Every Southern California theme park ride, ranked

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Floating islands of theme parks Universal Studios, Knott's, Magic Mountain and Disneyland showing some of the best rides
(Daniel Sulzberg / For The Times)

Times theme park critic Todd Martens was handed a wild assignment: Rank every theme park ride in Southern California. The mission was dizzying, literally, as he spent months fastening his seatbelt and zipping through mountains, strapping on AR goggles and floating into fairy tales. He judged each attraction not just on sheer entertainment, but on artistry and historical significance.

Here are the results. Below you’ll find guides to Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm and Magic Mountain, with their rides ranked from best to worst. Use them to plan a trip to the park — or to start a debate. What would be your No. 1?

Our top choice may be controversial. You’re welcome to disagree — politely. We’re talking about the Happiest Place on Earth, after all.

This is a theme park set in a working movie studio. While that means space is at a premium, it creates a lively, “only in SoCal” energy that no other theme park can match.


What began in the 1920s as a family-run roadside berry and tea destination has become a thriving SoCal theme park — and a fried chicken haven.

The Valencia amusement park is cherished for its mix of coaster styles — be it wooden, loop-based, single-rail or ones with mind-confounding seats that rotate 360 degrees.