Southern California is a place that demands exploration. It’s got great weather, amazing beaches, good shopping, beautiful people and of course, amusement parks. My 13 year-old and I have loved our various visits to the region, always bonding over new experiences and the most beautiful scenery in America.
She’s a Disney kid, too, so Disneyland has always had particular appeal, but the issue is typically cost and time. When we’ve gone to Los Angeles, Long Beach or San Diego in the past, we haven’t had the time to squeeze Disney and the other parks in, so when the opportunity arose recently to spend five quality days exploring three of the region’s amusement parks using CityPASS, we jumped at the opportunity. After all, I’d only had really great experiences using CityPASS, having used it in NYC, San Francisco and Philadelphia, and I was eager to see how it would work in Southern California.
Two Days in Disneyland with CityPASS
We started in Disneyland, where we spent one day in Disney California Adventure Park and one day at Disneyland Park. After realizing that I had developed an aversion to fast rides since turning 40, my daughter was left to her own devices but had no qualms riding the fast rides on her own. We were thrilled to find that the CityPASS allowed us to get FastPass tickets, and she didn’t miss a beat….or a ride. Since were staying at a Disneyland resort, the Disneyland Hotel, we were allowed early morning access to both parks on two separate days and she was able to get on what she wanted, with no lines.
In California Adventure Park, the tween took delight in the California Screamin’ coaster and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. At Disneyland Park, we rode our favorites, from It’s a Small World to Snow White to the Jungle Cruise together, and she went on fast rides like Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and theMatterhorn Bobsleds. We were lucky to be there during the park’s 60th anniversary and were able to witness their spectacular evening performances such as “Paint the Night” parade and the “Disneyland Forever” fireworks display. We indulged in food on the premises at restaurants such as Wine Country Trattoria, River Belle Terrace, Goofy’s Kitchen and the Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel, at a churro ice-cream sandwich in Downtown Disney and sat by the pool at our hotel. It was 2-1/2 days of pure bliss for the tween.
One Day in LEGOLAND with CityPASS
At LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, a suburb of San Diego, a mere one to one and a half hours from Los Angeles, we got to explore NINJAGO® World, which includes five new interactive attractions with NINJAGO The Ride being the main feature. The other four attractions are all designed to test guests’ creativity, agility, balance and speed, helping guests train to become a ninja. The new world also offers Asian inspired cuisine at NINJA Kitchen and shopping at Wu’s Warehouse.
While the majority of the park is for younger kids (ages 3-12), the tween mainly enjoyed walking through MiniLand, LEGO replicas of from landmarks around the world (the Freedom Tower is being built to join the rest of the NYC structures). It probably helped that we were walking around with a 7 year-old who was extremely excited about the park’s offerings, especially the rides, although she did enjoy Project X in the Technic section which they rode seven times. She also loved lunch – who wouldn’t? We had it at LEGOLAND California’s Pizza & Pasta Buffet. We also stayed at LEGOLAND Hotel, a LEGO lover’s sheer fantasy, complete with a whoopie cushion in the lobby, a disco-themed elevator and LEGO-themed rooms.
One Day at SeaWorld with CityPASS
An hour away back near downtown San Diego, we went to SeaWorld. Admittedly, I wasn’t terribly excited about this part of the trip but ended up impressed and glad that I went. We kicked off the day with a Dolphin Encounter where we all came up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins. With the help of a trainer, we communicated with them via hand signals and verbiage. Afterwards, we went on a tour of their Animal Rescue Center. SeaWorld saves 100-200 animals a year, often more. Working with local, state and federal agencies, they help animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care. It was heartening to see their work and the animals being helped. We went to shows, went on a few rides, but my favorite experience was lunch with Shamu, the famous killer whale. We munched on a lovely buffet whilst watching and learning trainers with Shamu and other killer whales.
The CityPASS covers three days at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park as well as one day each at LEGOLAND and SeaWorld San Diego. It costs $341 per adult and $311 per child ages 3 to 9, at participating theme parks. It saves approximately $136 per off regular combined admission. You can also buy it at citypass.com, but you must add at least $10 for shipping. The tickets offer express service at main entrances, skipping long lines, having only to present the ticket at the turnstile.
Disclosure: I was part of a press trip hosted by CityPASS and am writing various articles about my experience across several sites. As always, all opinions are my own.