Wouldn't have assumed my first trip out to California would land me at Great America, but I decided it was necessary pretty much as soon as the land sale to Prologis was announced back in June. It's not clear exactly how much longer the park will remain open - likely somewhere between 5 and 11 years - but it felt important to visit this year, before it possibly begins downsizing, or Prologis opts to shut things down early.
Gold Striker commands the front of the park, looping around Star Tower and roaring past the entryway multiple times. Unfortunately the ride's positioning combined with its sound dampening walls makes it a bit more challenging to photograph, but there's a handful of good angles if you get creative with the station and entrance/exit ramps. The exit platform structure provided some nice natural framing for this shot.
Taking panning photos of spinning flat rides is a bit more forgiving than doing the same with rollercoasters; without a singular clear subject it's a lot easier to get away with copious amounts of abstract blurring. This is my favorite of about 30 similar photos taken during a single Centrifuge ride cycle.
Flight Deck flipping over the Theatre Royale in the Orleans Place section of the park. Glad I got to experience this; it's an absurd brand of intensity rarely found on rides, and almost never on newer rides. It's also among the oldest of the B&Ms, with this year being its 30th operating season, and quite possibly one of its last.
From the outside looking in at Carousel Columbia framed between the park's arching ticket booths and the geometric tent roofs of the entrance gate structure. It's a bit understated but it works well at creating a buildup for the reveal of the park's iconic view of the carousel and reflecting pond.
Grizzly is sort of like a Bizarro World version of the ride by the same name at Kings Dominion - they're both based on the long defunct Wildcat of Coney Island in Cincinnati and therefore have generally similar track layouts, but that's about where their likenesses end. Instead of being situated deep in the woods enveloped by mature trees, this one sits in a field between the park midway and a vacant office park. The sharp hills filled with airtime are replaced with elongated, drawn out transitions. There's no aggression or character to it; it's smooth enough to not be uncomfortable, but it feels soulless.
RailBlazer is a relatively tiny ride, sitting at about 100ft tall and occupying only a half acre of land, with track pieces small enough to fit through a standard doorway, but it probably packs the biggest punch of any ride for its size in the world. There's not a single moment of the ride that isn't completely unrelenting. It sort of makes me wonder what the practical lifespan of a ride like this is, considering it spends every day essentially trying to tear itself apart.
Bayern Kurves are one of the best flatrides around, so it was nice to see another one after Kennywood abruptly ripped out theirs last year. Kennywood's actually acted as a parts donor to this ride, which hopefully extended its life a great deal as it's the last one of its kind in the country.
I wasn't expecting much out of Patriot, but it was a nice surprise for such a small ride, and in my opinion much better than the similar Firebird at Six Flags America. These standup-to-floorless train conversions seems like a great way to give these old coasters a new lease on life while providing a more palatable ride experience, and gives parks options beyond just outright retiring those kinds of rides.
The light blue tones on the South Bay Shores surf bus and entry portal make a nice compliment to the cotton candy pink sunset sky behind them.
Another classic flatride, a Schwarzkopf Enterprise, still operates in its original location where it's thrilled for nearly 50 years. It's a great ride although as I've gotten less tolerant of spinning I could handle about one ride at a time.
One of the 88 horses which adorn the historic double decker Carousel Columbia, as night falls over the park.
I probably took about 50 photos of Carousel Columbia from the park entrance, but I think this is my favorite. The spotlights projected onto the carousel and surrounding palm trees against the light purple sky give the photo a more tranquil feel than the midday shot shown at the beginning. Not sure if I'll get the opportunity to visit the park again but I'm glad to have been able to spend a few days there.