40+ Best Theme Parks in California

California’s a theme park paradise, but don’t get stuck on the usual suspects. Ditch the predictable crowds and overpriced food. We’re digging beyond the big names to find hidden gems and unique experiences that will leave you bragging to your friends.

This isn’t just another boring list of parks.

We’ll uncover the best thrills, the coolest animal encounters, and places where the magic feels real – not manufactured. Want a coaster that drops you into a real shark tank? We’ve got that (and spoiler alert: it’s not where you think).

Get ready to explore the wild side of the best theme parks in California!


Adventureplex in California

Forget boring gyms and playgrounds. Adventureplex is where kids get seriously fit – and have a blast doing it. Think climbing walls, ropes courses, and a giant indoor play structure that’s basically a kid’s dream come true.

Location1701 Marine Ave, Manhattan Beach, California 90266
Operating HoursMonday to Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm, Friday from 9 am to 3 pm, closed on Saturdays for private parties, and open on select Sundays from 9 am to 3 pm. Reservations are required for visits.
Ticket PricesGeneral Admission (0-12 years) is $17 per child, Flex Kids Club Membership (0-12 years) costs $49 for the first child and $39 for each additional sibling, Day Camp (4-12 years) is $55 per day or $75 with extended care, Weekend Camp (4-12 years) costs $35, Friday Parents Night Out (4-12 years) is $45, Rock Wall (5+ years) is $15, and the Ropes Course and Rock Wall (8+ years) is $35.
Main AttractionsClimbing Walls, Toddler Town, Sports court, Adventure Room, Play structure
MapAdventureplex Map

This isn’t just about burning off energy (though they’ll do plenty of that). Adventureplex sneaks in learning and teamwork, too. Staff actually get kids excited about moving instead of just staring at screens.

Insider tip: The ropes course is way tougher than it looks. Adults can try it out too, so get ready for some friendly family competition!

Nut Tree Family Park

Nut Tree Family Park in California

Want a dose of old-school California charm? Nut Tree Family Park is a blast from the past, but in the best way. Forget cutting-edge tech and mega-coasters. This place is all about simple fun – think playgrounds, a classic carousel, and a miniature train ride that’ll make you feel like a kid again.

Location1661 E Monte Vista Ave, Vacaville, California 95688
Operating HoursMonday to Wednesday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Thursday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Ticket PricesTrain and Carousel rides at $4.00 per single ride, $2.00 for seniors (65 and older), and free for children under two on their first ride. On Military Appreciation Day every Thursday, tickets are $2.00. An All Day Wristband is available for $25.00, with a special offer of buy 5 tickets and get 1 free. There is no entrance fee to the plaza itself.
Main AttractionsChildren’s play area, Carousel, train ride, retail and dining
MapNut Tree Family Park Map

It’s not about being flashy, it’s about relaxed family time. Pack a picnic, let the kids run wild, and maybe snag an ice cream cone for that perfect retro vibe.

Insider Tip: The train ride goes through a little garden area. Keep an eye out for hidden animal statues – it’s like a mini scavenger hunt!

Atlantis Play Center

Atlantis Play Center in California

Forget mega-parks and overpriced tickets. Atlantis Play Center is old-school fun done right. Think giant sea monsters, wacky slides, and a splash pad for those hot California days. It’s pure playtime for kids, and a dose of nostalgia for parents.

Location13630 Atlantis Way, Garden Grove, California 92844
Operating Hoursclosed on Mondays, open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm Tuesday to Friday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays, and 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Sundays.
Ticket PricesThe pricing is $2 for ages 3 and up, and free for children 2 years old and under.
Main AttractionsSea Serpent Slide, Splash Pad, Picnic Areas
MapAtlantis Play Center Map

Best part? This place is a budget hero. You can let the kids loose without breaking the bank.

Insider Tip: Bring old towels, because the splash pad gets seriously messy. But honestly, that’s half the fun for kids!

Micke Grove Zoo

 Micke Grove Zoo in California

Looking for an animal adventure that won’t break the bank? Micke Grove Zoo is the perfect spot to get up close with critters. It’s smaller than those mega-zoos, but that means you actually get to see the animals up close – not squinting from a mile away!

Location11793 N Micke Grove Rd, Lodi, California 95240
Operating HoursOpen Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with the Last Entrance at 4 p.m.
Ticket PricesPrices are $5 for adults (ages 14 and up), $3 for children (ages 3 to 13), and free for children 2 years and under.
Main AttractionsExotic animals, Aviary, Reptile House, Snow Leopard Exhibit
MapMicke Grove Zoo Map

They’re big on teaching kids about wildlife, too. Think keeper talks, hands-on exhibits, and maybe even a chance to help feed a friendly resident.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Tropical Forest! It’s hidden away, packed with monkeys and colorful birds, and way less crowded than the main exhibits.

Irvine Regional Park

Irvine Regional Park in California

Ditch the crowds and overpriced theme parks. Irvine Regional Park is where real California adventures happen. Hike through oak forests, rent a paddleboat, even ride a miniature train – there’s something for everyone here.

