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The Lost Parks of Northern California

Lost Parks Animated Logo

Northern California has a storied amusement park past…

From the elegant, Victorian-era parks built on the coast, to the small, family-owned parks that inspired Walt Disney to build his masterpiece – we have been witnesses to our fair share of amusement park history. Sadly, most of it has been lost to development, natural disasters or simply the passing of time.

Along with the American Coaster Enthusiasts, Northern CaliforniaGreat American Thrills® is seeking out these lost amusement parks, in the hopes to reconnect people with the incredible history behind them, as well as re-discover some history as well!

Join us on the journey by searching / using the #lostparks hashtag on your social media feeds!

EPISODE 6 – Frontier Village in San Jose:

FV Thumbnail

EPISODE 5 – 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition in San Francisco:

Pan Pacific Thumbnail

EPISODE 4 – Santa’s Village of Scotts Valley:

Kris Rowberry at Santa's Village in Scotts Valley

EPISODE 3 – Manteca Waterslides & Oakwood Lake Resort:

Kris Rowberry at the Manteca Waterslides

EPISODE 2 – Luna Park of San Jose:

Kris Rowberry, Lost Parks of Northern California

EPISODE 1 – Pacific City of San Mateo:

Kris Rowberry, Lost Parks of Northern California

Lost Parks Series Trailer:

Roller Coaster Expert Kris Rowberry


68 responses

  1. Jim Cox

    Upon hearing your interview today on NPR, and as a San Jose native of a certain age, I’m looking forward to more of your series. Bravo!

    March 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    • Thank you, Jim – be sure to share with all your friends as well and glad to hear there are fans out there!

      March 31, 2013 at 11:18 am

      • Zena Browning

        I just picked up this story from the Santa Cruz Patch. I have a home movie DVD from the 60’s. One short segment is of us at Santa’s Village. It’s probably only about 2 minutes. Let me know if you’d like to see it. Zena

        October 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      • Hello Zena!

        We’d love to see what you might have – I will forward your info to my producer for review! Thanks for helping us out!

        October 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

  2. Caitlin Cole

    I absolutely LOVE this series! Hope to see more soon!

    September 2, 2013 at 8:13 am

  3. Jane Parks-McKay

    Hello: yes, I remember Santa’s Village as a child, loved it. And I have a funny story as I was an adult or two on this, if interested, would you contact me via my email, for the documentary?

    October 13, 2013 at 6:58 am

    • We would! (So expect an e-mail here shortly!) Thanks for sharing your memories with us!

      October 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    • I’ve forwarded your info to our producer, who will be in contact with you shortly!

      October 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm

  4. Randy Brown

    My wife used to work at Santa’s Village in the early 1970’s, you should interview her!

    October 13, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    • We would love to, Randy! I’ll forward your e-mail address over to our Producer, Nicholas!

      October 13, 2013 at 10:10 pm

  5. Norma and George Hadland

    We took our kids there 30 years ago. It was so fun. I even have a picture or two (somewhere) of us on a ride. We used to drive up from Salinas to go there and then we moved to the area.

    October 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    • We would love to share those memories and photos in our project – I’ll forward your e-mail over to my producer! Thanks for sharing!

      October 13, 2013 at 10:13 pm

  6. Chris Moran

    Hi, I used to go to Santa’s Village all the time. AND, when they closed they became the Valley Times under Noor Billawalla. I worked in the front building doing layout and design for the newspaper. I would walk the grounds years after they closed. I have a couple pieces of their memorbellia, a Santa’s Village Plate and some of their notepads. . AND, I took some pictures as it was broken down.

    October 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    • Wonderful! I’ll forward your info to our producer, who will be in contact with you shortly!

      October 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm

  7. These are great Kris! I can’t wait to see what other parks you highlight. Oh and I’m rejoining ACE NorCal, it’s been far too long 🙂

    October 15, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    • Wonderful, Steven! Looking forward to seeing you at ACE events soon – especially with Con here in June.

      October 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

  8. Hi Santa’s Village in Dundee Il one of the 3 parks built by Glenn Holland back in 1959 is still up and running. We had a fantastic year. We have a book all about the history of the 3 parks built too. See our website under Vintage Village for an overview. Were proud to be part of this rich history. Would enjoy speaking with you Jill Mengo Marketing Dir.

    October 19, 2013 at 9:43 am

  9. Santa’s Village, Santa Cruz , CA. I have many fond memories of santas Village, pictures too!
    Santa was always there, with his reindeer. The Bark licorice candy was always my favorite. Very sad when it
    Shut down. I will always remember the huge snowball ride you could see at the entrance. There was a train
    Ride that went through the Enchanted forest! and the sleigh ride that was pulled by live real reindeer. Oh and the
    Huge jack in the box. SO much thought went into this park.

