The Halloween season at many theme parks is often all about terrifying guests. As much as our family loves theme parks, the late night Halloween scare fests are a no-go with younger kids in tow. We’ve instead stuck to more family-friendly fall events. But these kinds of events at amusement parks are few and far between or very limited in scope when offered.
That’s why we were so excited to find out that one of Northern California’s largest theme parks, California’s Great America, decided to jump in on the not-too-scary Halloween bandwagon in 2022. Great America retired its after-dark Halloween event, Halloween Haunt, this year in favor of a new family-friendly event – “Tricks and Treats.”
My kids and I just visited California’s Great America during the first weekend of the Halloween season to check out all the Tricks and Treats entertainment, rides, decor, and food. We were all very impressed with the quality and breadth of offerings, especially for the value price at which it can be had.
If you are considering visiting Tricks and Treats at California’s Great America, here’s everything you need to know.
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What is Tricks and Treats at California’s Great America?
Tricks and Treats is a brand new in 2022 Halloween event that takes place in California’s Great America theme park in Santa Clara, California (in Silicon Valley for those of you who don’t know the San Francisco Bay Area well).
Although it feels like a Halloween party (like Oogie Boogie Bash at Disneyland), there is no special event ticket needed to attend. The Tricks and Treats offerings run during all regular park hours.
Tricks and Treats is far more expansive and elaborate than what Bay Area locals and theme park fans may remember from “The Great Pumpkin Fest” days at Great America. That daytime event was centered only in the Planet Snoopy section of the park and was really more focused on the little ones.
Tricks and Treats, in contrast, is an event that takes over the entire park and that caters to all ages. The park has been transformed into four themed lands – two “tricks” and two “treats.”
The two lands of treats are located on the right size of the park. The area behind the carousel usually known as Hometown Square becomes Everfall, and is decorated with fall festival decor. Just beyond that is County Fair, which has been turned into Sweet Tooth Acres, a colorful candy-inspired land.
On the left side of the park are the two lands of tricks. The park’s Orleans Place section has become Spooky Spires which has hints of Haunted Mansion-style creepy gothic vibes. Farther back in the park, All American Corners is now Ickyville, a gross-out land with zombies, slime and goo, and a few not-to-terrifying monsters and skeletons.
Planet Snoopy has plenty of Halloween decor as well like before, but it’s not one of these four themed lands.
The back area of the park (Action Zone around the Grizzly) also isn’t part of the four themed lands, but has some of the large pumpkin decor guests may remember from Halloween Haunt days repurposed for the new event.
The park’s waterpark section, South Bay Shores, is closed during this time of year.
When To Go To Tricks and Treats at California’s Great America
Tricks and Treats takes place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from September 23-October 30, 2022. Note that the park is closed Sunday October 23 for a San Francisco’s 49ers game (the theme park shares parking with the stadium so both can’t be open at once). Great America has scheduled has an extra party the Thursday night before instead – October 20.
The Tricks and Treats activities officially run during all hours the park is open, but the entertainment doesn’t really start until about an hour after park opening.
Things to Do at Tricks and Treats
Tricks and Treats has a variety of special Halloween things to do, see, and experience. Those include:
Dress Up: Guests of all ages are welcome to come to the park in costume during the event. Those Halloween costumes are expensive, so you might as well get your money’s worth and wear them a few times! Just be sure to check the park’s costume policy for the specific safety rules.
Trick-or-Treating: There are many trick-or-treat stations located in the Sweet Tooth Acres themed land, set up as doors that staff open to kids. Great America provides small plastic trick or treat bags so no need to bring your own. While my kids were a little bummed the candy options were all non-chocolate, but that choice makes sense because the South Bay is known for some serious heat waves in the fall (including the one we experienced on the day of our visit).
Musical Acts & Performances: Each land is filled with multiple themed musical acts and performers leading a variety of activities. There truly is something for everyone at Tricks and Treats. In fact, there’s so much that you won’t be able to do it all, even if you totally forgo regular rides in the park! Here are a few of the entertainment highlights:
- Fun-Sized Four (Sweet Tooth Acres): barbershop quartet
- Candy Horns (Sweet Tooth Acres): marching brass band
- Harvest Duet (Everfall): singing acoustic duo
- Bonfire Tales (Everfall): campfire stories for younger kids
- The SNOTS (Ickyville): zombie rock band
- Gross Out Gauntlet (Ickyville): gross game show fun
- Spectral Sisters (Spooky Spires): singing swing trio
- Disco Crypt Yard (Spooky Spires): silent disco
Character Walkabouts: In addition to the organized entertainment acts, California’s Great America also has additional characters in keeping with each of the four lands of the event. My son met Vlad the vampire in Spooky Spires, several candied-inspired characters in Sweet Tooth Acres, and a whole bunch of misfit monsters and Ghostbusters-style “Cleanup Crew” in Ickyville. The characters will gladly pose for photos if you just ask, but they’ll also just improv with guests as they explore the land.
The Incantation Show: One of the highlights of Tricks and Treats is the big stage show just behind the carousel nightly at 7:30pm. All the entertainment acts from all four lands in the park converge to help wake Patch the Pumpkin to start the Halloween season. Many guests camp out for some of the seating up front on the ground with the best view, but we had good luck walking up on one of the sides last minute for a decent partial view.
Seasonal Food: The park also has several seasonal food and drink specials in multiple restaurants for the event. We tried the worms in dirt funnel cake in Spooky Spires which looked a little gross but tasted delicious (which I suppose is the point!).