Location1 Irvine Park Rd, Orange, California 92869
Operating Hours6:00 AM to 9:00 PM During Spring and Summer, and from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM During Fall and Winter, open Sunday through Saturday.
Ticket Prices$3.00 on weekdays, $5.00 on weekends, and $7.00 on specific holidays (Easter Sunday, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day). On other holidays, the price is either $3.00 or $5.00, depending on the day of the week.
Main AttractionsOrange County Zoo, Irvine Park Railroad, Hiking Trails, Paddle Boat and Bicycle Rentals
MapIrvine Regional Park Map

This isn’t some manicured park. It’s got real trails, hidden picnic spots, and wildlife that’ll surprise you. Plus, it’s home to the Orange County Zoo for a dose of cuddly critters.

Insider tip: Head to the far end of the park for the Santiago Creek Trail. Way fewer people and it’s got the best views.

Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific in California

Forget those stuffy old aquariums. Aquarium of the Pacific is where you can get nose-to-nose with sharks, pet a jellyfish, and watch penguins waddle like they’re late for work. It’s more than just staring at fish tanks!

Location100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, California 90802
Operating HoursToday’s Operating Hours are from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Ticket PricesAdults for $44.95, children (ages 3-11) for $29.95, and seniors (62 and over) for $41.95.
Main AttractionsShark Lagoon, Penguin Habitat, Lorikeet Forest, Tropical Pacific Gallery
MapAquarium of the Pacific Map

They’re huge on ocean conservation too. You’ll leave knowing more, and probably caring more, about the underwater world.

Insider Tip: The Lorikeet Forest is the hidden gem. Get there early – those colorful birds get seriously rowdy if you try to feed them during the afternoon rush!

Aqua Adventure Water Park

Aqua Adventure Water Park in California

Ready to beat the California heat? Aqua Adventure Water Park is your splashdown zone. Think huge slides, a massive bucket that’ll soak you silly, and a lazy river for chilling out.

Location40500 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont, California 94538
Operating Hourshours are from 11 am to 4 pm Monday through Thursday, and 11 am to 5 pm Friday to Sunday.
Ticket PricesGeneral Admission for those 48″ and over is $25.99 for non-residents and $23.99 for Fremont Residents. Junior Admission for those Under 48″ is $20.99 for non-residents and $18.99 for Fremont Residents. Admission for Children 3 and Under, which includes a Swim Diaper, is $4.00.
Main AttractionsFortress of Fun, Bucket Bay, Splash Pad, Splash & Slide, Lazy River
MapAqua Adventure Water Park Map

This place isn’t about fancy thrills, it’s about pure summer fun. Best part? It’s smaller than those waterpark giants, so you won’t waste half your day in line.

Insider Tip: Head straight to the back of the park at opening. The big slides there get crazy lines later, but you can snag a few rides with almost no wait early on!

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina in California

Forget stuffy mega-resorts. Newport Dunes is California beach life turned up to eleven. Rent a waterfront cottage, park your RV steps from the sand, or even sleep on your boat in the marina!

Location1131 Back Bay Dr, Newport Beach, California 92660
Operating Hours24 Hours a Day, Seven Days a Week
Ticket PricesVary Based on Accommodation or Marina Rental
Main AttractionsWater Park, Beachside Cottages, Boat Rentals, Dining and Marina
MapNewport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina Map

It’s not just about the beach, though. They’ve got a whole inflatable water park on-site, kayak rentals, even a swanky restaurant with killer sunset views. This place is for people who want a real California vacation, not a manufactured one.

Insider tip: The cottages book up FAST. If you see one available for your dates, grab it – you won’t regret it!

Santa Ana Zoo

Santa Ana Zoo in California

Want to see monkeys up close? Like, way closer than those giant zoos? Santa Ana Zoo is your spot. It’s small, which means the animal enclosures feel way more personal.

Location1801 E Chestnut Ave, Santa Ana, California 92701
Operating HoursDaily Operating Hours are From 10 am to 5 pm, with the Last Admission at 4 pm.
Ticket PricesAdults (age 13+) and Seniors (age 60+) are $13.00, Children (age 3-12) are $10.00. FOSAZ Members, Children under age 3, and Parking are all Free.
Main AttractionsTreetop Toys Playground, Crean Family Farm, Amazon’s Edge, Camels, Anteaters, Monkeys
MapSanta Ana Zoo Map

They’re crazy about South American critters here. Think colorful birds, playful monkeys… even a few creepy-cool snakes if you’re into that! Plus, they’ve got a petting zoo area where kids go wild.

Insider Tip: Check the events calendar. They host these nighttime parties called “Sunsets at the Zoo” with music and food – a surprisingly fun way to see the animals in a whole new light.

DryTown Water Park

DryTown Water Park in California

DryTown Water Park is your desert oasis. Think big slides, a lazy river to chill out on, and even a wave pool for catching some fake surf. It’s the perfect escape from the California heat.

