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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland
Photograph: Courtesy Todd Wawrychuk/Disney Parks Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland

The best theme parks in L.A. and beyond

Take a ride on a roller coaster or a plunge down a log flume at the best amusement parks and theme parks near Los Angeles

By Michael Juliano

Theme parks in California are allowed to reopen at a limited capacity as soon as April 1, however reservations and face coverings are required and only California residents can visit. Those counties that have moved into the red tier of the state’s reopening plan can resume operating rides but have to follow a number of strict protocols. We’ve updated our original story below with the latest reopening info for each theme park.

You’re likely to never run out of places to explore and things to do in Los Angeles. But even with all of those options, sometimes you just want to tune everything out and scream your head off on a roller coaster. Thankfully, L.A. has no shortage of theme parks and amusement parks. Whether you’re seeking thrills or a family-friendly day out, plan a visit for one (or more) of these amusement parks in Southern California, from an old movie studio in the hills outside Hollywood to a pier by a Santa Monica beach.

The 7 best amusement parks in Southern California

Photograph: Courtesy Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

1. Disneyland

Things to do Event spaces Anaheim

Disneyland will reopen on April 30, and reservations are available now. Many blockbuster attractions will be open, but there will be no parades or fireworks. The sold-out A Touch of Disney tasting event will run through April 19.

The longstanding Disneyland Resort is as much a spectacular piece of pop art as it is a set of theme parks. Incorporating two parks—the 60-plus-year-old, near-mythic Disneyland, and the younger, recently revamped Disney California Adventure—the resort calls itself “the Happiest Place on Earth.” And if you bring the right mood with you, it’ll likely live up to its nickname. There’s something for everyone here: roller coasters, stage shows, fireworks, family-friendly rides and familiar properties ranging from princesses and Pixar pals to Marvel and Star Wars (which now has its own astounding land with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge).

Before you go, make sure to check out the best Disneyland rides as well as the best things to eat.

wizarding world of harry potter hollywood
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

2. Universal Studios

Attractions Theme parks Universal City

Universal Studios will reopen on April 16. Reservations are required. The Taste of Universal food event will continue to run until a few days before the park’s full opening.

Though the rides lack both Disneyland’s charm and the sheer terror inspired by Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood’s hillside theme park has carved out its own stable of worthwhile thrills fueled by silver-screen memories. You’ll find some slick motion rides mixed with familiar properties like Transformers, The SimpsonsJurassic World and Despicable Me alongside the surprisingly memorable studio tour tram ride. While some of the park’s less-than-stellar relics remain, the introduction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and its centerpiece thrill ride has injected some much-needed magic into the park (look out for Super Nintendo World, too, in the future).

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chris Yarzab

3. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Things to do Los Angeles

Six Flags is open. Reservations are required.

Six Flags delivers adrenaline-pumping thrills for strong-stomached visitors. While there are some gentle rides here, the park is most famous for the ones that’ll push your heart into your mouth and your lunch onto the person sitting in front of you. The half-hearted theming leaves much to be desired and the lines can become oppressively long, but unforgettable thrills like X2, Tatsu, Goliath and more than a dozen other coasters make up for that fact. It’s a raucous place, both on the rides and off them: If you’ve got very young kids in tow, Disneyland and Universal Studios are both better bets.

Silver Bullet at Knott's Berry Farm.
Photograph: Courtesy Knott's Berry Farm

4. Knott’s Berry Farm

Things to do Buena Park

Knott’s will reopen on May 21. Reservations will be available April 26. For now, you can visit the park’s Taste of Boysenberry Festival through May 2.

Although Ma Knott and her family are long gone, her jams and fried chicken dinner are still on sale. But on the whole, the folks at Knott’s Berry Farm have realized that it can’t get by on nostalgia (and boysenberry-flavored treats) alone: There seems to have been a concerted effort of late to haul this formerly old-fashioned enterprise into the 21st century. A few tame, nostalgia-fueled attractions remain, but much of the park has given way to compact roller coasters and kid-friendly Snoopy tie-ins. You won’t find many magical moments or flights of sheer terror, but there’s something to be said for a compact park with cheap admission and manageable wait times.

Pacific Park
Photograph: Courtesy Pacific Park

5. Pacific Park

Attractions Theme parks Downtown Santa Monica

Pacific Park is open. Advance ride ticket purchases are recommended. Enter through the east gate, behind the Playland Arcade.

Considered the focal point of Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier includes Pacific Park, a traditional set-up stocked with a Ferris wheel, aquarium, fairground games and cotton candy stands. It’s a busy spot to say the least, especially on warm weekends. The carnival attractions are nothing amazing, though the roller coaster and Ferris wheel certainly have their oceanfrot setting going for them; consider shelling out for an unlimited wristband if you’ll be going on more than just those two.

6. Legoland California Resort

Attractions Theme parks San Diego

Legoland has reopened select attractions and will open more widely on April 15. Its outdoor playgrounds are currently open, too.

More so than any other park, there’s a real tight age window for getting the most out of Legoland. If you’re a kid obsessed with those buildable bricks—and who wasn’t—then you’ll love its worlds of knights and pirates alongside licensed properties like Star Wars and internal lines like Ninjago. But the tyke-sized coasters aren’t likely to hold parents’ attention. That said, they may enjoy Miniland USA, which features more than 32 million LEGO bricks in its globe-spanning dioramas.

SeaWorld San Diego
Photograph: Courtesy Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego

7. SeaWorld San Diego

Attractions Theme parks San Diego

Sea World is open. Reservations are required.

The home of Shamu has faced an uphill battle in a post-Blackfish world, but that hasn’t stopped millions of people from still visiting the San Diego aquatic park each year. You’ll find that Seaworld is increasingly turning its attention toward non-marine mammal entertainment—the park touts an observation tower, gondola ride, motion simulator, log flume and Manta, a twisty, low-flying roller coaster.

See more Los Angeles attractions

Griffith Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Pedro Szekely

Los Angeles attractions for tourists and natives alike

Things to do

L.A. covers a staggeringly huge amount of land (and ocean), so it’s no surprise that the list of Los Angeles attractions is equally impressive. If you’re a tourist looking for things to do, you’ll find plenty of vacation inspiration, from Hollywood tours to a day at the one the city’s best beaches. And locals, you may discover ways to fall in love with the city all over again in our extensive list of Los Angeles attractions.


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