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Theme Parks in Southern California: Full 2024 Guide

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Southern California theme parks offer something for everyone in the family! From thrilling roller coasters to kid-friendly rides, these theme parks have it all. In this article, we give insider details and deals as well as a breakdown of who will enjoy what parks.

Article Highlights

  • Disneyland Resort is the most well-known SoCal Theme Park. There are plenty of ways to save on your Disneyland Vacation and enjoy the parks.
  • Universal Studio Hollywood includes Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Super Nintendo World.
  • Knott’s Berry Farm has a small town feel, lots of thrill rides and amazing food festivals.
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain is full of thrills and local fun.
  • SeaWorld San Diego has aquatic exhibits and rides for the entire family and every thrill level.
  • Sesame Place is a sensory-friendly and is a Certified Autism Center. It is a sister park to SeaWorld San Diego.
  • Legoland California is perfect for kids ages 3-12 and is full of brick-building fun. Even older kids can enjoy the Lego structures, aquarium and waterpark.

Whether you’re looking for a fun day out with the kids or an adrenaline rush, there is something for everyone. Spend your days exploring world-class theme parks like Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland, and beyond.

This guide to amusement parks in Southern California will give you an overview of the major parks, and help decide which ones might be a good fit for your family or travel party. Whether you are a Coaster and Thrill Ride seeker, or a foodie, we have you covered with the information you need to know.

7 Southern California Theme and Amusement Parks

In this guide, we will cover Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, and Legoland California. All of these theme parks are located in Southern California, from the LA area down to San Diego.

As always, you can save on Southern California Vacations by booking via my partners at Get Away Today. Be sure to let them know Becca from This Crazy Adventure Called Life sent you.

1. Disneyland Resort

Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California is the most visited Southern California theme park and the Happiest Place on Earth. It has two parks – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park – as well as a shopping district known as Downtown Disney.

At Disneyland Park, you will find classic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Space Mountain, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride and more. You can also meet some of your favorite characters such as Mickey Mouse or Cinderella.

My tween son taking a selfie with his brothers

At Disney California Adventure Park there are even more thrilling rides such as Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout!, Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’ Around the World, and more!

If you have young kids visiting with you they can enjoy Toy Story Midway Mania. Disney California Adventure is also home to three annual food festivals – Lunar New Year (Jan-Feb), Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival (Mar-Apr), and Festival of Holidays Marketplace (Nov-New Year).


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Additionally, both parks have a wide variety of entertainment options available for guests to enjoy.

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Disneyland is known for its attention to detail with theming, being a park for families and guests of all ages, and the amazing fireworks shows.

The Disneyland Resort: Who Is This Southern California Theme Park Best Suited For?

Disneyland is well suited for guests who enjoy classic Disney attractions, Marvel and Star Wars Fans, and guests who will have multiple days to spend enjoying the parks.

Photo: Disneyland Resort

For more Disneyland tips, you can check out my Disneyland tab on the menu, or join my Disneyland with Kids Facebook Group for planning tips.

I will be honest, I am a bit biased toward Disneyland as it is my home away from home, but I also genuinely feel it is the park that caters to the widest variety of guests.

More Helpful Disneyland Articles

2. Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is a theme park located in Universal City, California. It features some of the most iconic attractions and theme park rides from movies and television shows. From the thrilling Transformers ride to the classic Studio Tour, there’s something for everyone at this amazing theme park!

Universal Studios Hollywood recently introduced Super Nintendo World – based on the beloved video game franchise – with interactive gaming experiences that guests can enjoy throughout their visit. The land opened on February 17, 2023.

READ MORE: Insider Tips for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Holllywood

Additionally, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village! This area features immersive attractions such as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Flight of the Hippogriff coaster, and Ollivander wand shop experience.

Universal Studios Hollywood offers over 50 rides and attractions including roller coasters like Revenge of The Mummy: The Ride, Jurassic World: The Ride, and Transformers: The Ride 3D. Family-friendly options include Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and The Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash. You’ll also get to explore behind-the-scenes movie sets on the world-famous Studio Tour which takes you through all aspects of moviemaking from costume design to special effects!

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Universal Studios Hollywood: Who Is This Southern California Theme Park Best Suited For?

Universal Studios Hollywood is a great park for movie buffs and thrill seekers. While the activities and attractions for kids are limited, some children may still enjoy spending time at this park in the lands themed for them.

I also want to point out that Universal Studios Hollywood is not as plus-size friendly as Disneyland.

