A parents' guide to Legoland, Knotts, Six Flags, Universal and Adventure City
Every major theme park in Southern California is offering something new this summer. Here’s a look at what you can expect, as well as a few suggestions for making your next visit better than ever.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Not too far from Disneyland, Knott’s is affordable compared with its rivals. A family of four can enjoy a day at the Old West-theme park for less than $300. Sitting on 160 acres, Knott’s offers five themed areas featuring thrill and kiddie attractions and entertainment for all ages.
Park prices: Tickets are $67 for adults and $37 for kids.
Voyage to the Iron Reef: Riders battle the Queen of the Kraken and her army in this interactive ride underneath the park’s Boardwalk area. “It is the best interactive dark ride on the West Coast,” said Robert Niles, editor at ThemeParkInsider.com. “It’s more complex, much more fun. … It makes you feel like you’re in their environment.”
Buy tickets online: It could save you $10 to $20 per ticket.
Visit Camp Snoopy: Children can meet Snoopy, Woodstock and the rest of the Peanuts gang here. The Huff and Puff ride gets kids to vigorously pump a handle of a mine car up and down a track. “This ride actually demands an activity from the kids,” Niles said.
Eat the fried chicken outside: Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is outside the park. Fried chicken is also served inside the park, but the experience is not the same, Niles said. The boysenberry pie is a must-have, too.
Register for Kid Track: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to lose track of a child inside a crowded place. Knott’s has a program for parents or guardians allowing them to provide their information (name and phone number) to Guest Services in front of the park. Guest Services will write the information on the inside of a KidTrack wristband and place it on the child’s wrist.
If children get lost or separated, they can notify any Knott’s employee wearing a name tag to help contact parents or guardians.
Baby-changing stations: There are two baby-changing and nursing stations, in the California MarketPlace and Camp Snoopy.
Go on the thrill rides first: For parents with young teens and for teenagers, arrive early and hit up the Xcelerator, Silver Bullet and GhostRider first. These are the busiest rides at Knott’s.
Five miles from Disneyland, Adventure City calls itself a “little theme park that’s big on family fun.” At Harbor Boulevard and Ball Road in Anaheim, it’s built for children 10 and younger. There are 11 rides, along with a puppet theater, magic and puppet shows, singalongs and a petting zoo with goats, sheep, chicken and a tortoise. There’s also a video game arcade and a meet-and-greet area with Adventure Dog and City Kitty. The park is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. weekends.
Park prices: Tickets are $16.95 for adults and children, and $11.95 for seniors. Parking is free.
Rewind Racers: The theme park’s newest kid coaster goes forward and backward. The ride is a family shuttle coaster that can fit 14 people. Kids must be at least 4 years old and 39 inches tall and ride with an adult.
Go on a picnic: There’s a picnic area in front of the park where guests can bring their own food and drinks.
Bring water and snacks: Besides baby formula and baby food, outside food is not permitted in the park, but picnic tables are available directly outside the main gates.
Go anytime: The theme park never gets too crowded. The longest you’ll wait for a ride is 10 minutes.
Host a birthday party: If you’re tired of renting a bounce house or having a house party, host a birthday party here. Group discounts are available to parties of 20 or more.
Six Flags Magic Mountain
If you like to hang upside down, be thrown side to side and go really, really fast, Six Flags Magic Mountain is the place for you. This is a thrill-seeker’s paradise. Located in Valencia, Six Flags offers rides and entertainment for young kids, teenagers and adults. But the theme park is known for its thrill rides and visitor screams.
Park prices: Tickets are $72.99 for adults and $47.99 for children under 48 inches.
Twisted Colossus: A revamped version of the park’s iconic Colossus ride, which closed in August after 36 years, it uses hybrid technology and features steel tracks laid on top of the original ride’s wooden structure. This four-minute ride takes passengers along 5,000 feet of tracks that twist, turn and go upside down, and it has a 116-foot drop from an 80-degree angle.
“You would have to go all the way out to Texas to ride something similar,” Niles said. “It’s a great experience and might be the best coaster there.”
This summer, wait times for that ride are expected to be two to three hours, he said.
Arrive early: Hop on Twisted Colossus first. A 30- or 45-minute wait early in the morning won’t be as bad as the wait later in the day.
