Top 10 Theme Parks And Amusement Parks In Northern California

theme parks in northern california
| 6 min read

What is it about theme parks that everyone loves regardless of age? No matter the reason, amusement parks will definitely make your trip amusing and leave you wanting more! From simple rides like Ferris wheels to intense rides like roller coasters, there is no way an amusement park won’t make it to your list of places to visit when you go to new cities, especially Northern California. Like the best family resorts and staycation spots, an amusement park is guaranteed to give you and your family a good time. If you want to have a relaxing day or a day of adrenaline-filled fun, check out the top theme parks and amusement parks in Northern California below!

1. Children's Fairyland

Fairyland shoe entrance
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wordworking used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Children’s Fairyland is among the earliest amusement parks in America and is home to Open Storybook Puppet Theater, the oldest puppet theater still in operation. Other attractions here include Aesop’s Playhouse, where children can put up plays such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Wizard of Oz, and The Cat in the Hat. With other activities like arts and crafts and performances involving magic and storytelling, you do not need rides to enjoy your time here. Due to safety reasons, Fairyland only admits children with adults.

Children's Fairyland

Address: 699 Bellevue Ave, Oakland, CA 94610, United States

Website: Children’s Fairyland

Opening hours: Fri - Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed from Mon - Thu)

Price: 12 USD

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2. California's Great America

Aerial view of California's Great America 2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Oleg Alexandrov used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Here’s another reason not to stay holed up in your vacation rental during your vacation. An amusement park located in Santa Clara, California’s Great America is around 100 acres (40 hectares) in size and offers attractions such as Gold Striker, which was featured as the highest-ranking roller coaster by Amusement Today. A family favorite, this park offers exciting thrill rides from Boomerang Bay waterpark to the kid-friendly Planet Snoopy. It also offers endless entertainment via seasonal special events such as Halloween Haunt and WinterFest, making it the ideal location for guests of all ages. Besides enjoying the diverse rides that vary in intensity, patrons can also sample the food available, try their luck at carnival games, and watch live entertainment year-round.

California's Great America

Address: 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054, United States

Website: California’s Great America

Price: from 39.99 USD

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3. Raging Waters Sacramento

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Raging Waters Sacramento on Friday, October 8, 2021

Located in the heart of Cal Expo grounds in Sacramento, this park was once known as WaterWorld USA and Six Flags Waterworld. No matter how awesome your private pool rental might be, the amenities of this park will surely pull you in. It has more than 25 exhilarating slides, sparkling pools, and activities promising fun for people of all ages. Attractions include Hurricane Bay Slide, Shark Attack Slide Complex, Calypso Cooler Lazy River, Breaker Beach Wave Pool, and for the children, Treehouse Reef, making it a great place to visit for families or for those who love the water, especially in the summer. If you’re hungry, stop by for a pizza at Pipeline’s Pizza or cool off with an ice-cold slushie at ICEE Mix-It-Up. Want a quick and filling meal? Look for places such as Sharkey’s or Carl’s Jr.

Raging Waters Sacramento

Address: 1600 Exposition Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95815-5104

Website: Raging Waters Sacramento

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11am - 5pm; Sat - Sun: 11am - 7pm

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4. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Source: Photo by user Jeremy Thompson used under CC BY 2.0

This unique theme park features a combination of a zoological park, wildlife presentations, exciting rides, and interesting shows. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is a great place to go if you love theme parks as well as animals. If you’re feeling brave, you can ride one of the heart-stopping roller coasters themed after mythical beings such as Medusa, or even superheroes like Batman and Superman. Your enjoyment will increase tenfold by participating in activities that include feeding animals, seeing a garden full of exotic butterflies, interacting with dolphins, or watching dolphins perform a show. Without a doubt, this is one theme park you do not want to miss while visiting Vallejo, California.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Address: 1001 Fairgrounds Dr, Vallejo, CA 94589, United States

Website: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Price: from 47.99 USD

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California Tour Guide

Stephanie Eley

Stephanie Eley

I'm a graduate of ITMI, International Tour Management Institute and 17 years as a licensed Tour Director and Program Director. My expertise began in NYC and Washington, DC where I'm a licensed guide and has expanded to Europe, South America, Cuba and the Western / Southwestern National Parks of the US. I'd love to introduce you for a day or a week to Denver, Colorado and the 4 corners region of the US: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona! Let's GO!!

Tours by Stephanie

5. Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

Sonoma Traintown
Source: Photo by Flickr user K Tao used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Coming in the form of a railroad that provides an exact replica of a full-size train, this amusement park is considered an astonishing, present-day tribute to trains and is the best-developed tiny railroad in America due to its stunning accuracy with the train model’s details. This amusement park does not just let you look at the trains - you get to ride them as well. Enjoy a view of the sparkling waterfalls and detailed houses from the window as you go through tunnels and pass over bridges before the ride ends at Lakeview. Alight from the train and find yourself in a petting zoo where creatures such as bunnies, sheep, chickens, and even llamas await. Be sure to bring some pocket change to buy kibbles to feed them. Besides the petting zoo, there are also other rides waiting to be enjoyed, such as Iron Horse Carousel and High Iron Ferris Wheel.

Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

Address: 20264 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, United States

Website: Sonoma TrainTown Railroad

Opening hours: Fri - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed from Mon - Thu)

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6. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

2012-01-28 01-29 Santa Cruz 024 Santa Cruz Beach, Boardwalk
Source: Photo by Flickr user Allie_Caulfield used under CC BY 2.0

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is currently California’s oldest amusement park and is acknowledged as the world’s best seaside park due to its amazing rides, rich history, and scenic beach setting. Besides the usual rides, their beach is something you should not miss - it is wide and sandy and you will have opportunities to glimpse animals such as dolphins, sea lions, and otters swimming offshore. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some whales. They have an indoor arcades area with a variety of the games to choose from, including the all-time favorite laser tag. The food is something to try, with choices like chocolate-covered bacon, deep-fried Twinkies, and one-of-a-kind corn dogs from a family’s secret recipe. Who said beaches and amusement parks don’t mix?

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Address: 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, United States

Website: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Opening hours: Sat - Mon: 12pm - 5pm (closed from Tue - Fri)

Price: from 29.95 USD

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7. Aqua Adventure Waterpark

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Nestled in Fremont is Aqua Adventure Waterpark, a contemporary, family-friendly facility built to be enjoyed by Fremont residents as well as those from the surrounding region. A huge diversity of water-based activities have been designed for families to have fun. Examples of the activities available include two open and two enclosed 40-foot (12-meter) slides filled with twists and turns and a lazy river with water jets and sprays that surround the complex. Besides the water-based recreation experiences, the park provides other things such as picnic areas to cater to those who wish to celebrate occasions like birthdays and get-togethers.

Aqua Adventure Waterpark

Address: 40500 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont, CA 94538, United States

Website: Aqua Adventure Waterpark

Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 11am - 4pm; Fri - Sun: 11am - 5pm

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8. Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

Gilroy Gardens
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jeremy Thompson used under CC BY 2.0

Out of ideas for a romantic weekend getaway with your partner? Consider visiting the Gilroy Gardens! Although this is a family theme park, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy with your partner. Comprising of more than 75 acres (30.4 hectares) of trees, plants, rocks and water combined with rides, magnificent gardens, a miniature golf course, and picnic areas, this garden-themed park is perfect for families. The natural beauty of the theme park makes one content to just walk around the multiple gardens and enjoy the scenery. Many of the rides, such as Mushroom Swing, Garlic Twirl, and Quicksilver Express Mine Coaster are inspired by the region’s agricultural history. Besides the rides, there are other activities to enjoy, with a selection of carnival-style games and prizes to be won. There is also the Green Barn, where families can explore nature or art and even pilot a paddle boat that looks like a duck or swan.

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

Address: 3050 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA 95020, United States

Website: Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

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9. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor New England
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user ReneS used under CC BY 2.0

Originally named Waterworld USA, this is Northern California’s biggest water park, consisting of over 35 renowned attractions and waterslides. There is something here for every family member. Splash in the enormous wave pool at Breaker Beach, go with the flow at Kaanapali Kooler, shoot down the Big Kahuna, or ride the Tornado. If you wish to just relax, there are private poolside cabanas that are available for rent, along with beach chairs and shady areas to shield you from the afternoon sun. With attractions that accommodate people of all ages, this makes it the ideal family holiday location.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord

Address: 1950 Waterworld Pkwy, Concord, CA 94520, United States

Website: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord

Price: from 49.99 USD

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10. Boomerang Bay

California's Great America 3
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Oleg Alexandrov used under CC BY-SA 4.0

It may not be big, but Boomerang Bay is definitely a great place to go during hot summer days. It offers many ways to cool down and have fun in the water such as a family raft ride on Didgeridoo Falls or a slide at Down Under Thunder. More thrilling rides include Screamin’ Wombat, an enclosed water slide that has twists and snakelike curves, and the 30-foot-tall (9.1-meter) Ripsnort Ridge that puts you in a chute and drops you. Of course, there are more relaxing attractions such as the interactive Jackaroo Landing, a water play fortress that has short slides, bridges, rope ladders, and even an enormous tipping bucket. Toddlers can enjoy Kookaburra Cay that has small interactive fountains and other activities.

Boomerang Bay

Address: 4701 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054, United States

Website: Boomerang Bay

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Add fun to your trip to California

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for a heart-stopping experience or a family looking for memorable, fun moments to spend together, make sure to visit any of the above amusement parks. These parks are definitely one of the best ways to spend your vacation in California, so lose yourself in the fairgrounds and let the rides and attractions speak for themselves.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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