It's easy to feel dizzied by California's electric array of amusement parks, especially when they feature so many dramatic roller coasters and gravity-defying rides. Luckily for you, we've curated a guide to the very best The Golden State has to offer! Whether you're in search of some serious entertainment without the hefty price tag, or you're all about an all-access pass to the world's most famous attractions, we've got the information you need to plan an unforgettable California amusement park vacation.
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Amusement Parks in California: Top Accommodations
What are the top theme parks in California? Attracting tens of millions of visitors per year, The Golden State is home to some of the most iconic amusement parks in the world. With so many to choose from, HomeToGo has researched exactly what's on offer across the state, to make sure you're in the loop! Whether you're heading to San Diego or Santa Monica, our ranking has all the insights you need to organize the perfect theme park vacation.
The California Theme Park Index incorporates the cost of one day's parking, adult admission, lunch, and one night's stay in nearby accommodation, to help travelers choose the right amusement park based on their budget and location. We had a scream putting this guide together - now buckle up and enjoy!
Jaw-Dropping Facts About California’s Top Amusement Parks
The most-visited theme park in California is Disneyland in Anaheim. Open since 1955, it attracts around 20 million visitors per year.
The top-rated roller coaster in California is Gold Striker at California's Great America. It opened in 2013 and reaches 54 miles per hour.
California's fastest, tallest and, steepest roller coaster is Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
California is home to more roller coasters than any other U.S. state (a whopping 87). Six Flags Magic Mountain boasts 18 of these!
What Does it Cost to Visit California’s Top 9 Amusement Parks?
How We Created This Guide
Total = Parking + Ticket + Meal + Accommodation
Parking: The cost of parking one vehicle for one day in the standard parking lot, purchased online in advance. Prices were taken from the official park websites.
Ticket: The cost of entry for an adult. When available, we selected any-day tickets for 2019, purchased in advance online. If any-day tickets were not available, we looked at prices on June 1, 2019. For the parks which only sell two-day tickets, we looked at the price of two-day tickets and then halved it. The parks provided us with ticket prices for 2019.
Meal: The cost of a cheeseburger, fries, and regular drink combo meal. If combo meals were not available, we looked at the price of the individual items and then added them together. We used online menus and contacted customer service teams to curate this price list.
Accommodation: The average price, per person per night, to stay in an accommodation close to the theme park, based on a group of 4 people. We examined the price of every night between April 6 and June 22, 2019, and then calculated an average.
We researched these prices in March 2019. If prices for 2019 were not available, we used prices from last year's ranking. Taxes and processing fees are not included. If you have any requests or would like additional information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best California Amusement Parks for Budget Travellers
California isn't just about package deals and pricey entertainment, though. There are plenty of quality experiences available in California to those on a budget – the climate alone is worth traveling for!
1. Knott's Berry Farm
The hundred-year history of this unique theme park is a testament to its iconic allure. What was once a simple family farm has grown into a vast 160-acre playground that's enjoyed by families from all over the world. From the waterpark to famous farm cuisine and the Old West Ghost Town, the delights of this characterful attraction never cease to please its patrons, both young and old.
2. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
This sprawling theme park is located approximately 40 miles from Downtown San Francisco. Its impressive range of roller coasters twist and tower above the Northern California landscape. Thrill seekers will be delighted to hear that Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has plenty of white-knuckle rides on offer, while still offering exceptional value for money.
Best Places to Stay for Amusement Parks in California
Best California Amusement Parks for Thrillseekers
Adrenaline junkies make the pilgrimage to California from all over the world. Known as the epicenter of many of the planet's fastest and most famous rides, California boasts some of the most thrilling amusement parks.
1. Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags is home to some of California's most extreme thrill rides. The Apocalypse roller coaster drops you from a height of 75 feet, while Batman: The Ride takes you on a curious loop-the-loop trail at what feels like supersonic speed. For those who like their fun fuel injected, there's Full Throttle, a ride that features 160-foot loops. Ever ridden a hypercoaster? Goliath is even faster than your usual roller coaster and tops out at a height of 255 dizzying feet.
2. California's Great America
Home to the Gold Striker, a wooden roller coaster which is considered amongst the best in the world, California’s Great America is a great option for those located or traveling to the Bay Area. Located around 8 miles from Downtown San Jose, this multifaceted park has something for the whole family to enjoy. Roller coaster fans will also love Patriot and Flight Deck.
3. SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego for less with a joint pass, which lets you access San Diego Zoo, the Safari Park, and Seaworld over the course of several days. The CityPASS also reduces the price of your ticket. Inside SeaWorld, you'll get the chance to experience dynamic animal shows featuring all your furry (and scaly) favorites, and ride gripping roller coasters.
Recommended Accommodations for Amusement Parks in California
Best California Amusement Parks for Families
California amusement park vacations are a child's dream. Come to the place with "where dreams are made." It's not just the prevalence of fairytale castles, though. California's amusement parks are plentiful, and young and old will marvel at this mecca of Western entertainment.
Built under the watchful eye of Walt Disney, Disneyland California may be 50 years old, but offers plenty of fast-paced entertainment. Eight themed districts let visitors explore a shifting mirage of fanciful environments, each with exciting themed rides. Splash about on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, or whizz along the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Don't miss California Screamin', a state-of-the-art roller coaster that will leave you breathless.
2. Disney California Adventure Park
This 72-acre theme park is devoted to a figure that looms large among California's cultural giants. Disney's influence on the state is as vast as the roller coasters that dominate the park's skyline. You'll meet all of your favorite cartoon characters from the worlds of Pixar and Marvel, too. Explore the seven themed regions of the park, all crammed with roller coasters, rides, and other attractions.
3. LEGOLAND California
Compared with the premium amusement alternatives available in California, this LEGO-themed park purveys more cost-effective fun. The park is constructed of more than 20 million LEGO bricks. With an extensive miniature park, aquarium, and plenty of roller coasters, there's much enjoyment to be had here, whatever your age.