15 Best Theme Parks in California | 2024 (with Photos)

Andreas Rukovski

Andreas Rukovski - Travel Writer

Last Updated: March 14, 2024

Hey there! I'm Andreas, and I'm excited to share with you the ultimate guide to the top theme parks in California in 2024. Get ready to experience thrilling rides, captivating shows, and memorable adventures as you explore these incredible attractions.

Theme parks in California

California is home to some of the top theme parks in the world. From the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to Universal Studios, you are guaranteed a day of fun and adventure.

If you're vacationing with your kids, no trip would be complete without visiting one of the most famous theme parks in California - Disneyland Resort.

But with so many theme parks in California to choose from, you can spend your day exploring a nature-based theme park or cooling off at a waterpark.

Whatever time of year you're visiting the Golden State, enjoy the plethora of theme parks that California has to offer.

In this article, the Travel-Lingual team will show you the 15 best theme parks in California for all types of traveler. So, let’s get going.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Top Choice Hotel

The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Best Time to Visit

Mild winters and sunny summers make LA attractive.

Average Temperature

Mild with highs in the mid-70s Fahrenheit.

Transportation Options

Cars, buses, trains, bikes, scooters, ride-sharing, taxis, walking.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

Start your day by immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of the city, strolling along the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame and snapping pictures with your favorite celebrity stars, allowing yourself to feel like a true Hollywood insider.

In the afternoon, make your way to the picturesque beaches of Santa Monica and enjoy a leisurely bike ride along the famous Venice Beach boardwalk, feeling the refreshing ocean breeze on your face as you soak up the laid-back California vibes.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Camera or smartphone
  2. Comfortable clothes and footwears
  3. Travel documents

What Not to Miss

  1. Hollywood Walk of Fame
  2. Griffith Observatory
  3. The Getty Center
  4. Santa Monica Pier
  5. Venice Beach Boardwalk

What to Avoid

  1. Avoid traveling during rush hour to avoid heavy traffic.
  2. Avoid visiting popular tourist attractions on weekends to avoid crowds.
  3. Avoid leaving valuables unattended or visible in your car or hotel room.

1. Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

One of the most famous theme parks in California is Universal Studios Hollywood.

Universal Studios is so much more than a theme park, offering an immersive experience with all your favorite characters from iconic movies and TV shows.

Take a stroll to Springfield and seek out your best-loved Simpsons characters. For Harry Potter fans, witness the magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter and take in the spell-binding sights.

See the sets and locations from movies and TV shows like Jaws, King Kong, and Desperate Housewives.

The tour includes an exciting visit to the special effects stages and a 3D experience with characters from Transformers.

2. Warner Bros Studios

Warner Bros Studios

Next up on the best major parks in California is the iconic Warner Bros Studio. This family theme park will take you through the lens and into the magic of Hollywood.

This California amusement park boasts behind-the-scenes access to the world of some of your favorite films and TV shows.

Take the guided tour of the studio's backlot and soundstages, where you can witness where some of your favorite movies and TV shows were filmed.

Stop off for a coffee at Central Perk or get up close and personal with superheroes from the DC Universe.

Behold the Batcave from the Batman movies or head to the Harry Potter exhibit with real props and costumes from the Potter films.

If you're looking for a day of family fun, this is the amusement park for you. There are also plenty of fun things to do while in Hollywood.

3. Disneyland Park

Disneyland Park California

Undoubtedly one of the best-known theme parks in California is Disney California Adventure Park. Indulge your inner child and bring the kids and experience the magic of Disneyland Park.

Put the pedal to the metal on the Radiator Springs Racers ride or embark on a fast-paced exploration of a cursed temple on the Indiana Jones Adventure. For more thrills, head to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

It's no wonder that the Disneyland Resort is one of the most popular parks in California, if not the world.

So, if you're in southern California, don't miss out on the most magical place in the world.

4. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park

Combine panoramic views of the sprawling Pacific with thrill rides at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is perfect for adrenaline seekers with its thrilling roller coasters.

