The world's most authentic roller coaster and amusement park expert!

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Great American Thrills teases at major announcement

Pi Day Tease 1


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Throwback Thursday – from Marine World Africa USA

From the first season the park was in Vallejo – circa far too long ago!

Not sure if I could handle having long hair like that again!

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Happy National Roller Coaster Day!

While it seems everyday is now a holiday – this is one I can get behind!

Bizzaro at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

So after work today, be sure to get out to your local amusement park and celebrate National Roller Coaster Day!


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Luna Park Video Continues to Amaze!

I had the fortune of meeting with Greg Baumann, Editor-in-Chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal recently – and it turns out he loves learning about Silicon Valley’s history, too!

Thanks Silicon Valley Biz Journal

Let’s hope he enjoys all 23 of the other Northern California lost parks we’re aiming to cover – thanks, Greg!

If you haven’t already checked it out, view our complete “Lost Parks of Northern California” series here: www.greatamericanthrills.net/lostparks


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Thank you to the San Jose City Council, District Three!

It’s an honor to be featured in this month’s “Community Spotlight” section of the City of San Jose’s, District 3 Newsletter!

It turns out – quite a few people didn’t know about the origins of Luna Park, including the City Council!

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Full text, here:

Kris Rowberry: The Lost Park of San Jose

Great American Thrills” is a web video series that follows amusement park connoisseur, Kris Rowberry, as he hunts down the original sites and memories of Northern California’s 24 bygone amusement parks.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the amusement parks I’ve visited,” said Rowberry. “This series is truly a journey back in time.”

Joining Rowberry on his journey is the Assistant Regional Representative for the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Northern California, Nicholas Laschkewitsch. He also serves as the show’s cameraman and producer.

“One of ACE’s missions is to promote the importance of preservation of both roller coasters and amusement parks,” said Laschkewitsch. “I hope the ‘Lost Parks’ series will do just that.”

Through their research, done mostly the old fashioned way in the King Library, both Rowberry and Laschkewitsch have stumbled upon countless, incredible stories about Luna Park.

“To find out that San Jose, not San Francisco, had the first pro baseball team in the Bay Area was a real shock,” said Rowberry. “Luna was built as an entertainment complex – amusement park and baseball stadium. It puts the whole territorial rights issue today in a whole new light. Plus, from the descriptions, it sounds like it was theplace to be for fireworks on the 4th of July.”

So how did he come across such an obscure piece of San Jose’s history?

“It honestly just came as inspiration driving through the Luna Park Business District and seeing all the banners,” said Rowberry. When I saw the carousel horse on one of them, I knew there had to be an amusement park here at some point. That’s the real impetus for wanting to highlight this park – well that and I lived in San Jose for nearly 26 years and never knew about it.”

Thank you Kris for bringing back the memory of Luna Park and a piece San Jose history!

Learn about Luna Park for yourself, here:


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Photo of the Day: Gold Striker at California’s Great America

After many years of becoming a park known for REMOVING rides rather than ADDING them, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA made a major statement this year with the addition of Gold Striker. Billed as the tallest, fastest (and certainly most intense) coaster in Northern California, Gold Striker is easily one of the top five wooden coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding – and should be under consideration for the Top Ten in the United States.

Despite some minor setbacks and delays in opening, mostly due to ongoing noise abatement issues – the ride is now roaring every operating day, to delighted and packed crowds.

A winner all around, this coaster is seen by many as the catalyst for revival at California’s Great America – and fans are loving every moment of it. But don’t take my word for it – check out Westcoaster’s recent review.

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Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

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What’s Your Worst Travel Mistake?

Mine was overpaying for hotel rooms on my coaster adventures. Learn from my mistake – always plan ahead!

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Read the entire article here:

http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/lifestyle/travel/my-worst-travel-mistake-6-money-lessons


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Photo of the Day: Asiana Airlines Flight 214 Wreckage at SFO

Asiana 214 wreckage. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Now, I’m a big fan of all things aviation – but to take these photos yesterday was both a sobering and ethereal moment for me.

To think of what this aircraft and more importantly, it’s occupants had been through made this one of the more difficult subjects for me to shoot.

Nonetheless, it’s important to document – to think so many people WALKED AWAY from this wreckage is simply astounding.

