Best theme parks in California

Want to spend a day focusing on nothing but having fun?

California is brimming with cool theme parks, awesome amusement parks, stunning marine parks and world-famous zoos.

From the well-known Disneyland Park to America’s first amusement park,¬†Knott’s Berry Farm, discover an exhaustive list of the best theme parks in California.

Pick your favorite one, get your tickets to skip the line, and enjoy your day. Fun guaranteed! ūüôā

1 – Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood #1 theme parks in California

Universal Studio Hollywood is more than a simple theme park. It offers many particular and character-based rides and attractions.

Live emotions and have fun in the world of Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda, King Kong, Simpson, Despicable Me and more.

Moreover, the film studio offers an exclusive experience to you: go behind the scenes of a real working movie studio!

Visit the 13 city blocks of the historic studio located in the most extensive set construction project in studio history.

You can also consider having a Vip Experience where you can access to areas not open to the general public.

How to get there

Opening hours: depending on the season

2 – Disneyland Park

Disneyland Park #2 theme parks in California

Disneyland Park is the most famous amusement park in California.

Every child desires to go there at least once in his life, living and enjoying the Walt Disney world, pretending to be a princess or a pirate.

Let yourself be surprised by the magical atmosphere you can breathe there: many attractions, live entertainment, parades, character experiences throughout the park.

It is the place where dreams come true, after all!

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Wednesday – Friday – Sunday 8 am – 12 am; Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday 7 am – 12 am

3 –¬†Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm #3 theme parks in California

Take a day off in one of the most-visited theme parks in California.

Built on the site of a former berry farm and famous for Mrs Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, the park is composed of four themed areas: Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, the Boardwalk and Camp Snoopy, with a considerable quantity of rides to enjoy.

Furthermore, you can also take a visit to the water park, Knott Soat City, during the summer period.

How to get there

Opening hours: depending on the season

4 – Warner Bros Studios

Warner Bros Studios #4 theme park in California

Live the magic world of Warner Bros Studios.

Explore where Hollywood is made, going behind the lens and discovering the secrets of this art. For an incredible and different experience, take part in a tour among the busiest working studios in Los Angeles.

You will get close to some of the most famous TV shows and iconic films. Get lost in the famous Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts.

The DC Universe is also included, letting you come close to Superheros too, among the others.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm.

5 РSix Flags Magic Mountain 

Six Flags Magic Mountain #5 theme parks in California

Six Flags Magic Mountains, with its 18 roller coasters, is the theme park with the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park!

In addition to the thrilling rides, it offers a wide variety of entertainments.

You will leave this place with a lot of awesome memories!

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

6 – Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk #6 theme parks in California

If you want to combine fun with the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, go to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

It offers many rides and games right on a stretch of sandy beach.

It also contains an indoor minigolf and laser tag area, besides a great variety of delicious food options.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

7 – Disney California Adventure Park

Disney's California Adventure Park #7 theme parks in California

Disney California Adventure Park is the second theme park built in the Disneyland Resort, after Disneyland Park.

Discover the 11 attractions there, including the Grizzly River Run, the Incredicoaster, or the Little Mermaid adventure for instance.

Furthermore, let the child experience the emotional Frozen’s story in a theatrical interpretation or take part in a Dance Party filled with Disney junior characters. Their happiness is guaranteed!

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Wednesday – Friday – Sunday 7 am – 10 pm; Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday 8 am – 10 pm

8 – San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo #8 theme parks in California

The San Diego Zoo is one of the best attractions in the city and a must-see icon in California.

It was founded in 1916 when Dr Harry M. Wegeforth heard a lion roaring from its cage when it and other animals were abandoned after a 1915 expedition.

If you are an animal lover, visit the world’s biggest zoo and its animals in their habitats of this incredible tropical oasis!

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

9 –¬†SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego #9 theme parks in California

For those who want to admire the aquatic life, have animal encounters or see shows with dolphins, orca or sea lions besides having fun, Seaworld San Diego is what you need.

This theme park in San Diego holds rides adapt for the entire family, from the thrilling coaster to the kid-friendly rides. It is one of the best options for a family fun day!

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

10 – San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park #10 theme parks in California

Besides the famous San Diego Zoo, the city hosts also San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This huge wildlife reserve is home to over 3,500 animals across 260 species from six continents.

It has plenty of things to do and to see. Among the main highlights, there are the Africa Tram, the Nairobi Village and the Lorikeet Landing. Furthermore, it presents also fabulous gardens along the trails.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

11 – Legoland California

Legoland California #11 theme parks in California

If you are passionate about Lego and you are looking for a theme park in California, probably you could freak out at Legoland!

