Summer means laughs, thrills, and sugary snacks. Get your fill of all three at these great Bay Area amusement parks.

You are here

September 16, 2021

Your Guide to Bay Area Amusement Parks

Summer is right around the corner, and a trip to a theme park can be just what you need to add a little excitement to your vacation. In the Bay Area, you can find many amusement parks with fun rides for young kids, as well as crazy roller coasters for older kids that even parents might enjoy. Here are seven amusement parks in the Bay Area that you should consider adding to your itinerary.

North of San Francisco

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Vallejo, CA)

This is a theme park that brings together the thrill of rides and interaction with animals. You can ride an elephant, feed a giraffe and visit with a host of other animals here in a safe environment. There are rides for kids of all ages. There's Sylvester's Pounce and Bounce and the Tsunami Soaker for little kids, and thrilling roller coaster rides, such as the Superman Ultimate Flight, for older kids.
Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour
Ticket prices: Daily passes start at $46.99 (for adults)

Train Town (Sonoma, CA)

If you have kids between the ages of two and 11, this theme park in Sonoma is a great option. As the name suggests, the 10-acre park has rides themed around trains. The main attraction is the 20-minute ride through the park on a miniature train. The wooded setting, with lakes and streams, is perfect for a hot summer day. The park is open every day from June through August.
Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour
Ticket prices: $7.50 per ride, per person; free for children below 1 year of age

South of San Francisco

California's Great America (Santa Clara, CA)

This amusement park in Santa Clara is known for its thrill rides. However, there are options for younger kids, too. Children can even meet popular characters from the iconic cartoon, Peanuts. The best part about California's Great America is that you get access to a water park, Boomerang Bay, as well—at no additional cost. Given the popularity of the amusement park, weekends attract a huge crowd. If you can, try visiting the park on a weekday.
Travel time from San Francisco: 45 minutes
Ticket prices: Daily passes are $39.99 per person; all-inclusive tickets priced at $133

Gilroy Gardens (Gilroy, CA)

Gilroy Gardens is a unique amusement park that's themed around California's horticulture. The park has such unique rides as the Artichoke Dip and the Garlic Twist. The rides here are of the milder variety, which makes them perfect for kids less than eight years of age. For instance, there is the Timber Twister, which is a small roller coaster perfect for first-timers. The highlight of the park, though, is the circus trees. These specially grafted trees have weird forms and shapes that are every bit picture-worthy. The park also has water slides to beat the heat.
Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour 20 minutes
Ticket prices: $37 per person on purchase of four or more single day admission tickets

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (Santa Cruz, CA)

Much like Children's Fairyland, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is one of the oldest amusement parks in the Bay Area. A trip here can be a trip down memory lane, with carnival food, a historic Ferris wheel and arcade games, right alongside the beach. Whatever you plan to do, make sure you ride on the iconic Giant Dipper with your kids.
Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Ticket prices: Single-day unlimited rides pass starts at $39.95 per person

East of San Francisco

Aqua Adventure Water Park (Fremont, CA)

A trip to a water park is one of the best ways to beat the heat. Aqua Adventure Water Park has water slides for kids of all ages. There is the splash pad for toddlers, a pool, and a giant slide for older kids. You can even book cabanas to chill out with food and drinks while your kids are having fun.
Travel time from San Francisco: 1 hour
Ticket prices: Daily admission tickets for $19.99 (adults) and $14.99 (children)

Children's Fairyland (Oakland, CA)

Located on the shores of Lake Merritt, Children's Fairyland is one of the oldest theme parks in the Bay Area. In fact, it inspired the iconic Disneyland. You'll find a Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds and train rides. Each section of the park is inspired by a famous storybook, with slides and mazes to explore. The park also has a puppet theater, which hosts three puppet shows every day (at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.). The highlight of the park is the talking storybook boxes. When you enter the park, you can buy a key for $3. Insert this key in one of the boxes that dot the park and let a story come to life.
Travel time from San Francisco: 30 minutes
Ticket prices: $12 per person (children and adults)


You may also like