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Here’s the inside scoop on the best amusement parks for toddlers in California that’ll keep everyone in the family entertained!
With a wide array of parks to visit, Disneyland isn’t the only theme park magic California has to offer (although that’s certainly a great option too!).
Check out our comprehensive list of the best California amusement parks to explore, all of which have plenty of things for your youngest friends and family members to enjoy!
Delve into a world of fun while I share my very favorite amusement parks for toddlers in California – as well as toddler-specific theme park tips you don’t want to miss!
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The Best Amusement Parks for Toddlers in California
California makes for the best vacations: the weather is fabulous, there are multiple options for things to do, and best of all, there are a ton of exciting amusement parks!
If you’re a parent of young children, you know that traveling with toddlers is no easy task, however. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your destinations are toddler-friendly!
Read on to learn about our favorite amusement parks that include rides and activities geared toward little ones – which means they aren’t too scary and you won’t be limited by height requirements!
**Check out our complete 6-day San Diego family vacation itinerary that includes several of the amusement parks featured in this list!
1. Legoland California Resort
Legoland California Resort is one of the best amusement parks for toddlers in that it is specifically designed for children ages 2 to 12 years old.
Located just a half-hour north of downtown San Diego, Legoland offers theme park rides, play areas, and a ton of hands-on fun to keep kids entertained.
Plus, for Lego brick and Lego movie lovers, the colorful themeing here is spot-on in terms of replicating ‘all-things Lego’!
If you’re new to the concept of Legoland California Resort, like I once was, the resort consists of 3 attractions: Legoland Park (the main theme park), Legoland Water Park, and Sea Life Aquarium, as well as 2 onsite Lego hotels.
Each of the 3 parks has a separate ticketed entry, though multi-park tickets are available if you’re looking to explore them all.
Hit up Legoland Park for gentle rides that focus on younger kids, such as the Legoland Express train ride, the Cargo Ace, or the Beetle Bounce.
In addition, your little ones can have a turn at the wheel at the Junior Driving School (for kids ages 3-5 only!).
Along with rides, toddlers can enjoy building at Lego imagination stations like the Coast Guard Build-A-Boat.
They can also run off excess energy while playing at Pharoah’s Revenge or digging for fossils at Dig Those Dinos.
Additional planning tip: Toddlers ages 2 and under receive free admission to Legoland (although $5 admission to Legoland Water Park is required for each toddler 1 to 2 years of age).
Legoland Water Park
Legoland Water Park features more than seven slides, plus sandy beaches and the unique Build-A-Raft River.
There’s even a special area of the water park called Duplo Splan Safari (for those ages 6 & under) that has toddler-friendly water slides and toddler-only splash areas!
Sea Life Aquarium
As if this isn’t enough to enjoy, Legoland is also home to SeaLife Aquarium.
This onside aquarium offers gigantic colorful aquariums, interactive sea life exhibits, and kid-friendly feeding demonstrations.
Our kids and toddlers love it here!
Be warned, strollers are not allowed in the aquarium, but you can safely park them at the entrance.
2. SeaWorld San Diego
If your toddler loves animals, water, and playful entertainment, help blossom their curiosities with a trip to SeaWorld, San Diego.
SeaWorld offers incredible marine life shows like Sea Lions Live, Dolphin Days, and Orca Encounter that will thrill your toddler with smiles and laughs.
Plus, there are interactive aspects of the park where kids can have animal encounters with animals such as dolphins and penguins, as well as sting ray touch pools.
As a huge bonus for families with toddlers, Seaworld San Diego is home to the Sesame Street Bay of Play, which is included with SeaWorld general admission tickets!
Sesame Street Bay of Play is an area of the park filled with family-friendly rides like Elmo’s Flying Fish, Oscar’s Rocking Eel and Abby’s Sea Star Spin.
Plus, there is a splash pad, bouncy house, and gigantic toddler play mat as well as Sesame Street character meet and greets and photo-ops.
Additional planning tip: Children ages 3 and under get free admission to Sea World San Diego.