Do you dare to take on the Giant Dipper, the vintage wooden roller coaster? Or try out the Double Shot for a stomach-churning drop. For sweeping views of the Pacific, set out for the Sea Swings.

The Santa Cruz amusement park also features a variety of arcade games, food vendors, mini golf, and carnival games, making it a fan favorite when it comes to theme parks in California.

After the amusement park you can enjoy various evening activities in Santa Cruz.

5. Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is always a popular option if you're looking for thrilling rides, great food, and fun for the whole family.

Are you an animal lover? Head to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, showcasing marine life native to Santa Monica Bay.

Make sure you also check out the historic carousel dating back to 1922 which features 44 hand-carved horses.

Santa Monica Pier features one of the most popular theme parks, the Pacific Park amusement park.

6. Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier

Pacific Park

As part of your California adventure, include Pacific Park, one of the smaller theme parks in Cali. It is the only theme park in the world with a solar-powered Ferris wheel.

Pacific Park also features popular rides like the West Coaster, a steel roller coaster, and the Inkie's Scrambler, a family ride guaranteed to make you dizzy.

If you want a slightly more intimate experience with stunning coastal views, popular rides (including kiddie rides for children), and great food, this is the theme park for you.

7. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain

If you're touring around southern California looking for the best amusement parks in California, put Six Flags Magic Mountain on your list of must-sees.

With 18 roller coasters and plenty of thrill rides for the adrenaline-seekers out there, Six Flags Magic Mountain promises fast-paced adventure and hair-raising drops.

If you're in the San Francisco area on the west coast, why not make a stop at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom for even more thrills?

With Six Flags locations all over the US, take your pick of some of the best theme parks and make some magical memories.

8. Seaworld, San Diego

Seaworld, San Diego

In the heart of San Diego, Southern California, lies another one of the best theme parks in California.

Seaworld San Diego is a unique and immersive California adventure for the whole family, making it one of the best theme parks for both animal lovers and thrill-seekers alike.

Get up close and personal with aquatic animals like sharks, dolphins, sea lions, and penguins in San Diego.

Catch one of the shows and presentations on offer, including the Orca Encounter, Dolphin Days, and Sea Lion Live, featuring trained animals performing in front of live audiences.

Alongside the shows, SeaWorld San Diego also features rides and attractions, such as the Electric Eel roller coaster, the Journey to Atlantis water ride, and the Sesame Street Bay of Play.

9. LEGOLAND California

LEGOLAND California

Nestled between San Diego and LA, your next stop is one of the best theme parks for kids - LEGOLAND.

Filled with 60 kid-friendly rides, shows, and attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and interactive exhibits. There are also plenty of thrill rides if you want to get your blood pumping.

Some popular attractions at LEGOLAND California include the Dragon Coaster, the Technic Coaster, the Sea Life Aquarium, and the LEGO Friends Heartlake City area.

In addition to the theme park, LEGOLAND California also features LEGOLAND Water Park, which offers a variety of water slides, pools, and attractions making it one of the best theme parks around.

So if you're in the San Diego area, head to one of the most unique theme parks in Cali.

10. Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm

We're going straight to the wild, wild, west with one of the most unique California theme parks, located in Buena Park.

Why not check out the most popular roller coasters at Knott's Berry Farm including GhostRider, Xcelerator, HangTime, and Montezooma's Revenge, infamous for high speeds, steep drops, and thrilling twists and turns?

In this family-friendly theme park, you can find the ghoulish Ghost Town, Camp Snoopy, and the Timber Mountain Log Ride.

If you're visiting in summer, make a splash at Knott's Soak City. There's no wonder that Knott's Berry Farm is one of the most visited theme parks in California - guaranteed fun and exciting experiences for visitors of all ages.

11. San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo

If you're looking for an amusement park with animal attractions, immersive experiences, and educational activities, San Diego Zoo is a must-see.

