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California's Great America

Have a blast on thrill rides and water slides in Silicon Valley

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A family favorite in Santa Clara since 1976, California’s Great America is a combination amusement-and-water park that offers fun thrills for every age.

The ride just inside the entrance is a nice crowd-pleaser: the double-decker Carousel Columbia—which, at 100 feet high, is the tallest carousel in the world. Older kids and adventure seekers can then head for thrill rides such as Gold Striker, the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California; Flight Deck, a jet coaster with zero-gravity barrel rolls; and the Rail Blazer, a single-rail-track coaster where the car straddles the rail, creating a unique sensation along the twisting track.

For little kids (or anyone who prefers a less-adrenaline experience), the theme park’s Planet Snoopy is a big draw, with its tot-friendly rides and attractions. Another relaxing option: Watch one of the daily live shows that feature dancing, singing, and sometimes even members of the Peanuts gang.

When temperatures rise during summer, head over to the park’s South Bay Shores (formerly Boomerang Bay), the massive waterpark with a swimming lagoon, a long and lazy river for inner tube lounging, the state-of-the-art Pacific Surge waterslide complex, a wave pool, and WiFi-enabled poolside cabanas for rent.

The park is not open year round (it closes for part of the winter) but check for special events and festivals scattered through the calendar, such as spring’s Easter Egg-stravaganza, the Red, White, & Brews food festival over July 4th, and Winterfest during the holiday season. Check the tickets page for online specials on season passes or deals on one-day tickets that bundle in parking or meals.

 

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