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A Guide to SoCal's Major Theme Parks

610 header tea party
(credit: Disney Parks)

Southern California boasts a wide assortment of major amusement parks including thrills and chills for the most daring and bravest of souls, whimsical nods to childhood delights, and themed environments that can transplant you to a wonderful variety of places. Here's your handy guide to SoCal amusement parks, in order of their establishment.

What are your favorite theme parks in Southern California? Share in the comments below!
knotts berry farm
(credit: Knotts Berry Farm)

Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 220-5200

Opened in 1940, this earliest of SoCal amusement parks is situated on 160 acres that originally housed the Knott family's berry farm, where they sold preserves, pies, berries, and other berry themed treats in addition to their fried chicken dinners that began in 1934. Now owned by the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, the park boast over 40 rides including thrilling roller coasters and unique frights for the adult set, family rides, Camp Snoopy, a dedicated kid's area with plenty of tot-sized fun, water rides, and historical nods to California's gold panning past, including a replica Ghost Town. During the month of October, Knott's turns into the scariest theme park around for their 'Knott's Scary Farm', which boasts haunted houses, scare zones and more.

(credit: Disney Parks)

Disneyland Park
1313 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 781-7277

The most iconic of all Southern California amusement parks, Disneyland Park, which opened on July 17, 1955 is self-dubbed "The Happiest Place on Earth." As the original Disney theme park, and the standard upon which all other immersive theme parks have been based, the park's eight themed lands sit on 85 acres in what was once an unassuming orange grove in the city of Anaheim. Disney magic is evident in every nook and cranny of this immaculately maintained park, offering fun for families, couples, young, and old throughout the delightful park.

Universal Studios Universal Plaza
(credit: Universal Studios)

Universal Studios
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
(800) 864-8377

Universal Studios Hollywood Tours opened to fans in the summer of 1964, as a way of promoting the country's growing fascination with the movie industry; tour participants were allowed to walk through dressing rooms and take a glimpse at movies in production on the famous studio. Throughout the years that followed, Universal began adding staged elements to their now famous tour, and physical attractions were added to the park by as early as 1965. Today, the park features a revamped tour, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, and a dozen other attractions including 'Transformers: The Ride', 'Waterworld', 'Jurassic Park: The Ride', 'The Simpsons Ride' and much more. Next door, you can browse the multitude of restaurants and shops at CityWalk as well. This three-block promenade is where visitors and L.A. residents go to dine, shop and be entertained. Live music, clubs, great food and more awaits you.

SeaWorld Blue Horizons Show -Courtesy SeaWorld
(credit: SeaWorld)

SeaWorld San Diego
500 Sea World Dr.
San Diego, CA 92109
(619) 226-3901

Also opened in 1964, SeaWorld San Diego, the first SeaWorld park, began as a marine zoological park boasting a few dolphins, sea lions, and two seawater aquariums on display. Today, the park offers not only an incredible selection of interactive animal shows, but also thrill rides, water rides, and an entire play area and rides for the littlest animal lovers. Among the rides and attractions are 'Shipwreck Rapids', 'Riptude Rescue', and the 'Wild Arctic Ride' which boasts a flight simulator that embarks on a thrilling jet-helicopter ride. Shows, exhibits and more also are offered at SeaWorld. Among the most popular are the Sea Lions Live Show where you'll get to enjoy hilarious spoofs performed by the sea lion comedy team.

Six Flags Magic Mountain
(credit: Chester H./Yelp)

Six Flags Magic Mountain
26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy.
Valencia, CA 91355
(661) 255-4100\

Six Flags Magic Mountain, which opened in time for the 1971 summer season, sits on a sprawling 272 acres just north of Los Angeles in Valencia, California. The park, known for its emphasis on thrills, brought to life the first permanent 360 loop steel roller coaster, dubbed the Great American Revolution, which began its coaster craze. These days, Magic Mountain boasts 19 coasters, a world-record for the most coasters in any theme park. If you're in the mood to be wowed and thrilled, Magic Mountain is certainly the place to go.

(credit: LEGOLAND)

LEGOLAND California
1 Legoland Dr.
Carlsbad, CA 92008
(760) 918-5346

Fans of the brick building toy LEGOS should definitely head to LEGOLAND California, which opened in 1999. The park's rides are definitely bent toward the younger set, with no major thrill rides built with an adult focus in mind. But don't let that sway you. Ddults who grew up on the toys will love checking out the models throughout the park, including Miniland, U.S.A., a recreated depiction of numerous cities across the United States.

Cars Land
(credit: Disney Parks)

Disney California Adventure
1313 Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802
(714) 781-4565

Southern California's most recently opened amusement park, Disney California Adventure, which first opened in 2001, just underwent a massive expansion and park renovation making this a Disney theme park to be reckoned with. You won't want to miss Cars Land where you can walk down the streets of Radiator Springs and ride the Racers through the beautifully designed and immersive desert landscape. Adults and thrill seekers will enjoy Disney's sister park as it offers a few unique twists: here you'll find both thrilling coasters and drop rides as well as the sale of alcohol, which is prohibited at the original Disneyland park.

What are your favorite theme parks in Southern California? Share in the comments below!

Katie Bodell is the Blog Editor for Trekaroo, the largest family travel website in the U.S. She is also a freelance writer, a happy wife to her best friend, and a mom to three sweet California girls. See more on: Trekaroo | CheapOair | Google+ | Twitter.

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