7 Best Amusement Parks in California
Knott's Berry Farm | © Jeremy Thompson / Flickr
From 4D experiences and exhilarating water rides to record-breaking rollercoasters, there’s hardly a dull moment at one of California’s many amusement parks.
Children and adults head to the the Golden State for an unforgettable day at one of its world-class theme parks. New innovative rides and dramatic shows open most years, drawing seasoned annual pass holders as well as theme park newbies.
Knott's Berry Farm
Sitting on what was once a berry farm and fruit stand, this 160-acre park opened its doors in the 1920s and is now one of the most visited amusement parks in North America. Knott’s Berry Farm
in Buena Park is not too far away from Disneyland and boasts ten roller coasters in addition to western themed attractions and shows. The park is praised for its seasonal Knott’s Scary Farm Halloween event going on its 46th year. For the event, the park is converted into a scene from a nightmare with terrifying haunted houses, spooky mazes, unique attractions, and monsters lurking in every corner.
Children and adults alike are drawn to the Disney magic found at the original Disneyland Park
in Anaheim. With world-class dining, year-round special events like Pixar Fest, and spectacular shows, there’s something the entire family will enjoy. In summer, cool off on Splash Mountain or dive under the sea on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Ride iconic attractions like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, the Jungle Cruise – soon to be made into a live-action movie – and Snow White’s Scary Adventures that have been in operation for over 60 years.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Cinema buffs should head to this amusement park situated not far from Hollywood. Universal Studios
has an impressive mix of state-of-the-art motion simulator rides, live shows, and exhilarating 3D attractions highlighting the production company’s most famous films. Imagine the chill of London on a scorching Southern California day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and cool down with a butterbeer, the popular wizard beverage in the snowy streets of Hogsmeade. Elsewhere, guests learn what goes on behind the scenes of a blockbuster film on the popular Studio Tour. Visitors board a tram and view the actual sets and props from movies like Jaws
, and the hit TV series Desperate Housewives
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Just an hour away from Los Angeles, Six Flags Magic Mountain
sits on 262 acres of pure adrenaline. Comic book fans love the amusement park’s super hero theme, with rides featuring their favorite characters like Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman. Riders push their limits on 19 thrilling rollercoasters, including the fastest stand-up coaster in the world, Riddler’s Revenge, and the world’s longest hybrid rollercoaster, Twisted Colossus. The adventurous can get in line for the park’s newest installment, DC Superheroes Drop of Doom VR
. Riders strap on VR headsets for a 360-degree view of Superman and Wonder Woman fighting Lex Luthor before plunging straight down the West Coast’s highest drop tower.
Disney California Adventure Park
Steps away from the entrance of Disneyland is its younger sister park, California Adventure
. Eight different lands highlight some of the all-time favorite Disney and Pixar characters from Cars
, Toy Story
, The Little Mermaid
, The Incredibles,
and A Bug’s Life.
Brave visitors can join the Guardians of the Galaxy
crew on a new attraction which has taken over the old Tower of Terror ride. While Disneyland has the fireworks show, each night at California Adventure the lake comes to life for The World of Color, a spectacle of water and light.
California's Great America
This Bay Area amusement
park allows guests to jump back and forth between the theme park and cooling off at Boomerang Bay waterpark
– perfect for a hot summer’s day. There are over 50 attractions from old-school carousels to high-speed rollercoasters. Thrill seekers will savor a ride on the world-renowned Gold Striker. Though not as old as some other wooden coasters, Gold Striker
has made Amusement Today’s top 10 wooden coasters list since the ride opened in 2013.
Fans of the popular toy will appreciate a visit to the Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad comprised of the Legoland theme park, aquarium, and waterpark. Though most of the rides at the amusement park are aimed at younger children, adults will enjoy the impressive lego creations. There is a mini version of the Las Vegas strip and six scenes from the Star Wars franchise that took over 1.5 million bricks to complete. Guests of all ages shouldn’t miss the tour of the lego factory to learn the history of the bricks and how they are made.
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These recommendations were updated on October 5, 2018 to keep your travel plans fresh.