10 Best Amusement Parks in California
by Daniel | Last Updated January 3rd, 2020
When most people think of California, beaches, Hollywood stars, and endless sunshine likely come to mind. However, this state has a lot to offer that goes beyond this list.
California is home to many amusement parks that are enjoyable for people of all ages and interests. No matter if you are a visitor or a California local, you and your party will have a great time at one of these spots. If you are struggling to decide on which one to visit, we are here to help!
Check out our list of the top 10 best amusement parks in California.
It would've been difficult to create this list without including Disneyland. And, we wouldn't have done this fantastic amusement park justice by placing it anywhere but in the number one spot.
Located in Anaheim, Disneyland is home to classic rides like Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Casey Jr. Circus Train, and Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes. For thrill-seekers, there are plenty of more intense rides available like Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Hyperspace Mountain.
For those who want an educational experience, there are tours available to take like the Grand Circle Tour and Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour. On these guided routes, you can learn about the history and legacy of Walt Disney.
If you have young children with wild imaginations, you can take them to visit the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Here, they will be given a Disney royal makeover, including hair, makeup, and costume. Disneyland also offers your children the chance to meet their favorite Disney princesses and Star Wars characters.
This well-known theme park is the ideal place to satisfy your sense of adventure and ensure everyone has a memorable time.
2) Universal Studios
Calling all movie buffs! Universal Studios, which is located only a few miles from Los Angeles, is frequented by cinema lovers. One of its most popular attractions is the Studio Tour. During this exciting tour, guests get to view props and sets from movies like Psycho and Jaws. For Harry Potter fans, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will make you feel like an honorary member of Hogwarts for the day. In this area of the park, you can get on rides like the Flight of the Hippogriff and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey to put your wizarding skills to the test.
After exploring all that this amusement park has to offer, you may find yourself needing a bite to eat. There are plenty of spots where you can get a whole meal or a snack to hold you over. Ben and Jerry's, Blaze Pizza, and Cinnabon are a few inviting, familiar places to grab something to eat. If you want a unique dining experience, there are interesting spots spread throughout the park, such as the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which was inspired by the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.
3) Six Flags - Magic Mountain
Magic Mountain is perfect is you're looking for thrilling rides. Its 19 rollercoasters hold some notable titles including:
The world's longest hybrid rollercoaster (Twisted Colossus)
The world's fastest stand-up rollercoaster (Riddler's Revenge)
The world's tallest and fastest looping rollercoaster (Full Throttle)
Magic Mountain is also a hit because of its superhero theme. Many rides feature favorite characters such as Batman, Superman, and The Flash. Visitors can take on the Super Hero Rides Challenge where they ride all six of the park's DC Comic attractions. After filling up your punch card, you get to claim a special souvenir. There's even the chance to meet the Justice League at Metropolis.
While it doesn't have a strict movie theme like Universal, Magic Mountain is no stranger to the cinema. The park has made appearances in many famous movies and TV shows because of its proximity to downtown L.A. So, while you're exploring the parks many attractions, you can appreciate the cinematic history that took place there!
4) Six Flags - Discovery Kingdom
Yep, Six Flags has another California location worthy of recognition! Discovery Kingdom has many similarities to Magic Mountain. As with its sister park, thrill-seekers everywhere flock to Discovery Kingdom. You'll find gut-wrenching coasters like Dare Devil Chaos that take riders up to seven stories high, suspend them upside down, and unexpectedly reverse direction.
Also like its sister park, Discovery Kingdom is big on superheroes. There's an entire DC Universe section dedicated to rides like Batman the Ride and Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster.
A unique feature of Discovery Kingdom is its zoo and aquarium. These attractions make for a relaxing experience after all the thrilling rides. But, they are fun and interesting enough on their own if you aren't a fan of rollercoasters.
With wildlife exhibits throughout the park, there's something for every animal lover. On land, you can see majestic cats at Cougar Rocks and Lion's Lair. You can also find a beautiful butterfly habitat and the fascinating Reptile Discovery.
More interested in marine life? Be sure to check out breathtaking exhibits like Seal Cove, Shark Experience, and Penguin Passage.
5) California Adventure Park
California Adventure Park is associated with Disneyland, but it has some unique features that land it a place on this list.
Children will get a kick out of Cars Land, which is centered on the Cars movies. Radiator Springs Racers, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters are just a few of the thrilling rides found in Cars Land.
This spot is home to the infamous Pixar Pier. Here, you can hop on rides inspired by your favorite Pixar movies, including The Incredibles, Toy Story, and Inside Out. The Ferris wheel coined Pixar Pal-A-Round is a leisure ride you can use to take in the entire amusement park from a favorable viewpoint.
