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A Guide to Southern California’s Major Theme Parks


A Guide to Southern California's Major Theme ParksNo visit to Southern California is complete without a visit to one of its famous theme parks, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Everyone’s heard of Disneyland, but do you know which other parks deserve a visit?

Depending on your taste in rides and amusement, there are plenty of fun-filled options to choose from in the Los Angeles area. Here is a list of some of the most popular Southland amusement parks.

Knott’s Berry Farm opened its doors in 1940, making it Southern California’s first amusement park. Just as its name proclaims, the park was originally a berry farm operated by the Knott family. Today the 160-acre park has more than 40 rides including family-friendly fare as well as exhilarating roller coasters. Here Snoopy and his Peanuts pals rule the roost: Camp Snoopy is a dedicated kid’s land that includes child-sized amusements for the younger tots, as well as a replica Ghost Town. The park transforms into “Knott’s Scary Farm” in October, complete with ghoulish scare zones and haunted houses.

Universal Studios made its debut in 1964 when the park was opened as a means of promoting the nation’s fixation with the movie industry. During the early days of the park visitors had access to studio dressing rooms and could catch a sneak peek as movies were being filmed. Later, the famous studio added staged features to the standard tour, and by 1965 physical attractions were a part of the tour experience. Modern visitors enjoy a tour hosted by Jimmy Fallon, as well as thrilling, movie-based attractions including ‘Jurassic Park: The Ride,’ ‘Transformers: The Ride’, and ‘Waterworld.’ The adjacent CityWalk is home to a plethora of shops, clubs, restaurants, and live music venues.

If thrills and chills are more your thing travel a bit north of L.A. to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. With nearly 20 roller coasters, the park is the world-record holder for having the most coasters of any theme park. Here you’ll find the “Great American Revolution,” the first permanent 360-degree loop steel roller coaster that’s credited with starting the modern roller coaster craze. Dramamine, anyone?

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Just south of L.A, in Carlsbad, is LEGOLAND California. The park debuted in 1999 and is dedicated to, you guessed it, the iconic toy building bricks! Rides at the park are geared toward the younger set, with no major thrill rides to speak of. But you don’t have to be a kid to be captivated by the park’s offerings: we’re all just kids at heart, right? There are tons of fascinating and intricate LEGOS models to check out, as well as the amazingly detailed Miniland, U.S.A., a model depiction of numerous U.S. cities.

The list wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Disneyland in Anaheim is the original Disney theme park, boasting eight themed lands on 85 acres. The Mouse House is simply the ultimate theme park, with something special waiting to be discovered by everyone, whether they’re age one or 91!

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  1. tymal says

    Huge, multi-generational families enjoying the park’s rides and attractions together, from mothers with newborn babes in arms to elderly great-grandparents.

  2. robin rue says

    There are so many options, so this is a great way to know what’s what. Thanks for breaking it down.

  3. Catherine Sargent says

    You have a lot of great options. One day I plan to take a family vacation to Disney Land.

  4. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    This is a great resource! I’m bookmarking this for future reference the next time we’re planning a trip to California.

  5. Jen Rattie says

    I have to bookmark this. We’ve been to California a couple of times, and we weren’t really sure where to go. This is awesome!

  6. Pam says

    I always wished I had taken my son to Legoland. He used to be absolutely obsessed with all things legos.

  7. Marcie W. says

    As someone that grew up visiting all of the Southern California theme parks, this is a great list. There is truly so much to do that things can easily become overwhelming!

  8. Rosey says

    We just went to Legoland for the first time. It was incredible and awesome. 🙂

  9. Rachel Ferrucci says

    We’re heading out there in June and this made it so much easier to figure it all out. I can’t wait to go to Knott’s Berry Farm, I haven’t been there since I was 9.

  10. Maureen says

    Theme parks are always such fun, will have to check some out next time I am in California for sure. They have so much fun to offer the family. I love all of your photos, glad you shared this guide to southern California major theme parks for anyone going that way this Summer!

  11. Jeanine says

    How amazing. So much to see and do, Would love to do some theme parks in Cali! I know my kids would love them all!

  12. melissa says

    I would love to go to Knott’s Berry Farm just for the history. Was it the first? You have given us so many choices if we ever get there.

  13. Brianne says

    What a great list! We were just in California and are looking to go back this summer!

  14. Michelle Waller says

    It looks like California is the place to go to have some fun! I would love to visit and attend all of these theme parks!

  15. Wendy Polisi says

    We love going to theme parks. We like to find ones we haven’t visited before. This list is handy!

  16. Louise Bishop says

    We love visiting cali since we’re so close to it. We need to visit some of these!

  17. Our Family World says

    We might choose Knotts Berry Farm this year, or maybe Legoland. If we don’t agree among ourselves which one to pick, then it will be Disneyland again. 🙂

  18. Carol Cassara says

    There’s no doubt that there are plenty of places to visit in SoCal! This is a lovely guide especially for people who are going there for the first time.

  19. katrina gehman says

    looks like a blast. we are planning on being in so cal in aug and may have to go to one of these.

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