One thing all great theme parks have in common is the entrance. It’s a starting point, an opening to a world of adventure. Whether it be adventures aquatic, cinematic, or fantastic, there must be a way to get in. And at each entrance, there are maps for the adventurer to traverse the terrain, to find their next adventure, their next food or drink, or just to find the next bathroom.
A lot of options exist for your hard-earned entertainment dollar. pingroof.com has provided you with a new entrance point; allow me to be your map to the fun.
As your Southern California Adventure Park Examiner, I’ll be bringing you the latest and greatest from all the great park options in So Cal from Valencia to San Diego and everything in between. We’ll check out all the new attractions, entertainment options, restaurants and food choices, and shopping these great theme parks offer, as well as take a look at your current favorites and even some reminiscing on former loves. We’ll also have the latest news and rumors on the So Cal Adventure Park scene, so you’re in the know whether you’re coming to visit or an established local.
Here are some of the major attractions you can expect to learn more about in this section of pingroof.com, from north to south:
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Opened: May 29, 1971
Ranking number one in the world with number of roller coasters at 17, Six Flags Magic Mountain has seen its share of problems in the 1990s and 2000s, including gang problems and buyout threats from real estate companies with bulldozers at the ready. But these days it looks like the magic is back at the Valencia, California thrill park. Featuring the Looney Tunes as their in-park characters, the park is home to many historical milestones, such as the first steel coaster to have a modern 360-degree loop (Revolution), the highest vertical loop (Viper), and the world’s tallest drop tower (Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom). Valencia also hosts a sister water park, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.
Latest & Greatest: Six Flags Magic Mountain is gearing up for their annual “Fright Fest,” beginning October 5. Recently opened at the park, “Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom” is the world’s tallest drop tower, reaching a terminal velocity of 85 mph.
Can’t Miss: “X2” and “Tatsu” both feature unique seating in their cars providing a flying sensation. The former is one of the wildest rides in the park, and one of the few worth waiting the extra time for a front or back seat for.
Tickets: General Admission starts at $64.99. Discounts are available online as well as for advanced purchases.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal City, California
Opened: July 15, 1964
Though the theme park didn’t open until 1964, Universal Studio’s famous Studio Tour has traversed the film studio’s operational backlot since film production began in Universal City in 1915, where admission was only a nickel, and included a chicken box lunch. Today, Universal Studios Hollywood still runs a Studio Tour of the backlot, but now operates it as more of an attraction, along with “The Simpsons Ride,” “Jurassic Park: The Ride,” and “Revenge of the Mummy,” among others. Universal Studios includes a mix of thrill and family-friendly rides, along with the nearby CityWalk, a retail and dining district.
Latest & Greatest: “Transformers: The Ride” thrusts thrill-seekers into the film’s universe, as the Autobots try to protect the AllSpark from the Decepticons.
Can’t Miss: “Jurassic Park: The Ride” puts riders face-to-face with the reborn “terrible lizards” in a water-ride setting. During the upcoming “Halloween Horror Nights,” the ride will temporarily reinvent itself as “Jurassic Park In the Dark.”
Tickets: It’s a little more than a nickel these days; general admission is $80. However, So Cal residents can buy a year-long pass for the same price via a special offer on the Universal Studios Hollywood website.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Buena Park, California
Knott’s Berry Farm started as just that – a berry farm located along Beach Boulevard, the main route to the beaches of Orange County in California’s early years. In order to make ends meet, Walter Knott asked his wife, Cordelia, to begin serving a chicken dinner in a tea room on their personal wedding china. She did, under duress, with dessert being a slice of homemade pie made with a brand new cross-bred berry, the “boysenberry.” Eventually lines became so long that Walter began developing amusements to entertain diners until their table was ready. These days, the wait to Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant can still be lengthy, but at least there’s 41 rides to keep park-goers busy in this Western-inspired theme park that often touts itself as “America’s First Theme Park.” Across the street is Knott’s sister park, Knott’s Soak City.
