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Best Los Angeles Theme Parks

The Top Theme Parks to Visit While You're in Southern California

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What makes a good theme park experience depends on what you are looking for. Theme parks are by definition touristy, so it's just a matter of which type of tourist experience you appreciate.

1. Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure

Sleeping Beauty Castle
Photo © 2006 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

Disneyland in Anaheim is the number one theme park in Southern California, full of the traditional Disney charm, attention to detail and obsessively perfect "cast" to make sure your visit runs smoothly. Disneyland is more about family fun than big thrills. 3-day admission to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is included in the Southern California CityPass.

2. Disney California Adventure

Hollywood Pictures Backlot Gate
Photo © 2009 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

Disney California Adventure shares a common plaza with Disneyland and offers a selection of thrill rides suitable for an older crowd, mostly themed to California landmarks. California Adventure also has plenty of shows, parades and interactive experiences for the whole family, as well as a Land devoted entirely to the under 40" set. 3-day admission to Disneyland and California Adventure is included in the Southern California CityPass.

3. Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood
Photo © 2007 Kayte Deioma, used with permission

Universal Studios Hollywood is the original movie-themed amusement park located on the grounds of an active film and television studio. In addition to movie-related rides and attractions, the Tram Tour takes you through the back lot and some sound stages of the Universal Studios production studios. The 3 to 7-day Go Los Angeles Card includes admission for up to 3 days to Universal Studios.

4. Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm
Photo courtesy of Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park is a Snoopy-themed park with a nice combination of rides for younger kids, and high thrill coasters and other more advanced rushes to keep the big kids white-knuckling it. Knott's Berry Farm is included in the Go Los Angeles Card.

5. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Superman the Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain
© Getty Images

Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia is the LA area's most extreme amusement park with the highest concentration of thrill rides. It is a rite of passage for area teens to get up the courage to ride these extreme monsters. Six Flags Magic Mountain is included in the Go Los Angeles Card.

6. LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND California
Photo courtesy of LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad is located between Los Angeles and San Diego. This Lego-themed park is designed specifically for kids 2 to 12, and some of the rides have a maximum age and weight limit. The Go Los Angeles Card includes admission to Legoland California.

7. Sea World San Diego

Sea World San Diego
Photo courtesy of Sea World San Diego

Sea World San Diego is a medium-sized marine park located on the coast at the northern edge of San Diego with rides, an aquarium and dolphin, whale and other marine animal shows, including Shamu, the killer whale. Sea World San Diego tickets are included in the Southern California CityPass.

8. Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier
Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

Pacific Park is a collection of a dozen kid-friendly carnival rides on the Santa Monica Pier, jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. There is no admission fee. You can pay per ride or buy an unlimited ride wrist band. Also on the Santa Monica Pier you'll find a trapeze school, aquarium, food court and restaurants. One day unlimited rides are included on the Go Los angeles Card.

9. Los Angeles Water Parks

Soak City
© 2006 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com

Los Angeles Water Parks are open seasonally, usually starting and ending with weekends May through October and daily through the summer months. Click the headline for details on the four Los Angeles area water parks.

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