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California Theme Parks and Amusement Parks

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Knott's Berry Farm 001  At Knott's Berry Farm
rollercoasterphilosophy/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Walt Disney began the theme park revolution at Disneyland in a sleepy Anaheim orange grove and forever changed our notions of entertainment and vacations, let alone the amusement industry. That sleepy orange grove is now a destination resort with two parks, hotels, and more. While Disneyland remains the nexus of California's theme parks, there are a number of other noteworthy parks.

Before we get to the state's park listings, here are some resources to help you plan your next visit:

Parks are arranged alphabetically:

Adventure City
Stanton (near Anaheim)
(714) 236-9300
A small park for young children. In Disneyland's shadows, it caters more to the locals.

Belmont Park
San Diego
(858) 488-1549
A seaside amusement park. Home to the great Giant Dipper wooden coaster.

Bonfante Gardens
Gilroy (near San Jose)
The park, which changed its name in 2007, is now known as Gilroy Gardens. (See below.)

California's Great America
Santa Clara (near San Francisco)
Major park.

Castle Park
Riverside
(909) 785-3000
Huge family entertainment center with an arcade, mini-golf, and a small ride park.

Children's Fairyland
Oakland
(510) 452-2259
Small lakeside storybook park

Disneyland Resort
Anaheim
(714) 781-4565
Where it all began. Now features two theme parks, three hotels, Downtown Disney, and more.

Disney California Adventure
Anaheim
Disneyland's second park.

Funderland
Sacramento
(916) 456-0115
Small park for young children.

Gilroy Gardens
Gilroy (near San Jose)
The park, which changed its name in 2007, used to be known as Bonfante Gardens.

Great America
Santa Clara (near San Francisco)
The park is now known as "California's Great America." (See above.)

Knott's Berry Farm
Buena Park (Next to Anaheim)
(714) 220-5200
The Farm picked up some attitude when the Cedar Point folks bought the park a few years ago. Now you can get toasted on some wild coasters to go along with your boysenberry jam. Adjacent waterpark.

Legoland California
Carlsbad (near San Diego)
(760) 918-5346
Geared to younger children, this charming park takes the ubiquitous toy building blocks and transforms them into enchanting attractions.

Pacific Park
Santa Monica
(310) 260-8744
Classic-style seaside pier park, built in 1996.

Paramount's Great America
Santa Clara (near San Francisco)
NOTE: Paramount sold the park. It is now known as "California's Great America." (See above.)

Pixieland Amusement Park
Concord
(925) 689-8841
Small park for young children.

Rotary Storyland and Playland
Fresno
(559) 486-2124
Fairy tale-themed park for young children.

San Diego Zoo & The San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego and Escondido (near San Diego)
619-234-3153
No roller coasters or other rides, but among the nation's finest zoos.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz (between, Monterey and San Francisco)
(831) 423-5590
Classic seaside amusement park with three coasters, including the vintage 1924 Giant Dipper.

Scandia Amusement Park
Ontario (near Los Angeles)
Also operates family fun centers in Victorville, CA and Sacramento, CA
Small park with a junior steel coaster, thrill and kiddie rides, plus go-karts, 2 mini-golf courses, and bating cages.

SeaWorld San Diego
San Diego
(619) 226-3901
Shamu's West Coast digs.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Vallejo (near San Francisco)
Hybrid zoo/oceanarium/amusement park

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Valencia (near Los Angeles)
(661) 255-4100
Affiliated water park: Six Flags California Hurricane Harbor
A cutting-edge thrill ride park with an incredible arsenal of roller coasters.

Six Flags Marine World
Vallejo (near San Francisco)
Now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. (See above.)

Tahoe Amusement Park
Lake Tahoe
(530) 541-1300
Small, classic-style park.

Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal City
(800) UNIVERSAL
An actual working Hollywood studio as well as a theme park.

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