California’s Great America – Opening Day Report 2018

Byron:  California’s Great America opened for the 2018 season this past weekend, and of course, we were in attendance for opening day. It was a pleasure to be back at the park and take an extended look at this changing and growing park. Below we’ll discuss how the rides are running, general park improvements, and of course the phenomenal progress of Railblazer.

– Over the years, many of our images have popped up on other sites and forums, awesome that our coverage spreads, not so awesome that not everyone mentioned where they got the images from. We are totally fine with our audience using our images, BUT ONLY IF credit is given to Thank you!

It was a pretty windy and overcast day, especially during the time when we were at the park. This in conjunction with the camera we were using means the images aren’t the best, so we apologize for that. This will change for future updates.

As soon as you enter the park, the investments the park has been making become evident. All the concrete in the entrance plaza has been replaced. 

This extends down through Hometown Square, as well as into the front part of Orleans’s place. 

As seen in the image above, the food offerings in the park are being bolstered significantly. This will be the location for the new French Quarter Funnel Cake & Churro.

Here is the current progress of the Sierra Creek Lodge. New more highly themed and higher quality restaurants in the park will be a necessity as the park undergoes the change into a destination park. This is a step in the right direction.


Along similar lines. Maggie Brown’s Smokehouse and Fried Chicken is undergoing an extensive refurbishment, the progress of which can be seen below. 

The project seems to be coming along nicely, and this should only serve to improve the already decent food offerings at the park.

Many of the restrooms across have been or are currently being upgraded. This consists of essentially entirely new facilities, with lower water usage, and the addition of multiple gender-neutral bathrooms. The Lattermost upgrade is truly wonderful to see and an important step for accommodating quite a few guests who visit the park. Below are the restrooms nearest to Flight Deck in Orleans Place.

Speaking of Flight Deck, the park held an all weekend long event for its 25th anniversary. 

Ride operators had themed fighter jet pilot wardrobe, Top Gun was playing in the Theatre Royal, and dog tags were given out to riders after they exit. Much of the queue theming has been refurbished, including the repainted fighter jets, a working radio dish, and Kenny Logins music!

The trains have also been refurbished and repainted. Even more exciting is the addition of smoke machines to the station when the ride dispatches. 

The ride itself is running great. It’s as fast, whippy and smooth as ever. Rides like yesterday are a good reminder as to why Flight Deck is one of the very best coasters in Northern California. 

Gold Striker, on the other hand, is not fairing so well. 

My ride on it just recently is probably the roughest I’ve ever had. By no means is it unbearable, but it’s much worse than it’s been in the past and as seen with other GCI’s like Apocalypse, this could be the beginning of the end if proper care is not given to this ride.

There is some wood on site, which is encouraging, perhaps indicating a mid-season refurbishment. If not, this is going to be a long season for Gold Striker. Due to its aggressive nature, Gold Striker becoming rougher does not bode well for the ride experience. I understand how much capital the park is spending this year, but if not this season, it will need some major work soon. This is a phenomenal ride, it would be a shame to see it deteriorate. 

As far as the other coasters around the park, Grizzly was closed all day, but can’t imagine it has gotten any less useless and boring. 

Demon was running pretty well, I rode on the orange train and it was mostly smooth and enjoyable. 

Physco Mouse was operating so poorly that I skipped it despite the light crowds, which of course is nothing out of the ordinary. Love the ride, not a fan of the capacity.

Patriot, the parks most recent ‘addition’, was running just as well as it was on media day. 

It’s still a fun, floaty, and fairly unique B&M. It still baffles me how much of a genuine improvement this conversion has proved to be and just how smooth this 25 plus-year-old ride is running. 

Just quickly, I’d like to touch on the construction, or rather deconstruction, in the area that use to house HMB Endeavor and Logger’s Run. Both of these with very fun supporting rides at the park and it’s sad to see them go. 

That being said, the expansion pad that is now available to the park is pretty massive. This plot of land is easily big enough to be the future location of a major roller coaster. The park has all but confirmed the eventual addition of a hyper coaster, and other models such as impulse coasters have been rumored.