Located between San Diego and Los Angeles, this Lego-themed amusement park is mainly designed for kids but holds also rides to be enjoyed by the entire family.

This magical world created by 60 million LEGO plastic bricks has three areas: the central Legoland ride park, the water park and the sea life aquarium.

If you prefer to take your time and be sure not to miss anything out, you can consider booking a room at the Legoland Castel Hotel.

Kids won’t ever come back to their standard room after experiencing a night in one of those fantastic rooms.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

12 – WaterWorks Park

WaterWorks Park #12 theme parks in California

Take a day off at WaterWorks Park located in Redding, Northern California.

The water park features a large number of water slides and rides, pools, lounge chairs, a lazy river, cabanas, and more.

Among the most popular rides, there are the Dragon, the Cyclone, Avalanche, and the Raging River.

It is also presents an appropriate space for kids, with child-sized slides.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm.

13 – Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay #13 theme parks in California

Located on the San Francisco waterfront at PIER 39, the stunning Aquarium of the Bay hosts more than 20,000 marine animals.

Discover the marvellous aquatic life of Northern California in those incredible settings.

Go and explore the three main exhibit halls, get a hands-on experience touching bat rays, anemones and sea stars.

Enjoy the North American River Otter gallery and its playful river otters.

Do not miss the best part of the aquarium, the iconic “Under the Bay”: you’ll live incredible emotions while walking in the tunnels, enjoying the fascinating marine life around you.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm

14 – California’s Great America

California's Great America #14 theme parks in California

Enjoy a fun day at California’s Great America, the premier amusement park in Santa Clara, Northern California.

It has over 40 thrilling rides and attractions, including the world-renowned Gold Striker, the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northwest.

Among the most exciting ones, there are also Flight Deck, a jet coaster that includes zero-gravity barrel rolls and The Demon, with two 360-degree loops.

Moreover, in the summer period, opt for Boomerang Bay, the water park included in California’s Great America.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

15 –¬†Belmont Park

Belmont Park #15 theme parks in California

Based in San Diego, Belmont Park is a historic oceanfront amusement park.

Among the many rides, it is home to the historic Giant Dipper wooden coaster, which is considered a local landmark.

The theme park is more than that: it offers other attractions such as laser tag, mini-golf, rock climbing or escape rooms.

After a fun-filled day, stop at one of the many restaurants or quick and delicious bites. You’re just spoilt for choice!

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 11 am – 10 pm; Friday – Saturday 11 am – 11 pm; Sunday 11 am – 10 pm

16 –¬†Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park #16 theme parks in California
Credit to Dave Parker/Flickr

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is an unconventional theme park.

It hosts over 40 fun rides and attractions amongst majestic gardens and trees in a lovely and impressive setting!

Many attractions took inspiration from the local agricultural past, such as Garlic Twirl, Mushroom Swing or Timber Twister.

There is also Water Oasis offering fun solutions in the summer period.

Do not miss the main particularity of this place: the park’s six unique gardens, including the serene Claudia’s Garden, the lush Camellia Garden, and the tropical Monarch Garden. It is the perfect place for families.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

17 – Pacific Park

Pacific Park #17 theme parks in California

Pacific Park is the only amusement park located on a pier among the theme parks in California!

Placed in the famous Santa Monica Pier, it features twelve rides, midway games and attractions.

Additionally, oceanfront specialty food outlets and seaside shopping are not lacking.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

18 –¬†Castle Park

Castle Park #18 theme parks in California

Castle Park locates in Riverside and has a medieval “castle” theme.

The amusement park features 27 rides for all ages, four miniature golf courses, a video arcade, and more.

It also includes a water play area and some of the best food alternatives among the theme parks in California.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

19 –¬†Children’s Fairyland

Children's Fairyland #19 theme parks in California

Are you planning to take your children to a great theme park in California?

Go to Children’s Fairyland and let them dream while having fun.

It is one of the earliest amusement parks and inspired world-renowned Disneyland.

With almost 60 storybook sets, kid-size rides, magnificent gardens and friendly animals, the park has a lot to offer in a colorful scenario.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10 am – 4 pm; Saturday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm.

20 РMonterey Bay Aquarium 

Monterey Bay Aquarium #20 theme parks in California

Located at the ocean’s edge, Monterey Bay Aquarium lets you be part of the marine life.

The world-famous aquarium is home to thousands of marine animals and plants.

It is dedicated to ocean preservation and is also involved in educating the public about protecting wildlife.

