ACE NorCal tours Great America in first event in more than a year

ACE NorCal was back inside a park for the first time in more than a year, courtesy of our friends at California’s Great America.

The May 2 off-season tour at CGA erased any doubts about the pent-up demand among park fans after 14 months. Within 15 minutes of registration opening, the 2021 off-season tour filled up, easily setting a record for an ACE NorCal event.

Small groups of ACEers were treated to tours of South Bay Shores, the massive new waterpark expansion, as well as the other enhancements made over the longest off-season in the park’s history, throughout the morning by CGA’s Danny Messinger and Jason Soyster. The event also featured a raffle, with some lucky ACE members going home with Vortex wheels, Grizzly anti-rollback mechanisms and even a sign from the long-gone Skyhawk.

Raffle items from the 2021 off-season tour. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

The fact that CGA will actually have operating days this year is a huge accomplishment, but the 2021 season will feature so much more, highlighted by South Bay Shores, opening June 5.

The former Boomerang Bay is getting its largest investment in its history, 14 years after the last new attraction opened. The expanded water park, increasing its acreage from 10.5 to 15 acres, will feature seven new water attractions, including four drop slides, two tube slides, and a new lagoon area. Guests will also enjoy new and upgraded food and merchandise locations, upgraded cabanas and a sandy beach play area.

A massive sign marks the entrance to South Bay Shores. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

Some of the numerous artwork by Lacey Bryant seen throughout South Bay Shores. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

Messinger said South Bay Shores is themed as the “Bay Area’s newest quirky seaside town,” taking many cues from the city of Monterey. You’ll see bright artwork everywhere, created by Lacey Bryant, and numerous funky touches scattered throughout, such as a bicycle that was transformed into a mailbox and a buoy that sprays water in the kiddie pool.

The centerpiece of the new additions is the Pacific Surge slide complex, where the drop slides and tube slides are located.

Perhaps what got ACEers excited the most was the Sand Bar next to the wave pool, an outdoor bar featuring a currently-unknown drink called Jack Mackeral’s Famous Pelican Punch.

The Sand Bar is located next to the wave pool. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

New kiddie slides have been installed in the tide pool. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

The Pacific Surge slide complex is the centerpiece of the new attractions at South Bay Shores. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

The Pacific Surge slide complex offers some never-before-seen views of California’s Great America. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

The water park feels much more immersive than the previous Boomerang Bay. South Bay Shores has one large entrance, marked with a massive archway. Guest flow should be much more efficient, as the water park no longer ends abruptly at the wave pool. Instead, a new path has been constructed beyond the wave pool, which connects to the entrance.

In addition to the water attractions, new restaurant Pier 76 Cafe will cook up offerings such as fried shrimp and fresh fish tacos, plus park favorites including hand-breaded chicken tenders, sliders and waffle fries. Shaded outdoor seating will be offered as well.

For the full rundown of all the new attractions at South Bay Shores, visit

Orbit is currently in pieces as it undergoes a new paint scheme. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

Psycho Mouse has received a new brown-and-green paint job. | Photo: Nicholas Laschkewitsch

Messinger said CGA has made numerous enhancements throughout the park, including new paint schemes for Orbit and Psycho Mouse, in addition to refreshed coats on various other rides and buildings.

“I’m excited for people to be back in the park and see all the changes we’ve made,” he said.

We are too.

California’s Great America reopens for the 2021 season on May 22. Reservations are expected to go live soon. For information, visit

A big “thank you” to everyone at CGA for their hospitality in hosting ACE NorCal’s first event in more than a year. We are beyond excited to hit the rides and the waves after being away for far too long.

To view more pictures, visit

About Erik Chalhoub

Erik Chalhoub is the Magazine Editor at New SV Media in Gilroy (and a roller coaster fanatic!). He is also the proud recipient of the 2016 ACE NorCal Richard Tuck Spirit Award.

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