What parks in Southern California are the best?

August 12, 2015, 2:55 AM

Next year I am planning to do a road trip in California for 2 weeks starting at San Fransisco and ending up in Vegas. However we will have a couple of nights in Los Angeles. Now when we are staying there we want to visit some theme parks, having older teenagers we would want to do parks with good rides. Our choices are disneyland parks, universal hollywood or six flags magic mountain. Now we don't want to spend out to much on the theme parks but having said that we still would pay to get in as long as it was worth it. We are really aiming for 2 days in the parks, three at a stretch and was wondering which ones you would suggest doing. We have been to universal and disney parks in Florida before though so which ones would be worth going to?

Replies (5)

August 12, 2015, 1:24 PM

That depends on what you are aiming for. With two days to spend, I would recommend Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, respectively. While the other local parks are great, they often aren't what I would consider 'multi-day' parks. Universal Studios Hollywood is a half-day park, even on busy days. Knott's and Six Flags are also what I would consider half-day parks.

Disneyland is easily a two-day park on its own and with the recent additions to California Adventure it's close to being a full day park (though not entirely there yet, you could spend 8-10 hours at DCA easily).

Of course, all of this is relative to what you wan to see or want out of a theme park. If you've got teenagers who are thrill seekers, Six Flags and Knott's offer plenty of coasters and thrill rides. If you appreciate theming, dark rides, and live entertainment, you really can't beat Disneyland and California Adventure. Universal Studios is a unique hybrid of a thrill park and a family park (though it tends to lean closer to the thrill side these days), but is still what I would consider a half-day park. The tram tour is fantastic and long, but after you do the tram tour, you can get through the other rides in about 2-4 hours (Mummy, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Simpsons) depending on crowd level.

Knott's is a nice little park if you want to have a decent mix of thrill rides and dark ride elements. They recently added a new 4-d attraction which has been welcome with great reviews as well as renovating their two classic dark ride attractions (Calico Mine Train and Timber Mountain Log Ride). It's also very affordable compared to Disney or Universal.

August 12, 2015, 1:31 PM

I would go with one day at Disneyland and one day at Six Flags Magic Mountain, with a second day at Disneyland if you do three park days. Since you've been to Walt Disney World, it shouldn't be too difficult to do the major attractions at both Disneyland parks in a day. Allowing a second day would give time for a more relaxed pace and allow you to check out some of the smaller and/or clone attractions, but it is not required. Six Flags Magic Mountain has the best collection of roller coasters in the world and is absolutely worth visiting for anyone who likes thrill rides. I would skip Universal Studios Hollywood as almost everything at that park exists in Florida and it is very overpriced for what the park offers.

Edited: August 15, 2015, 11:07 AM

I live in SoCal so I feel like my opinion has some value in it. I would suggest Disneyland, California Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood. I feel it would be great to see the difference from the Florida parks and compare and contrast them. Magic Mountain and Knott's just simply do not have the immersive and magical atmosphere Disneyland and Universal has and also seems pretty low rent and seedy. if you can also do Seaworld that would be my suggestion but as you only have three days spend I say two days with one day each at the Disney parks and one day at Universal Studios. The studio tour with Fast and Furious and King Kong 360, the Despicable Me land, Springfield, and a better version of Jurassic Park make it worthwhile. It is not a half day park unless you buy front of the line passes, when I went this Sunday there was a 90 minute wait for Jurassic Park. Also, I'm not a huge fan of Knott's Berry Farm after Cedar Fair took over, it just doesn't have the charm it used to. So basically my suggestion is two days at Disney, one day at Universal and if you have extra time go to Seaworld but if you don't, cut Seaworld.

August 12, 2015, 3:00 PM

Since you wrote that you were visiting next year, it's possible that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be open at Universal Studios Hollywood by the time of your trip. If you are Potter fans and you've not visited Universal Orlando since Potter opened there, seeing Potter in Hollywood could be well worth the trip. The downside if that a major new attraction such as that will lead to huge crowds in its first year. And if you've seen Potter in Orlando, there's no need to go to USH.

I'd consider Magic Mountain if you are big roller coaster fans, but be warned that Six Flags does not operate its rides at anywhere near the capacity you'd be used to in the Disney and Universal parks. So either be prepared for long waits, or to buy some form of the Flash Pass line-skipping service. And if you're not huge coaster fans, definitely skip SFMM.

You can't go wrong with Disneyland/California Adventure, but if you price that and find the tickets too much, Knott's Berry Farm offers a nice alternative. It's not Disney, but you can find a handful of Disney-quality attractions there and get in for prices much lower than you'd pay for a Disney park.

August 17, 2015, 7:15 PM

If you go to So Cal, I highly recommend visiting Disneyland Resort. Although WDW is better, Disneyland is cheaper and still has some great rides. It's also pretty easier to do everything Disneyland has to offer in one day.

Everything at Universal Studios Hollywood with the exception of the Studio Tour is at Universal Florida. However, I still recommend going to UHS, as it has great rides and as Robert said, you may be able to catch Harry Potter.

If your kids love coasters, than you should go to Magic Mountain. It really lacks in magic, however if you're one of those families who really don't give a darn about theming and just care about thrill rides, than Magic Mountain is the park for you.

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