Live entertainment is also available here. You and your family can see shows featuring characters from movies like Frozen, Black Panther, and Spider-Man.
One of California Adventure's can't-miss spots is the Pacific Wharf area. The Pacific Wharf area grants you access to a wide variety of dining options, lounges, and bars. Plus, you get to enjoy these endless choices with a waterfront view!
In other words, be prepared for 2:00 am wake-up calls, long delays and layovers, and special holidays up in the air. Your schedule will be unpredictable and erratic. While this can be exciting, it may also be frustrating if you have family or other timely responsibilities.
If you are looking for a theme park that caters specifically to children, look no further! Legoland is made for kids and will have them begging to come back.
This theme park is perfect for children ages 3-12. There are plenty of kid-friendly rides and tubs of Legos throughout to play with. A favorite is the Imagination Zone, where children can participate in interactive activities. They can build everything from flying contraptions to computerized Lego robots!
True, most attractions at Legoland are geared towards children. But kids aren't the only ones who have fun here.
Adults can embrace their inner child just by marveling at the impressive Lego structures. There are magnificent replicas of the Las Vega Strip, San Francisco, and New York City. There's also a tour of the Lego factory where you can learn more about the history of the famous bricks.
SeaWorld is another great place to visit with younger kids. You can easily push a stroller around the park, looking at all the exhibits and soaking up the sun.
Kids can't get enough of the Sesame Street Bay of Play. In addition to seeing their favorite characters, they'll get to explore the jungle gym and go on kid-friendly rides.
Of course, the marine exhibits are the go-to spots at SeaWorld. You can see beautiful aquariums and watch majestic whales up close. There are plenty of entertaining shows that allow you to witness intelligent marine life and their talent trainers. If you really want to get up close and personal, there are additional attractions where you can feed and even pet marine life!
While some attractions are more relaxing, SeaWorld has its fair share of thrillers. The Electric Eel (San Diego's tallest coaster), Journey to Atlantis, and Tidal Twister are just a few notable rides.
8) Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park
As its name indicated, Knott's Berry Farm was once a berry farm and fruit stand. Today, it has become one of California's most visited theme parks.
Knott's Berry Farm is yet another park famous for its thrilling attractions. Here, visitors can ride the GhostRider, the fastest, tallest, and longest wooden coaster in the West. You'll also find the Xcelerator, which can go from 0-84mph in about 2 seconds.
Even though it is famous for its thrilling coasters, Knott's Berry Farm retains its original western charm. You can visit its iconic Ghost Town that captures the allure and beauty of an old west settlement. See everything from the Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico River Rapids to the Calico Mine Ride.
If you plan on visiting near Halloween, Knott's Berry Farm is the perfect place to go. The old-timey, rustic scene perfectly enhances the park's scary mazes and haunted houses.
9) Belmont Park
Belmont Park is a historic amusement park in San Diego. Its most famous coaster is the Giant Dipper. Built in 1925, it's still in operation today. Visitors can experience speeds of up to 48mph on this rustic wooden attraction.
You'll also find other fun rides such as Beach Blaster and Control Freak. There's plenty of kid-friendly attractions like Overdrive Bumper Cars, Krazy Kars, Liberty Carousel, and Tilt-A-Whirl.
Because the park is right on the shore of Mission Beach, visitors often make a beach day out of their visit. They can enjoy typical beachside attractions such as carnival and arcade games and fair food.
When you visit Belmont Park, you have to check out Tiki Town Adventure Golf. It features an indoor and outdoor 18-hole mini-golf course with a tropical island theme. There's also an arcade, laser tag, and a climbing wall for even more fun!
10) Gilroy Gardens
Gilroy Gardens may not be as well known as some of the other spots on this list, but it shouldn't be neglected. Located in Gilroy, this theme park is home to over 40 attractions and rides, so you'll definitely want to make several trips back to see all that it has to offer.
Rides like Claudia's Carousel and Bulgy the Goldfish are available for the casual coaster rider. If you want to up the thrill level, you can take a spin on rides like the Banana Split and Quicksilver Express Mine Coaster.
If rides aren't your thing, there are 6 magnificent gardens to stroll through. Even if you are a thrill-seeker, these gardens offer a nice break from the craziness of your day.
You can't leave Gilroy Gardens without spotting one of its uniquely-shaped trees. These trees, called the Circus Trees, have names like the Four-Legged Giant and Double Hearts. You won't find anything like this in nature, so take it all in at Gilroy Gardens!
We encourage you to check out one or more of these awesome amusement parks the next time you are looking for something to do in California!
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My name is Daniel and I am a full-time world traveler and constantly on the move.