Articles, Travel

Best Amusement Parks in Southern California for Toddlers

Written By: Stephanie Moritz
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated November 1, 2023

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bumper cars with parents and toddlers in a southern california amusement park

If you are taking a trip to Southern California with toddlers, you’ve probably got some amusement parks on your vacation bucket list. While the Golden State is famous for its world-class amusement parks, sometimes the thrill rides can be a little too much for younger children. Vacation time is precious, and when you’re taking a day trip you want to ensure your whole family is going to have a good time – including your littlest ones. This top-notch guide will allow you to avoid uncertainty and pick out the best age-appropriate amusement parks for your tots, with both gentle rides and tame attractions galore. Here we go!

Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure

A trip to SoCal wouldn’t be complete without tickets to Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure. Located in Anaheim, California, the Happiest Place on Earth is home to all the childhood classics, with mellow rides such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the iconic “It’s a Small World” ride. When your tots get tired of waiting in lines, take a trip to Mickey’s Toontown where kids can climb, play, and tour Mickey and Minnie’s homes. Filled with delightful talking birds, the Enchanted Tikki Room is also a must-see, while the Disneyland Railroad is perfect for train lovers. Disneyland caters to new parents, as it also has a baby care center with private areas for nursing moms and little potties for toilet trainers. 

Just a short ride away is Disneyland California Adventure. This fabulous Southern California amusement park also has many age-appropriate, slow rides for toddlers, including Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and Monsters Inc. Another go-to spot for toddlers is Pixar Pier where your little ones can enjoy hours of fun on rides like Jessie’s Critter Carousel and Pixar Pal-A-Round. 

SeaWorld San Diego

Doubling as an aquarium and a theme park, SeaWorld San Diego is the perfect amusement park for your little ocean voyageur. At the Explorer’s Reef and California tide pools, little ones can get close to cleaner-fish, sea stars, and bamboo sharks. Get ready for a splashing good time full of fish-filled fun!

If you have a small toddler, you’ll be spending most of your day at the Sesame Street Bay of Play. There is so much to love about this two-acre zone including the shaded play area, as well as the water splash zone. Toddlers will enjoy a wide variety of activities, including storytime with Big Bird and an animal education presentation called R for Rescue. There are also kid-friendly rides such as Abby’s Sea Star Spin, Elmo’s Flying Fish, and Oscar’s Rocking Eel.

LEGOLAND California

What’s not to love about a fantasy world made of colorful mini bricks? At LEGOLAND California, many of the rides are geared towards kids who are under 48-inches tall, which can be found scattered throughout the park. Sky Patrol and Lego City Deep Sea Adventure are great first rides for toddlers, while daredevils ages 3-5 can check out the Junior Driving School. If you want to take it down a notch, Coast Cruise, Fairy Tale Brook, Legoland Express, and Safari Trek are extremely mellow adventures that even the timidest kiddos are sure to find delightful.

During the summer, guests can purchase an add-on ticket to the LEGOLAND water park, which has shallow areas specially designated for toddlers. The aquarium will also be a definite highlight and is the perfect place to escape the heat. Make sure to stop by Miniland USA before you leave with its LEGO replicas of global cities. Adults and children alike will enjoy spotting famous landmarks like the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. 

Read more: Vacation loans: 8 Pros and Cons to Consider To Get The Best Deal

San Diego Zoo

Although it may not be an amusement park, getting San Diego Zoo tickets is a must when visiting Southern California with toddlers. One of the most famous zoos in the world, and the most visited in the country, this renowned destination is home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals from koalas and polar bears to hippos and pandas.

Besides the incredible animal watching, the San Diego Zoo also has three playgrounds: the Elephant Play Yard, the Koala Klimber, and the Polar Play Area. From fossil digs, puzzles, and even illustrated storybooks, these playgrounds will provide hours of hands-on fun for your tots. If you want to rest your legs, take advantage of the Skyfari Aerial Tram and the Kangaroo Express Bus. 

Adventure City

Adventure City is a budget-friendly park geared towards children 2-10, making it a great first amusement park for your toddler. This smaller, far less overwhelming amusement park in Southern California has many unique, kid-friendly rides from the Crank ’N’ Roll mini train to Rescue 911, allowing children to try on firefighter helmets and jackets. 

Most of the rides at Adventure City are catered towards children 4 feet and under, so tots will feel right at home here. The Petting Zoo is also a must-see spot where children can pet and feed adorable farm animals. 

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