These Are The 10 Best Amusement Parks And Water Parks In California For 2018


We used science and data to determine which amusement parks and water parks in California are the best to spend a day or weekend with the family.

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Just imagine:

You get off your favorite ride, jazzed up by the excitement, and on your way to get a uniquely American snack at your favorite amusement park.

Alright, now, open your eyes and come back to me for a moment as we go into where best to have that same experience in California. These are the water parks and amusement parks in {state} that have everything you could hope for in a day out with the family.

Using data from The Park DB, we were able to take a look at over 250 amusement and water parks across America, which includes California of course. After pouring over reams of data, Disney California Adventure Park emerged as the best park in the Golden State by a hefty margin.

Here’s a look at the best amusement parks and water parks in California for 2018:

  1. Disney California Adventure Park
  2. Legoland California
  3. Six Flags Magic Mountain
  4. Disneyland
  5. California’s Great America
  6. Universal Studios Hollywood
  7. SeaWorld San Diego
  8. Six Flags Marine World- Vallejo
  9. Raging Waters- San Dimas
  10. The San Francisco Dungeon

There are a whole lot of smiles and good memories wrapped up in those parks. Not to mention corn dogs, popcorn, roller coasters, and water slides.

Before you go out and buy your ticket to {first}, let’s take a look at how we ranked the parks on this list and what each of the top dogs has to offer.

If you’re looking for other family friendly things to do, check out the best farmers markets in California or the best cities for families in California.

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How We Ranked The Best Amusement Parks And Water Parks In California

If you haven’t check out The Park DB, we recommend it. It has all kinds of data on amusement parks big and small throughout the world.

Fortunately for us, they opened up their data set and let us take a look. So how do you rank the best amusement park in California? We looked at the following criteria:

  1. Size (How big is the park and how many rides are there)
  2. Price (Perhaps counter-intuitively initially, we did the higher the price the better. More on that)
  3. Age of the park (The newer the better)

We know your probably thinking ‘why is more expensive better?!’

Well, we believe in supply and demand and a higher price means that people must really want to go to the amusement park. It normally also means there’s either a strong brand associated with the park and/or plenty of things to do.

We also recognize that many water parks and amusement parks get renovations and additions throughout the years, but we still think newer is generally better.

If you disagree with our criteria, no offense taken. We are just trying to get the ball rolling on great places to spend a day or weekend in the Golden State.

So, with that out of the way, we ranked each park from best to worst for each of these criteria with one being the best. (If a park was missing criteria, it got the lowest score for that criteria).

We then averaged the rankings of each criteria to create an amusement park score and normalized it to 100.

For California, Disney California Adventure Park took the top spot with a score of 77.5.

Here’s a bit more on what the top parks have to offer.

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1. Disney California Adventure Park

Disney California Adventure Park

Score: 77.5

Disney California Adventure Park, commonly referred to as Disney California Adventure, California Adventure, or DCA, is a theme park located in Anaheim, California. It is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company through its Parks and Resorts division. The 72-acre (29 ha) park is themed after the history and culture of California, which celebrates the fun and adventure of the state through the use of various Disney, Pixar, and Marvel properties. The park opened in 2001 as Disney’s California Adventure Park, and it is the second of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort complex, after Disneyland Park.

The concept of a theme park dedicated to California arose from a meeting of Disney executives in 1995, following the cancellation of the WestCOT project. Construction of the park began in 1998 and was completed by early 2001. Disney initially projected high attendance rates at the new park, however, a series of preview openings held in January 2001 led to negative reviews, and after the park officially opened to the public on February 8, 2001, the company’s attendance projections were never met. Disney spent the next several years incrementally adding new rides, shows, and attractions, and implementing other promotions aimed at boosting attendance. In 2007, Disney announced a major expansion of the park as well as a major overhaul of a significant portion of the park. Construction lasted for five years and was completed in stages, culminating with the opening of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land in June 2012.

According to the Themed Entertainment Association, the park hosted approximately 9.4 million guests in 2015, making it the 11th-most visited theme park in the world that year.

2. Legoland California

Legoland California

Score: 77.5

Legoland California is a theme park, miniature park, and aquarium located in Carlsbad, California, based on the Lego toy brand. Opening on March 20, 1999, it was the third Legoland park to open, and the first outside Europe. The park is currently owned by Merlin Entertainments, which took a controlling interest in 2005. A second park in the United States, Legoland Florida, opened in 2011.

3. Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Score: 65.0

Six Flags Magic Mountain is a 262-acre (106 ha) theme park located in the Santa Clarita, California neighborhood of Valencia, 35 miles northwest of Downtown Los Angeles. It opened on May 30, 1971, as Magic Mountain, a development of the Newhall Land and Farming Company. In 1979, Six Flags purchased the park and added the name ‘Six Flags’ to the park\’s title.

With 19 roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain holds the world record for most roller coasters in an amusement park. In 2015, the park had an estimated 3.3 million visitors ranking it seventeenth in attendance in North America.

4. Disneyland

Disneyland

Score: 60.8

Disneyland Park, originally Disneyland, is the first of two theme parks built at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, opened on July 17, 1955. It is the only theme park designed and built under the direct supervision of Walt Disney. It was originally the only attraction on the property; its official name was changed to Disneyland Park to distinguish it from the expanding complex in the 1990s.

