CGA New Dining Options for 2018

California's Great America is up for an exciting 2018 season. As we know, RailBlazer will be opening, but there's more to visiting the theme parks than going on rides and catching some live shows. At some point you'll have to fuel up so you can enjoy the rest of your day at the park. With that said, there are 4 new food additions coming to Great America this season!

The brand new, full-service Starbucks will be situated in the park’s Hometown Square area, just past Celebration Swings. All Starbucks favorite beverages including classic coffees, Frappuccinos® and Macchiatos, exotic teas, seasonal beverages and more will be available. The food menu includes fresh sandwiches, fruit and protein snacks, and bakery treats like scones, bagels, cakes and cookies.

Guests will enjoy the oversized window seating that provides a picturesque view of the midway. Additionally, a new outdoor patio will create street-front café ambience. The interior will be decorated with classic images from Great America’s historic past. Starbucks will be situated where Candy Café was previously located.

An entirely new home is being constructed for French Quarter Funnel Cake & Churro Factory. The ever-popular Great America funnel cakes will be taken to another level in 2018 with a myriad of flavor combinations that can be mixed and matched to individual preferences, and created right in front of guests. The classic strawberry and powdered sugar funnel cakes are here to stay, and will be joined by new great flavors like blueberry, caramel, apple, cookies and cream, tropical coconut and pineapple.

The innovative churro selections include Campout (s’mores), key lime pie, strawberry shortcake, creamsicle, cookies and cream, tropical (coconut, pineapple and rum flavor), macha (white chocolate and Bavarian cream), cotton candy, apple pie and many more flavors.

Guests can enjoy their custom creations in Orleans Place’s new outside patio, situated where Sweet Tooth was previously located.

Dining in the Planet Snoopy kids’ area will take on a completely new flavor and feel, as Joe Cool Café is re-imagined into Sierra Creek Lodge. The family dining experience will introduce a mountain lodge feel from the exterior woodwork to the interior décor. Murals featuring wild animals will don the walls, and the indoor furnishings will add to the Sierra atmosphere. The serving lines will be doubled for faster service, and an extended patio will offer more space for families to gather, dine and relax.

New food selections will include a Panini bar featuring fresh vegetables, lean meats and savory sauces. A new Coca-Cola Barrilitos™ station will feature agua fresca (juice and water blends) such as pear cucumber, mango lime, strawberry hibiscus, and pineapple. Kid favorites like chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and pizza will still be available.

Another sweet food addition for 2018 is Orleans Candy Kitchen, a classic confectionery that includes a station where guests will order specialty caramel apples, choose their personalized toppings and have the delectable favorites made right before their eyes. From classic caramel, to house made pralines, to an assortment of crushed candies and nuts, the possibilities for custom-tailoring are endless.

Candy aficionados and guests of all ages will be drawn to the fudge making that happens in the front window of Orleans Candy Kitchen. Fun flavors include peanut butter, caramel, strawberry, white chocolate, and cookies and cream. The venue will provide that old-time candy shop feel with a cornucopia of salt-water taffy offerings, chocolate covered Oreos® and crispy rice treats, and a wide assortment of Bay Area created Jelly Belly® flavors. Orleans Candy Kitchen replaces Trending Now. 
In 2017, the iconic Great America restaurant reinvented itself by delivering mouth-watering barbeque favorites like brisket, pulled pork and ribs. Now the dining experience will be modernized with more ordering kiosks for faster service, a giant rotisserie and smoker visible to guests, an expanded outdoor patio, and interior design renovations.

Two new offerings for corporate events will greatly enhance Great America’s catering possibilities. A new 500 person covered outdoor event space is being built adjacent to the almost 18,000 sq. ft. Great America Pavilion. Features include the same upscale catering offered inside the pavilion, outdoor HD television monitors, and an open-air feel to deliver park and stadium views.

The private Consulate chambers, offering a beautiful park view from the top of Orleans Place, is being updated with modern amenities for intimate private meetings. Hosting up to 50 attendees, the historic Consulate was originally constructed as an apartment for the Marriott family while the park and neighboring hotel were being built.

