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ready to ride

Residents of the 209 need not travel south to visit the mouse or his neighbors in search of amusement park fun. Day trips for amusement are just as available thanks to stops like Gilroy Gardens, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo and California’s Great America in Santa Clara. 

Wild Rides, Wild Life

Known by Baby Boomer and Gen Xers as the once popular Marine World Africa USA, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was relocated from Redwood City, California to its current home in Vallejo in 1986. The rise in Bay Area property values is reported to be the primary reason for the relocation of the long-standing amusement park. Operated under multiple ownerships throughout its long history, the 135-acre park remains a favorite destination for families throughout Northern California.

The unique blend of amusement park rides as well as wildlife exhibits and shows create a one of a kind opportunity for attendees. Open year round, the Vallejo based park hosts a total of 40 attractions and 11 roller coasters, as well as three water rides.

The park is known for its diverse roller coasters, Looney Tunes Seaport which features kiddie rides as well as the entertainment of wildlife shows and animal attractions.

Seasonal events such as Fright Fest for Halloween and Holiday in the Park are additional unique attractions. Fright Fest features six haunted houses, scare zones and ghouls roaming throughout the park. Holiday in the Park features Santa Claus, as well as the world’s largest Christmas tree as part of the celebration.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is in Vallejo, California. The park is open year round. Hours of operation vary depending on day of week and time of year. Admission prices vary by promotion. Visit for additional information.

More than Garlic

Formerly Bonfante Gardens, Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park was first opened in July 2001. The 536-acre facility offers attendees 21 attractions and two roller coasters. The theme of the park rides is built specifically for children to learn about nature.

The site was also previously known as Tree Haven, a commercial plant nursery before opening to the public and becoming a locally loved gem. Its lush location offers family friendly rides and ample shade and vegetation to delight anyone with an appreciation for the great outdoors.

One of the most notable and unique things about the park are the 24 ‘Circus Trees’ found throughout the grounds, trees which were grown and shaped with multiple trunks by the late Axel Erlandson.

Park founder Michael Bonfante stated he wanted to share the pleasure and experience of trees with young people. The Basket Tree is Bonfante’s personal favorite. It was initially constructed of 12 trees that grew into six trees that grew into 42 different connections.

Gilroy Gardens is at 3050 Hecker Pass Highway, Gilroy. The park is open March through December. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Admission prices vary by promotion. Visit for additional information. 

Rolling Through the Bay

Delivering on its park slogan, “It’s Amazing in Here,” California’s Great America remains a great place for families of the 209 to escape for a day of roller coaster, thrill-seeking fun. 

From the moment one enters, the beauty of the fountains and the unique double decker carousel are a welcoming first impression to a classic amusement park.

Situated on 100 acres in Santa Clara, California, the amusement park hosts a total of 52 attractions including two water rides and nine roller coasters including Gold Striker. Gold Striker has been noted as a top-ranked wooden roller coaster in Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards publication. 

First opened in 1976 as Marriot’s Great America, the park has undergone a number of ownerships prior to its current ownership in 2006 by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. The acquisition by the company brought a number of changes, as well as improvements to the 30-year-old park at the time.

The addition of Planet Snoopy offers a family friendly area of rides for all ages as well as interactions with classic Peanuts characters.

Boomerang Bay also offers a unique opportunity for visitors of the amusement park, serving as a great escape from the Central Valley heat or just offering opportunity for one to cool off during a day at the park. The addition of the attraction in 2004 has proven to be a benefit to the park as well as its guests. 

The quaint size of the park offers attendees ample opportunity to circle the park, as well as enjoy favorite rides more than once during a visit. California’s Great America operates from late March to December. For park hours and ticket prices visit