    October 20, 2013 at 11:28 pm

  10. Cathy Solkshinitz

    I worked at Santa’s Village when I was 14 as a ride operator. I wasn’t old enough to work the roller coaster so was allowed to work at the hand cars. We always had two operators there because the kids could only make it about half way around the track and then we had to give them a push on the back side. I also worked in the Alice and Wonderland ride which was a house of mirrors that the kids walked through. I was really tired of the theme song for that by the time the day was over. I loved taking my breaks and getting those amazing sugar cookies. I think I still have the Santas Village paper bumper sticker they used to wire to all the bumpers in the parking lot. Yes I was dressed as an elf!!

    October 26, 2013 at 11:29 am

    • Hello Cathy,

      We’d love to see what you might have – I will forward your info to my producer for review! Thanks for helping us out!

      October 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm

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  13. Michelle

    I lived in Lathrop when they decided to tear down the Manteca Waterslides. Such a sad day for a icon that I remember hearing about growing up.
    Another lost theme park is Frontier Village which was in San Jose I think. I loved that place. It’s good to know we haven’t lost the Boardwalk or Great America yet. Great job on bringing history to life.

    November 16, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    • Thank you, Michelle!

      Our Manteca episode the the first that we found relics of the park not operating – and it was definitely humbling. Did you catch the episode on this page?

      November 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      • Michelle Plumb

        I live in Washigton now but my roots are in the South Bay and I review the news on NBC Bay Area News and I saw the profile they did on you first. I then went to your blog and watched the videos that you had posted. Awesom job preserving history.

        November 17, 2013 at 5:31 am

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  15. Corinne

    You might be interested in a web site about Frontier Village

    November 27, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    • Thanks, Corrine! We’ll be working with them closely for the big Frontier Village episode in June / July!

      November 28, 2013 at 1:40 am

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  17. Hi, my future wife(april 2014) was an elf at Santa’s Village in 75-76. She has a few stories she has shared with me. Let me know if you would like to talk with her. I am at Steve. She still has a Santa’s Helper button…LOL

    November 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm

  18. John Rodriguez

    Can’t wait for the Frontier Village episode.

    December 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm

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  20. I’m not sure if “Neptune Beach” is on your list. But this Alameda park was compared to Coney Island.

    December 15, 2013 at 6:26 am

    • Hi Rich,

      We’re planning on filming around September, when the annual festival occurs – thanks for following Great American Thrills!

      December 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

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  24. Lee

    My brother and I worked at Santa’s Village in the mid-60’s. The ride on the back of his motorcycle to work over Highway 17 got pretty hairy a time or two. I ran a couple of rides and worked some on maintenance.

    December 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm

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  28. Brian Doan

    Loved watching all your episodes. Getting better with each one. I hope you will do an episode on the original Marine World Africa USA in Redwood Shores, CA. Now the site of the Oracle campus.

    March 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    • It’s on the way!

      March 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      • Brian Doan

        Good to know. I figure your next episode has to be between Frontier Village and Marine World. :p

        March 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm

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  30. I absolutely love this series and appreciate the effort and passion you have put into these. If you ever need assistance with anything: editing, music, research, let me know. I grew up in the Bay Area and love this sort of thing. Besides Marine World and Frontier Village…do you have Splashdown in Milpitas and/or Playland at the Beach in the pipeline?

    June 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

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  33. Jim Puetz

    What happened to Frontier Village or Marine World episodes?

    November 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    • Hi Jim,

      We’re still working on both of those – hoping to have them done here, soon!

      November 8, 2014 at 12:01 am

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  39. Jim

    Just saw your last two – even better than the others (which were quite good). Keep up the great work! I didn’t grow up here so I don’t know these places but I love amusement parks, and obviously you folks do too because it comes thru in your work. This doesn’t really fit in your series but my brother and I both love Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the reverence for history displayed by the owners. Would love to see something on it, if you ever run out of places to cover.

    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to Marine World, too.

    November 5, 2015 at 9:16 pm

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  44. Stefanie Sellars

    Do you have anything on splashdown Milpita’s California? It’s ago there was but my dad has a kid with my sister we used to get different colored mats and go down 40 for waterslides maybe six and when you came out of the pool you handed over your mat and I will give you a different color one going up so you’d by like 10 slides and they would know where you were in your waterslide journey depending on what color Matt you had coming out of the pool . This must have been in the early 80’s.

    July 20, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    • Toby Addison

      Yeah I live in Milpitas too id love more info. My dad said he used to come here all the time!

      January 31, 2019 at 10:52 pm

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