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Feel the full-body rush of pure adrenaline on huge roller coasters or kick back with the fam on kid-friendly rides. Northern California’s awesome amusement parks are what family vacation dreams are made of. Discover a diverse collection of theme parks that clustered around the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento.
From old-fashioned fun at the seaside to the wildest rides around, find what thrills you – and then come back for more.
California’s Great America in Santa Clara
Scream your lungs out on heart-pounding rides that take no prisoners. Feel your stomach flip-flop on the Flight Deck, a looping roller coaster with a zero-gravity roll. Be sure to check the Gold Striker off your list – it’s the fastest, tallest wooden coaster in Northern California. Designed for teens and adults looking for the ultimate thrill, this huge amusement park is located in Silicon Valley right next to the new Levi’s Stadium.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo
Situated between San Francisco and Sacramento, this animal amusement park delivers major excitement and exotic adventures. It’s home to the Dare Devil, an exhilarating roller coaster that goes forward and backward. Swing into the clouds on the Sky Screamer or hit the water rides to cool down. Play games on the family boardwalk and check out the animal encounters. You can swim with dolphins, sleep with sharks, and feed giraffes, seals, and sea lions.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on the Seaside
Eat an ice cream cone on the gondola and let your feet dangle over the boardwalk. Play old-fashioned carnival games or wander down to the beach to take a break in the surf. Stretching for a mile on sandy Santa Cruz beach, this oceanfront theme park offers the amusements of yesteryear in a classic boardwalk setting. It’s impossible not to be swept away by the vintage charm of the Giant Dipper roller coaster or the Looff Carousel.
Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park
Inspired by California’s farms, fruits, and vegetables, this garden-themed amusement park features kid-friendly specialty rides. Its low-key whirls and twirls are perfect for toddlers and small children. Six botanical gardens provide wonder and awe, and some even have unique touring options – including rides on recreated Model-T cars, steam trains, and boats. Dotted through the park are the whimsical “Circus Trees,” living works of art with funky shapes and features.
Children’s Fairyland in Oakland
Tiny tots also love this small-scale fun park on the shores of Lake Merritt, one of California’s oldest theme parks. Some say that it inspired Walt Disney. Discover numerous child-sized rides, from carousels to a miniature Ferris wheel. Kids love the life-size sets based on beloved fairy tales, such as Pinocchio’s castle and Humpty Dumpty’s famous wall. Be amused at the Storybook Puppet Theater.
Fairytale Town and Funderland in Sacramento
Enjoy pint-sized thrills at these two fun parks, which are located next to each other in William Land Park. Toddlers will squeal with delight at Fairytale Town. This old-school theme park features 25 playsets based on popular fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Everything is interactive, and the entire park feels like a playground. Next door at Funderland, find nine family-friendly rides including a miniature train and carousel.
Make plans to visit California and head for the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park. You'll find this premier family theme park in Gilroy, a pleasant Bay Area city. Gilroy Gardens is an idyllic family theme park adventure. With a focus on horticulture, the park features over 40 attractions including six spectacular theme gardens. Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park opens for the season in early spring through late fall. Park offerings include shops and various restaurants and treat stops – making the park perfect for an all-day excursion. Spread across 536 acres of land, Gilroy Gardens yields fun for the whole family.
Discover the biggest rides and wildest thrills in Northern California at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, an award-winning, animal-themed amusement park. Scream your heart out on some of the best roller coasters in California. Get wet on exciting water rides and enjoy plenty of family-friendly fun for little kids, too. You’ll also find plenty of entertainment, cool shopping, and delicious fair food like funnel cakes and corn dogs.
Animals are everywhere at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Get up close and personal with exotic creatures from every corner of the globe. Walk through a glass tunnel while sharks swim all around you, separated only by a thin pane of glass. Swim with dolphins and learn about these magical creatures from a marine mammal expert. Explore an elegant butterfly habitat and enjoy live shows with tropical birds and reptiles. Sign up to feed seals, sea lions, and giraffes.
Situated halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento on Interstate 80, the theme park is easy to access and a popular year-round attraction for thrill-seekers who want to walk on the wild side. Buy tickets in advance online to save time at the entrance, and watch for special seasonal events Grad Nite, Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park.