It is plenty of exhibits and galleries featuring over than 600 species. Moreover, you will have the chance to feed animals once there.

how to get there

Opening hours:

21 – Raging Waters Sacramento

Raging Waters Sacramento #21 theme park in California

Located in Cal Expo, Raging Waters Sacramento is among the largest water parks in California.

The park has over 25 amusing water attractions.

Among the most popular ones, there are Cliffhanger Speed Slides, Hurricane Bay, Splashdown, Shark Attack Waterslide Complex, and more.

Your summer will be hilarious once here.

How to get there 

Opening hours: Depending on the season

22 –¬†Splash Kingdom Waterpark

Splash Kingdom Waterpark #22 theme parks in California

In the heart of the Inland Empire, Redlands, there is Splash Kingdom Waterpark.

This Egyptian-beach theme water park guarantees fun and excitement with its vast water attraction collection.

It hosts the world’s tallest free-standing waterslide tower with eight unique waterslides.

The more adventurous can enjoy the Riptide Surf Pool & Pharaoh’s Revenge, a tube ride that reaches speeds of 40 mph.

You can also opt to relax in the Nile River or have a surf experience in the RipTide Surf Pool. What is more, the youngers will love Fantasy Island and its rides, lily-pads, and water spouts.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 11 am – 18 pm; Friday – Saturday 11 am – 19 pm; Sunday 11 am – 18 pm.

23 – Aquatica San Diego

Aquatica San Diego #23 theme parks in California

Spend a fun summer day at Aquatica San Diego in this tropical oasis.

Discover the many attractions and live the adrenaline experience on Taumata Race, the high-speed racing water slide, or on Hooroo Run.

Enjoy the pools and rivers or stay calm and relish the benefits of a private cabana or loungers with your friends.

What is more, you can have direct contact with animals. Come face-to-feather with flamingos and admire freshwater turtles in their habitat.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

24 –¬†Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific #24 theme parks in California

Located on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, the Aquarium of the Pacific has several opportunities to get up close to animals from the Pacific Ocean.

If you like the idea, you can also feed some of the animals. You can touch sharks in the Shark Lagoon or sea jelly at the Moon Jelly Touch Lab.

Discover the many shows offered through the day, including dive shows. Take part to the whale-watching cruise to spot blue whales and other ocean life.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 9 am – 6 pm

25 –¬†SkyPark at Santa’s Village

SkyPark at Santa's Village #25 theme parks in California

Discover SkyPark at Santa’s Village, the outdoor adventure park in¬†the Lake Arrowhead area of the San Bernardino National Forest.

It is the perfect option among the theme parks in California if you want to live a different and thrilling day in nature!

Experience mountain biking, hiking, fishing, archery, zip-lining, climbing and much more!

Furthermore, live the magic atmosphere at Santa’s Village, where the park becomes a Winter Wonderland of fun.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 10 am – 7 pm; Friday – Saturday 10 am – 9 pm: Sunday 10 am – 7 pm.

26 –¬†Trees of Mystery

Trees of Mystery #26 theme parks in California

If you are looking for a different alternative among the theme parks in California, opt for Trees of Mystery.

Located in the heart of the Redwood Empire, on Highway 101 in the middle of Redwood National and State Parks, Trees of Mystery is waiting for you.

Here a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe Blue Ox will welcome you! It is a nature-based theme park where you can discover the magic of Redwood trees.

Take a ride on the SkyTrail gondola ride through the high canopy of a redwood forest.

Moreover, many hiking traits are letting you explore the property and the various sites.

How to get there

Opening hours: Monday – Sunday 8 am – 7 pm.

27 – Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom #27 theme parks in California

Located in the North Bay city of Vallejo, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was born as a zoo, and now it includes a selection of rides and roller coasters.

Here, hence, you can meet and feed animals such as giraffes or sea lions and dolphins or enjoy entertaining animal presentations.

Additionally, the park holds educational programs, where kids can have fun while learning!

On the other hand, jump on one of the different rides, there is something for everyone.

How to get there

Opening hours: Depending on the season

What is your favorite theme park in California? Comment below ūüôā

27 best theme parks in California

Simon Banks is an esteemed content writer with a flair for narrating captivating travel tales. With years of experience, Simon has crafted compelling narratives for TourScanner, shedding light on must-visit destinations in Europe and beyond. His expertise lies in transforming intricate travel details into engaging stories, ensuring readers are both informed and inspired. Whether it's a quaint European village or a bustling global metropolis, Simon's insights aim to guide and enlighten every traveler on their journey.