South Bay Shores, the new name for Great America’s Boomerang Bay, is a simply enormous waterpark. Taken on its own merits as a water park, it is fantastic and worthy of a hot day. My chief complaint is that this large-scale splash zone is only included with admission prices to Great America, so I am torn between getting my money’s worth on the roller coasters and spending my day in a swimsuit. If you live close enough to Great America to have a season pass, then, by all means, enjoy this hecka-fun water park!
Now Open for Summer 2021. Advanced ticket purchase required.
In the Before Times, I spent a few hours in the far end of California’s Great America at South Bay Shores (then called Boomerang Bay) whooping it up with my older sons (age 8 and 10) and husband. During our visit, we did not get a chance to ride any of the tall waterslides because the lines rivaled those of the roller coasters. However, we had a fantastic time doing some of the many other watery attractions like these:
- Lazy river. Called Rushin’ River, tubes are required and they are FREE and plentiful. Life jackets are required for those under 48″. Parents are required with children under 42″. Totally relaxing.
- Splashy play structure. Called Pup’s Pier, it is a multi-level water fortress with bridges to cross, stairs and rope ladders to climb, tunnels to hide in, buckets to dump on you, and shooters to spray at your friends. Cap it off with eight kid-friendly smaller water slides and this is just right for brave preschoolers and young grade-schoolers (Height Requirement: 36″/44″ for slides).
- A smaller “sprayground” in the same area is called Otter Trotter and is a much better bet for your wild toddler or timid preschooler.
- Zero entry tot pool. Called the Tide Pool, it is the best spot for little ones with a shallow pool with predictable water features. Water gets deep enough to float, but just barely.
- Wave pool. Called Breakers Bay, you can enjoy the feeling of waves made by a machine with no sand between your toes surrounded in close proximity by other people and watchful lifeguards.
Even on a weekday, the lines for the slides were prohibitively long. Consequently, we did not experience firsthand any of these tempting attractions (descriptions from the website):
- Coastal Cruz. This family waterslide begins high atop a 54-foot platform and sends riders gliding through turns on a four-person raft. Height Requirement: 44″
- NorCal Wipeout. The first of its kind in the West, this slide is an unforgettable water adventure! Ride a two-person tube down a chute, and then glide back up a nearly vertical wall before coasting toward the ground. Height Requirement: 44″
- Reef Racer. This 30-foot tall body water slide sends riders speeding down a 45-degree, fully enclosed chute for a thrilling water adventure. Height Requirement: 48″
- Pacific Surge. Twists and serpentine curves await riders on this three-story-tall, fully enclosed body water slide that leaves riders screamin’ for more. Height Requirement: 48″
Splitting time between a water park and amusement park at Great America
So, what’s the challenge?
I’m not much of a go-with-the-flow person, so wrapping my head around the waterpark being inside the amusement part was tricky for me.
Since CA Great America is about an hour south of Oakland, it is most often done as an all-day trip for East Bay kids, right?
So, the logistics are complicated enough to make my head spin. Do you split your day between swimsuits and roller coasters? Do you head right for the water slides or save them for the end of the day? Does one parent run back to the car to drop off wet swimsuits and towels or do you lug them around all day? Or do you wear your swimsuits the whole day? Are locker rentals worth it? Are you already pushing a stroller that can carry the excess baggage of a water park visit? I asked my fleet-footed husband to run back to the car for our gear; is that practical for your group?
If you’re a seasonal member, these questions may be a non-issue: Do what you want one day and play it differently the next time. For many of us single-day visitors, it can be a source of parental headaches.
During the hot summer months, Great America is open from 10am to 10pm with South Bay Shores open 11am to 7pm (with reduced hours and random closures on this schedule which you must check before you go). Daily tickets run about $40 with season passes for about twice that. Kids under 3 are free.
Parking is $25 or $20 if you pay in advance.
For 2021, tickets must be purchased online in advance to support capacity limits.
For admission to Great America and South Bay Shores in 2021, you need two things: an admission ticket and a reservation. Admission tickets can be purchased directly from the Great America website. Discounted tickets are available on Goldstar. Once you receive those in your email, you’ll need to go to the Great America website to make a reservation and enter the serial number of your admissions voucher. Got it?
Bottom line on South Bay Shores
If we had planned to stay until 10pm, maybe a three-hour diversion to the water park would have made a special day even better. Our real-world scenario of hurrying home for preschool pickup meant that we were scrambling to leave from the far side of the amusement park with our towels wrapped around our bodies leaving wet footprints behind us.
Looking for a smaller waterpark for younger kids? Check out our guide to all Bay Area water parks.
All photos taken by Whitney or Heather; all rights reserved; all opinions are our own.