Our frog squad goes to the theme parks in California for big-time FUN and for family quality time. Whenever we head out to a new Southern California park, we want the whole family to enjoy it. Luckily, all of the theme parks in California 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 theme parks in California by age group to guide you on your next adventure. Ribbit!
Best Theme Parks in California for Toddlers
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 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. There are also shows and colorful parades that will hold a toddler’s attention.
Other good theme parks in California for toddlers:
Disney California Adventure - Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Disneyland, in 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 opening at Pixar Pier — Jessie’s Critter Carousel and the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind arrive in 2019. 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. Once the tadpoles reach 32 inches tall, a few Cars Land attractions open up for them.
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! Little ones love meeting new sea life animal friends.
LEGOLAND –Toddlers and preschoolers love the playgrounds and water play areas of LEGOLAND. It’s best to stick to rides with no height requirements. It can be more challenging for a parent with two small children to manage some of the rides built for two, so avoid those if you don’t have two adults in your party. The aquarium is sure to be a hit, and the water park has shallow areas designated for toddlers.
Best Theme Parks in California for Elementary Ages
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, none of which offer extreme thrills.
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 backyard. I'm looking at you, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones Adventure! The roller coasters are the right speed of exciting but not too scary and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge offers another world to explore as of May 31, 2019.
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, such as the sliding tire swing and climbing wall.
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.
Universal Studios Hollywood – With wizards, minions, dinosaurs, Transformers, Kung-Fu Panda and more, there is plenty of excitement for elementary-aged kids at Universal Studios Hollywood. Come December, the Grinch takes over on select days for a Seussian Who-liday spectacular the kids and parents alike will love.
Best Theme Parks in California 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. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s newest land, will be opening May 31, 2019, with exciting rides and characters that hold a lot of appeal for the tween set.
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 Theme Parks in California for Teens
Best: Six Flags Magic Mountain - Teenage thrill-seekers (and the parents that love them and love thrills) 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:
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.
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 steep 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 (such as the Pixar Pier Parfait and Memory Boosters) and meeting favorite characters, including Marvel Super Heroes. The arrival of a new Super Hero-themed land will further solidify this park as a teen favorite when it opens in 2020.
Best Theme Parks in California for Adults
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 experiencing The Walking Dead, but the adults who really love to be terrified are dying to get to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood.
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 such as Fantasmic! and fireworks.Adults who grew up with the Star Wars movies are counting the minutes until they can immerse themselves in the alien planet of Batuu in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, fly the Millennium Falcon, locate the droids they are looking for and have a drink in Oga’s Cantina.
Disney California Adventure – There’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 Theme Parks in California for Seniors
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.
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 — parades, fireworks and plenty of nostalgia.
Disney California Adventure - Come Food & Wine Festival time in the spring, my mom is hopping to go to Disney California Adventure with me to enjoy a mimosa flight, catch a seminar, listen to some jazz from Phat Cat Swinger and taste her way around the park. With year-round wine tasting, fine dining, holiday food booths and breathtaking shows like World of Color, Disney California Adventures changes the way grandparents view theme parks.
Southern California theme park experts, what do you think? Agree with my choices? What are your favorite theme parks in California by age group? Share in comments below.