Location3850-B East Avenue S, Palmdale, California 93550
Operating Hours11:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Varies by Season and Weather Conditions)
Ticket PricesNon-Resident All Access Pass at $98, Resident All Access Pass at $85, Non-Resident Weekday Pass at $78, and Resident Weekday Pass at $68. These Passes Offer Different Levels of Access to the Park Based on Residency Status and Days of the Week.
Main AttractionsDusty’s Mineshaft Racer, Big Rock River, Little Miner’s Camp
MapDryTown Water Park Map

This isn’t some mega-park, which means shorter lines and less walking. Plus, it’s way more affordable for families than those giant places.

Insider tip: The Dusty Dog slide is way faster than it looks. Don’t be scared to try it – it’s the most fun in the whole park!

Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California

Forget those zoos where animals look bored in tiny cages. Fresno Chaffee Zoo is different. You’ll see tigers prowling through jungle ruins, sea lions splashing, and giraffes nibbling leaves almost close enough to touch.

Location894 W Belmont Ave, Fresno, California 93728
Operating HoursZoo’s Daily Operating Hours are From 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Ticket PricesFor Fresno County Residents, Adults (12 and up) are $16.95 and Children (ages 2-11) are $10.95. For Visitors Outside of Fresno County, Adults are $19.95 and Children are $13.95. Children Aged 1 and Under have Free Admission.
Main AttractionsAfrica Adventure, Sea Lion Cove, Tropical Rainforest, Stingray Bay, River Habitat, etc.
MapFresno Chaffee Zoo Map

They’ve got all the usual zoo favorites, but they also throw in surprises. Think dinosaur exhibits, hands-on stingray petting… they even have an old-school carousel for a little extra fun.

Insider Tip: The African Adventure exhibit is huge. If you’re short on time, head straight for the warthogs – they’re hilarious and always up to something.

SkyPark at Santa’s Village

SkyPark at Santa’s Village in California

Ready for some seriously old-school California fun? SkyPark at Santa’s Village is a blast from the past… but with way more adventure. Think ziplines through pine forests, mountain biking trails with crazy views, even ice skating in the middle of summer!

Location28950 CA-18, Skyforest, California 92385
Operating HoursOpen from 10 AM to 6 PM on some days, 10 AM to 7 PM on others, and 11 AM to 5 PM on Specific Dates.
Ticket PricesAll-Day Tickets for Ages 4 and Above are $47, Senior Tickets for Ages 62+ and Military Tickets with ID are Both $42, All Date-Specific. Children age 3 and Under can Enter for Free, and No Reservation is Required for Them.
Main AttractionsMountain Biking, Zipline, “Polar Express” Train Ride, Fishing, Archery
MapSkyPark at Santa’s Village Map

Yes, there’s a Santa thing, which is either cheesy or awesome depending on your age. But the real draw here is the outdoor action, and it’s not just for kids.

Insider Tip: Head to the Arrowhead Ice Skating rink on a hot day. It feels AMAZING after you’ve been hiking or biking in the sun!


Six Flags Hurricane Harbor LA

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor LA in California

California heat got you down? Hurricane Harbor LA is the cure. Huge slides, a wave pool, even a lazy river for floating away your problems. It’s a classic water park done right.

Location26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, California 91355
Operating HoursOperating Hours are Closed from Monday to Friday, and Open From 10:30 AM to 6 PM on Saturday and Sunday
Ticket PricesGold Pass for $70, Platinum Pass for $125, and Diamond Pass for $200.
Main AttractionsTaboo Tower, Bamboo Racer, Lost Temple Rapids, Banzai Pipelines, Tornado, Lizard Lagoon
MapSix Flags Hurricane Harbor LA Map

This place gets packed, which is the obvious downside. But if you’re willing to splurge on the premium parking, it saves you a ton of walking and means you can hit those big slides first thing.

Insider tip: Skip those long food lines and bring your own refillable water bottle. Hydration stations are free, and staying hydrated in the sun is a must!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California

Forget tanks and labels. Monterey Bay Aquarium is where the ocean comes alive. Sharks circle overhead, sea otters play, and jellyfish glow in the dark. It’s more than staring at fish – it makes you feel part of their world.

Location886 Cannery Row, Monterey, California 93940
Operating HoursHours of Operation are From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for Both General Visitors and Members.
Ticket PricesAdults $59.95 (Ages 18–69), Youth $49.95 (Ages 13–17), Children $44.95 (Ages 5–12, Free for Those Four and Under), and Seniors $49.95 (Ages 70+).
Main AttractionsOpen Sea Exhibit, Kelp Forest, Splash Zone, Sea Otter Habitat
MapMonterey Bay Aquarium Map

They’re huge on conservation here, so you’ll leave knowing more than when you arrived. Plus, their work with sea otters is amazing – these furry critters practically steal the show.

Insider Tip: Head to the tide pool touch tanks early. Before the crowds hit, you can actually get hands-on with starfish, sea urchins, and all sorts of cool stuff!

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in California

Ever wanted to see a giraffe up close? Or watch a meerkat dig a tunnel? The Living Desert Zoo isn’t your average animal park. It’s focused on all things desert, from spiky cacti to weird and wonderful critters perfectly adapted to harsh climates.

