While some of the better known southern California amusement parks are located in Orange County (specifically, Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm), this Los Angeles Amusement / Theme Parks article details some equally enjoyable parks and studio tours.
CBS Television City, Los Angeles – This is where Elvis’ 1956 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was taped and where you can obtain free tickets for tapings of current shows such as The Price Is Right. (cbs.com/daytime/price/tickets)
Paramount Pictures Studio Tour, Los Angeles – This guided tour offers no tram rides or special effects and is strictly a realistic, bare-bones walking tour of this sprawling, 62-acre studio’s back lot. If you take the tour, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for two hours of walking. Advance reservations are required, and the website instructs to call 323-956-1777 for information. (paramount.com/paramount.php)
Paramount Ranch, Thousand Oaks – In 1927, Paramount Pictures purchased 2,700 acres of the old Rancho Las Virgenes in the Santa Monica Mountains for use as a “movie ranch.” For 25 years, a veritable Hollywood who’s who practiced their craft here, including director Cecil B. Demille and actors Bob Hope, Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert, but the diverse landscape was the real star of the show. Now a National Recreation Area, Paramount Ranch is the only place in the National Park System where you can see movie making in action. (nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/paramountranch.htm)
Raging Waters, San Dimas – California’s largest water park was ranked #3 nationally by the Travel Channel in its “Top 10 ranking of US Water Parks.” Over 50 landscaped acres, 36 slides and attractions and a sand beach help ensure that guests of all ages will enjoy their visits to one of our favorite Los Angeles amusement / theme parks. (ragingwaters.com)
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica – The finish line of famed Route 66, this historic recreational and entertainment venue is home to an aquarium and Pacific Park, attracting 3 million visitors a year. (santamonicapier.org – healthebay.org/smpa/ – pacpark.com)
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Valencia – This 12-acre water park is located next to Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park and offers a perfect place to cool off, work on your tan, kick back and have some fun. Admission to the two parks is charged separately. (sixflags.com/hurricaneHarborLA/index.aspx)
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia – About 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, this is the only Six Flags park open year-round, although only on weekends during the school year. (sixflags.com/magicMountain/index.aspx)
Sony Pictures Studio Tour, Culver City – From 1924, this lot was the home of MGM Studios until Sony took over in 1986, so there’s a lot of history to enjoy here. The two-hour guided walking tour (no trams) begins in the Sony building’s cantilevered atrium and includes stops at classic stage scenes like Munchkinland’s Yellow Brick Road, sets from modern thrillers like Spiderman and sets for perennial favorites Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune. And, since it’s one of the busiest studio lots in the world, you just might get lucky and see one of the many stars who work here! (sonypicturesstudios.com/tourssection/Tours.html)
Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal City – In addition to enjoying this studio’s awesome contribution to Los Angeles amusement / theme parks, you can also enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the world’s largest motion picture/TV studio here. Half history and half special effects extravaganza, entertaining tour guides will highlight the studio’s proud movie-making history for you. A couple of tips: (1) take the studio tour early (when you first get to the park and other guests are rushing off to the amusement park); and (2) be warned that you can get a little wet during both the “Jaws” and the fake flash flood during the “Old Mexico” sections of the tour (if possible, avoid the end seat). (universalstudioshollywood.com/)
Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour, Burbank – When Warner Bros. says “VIP,” they’re not kidding! This tour originally began as a way to show some Very Important People around the studio back lot, and in October 1954 one such VIP was none other than Queen Elizabeth, who paid a visit and toured the set of the movie, The Pajama Game. If you’re lucky, you may just see a star-VIP, too, while on the tour as some websites share remembrances of seeing George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Rob Lowe and Steven Spielberg. No one under age 10 is admitted. Dress casually and wear comfortable shoes. You may bring a (still) camera, but you can only use it on the back lot portion of the tour. The tour lasts two hours, and advance phone reservations are required, especially for groups of four or more. The studio can often accommodate last-minute reservations, but try to call at least an hour before heading to the studio. You can find admission and parking information on the website. (www2.warnerbros.com/vipstudiotour/)
If the Los Angeles amusement / theme parks aren’t enough to keep you busy, you might want to also check out the other Southern California offerings: Orange County amusement / theme parks and San Diego amusement / theme parks. There’s no such thing as too much fun in California!
Note: Information in this article was accurate
when it was published, but hours, prices, etc.
change constantly. Please confirm details
with local contacts before traveling.