California Theme Parks and Amusement Parks

Where to Find Coasters and Fun Throughout the State

Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland

Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Walt Disney began a theme park revolution at Disneyland in a sleepy Anaheim orange grove and forever changed our notions of entertainment and vacations. That sleepy orange grove is now a destination resort with two parks, hotels, an entertainment, shopping, and dining district, and more. While Disneyland remains the nexus of California's theme parks, there are other noteworthy parks, including Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego, and Six Flags Magic Mountain. Let's explore the major and minor parks throughout the state. California theme parks are listed in alphabetical order.

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Adventure City in Anaheim

Adventure City California roller coaster

Adventure City

Yup, there IS more than one theme park in Anaheim. Considerably smaller than its nearby neighbor, Disneyland, Adventure City nonetheless has a nice vibe and some tempting rides. The star is the Rewind Racers, a shuttle coaster that goes both forwards and backwards. The tamer Freeway Coaster offers more pint-sized thrills. Other attractions include a small drop tower ride, a carousel, and a mini Ferris wheel. Visitors can cool off in the unique Rain Room, which showers guests with small droplets and envelops them in fog and mist. Adventure City also offers live entertainment such as magic acts and musical performances.

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Belmont Park in San Diego

Giant Dipper at Belmont Park
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109, USA
Phone +1 858-488-1549

One of the state's (and the country's) few remaining seaside amusement parks, Belmont Park is home to the historic Giant Dipper wooden coaster, which dates back to 1925. In addition to the rides, the park offers other attractions such as mini-golf, laser tag, and escape room adventures.

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Boomer’s in Santa Maria

Boomers Santa Maria Go Karts

Boomers Parks

Attractions at the family entertainment center include go-karts, mini-golf, bumper boats, and an arcade. In 2022, the center will be adding a teacups ride, a kiddie roller coaster, and a kiddie tower ride.

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California's Great America in Santa Clara

California's Great America RailBlazer roller coaster
Jeremy Thompson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054, USA
Phone +1 408-988-1776

This amusement park includes headlining roller coasters such as Patriot, the wooden Gold Striker, and the inverted Flight Deck. The water park, South Bay Shores, is included with admission (making it the only California park to do so). Special events include Halloween Haunt and the holiday-themed WinterFest.

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Castle Park in Riverside

Castle Park carousel in California

Castle Park

The medium-sized amusement park offers two small roller coasters, some spinning flat rides, a drop tower ride, a log flume ride, bumper cars, kiddie rides, mini-golf, and an arcade.

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Children's Fairyland in Oakland

Children's Fairyland park in Oakland California

Children's Fairyland

The storybook-themed park pays homage to Peter Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, Jack & Jill, and other characters beloved by young kids. Pint-sized rides include a carousel, a mini Ferris wheel, and a scaled-down train that dates back to 1954. There are also puppet shows and other entertainment geared to small fry.

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Disneyland Resort in Anaheim

Disneyland Hotel
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland
Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-781-4636

Disneyland Resort encompasses two theme parks (the original Disneyland and Disney California Adventure), three hotels, and the Downtown Disney dining, shopping, and entertainment center. 

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Disneyland Park in Anaheim

Disneyland Railroad
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-781-4636

Walt Disney's original theme park set the standard for the industry and remains a magical, evolving place today. Its collection of beloved, classic rides along with more recent E-ticket additions, such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, make it a must-visit park.

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Disney California Adventure in Anaheim

Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure

Matt Stroshane

1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
Phone +1 714-781-4636

The sister park to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure achieved its own identity after a $1.1 billion expansion that included the addition of Cars Land and the magnificent Radiator Springs Racers attraction. The park includes the retro Pixar Pier, which features the Incredicoaster and Toy Story Midway Mania, and Hollywood Land, with the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout attraction.

New in 2021, Disney California Adventure opened Avengers Campus. It features a Spider-Man ride in which passengers sling webs alongside the superhero and character meet-ups with Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and others.

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El Dorado Frontier in Long Beach

El Dorado Frontier California theme park

El Dorado Frontier

Themed to the Gold Rush era, this quirky little park features a narrated train ride aboard the El Dorado Express train. Other attractions include Panning For Goldie’s Treasure, the Crsytal Corral Carousel, the Prospector’s Journey handcar mining buggy ride, and carnival games. There is also live entertainment and food concessions.

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John's Incredible Pizza Company in Bakersfield, Buena Park, Carson, Fresno, Modesto, Montclair, Riverside, Roseville, and Westminster

John's Incredible Pizza Company Twister ride

John's Incredible Pizza Company

Each location in the chain of pizza restaurants includes Fun World, an indoor family entertainment center with rides, an arcade, and activities such as mini-golf and bowling. The Carson spot, for example, offers a Crazy 8 roller coaster, a carousel, and bumper cars, while the Modesto John’s features Twister, a spinning thrill ride, and the Kiddie Convoy car ride for younger children. The costumed character, IncrediBear, greets visitors at the centers.

