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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day Trips: Three Top Bay Area Amusement Parks

Warm summer weather and vacations spells out amusement part rides and cotton candy. While San Francisco isn’t known for theme parks (the same way a certain Southern California city certainly is), you can get your fill by renting a car for the day and heading to the coast. The roller coasters that is. Here are three Bay Area amusement parks to consider.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk (Santa Cruz, CA): Set on the Pacific Ocean, this beach boardwalk has free concerts plus rides. Come for a few hours - come for the whole day. Don't miss the historic 1911 Looff carousel — It has one of the few “brass ring” machines left in the country. You can lean over from your wooden carousel horse and grab a ring, then toss it into a clown’s mouth a few seconds later. The Boardwalk has rides for all ages, whether you have toddlers or high schoolers.

Gilroy Gardens (Gilroy, CA): In the garlic capital of the world, this amusement park is best for the younger set and for parents who might find the horticultural exhibits fascinating. I do. With 40 rides plus water features, the kids will end up happy and tired. They’ll even love the 19 “Circus Trees,” (see exampleon the right) with branches and trunks grafted and shaped in surprising ways. In addition to a train and monorail, the park also has a large greenhouse with a Monarch butterfly garden. Plus deep fried zucchini. Yummy!

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Vallejo, CA): Head north to Vallejo, and you can ride a coaster that will make you puke, swim with dolphins, and more. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has a little something for everyone, with wild animals like a Bengal tiger, an Asian elephant, and a killer whale. Hopefully this one won't kill a trainer, as it did at a Florida park. As for the rides, they range from go-karts to a Tony Hawk spinning coaster.

If you’re traveling with the family from out of town (and want to stay in San Francisco), check out the Fisherman’s Wharf hotels like the Argonaut Hotel, Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel, or Fairmont Heritage Place and you’ll have easy access to the routes.

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Basket Tree photo by Donna62
Santa Cruz Boardwalk photo by Tibchris

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