February 14 is a swoon-worthy holiday for anyone who loves theme parks: It’s National Ferris Wheel Day. The Ferris wheel may not have been invented in California—the first was created by a fellow named George Ferris for the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago—but the Golden State excels at them, thanks to the exceptional views one can get from them. To celebrate the momentous day, plan a trip that includes one of these, listed south to north:
Balboa Fun Zone Ferris Wheel, Newport Beach
This Orange County Ferris wheel is a serious veteran: It’s been rotating on Balboa Peninsula’s waterfront amusement park since 1936. From the top you get a nice view of Newport Beach’s unique shoreline, with its bay, Balboa Island, and the posh beach town itself.
High Sierra Ferris Wheel, Knott’s Berry Farm
The Buena Park theme park that centers around a recreated ghost town embraces Golden State history with this wheel created as replica of 1890s-style Ferris wheels. Not too rooted in the past, it overlooks the park’s popular Camp Snoopy area for little kids.
Giant Wheel, Irvine Spectrum
The fountain-lined mall in Orange County reportedly took many of its aesthetic cues from the Alhambra palace in Spain. But the Giant Wheel acts as its glittering landmark. The wheel has 52,000 LED lights and can create 16 million different color schemes. It sits next to an old-style carousel and costs just $5 to ride.
Pixar Pal-a-Round, Disney California Adventure
In Anaheim, this 150-foot-high wheel at Disneyland Resort has two distinctive features. Not only do the gondolas feature different Pixar characters—such as Woody, Nemo, Mr. Incredible, and Lightning McQueen—but this is one of only two wheels in the United States that has both fixed and sliding gondolas. That means you can choose a more traditional ride, or boost the thrills by choosing a gondola that both sways and slides forward and backwards for an extra thrilling experience.
The Pike Outlets Ferris Wheel, Long Beach
This outlet mall in L.A. County sits on the site of a former waterfront amusement park, which closed in 1968. Keeping the spirit alive, this 90-foot wheel with more than 2,000 LED module lights sits outside the mall’s shops and Laugh Factory, and is a short distance from the acclaimed Aquarium of the Pacific.
Pacific Wheel, Santa Monica
This 85-foot-wide wheel at L.A. County’s Pacific Park routinely makes “best Ferris wheel” lists, thanks in part to the epic views it offers from high above the beach in Santa Monica, and the fact that it has made cameos in a long list of movies and TV series, from Iron Man to Modern Family. But the wheel (erected in 2008, replacing the old wheel) also has modern-day street cred: It’s the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel, featuring more than 174,000 energy-efficient LED lights. Even if you don’t ride it when you visit, watch its evening light show.
Panoramic Wheel, Gilroy Gardens
Don’t call this one a “Ferris” wheel. The ride at the Central Coast theme park is actually a Panoramic wheel, which means you can sit facing forward or backward (on a Ferris wheel, you just face forward). Either way, the wheel keeps with the unique park’s horticultural theme with its flower design, and the view from your gondola (which seats four) is of the park’s 48-foot greenhouse below.