08/03/2011 02:47 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2011

Amusement Parks In Los Angeles: A Huffington Post Travel Guide

The many amusement parks in Los Angeles are a big draw for families from around the world. From the movie-based rides at Universal Studios to Disneyland's famous attractions to the lesser known but equally fun thrills that can be found at Knotts Berry Farm, the Los Angeles area has a lot of thrilling amusement park options for visitors of all ages. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on family-fun parks, here is our guide to all the key information visitors need to know about Los Angeles's amusement parks.

Disneyland Park

Disneyland is considered by many to be the queen mother of all themed amusement parks, and it is also Disney's flagship park. Established in 1955, this well-maintained park offers kiddie attractions centered around Disney movies and cartoons, as well as thrill rides for older children and adults. Even today, more than 50 years later, it is still counted as one of the best amusement parks in the world.

The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn bobsled ride is arguably the park's signature ride. Head to the faux mountain early in the day or during any special parades or shows if you want to skip waiting in long lines for this high-speed ride. The Matterhorn bobsled attraction, which carves its way in and out of the mountain, is one of the few real thrill rides available at Disneyland and is popular with older children and adults.

Famous Characters

Younger children will enjoy It's a Small World, which offers a gentle boat ride through a land of singing children animatrons. For older kids, the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are fun, albeit slightly scary attractions filled with surprises and often funny scenes. Cartoon characters from Disney movies can be seen strolling through the park and are often featured in parades and shows. Children can also meet the characters at designated greeting areas.

Dine By Land

Disneyland offers a variety of food options, with the selection often based on the "land" in which you will be dining. For instance, there is Cajun food available at Cafe Orleans, which is located in Disneyland's New Orleans Square. Disneyland offers both sit-down restaurant dining options, as well as snack bars. For guests who like to picnic, there is an area available for them to use outside of the main entrance.

Safety Record

Disneyland has a relatively good safety record. According to a 2009 Los Angeles Times article, the park has had approximately 550 million visitors since it opened in 1955. The park has had 11 accidental deaths during that time. While there are no hard numbers for injuries available, the Amusement Safety Organization lists 31 injuries and illnesses that were reported to have occurred at Disneyland in 2010. These included such ailments as back and neck pain, a heat-related illness and an ankle sprain that occurred while tripping.

Address: 1313 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: 714-781-4565
Hours: The park hours are generally from 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. to midnight, but it can vary from day to day depending on various circumstances. Call Disneyland before planning your day.
Price: Tickets are $68 for children ages 3 to 9; $76 for ages 10 and up. Children under 3 are free.

Universal Studios

Anybody who has ever had an interest in how Hollywood creates its movies and television shows will thoroughly enjoy a visit to Universal Studios, which is still a working production studio. Guests can enjoy a show on special effects, as well as a tram ride through famous movie sets. In addition, Universal Studios also has fun thrill rides such as Jurassic Park, the Ride and The Simpsons.

Tram To TV And Movie Sets

The studio tram ride is the signature ride at Universal Studios. As the tram winds its way through back lots, a video featuring comedian Jimmy Fallon describes the famous sets, movies and television shows filmed there. The famous Bates Motel from "Psycho," and Wisteria Lane from "Desperate Housewives" are just two of the sets you will see on the tour. Parents with young children should take into consideration how they might react to loud explosions and some rather intense scenes, including King Kong attacking the tram. Once you are on the tour, there is no point at which you are allowed to get off the tram until the ride ends. The line seems long but moves swiftly, as each tram holds a large number of people.

From Revenge Of The Mummy To Spongebob

Guests looking for a fast, thrilling ride will enjoy Revenge of the Mummy -- The Ride, which is a coaster-type attraction that reaches speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. For those who enjoy water-based rides, Universal Studios has Jurassic Park -- The Ride, which is a partial re-creation of the movie's famous disastrous dinosaur land. Cartoon characters, including the Simpsons, Shrek, SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer can be found wandering through the park and are available for photo ops.

Dining Options

Universal Studios has a wide range of dining options for its guests, including Chinese, Pizza Hut and diner-style food. In addition, guests can also walk to the adjacent Universal City Walk, which is home to a number of large restaurants, including a Wolfgang Puck Bistro, a Johnny Rockets and a Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood.

Safety Record

According to Amusement Safety, Universal Hollywood had 12 reported injuries in 2010. These included such incidents as back pain, a heat-related illness and a slip and fall. The Theme Park Insider lists a report that a young girl may have suffered a brain aneurysm and died while on one of the rides in 1993.

Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City CA 91608
Phone: 1-800-UNIVERSAL
Hours: Park hours vary, but in the summer months, Universal Studios will generally open at 9:00 a.m. and close between 8:00 p.m. and 10 p.m. At other times of the year, the park generally opens at 10 a.m. on the weekdays and 9 a.m. on the weekends and will generally close between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. For the most up-to-date information, call the park before your trip.
Price: Admission is $74 for guests over 3 years of age and over 48 inches tall and $66 for guests under 48 inches and over 3 years of age. Guests under 2 are free. Tickets that allow guests to jump to the front of the line are available for a higher price, and there are also special season passes available to residents, as well.

Other Noteworthy Parks Near Los Angeles

Knott's Berry Farm
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Los Angeles
Disney California Adventure Park
Pacific Park Santa Monica
Legoland California

What's your favorite amusement park in Southern California?

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