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California's theme parks, ranked from cheapest to most expensive - Arizona Republic

Darkbeer1

Well-Known Member
Original Poster

>>Quickly, what’s the most expensive theme park to visit in California?
If you think the Happiest Place on Earth is also the costliest, you’re in Mistakenland.
A day at Disneyland (and Disney California Adventure) is actually slightly cheaper than Universal Studios Hollywood, the most expensive theme park when you factor in tickets, parking, food and hotel.<<

California theme parks, cheapest to most expensive

Results of HomeToGo.com's Theme Park Index, based on one-day ticket, parking, food and accommodations.
  1. Knott's Berry Farm, $128.85
  2. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, $138.23
  3. Six Flags Magic Mountain, $196.26
  4. SeaWorld San Diego, $202.92
  5. Legoland, $218.36
  6. California's Great America, $227.15
  7. (Tie) Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, $248.97
  8. Universal Studios, $289.79
 

raven24

Well-Known Member
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The good thing about spending something like that at Universal is you will be able to get everything done in one day, unlike Disneyland and California Adventure. Someone who would like to see most likely everything at the DLR will undoubtedly have to spend at the very least 2-3 days at the parks.
 

THE 1HAPPY HAUNT

Well-Known Member
I live in Arizona so I have to ask, what the heck does Arizona know about theme parks? they have no right to have an opinion. all we have out here is water parks and "castles and coasters" which has 2 coasters, a above decent log ride and kiddie rides an arcade and mini golf. psssh. az needs to keep their mouth shut.
 

SuddenStorm

Well-Known Member
Wow if you wait for Magic Mountains Labor Day sale you can get a season pass, parking, and refillable mug with free refills for a little over $80. Between their dining pass and Moviepass last year it was 👌🏼
Magic Mountain is an insane value. Grew up 5 minutes away, it was excellent to be able to go for an hour or so ride a couple rides than leave. It was also an excellent high school job.

If I was still local, I'd be all over the dining pass- I'd just go a couple times a week for lunch, it'd easily pay for itself.
 

Rich T

Well-Known Member
The good thing about spending something like that at Universal is you will be able to get everything done in one day, unlike Disneyland and California Adventure. Someone who would like to see most likely everything at the DLR will undoubtedly have to spend at the very least 2-3 days at the parks.
But are you having twice as much fun as at Knott's to justify over double the price? Don't get me wrong, I think Universal is worth seeing for die-hard movie fans (and Potter fans), but it seems to me that's the one major CA park that has never given me what I would consider a proper value for the price they charge. It was even like that back in the 80's. I mean, I know they have to pay the tram drivers Teamster wages, but c'mon!. :D
 

raven24

Well-Known Member
But are you having twice as much fun as at Knott's to justify over double the price? Don't get me wrong, I think Universal is worth seeing for die-hard movie fans (and Potter fans), but it seems to me that's the one major CA park that has never given me what I would consider a proper value for the price they charge. It was even like that back in the 80's. I mean, I know they have to pay the tram drivers Teamster wages, but c'mon!. :D
I personally enjoy Universal much more than Knott’s, so the value is there for me, especially when considering the annual pass options.

Personal tastes.😉
 

Rich T

Well-Known Member
While I'm at it, shame on you, CA Great America! :D You're an okay park due to a couple of great coasters, but you are *not* worth nearly double the price of Discovery Kingdom! I don't care if there's a freaking football stadium in your parking lot forcing you to close on certain days!
 

PiratesMansion

Well-Known Member
Magic Mountain is an insane value.

If I was still local, I'd be all over the dining pass- I'd just go a couple times a week for lunch, it'd easily pay for itself.
But then you would have to deal with Six Flags food employees and terrible food.

It's definitely a value, but more than anywhere else you get what you pay for.
 

SuddenStorm

Well-Known Member
But then you would have to deal with Six Flags food employees and terrible food.