Asiana 214 wreckage. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills/sets

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Asiana Airlines 777 Crashes at SFO

Amazing how many people survived today’s crash – but what’s more amazing was the “meh” attitude of some of the passengers AFTERWARDS! our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured and may have lost loved ones today…

As a fan of flying and aviation – you always wonder about those people who ignore the safety warnings or don’t put away their notebooks after flight attendants tell them. Maybe you should re-think that the next time you fly…

How to Not Evacuate an Aircraft.

How to Not Evacuate an Aircraft. Photo illustration by Kris Rowberry.


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Photo of the Day: Batman – the Dark Knight at Six Flags New England

There’s nothing like a custom roller coaster layout to get an enthusiast excited. Batman: The Dark Knight is a custom designed B&M “floorless” coaster.

You got to love the facial expressions I find in these shots! Always a delight when I’m post processing these types of photos.

Batman: The Dark Knight at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

There are roller coasters – and then they’re EPIC roller coasters. Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas is one of those attractions that takes your breath away.

Once the tallest wooden coaster on Earth, the Rattler was transformed this past off season to include Rocky Mountain Construction’s Iron Horse Track (similar to the track on Texas Giant just a few hours north). The ride is now smooth, powerful and FORCEFUL  – definitely a steel coaster that should rank in your top three in the world after you ride it.

Did we mention there’s a clever inversion on it, too?

Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

A HUGE thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Caption Contest: Facebook Face Recognition FAIL

"Face" on Iron Rattler. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.

While working on editing photos from my recent marathon trip across the country these past two weeks, I couldn’t help but laugh at what Facebook thought was a face…it’s actually a wheel bogey from the “epic” Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas."Face" on Iron Rattler. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.

What’s your best caption for this shot?


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Photo of the Day: Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO

Gateway Arch at Jefferson Western Expansion Memorial. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.

It may have been a little rainy, bit that didn’t dampen our moods to cross off, “visit the St. Louis Arch” off our bucket lists this weekend!

This disorienting view comes from the the center most window (there is no centered window, as that is where the “keystone” to the arch sits, and must be the strongest portion of the structure.)

It’s quite a weird feeling to realize that unlike a building observation deck, there’s absolutely nothing below you.

Oh, and the ride to the top – worthy of any thrill ride I’ve ever been on…thank you Eero Saarinen!

Gateway Arch at Jefferson Western Expansion Memorial. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.

A HUGE thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis

Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Yesterday, Six Flags St. Louis unveiled their latest coaster in their collection and Great American Thrills was there on OPENING DAY to see what the venerable Vekoma design had in store for guests.

Amazingly, the ride is SMOOTH for a Vekoma – and the park is working diligently to improve the catch on the second hill to eliminate that traditional “thud” that’s so common on this model. The ride sits between the Tidal Wave flume, Sky Screamer and venerable Screamin’ Eagle wooden coaster at the top of the park.

Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Loose Articles under Mr. Freeze

Cell Phone carnage at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

This is the reason that parks don’t want you to have loose articles onboard roller coasters – because this is almost ALWAYS their fate!

Cell Phone carnage at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Bizarro at Six Flags New England

Bizzaro at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Originally called Riverside Park, Six Flags New England is by definition the oldest in the chain (opened in 1840) – however, it has only been a Six Flags branded park since 1999.

One of the first major attractions added was Superman: Ride of Steel. The ride was recently re-themed to Bizzaro, complete with mist, sound and lighting effects (That weren’t on during my visit – which wasn’t a bad thing, actually.)

This coaster has won several Golden Tickets (Five in total) – and it’s easy to see why – this turn has become the de-facto “photo” of SFNE and was even featured in an episode of Family Guy! (See below)

Bizzaro at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

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Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Roar at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

When it opened in 1998, Roar! was the first modern wooden coaster to feature “Millennium Flyer” trains. Using patents and designs from the 1920’s, Great Coasters, International were able to make this version of Roar! with tighter curves and sharper transitions, simply because the trains’ were able to negotiate them better. All GCI installations since now feature these “throwback” trains.

Sadly, this coaster has deteriorated rapidly in the past few years – and is so rough, that I’d have to recommend a PASS on riding it – which is hard to do, considering it’s amazing layout and speed.