Location47900 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, California 92260
Operating HoursFrom October 1 to May 31, Open Daily 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with Last Admission at 4:00 pm, Closed December 25th. For Summer, From June 1 to September 30, Open Daily 7:00 am to 1:30 pm with Last Admission at 12:30 pm.
Ticket PricesAdult Tickets (Ages 18+) are $39.95, Child Tickets (Ages 3-17) are $29.95, and Children Under 3 can Get Tickets for Free at $0.00. All Tickets Require a Reserved Date and Time.
Main AttractionsEndangered Species Carousel, G-scale model train, Eagle Canyon, Village WaTuTu, and the Australian Adventures Exhibit
MapThe Living Desert Zoo and Gardens Map

They do a ton of conservation work here, which matters when you’re talking about fragile ecosystems. Come for the animal encounters, but leave with a newfound appreciation for our planet’s toughest landscapes.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Wildlife Wonders Show. Cheesy name, but it’s surprisingly cool to see owls fly and snakes do their slithery thing.

Pacific Park

Pacific Park in California

Forget those giant, sterile amusement parks. Pacific Park is old-school boardwalk fun with a California twist. Think a Ferris wheel right over the ocean, classic carnival games, and that perfect mix of thrilling and cheesy that never gets old..

Location380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California 90401
Operating HoursOperating Hours are Open Daily from 6 AM to 10 PM
Ticket PricesUnlimited Ride Wristband for Ages 8 and Over at $40, for Ages 7 and Under at $20, and Single Ride Tickets Ranging from $6 to $12 for Various Rides Like Pacific Wheel, Shark Frenzy, and Sea Dragon, Among Others. Each Single Ride ticket is Valid for One Ride on the Selected Attraction.
Main AttractionsPacific Wheel, West Coaster, Pacific Plunge
MapPacific Park Map

This place gets packed on weekends, especially in the evenings. If you hate crowds, go on a weekday morning – you’ll practically have the place to yourself.

Insider tip: The food is overpriced, BUT… there’s a whole pier full of way better food just steps away. Grab a slice or some tacos beforehand, and eat by the ocean after you ride the roller coaster!

Safari West

Safari West in California

Ever wanted to see a giraffe from your jeep? That’s the magic of Safari West. No cages, no sad zoo vibes – this is real wildlife encounters right here in California. Think rhinos grazing, cheetahs stalking, and the most up-close African safari vibes you’ll find this side of the Atlantic

Location3115 Porter Creek Rd, Santa Rosa, California 95404
Operating HoursOperating Hours are Open Daily 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket PricesSeptember to May Weekdays – Adults $110, Seniors $100, Teens $100, Children $45; Weekends – Adults $120, Seniors $110, Teens $110, Children $45. From June to August, the Prices are: Weekdays – Adults $132, Seniors $122, Teens $122, Children $45; Weekends – Adults $155, Seniors $145, Teens $145, Children $50.
Main AttractionsGuided Safari Tours, Over 800 Animals, Overnight Lodging
MapSafari West Map

It’s not cheap, so if you’re splurging, definitely book an overnight stay. Their glamping tents are incredible, and you wake up to animal sounds outside your door.

Insider Tip: The classic safari tour is amazing, but they also offer smaller, specialized tours for things like birdwatching. Book those in advance, spots fill up fast!

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo in California

Forget boring zoos with sad animals in cages. San Diego Zoo is world-famous for a reason. They actually give the animals room to roam, which means you see way more natural behavior. Plus those gardens are stunning – you’ll feel like you’re exploring a jungle, not a city park.

Location2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, California 92101
Operating Hours9 AM to 5 PM Daily, from Monday to Sunday.
Ticket PricesAdults (ages 12+) at a Discounted Price of $68 from the Original $74, and Children (ages 3-11) at $58, Down from $64.
Main AttractionsKoalafornia, Elephant Odyssey, Monkey Trails, Polar Bear Plunge, Panda Canyon
MapSan Diego Zoo Map

Yes, it’s a big place, and that means it can get crowded. But the exhibits are spread out, so it never feels totally packed like some zoos.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the koalas! They’re easy to overlook, but always worth a visit for maximum cuteness. Head there right when the zoo opens for the best chance of seeing them awake.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord in California

Ready to beat that California heat? Hurricane Harbor Concord delivers all the water park thrills – giant slides, a wave pool, and even a lazy river for floating your worries away. It’s got all the classic waterpark hits, done right.

Location1950 Waterworld Pkwy, Concord, California 94520
Operating HoursOpen from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Weekdays and 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Weekends and Holidays.
Ticket Prices2024 Platinum Pass, Which Includes theme Park Access, is $99 each, and the 2024 Diamond Pass, offering a VIP Experience, is $175 each.
Main AttractionsBig Kahuna, Break Point Plunge, Caribbean Cove, Hurricane Slide Complex, Splashwater Island
MapSix Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord Map

This place gets busy, especially on weekends. If you hate crowds, it’s worth springing for a Flash Pass, so you can skip the long lines at the big slides.

