California has interesting cities, perfect summer beaches, postcard-perfect national parks, and… loads of super-fun amusement parks ! We tell you which are the best theme parks in California to have a great time. There are some with ideal attractions for children and others perfect for lovers of strong emotions.
Best Theme Parks In California
Best Theme Parks in Los Angeles and Orange County
Disneyland Park , the most famous theme park in California
Disney is the king of theme parks in California (and around the world!). Disneyland Park in Anaheim was the first to open in 1955 and the only one Walt Disney saw in his lifetime . It is divided into nine themed areas with an unbeatable setting with attention to detail. If you are a fan of Star Wars, Galaxy Edge will completely conquer you. Most of the attractions are ideal for children , who will be incredulous seeing their favorite Disney characters. But there is also fun for adults , with strong attractions such as Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Beyond the attractions, they do several parades a day with Mickey, Minnie, princesses and other characters from the most famous movies. But if there is something you should not miss for the world, that is the night show with fireworks, lights and music that takes place in front of the castle every night . It will make your hair stand on end with excitement! You should also leave time to explore its shops and restaurants , its decoration is wonderful. For many, Disneyland is the happiest place in the world . But if we are sure of one thing, it is that it is one of the best theme parks in California The price of tickets to Disneyland varies depending on the number of days you want to visit the park and the time of year . The cheapest ones to spend a day in the park cost around $100, while in high season they can cost $160. If you spend several days at Disneyland, the price drops to around $80 per day.
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Disney California Adventure , magic and fun guaranteed
In 2001, the second Disney theme park in California opened right across from Disneyland. California Adventure has the same magical atmosphere in its 8 themed zones . Some are inspired by real places in the state, such as Hollywood, Pacific Wharf or Grizzly Peak; while others represent the worlds of movies like Cars, Toy Story or Spiderman. In all these places there are encounters with characters from Disney movies, Pixar and Marvel superheroes. As for its attractions , I personally find them to be more fun for adults than those at Disneyland Park , but of course there are also many options for children. Don’t miss World of Color, a show they do every nightwith water, lights, music and a lot of magic. Ticket prices for California Adventure are the same as for Disneyland Park . Although there are tickets that allow you to visit both parks on the same day, the ideal is to dedicate at least one day to each park . Both are hands down among the best theme parks in California !
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Universal Studios Hollywood, one of the most visited theme parks in California
Universal Studios has the perfect combination of exciting attractions and scenes from well-known productions such as King Kong, Harry Potter, The Simpsons or Minions . You will be able to enter all those fantasy worlds that you have seen so many times through a screen, visiting the studios and seeing impressive shows . As for the attractions, they are VERY cool for both children and adults . Many of them are based on virtual reality and are simply amazing. A must see in Los Angeles! It can be easily reached from the city center in half an hour , both by car and by public transport. We tell you in detail how to get to Universal Studios Hollywood from various areas of Los Angeles . Tickets are $109 to $139 per day , depending on the exact date.
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Warner Bros Studios, a must for moviegoers
Warner Bros Studios does not have attractions like most theme parks in California , but fun is guaranteed. If you are a movie lover, a visit to the studios of one of the most famous production companies in Hollywood will make you really enjoy yourself. You will be able to see the huge exterior part of the studio, where dozens of well-known movies such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings or DC superheroes have been recorded . Interior areas are also visited, where the sets of Friends or Big Bang Theory are . In addition, you will be able to see a lot of costume pieces, vehicles and props from many movies. It is essential to book your visit to the studios , which consists of a first guided part and a second half in which you can visit the exhibitions on your own.
Six Flags Magic Mountain , for lovers of roller coasters
Wooden rollercoasters, inverted, with loops, for children, for adults… Six Flags Magic Mountain has all kinds of rollercoasters ! A total of 20 , nothing more and nothing less. For that alone, it already deserves to be among the best theme parks in California . But the thing does not end there, it also has free falls, a race track, children’s attractions and shows to entertain children. Tickets cost around $90 , although they often do promotions and discounts for less busy times of the year. It is located in Santa Clarita, about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles .
Knott’s Berry Farm, a park with a very curious origin
Do you know what roller coasters have to do with strawberry jam? Knott’s Berry Farm began as a small roadside strawberry stand in 1920 and has grown into one of the best amusement parks in California . In fact, the Knott’s brand still sells fruit jams today. Focusing on the park, it has dozens of attractions for all tastes spread over 4 themed areas . And during the hottest months you can enjoy its water park . Knott’s Berry Farm is super complete ! There are tickets starting at $69 , with variations depending on the specific date of your visit. It’s in Anaheim , making it a perfect complement to your visit to Disneyland.
