Amusement Parks of Southern California | My Family Travels

Please see my rating system (1 to 10, with 10 being the highest).  I rated these theme parks in 2003. 


A major reason southern California is packed with tourists and residents is because of the number of amusement parks that are in the area.

Starting at the southern end, near to San Diego, is the very unique Legoland Carlsbad. This park is constructed with over 30 million Legos! While visiting this park you could either experience the rides and shows or take it slow and enjoy the surrounding scenery. One of the most popular attractions — my favorite — is the Fun Town Driving School. If you’re between the ages of 6 and 13 you get to enjoy the thrill of driving mini electric cars through streets with traffic lights.

Rating: 8. This is a fun park, but needs more attractions.

Probably the most well known park is the world-famous Disneyland. Disneyland (located in Anaheim) opened in 1957 and started with few, but good rides. This park is separated into eight themed areas.

Pirates of the Caribbean is a boat ride that takes place underground and brings you through the struggles of a pirate’s life. Since its’ opening, Disneyland has upgraded to high-tech rides like Indiana Jones. You board a Jeep and ride through a forbidden temple with sudden jerks, jumps, and surprises. Included when you purchase an admission ticket is a service called Fastpass. Getting a timed ticket allows you to return to a certain ride later, jumping more than half the line and decreasing waiting time. Besides rides there are many delicious restaurants, characters to meet and places to shop. I think Disneyland is a very magical place to visit and lives up to its motto that it is “The Happiest Place On Earth.”

Rating: 10. Disneyland is a great all-around park – it’s my favorite. Although it’s more crowded at Christmas, it’s so beautiful it’s worth it. Lots of lights and snow (made from soap suds) falls at night.

A few yards from the Disneyland entrance is Disney’s California Adventure. Following the same pattern as Disneyland, California Adventure is divided into five different themed lands:  Hollywood Backlot, Sunshine Plaza, Paradise Pier, A Bug’s Land, and  Golden State.  The newest area is A Bug’s Land, which is designed for smaller children. One of the more fun attractions is bumper cars, which are really rollie-pollies that make funny comments about your driving, such as “Move this way,” and “Nice Hit!”

In February 2003, to attract more tourists, Aladdin the Musical moved into the Hyperion Theater. This stupendous musical is based on the Disney movie, “Aladdin.” California Adventure is fairly new and still growing. Scheduled for a grand opening in 2004 is Hollywood Tower of Terror where people will get into a giant elevator and freefall many stories to the ground. 

For now, one of our family’s favorite attractions is Soarin’ Over California, a virtual hang gliding adventure where riders are lifted off the ground to “fly” over California’s most visited regions.  I think California Adventure resembles California very well.

Rating: 8.  It’s a great park to visit and it’s usually not too crowded.

Minutes from the Disney Resort in Buena Park is Knott’s Berry Farm. Knott’s (82-years-old) is the oldest of the parks but still keeps up with the new thrill rides. The Knott family wanted to save the Old West feeling while keeping up with the competitive coasters.

You can visit the Old Western Town with its Western rides, or you can take a walk over to the major thrills such as Supreme Scream.  In this 300-foot tower, riders sit in a seat and drop from the very top of the ride. For little kids, there is a kiddy area called Camp Snoopy. Just built at Knott’s Berry Farm is the Xcelerator. Guests get into a coaster train (made to look like a Hot Rod car) that blasts off at speeds of 80 mph. You then go up a stretch of vertical track, then dip right back down the other side of the track at a 90-degree angle. Afterwards, you can eat Mrs. Knott’s famous chicken dinner and enjoy the Western style scenery.

Rating 9: Knott’s Berry Farm gives me an Old West feeling. It’s a very different and entertaining park to be at.

Universal Studios Hollywood in Burbank is an extremely unique theme park because it isn’t just an amusement park, but also a working movie studio. A fun tram ride takes you through the old and new movie sets for a different view of the park. Make sure you wear apparel that dries quickly because of the Nickelodeon Blast Zone and Jurassic Park The Ride. The Nickelodeon area is a fun place for kids to cool down and play.

One of the main attractions at Universal is Jurassic Park. On this ride, people load into a raft that floats down a river past several animatronic dinosaurs that watch you go by. Then the raft climbs up a lift hill and drops several feet to a watery end. A couple of the most popular live shows are Waterworld and Animal Planet Live. These shows are fun because they involve the audience.

Rating 6: This theme park is fun, but gets a little boring after a few hours.

If you’re a thrill seeker, Six Flags Magic Mountain (located in Valencia) is the place to be. Six Flags has broken many records with its coasters. The tallest and fastest of all roller coasters in the world is Superman The Escape. On this ride, you get into a 16-person car which is launched up a 42-story, vertical track at 100 mph. You are then held weightless at the top of the track for six seconds, before you fall backwards down to Earth. You can hear the thunderous roar of this ride all around the park. Magic Mountain also has the first looping coaster, Revolution.

If you have smaller children in the family, treat your kids to Bugs Bunny Land. Here, kids can have fun on the kiddy rides, meet their favorite characters, and munch on snacks. Scream, a floorless rollercoaster, ascends a 150 ft. lifthill before plunging 60 mph down through seven inversions. This ride offers enough thrills for coaster enthusiasts, but is not too traumatizing for timid riders. One of the most extreme rides at the park is the X. This is a “4D ride,” which means the seats rotate while the ride is in motion. You will end up having your seat spun backwards while experiencing a 90-degree drop that leads into a giant loop. This is a short ride (only about 30 seconds) but attracts many tourists because of its unique trains.

Although the atmosphere of Six Flags isn’t as decorated, nice to look or relaxing at as other southern California theme parks, it doesn’t matter.  You’re there to observe and try  what’s extreme and what’s new in thrill rides at “Magic Mountain, The Xtreme Park.”

Rating: 9 Magic Mountain has great rides, but doesn’t give you that special feeling other theme parks give you.

This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.