!


Gold Striker in the golden hour.


Gold Striker is the clear stand out coaster at CGA in my opinion. It's got everything you'd want in a twisted, wild, airtime filled woodie!


And for post park fun, there's Bare Bottle Brewing around the corner which boasts some of the best IPA's I've had. Much love for the Bae Area!




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^Nobody reads. It's sad. Also, we're now getting into the offseason and CGA isn't exactly at the top of everyones must visit park list! =)

Nice report, you liked the park WAY more than I ever did, I guess I'll give it another chance at some point. Haven't been there since before Goldstriker.  

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Great report. I really like CGA too, based on my 2018 and 2019 visits. It's a well-kept park and I really had no complaints at all, it's just that most of their ride lineup is pretty old and outdated excluding RB and GS. They desperately need that B&M Hyper. I hope it still comes one day.

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Thanks for the report. I grew up in Central California, so I visited this park once a year (I was there during its opening year of 1976). I haven't been there since the Paramount days.

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On 10/2/2021 at 7:50 PM, SharkTums said:

^Nobody reads. It's sad. Also, we're now getting into the offseason and CGA isn't exactly at the top of everyones must visit park list! =)

Nice report, you liked the park WAY more than I ever did, I guess I'll give it another chance at some point. Haven't been there since before Goldstriker.  

It's definitely improved with the addition of Goldstriker and Railblazer. The park still needs another headliner and an expansion to its mini-waterpark section (which they're addressing) but at least there's a couple of coasters that can be marathoned now. Although I still give Discovery Kingdom the edge to its coaster lineup (when its all open) overall I think CGA is the better rounded and overall best Bay Area park (not including Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk) and delivers a better experience than Discovery Kingdom (not surprising). 

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On 10/2/2021 at 6:13 PM, PKI Jizzman said:

Damn, trip reports just don't get the attention they used to. 

I completely missed this somehow, so BUMP. Great report, I always love reading first experiences, even if I have never been to CGA.

I was extremely curious to hear your thoughts on Railblazer, and I feel like you hit it exactly how I felt on my first WW ride. It was super intense and quick, but the straps? Why?! Multiple rides should not cause such consistent bruising. I have posted about this enough times, but I was just so shocked by how much the restraints affected the ride experience. I went in with such high hopes because they LOOK so amazing. YouTube videos almost look unreal it moves so fast. I wonder if the high expectations played a role in why I was so let down by the ride.

Interesting you thought Goldstriker was the best in the park. Not sure what I would have expected, but mainly just happy to hear it was a good well-rounded ride. I wish I could say the same for Prowler...

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Trying out Prowler tonight! All of CGA's coasters are just so short - Railblazer does pack a lot into the quick ride and it was awesome, it's just such a blur!

A big floaty coaster that would let you take in the beautiful setting of the park is needed there.

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