Insider Tip: The best food is tucked away near the back of the park. Skip the long lines at the main stands, and head for that little taco place – way better and way faster!

San Francisco Zoo

San Francisco Zoo in California

Want to see more than lions and tigers? The San Francisco Zoo has a ton of cool animals you won’t find everywhere – think penguins, red pandas, even komodo dragons! Plus, the setting is gorgeous, right by the ocean.

LocationSloat Blvd & Great Hwy, San Francisco, California 94132
Operating HoursOpen Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Ticket PricesSF Zoo Members and Children under 2 enter free. Weekday prices are $29 for Adults, $24 for Seniors, and $20 for Children (2-11), with parking at $11. On Weekends & Holidays, it’s $31 for Adults, $26 for Seniors, $22 for Children, and parking at $13.
Main AttractionsLemur Forest, African Savanna, Bear Country, Penguin Island
Website www.sfzoo.org
MapSan Francisco Zoo Map

This place is walkable, unlike some mega-zoos, which makes it way better with little kids. There are also tons of shady spots and places to take a break if the sun gets intense.

Insider Tip: The grizzly bears are the stars of the show, and their feeding time is the best chance to see them active. Check the daily schedule when you arrive!

Knott’s Soak City

Knott’s Soak City in California

California heat got you wilting? Head to Knott’s Soak City! Huge slides, a wave pool, even a lazy river for floating. It’s your classic water park experience, done right.

Location8200 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, California 90620
Operating Hours10:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily, from Monday to Sunday.
Ticket PricesOnline Tickets are $39.99 for Adults and $29.99 for Children ages 3-11, While at-the-Gate Prices are $47.99 for Adults and $34.99 for Children. Season Passes are Available at $99.99 for Adults and $79.99 for Children.
Main AttractionsShore Break Towers, The Wedge, Banzai Falls, Laguna Storm Watch Tower
MapKnott’s Soak City Map

This place gets packed, which is the obvious downside. But unlike some parks, they offer shaded cabanas you can rent, which makes it way more chill with little kids (or if you just burn easily).

Insider Tip: Skip the main food stands with their long lines, and head to the back corner of the park. Way better tacos there, and way faster service!

Oakland Zoo

Oakland Zoo in California

Forget boring zoos with sad animals in cages. Oakland Zoo goes way beyond that. Exhibits are huge, giving animals space to roam. Plus, they do amazing conservation work – your ticket actually helps save endangered species.

Location9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakland, California 94605
Operating HoursPark Open 10 AM – 4 PM Daily. Zoo Open 10 AM – 4 PM Daily. Rides and Gondola Open 11 AM – 4 PM, Gondola Line Closes 2 PM. Last Ticket Sales and Train Closes 3:30 PM. Habitarium Closes 3 PM, Skyride Open 11 AM – 3:30 PM Friday-Sunday only. Petting Yard Open 10 AM – 4 PM.
Ticket Prices$22.95 for Adults (15-64 years old), $15.95 for Children (3-14 years old), $18.95 for Seniors (65+ years old), and Free for Children Under 3 years old.
Main AttractionsAfrican Savanna, California Trail, Tropical Rainforest, Outback Express Adventure Train
Website www.oaklandzoo.org
MapOakland Zoo Map

This place is hilly, which can be tough on hot days or with little kids. But that also means there are beautiful views of the whole Bay Area from up top.

Insider Tip: The gondola ride isn’t just about the views. Animal keepers sometimes use it to transport stuff, and you might get to see a rhino crate or enrichment toys going past! Keep your eyes peeled.

Los Angeles Zoo

Los Angeles Zoo in California

Want a zoo with all the animal stars? LA Zoo delivers. Lions, elephants, hippos, even those weird but amazing okapis… they’re all here. Plus, the habitats are pretty big, so you actually get to see the animals doing their thing.

Location5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, California 90027
Operating Hours10 AM to 5 PM daily, from Monday to Sunday.
Ticket Prices$22.00 for Adults (ages 13-61), $19.00 for Seniors (ages 62+), $17.00 for Children (ages 2-12), and Free for Infants (0-23 months).
Main AttractionsGorilla Reserve, Elephants of Asia, LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles), Rainforest of the Americas
Website lazoo.org
MapLos Angeles Zoo Map

This place is a beast to walk around – plan on some serious steps. But it’s worth grabbing a stroller even if your kids are walkers, otherwise they’ll be whining halfway through.

Insider Tip: Head straight for the reptile house when you get there. The crowds pile up there later, but it’s super chill in the mornings.

Funderland Amusement Park

Funderland Amusement Park in California

Funderland is all about smiles, not screams. If your kids get overwhelmed by big parks, this is their spot. Think carousels, a gentle train ride, and just enough thrills to make little ones feel brave.