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Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park

Calico Mine Ride Knott's Berry Farm
Arthur Levine
8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620, USA
Phone +1 714-220-5200

The classic park (which claims to be the country's first theme park) features Ghost Town with the wonderful, restored Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride, as well as wild coasters, such as Xcelerator and Silver Bullet. The adjacent Soak City water park is not included with admission.

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Legoland California in Carlsbad

Legoland California
Merlin Entertainments
One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
Phone +1 888-690-5346

Geared to the under-12 crowd, Legoland California is themed to the bright plastic building bricks and Lego characters. Highlights include Miniland, with scale models of U.S. landmarks fashioned out of Lego blocks, the interactive 3D Lego Ninjago dark ride, The Lego Movie 4D (a mini sequel of sorts to the wildly popular film), and coasters and other rides based on the toy brand. There is also a water park and an aquarium, both of which require separate admission, and onsite hotels.

New for 2021, Legoland California debuted The Lego Movie World. The new land welcomes the flying theater attraction, Emmet’s Flying Adventure Ride, the drop tower ride, Unikitty’s Disco Drop, and Queen Watevra's Carousel. Characters from the movies are also on hand for meet-and-greets.

In 2022, Legoland will be opening Lego Ferrari Build and Race. Visitors will be able to build a physical as well as a digital model of a sports car and, in both cases, race it against others.

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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz

Giant Dipper coaster at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

A lovely seaside amusement park that dates back to 1907, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk features modern as well as vintage rides such as the (wonderful) Giant Dipper wooden coaster, which was built in 1924. Despite its age, it still packs a potent punch. In addition to a nice collection of spinning rides, kiddie rides, and other staples, the park offers a laser maze, a walk-through haunted experience, laser tag, mini golf, bowling, and more.

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SeaWorld San Diego

Orca, SeaWorld San Diego
Radius Images/Getty Images
500 Sea World Dr., San Diego, CA 92109, USA
Phone +1 619-222-4732

At the original SeaWorld park (there are others in Orlando and San Antonio), the focus has changed through the years. Once the home of Shamu and his theatrical stadium shows, the park has been transitioning into more of an educational focus. It has been adding more attractions and thrill rides, as well.

In March 2022, SeaWorld will welcome Emperor, a 153-foot-tall dive coaster. It will come to a halt at its highest point, momentarily hang passengers over a precipice, and then dive straight down a 143-foot drop. The penguin-themed thrill machine will also include three inversions.

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Sesame Place San Diego in Chula Vista

Sesame Place San Diego

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment

Scheduled to open in March 2022, Sesame Place will be both a (mini) theme park and a water park. The dry rides will be themed to the beloved Sesame Street characters from the long-running television series. To appeal to the show’s young audience, the attractions, including Super Grover‘s Box Car Derby roller coaster and Abby”s Fairy Flight swing ride, will keep the thrills to a minimum. The wet rides, some of which are being repurposed from the former Aquatica water park, will include Elmo’s Silly Sand Slides and Big Bird’s Beach, which features an enormous wave pool.

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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Six Flags
1001 Fairgrounds Dr, Vallejo, CA 94589-4001, USA
Phone +1 707-644-4000

The hybrid zoo/oceanarium/amusement park is unique among Six Flags parks. In addition to the animals, Discovery Kingdom offers wild coasters and thrill rides, including Kong, Medusa, Sky Screamer, and The Joker.

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Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia

Twisted Colossus coaster Six Flags

Six Flags

26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355, USA
Phone +1 661-255-4100

One of Six Flags' flagship locations, Magic Mountain holds the distinction of having the most roller coasters of any park in the world. Among its standout coasters are X2, the wooden-steel hybrid, Twisted Colossus (which gets a rare 5-star review), and the 100 mph Superman: The Escape. The adjacent Hurricane Harbor water park is not included with admission.

For 2022, the park will be opening Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, the world’s tallest and longest single-rail coaster. The single-seat cars on the trains will rise 13 stories and hit 58 mph as they navigate the unique single-rail trak.

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Sky Park at Santa’s Village in Skyforest

Sky Park at Santa's Village in California

SkyPark at Santa's Village

Dating back to the 1950s, the Christmas-themed Santa's Village closed and reopened a number of times. Today, the park honors its legacy with the Northwoods Express Train Ride, visits with Santa, and other holiday attractions and experiences. It also features a bike park, skating rink, zipline, climbing tower, an archery range, and other activities as well as a lineup of restaurants with tasty dishes.

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SpeedZone in City of Industry

Speed Zone California family entertainment center

APX Operating Company

The large family entertainment center features a number of go-kart tracks, mini-golf, a rock wall, a Ferris wheel, and a roller coaster.

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Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City

Hogsmead Village at Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood/Nathaniel Chadwick
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, USA
Phone +1 800-864-8377

Near Los Angeles, the movie-themed park is located at an actual working studio, with tours available. The addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2016 capped an aggressive expansion plan that also included Transformers: The Ride 3D, The Simpsons Springfield land, and a Fast & Furious attraction.

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California Theme Parks and Amusement Parks