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Fall break a great time to visit California’s Great America

October is a great time to visit California’s Great America! The weather is pleasant, and the lines are short.

California’s Great America is a 100-acre theme and water park located in Santa Clara. As long as I can remember, it’s been Northern California’s premier amusement park, featuring thrill rides, live entertainment, and the Boomerang Bay water park.

On a sunny Saturday, we spent half a day escorting my 11-year-old and her nine-year-old friend, Sophie.

Because the crowds are low, we were able to take in the whole park in four hours.

Consider buying the Fast Pass, which will let you skip to the front of the lines. While the queues are extremely short, the more popular rides had maybe a dozen people waiting. Maybe it saved us ten or 15 minutes.

Olivia wanted me to take at least one ride with her, so we went on Flight Deck (formerly called Top Gun). Twenty-five years old this year, it puts riders through a 360-degree vertical loop, two 270-degree after burn turns, a full-circle wingover and a zero gravity roll at 50-miles-per-hour.

I needed to wait a while to take my second ride on Gold Striker. Built in 2013, Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards has named it one of the world’s Top 10 wooden coasters every year since its launch.

It is the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California, standing 108.2 feet high and traveling 53.7 miles per hour. Gold Striker’s signature initial descent tunnel is the longest on any wooden coaster and keeps riders in the dark on night rides.

That pretty much did it for my husband and me, and we were thankful the girls had each other to go on the rest of the rides.

Now I get why my mom would always sit out the rides when she took me to theme parks. I used to not understand why she didn’t love it. I’ve become my mother.

The girls’ favorite ride was Tiki Twirl, an unusual ride that has people both spinning in circles on a disc coaster while going back and forth across a rolling track. They used their Fast Pass to ride that twice.

The adults’ favorite ride was Mass Effect™: New Earth. Created thorugh a partnership with Electronic Arts, it features settings and characters from EA’s critically acclaimed Mass Effect™ videogame series developed by BioWare™.

You sit in a theater, but the seats move, and 3D glasses make the action on the screen pop out realistically. Fans, water spritzes, and scented air add to the effect of journeying to another world (while fighting enemies and nearly crashing). A live performer pretending to be the ship captain narrates the ride. The attraction features the largest and highest resolution 3D LED screen in the world with incredible 4K resolution and more than eight million pixels on the screen.

If you do go in October, California’s Great America offers Halloween Haunt on the weekends through October 28. Monsters abound in eight haunted mazes, each with its own frightening theme, plus three scare zones.

New for 2018, the Tooth Fairy maze leads guests on a terrifying journey through the twisted world of a dental fiend in search of loose teeth who drags people from their bedrooms and into a nightmarish dentist’s office. Also new in 2018 is Ripper’s Revenge scare zone, where guests encounter a mob of villains who are dead set on taking over old-town London- and running off any guests who stand in their way.

Madame Marie’s Blackout, Backwoods, Chaos House, CornStalkers, Roadkill Roadhouse, Wax Museum Chamber of Horrors, and Zombie High, Jester Town, and Feary Tales return in 2018.

Younger kids can delight in The Great Pumpkin Fest during daytime hours on weekends September 29–October 28 (closed October 7, 20 and 21). Featuring trick-or-treating with Snoopy and the PEANUTS gang, pumpkin decorating, a hay maze and coloring, this event brings Halloween activities to life for the entire family. Great America will also entertain with “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” movie showings and book readings throughout the day.

Tickets for Halloween Haunt and The Great Pumpkin Fest (separate from the daily ticket) are available now and can be purchased at Gold Passholders get unlimited visits.

Guests looking to enhance their Halloween Haunt experience can purchase a Fright Lane pass to scream past the regular lines and gain one-time front of the line access for each haunted maze. All students can receive discounted Halloween Haunt admission by showing their valid student ID.

The girls are at an in-between age where they were too young to want to go to the Halloween Haunt, but too old to want the little kids’ festival, so we didn’t do either, but I’d have gone if I could have as I like a controlled fright now and then.

If you have children, or if you like thrill rides, California’s Great America is a must-visit. It was Olivia’s trip highlight!

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