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San Diego Amusement / Theme Parks

While the two other Southern California areas — Los Angeles and Orange County — have the best known California amusement parks, there are some unique San Diego theme park offerings you should consider for your vacation on weekend getaway. We assure you: there’s no shortage of fun places to go and things to do here!

Aquatica, Chula Vista – The former Soak City became Aquatica water park in 2013, but 2021 will mark its last season. Beginning in Spring 2022, the property will open as Sesame Place San Diego, the West Coast’s only Sesame Place park. (aquatica.com/san-diego/)

The Giant Dipper roller coaster at San Diego's Belmont ParkBelmont Park, Mission Beach – Built in 1925 and reopened in the late 1980s, this is San Diego’s only beachfront amusement center, and it offers “old-time fun” for the whole family. Attractions include the historic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster (this original wooden roller coaster is a local landmark), Vertical Plunge, Bumper Mania, Tilt-A-Whirl, Liberty Carousel, Thunder Boats and a large indoor children’s play center called Pirates Cove. (belmontpark.com)

Legoland California, Carlsbad – While the “thrill rides” here are geared to the kids-under-12 set, the intricate, primary-colored, snap-together-block creations are enjoyed by all ages. Miniland, where some of the nation’s notable architectural structures have been replicated, is especially worth exploring. The 128-acre park has 40 hands-on interactive exhibits and family rides, and you can observe Lego bricks being manufactured, as well. The park’s newest adventure, The LEGO Movie World, opened in 2021. The largest addition ever made to the park, it includes six interactive attractions. Visitors should note that Legoland California has seasonal hours and is closed periodically during some of the less-busy months; call or check online for operating info for the dates you plan to visit. (legoland.com/california/)

A cheetah in the grass at San Diego Wild Animal Park in Escondido, CASan Diego Wild Animal Park, Escondido – This 1,800-acre park is home to 3,000+ animals (representing 400+ species, including the largest crash of rhinos in any zoological facility and one of the world’s only California Condor exhibits) and 3,000+ species of unique plants. Civilized and wild exist side by side here, and you can get up close and personal with elephants, zebras, lions, cheetah, gorillas and giraffe. Don’t forget to bring your camera! (sdzsafaripark.org/)

SeaWorld Adventure Park, Mission Bay – This 189-acre, year-round theme park features several major shows, including its revamped Orca Encounter. And in 2021, SeaWorld San Diego became home to California’s first floor-less dive coaster, called The Emperor. A whole host of rides, shows, attractions and exhibits entertain and educate visitors about the world’s fascinating marine life. Do you want a really special SeaWorld experience? Click on the “Add-Ons” section of the website, and you’ll be presented with some amazing encounter and interaction options. While these add-on offerings aren’t inexpensive, they’re truly “thrill-of-a-lifetime” quality for marine life lovers! (seaworld.com/san-diego/)

The Wave Water Park, Vista – Owned and operated by the City of Vista and only open during warmer months, the three-acre park features 35 water slides, and Rippity’s Rainforest allows children 12 and under to ride smaller slides or climb through an obstacle course. (thewavewaterpark.com)

Photo of Giant Dipper at Belmont Park by Smart Destinations via flickr (Creative Commons); and Photo of Cheetah at San Diego Wild Animal Park by fortherock via flickr (Creative Commons).

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