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California is home to many well known and iconic Amusement and Theme Parks. Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park is America's 1st Theme Park, which started due to the popularity of Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant. And of course, the original Disneyland was the first of many parks now run by Disney around the world, placed in the center of the Southern California region.
In Northern California, California's Great America is located in Santa Clara. A park that has changed over the years, opened as Marriott's Great America in 1976 as an traditional Amusement park, it has added thrills, and now a water park all for one price. Currently owned and operated by the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. The new San Francisco 49'ers Football Stadium is being built in part of the current parking lot, scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
Also in the Bay area, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo is a park that started as aquatic animal park, that has now morphed into a park with a zoo with many land mammal's like elephants and giraffe's, but still featuring Dolphins and Killer Whales, plus a selection of roller coasters and other rides. Opened in 1968 in Redwood City, it moved about 55 miles to Vallejo in 1985. This park used to be known as Marine World until 2007.
The newest park in Northern California is a kids friendly park named Gilroy Gardens (formerly Bonfante Gardens) located in Gilroy. The main theme is horticulture, as it is home of the famous "Circus Trees". The grounds are beautiful, plus there are a bunch of rides that all can enjoy, but mainly for families. It is managed by the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company.
A bit smaller, but well known is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a traditional amusement area found along the Pacific Ocean. Also in the area is a small roadside attraction called the Mystery Spot, which is worth a stop if you have a rental car.
Then there is a large selection of Amusement/Theme parks in Southern California.
Going from North to South.
Six Flags Magic Mountain is a large amusement park packed with thrill rides. It has 17 roller coasters and many other rides and attractions, it is most famous for being "Walley World" where the Griswold's wanted to visit in National Lampoon's Vacation movie. Opened in 1971, it is celebrating over 40 years of keeping people of all ages happy. It also has a lot of Family attractions, including lands based on Bugs Bunny and his Friends, and other areas. Also has a water park next door, Hurricane Harbor (Seperate admission required)
Universal Studios Hollywood opened in 1964, and is most well known for the studio Tram Tour that takes you "behind the scenes" of Movie and Television making. It also has rides and shows with a movie link. It has expanded to much more than that, and offers a large shopping and entertainment complex next door.
The Knott's Southern California Resort is home of America's 1st Theme Park, Knott's Berry Farm, along with a water park (Knott's Soak City Orange County), a shopping and dining area called California Marketplace, which main tenant is the World Famous Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Also located on the property is a Hotel, and a true recreation of Independence Hall. Knott's Berry Farm has one of the best rated wooden roller coasters, Ghostrider, along with many other coasters, plus much more, including Camp Snoopy for kids.
Disneyland, the park built by Walt is the most famous Theme Park location in the state. Currently the location has three Disney owned hotels, a shopping and dining mall called Downtown Disney plus two Theme Parks. Disneyland is the famous one that Walt Disney basically risked his entire fortune on. And it was a good bet, as the place has been very popular since opening day, July 18th, 1955. A second park, Disney California Adventure opened in February of 2001, and opened to many negative reviews. It has grown and changed, but even the company's CEO has admitted to the fact the park has caused challenges to the park's management. A major addition opened in the Summer of 2012 that should address some of the major issues.
In North San Diego County, the LEGOLAND Resort is located in Carlsbad. This park is mainly designed for kids and pre-teens, as well as for LEGO fans of all ages. You will not find many thrills here, but you will find a lot of rides and attractions that the family can enjoy together. Consists of three different gates, the main "ride" park, a water park, and the SEA LIFE Aquarium.
Then there is SeaWorld San Diego, which opened in 1964 as an marine zoological park along the edge of Mission Bay. It has grown and now offers rides and attractions, along with many marine animal shows.
Some would call the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as Theme Parks, as they both offer rides and other type of attractions, such as Ziplines along with the traditonal animal displays.