California is well-known for it’s wide selection of amusement parks and waterparks. Some of the best parks are inland and require a drive to the coast. For example, it would take some research to find the best beaches near Disneyland (luckily we’ve already done that research for you!).
There are some amusement parks that have rides, arcades, and other attractions that are just a short walk to a shoreline where you can put your toes in the sand. While many of these parks don’t rival Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Magic Mountain, they are still a great option for kids and families.
The Santa Cruz Boardwalk pictured above is on one of the most popular beaches in all of California, Santa Cruz Main Beach. There you’ll find roller coasters (big and small), arcade games, a putt-putt golf course, a bowling alley, restaurants, and even a steam train that departs from the beach for a trip through redwood forests and a river gorge.
Belmont Park is at Mission Beach in San Diego. This popular beach keeps this compact amusement park busy in the evenings and on weekends. Hit it during the week for shorter lines at the rides, zip-line, climbing wall, mini-golf, laser tag, lazer maze, and the wave rider.
Giant Dipper Roller Coaster at Belmont Park
Well-known SeaWorld is on the shores of the largest man-made aquatic park in America. Mission Bay Park has 17 beaches and parks on the calm saltwater bay. Mission Beach and Ocean Beach are both nearby with waves to play in.
This is the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier. They have a Ferris Wheel with stunning views, other rides, games, and many food options. Under the carousel you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Just south of the pier there is an area known as the Original Muscle Beach. Here you’ll find swings, bars, ropes and more for working out or just having fun. The North Beach and South Beach of Santa Monica State Beach are adjacent to the pier.
This tiny fun park is on the shore of Newport Bay next to the Balboa Island Ferry. It has a small Ferris Wheel that claims to have one of the longest rides around. They have an arcade and many water-based activities that begin nearby. Balboa Pier Beach is just two short blocks away. The fun zone is under now ownership who will hopefully restore it to its former glory.
This unique park is the only option near the coast of Northern California. They have a gondola ride that climbs about 600 feet in 1/3 of a mile through a redwood forest canopy. Nature is the theme of this fun attraction near Klamath. Hiking trails meander through the property to various sites including huge named trees. Across the highway from the north parking lot there is a trail that leads to an absolutely stunning Hidden Beach.
Legoland isn’t right on the beach, but it’s not far from many beaches in Carlsbad. North Ponto is a sandy beach that is great for families and Terramar Beach has tide pools that are fun visit at low tides.