Walt Disney came up with the concept of Disneyland after visiting various amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s. He initially envisioned building a tourist attraction adjacent to his studios in Burbank to entertain fans who wished to visit; however, he soon realized that the proposed site was too small. After hiring a consultant to help him determine an appropriate site for his project, Disney bought a 160-acre (65 ha) site near Anaheim in 1953. Construction began in 1954 and the park was unveiled during a special televised press event on the ABC Television Network on July 17, 1955.

Since its opening, Disneyland has undergone a number of expansions and major renovations, including the addition of New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear Country (now Critter Country) in 1972, Mickey’s Toontown in 1993, and the forthcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. Opened in 2001, Disney California Adventure Park was built on the site of Disneyland’s original parking lot.

Disneyland has a larger cumulative attendance than any other theme park in the world, with over 650 million guests since it opened. In 2013, the park hosted approximately 16.2 million guests, making it the third most visited park in the world that calendar year. According to a March 2005 Disney report, 65,700 jobs are supported by the Disneyland Resort, including about 20,000 direct Disney employees and 3,800 third-party employees (independent contractors or their employees).

5. California’s Great America

California

Score: 60.0

California’s Great America is a 100-acre (40 ha) amusement park located in Santa Clara, California. Owned and operated by Cedar Fair, it originally opened as Marriott’s Great America in 1976 as one of two parks built and operated by the Marriott Corporation. The park has appeared in 1994 films Beverly Hills Cop III and Getting Even with Dad and features over 40 rides and attractions. One of its most notable attractions, Gold Striker, has been featured as a top-ranked wooden roller coaster in Amusement Today’s annual Golden Ticket Awards publication.

6. Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

Score: 52.5

Universal Studios Hollywood is a film studio and theme park in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County, California. About 70% of the studio lies within the unincorporated county island known as Universal City while the rest lies within the city limits of Los Angeles, California. It is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood film studios still in use. Its official marketing headline is ‘The Entertainment Capital of LA’. It was initially created to offer tours of the real Universal Studios sets and is the first of many full-fledged Universal Studios Theme Parks located across the world.

Outside the theme park, a new, all-digital facility near the Universal Studios backlot was built in an effort to merge all of NBCUniversal\’s West Coast operations into one area. As a result, the current home for KNBC, KVEA and NBC News with Telemundo Los Angeles Bureaus with new digital facility is on the Universal lot formerly occupied by Technicolor SA. Universal City includes hotels Universal Hilton & Towers, the Sheraton Universal Hotel, and Universal CityWalk, which offers a collection of shops, restaurants, an 18-screen Universal Cinema and a seven-story IMAX theater. In 2016, the park hosted 8,086,000 guests, ranking it 15th in the world and 9th among North American parks.

7. SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego

Score: 52.5

SeaWorld San Diego is an animal theme park, oceanarium, outside aquarium, and marine mammal park, located in San Diego, California, United States, inside the city’s Mission Bay Park. The park is owned by the City of San Diego and operated by SeaWorld Entertainment.

SeaWorld San Diego is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Adjacent to the property is the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, which conducts research on marine biology and provides education and outreach on marine issues to the general public, including information in park exhibits.

8. Six Flags Marine World- Vallejo

Six Flags Marine World- Vallejo

Score: 52.5

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (formerly known as Six Flags Marine World, Marine World, The New Marine World Theme Park, and Marine World Africa USA) is a 135-acre (55 ha) animal theme park located in Vallejo, California, roughly halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento on Interstate 80. The park includes a variety of roller coasters and other amusement rides. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has been part of the Six Flags chain of amusement parks since 1999. Daily Public Transportation to the park is provided by Amtrak Thruway’s 7 Route to Martinez station, Evans Transportation also provides daily service between a Courtyard by Marriott hotel adjacent to the northeastern border of the park and Oakland International Airport. Vallejo’s local public transit provider SolTrans serves the park Monday through Saturday, connecting the park with Fairfield Transportation Center, Vallejo Station, and other points in Southern Solano County.

9. Raging Waters- San Dimas

Raging Waters- San Dimas

Score: 46.7

Raging Waters is the name of three water theme parks located in Sacramento, San Dimas, and San Jose, California. They are the largest water parks in the state of California. The three parks are owned by Palace Entertainment but each contains different attractions. The three parks are generally closed during the winter months.

There are also parks named Raging Waters in Wildwood, New Jersey, but only the three California Raging Waters parks are owned by Palace Entertainment. Until early 2011, there was also a Raging Waters park in Salt Lake City, Utah, now operating as Seven Peaks Salt Lake.

10. The San Francisco Dungeon


Score: 45.8

The San Francisco Dungeon is a tourist attraction which recreates historical events using 360\xc2\xb0 sets, special effects, and live actors. Visitors walk through the Dungeon, and are guided through each show by professional actors. The attraction also contains a dark boat ride.

The San Francisco Dungeon was opened in June 2014, following the success of its European counterparts which include the London Dungeon and the Amsterdam Dungeon. The Dungeons are owned and operated by Merlin Entertainments.

Closing Out The Souvenir Shops In California

There you have it — a look at some of the best amusement parks and water parks that California has to offer. The Park DB constantly updates their data, so we’ll update the data as they update theirs.

Now go out there and have as much fun as humanly possible — your favorite ride is always waiting for you.

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