Location1350 17th Ave, Sacramento, California 95822
Operating HoursOpen on Fridays from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and on the Two School Monday Holidays in February (February 12th and 19th) from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Ticket PricesAdults (ages 18 – 59) are $17.00, Children (34″ tall and up, through age 17) are $24.00, and Seniors (ages 60 & over) are $10.00.
Main AttractionsCarousel, Roller Coaster, Samba Balloon, Vintage Cars, Red Baron Airplanes
Website funderlandpark.com
MapFunderland Amusement Park Map

It’s small, which means less walking for everyone. Plus, way less chance of someone getting lost in the crowds. You can actually relax and let your kids explore a bit.

Insider Tip: The classic log flume ride is way wetter than it looks! Bring a rain poncho, or be ready to change those clothes afterward.

Adventure City

Adventure City in California

Adventure City is the perfect first theme park experience for little ones. Think gentle rides, a train, a petting zoo – the kind of stuff that makes their eyes light up. It’s small enough that they won’t get overwhelmed, and you won’t wear yourself out chasing them.

Location1238 South Beach Blvd, Anaheim, California 92804
Operating HoursClosed from Monday to Friday, and Open from 11 AM to 7 PM on Both Saturday and Sunday.
Ticket Prices$28.95 for Ages 1 to 54 Years, and $23.95 for Ages 55 Years and Up.
Main AttractionsRewind Racers, Drop Zone, Crank n’ Roll, Giggle Wheel, Adventure City Express Train
MapAdventure City Map

Best part? This place won’t break the bank like those giant theme parks. You can actually treat your family to a day of fun without feeling ripped off.

Insider Tip: The train ride is the star of the show here. Get there early and try to snag the front seat!

Marine World/Africa USA

Marine World/Africa USA in California

Miss those classic Marine World/Africa USA vibes? The animal shows, the old-school thrill rides, that feeling of pure California fun? You’ll find a lot of that same spirit at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom!

Location Operating Hours Ticket Prices Main Attractions Website Map
Redwood City, California (closed)     African lions, Elephants, Dolphins   Marine World/Africa USA Map

Think dolphins, tigers, and even some surprisingly wild coasters. It’s more modern now, but still has that focus on animals that sets it apart. Perfect if you’re looking for a throwback experience with a modern twist.

Insider Tip: The animal shows fill up fast. Hit them early, especially if you want to snag a good seat for the dolphins!

Charles Paddock Zoo

Charles Paddock Zoo in California

Want to get up close to amazing animals? Forget giant zoos – Charles Paddock Zoo is where you see meerkats digging tunnels, monkeys swinging right overhead, and maybe even hear lions roaring. It’s small, but that means the animal habitats feel way more personal.

Location9100 Morro Rd, Atascadero, California 93422
Operating HoursMonday to Sunday, 10 AM–4 PM.
Ticket PricesAdults 13 & Over, $13; Children 5 to 12, $8; Children 3 to 4, $5; Seniors 65+, $11; Children 2 & Under, Free.
Main AttractionsTigers, Red Pandas, Primates, Reptiles, Meerkats, Birds
MapCharles Paddock Zoo Map

They’re huge on conservation here. You’ll leave knowing more, and probably caring more, about the animals you saw.

Insider Tip: Check the schedule for feeding times! That’s when the animals are most active, and you might even get to see the keepers doing enrichment activities.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain in California

Roller coaster junkies, this is your bucket list park. Six Flags Magic Mountain is where they push the limits – think record-breaking drops, insane loops, and coasters that feel downright dangerous.

Location 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355
Operating Hours Usually 10:30 AM to 6 PM, but can vary seasonally
Ticket Prices Starts at $59.99 for daily tickets, while season passes start at $79.99
Main Attractions Superman: Escape from Krypton, Tatsu, Goliath, Twisted Colossus
Map Six Flags Magic Mountain Map

This place isn’t for everyone. It’s big, crowded, and seriously intense. But if you dream of conquering the craziest coasters on the planet, this is where you do it.

Insider Tip: Don’t underestimate the water rides! Roaring Rapids delivers a surprisingly huge soaking – perfect for cooling off on a hot California day.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California

Forget those sterile mega-parks. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is pure California boardwalk fun, with a side of awesome vintage vibes. Think a classic wooden coaster, arcade games, and that perfect mix of thrilling and cheesy that never gets old.

Location 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, United States
Operating Hours Varies – Refer to website
Ticket Prices Depends on experiences and rides
Main Attractions Giant Dipper, Looff Carousel, Sky Glider, Haunted Castle
Map Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Map

This place gets packed on summer weekends. If you hate crowds, it’s worth going on a weekday or in the off-season when you can actually snag a spot on the beach.

Insider Tip: The Haunted Castle ride is surprisingly spooky! Even adults sometimes get a good jump scare or two in there.

Raging Waters

Raging Waters in California

Ready to beat that California heat? Raging Waters is your splashdown zone. Huge slides, a wave pool, even a lazy river for floating your worries away. It’s your classic water park experience, done right.

Location111 Raging Waters Dr, San Dimas, California 91773
Operating HoursOperating Hours are Open Daily 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Ticket PricesGeneral Admission, $39.99 (Save $10 when you buy online!), and Season Pass, $129.99 (Early Bird Special! Save 40% when you buy before February 19th).
Main AttractionsDr. Von Dark’s Tunnel of Terror, Amazon Adventure, Ragin’ Racer, Wave Cove
MapRaging Waters Map

This place gets packed, which is the obvious downside. But unlike some parks, they offer shaded cabanas you can rent, which makes it way more chill with little kids (or if you just burn easily).