The San Diego Zoo offers lots of attractions, such as the Skyfari Aerial Tram, which offers a bird's eye view of the zoo, and the Children's Zoo, where young visitors can pet and feed animals.

This is one of the best theme parks in California for all you animal lovers.

Right next to the iconic San Diego Zoo, you can find the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The sprawling wildlife reserve is home to thousands of animals so let's get exploring.

12. California’s Great America Amusement Park

California’s Great America

Saunter down to Santa Clara for California's Great America Theme Park. With 70 rides and attractions, including 10 roller coasters, water rides, and a selection of family and kids' rides.

Some of the most popular attractions at California's Great America amusement park include the Gold Striker, the Flight Deck, and the Patriot.

One of the many unique features of California's Great America is its partnership with the San Francisco 49ers football team, which includes a 49ers-themed area of the park and lots of interactive exhibits and games.

So, for one of the best theme parks in Santa Clara, head straight to California’s Great America Theme Park.

13. Belmont Park

Belmont Park

Life’s better at the beach. Our next stop on our list of theme parks in California is San Diego with the popular Belmont Park.

Belmont Park features the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, one of the oldest operating roller coasters in the United States.

Try out the Beach Blaster pendulum ride, the Control Freak, or if you have a need for speed, the Krazy Kars bumper cars.

Take a break from the rides and check out the FlowRider surf simulator, laser tag, or have a game of mini golf. There are many fun attractions at Belmont Park.

14. Castle Park

Castle Park

Be a knight in shining armor and a damsel without distress at Castle Park, a medieval-themed and one of the most popular theme parks in California.

Do you dare to take on the Dragon's Tower Drop Ride? Fight dragons and ride the roller coasters to become King or Queen of the Castle.

There are a whole host of kid-friendly attractions at Castle Park, including mini golf and arcade games.

If you're looking for amusement parks that cater to thrill seekers and gamers alike, come to the castle.

15. Waterworks Park

Waterworks Park

Are you looking to cool off from the California sun and make a splash at a waterpark? Then dive into the Waterworks Park theme park.

Take a break from the queues of roller coaster amusement parks and lay down in the Lazy Lagoon, the biggest and most popular lazy river in the water park.

One of the most popular attractions at Waterworks Park theme park is the Raging River ride, where you can whizz down thrilling water slides and drops.

Another popular attraction in the theme park is the Wave Pool, where you can ride the simulated surf (one for all you experienced swimmers).

So, if you want to cool off and make a splash in summer, this water park is the one for you.

FAQs About Theme Parks in California

Let's look at some frequently asked questions about theme parks in California.

What are the best theme parks in California?

There are so many great California amusement parks, it is hard to pick the best one. Little kids love Gilroy Gardens and Knott's Soak City, as well as Camp Snoopy and Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm while adults go crazy for Potter and Disney. For a smaller budget, Adventure City is a popular pick.

What are the best theme parks for kids?

There are a host of amazing theme parks in California for children of all ages and stages. Younger and older kids love LEGOLAND, San Diego, and Universal Studios Hollywood is known as one of the best amusement parks for children large and small. These California theme parks are fun for all the family.

Is Disney California Adventure Park better than Disneyland?

Disney California Adventure Park is a newer addition to the Disney theme park world and is a sibling to Disneyland. Whether your favorite theme park is Disneyland or Adventure Park all comes down to personal taste. However, with its superior restaurants and awesome evening activities, DCAP might just win this race.

Summing Up: The Best California Theme Parks

California is definitely a kingpin when it comes to theme parks, whether you're looking for a family theme park or to cool off in the summer months at a waterpark, Cali has it all.

From Six Flags Magic Mountain and the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in San Francisco to the various Disney Parks, there is something for everyone.

If you're seeking out the speediest roller coasters or trying to explore as many amusement parks as you can, California is the place for you.

Whether you want to have fun with the family at Gilroy Gardens or scare yourself silly at Six Flags, get to the Golden State and explore all the theme parks in California.

Get ready for the ride of your life.