Get your theme park vacation on. The Disneyland Resort is the undisputed front-runner in family-friendly vacation destinations in Southern California. A short drive away is another appealing amusement park: Knott's Berry Farm. Hosting a far better selection of high-speed roller coasters, it's hugely popular with teens who crave thrill rides.
33 miles S of Los Angeles
There are newer and sometimes larger Disney parks in Florida, Tokyo, France and Hong Kong, but Disneyland -- the original and the inspiration for them all -- still opens its gates in Anaheim every day, proudly proclaiming itself "The Happiest Place on Earth." In 2001, Disney unveiled a new sister theme park, Disney California Adventure, along with the shopping/dining/entertainment district called Downtown Disney.
Attractions and Rides -- Savvy visitors know to use the FASTPASS system for the park's most popular rides -- basically an appointment time so you can skip the lines. For little ones, It's A Small World is still timeless. Slightly older kids will love the Jack Sparrow scene in another classic, Pirates of the Caribbean. Thrill-seekers can count on Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, plus the California Screamin' rollercoaster at California Adventure, for a good time.
Restaurants and Dining -- Kids will eat up character-dining opportunities, from Chip and Dale at the Grand Californian's Storytellers Café to Lilo and Stitch's Aloha Breakfast at the Paradise Pier Hotel, plus Goofy's Kitchen at Downtown Disney. For a one-of-a-kind experience, make a reservation at the dimly lit Blue Bayou, which is located inside the Pirates attraction. For a more upscale, adult-oriented experience, the Napa Rose competes with Orange County's best fine-dining establishments; Catal Restaurant is quite good as well, and more moderately priced.
Nightlife and Entertainment -- Downtown Disney isn't just for kids. In fact, even though most shows at the House of Blues are all ages, unaccompanied minors aren't even allowed. The impressive live music venue regularly hosts local heroes like Social Distortion to singer/songwriters, tribute bands and club nights. ESPN Zone is technically a restaurant, but really a world-class sports bar with more than 175 TV screens.
Characters and Parades -- Disneyland and California Adventure are also known for sensational productions such as the seasonal FANTASMIC!, which takes its inspiration from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and mixes magic, music, live performance, floats and special effects. California Adventure's electrifying World of Color is a lighting and water-feature feat, showcasing beloved Disney film characters and scenes, and takes place nightly in the Paradise Park lagoon.