The exterior of the new Starbucks location.
Press image provided by California's Great America

The interior of the new Starbucks location.
Press image provided by California's Great America

Between Haunt and WinterFest 2017, the iconic Sweet Tooth in the outskirts of Orleans Place was demolished. A new building will be going up for the new French Quarter Funnel Cakes. Sweet Tooth was a highly popular place to go to and was always a must for guests before they end their day at the park.

Candy Cafe in Hometown Square will be converted to the new Starbucks, and guests will still be able to get their candy fix at the new Orleans Candy Kitchen below the Consulate (Where Trending Now/The Mistletoe was). We were particularly excited to hear about the idea of classic images of Great America's history being up inside the Starbucks.

Interior of the Sierra Creek Lodge.
Press image provided by California's Great America
Borrowing a pic from California Coaster Kings (Be sure to check them out!), this is the exterior of the Grizzly Creek Lodge down at Knott's Berry Farm. While we haven't seen any renders of the exterior, we can only image it would look like.

The one that got us the most excited though was the Sierra Creek Lodge. Doing some looking, sister park Knott's also has a "Lodge" style restaurant in their kids area known as "Grizzly Creek Lodge." Planet Snoopy was once known as Yukon Territory, an area that sported a wilderness theme. Six Flags Great America, a once sister park still has their Yukon Territory and lodge style restaurant so having a spiritual return is definitely welcome. Only thing that now begs the question is...what about the rest of Planet Snoopy?


RailBlazer Analysis - New RMC Raptor at CGA

As we all know, California's Great America just unveiled their new upcoming coaster, RailBlazer. We want to take a closer look at what we can expect out of the ride and how crowd management would be.

The ride starts off with a steep 45-degree climb up the approx 100+ft lifthill followed by a shallow drop and 180-degree curve to the left. This leads to a slight uphill climb before taking the 100-foot 90-degree dive into a short rocky tunnel. We feel like this would be best experienced in the front (for the view) and the back for that yank down the hill feeling.

Next up is the late airtime into raven turn, which is essentially a dive loop with the inversion twist coming in late. This looks like it could sneak in a quick pop of air before twisting you upside down. We feel like this moment would be best felt in the front or near the front.

The next element is the off-axis airtime hill which should provide some good moments of air throughout the short 8-car train. The low curves leading up to the midcourse drop should provide some nice positives.

The midcourse drop should provide some decent air in the back. Next up is the 180-degree overbank/stall. While it's not a typical RMC stall that leaves you hanging, it seems like there would be a real brief moment of it.

Winding toward the end of the ride, the zero-g roll should provide a nice head chopper effect as it twists over the first drop's rock tunnel. Finally the wave turn should give some mild positives before a final quick pop of air into the brake run.

This ride looks like one to try out in a few seats to see what you like. Once the ride is open we will do another analysis and see how it compares to our initial thoughts and  how close our guesses were.

The next thing we want to bring up is the one thing everyone's concerned about - capacity. We've all heard it and began to worry when we saw that each train only holds 8 riders, one rider in each row. What we tend to forget with this is that there are other low capacity star attractions around at other parks and they seem to be holding up just fine.

We are going to use this formula: P=(C/D x 60)(T), where P = theoretical capacity/PPH, C = train capacity, D = ride duration (including load and unload) and T = amount of trains on the said ride.

Let's take a look at Superman Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The ride itself lasts 55 seconds and on average that we have seen, unload/load/dispatch has been around a minute or slightly over. So we're going to take the dispatch times plus ride cycle and say that it's about 2 minutes. Superman's train holds 12 riders and only has a single train. With this said, P= (12/2 x 60)(1). The end result would be a whopping 360 people per hour. Going on the higher end with a duration of 1.75 minutes (let's say it took 45 seconds to load and unload), it was still around 411pph.

Back when seatbelts were added to the ride, we had seen efficiency be brought
down to its knees with a whopping 2 minute+ dispatch time...which was happening consistently.

Judging from the RailBlazer rendering, the ride experience is about a minute. We don't actually know how long it will take to load and unload a train but in an ideal world, let's say that it took a minute to get people off and back on. Using the above formula we got 576pph. Initially RMC stated 600pph with a 3 train option on the RMC Triple Out and Back design.

