Top Mom Tips for Seeing Southern California
Check out all our best advice on Southern California.
Here at FamiliesGo! we have yet to meet someone who doesn’t love Southern California. That is, unless they haven’t yet been there, in which case they’re dying to go.
The great weather, beaches and high-profile attractions and outdoor opportunities make it an especially idea destination for families.
So we were very excited to have a MOMtravelchat in May all about Southern California theme parks. It was sponsored by CityPass, whose Southern California card we’ve written about before. It’s a handy way to save money several the area’s major attractions: Disneyland, LegoLand, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.
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CityPass and the moms who joined in—several of whom live in or regularly visit Southern California—shares tips for making theme park trips more manageable, for making Disney more magical and for making the most of a visit to this region.
Here’s what we learned.
Why Southern California is Awesome
- Beaches, Beaches, Beaches: People repeatedly talked about how nice the beaches are in Orange and San Diego counties. One mom said she loves, “the whole laid-back feel.”
- Lots of Different Things To Do: Several moms noted that they like being able to mix the beaches and theme parks with cultural sites in Los Angeles, like the Griffith Observatory and Getty Museum. Moms with older kids and teens also love the Hollywood studio tours.
- Outdoor opportunities: Parents also liked taking a break from theme parks with outdoor attractions like Joshua Tree and dessert hot springs in Palm Springs.
- The Weather: Apparently it never rains in Southern California. I have never heard a region praised for its (presumably sunny and temperate) weather as much as SoCal is.
Best Theme Park Tips
- Wildlife: The San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld are the attractions with the second broadest appeal. Everyone from babies to grandparents like animals! At SeaWorld it’s the sea life, not the roller coasters that attract parents.
- Bricks for boys: Parents of little boys all have Legoland on their to-do list. The park has plenty of gender-neutral and even girl-centered activities, but Legos really make little boys’ hearts go pitter-patter.
- Taking the Littlest Kids: While a trip to Disneyland or Legoland in particular can work with kids as young as 3 or 4, parents point out that your visit will be a very different experience at this age than with older kids. Plan to spend more time enjoying characters, special meals, shows and at Legoland, the bricks, and perhaps doing only a few mild rides. And plan on your day being shorter than you might prefer.
- The Perfect Age: Several parents say they waited until their kids were 5, 7, 8 or even a little older to visit theme parks so their kids would be interested in and tall enough to ride enough of the rides, so that they could handle lines and a long day. With Disneyland in particular they wanted to be sure their kids would remember their first visit.
- Holiday Visits: The weekends leading up to holidays like Halloween and Christmas can be particularly memorable times to visit, with special costumes, parades, themed treats, park decorations and other seasonal events.
- Best Money-Saving Tip: The most popular place to save money is on theme-park food. The most popular strategy is to have a big breakfast away from the park, skip lunch or do something quick like hot dogs, and pack snacks. Then splurge on dinner, at the park or a nice restaurant nearby.
Best Disneyland Tips
- Best All-Ages Park: Among SoCal theme parks, Disneyland is the clear favorite. Parents say it’s the park that does the best job of accommodating their families’ varying ages and interests.
- The Perfect Age: This is the park where parents start at the youngest age. One family takes each of their kids to Disneyland at 18 months old for their first haircut! But as one parent said, “7 is perfect; young enough for the magic and old enough for the rides.”
- Magic Hour: Take advantage of it if it’s available to you; early risers really do beat the lines. And they get the FastPass tickets for hottest attractions.
- FastPass: It’s free. Use it for any popular rides on your must-do list, like those in Radiator Springs, and in-demand characters like Anna and Elsa.
- Hopper: Take advantage of your hopper to get FastPasses in one park before you visit the other. It also widens your dining options. We like the restaurants in California Adventure Park.
How CityPass Will Make your Stay Better
- The Savings: The CityPass Southern California card saves $136 per person over individual ticket prices to Legoland, SeaWorld and Disneyland. So if you know you want to do all three, it’s really a no-brainer.
- The San Diego Zoo: You can add the Zoo or the Zoo Safari as an extra and save $148.
- 14 Days: The card expires weeks from the first day you use it, so you can space the attractions between other Southern California Activities
- Hopper: The Disneyland portion is a three-day hopper, and the three days need not be consecutive. When we went to SoCal we flew into and out of LA and so bookended our trip with Disney visits.
- Magic Hour: The Disneyland portion includes one magic hour.
- Stay At Legoland portion doesn’t include the Ninjago waterpark, which you’ll want to add on if it’s hot. But it does get you a 15% discount at the Legoland Hotel, which is worth a one-night stay.
Thanks to our MOMtravelchat moms for sharing their beautiful family photos.
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