Latest & Greatest: Knott’s Berry Park will soon turn into Knott’s Scary Park as “Knott’s Halloween Haunt” kicks off on September 21. The annual event, which celebrates its 40th year in 2012, is the largest Halloween event to be held at a theme park in the world, and is often on lists of Top Halloween Events worldwide.
Can’t Miss: The entire park was built to support a restaurant, so one may be remiss if one doesn’t dine at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Dig in to some crispy fried chicken and sip on some boysenberry punch that’s just as tasty as when Cordelia Knott made it herself. And the lines can be just as long, so prepare yourself. Park admission is not required to dine.
Tickets: General admission is $57.99. Discounts can be found on Knott’s Berry Farm’s website.
Opened: July 17, 1955
It’s considered the big daddy of the Southern California Adventure Parks; the Disneyland Resort consists of the original Disneyland Park, conceived, constructed, and opened by Walt Disney himself in 1955, and Disney California Adventure Park, which opened in 2001 and has recently been renovated with the addition of a new entryway and new themed land. The resort also features three Disney-owned hotels and the free-to-enter Downtown Disney district, a retail and dining district akin to Universal Studios Hollywood’s CityWalk. Featuring beloved Disney characters as well as the cavalcade of Pixar characters, the Disneyland Resort is known for entertaining the young and the young-at-heart
Latest & Greatest: Disney California Adventure has just received an expansion with the brand-new Cars Land, which includes the new attraction “Radiator Springs Racers.” The entry plaza has also been re-imagined as Buena Vista Street, a throwback to how California may have looked when the Disney family arrived in the 1920s.
Can’t Miss: It’s almost a crime to label just one thing as a “can’t miss” at the Disneyland Resort, but if one has never been, you may want to introduce yourself to one of the people responsible for everything in Anaheim, Mickey Mouse! You can usually find him and his Disney pals throughout both parks, but often times you can just find him at his house in Mickey’s Toontown, toward the north end of the park.
Tickets: It’s not cheap to keep all this magic running… A one-day, one-park ticket runs for $87, but to experience both parks, a one-day Park Hopper goes for $125. Multiple day tickets can save in the long run; discounts can also be found online.
Opened: March 20, 1999
The new kid on the block, Legoland California takes the adventures kids think up with their LEGO bricks and brings them to life. Aimed at the younger thrillseeker, Legoland boasts several life-sized Lego models of everything from safari animals to pirate ships, built by Master Model Builders who have an accessible shop inside Miniland U.S.A. Legoland also has a water park on property and a Sea Life aquarium.
Latest & Greatest: “Pirate Reef” is a shoot-the-chute water ride that recently opened this year, akin to Six Flags Magic Mountain’s “Tidal Wave.”
Can’t Miss: While there may not be a whole lot for older kids to do, any age will be amazed at the LEGO structures throughout the park.
Tickets: General admission to Legoland only is $75, but hopper tickets are available which include admission to Sea Life aquarium, Legoland Water Park, or all three. Discounted tickets are also available online.
Sea World San Diego
San Diego, California
While Sea World San Diego may not be the most thrill-laden theme park, it definitely registers as an adventure park, home to thrill rides, water rides, aquatic animal exhibits and oceanarium. Sea World San Diego allows adventurers to get up close and personal with dolphins, manta rays, and other various aquatic creatures.
Latest & Greatest: “Manta” takes you from seeing what manta rays look like to actually being one. Opened in 2012, it is Sea World San Diego’s newest ocean-themed thrill ride.
Can’t Miss: Shamu, of course! This “star” of Sea World San Diego holds performances daily in Shamu Stadium. Watch out… the first few rows aren’t known as “Splash Zones” for nothing!
Tickets: General admission starts at $73, but discounted tickets can be found online. Also, as Sea World San Diego has no other parks on its resort property, they will often offer package deals with other parks, such as the San Diego Zoo or Universal Studios Hollywood.