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Best Southern California Theme Parks by Age Group

Our frog squad goes to Southern California theme parks for big-time FUN and for family quality time. Whenever we head out to a new park, we want the whole family to enjoy it. Luckily, all of the Southern California theme parks offer a little something for everyone.

You will find that some theme parks in California are better suited for toddlers and younger children. Other parks are better for teenagers, parents, and grandparents. If you've ever wondered whether a theme park is appropriate for your toddler, teenager, grandma or so on, then this post is for you. We are the frog theme park experts, after all! We're breaking down the Southern California theme parks by age group to guide you on your next adventure. Ribbit.

Best Southern California Theme Parks for Toddlers

Southern California theme parks by age - Dumbo

Best: Disneyland - The place where all of the magic began, Disneyland Park is home to the childhood classics Dumbo, Peter Pan's Flight and "it's a small world." It's also the only theme park in California where you can hug a Pooh bear and high-five Mickey. Many of the rides without height requirements can accommodate three people, so parents can take two small children on a ride or two parents can ride together with their child. Toon Town has places to climb and touch, and the restaurants have great choices for toddlers.

Other good theme parks in California for toddlers:

Disney California Adventure - Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Disneyland, Disney California Adventure toddlers and preschoolers can shake it off with favorite Disney Jr. characters at the Disney Jr. Dance Party. The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail offers some shady areas to run freely, play, slide and climb. The Little Mermaid-Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Monsters Inc, are great slow rides for little ones, and more rides for toddlers and preschoolers are to come as Pixar Pier is further developed. Until then, there are not as many rides for young children, since A Bug’s Land closed. Check the Disneyland height requirements before you visit.

 

SeaWorld San Diego - At Sesame Street's Bay of Play, little ones can go for a ride on Abby's Sea Star Spin and Elmo's Flying Fish plus meet their favorite Sesame Street friends! Plus little ones love meeting new sea life animal friends.

Best Southern California Theme Parks for Elementary Age

Southern California theme parks by age - LEGOLAND California

Best: LEGOLAND California - The rides and many playgrounds within the park are geared toward ages 2 to 12, making it the perfect park for preschool through elementary school children. LEGOLAND also boasts of only "pink-knuckle rides," so there are plenty of kicks but no super-scary thrills. There are water play areas inside Legoland, so definitely bring a swimsuit. Kids will love exploring the Aquarium and can spend all day in the Legoland Water Park, which offers different play areas that appeal to specific age groups.

Other good theme parks in California for elementary kids:

Disneyland Park - The perfect mix of incredible theming and daring adventure can be found in Walt's back yard. I'm looking at you, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones Adventure!

Disney California Adventure – With the immersive Cars Land, recently renovated Pixar Pier, Frozen – Live at the Hyperion show and Toy Story Midway Mania, Disney California Adventure has been growing in popularity for elementary-age kids. This is where they can try their first upside-down roller-coaster — the Incredicoaster — and maybe even get soaked on Grizzly River Run. They also love running around and climbing the very high Redwood Creek Challenge Trail while also trying out challenges that are built just for them like the sliding tire swing and climbing wall.

Southern California theme parks by age - rays at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld San Diego - With its mix of moderate thrill rides, animal shows and hands-on animal encounters (hello, rays!), SeaWorld San Diego is great for kids of all ages, but especially elementary children.

Best Southern California Theme Parks for Tweens

Best: Disney California Adventure - The biggest thrill rides at Disney California Adventure — Radiator Springs Racers, the Incredicoaster, Grizzly River Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission — BREAKOUT! — are perfect for the tween set. Plus, there are plenty of character encounters, Instagrammable photograph walls and opportunities for Disney fun!

Other good theme parks in California for tweens:

Disneyland Park - Next to Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Park has a great range of rides such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Star Tours — The Adventures Continue — geared for tweens.

Knott's Berry Farm - America's first theme park offers a mix of fun and thrill rides like Sierra Sidewinder, Ghost Rider and Pony Express, perfect for the tween set. Visit Ghost Town where kids and tweens can pan for gold, or visit a Blacksmith Shop and an old Schoolhouse. During the summer months, Ghost Town Alive! will capure the attention of tweens as they work to solve mysteries, perform tasks, search for clues and interact with the Ghost Town citizens.

Universal Studios Hollywood- Young muggles and wizards alike will feel like they attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in their visit to the Wizarding World. Perhaps they’ll be chosen for a wand pairing or purchase an interactive wand to perform magic in the shop windows of Hogsmeade. Tweens love rides like Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Transformers: The Ride-3D and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Best Southern California Theme Parks for Teens

Southern California theme parks by age - Twisted Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain

Best: Six Flags Magic Mountain - Teen-age thrill-seekers will find plenty of action at Six Flags Magic Mountain, which boasts more roller coasters than any other theme park in the world including Twisted Colossus, Tatsu, Full Throttle and the 4-D X2!