It's definitely a value, but more than anywhere else you get what you pay for.
Some of their dining options aren't horrible. Standard theme park food? Sure... But their newer locations inside the park have decent items. Certainly no worse then the Hungry Bear at Disneyland.
 

socalifornian

Well-Known Member
They’ve even refreshed some menus again when I went last week. A lot of workers are definitely lacking a sense of urgency but I’ve also noticed their aging setups aren’t equipped to handle the traffic. So it’s not entirely on the frontline employees and moreso on aging infrastructure built for the park when it had fewer guests. Ordering through the app later this year should be a nice crutch for their system
 
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Ismael Flores

Well-Known Member
Universal has so few rides, of course you should be able to get it all done in a day.
The last time i went i was there for opening at 10am by 3pm we had nothing to do. We went ahead and did the tram tour, simpsons, jurassic, mummy, waterworld and the walk thru maze again we skipped transformers because we didnt find it to our liking and the line had gotten huge We still ended up leaving no later than 6. This was of course before Harry potter opened so that might make a difference.
 

PiratesMansion

Well-Known Member
Some of their dining options aren't horrible. Standard theme park food? Sure... But their newer locations inside the park have decent items. Certainly no worse then the Hungry Bear at Disneyland.
Maybe MM has better food than my local Six Flags then, which has always had terrible food and hasn't needed to improve because of an utter lack of competition in the area. It's just so engrained in me to not eat at Six Flags that the thought that they might actually have decent options doesn't compute.
 

SuddenStorm

Well-Known Member
Maybe MM has better food than my local Six Flags then, which has always had terrible food and hasn't needed to improve because of an utter lack of competition in the area. It's just so engrained in me to not eat at Six Flags that the thought that they might actually have decent options doesn't compute.
Wait... you were knocking Magic Mountain's food without having eaten at Magic Mountain?

Let's look at some of their more worthwhile options.

Full Throttle Sports Bar: An air conditioned sit down restaurant with a bar... the patties are fresh not frozen, and the buns are a cut above the slop sold elsewhere in the park. Options include a jalapeno bacon cheeseburger, nachos, salads, wings with house made sauces and more. I was in the first generation of line cooks at this establishment, and also was the last generation of line cooks at Mooseburger Lodge, the restaurant it replaced. This menu was way better than what was served prior to the refurbishment, and this is a trend that has continued since. Currently has 4 stars on Google Reviews. Not dining pass compatible, but the air conditioning is excellent and the burgers are far better than Disneyland's.

The next place to open (this time along with Twisted Colossus) was the Twisted 'Wiches. The manager over this location was one of the best I knew working there... and from what I understand, this food is among the best served at a Six Flags Park. Serving a variety of sandwiches including cheesesteaks, this location has 4 stars on Yelp. Here's a photo:

368980

Let's go a bit further to another recently rethemed location... Ace O Clubs (formerly JB's Smokehouse). I haven't eaten there since the retheme, but it looks to be the same food. Their Turkey Legs are phenomenal... dare I say better than Disney's. Here's a photo of one I had a few years ago:

368982

Going a bit further, Six Flags recently redid a whole bunch of dining in coordination with the Crazanity ride. This stuff is your typical park fare... burgers, pizza, chicken tenders.

I will caution... stay away from the pizza. I had the (dis)pleasure of working a few months at their Teen Titan's Pizza location while my home location Mooseburger Lodge was being renovated into Full Throttle Sports bar... the pizza comes premade and frozen, the toppings are cheap as possible, and the slices are not worth the $10 Six Flags charges.

If you're gonna go for chicken.... the boneless wings at High Octane Wings are delightful. The sauces are made in house (most use Frank's Red Hot as a base but additional butter + seasonings are added). The Spicy BBQ is a honey sriracha + Sweet Baby Ray's blend... phenomenal stuff, and the actual "boneless" wings are made from breast meat, not your Mcdonald's chicken blend. Personally, these are my go to for the Dining Pass.

And that's ignoring the snack that's included with each visit if you get the dining pass... a churro, ice cream, etc are all valid.

Six Flags MM has been working hard to improve their dining options... which is good, since there's a Wendy's and Mcdonald's right outside the park that I imagine gets a lot of business from folks not wanting to pay Six Flag's exorbitant prices.
 

socalifornian

Well-Known Member
Wait... you were knocking Magic Mountain's food without having eaten at Magic Mountain?