For those who live in San Diego and Orange County, California, the Preschool Fun Card grants kids ages 3-5 discounted admission to SeaWorld San Diego all year long.
*Be sure to read our theme-park day bag packing list for the necessary items to bring along with visiting theme parks with kids!
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, features 2 amazing theme parks—Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park!
Though each of these parks deserves an entire article alone to explain their ins and outs, here is a quick glimpse:
3. Disneyland Park
If your child loves characters like Mickey, Minnie, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid or Star Wars, I can think of no place more magical of a place for the entire family to enjoy!
Plus, similar to the toddler-friendly rides at Disney World, there are so many rides for little ones to enjoy at Disneyland.
Visit the Disneyland Park website to find its list of attractions with specific tags like dark, loud, scary, slow, etc. so that you can make informed decisions on which rides to enjoy.
I am a huge fan of toddler-friendly classics like the Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Small World, and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Beyond the amazing thrill rides and fantastical atmosphere, the very best parts of Disneyland are the character encounters.
Remember to bring a Disney autograph book and a camera to capture these special moments.
You can also enjoy amazing light shows, parades, and nighttime fireworks displays.
Additional planning tip: One of the best things aspects of Disneyland – Toontown – has historically been the most toddler-friendly neighborhood in the resort.
Please note that it is currently closed for renovation and is expected to open in early 2023.
4. Disney California Adventure Park
Located beside Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park makes a great companion park but also holds up on its own.
The park has themed rides that young kids tend to really relate to!
Toddlers will love riding on Inside Out Emotional Worldwind, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Pixar Pier, and much more.
Plus, our favorites include Avenger’s Land and Cars Land (which features all things, Radiator Springs!).
Next, if your toddler is in the mood to wiggle out some energy, take them to the Disney Junior Dance Party where they can enjoy kid-friendly tunes, lights, and a really fun atmosphere.
Additional planning tip: Make your visit to Disneyland Resort an entire family vacation! Find a list of the best, most affordable hotel and resort options in Anaheim right here!
*Trying to decide between Disney World Orlando and Disneyland California? Check out our popular family-friendly itineraries to Disney’s Florida theme parks.
Disney World Touring Plans:
- 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary: A Perfect Day At Disney
- 1-Day At Animal Kingdom Itinerary: The Perfect Family Touring Plan
- One Day Itinerary for Epcot: Family Touring Plan
5. Universal Studios Hollywood
Located in Hollywood, California, Universal Studios brings movie magic and fun to life!
Here, families and toddlers will be ecstatic to see their favorite movie characters up close and personal.
Enjoy a magical experience in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by eating a chocolate frog, visiting Ollivander’s Wand Shop, or riding the Flight of the Hippogriff (kids can ride if they’re over 39 inches tall)!
Toddler-friendly rides include Kung Fu Panda Adventure, The Secret Life of Pets, and the Silly Swirly Fun Ride.
Kids can also have an incredible meet and greet with The Minions and the rest of the Despicable Me cast.
Other fun activities at Universal Studios Hollywood include a dino play climbing structure and carnival games that will keep your little ones entertained!
**Find a complete guide to visiting Universal Orlando Resort here:
- 45 (Quick!) Universal Studios Tips for First-Time Visitors
- Universal Studios Touring Plan: 1-Day Itinerary
- Islands of Adventure Touring Plan: Complete 1-Day Itinerary
6. Children’s Fairyland
Get ready to be charmed by this toddler-friendly fairytale-themed park.
Children’s Fairyland, located in Oakland, California, opened in 1948 and remains one of the best theme parks for toddlers in California.
Explore fairytale storybook sets, stroll through picturesque botanical gardens, and visit the many animals that Children’s Fairyland is home to.
The fairytale-themed rides are built with young children in mind and your toddler will be able to ride the majority of them with an adult present.
My favorite parts of Children’s Fairyland are the shows, as here, you can enjoy puppet shows, bedtime stories, and special children’s theater performances.