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Adventure City, one of the cheapest theme parks in California
As you have seen so far, most theme parks in California are quite expensive . If you are looking for an affordable alternative to spend a fun family day , Adventure City is the perfect place. It’s in Anaheim, very close to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, but tickets are less than $30 . The enclosure is small, but it has very varied attractions designed for the little ones.
Pacific Park, one of the most photographed theme parks in California
Surely you have seen a thousand photographs of the Santa Monica Pier and its iconic amusement park . If you visit Los Angeles, do not miss the opportunity to visit Pacific Park and its 12 attractions . The most famous is undoubtedly the Ferris wheel , the first in the world to work with solar energy. You can walk around the park for free and pay between $5 and $10 for each ride you want to ride. Although if you are interested in several, it is better to buy an unlimited pass for $40. Strolling along the Santa Monica Pier at sunset is one of the best things to do in Los Angeles . The views of the beach are beautiful and the sky is dyed in a thousand colors with the sunset. Plus, there’s a super lively atmosphere with street performances and various food stalls.
Best Theme Parks in San Diego
Legoland California Resort, for little LEGO lovers
Legoland is a very peculiar theme park, built with more than 60 million LEGO pieces . It is designed for children from 2 to 12 years old , with attractions such as race tracks with cars, boat rides or small roller coasters. There is also no lack of play areas or reproductions of many cities around the world in the LEGO style. Tickets cost around $100 , although it varies slightly depending on the season of the year and there are discounts for children.
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SeaWorld San Diego, the marine wildlife park
SeaWorld combines exciting attractions with plenty of opportunities to learn about life under the sea. You will be able to see dolphins, killer whales, manta rays and sea lions . This park is perfect to visit with children because it has an educational approach, play areas and attractions suitable for the little ones. There are also roller coasters with steep drops perfect for adults. Without a doubt, it is one of the most original theme parks in California . In addition, it is very close to downtown San Diego and is easily reached by public transportation.
Belmont Park , a beachside amusement park
Belmont Park is a fair-style amusement park located on the Mission Beach boardwalk. It is one of the most popular beach areas in San Diego, so it is ideal to combine the visit with a day of adventures in the sea. Belmont Park has a great family atmosphere and its main advantage is that there is no entrance fee to walk through the park . You simply pay for the rides you want to ride or carnival rides you want to try your luck at. You can also buy a day pass for unlimited enjoyment for $60 .
Best Theme Parks in San Francisco and Northern California
California’s Great America
In the mood for strong emotions? This amusement park in Silicon Valley will give you a good adrenaline rush. It is located north of the San Francisco Bay, very close to the wine regions of Napa and Sonoma (highly recommended, by the way). It has more than 60 rides for the whole family, but it’s especially fun for adults and teens . RailBlazer, Demon and Flight Deck are three super fun roller coasters that will literally turn you upside down. Do not miss it! They also do musical shows and have a water park next door to cool off in summer. There are tickets from $45 buying them online, while at the door they cost $70.
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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
It’s not as famous as Six Flags Magic Mountain, but it’s still one of the best family-friendly theme parks in California . All its attractions follow an animal theme, with names like Medusa, Monkey Business or The Penguin. The level of intensity is very well distributed, with strong experiences for adults and other softer ones for children. In addition, there are areas with animals such as manta rays, seals, butterflies and even a tiger. Tickets are $50 to $70, depending on the specific day. It is highly recommended to buy them online to take advantage of the promotions on their website and save a few dollars.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk , one of the oldest theme parks in California
In Northern California, a classic amusement park by the beach could not be missing either . It’s on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and is in fact the oldest amusement park in California . It officially opened in 1907 , but its origins date back to 1865. It has roller coasters, swings, free fall, a haunted mansion, trains for children… it lacks nothing! In addition to going on the attractions, you can also try to win a souvenir prize by playing the typical fairground games . You can pay individually at each attraction or buy a day pass for $30-$60 (depending on the specific day of your visit).
Gilroy Gardens to enjoy nature with children
To finish with the best theme parks in California, we suggest a visit to Gilroy Gardens. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Santa Cruz, Monterey, or San Jose . This theme park focuses on the plants and agricultural history of the region . It has six themed zones, all of them with incredibly beautiful gardens . Its pruned trees with original shapes will leave you speechless, they are perfect to take a lot of family photos! In addition, it has 40 quiet attractions designed for the little ones. Tickets are $50 per day for ages 3 and up .