Insider Tip: Head to the far end of the park for the Aqua Rocket slide. The line is always shorter, but it’s one of the most intense slides in the whole park!

Medieval Times

Medieval Times in California

Tired of the same old dinner routine? Medieval Times is your escape from reality. One minute you’re in California, the next you’re in a castle watching knights clash in a full-on jousting tournament.

Location7662 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, California 90620
Operating HoursMonday to Sunday, 9 AM–10 PM.
Ticket PricesAdult, $60.90 – $71.65, and Child (ages 3-12), $37.95 – $44.65.
Main AttractionsMedieval Tournament, Royal Falconer, Medieval Cuisine
Website www.medievaltimes.com
MapMedieval Times Map

This isn’t fancy dining, but who cares? It’s about giant portions of food, cheering on epic battles, and forgetting your worries for a few hours.

Insider Tip: Don’t be afraid to get into the spirit! The staff will encourage you to cheer, boo, and generally have a blast – embrace it and you’ll have way more fun.

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in California

Forget the mega-parks. Gilroy Gardens is all about family fun, minus the crazy crowds. Think rides for all ages, water play, and those amazing twisty “circus trees” you won’t see anywhere else.

Location3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, California 95020
Operating HoursMarch and April, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; May, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (some Fridays open until 9:00 pm); June, July, and August, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm; September, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; October, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; November and December, Closed.
Ticket PricesGeneral admission for adults (ages 12-61) is $70, and for children (ages 3-11) is $49.
Main AttractionsQuicksilver Express, Garlic Twirl, Sky Trail Monorail, Circus Trees
MapGilroy Gardens Family Theme Park Map

This place is great for little kids. The rides are gentle, the crowds are smaller, and there’s enough to keep older kids entertained, too.

Insider Tip: Head to the far end of the park first. Most people start near the entrance, so the rides and water park at the back are way less crowded early on.

SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego in California

Want to see dolphins doing flips… and ride a killer whale-themed roller coaster? Only at SeaWorld San Diego! This place combines classic marine park shows with surprisingly modern thrills.

Location500 Sea World Dr, San Diego, California 92109
Operating HoursMonday to Thursday, 10 AM–5 PM; Friday, 10 AM–6 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 10 AM–7 PM.
Ticket PricesCost per visit, $99.99; Single Ticket, $69.99, plus Parking, $30.
Main AttractionsKiller Whale Show, Dolphin Days, Sea Lion and Otter Show, Electric Eel Roller Coaster
MapSeaWorld San Diego Map

They’re big on conservation education. You’ll learn way more about ocean animals than you expect.

Insider Tip: The animal shows get packed. Grab a seat early, or spring for the reserved seating option if you want the best view.

Disney California Adventure Park

Disney California Adventure Park in California

Forget just meeting characters – California Adventure lets you step into your favorite Pixar movies and hang out with Marvel superheroes. Think riding the Incredicoaster, cruising through Cars Land, or battling bad guys alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Location1313 Disneyland Drive. Anaheim, California 92802
Operating HoursMonday to Thursday, 8 AM–9 PM; Friday to Sunday, 8 AM–10 PM.
Ticket PricesTier 0 – Adult, $104, Child, $98; Tier 1 – Adult, $119, Child, $112; Tier 2 – Adult, $134, Child, $127; Tier 3 – Adult, $154, Child, $146.
Main AttractionsCars Land, Pixar Pier, Avengers Campus, World of Color show
Website disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disney-california-adventure
MapDisney California Adventure Park Map

This park mashes up classic Disney charm with that California cool vibe. Expect amazing food, fun details everywhere you look, and rides that thrill both kids and adults.

Insider Tip: Single rider lines are your friend! If you don’t mind splitting up your group, they can save you tons of time on popular rides.

Great America

Great America in California

If you’re all about the roller coasters, Great America delivers. Think intense steel coasters, classic wooden ones, and plenty of in-between options to keep you screaming all day. This place isn’t about fancy theming, just pure adrenaline.

Location4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, California 95054
Operating HoursOperating Hours are Open Daily 10 AM – 8 PM
Ticket PricesSingle-day ticket (weekday, off-season), approximately $40; Single-day ticket (weekend, peak season), approximately $70; Season pass, approximately $100.
Main AttractionsRoller coasters, Water park, Planet Snoopy dedicated for kids
Website www.cagreatamerica.com
MapGreat America Map

Love that old-school park feel? Great America’s got it. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but that’s part of the charm for some people.

Insider Tip: The waterpark is actually a hidden gem here. If it’s hot, hitting the slides for a few hours can be a great way to recharge before hitting more coasters.

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood in California

Ever wanted to step into your favorite movies? Universal Studios Hollywood makes it happen. Explore the world of Harry Potter, battle dinosaurs on Jurassic World, even take the behind-the-scenes studio tour to see where the magic is made.