7. Gilroy Gardens
Gilroy Gardens is a magical horticulture-themed amusement park located an hour east of Santa Cruz, California.
Home to captivating circus trees, gardens, and elaborate water features, it is an extremely fun park to explore!
Rides are available for all ages and all levels of thrill-seekers.
Specific thrill ratings and height requirements are labeled on their website.
Additionally, they have a water park open seasonally so the whole family can beat the heat!
Toddlers will love the Lagoon Wading Pool and Splash Pad showers.
Additional planning tip: Cabana rentals are available to keep cool and relax in the summer heat.
8. San Diego Zoo Safari Park
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the perfect place for animal lovers and adventurers alike!
This park offers guided safaris in open-air safari trucks for a one-of-a-kind experience that your kids will never forget!
Animal sightings include giraffes, elephants, gorillas, and even lions and cheetahs.
Additional planning tips: The open-air wildlife safaris are restricted to ages 3 and up, but all other safaris are for all ages.
Though San Diego Zoo Safari Park is not the most budget-friendly option on the list, you are encouraged to bring your own lunch into the park, which could save you a pretty penny!
9. Sesame Place
New as of March 2022, San Diego is home to Sesame Place – a toddler-friendly theme park filled with wholesome fun for your little ones.
This California amusement park has 18 Sesame Street-themed rides and exciting water attractions, including a family-friendly rollercoaster and a 500,000-gallon wave pool.
The park also features an engaging musical play area, an interactive Sesame Street Neighborhood complete with the iconic 123 Stoop, daily live character shows, an award-winning parade
Last but not least, enjoy unforgettable meet-and-greets with the most beloved Sesame Street characters, plus dance and sing along at their Welcome To Our Street show!
10. Knott’s Berry Farm
Full of roller coasters, this park may seem like it’s for the older crowds, but they actually have some amazing toddler-specific attractions that younger children love!
In fact, Camp Snoopy is worth the trip alone.
After all, it is created with kids ages 3-9 in mind, making it one of the best amusement parks for toddlers in California.
Here, kids can enjoy fun rides without any scary factors.
In addition, kids get to meet Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts Gang during meet-and-greets.
There’s a nearby picnic area where the family can regroup and reenergize, plus a play area for kids with climbable mushrooms and a hollow log to crawl through.
Camp Snoopy has awesome kid-friendly food options as well.
My favorite is the Snoopy-themed kid’s meals at Grizzly Creek Lodge!
Additional planning tip: As mentioned, outside of Camp Snoopy, there are dozens of rides without height restrictions that older kids can take part in.
California Theme Parks for Toddlers: Honorable Mentions
If you’re itching for more ideas for amusement parks for toddlers in California, check out these parks:
- Adventure City in Stanton: One of the smallest theme parks, you can avoid crowds while enjoying some rides and a petting zoo.
- Belmont Park in San Diego: After hanging out at the beach, stop at this beachside park for some thrills and eats.
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo: While it may be animal-themed, you’ll find mostly roller coasters at this exciting park.
- Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia: Mostly known for the wild thrill rides, it has some extra feature rides and attractions young ones can also enjoy.
- California’s Great Adventure in Santa Clara: Folks further up north can check out the thrill rides, water park, and live entertainment offered here.
Theme Park Tips for Toddlers
- As a safety precaution, take a photo of your child before entering the theme park to document what they are wearing that day in case they get lost or separated.
- Pack your own lunches and plenty of snacks and portable snack mixes to save money and ward off hunger.
- Make sure your child stays hydrated by packing a collapsible water bottle that can be re-filled as needed.
- Wear comfortable shoes, pants, and shirts, and consider bringing extra pair of clothes in case you get wet or too sweaty.
- Bring sun protection such as a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Use strollers to your advantage, but be sure to check each theme park’s stroller specifications beforehand.
- Check the height restrictions of rides ahead of time to avoid meltdowns when showing up at a ride that a child is too small to ride.
- Keep kids occupied in line by downloading games on your smartphone or tablet before going to the park.
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*