Plenty of rides for small kids: Introduce your kids to Looney Tunes. The cartoon isn’t as prominent as it once was, but kids will enjoy hopping on Daffy’s Adventure Tour, Pepe Le Pew’s Tea Party and Sylvester’s Pounce and Bounce.
Wear sunscreen and bring a sweater: Valencia gets brutally hot midday and cool in the early evenings.
Eat the funnel cake: The line for the funnel cake can be just as long as the lines for some attractions. The one with strawberry topping is the best around.
Bring Dramamine and Pepto Bismol: With all the thrill rides, you may need to bring both to prevent nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
Universal Studios Hollywood
The movie- and television-theme park in Universal City is celebrating its 50th year and has rolled out three new attractions.
Park prices: Tickets are $95 for ages 3 and older.
Springfield USA: A new land based on TV’s “The Simpsons” complements the Simpsons Ride, which opened at the park seven years ago. Visitors can walk around the town and meet Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob. You’ll see the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Springfield Elementary School and Apu’s Kwik-E-Mart.
And just like at Apu‘s, employees say, “Thank you, come again.” You can also grab a Krusty Burger, drink a Flaming Moe at Moe’s Tavern, or get a beer at Duff Gardens. “The food is an attraction in itself,” Niles said.
Nighttime Studio Tour: Universal is well known for its Studio Tour, during which visitors can see Hollywood’s famous moviemaking back lot. This year, Universal is making the tour available at night. “The new nighttime tour will be a different experience from the daytime tour,” Niles said. “They are adding new special effects.”
Fast & Furious – Supercharged: Guests are immersed in the high-speed world of “Fast & Furious.” During the park’s famed Studio Tour tram ride, visitors are surrounded by a massive 360-degree 3D screen, making them feel like they’re in the middle of a street race.
Buy Front of the Line passes: If you can afford it, you can reduce your wait times with these passes. Passes start at $149 and include park admission. But if you arrive early, you can get most of the attractions done in one day.
Go to the Lower Lot first: Hit up Transformers: The Ride 3D, then Revenge of the Mummy and Jurassic Park. These are some of the most popular attractions.
Child Switch: There is a Child Switch program. If a child cannot ride an attraction, one person can wait with the little one in a separate room while the other adult enjoys the ride.
Best ages: Niles said Universal Studios Hollywood is best suited for toddlers taller than 40 inches, elementary-school-age kids and teens.
Sit in the back row: Shrek 4D and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem are inside 3D theaters. If you watch along the back row, you’ll see more of the visual 3D effects on the screen.
A Lego lover’s dream. Located in Carlsbad, the Lego-theme park is less than an hour’s drive south of Orange County. While Disneyland is a place where adults can be kids again, Legoland is a theme park that caters to children ages 2 to 12.
“Star Wars” Death Star: Darth Vader’s Death Star is the newest model display in the theme park’s “Star Wars”-theme area. This model is 13 feet tall and 8 feet wide and weighs nearly 1 ton (1,900 pounds). It’s made out of a half-million Lego bricks. X-Wing and TIE fighters orbit around the Death Star.
The model is interactive: Kids can press a button and play out scenes from the “Star Wars” movies. For example, one projected scene shows the battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Another scene shows the Death Star blowing up Princess Leia’s home planet, Alderaan. Kids also can construct their own starship. Lego building stations are on each side of the display.
Heartlake City: An area based on the popular Lego toy and television cartoon franchise, Heartlake City is geared for families with young girls. There are Mia’s Riding Camp, a carousel with 60 horses, a splash pad, and a Friends Forever stage where the Lego Friends to the Rescue perform six times daily.
Clockwise pattern: The park is shaped like a pinwheel. The left side is skewed more for younger guests, and as you work around clockwise, the park opens up for older children. “For more adventurous rides, veer to the right,” said Jake Gonzales, a Legoland spokesman.
Plan activities: Get an understanding of what your child wants to do. Legoland is unique. Some kids may just prefer to build with Legos all day. Others want to go on the rides.
Stay at least two days: To get the most out of the theme park, stay at the Legoland Hotel. Legoland has other park areas — the Sealife Aquarium and Lego Chima Water Park.
Bring water and snacks: Visitors are allowed to bring bottled water and light snacks into the park.
Buy tickets online or look for a retailer: The Legoland website is the best place to find ticket deals. Some grocery and restaurant chains also offer deals. Try Costco, Denny’s or Wendy’s.
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