Location100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California 91608
Operating HoursMonday to Friday, 10 AM–6 PM; Saturday, 9 AM–10 PM; Sunday, 9 AM–9 PM.
Ticket PricesOnline $109, At the Gate $139. for one Day, with Multi-day and Seasonal Pass Options Available
Main AttractionsStudio Tour, Harry Potter World, Jurassic World Ride, The Simpsons Ride, Super Silly Fun Land
MapUniversal Studios Hollywood Map

This place gets packed, and the express pass is pricey. But if you hate lines, it’s totally worth the splurge.

Insider Tip: Don’t skip the lower lot! The Mummy ride and the Transformers ride down there are some of the best in the park, and the lines are often shorter.

Legoland California Resort

Legoland California Resort in California

Got little Lego fans? Legoland California is their dream come true. Think rides with a Lego twist, giant sculptures made of bricks, and enough hands-on building fun to fill a whole day. It’s perfect for kids who love to create.

LocationOne Legoland Drive, Carlsbad, California 92008
Operating HoursMonday, 10 am–5 pm; Tuesday, 10:30 am–4:30 pm; Wednesday, Closed; Thursday, 10:30 am–4:30 pm; Friday, 10 am–5 pm; Saturday, 10 am–6 pm; Sunday, 10 am–6 pm.
Ticket Prices1-Day LEGOLAND starts at $79, SEA LIFE Hopper at $89, Resort Hopper at $109; 2-Day LEGOLAND starts at $99, SEA LIFE Hopper at $109, Resort Hopper at $129, all before taxes & fees.
Main AttractionsMiniland USA, The Dragon, Lego Technic Coaster, Lego Ninjago The Ride, Pirate Shores
MapLegoland California Resort Map

This place is built for younger kids. If you have teens, it might not be their speed. But for littles, it’s a blast.

Insider Tip: Head straight to the back of the park when you arrive. The lines for the Ninjago ride get crazy, but you can often walk right on early in the day.

Sea Life Aquarium

Sea Life Aquarium in California

Forget boring aquariums. Sea Life gets you up close to sharks, sea turtles, even jellyfish! Touch pools let you interact with critters, and they do cool talks where you learn all sorts of surprising stuff about ocean animals.

Location1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, California 92008
Operating HoursTuesday, 10:30 AM–4:30 PM; Wednesday, Closed; Thursday, 10 AM–5 PM; Friday, 10 AM–6 PM; Saturday, 10 AM–6 PM; Sunday, 10 AM–6 PM; Monday, 10 AM–6 PM.
Ticket PricesChildren (3-12), $115.66; Adults, $121.49.
Main AttractionsTouch pools, Interactive exhibits, Stingray Bay, Harbor seals, Octopus Garden, etc.
MapSea Life Aquarium Map

This place is perfect for little kids, but even older ones will be fascinated. They do a great job of making learning about the ocean fun.

Insider Tip: The octopus tank is one of the coolest… but it’s easy to miss. Check the map or ask a staff member how to find it!

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California

If you’re all about the roller coasters, Discovery Kingdom delivers – but with a side of awesome animal encounters, too. Think intense coasters, shows where dolphins do flips, and a chance to see big cats up close.

Location1001 Fairgrounds Dr, Vallejo, California 94589
Operating HoursClosed on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Monday, But open from 11 AM to 6 PM on Saturday and Sunday.
Ticket Prices2024 Gold Pass for $65, 2024 Platinum Pass for $99, and 2024 Diamond Pass for $175. Each pass offers different levels of access and experiences.
Main AttractionsThrill rides, family rides, animal attractions, and shows including Medusa, SkyScreamer, and Dolphin Discovery
MapSix Flags Discovery Kingdom Map

It’s a smaller park than some, but that means shorter lines and less walking. Perfect for when you want maximum thrills, not maximum exhaustion.

Insider Tip: The Superman coaster is the most hyped, but Medusa often has shorter lines and is still a wild ride. Don’t skip it just because it looks less intimidating!

Chuck E. Cheese’s San Jose

Chuck E. Cheese’s San Jose in California

Birthday party coming up? Chuck E. Cheese’s is where kids can play all their favorite games, win silly prizes, AND eat pizza. Stress-free fun for parents, a total blast for kids.

Location1371 Kooser Rd, San Jose, California 95118
Operating Hours11 AM to 9 PM from Tuesday to Thursday and on Sunday, 11 AM to 10 PM on Friday, and 10 AM to 10 PM on Saturday. Monday is also open from 11 AM to 9 PM.
Ticket PricesPricing for two 60-minute All You Can Play Cards is $57.99.
Main AttractionsArcade Games, Rides, Live Children Shows
WebsiteChuck E. Cheese’s San Jose
MapChuck E. Cheese’s Map

The place can get chaotic, especially on weekends. If your kids hate crowds, weekdays are way more chill.

Insider Tip: Skip the tokens and get a Play Pass! You pay by the hour instead, which usually ends up way cheaper than buying individual tokens for each game.

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