Rides: Many of Great America’s regular rides are open throughout the park during Tricks and Treats. If you want to hit the coasters, Fast Lane is pricey (currently $69-99 daily) but it saves hours and hours in line. As is common at a lot of regional theme parks, many of the rides are pretty low capacity and pretty slow to load, so you need help to be able to knock a lot of them out in a single visit. The ride closures were a little more significant than I expected, but there was still a solid lineup of ride choices for every age.
Tips & Tricks for Tricks and Treats!
For guests headed to Tricks and Treats, here are the essential tips that helped our family have a more efficient visit.
Get the Great America App. Before your visit, download the California’s Great America smartphone app. We used it extensively in the park to look at the map and see the entertainment schedule. I also highly recommend signing up for a free account, as it unlocks ride wait times and indicates which rides may be closed before you waste time walking to them. If you have an account for any other Cedar Fair park (like Knott’s Berry Farm), your login will work for Great America.
Do a Little Advance Research. If you are reading this article, you are probably way ahead of the bunch in preparing for a visit already. But I think it’s smart to do a little additional research before you go with your family’s interests. I looked at the map as well as the entertainment descriptions and schedule in the app before I went. I realized from this research that a lot of the musical acts are scheduled in each of the lands at the same times, so seeing all of them would not be realistic. So we figured out our must-sees: the Fun-Sized Four (barbershop quartet for me – after all, I’m married an a cappella singer) and the Snots (zombie punk band for my son – he has a zombie obsession). We were able to see our highlights as well as a few others because we went in informed and with a plan.
Go Early. There are a lot of locals who have season passes to Great America who won’t show up until the evening hours (especially on hot days). So you’ll experience shorter lines and lower crowds at the event earlier in the day, at least on Saturdays and Sundays when the park opens at noon. If you aren’t planning to purchase Fast Lane, your best bet to get in a few coasters with shorter lines is to arrive before park opening.
Know the Bag Policy. Like a lot of theme parks, California’s Great America has pretty strict bag rules these days. Thankfully for parents everywhere, as long as you enter the park before 6pm, larger backpacks and purses are permitted. You’ll have to undergo additional security screening, but it was pretty quick in our experience. If you plan to arrive after 6pm, however, you are only permitted a very small wallet or clutch (6.5” x 4.5” x 2”) – barely big enough to hold a phone. Plan accordingly!
Let Your (Responsible) Teens Roam. California’s Great America is one of just a few theme parks left that isn’t requiring chaperones for kids under 18 after some recently well-publicized incidents around the country. I saw a number of teen groups together at Tricks and Treats, and I have to say I was impressed by how well-behaved they all were. I allowed my 13 year old daughter and her best friend to go off on their own in the park together while I rode some little kid rides with my son. I definitely felt the environment was very safe for teens to experience some independence. So, well done to Bay Area parents for raising good kids and park officials for finding a way to strike the right balance here. Let’s hope this positive trend continues – keep it up!
Is Tricks and Treats Worth It?
So what was our ultimate take on Tricks and Treats? And is it a good theme park deal?
Online ticket prices start at $39.99 per person (for the shorter Friday night parties), with none of the parties costing more than $50 when purchasing in advance. Considering that the tickets give you 6-10 hours of theme park access, including many regular rides as well as tons of seasonal entertainment, we thought this was a truly excellent value.
The event certainly isn’t as polished as one you might find at Disney or Universal, but it’s ambitious in a way that regional theme parks often aren’t. There were so many entertainment offerings and clearly a lot of creative thought went into designing and constructing the four themed lands. There was ultimately just enough weirdness and spookiness that my teen was having fun without anything being too scary for little ones. Everyone in my traveling group left raving about the event, so we highly recommend it for Bay Area families and theme park loving visitors to the region.
How to Save Money on California’s Great America Tricks and Treats Admission
If you want to go to Tricks and Treats, there are a lot of ways to save money on your California’s Great America admission. Here are my favorite discounts that work in the fall:
- Gold Pass: The annual pass at Great America (the “Gold Pass”) is one of the best theme park deals going. Honestly. It’s $95 (or 11 Payments of $7 plus an initial $18 payment). The pass includes admission for the rest of 2022, including for events like Tricks and Treats and the holiday event WinterFest, plus admission for all of 2023. Passholders get free parking (normally $30), 10% discounts on select food and merchandise, 2 free pre-K passes for kids ages 3-5, and additional perks.
- Go with a Friend: Have a friend with an annual pass? Go with them! Long time renewing passholders get one free bring-a-friend ticket annually, and newer passholders can purchase discounted friend tickets.
- Buy Online: Walk up prices for single day tickets can be high at Great America, but it’s easy to save a bundle off the rack rate. Buy in advance online for savings – even same day.
- Military Discounts: Great America offers discounted admission to active, inactive, and retired military members with military ID year round.
- Go with a Group: Group discounts are available at Great America for parties of 15 or more. So if you are headed to the parks with extended family or can round up several friends and neighbors to take their families on the same date, you can often save even more.
Where to Stay Near California’s Great America
Most visitors to Great America are usually locals, but the theme park is enough of a destination that travelers from around the state and even country pay it a visit as well. If you need lodging nearby, these are the closest and best hotels for families.
- Hilton Santa Clara: closest to the park entrance – within safe walking distance
- Hyatt Regency Santa Clara: adjacent to the Santa Clara convention center. Also walkable, but with an extra street to cross.
- Santa Clara Marriott: located on the back side of Great America. Technically walkable, but a bit of a distance.
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Santa Clara Silicon Valley: Not walkable, but quite nearby with suites that may work well for families, often at a lower price.
Disclosure: California’s Great America hosted my family for our visit to Tricks and Treats for review purposes, providing park tickets, Fast Lane passes, parking, and some food vouchers. We visit Great America on other occasions at our own expense. As always, all opinions are my own.