Image from Rocky Mountain Construction
This concept layout is more or less the layout of Wonderwoman and RailBlazer.

Kicking it up to 2 minute load/unload gave a 480pph and 3 minute load/unload finally brought it down to 360, matching Superman's dispatches. Realistically it should not take 3 minutes to unload and load an 8-passenger single file train. 2 minutes seams realistic but hopefully we can see times better than that.

What are your thoughts on CGA's new coaster? Let us know in the comments below!


California's Great America blazes a new trail with new Single-Rail Coaster

California's Great America unveiled their newest attraction in 2018 known as "RailBlazer," Initially teased as "Project SR1". RailBlazer will be among the first Rocky Mountain Construction Single Rail "Raptor" coaster coinciding with another of the same model at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. RailBlazer takes riders on a twisted adventure with a 90-degree drop through a cave, 3 different inversions including a "late raven turn," an overbank stall, and a zero-g roll, and several drops and tight turns. Riders sit single file straddled over a single 15-inch-wide rail with no riding buddy at either side of them, just the open air. RailBlazer is inspired by the scenic State Route 1 drive along the California Coast.

It all began when the park placed a random stake in the ground reading "Project SR1" with some tire tracks leading up to it. People began to speculate its meaning, some guesses included a highway theme with a car wreck (as an SR1 is a traffic accident report in California). SR1 was also guessed as "State Route 1" and more awkwardly "Surf Rider 1" (given one of the reasons was that people were speculating Cedar Fair would be working with Intamin with this "renewed relationship with a manufacturer they worked with in recent history). Gradually, several fans began to speculate the possibility of "Single Rail 1".

Atmosphere characters greet event attendees as they arrive to the site

Me at the RailBlazer site. It's probably no secret now that I work at
California's Great America.

"Happy Campers" Snoopy!

and "Happy Campers" Charlie Brown, very fitting!

For the duration of the past month the park had set up a construction wall and painted a road map featuring several "stops" in which every other day, a coaster would be placed reflecting the park's timeline, leading up to the big reveal. Below is a list of all the coaster illustrations leading up to the big reveal.

RailBlazer will be located partially where Invertigo once stood, mainly the lift hill portion. The rest of the ride will take over where the Hometown games currently reside (in front of First Aid). We were pleased to see the theming and synergy with surrounding area including the neighboring "White Water Falls" and as much as the rock work is missing, the Demon coaster.


Patriot Ride Review at California's Great America

Patriot is the newest thing at California's Great America and is a fine example of breathing new life into an aging early 90s  roller coaster (Their oldest being the Demon). Originally known as Vortex, the attraction made its initial debut in 1991 as a stand up coaster sporting a green track/black support color scheme. It was announced late Summer 2016 that Vortex would be giving its final rides on Labor Day Weekend and will reopen in 2017 as Patriot. Patriot is the bay area's 2nd B&M floorless roller coaster in which riders ride sitting down with their feet dangling in the open air above the track. How did the conversion do for Patriot?

The dreaded corkscrew moment with the stand up configuration...

Vortex had become infamous for being one of the roughest B&M coasters out there (which B&M is known for smooth and comfortable experiences). A lot of the discomfort was due to standing up on blocky bicycle saddle-type seats and top-heavy trains. Also due to the nature of standing up, dispatch times weren't the greatest as it was frequent that riders would have to get their seat heights readjusted as they didn't "stand properly." The ride was certainly not the "must ride" at Great America anymore as the novelty of standing up is far gone.

After the stand-up coaster "Rougarou" at sister park Cedar Point was converted to a floorless design, it was inevitable that our own aging stand-up coaster would be next in line. Rumors popped up throughout the last year up until the announcement.

New signage, seamlessly blending in with the rest of Hometown Square

Patriot is a hugely improved experience has turned it from a ride we would occasionally do on a slow day to a ride that we now add to our list of rides we must do in a typical CGA visit. Don't expect the ride to be glass smooth as there's still a bit of rattle - the result of being one of the earliest B&M coasters made. The rattle is nothing like what it used to be in its Vortex form.