Helpful Universal Studios Articles:

3. Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm is an amusement park located in Buena Park, California. It was founded in 1920 by Walter and Cordelia Knott as a small family farm with a roadside stand selling fruits, vegetables and jams. Over the years it has grown into one of Southern California’s most popular theme parks.

Knott’s Berry Farm also features a seasonal water park – Knott’s Soak City, which is open during the summer for guests to enjoy water slides, lazy rivers, and more.

READ MORE: Knott’s Soak City Water Park Tips

The Old Ghost Town in Knott’s Berry Farm is one of the first attractions guests can visit in the park. Built-in 1940, this area features buildings from early settlers who made their homes near Calico Mountain that have been reconstructed to look like they did over 100 years ago when these towns were thriving communities.

Guests can explore more than 25 buildings including saloons, a jailhouse, a schoolhouse, and a blacksmith shop while interacting with costumed characters such as gunfighters or stagecoach drivers!

Mrs. Knott’s Famous Fried Chicken has become an iconic part of the theme park experience since its opening in 1934. This delicious fried chicken dinner is served up daily for lunch and dinner with mashed potatoes & gravy plus fresh biscuits baked right onsite! If you are looking for something sweet after your meal make sure to try out Mrs Knott’s famous boysenberries which are served up warm with ice cream or pie.

Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm is a kid-friendly area designed for families with young children or those looking for gentler thrills than what the larger coasters provide. This area features seven awesome rides such as Charlie Brown’s Speedway, Flying Ace Balloon Race and Woodstock Express plus several kiddie rides like Linus Launcher and Pig Pen’s Mud Buggies!

There are also interactive play areas where little ones can explore their imaginations while adults relax nearby on benches or picnic tables. Kids will love spending time here exploring the campground theme complete with cabins, tents and even an amphitheater!

Knott’s Berry Farm has grown into one of Southern California’s most popular theme parks and features over 50 thrilling rides and attractions. One of the highlights of this theme park are its many coasters, including GhostRider, a wooden coaster.

From fast-paced roller coasters to family-friendly options, Knott’s Berry Farm offers something for all thrill seekers!

Knott’s Berry Farm: Who Is This Southern California Amusement Park Best Suite For?

Knott’s Berry Farm is best suited to guests who like a calmer, more laid-back theme park. During slower seasons the weekday crowds are fairly low, making it easier for families to navigate the area. I love that during slower seasons, I feel like I can let my kids run loose a bit. Something I have never felt I could do at Disneyland.

Thrill seekers will also love this park. The many coasters will keep your adrenaline pumping.

I again feel the need to point out that Knott’s Berry Farm is not a very plus-size-friendly park.

One of the best things about Knott’s Berry Farm is the food. Foodies love Knott’s Berry Farm, especially during one of their food festivals.

4. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain is an amusement park located in Valencia, California and is one of the most popular theme parks in Southern California. Home to some of the world’s most thrilling roller coaster rides, Six Flags Magic Mountain has something for all ages to enjoy. With a variety of thrill rides, food options and guest activities available, this amusement park has something for everyone.

When it comes to rides, Six Flags Magic Mountain offers over 18 coasters that are designed to give guests an adrenaline rush. From family-friendly options like Goliath and Full Throttle to more intense thrills like Apocalypse and Twisted Colossus, there are plenty of exhilarating experiences available at the park.

Photo: Six Flags Magic Mountain

The park also offers several flat rides for those looking for a break from the coasters. These include the Viper roller coaster, the Log Jammer log flume ride, and the Roaring Rapids river rafting ride.

In addition to its extensive selection of thrill rides and other attractions, Six Flags Magic Mountain also features many other amenities that make it a great place to visit. Guests can find delicious food options such as KFC, Panda Express and Papa John’s Pizza while shopping enthusiasts can check out stores such as The Store at Six Flags or Hollywood Stylez Boutique.

There are also several kid-friendly activities including Tazmanian Devils’ Playland where children can play games in this interactive playground and hang out with Bugs Bunny’s Looney Toons friends.

For guests looking for additional entertainment outside of the park grounds, there are plenty of options around Valencia that are worth exploring. This city has plenty of restaurants ranging from Italian cuisine at Duca di Mare to Mexican favorites at Taco Bell or Baja Fresh nearby.

The CityWalk shopping center also provides nearby retail outlets including a CVS pharmacy, movie theaters, and various souvenir shops for visitors who want to take home some mementos from their trip.

