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How to Plan a California Vacation Full of Ups and Downs

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Let’s say you’re plotting the perfect California vacation. And sure, every vacation comes with its share of highs and lows but in California, there’s good cause to get in more than your fair share with an itinerary that includes heart-stopping rides on some of the nation’s best roller coasters, brought to you courtesy of a good list of amusement and theme parks that range from world-famous names to lesser known, but equally deserving local parks. The rush is yours for the taking.

Topping the list of course are the big name baddies in Southern California like Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm, all in the Anaheim area. Then, of course there’s the original Universal Studios (Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City), SeaWorld San Diego and Six Flags Magic Mountain (north of Los Angeles) to fill a good month of Sundays without so much as setting foot in a local favorite or venturing north of the Grapevine.

So before ticking roller coasters off your to-do list, slow down and put those big flashy parks in perspective. To wit: plan a detour out to Santa Monica’s pier to enjoy a ride on a classic coaster and a stop to rattle along the old school rides at Belmont Park in San Diego before heading north.

California’s other concentration of amusement parks is in central California, within easy reach of most Bay Area cities. In Vallejo, California, just 30 miles northeast of San Francisco find Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, an animal park and roller coaster combo popular with visitors of all ages, or steer the same distance southeast of San Fran for access to California Great America. Spoiled for choice? Absolutely. And that’s without even starting on parks like Gilroy Gardens near San Jose (think mellow rides in a peaceful garden setting) or the rides at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, where you can mix up your coasters with some time by the water. It’s a California vacation that will give you fresh perspective on life’s ups and downs.

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