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Theme Park Thrills

Whether you're tooling around with old friends or a backseat full of kids, this trek is certain to please the young at heart

Start:SeaWorld San Diego
End:Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Clarita
6 - 8Days,8Stops,165Miles
Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego
Courtesy of LEGOLAND California
Courtesy Hilton
Courtesy of Knott's Berry Farm
BlueHill75/Getty Images
Courtesy Hilton
Courtesy of Six Flags Magic Mountain
Stop 1

SeaWorld San Diego

500 Sea World Dr., San Diego

Explore the magic of the world’s oceans and learn about the importance of protecting marine environments at SeaWorld San Diego, just north of downtown San Diego. There’s always something going on at the nearly 200-acre theme park, including interactive exhibits, zooming rides, live animal interactions, and other special events. SeaWorld hopes to inspire visitors to better understand the planet’s watery worlds. The park presents different ocean zones, each one featuring recreated habitats populated by some of the creatures found there. See a Beluga whale up close, and have similar close-up experiences with walruses, sloths, dolphins, sea lions and more. Penguin Encounter is home to the entertaining seabirds. At Explorer’s Reef, see (and touch) harmless rays that live in coastal waters, then climb aboard Manta, a high-tech coaster that lets you twist, turn, and dive like a ray. Or take on Emperor, the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in the state.

Stop 2

LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad

1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad

While LEGOLAND California—created by 60 million LEGO bricks—may appeal to little ones, parents love it too. Walk through Miniland USA for miniaturized recreations of Washington D.C., New York CitySan Francisco, and other cities, as well as Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium. Go behind-the-scenes to look at the soundstage and models used during the The LEGO Movie. The park has more than 60 rides, shows, and attractions, including three rollercoasters. Kids especially love Driving School, where they learn the ways of the road in LEGO-esque mini-cars, and Safari Trek, where riders drive animal-striped Jeeps to explore a world of life-size giraffes, elephants, and tigers all made of LEGO bricks. 

For a fun overnight, stay at one of the two family-friendly resort Hotels —The LEGOLAND Resort Hotel or the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel—each a temple to everything LEGO with themed rooms and inspired extras.

Be sure to add on to the fun with a trip to the LEGOLAND Water Park, with thrilling slides, and the Sea Life Aquarium with up-close encounters with sharks, rays and octopi.


The Cassara Carlsbad, Tapestry Collection by Hilton

5805 Armada Dr, Carlsbad

After a day at LEGOLAND California, stroll across the private pedestrian entrance to The Cassara Carlsbad. Adults can savor 180-degree Pacific views, handcrafted beers at Karl Strauss Brewery, and luxurious furnishings while kids splash around in two resort-size pools.

Stop 4

Disneyland Resort, Anaheim

1313 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim

The granddaddy of theme parks has been leading the way since 1955, inviting visitors to the ultimate land of make-believe. The resort features two theme parks—the original Disneyland Park and the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park (DCA)—three Hotels and an energetic, family-friendly dining and entertainment district.

In Disneyland, take a swashbuckling cruise on Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square. Bobsled down the slopes of the Matterhorn in Fantasyland. Head to a galaxy far, far, away in the immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge where you can pilot the legendary Millennium Falcon. In DCA, take flight in Soarin’ Over the World, help Rocket rescue the rest of the guardians in Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: Breakout!, or spend some time at fun-filled Pixar Pier. You can meet Mickey and friends, plus Ariel, Belle and other favorites throughout the resort.

Insider’s Tip: Download the free Disneyland Mobile app and utilize the resort’s Genie service to save time with Lightning Lane entry to your favorite attractions, receive customized recommendations, see estimated wait times, order food mobilly and more.

Stop 5

Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park

8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park

About 10 miles from Anaheim in Buena Park, Knott’s Berry Farm is a unique combination of theme park Southern California history. A family-run boysenberry farm started selling pies and fried-chicken dinners during the Depression, and over the decades added Old West attractions carnival rides and live shows to the mix.

Today, Knott’s is known for stomach-flipping roller coasters: Scream your head off on the Silver Bullet’s corkscrew and double spiral, or streak 80 miles per hour on the Xcelerator. Each season brings its own events, from the super-spooky Knott’s Scary Farm in the fall to the Snoopy-led Knott’s Peanuts Festival in winter and the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival in the spring. Year round, don’t miss an old-school feast at the updated version of that original tea shop, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

Plan your visit

Stop 6

Universal Studios Hollywood

100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

Just over the legendary Hollywood Hills, Universal Studios Hollywood blends a working movie studio with a theme park—offering both a behind-the-scenes tour of movie-making magic with rides that swoosh, swoop, and dive through cinematically inspired fantasy worlds. A good first stop: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with its two rides and a full-blown Hogsmeade village of shops and eateries. Other movie and TV favorites get their own rides, restaurants, and attractions, including the Secret Life of Pets adventure, The Simpsons Ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, the World-Famous Studio Tour, and (opening summer 2019) Jurassic World. Before you leave, make sure to explore Universal CityWalk, the neon-lit complex of shops, eateries, and entertainment spaces just outside the park. Insider tip: Upgrade to a Universal Express ticket that lets you bypass the theme park’s lines, or at least buy your ticket online, which gives you access to the park an hour early.


Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City

555 Universal Hollywood Drive , Universal City

Sleep in the heart of L.A.'s entertainment capital at Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, a five-minute walk from Universal Studios Hollywood. The 24-story glass-and-steel structure capitalizes on California sunshine with an atrium-like lobby, beautifully landscaped grounds, and private cabanas surrounding a spacious outdoor pool.

Stop 8

Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Clarita

26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia

Adrenaline seekers, welcome to paradise. North of Los Angeles in the Santa Clarita Valley, Six Flags Magic Mountain, boasts a staggering lineup of roller coasters—20 in all, with the arrival of West Coast Racers. The menu of G-force-pushing thrills includes the world’s tallest and fastest looping coaster (Full Throttle), and the world’s fastest stand-up coaster (Riddler’s Revenge). Want more low-key fun? Get a selfie with one of the strolling characters—from members of the DC Comics’ Justice League to Warner Bros. icons such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the Tasmanian Devil.


Tag #VISITCALIFORNIA on Instagram to have your trip featured on our page.

Road Trip Snapshot

Learn more about the amazing locations featured in this road trip. Ready to plan your trip? Print the itinerary or map your adventure to get started.

Stop 1SeaWorld San Diego
500 Sea World Dr., San Diego
Stop 2LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad
1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad
SPOTLIGHTThe Cassara Carlsbad, Tapestry Collection by Hilton
5805 Armada Dr, Carlsbad
    Stop 4Disneyland Resort, Anaheim
    1313 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim
    Stop 5Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park
    8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park
    Stop 6Universal Studios Hollywood
    100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
    Stop 8Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Clarita
    26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia

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