What's a better summer vacay than hitting up one (or all!) of the best amusements parks? And if you're heading to California, there are tons worth visiting. Seriously, hop in your car — either with a group of your friends or with your family — and get ready to fork up some serious dough for a magical, adrenaline-pumping experience you won't soon forget. It's totally worth it.
From the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios to Southern California's first water coaster, California has it all.
Here are the best amusement parks in The Golden State.
1. Best amusement park roller coaster
Six Flags Magic Mountain
26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia
Whether it's looping 160 feet in the sky or the 70 mph speeds, Six Flags Magic Mountain's Full Throttle is the No. 1 tallest and fastest looping roller coaster in the world.
2. Best theme park thrill ride
Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
Be warned — the Knott’s Berry Farm Supreme Scream ride, located on the park's boardwalk, is a 45-second ride that hits a top speed of 50 mph as it propels riders 252 feet straight up into the air, where you will experience three seconds of weightlessness before being plummeted back to Earth. We recommend riding this thriller before lunch.
3. Best theme park for families
Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure
1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim
The "happiest place on Earth" offers two great amusement parks for every member of your family. With baby centers that include facilities for diaper changing, nursing and bottle feeding throughout Disneyland, Disney's California Adventure and the Downtown Disney District (1580 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim), visitors young and old can have fun with the comforts of home while hanging with the Disney family of characters.
4. Best amusement park for adults
Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Hollywood magic is brought to life when you get a VIP pass to Universal Studios' movie-based theme park. While there are attractions and shows for every age, this amusement park is best suited for teens and adults due to loud noises, high action and lifelike special effects. Plus, Universal Studios has the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Can't go wrong with HP.
Next: Best water park
A version of this article was originally published in June 2011.
5. Best water park
111 Raging Waters Drive, San Dimas
Nestled inside the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park's boundaries, Southern California's largest water park is packed with seasonal water park fun. With a lazy river, rafting slides and body slides at every thrill level and water play areas and gentle water fun designed especially for babies and preschoolers, you can cool off while having a sizzling good time.
6. Best theme park for kids
1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad
This Lego-themed amusement park uses its famous plastic building blocks everywhere they can, including their rides. Legoland offers fun for older and younger visitors, but is best for families with kids ages 4 to 9 years old.
7. Best amusement park for teens
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
1001 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo
Take thrilling roller coasters, wild animals and marine life, and you're guaranteed a day of fun. With thrill rides for the adventure seeker and family-friendly fun, you'll feel safe letting your teens spend time exploring the park on their own. Plus, the Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster — the world's first dual-looping coaster — arrives at the park this spring!
Quick tip: To save some dough while having some amusement park fun, pack your own picnic lunch. Many theme parks, such as Disneyland's Downtown Disney, have a picnic area just outside the park to allow visitors to eat their own fare. Just check out the websites of the seven best theme parks in California before you go and be prepared for some big-time fun!