Amusement Parks attract families because they offer all-day fun. However, they have a number of disadvantages: 1) They are often outrageously expensive, especially at peak seasons. 2) Visits on busy days include long lines that try the patience of adults, let alone kids. 3) Most are giant marketing traps. Not only do you spend gobs and gobs of money on the ticket, but then your kids start begging for you to spend on stuffed animals, keychains, ice cream, and a whole slew of objects, sometimes of questionable content (do you really want your little girl to think she’ll grow up and be rescued by a handsome prince?).

Here are several alternatives with amazing amounts of fun for your kids, without the crazy spending. They range from $2.50 a pop to nearly $50—but even the top end of that range is a significant bargain over Disneyland.

WATER PARKS:

On the cheapest end, there are two municipal pools that offer the perks of a water park for a fraction of the price. We’re talking single digits, folks!

In the city, we’ve got Stoner Avenue Park. Despite the name, this is actually a wonderful park with lots of nice features. Best of all is the pool, which features a water slide, water canon, and other gadgets. Admission is free for kids and $2.50 for adults–$2 dollars if you show your L.A. library card! Be aware, these places have LOTS of rules–but that’s why these places are so clean and safe. For example, you may not bring in outside food and must wear a swimsuit to enter (even if it’s under a T-shirt and skirt). Check the websites below for rules.

http://www.laparks.org/dos/aquatic/facility/stonerParkPool.htm

Want even fancier? Drive north to the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center. You’ll get all-day play in three pools, including water slides (one is ginormous), all for about $4.

http://www.santa-clarita.com/index.aspx?page=732

PREFER TO STAY ON LAND?

For kids under 10, there’s a small amusement park called Adventure City. This little charmer is significantly cheaper, with shorter lines, less in-your-face marketing, and lots and lots of fun!

http://www.adventurecity.com/

The original amusement park in OC isn’t Disneyland, but Knott’s Berry Farm. It’s still there, still fun, with ticket prices at about half of those at Disneyland.

http://www.knotts.com/public/admission/prices/index.cfm

Want to stay closer to L.A.? Go to Santa Monica and visit Pacific Park at the pier. Dating from 1917, the pier is a historic landmark and has outstanding views of the ocean. There is no cost for admission–you simply pay for rides. These include the world’s only solar powered Ferris wheel. Adjacent to the park, but still on the pier, is an authentic wooden carousel, one of only 70 still operating worldwide.

http://www.pacpark.com/main.php

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About beccakinla

Freelance writer and unrepentant homemaker. Writer of many genres and author of "A Dozen Daisies for Raizy," "Sliding Doors and Other Stories," and "Mazal's Luck Runs Out."

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