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Top 10 Southern California Theme Parks For Families

By Kimberly Fidler 06/10/2014

Summer is synonymous with theme parks and Southern California is a mecca for theme park going families. We recently shared our top 10 theme parks for families on KSL.com and got a lot of response, so we wanted to share it here. In order to make this list, the theme parks had to have these qualities:

  1. It had to be open during summer (of course)
  2. It must have a large percentage of attractions, rides or shows that family members of all ages can enjoy TOGETHER
  3. It had to be FUN!


So, if you are planning a trip to Southern California with your family, here is our list of the top 10 theme parks for YOU:

Disneyland Park: It is the quintessential theme park with classic attractions that parents and children can enjoy together.

What’s new: Fantasy Faire, Frozen inspired float beginning Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen and re-imagined Big Thunder Mountain



Favorite classics: Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, the Jungle Cruise

Travel tip: When you pre-purchase a 3-day or longer ticket, you get a Magic Morning early entry that allows you access to the park an hour before it opens to the public on select days. It’s a great way to ride the attractions in Fantasyland before the crowds come.

Disney California Adventure Park:
Although it may once have been known as the sister park to Disneyland, it has earned theme park status of its own with a major expansion completed in 2012.

What’s new: Cars Land, up to three showings of World of Color nightly, Mad T Party



Favorite classics: Soarin’ Over California, California Screamin’

Travel tip: Use the FASTPASS System to avoid long lines. Grab a FASTPASS for Radiator Springs Racers first thing in the morning because they go quickly.

Universal Studios Hollywood: Just 40 minutes north of the Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios is known as the Entertainment Capital of L.A.

What’s new: Minion Mayhem – a new 4D Despicable Me attraction and Super Silly Fun Land – a Minion carnival themed play area for kids.



Favorite classics: Studio Tour, Jurassic Park: The Ride, WaterWorld, Transformers 4D: The Ride

Travel Tip: You can upgrade to a Front-of-the-Line Pass to skip the lines at each attraction.

SeaWorld San Diego: Celebrating its 50th Anniversary, SeaWorld is offering park guests a “Sea of Surprises” with exclusive animal interactions, behind-the-scenes tours and more.

What’s new: Explorer’s Reef, Manta rollercoaster, SeaWorld Summer Nights with extended hours, nighttime shows and fireworks over Mission Bay.



Favorite classics: Shark Encounter, Sea Lions LIVE, One Ocean, Turtle Reef

Travel Tip: Grab a map and plan your day around the show times. Also, there are a lot of opportunities to get wet. You may want to pack an extra set of clothes for the kids.

Aquatica: Sea World San Diego opened a water park just last summer. This unique water park has exciting water slides, a lazy river and pools, plus is home to flamingos and turtles.

What’s new: Everything! The water park is excited for its second year, but recently opened Taumata Racer, a high-speed 375 foot water slide.


Image credit: SeaWorld San Diego

Knott’s Berry Farm: America’s First Theme Park was made famous by boysenberries and fried chicken. Now, it is home to thrilling attractions for every age.

What’s new: Camp Snoopy has just had a complete renovation and is all spruced up. Also, the Calico Mine Ride, the original park ride, has also completed a refurbishment.


Photo credit: Knott's Berry Farm

Favorite classics: Ghostrider, Xcellerator, the Log Ride

Travel Tip: If you’re staying in the Disneyland Resort area, your ART shuttle passes also include transportation to Knott’s Berry Farm - you’ll save a ton on parking.

Knott’s Soak City Water Park: Located near Knott’s Berry Farm, Soak City offers something for thrill and sun seekers of all ages. A wave pool, lazy river, kid play areas and intense water slides offer hours of fun in the sun.


Image credit: Knott's Berry Farm

Travel Tip: While you’re in the area, head over to Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant for some famous fried chicken and boysenberry pie. It’s located near the entrance to Knott’s Theme Park.

LEGOLAND: With over 60 LEGO themed rides, shows and attractions and, it’s no surprise that LEGOLAND was named #1 Theme Park by Parents Magazine.

What’s new: The LEGOLAND California Resort has completed a major expansion and now features the full theme park, SEA LIFE Aquarium, water park and hotel. The LEGO Movie Experience just opened inside the park.



Favorite classics: Miniland USA and Star Wars Miniland, Imagination Zone, Land of Adventure

Travel Tip: Stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel next door and you’ll get early entry each day of your stay!

LEGOLAND Water Park: LEGOLAND California Resort is the ONLY LEGO themed Water Park in the world!

What’s new: LEGO Legends of Chima Water Park featuring a wave pool, kid play area and more.


Image credit: LEGOLAND

Favorite classics: LEGO Build-a-Raft River, Kid Creek, Splash Zoo, Pirate Reef

San Diego Zoo Safari Park:
Located about 30 minutes from San Diego, this sprawling park lets you get up-close-and-personal with animals from around the globe.

What’s new: Tiger Trails

Favorite classics: Africa Tram Safari, Cheetah Run


Image Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Travel Tip: The animals are most active early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Try to catch one of the first or last tram tours of the day. Also, the Cheetah Run happens only once a day – don’t miss it!

If you’re looking for the most affordable way to visit the attractions, the Southern California City Pass is a great choice. Each Southern California City Pass includes a 3-Day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Ticket, 1-day at Universal Studios Hollywood and 1-day at SeaWorld San Diego. When you book with Get Away Today, you save well over $100 per ticket, which is like getting one of your tickets free – plus saving a little extra. We also have a 5-Day LEGOLAND Resort ticket for summer travel only that includes access to LEGOLAND, the Water Park and the SEA LIFE Aquarium for less than the price of a 1-day hopper ticket.

Our discounted attraction tickets coupled with our 3rd, 4th and 5th night free hotel specials and inclusions like free breakfast and parking, are an affordable choice for your summer vacation. Plus, our reservation staff visits the theme parks on a regular basis to give our customers personalized assistance.

All of our specials can be booked online or by calling our vacation experts at 855-GET-AWAY.


Kimberly Fidler