MICKEY OR THE MINIONS?
It would be difficult to road-trip round California without visiting at least one theme park. LOS ANGELES has all the big names – which one you choose for today’s outing will depend on the age and interests of your kids. DISNEYLAND, in Anaheim, 25 miles down the I-5 from Downtown LA, needs no introduction. Disneyland Park [open daily from 8am to midnight | summer tickets $149, under-10s $141, under-3s free] has been joined in recent years by the neighbouring Disney California Adventure Park [open daily from 8am to 10pm | $149, under-10s $141, under-3s free; $199/$191 for Park Hopper tickets to both parks], but you’d be hard pushed to do both justice in one, albeit very long, day. Sticking to the original park of Sleeping Beauty’s castle fame, you can “fly” over London with Peter Pan, take a boat trip with the Pirates of the Caribbean, outrun boulders on the Indiana Jones Adventure and ride the classic coasters of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. From May 31, you’ll also be able to hop into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and battle the First Order on rides in the eagerly awaited new Star Wars Land.
For a brilliant blend of rollercoaster rides and movie magic, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD [open daily from 8 or 9am until 10pm | summer tickets $119 to $129, under-10s to $113 to $123, under-3s free], 10 miles up Highway 101 from Downtown LA, takes some beating. Your kids could spend hours in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter alone, exploring Hogwarts, riding a hippogriff, shopping for wands on Diagon Alley or supping on Butterbeer. There are motion-simulator rides aplenty, not just Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but also Transformers: The Ride 3D, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and The Simpsons. The shows are still great, particularly WaterWorld, but save time, too, for the Studio Tour, for close encounters with Jaws and King Kong. Universal Studios has its own new ride, too (coming this summer), which is based on the Jurassic World franchise.
TOP TIPS Whichever park you pick, buy you tickets online in advance (to save time queuing at the entrance), get there early (before the parks open) and tick off the most popular rides first. Skip-the-queue passes are worth considering, as they can save you hours of waiting in line, but they cost extra ($60 for a MaxPass at Disney, a whopping $130 – more than the ticket price itself – for the Universal Express). The Disneyland app, featuring park maps, ride waiting times and listings of shows, is also useful.
WHERE TO STAY
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From beachfront hotels to Downtown B&Bs – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in California
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of California’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety, and how to get around
MORE AMAZING TRIPS
Inside glaciers, under waterfalls and out into the Atlantic to watch whales
Two weeks exploring the most family-friendly country in Southeast Asia