Roar at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure

El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Since opening on June 11th, 2006 – El Toro has maintained the #2 or #1 spot in the world for wooden roller coasters. With the second steepest drop in the world (78 degrees), speeds up to 70 mph and airtime hills that would make any coaster phobic just looking at them, you can see why this next generation wooden coaster ranks so high.

I swear that I caught Bubba the Love Sponge and (then) wife Heather Clem in the front row that day. Can anyone validate that claim?

El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Consistently ranked the #1 wooden roller coaster in the world since opening. The smiles say it all.

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park

World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

There are theme park shows – and then there are Disney theme park shows.

Then there’s “World of Color.”

In my lifetime, the best show that I ever saw at any park was EPCOT’s Illuminations – the sight of the night sky turning to daylight for that brief moment still resides with me. I thought that memory would never be supplanted – until I saw “World of Color.” Years in the making and millions of dollars in R&D, and it’s safe to say that those Imagineers got it right…again. To think this photo was shot AFTER the show ends.

Just be sure to bring a rain jacket – a slight change in wind direction will leave you soaked.

World of Color at Disney California Adventure Park. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

In terms of event entertainment, “World of Color” takes the cake. People will begin lining up for showings two (2) hours prior.

Thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Honolulu Halfpipe at Waterworld Concord

Honolulu Halfpipe at Waterworld Concord. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Whenever I’m walking around a park, I’ve always got my camera ready – just in case an opportunity presents itself. Of course, at a waterpark it tends to be a bit more difficult. Not only do you have to worry about the water hitting your camera, but you’ve also got to be careful not to look like a total creep taking photos of half naked people. (Unless that’s what you’re doing, in which case please stand out so security can escort you out).

Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that second part when I took this shot – I was working for the park at the time and in full uniform, too. “Honolulu Halfpipe” sends riders sloshing back and forth until they stop at the bottom – and simply step out to the side of the half-pipe. Great for the quick shot of “airtime,” too!

Honolulu Halfpipe at Waterworld Concord. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Giant Dipper Flash-Lapse

In honor of the Coaster Guy visiting Santa Cruz, I dug through the archives to find an awesome boardwalk shot…

They say going to visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is like stepping back in time. With the effect that I captured with this photo, it almost looks like the Morgan trains ARE going back in time, a la “Back to the Future.”

Now, if only the idiot didn’t have his cell phone out, it would have been perfect. I’ll definitely be going back this summer again – but with a tripod!

Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom

Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Just shouting distance from both Churchill Downs and sitting between the flight path to Louisville Int’l Airport, (Then) Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom had a tough life. The park was poorly designed, owing to it’s confusing layout and bisected sections. While it WAS part of the Six Flags chain, it stood on state fair land – and had to relinquish control (and profits) of all it’s rides and attractions for two weeks, while the state fair was occurring.

When I visited in 2008, the back half the park was closed due to financial reasons. The park closed that next year.

Closed for several years now, Kentucky Kingdom park is looking to make a comeback in the next few months by re-launching without a major brand behind it. (I.E. it is no longer part of the Six Flags brand).

Ed Hart, the former park president who famously posed for this photo,will once again head operations.

Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Thunder Run was a highlight of the park, even in the “lean” years before it closed.

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain

Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

When you build a ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain, there’s an expectation that it has to be bigger and badder than the rest. Tatsu is definitely one of those coasters.

Built on the top of the large hill that defines the park, Tatsu is easily the most intense flying coaster built by Bolliger and Mabillard. I dare you to find a better lift on a ride – as you climb, the terrain falls below you, giving the illusion of rising much faster than you actually are!

Tatsu at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

When it opened, Tatsu featured the largest inversion on a flying coaster – the VERY intense “pretzel loop” element.

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Looff Carousel Ring Machine

As the last of the great seaside amusement parks, visiting the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is like literally stepping back in time. It is home to not one, but TWO national historic landmarks (The 1911 Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster.) Both of these federal landmarks are unique, in that people can actually ride them, rather than admire them from a distance.

This shot was one of my first forays with the stunning Canon 5D Mark III – and the results were simply spectacular. Look for the cut on the finger from the previous pass at the ring machine…now THAT’S dedication!

Looff Carousel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

The 1911 Looff Carousel at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of only 5 left in the world with an operating ring machine.

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

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