artist's rendering of Marriott's GREAT AMERICA

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In 1976, the Marriott Corporation opened two Marriott’s GREAT AMERICA parks. The two parks represented the state of the art in theme park design and attractions at that time. First to open was Marriott’s GREAT AMERICA in Santa Clara, California. Shortly after the Santa Clara park began operations, Marriott’s GREAT AMERICA in Gurnee, Illinois celebrated its grand opening. A third park in the Washington, DC metropolitan area was also to have opened in 1976. Local opposition, however, at two proposed sites prevented the third park from becoming a reality.

The history section of GREATAMERICAparks.com will explore the rich history of the Gurnee and Santa Clara theme parks. We will look at the designs, similarities, differences, themed areas, and park features. A common misconception is that the two parks were identical. While they were more alike than different, there were subtle differences. You will learn about and see them here.