Other good theme parks in California for teens:

Southern California theme parks by age - Casting a Spell at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood - With the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this park is now fully catering to the teen and young adult set, not to mention the muggles and wizards among us all.

Southern California theme parks by age - Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm - By its own categorization, Knott's is home to thirteen "aggressive thrill" rides like the 82-mile-per-hour Xcelerator roller coaster, the twisting Silver Bullet and Hang Time. Hang Time is the first and only dive coaster in California, with the steepest, 96-degree drop and a negative-g stall loop. But it’s hovering at the top for 10 seconds, staring down at a disappearing track that will keep thrill-loving teens lining up for it again and again. Teens also shoot for the VR Showdown in Ghost Town.

 

Disney California Adventure - Toadally fun drops on Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission — BREAKOUT! are just the start to making a day of teen fun! Tad is a big fan! The Incredicoaster sends teens on an adventure with the Incredibles. Teens also love the many selfie opportunities such as photo walls, colorful foods (looking at you, Pixar Pier Parfait and Memory Boosters) and meeting favorite characters.

Best Southern California Theme Parks for Adults

Southern California theme parks by age - Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Best: Universal Studios Hollywood - While Universal Studios Hollywood continues to add more kid-friendly attractions, the heart of this theme park — the Studio Tour through the back lot of the working Universal studio — has high appeal to movie buffs. Muggles and wizards alike flock to this park for their Butterbeer fix in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then hop over to try real Duff Beer and take the opportunity to hang out in Moe’s Tavern in Springfield USA. Adults can get their horror thrills year-round by experiences The Walking Dead.

Other good theme parks in California for adults:

Disneyland - There is no better place in the world to channel your inner child than Disneyland, with its heavy dose of nostalgia and whimsy. The roller coasters are just about the perfect speed for many adults and we can never get enough of the parades, shows like Fantasmic! and fireworks. 

Disney California AdventureThere’s something for every kind of adult from the thrill-seekers to shoppers to the foodies in this park. The seasonal changes have us coming back again and again. Many of our favorite Disney foods are in this park, especially during festivals like the Food & Wine Festival, the Festival of Holidays, and Lunar New Year. Adults love chilling with a fun themed drink and tasty eats at the Lamplight Lounge or Carthay Circle lounge and restaurant. Then the breathtaking World of Color makes a magical ending to the night.

SeaWorld San Diego - With its family-friendly shows, animal exhibits and thrill rides like Electric Eel, Journey to Atlantis and Manta, this park offers plenty to wonder at and enjoy.  

Best Southern California Theme Parks for Seniors

Southern California theme parks by age - WaterWorld at Universal Studios Hollywood

Best: Universal Studios Hollywood - This theme park that sprang up — literally — around a real-life, working movie studio offers fantastic shows and the world-famous Studio Tour through the Lower Lot. Make sure not to miss WaterWorld. While the movie was a flop, the show offers some of best pyrotechnics and stunts that side of the Mississippi. Other shows like the Special Effects Show and the Animal Actors Stage are hits.

Other good theme parks in California for seniors: 

SeaWorld San Diego - This magnificently landscaped park is home to incredible animal exhibits and aquariums. The Bay Side Sky Ride and Sky Tower offer beautiful views of San Diego Bay and the surrounding area.

Southern California theme parks by age - Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe

Disneyland Park - Walt's vision for a place where families could come together remains in place at the Happiest Place on Earth. Catch a parade or pull up a chair at the Jolly Holiday Bakery and people watch with Sleeping Beauty Castle as the backdrop! Disneyland is our favorite theme park for a multigenerational family trip as it truly has something for everyone.

Southern California theme park experts, what do you think? Agree with my choices? What are your favorite Southern California theme parks by age group? Share in comments below.

Related: The Best Orlando Theme Parks By Age Group

Related: Tips for Preparing to Visit Disney World with Kids

Related: Top Orlando Thrill Rides for Little Ones and Height Requirements

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments
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May 15, 2018 at 8:08 p.m. Suzikae Says...

Thanks for thr great info

Reply
Oct 9, 2017 at 9:16 p.m. Janelle Says...

It's not true that Legoland is geared more towards 2-12 years old. It's more like 5 -12 . I took my 2 and 4 year old and they weren't allowed on most of the rides so we decided to hang out at the water park all day where they really enjoyed it.

Reply
Feb 24, 2017 at 12:12 a.m. Aerioul Says...

Adults like roller coasters too. I'm 40 and I'm looking for the park with the best rides. I don't just want to sit around.

Reply
Feb 18, 2015 at 11:34 p.m. Grandma Tomer Says...

After reading thru Knotts -36" and up on most rides - some too fast for little people, 225 lb weight limit if accompanying a 35 lb child it could be troublesome.

In my opinion - not really "small child" friendly.

You hit it on the Head with Lego Land ! Went there with my then just 2 year old 34" grand daughter - and she had more than enough to do .

Reply
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