Let's talk for a second about Fast Lane. Like we mentioned earlier, it's not difficult to do all of CGA in a day, even on a busy day but you probably won't have time for more than a few rerides on the big rides. If you want to ensure that you get on as many rides as you can take (and trust us, you will want to when you get on some of the coasters), then a Fast Lane will be the way to go.
California's Great America Full Day of Thrills Guide
Enjoy a thrilling day full of CGA's best thrills rides and coasters!
TL;DR: Gold Striker if you're among the first in line, Railblazer, Psycho Mouse, Drop Tower, Mass Effect, Flight Deck, Patriot and Grizzly
So you've decided to go to California's Great America! Great choice! CGA offers a full day of fun for the whole family with tons for both kids and adults.
But you don't want to just have a great day, you want to have the best day. We can help with that! We've spent hours at the park trying all sorts of ride ordering strategies and think we have about as optimal of one as possible.
Let's start with a couple of assumptions that we'll make for this guide:
- You are mostly concerned with thrill rides/roller coasters. We'll add in the family rides that we think are worth your time but if your focus is on children, this guide isn't for you.
- You are arriving before or at park opening. CGA is very doable in a single day, even on the busiest of days but if the park is busy, you will have a much more relaxed, productive day if you can take advantage of a slower morning.
- You don't want to pay for a Fast Lane pass.
If these assumptions don't hold for you, don't worry! We have other guides planned!
But with these disclaimers out of the way, let's get started!
The parking lot for CGA normally opens up between an hour or a half an hour before the park opens. Be there at parking lot open and grab yourself a spot. After you park and make it through security and the front gate, you'll be let out into the Hometown Square section of the park. If you want a picture with the iconic fountains and carousel, now is probably your best time to do it since it will have a long line later in the day. If Celebration Swings or the Carousel Columbia are on your list of must rides, check if they're open since many mornings, they'll open before the park is open! But after you finish riding, head over to Gold Striker's entrance. If there isn't a line or if the line is only a train load or so, hop in line and wait for the park to open. Since Gold Striker's line is in bounds in the morning, it tends to already have a line at open. If you can be one of the first ones on, you'll have knocked out one of the marquee CGA attractions early. If the line is too long, no worries! Just follow the sight of Railblazer and head as far north in the park as you can. You'll stop right in front of Maggie's.
After the park opens or you're done with Gold Striker, go straight to Railblazer. You shouldn't have to wait more than a few minutes.
After you finish Railblazer, take a deep breath since you just finished the two biggest rides at CGA and it's not even an hour in yet. But now's no time to relax. Onward to the back of the park. Grizzly usually opens an hour or so after the park opens so skip it and head instead to Drop Tower. After riding, head straight over to Psycho Mouse. Psycho Mouse usually has a fairly low capacity so it's always nice to get it done in the morning before crowds get to the back of the park. If you're a fan of Disk-Os, take a spin on Tiki Twirl.
If you're a credit hunter, next on your list should be Woodstock Express. You'll find it by heading due south from Psycho Mouse and then taking a right at the statue of Snoopy. If you see Lucy's Crabbie Cabbies, you know you've gone too far. Woodstock Express is a family coaster that is certainly more than just an oval and is worth your time as a credit hunter. After riding or skipping WE, keep going south through Planet Snoopy. You'll pass by Delirium so feel free to stop if pendulum rides are your speed. At this point it should be a little after 11 and you hopefully will not have had to wait in many lines. The time also means that some of the park stragglers are open.
One of these stragglers that's worth your time is Mass Effect: New Earth. Even if you're not a fan of the game series, Mass Effect distinguishes itself from other simulators by use of a live actor. Although they closely follow a script, a great captain can still make this experience unique and worth riding! If any of the other rides around Mass Effect strike your fancy, feel free to do them now although they will probably have at least some line at this point. Keep going south until you get to Orleans Place.
You're in the home stretch now! Once you get to Orleans Place, make your way over to Flight Deck. It will have a line but as a B&M invert, it will chew through it's line quickly. After you experience Flight Deck head to Hometown Square where you were in the morning and across from the Celebration Swings is the entrance to Patriot, the B&M floorless coaster. Patriot might also have a line but due to its location it should be less than Flight Deck while still being a very crowd efficient attraction.
Now it's time to take a break. You've finished all major coasters and it's probably only noon or 1. For lunch, we recommend getting Maggie Brown's near where you waited in the morning. Maggie's serves smokehouse favorites like tri-tip steak and chicken and in our opinion is the best value meal in the park (we recommend the chicken strips). If you take a seat on the porch, you'll be able to watch Railblazer snake it's way through the course.
At this point you have some choices with how you want to spend the rest of your day. If you haven't done Grizzly or Gold Striker yet, you'll need to go ahead and ride them at some point. Naturally crowds will taper off as the day goes on so it might be worth waiting a little bit to ride. As far as some other hidden gems go, we think you should check these rides and attractions out if you have the time:
- Delta Flyers - a great, classic skyride that'll take you from Orleans Place to Action Zone near Psycho Mouse. It's a great way to relax and get off your feet on a hot day.
- Star Tower - an observation tower that sits in the middle of Gold Striker's first drop. Provides excellent views of both Gold Striker and the rest of the park.
- Elevation Extreme - a high energy show featuring music and stunt men and women on bikes, scooters, roller blades and more!
- Rip Roaring Rapids - a river rapids ride that is sure to get you wet!
- Barney Oldfield Speedway - this antique car ride not only lets you drive your own antique car but also provides exclusive behind the scenes views of Demon and Grizzly.
As far as night rides go, we recommend getting to Flight Deck, Railblazer and Gold Striker once the sun goes down Each of these rides feel fast during the day but they feel so much faster in the evening. Railblazer in particular is almost as much fun to watch at night as it is to ride!
And there you have it, a full day guide to CGA. By the time the park closes in the evening, you should've had the opportunity to ride all of the amazing rides and coasters at the park and experienced some of the shows and goings-on that makes CGA one of the best parks around! Keep your eyes peeled for future guides and tweet us about what types of guides you'd like to see next!