That being said, a water park expansion has been on the shortlist for years now, and Boomerang Bay really needs it. In addition, to which, the area of these two attractions falls within the area pictured on the map shown while the parked discussed their zoning approval. This is a logical addition as the local waterpark market is quite smart and Great America could be the number one destination with just one year of investment.

We’re expecting a large waterpark expansion for 2019 with the addition of at least one massive multi-slide complex. It seems very unlikely the park would get a coaster in back to back years anyway. 

Now for the main event. It’s a shame the images aren’t quite up to standard, but even if they were, pictures do not do RailBlazer justice. This thing is really starting to look fantastic in person now that the track has been completed. At 106 ft tall, 1800 ft long, and with a top speed of 52 miles per hour, this little ride is going to pack a punch.

Just look at the shaping on that drop. It hits that 90-degree mark in a matter of feet. That in conjunction with the rather large hop into it and the reasonably long trains (Compared to a dive coaster for example) should result in some insane airtime towards the back.

No matter what angle you look at this thing from, it looks absolutely bizarre. The snaking mess of track weaving throughout the area hardly looks like a roller coaster design. With the unique single rail design, it looks more like modern sculpture art than anything.

It’s actually pretty difficult to tell which section of track is right side up. Pictured here are a corkscrew and an off-axis airtime hill. Upon a first glance, you might not know which is which.  In addition, you can see the staircase next to the lift is mostly installed. The chain and anti rollbacks were installed previously.

Aside from the first drop, this ride doesn’t have a ton of strictly airtime moments. That being said, Rocky Mountain Construction is excellent as sneaking airtime into seemingly airless elements. The drop, the transition into the dive loop, the off-axis hill, the drop after the s curve, and the hop into the breaks are all areas in which I expect a strong pop of airtime to be present. 

It’s important to note that this single rail design paired with the single row train design has a unique benefit. Since every rider will be directly above the center of the track, as opposed to slightly off the center, the heartline banking will be pretty much exact. Every rider will experience the same directional forces (albeit to different magnitudes depending on their position). The forces, positive negative and lateral, can be applied precisely and accurately with almost no margin of error. Even simple elements like this should be flawless in their execution.

Pictured here are the dive loop and cutback, the remaining two inversions on the ride. Both of these inversions will be entirely unique to the park and judging by their relative size and placement, you’ll sure as hell be feeling the diverse blend of forces these elements offer. 

Although the track is complete, there’s still plenty of work to be done, especially in the completion of the surrounding area. Pictured here is the area just south of the ride, which from the concept art looks to be an extension of the midway; a viewing area of sorts for the ride.

The rock structures are coming along but still have a long way to go. Few are completed, never mind painted and textured. As a side note, the interactions with the theming elements throughout the ride should be very cool, particularly this near miss at the bottom of the first drop.

The finished product of scenic rockwork and scattered lakes will be gorgeous. The extra touches like these will help Great America start to sneak into the conversation of being more than a locals park.  That being said, right now it’s a whole lot of mud. It will likely be a few weeks before these features really take shape. 

The station, of course, is far from finished as well. The literal structure still needs quite a bit of work and one would imagine there is a long way to go in finishing the electrical systems for the ride, although that is difficult to tell from a distance. 

The one thing I want to address about Railblazer that isn’t really part of a construction update is the glaring capacity issue. The park has stated that they expect capacity to be in the high 600s. This is an absolute ceiling and frankly, with eight-person trains, that seems ambitious. We know how the park does with operations. Considering the amount of marketing hype behind this ride, and how popular it will probably be, lines are going to be absurd. During Haunt and summer especially, unless you’re the first one there, it might be almost impossible to ride. It seems like there was a disconnect between RMC and the buyers, and that maybe this model was designed for a park more the size of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. That being said, we will have to wait and see how the park operates it and how the public responds.  The ride experience itself should be truly great.

Thank you for checking out this new California’s Great America, Check out our brand new Six Flags Magic Mountain Update from the same day here! We’ll be back with more Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm and California’s Great America coverage soon! For now check out some of our recent trips around the world and here in California:

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