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When visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain, there are a few tips that help enhance your experience even further – plan ahead by purchasing tickets online in advance; arrive early so you can get ahead on lines; wear comfortable shoes; bring sunscreen; stay hydrated; pack snacks for yourself; keep track of car parking information; and remember any lockers used during your visit so you can retrieve your items before leaving!

With these tips in mind and all that this amazing park has to offer – you’re guaranteed an unforgettable time!

Magic Mountain: Who Is This SoCal Amusement Park Best Suited For?

Six Flags Magic Mountain is best suited for those that are visiting the LA area and do not want to travel down farther south, but want a different option than Hollywood Studios.

Magic Mountain is also a great fit for thrill ride enthusiasts, with its world-class roller coasters.

5. SeaWorld, San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego is one of the most popular theme parks in Southern California. Situated on Mission Bay, this theme park offers a wide variety of attractions and experiences for families looking to enjoy a fun-filled vacation.

From thrilling rides to interactive animal exhibits, SeaWorld has something for everyone! In addition, there are numerous food festivals throughout the year that feature delicious cuisine from around the world. For those with younger children, SeaWorld also has its sister park Sesame Place located nearby which is perfect for little ones who love Elmo and his friends!

SeaWorld San Diego offers plenty of exciting rides for thrill seekers of all ages. The Electric Eel roller coaster features multiple loops and twists while Manta takes riders through an underwater adventure full of surprises. Other family favorites include Shipwreck Rapids, Journey To Atlantis, Wild Arctic Ride and Turtle Reef where visitors can observe sea turtles up close as they move through their natural habitat.

Throughout the year SeaWorld hosts several food festivals featuring cuisine from around the world such as Mexico’s Baja Brews & BBQ or Italy’s Taste Of Roma event. Guests can sample various dishes made by local chefs along with craft beers

SeaWorld San Diego: Who Will Enjoy This Amusement park?

SeaWorld is a great fit for those with an interest in marine biology, thrill seekers and families, as well as foodies as their food festivals are top rated.

While SeaWorld is not for everyone, it is a great option for those in the San Diego area.

6. Sesame Place

Located in San Diego, California, Sesame Place theme park is a fun and sensory-friendly theme park designed especially for young children. The Theme Park is a sister park to SeaWorld San Diego and offers a combo ticket with a day at each park. It is also a sensory-friendly park.

Sesame Place features rides, shows and interactive attractions that are sure to delight kids of all ages. With its vibrant colors and cheerful characters like Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird, the theme park offers plenty of exciting activities that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.

Sesame Place has an array of kid-friendly rides perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Favorites include the Count’s Splash Castle water play area which includes several slides, sprayers and other wet activities.

For older kids, there’s Sammy’s Super Slide with its spiraling descent into a pool of refreshingly cool water at the bottom! There are also several toddler-friendly rides such as Bert & Ernie’s Carousel, or Grover’s Alpine Express Train Ride which offers a scenic tour around the theme park. Additionally, there are various live shows featuring characters from Sesame Street. Characters perform songs from their TV show as well as special holiday events throughout the year.

Good To Know: Sesame Place is a Certified Autism Center and features several sensory-friendly activities and areas.

Sesame Place: Who Is This Southern California Theme Park Best Suited For?

Sesame Place is well suited for families with small children or those who need a sensory-friendly park. It is also a great fit for kids who want a good mix of waterpark and theme park. Sesame Place is a good add on to either a SeaWorld or Legoland vacation due to proximity.

7. Legoland California

Located in Carlsbad, California, Legoland California is a theme park and resort for the entire family. Featuring two theme parks and a waterpark, Legoland has over 60 rides and attractions. There are two lodging options on-site – this theme park has something for everyone! From kid-friendly roller coasters to interactive Lego building workshops to water parks with slides and lazy rivers – there’s plenty of fun activities that can be enjoyed by all ages.

A favorite area in Legoland is Miniland, USA. Here you can see different cities built out of Lego, including motorized and interactive features.

Legoland’s onsite hotels offer guests comfortable accommodations with easy access to both theme parks and the waterpark. The original Legoland Hotel features rooms themed to different interests, such as pirates, adventurer, and beyond. The newer Castle Hotel features knight themed rooms.

See a Room Tour of a standard Pirate Suite

See a Room Tour of A Family Adventurer Suite

Legoland California: Who Will Enjoy This Southern California Theme Park?

Legoland is best suited for families with children age 13 and under, or teens who are Lego fanatics. Guests of all ages will enjoy the waterpark and Miniland USA.

No matter which Southern California Amusement Park you choose, remember that you can save money on tickets and vacation packages through my partners at Get Away Today.

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