Now that we are sitting down riding it, we experience forces we had not seen before on this ride. Initially coming out of the loop, there's some nice floaty hangtime, especially in the back rows. The snappy transitions are still there, but without the neck snapping. Coming up to the element we once dreaded - the corkscrew...The corkscrew has become a huge hit among us and other coaster fans, especially when sitting on the left side in the rear. As the train exits the corkscrew, there's a semi strong snap that lifts you out of the seat giving a nice zero-g feeling. We had also tried the corkscrew in the front seats and found our bodies being shot forward into the restraint. Not a painful experience but definitely something we've never felt on a ride before!

Our favorite part of the ride, particularly in the rear left seats!

This snappy corkscrew was meant to be be taken in sitting down! Standing up, not so much...

Patriot is just the beginning of a new beginning for California's Great America, along with Mass Effect: New Earth - last year's revitalization project in the aging Action FX theater and as a whole, it feels like a brand new experience. It will also breath new life into the Hometown Square section of the park alongside the new Maggie's Smoke House upgrade. We highly recommend going out to the park and give it a ride again, you'll quickly see that it was quite an improvement to the old stand-up configuration.

Did you get to ride Patriot? How did you like it compared to the former stand up configuration, Vortex? Let us know in the comments below!


CGA Opening Day 2017 Update

After three months of dormancy since WinterFest, California’s Great America has officially opened for the 2017 season! In this update, we’ll fill you in on our opening day experience, including all the changes and improvements happening around the park as well as the occasional operational problem.

A common problem with opening day is that operations are slow, and the 2017 season is no different. Ride crews have yet to get into their groove (it is their first day after all and will find their groove in the coming weeks), and some rides such as Star Tower were not running yet. These problems do eventually iron out as they have year after year, and by the time summer comes the park should be running on all cylinders.

Operations aside, the park has made some notable infrastructure improvements as well as a significant upgrade to their flagship eatery. Maggie Brown’s Fried Chicken has transformed into Maggie’s Smokehouse and Fried Chicken, which adds tasty new offerings and an upgraded order system similar to the one implemented at Food Festival in 2016. Maggie’s is undoubtedly one of the main highlights of the 2017 season outside of Patriot (which will officially open Saturday April 1st, with media and season pass previews on March 31st), all this and more in the photos below!

The park readies itself for 2017.
Guests are now welcomed by new landscaping patterns by the reflection pond
Gold Striker beckons in the background
CGA’s vice president and general manager Raul Rehnborg announces Patriot’s opening date 
along with the lineup of improvements for 2017.
…and a shot of confetti, the park opens its gates!
Our first stop, of all places, is Psycho Mouse. This ride has had its control system overhauled by Irvine Ondrey Engineering, who did the controls for Gold Striker. We hope this will improve the capacity of the ride as it tends to develop a long line.
Speaking of Gold Striker, we find it is finally starting to show its age, as any wooden coaster would. Let’s hope it ages well!

This new Gold Striker merchandise is hilarious and awesome! If anything, it tells that just because there’s two wooden coasters in the park doesn’t mean they offer the same ride experience, far from it!

Over at the classic Arrow looper Demon, some much needed shade has been installed over the queue.

All the tubs on Flying Eagles have been repainted, now they sport their original deep blue color as they were in 2002.

Something’s missing here…

Hopefully the park will come up with something cool to place here in the coming years, as the remaining water and rockwork can be an eyesore as far as having a cohesive atmosphere in the area.

Here we go for the big highlight of the day (and possibly the season), Maggie’s Smokehouse and Fried Chicken! They’ve added a smooth, quick touch screen menu just like at food festival.

The flooring has been redone in a fashion similar to Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm, a sister park in southern California

The outdoor seating area has also gained some new tables.

A redone kitchen...

…and a rotisserie oven bring a more dynamic feel to the area as well.

We tried the tri-tip steak and thought it was very good! When you order a platter you can choose two sides that will be included in the meal.

The tri-tip is hand cut as seen here.

It would not be 2017 at CGA without Patriot!

This sign provides the details of the ride’s opening next weekend.

New floorless trains from B&M sit on the track awaiting their first riders (no water dummies do not count!).

The season pass processing center waiting area provides one of the best shots of the ride.

Thanks for reading our opening day update, stay tuned for our upcoming Patriot update!