Let's look at some of their more worthwhile options.

Full Throttle Sports Bar: An air conditioned sit down restaurant with a bar... the patties are fresh not frozen, and the buns are a cut above the slop sold elsewhere in the park. Options include a jalapeno bacon cheeseburger, nachos, salads, wings with house made sauces and more. I was in the first generation of line cooks at this establishment, and also was the last generation of line cooks at Mooseburger Lodge, the restaurant it replaced. This menu was way better than what was served prior to the refurbishment, and this is a trend that has continued since. Currently has 4 stars on Google Reviews. Not dining pass compatible, but the air conditioning is excellent and the burgers are far better than Disneyland's.

The next place to open (this time along with Twisted Colossus) was the Twisted 'Wiches. The manager over this location was one of the best I knew working there... and from what I understand, this food is among the best served at a Six Flags Park. Serving a variety of sandwiches including cheesesteaks, this location has 4 stars on Yelp. Here's a photo:

View attachment 368980

Let's go a bit further to another recently rethemed location... Ace O Clubs (formerly JB's Smokehouse). I haven't eaten there since the retheme, but it looks to be the same food. Their Turkey Legs are phenomenal... dare I say better than Disney's. Here's a photo of one I had a few years ago:

View attachment 368982

Going a bit further, Six Flags recently redid a whole bunch of dining in coordination with the Crazanity ride. This stuff is your typical park fare... burgers, pizza, chicken tenders.

I will caution... stay away from the pizza. I had the (dis)pleasure of working a few months at their Teen Titan's Pizza location while my home location Mooseburger Lodge was being renovated into Full Throttle Sports bar... the pizza comes premade and frozen, the toppings are cheap as possible, and the slices are not worth the $10 Six Flags charges.

If you're gonna go for chicken.... the boneless wings at High Octane Wings are delightful. The sauces are made in house (most use Frank's Red Hot as a base but additional butter + seasonings are added). The Spicy BBQ is a honey sriracha + Sweet Baby Ray's blend... phenomenal stuff, and the actual "boneless" wings are made from breast meat, not your Mcdonald's chicken blend. Personally, these are my go to for the Dining Pass.

And that's ignoring the snack that's included with each visit if you get the dining pass... a churro, ice cream, etc are all valid.

Six Flags MM has been working hard to improve their dining options... which is good, since there's a Wendy's and Mcdonald's right outside the park that I imagine gets a lot of business from folks not wanting to pay Six Flag's exorbitant prices.
Wow even Disney’s burgers were frozen. Same with the nuggets and personal pizzas, tho I can’t speak for the slices that seem to be more prominent at dlr. And Sweet Baby Ray’s? Looooool that costs money
 

SuddenStorm

Well-Known Member
Wow even Disney’s burgers were frozen. Same with the nuggets and personal pizzas, tho I can’t speak for the slices that seem to be more prominent at dlr. And Sweet Baby Ray’s? Looooool that costs money
It's my understanding the burgers served at the cheaper locations were both smaller, and frozen. The boneless wings and actual wings both came frozen everywhere.

For the pizza, the dough came pre shaped and frozen. There was a dispenser for the cheap pizza sauce, and we had a measuring cup for the Mozzarella. Not the worst pizza I've had (that honor belongs to Little Caesar's) but close.

My favorite thing that got cut while I was there? When the Sports Bar first opened, the fries were insanely good. fresh cut, soaked overnight (to get rid of the starch... In N Out doesn't do this, that's part of why their fries suck), then twice fried at two different temperatures to make them perfect. They were seasoned with a ranch seasoning made with the dry ranch packets + additional seasonings. This lasted all of a few months... they still did the fries properly (when the cooks knew how to do the job properly) but stopped doing the ranch seasoning to instead do a 50/50 blend of Lawry's and plain salt.

Another thing the Sports Bar does that's excellent is a Sriracha ketchup... way better than the plain stuff.
 
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