Last week a bunch of us from work spent a day at Great America, an amusement park in Santa Clara, CA. The rides and attractions I went on (with short reviews) were:

Alien Adventure
Ack! This is a big IMAX theatre so I thought it would be pretty cool. But it wasn't. The movie that's being shown is called "Alien Adventure". It's sort of a nice exercise in computer animation (it's essentially a couple of scenes of virtual roller coasters) but it made me sick. (Yes, I am a weenie who gets motion sickness when playing Quake.) After seeing "Everest" or "Fantasia 2000" on an IMAX screen, this is a real letdown.
The Demon
When I was younger, this was the only kick-ass roller coaster at Great America. It was the first one with loop to loop and a corkscrew and it went about a million times faster than anything I had ever ridden before. Fifteen or twenty years later, it's still a great ride. And because it's been eclipsed by some of the newer and flashier rides, the lines weren't all that long. It was on this ride that my boss was telling people, "Keep your hands up or you're fired!"
The Grizzly
The Grizzly is a wooden roller coaster, so you know it's got to be pretty good. True, there are no loops and it's not the fastest, but there's just something about the gentle swaying motion of a wooden roller coaster that makes it a little more frightening than if it were a normal steel one.
Loggers Run
This is a much better water ride than Whitewater Falls. It's a lot higher and you get a lot wetter but you can only fit four at a time, so the entire group couldn't go all at once. The secret here is to get on the ride with as many fat people as you can so you can build up that momentum and get a really big splash.
Rue Le Dodge
Bumper cars. Bumper cars are dead fun, but the general consensus was that there were too many cars so there wasn't enough room to maneuver.
Sky Tower
This is barely qualifies as a "ride". All it is is a 200-foot pole with a rotating room on top of it. The only redeeming quality of this is the fact that it's air conditioned.
Top Gun
This is a suspended ride; you ride around with your legs dangling in mid-air. This is really fast with three loops and a corkscrew and a dive towards water. In fact I think it's too fast so the ride is too short.
Whitewater Falls
This is a water ride, and a very tame one at that. Now all water rides are a little dull because you can't do loops or corkscrews or go too fast, but this is exceptionally boring. It's just an oval. You go up on the left side and down on the right and you only get a little wet.
Vortex
This is a standing roller coaster. It's also too fast. This and Top Gun are the only two rides on which I thought my glasses might fall off. The best part of this ride is the icon on the instructions which shows a person standing up with an elongated seat (like a bicycle seat) between his legs. It's sort of a silhouette from the side and it looks like a far-too-well-endowed man. The joke in the line was, "That's how exciting the ride is!" (nudge nudge, wink wink)

So, to summarize, my Great America picks are: The Demon, Top Gun and Loggers Run.

The rides I didn't go on, but would have liked to are: James Bond 007: A License to Thrill (a movie where the seats move), Stealth (a roller coaster on which you lie down) and Invertigo (a roller coaster that goes forwards and then backwards on the same track.)

Parking is $6 so if you can car pool or take public transportation or (shh) park in one of the nearby hotel parking lots then that's good. The entrance fee is about $40 at the door but it's easy enough to find a coupon or maybe you can buy tickets through your work.

Whee!

In the mid-1970's, the Marriott Corp decided to try its hand in the amusement park business. Capitalizing on the patriotic fervor sweeping the U.S. during it's bicentennial year, Marriott opened two parks with a theme of "celebrating America's greatness" under the name Marriott's Great America on May 29, 1976. One was located in Santa Clara, California (near San Jose), the other in Gurnee, Illinois (near Chicago). Marriott did not last long in the business and sold the parks in the mid-1980's. Both parks have kept the Great America name, but the California site is now part of the Paramount Parks chain and the Illinois location is a Six Flags park now.

In between Marriot's stint and Paramount, the city of Santa Clara owned the park and it was run under contract by King's Entertainment, owners of other parks such as King's Dominion etc etc.

In addition to the rides, GA has(had?) a dolphin show, two "live" theaters (live dancers/singers, tracked sound usually) an IMAX theater, and an outdoor concert pavillion.

The theater in Orleans Square always has a dance revue, as it isn't all that large. It has alternated between being tracked and having a live band. Grand Music Hall is the larger theater, and has often served as home to an ice show, performers were contract and not GA employees.

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