Summer is high season at California theme parks, with longer hours, more festivals, and the debuts of new rides, shows, and attractions. There’s even an entirely new theme park to enjoy: Sesame Place San Diego, located in Chula Vista.
The summer season starts in May at most Golden State parks, so plan your next theme park trip around these new arrivals and limited-time attractions:
Open Now: Nighttime Spectaculars Return, Disneyland Resort
The evening entertainment lineup at the Anaheim resort is literally glittering these days. The Main Street Electrical Parade and Disneyland Forever fireworks have returned to Disneyland Park, and World of Color has just made its comeback at Disney California Adventure Park. On May 28, Fantasmic! lights up the sky over the Rivers of America in Disneyland Park, featuring an array of pyrotechnics and characters, including a 40-foot Maleficent Dragon.
Don’t miss the Star Wars–themed Space Mountain—Hyperspace Mountain—which runs for a limited time in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.
May 7–22: Viva la Música, SeaWorld San Diego
This family-friendly celebration of Latin music, dancing, and cuisine returns to the San Diego park on weekends this month. The concert series, included with park admission, features Grammy winner Poncho Sanchez and a variety of tribute bands, including one saluting the late Latin icon Selena. While you’re there, don’t miss the recently debuted Emperor roller coaster and the new taproom High Tide Brews, offering a range of local craft beers.
Military veterans, take note: Reserve your spots by May 15 to enjoy free admission for yourself and three guests through July 10.
Opens May 12: LEGO® Ferrari Build and Race, LEGOLAND California
Design your own luxury sports car out of LEGOs at this new attraction within the Carlsbad theme park. Race your completed car down colorful ramps, or scan it digitally and use a touch pad to race on a virtual racetrack that’s inspired by the Ferrari test track in Italy. Be sure to snap a selfie next to the attraction’s life-sized Ferrari F40, made of more than 350,000 plastic bricks.
Begins May 21: Summer at Knott’s, Buena Park
High season at the Buena Park theme park begins with two running events. In the park’s Old West–themed area, Ghost Town Alive! invites guests to interact with a storyline involving bandits, cowboys, and robberies. Join the activity starting at 10:30 a.m. on select days, then enjoy its culmination at a 5:30 p.m. hoedown. Then, on select evenings, the Summer Nights series offers evening dance parties with live music and DJs along the park’s midway. Both events run through September 5.
Opens May 28: Water Oasis, Gilroy Gardens
The Gilroy theme park’s Water Oasis opens for the season this month—and kids and grownups pay the same price for season passes through the end of May. Or plan to visit over Father’s Day weekend, when the June 18 Camp Night invites families to spend the night at the park’s camp facility. Active and retired military folks enjoy free admission on May 26–28, July 2–4, and Sept. 3–5.
Opens May 28: Sidewinder Safari, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
A family-friendly, rattlesnake-themed roller coaster debuts this summer at the Vallejo theme park, with spinning cars that seat up to four. The Bay Area park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including the ride’s slithering inspirations. As you arrive at the coaster, check out the live rattlesnakes and other reptiles living in the (safely secluded) jungle-like habitat.
Opens in June: Liberty Twirler, California’s Great America
Starts June 16: Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, Universal Studios Hollywood
This evening show returns to the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter land at the Los Angeles theme park. Each night, lights, special effects, and music from the Harry Potter movies envelop the castle that is also home to the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (runs though August 14). In the Universal Plaza area, meanwhile, you can meet-and-greet minions (including new minion Otto) from June 27–July 17, in celebration of the new movie Minions: The Rise of Gru. (Don’t miss the 16-foot minion squishy and a minion-themed game, which run through August 14). This summer also marks the return of the beloved Special Effects Show, a vivid display of Hollywood moviemaking wizardry (daily from July 1–August 14, then weekends only starting August 20).
On all three days during the long Independence Day weekend (July 2–4), the park will also have patriotic decor, a fife-and-drum band, and nightly fireworks.
Opens later this summer: Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, Six Flags Magic Mountain
Surrounded by Greek architecture and tropical landscaping, the 13-story-high Wonder Woman Flight of Courage explores the backstory of the superhero and will also be the tallest and longest single-rail coaster on the planet. The six-acre DC Universe area at the Santa Clarita park will also get a new restaurant and bar, while the park’s former Wonder Woman–themed ride has been reimagined as the Teen Titans Turbo Spin.
Hurricane Harbor, Six Flag’s water park, kicks off its summer season May 28.