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San Rafael Amusement Parks

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Amusement Parks

It’s no secret why San Rafael has become a popular destination spot for visitors throughout the years. The California city boasts beautiful year-round weather and outdoor activities are plentiful due to its proximity to Point Reyes National Seashore and the splendor of Muir Woods. It’s the largest (and oldest) city in Marin County, and that means it’s a bustling urban area filled with culture, history, diversity, industry and agriculture. Just 20 miles north of San Francisco and a quick 40-minute drive to Northern California’s celebrated Wine Country, San Rafael is also the perfect location for thrill seekers to explore the many amusement parks populating the area.

There are three big, world-class amusement parks within a one- or two-hour drive from San Rafael. Expect to spend an entire day at whichever park you visit. The closest one, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is just 30 miles east of San Rafael. The next closest, California’s Great America is 60 miles down the coast. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park is the farthest away. But the two-hour drive is worth it to experience the iconic Santa Cruz hot spot.

·      Six Flags Discovery Kingdom,1001 Fairground Drive, Vallejo, (707) 644-4000

·      California’s Great America, 4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara, (408) 986-5866

·      Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, (831) 423-5590

During the summer months, there is a trio of water parks worth checking out. All three are located south of San Rafael and easy to reach by freeway. Waterworld California is just 40 minutes away and is the closest. Aqua Adventure Waterpark and Raging Waters, San Jose are both a 90-minute drive down the scenic Pacific Coast.

Waterworld California, 1950 Waterworld Parkway, Concord, (925) 609-1364

Aqua Adventure Waterpark, 40500 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, (510) 494-4426)

Raging Waters, San Jose, 2333 S. White Road, San Jose, (408) 270-2022

For the youngsters, there are a handful of other amusement parks worth checking out, including:

Playland Corte Madera, 498 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera, (415) 927-5072

Gilroy Gardens, Gilroy, CA, (408) 840-7100

Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, 1300 Senter Road, San Jose. (408) 794-6400

Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Sausalito, (415) 289-7325

Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, (415) 339-3900

Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, (510) 452-2259

Pixieland Amusement Park, 2740 E. Olivera Road, Concord, CA 94519, (925) 676-9612

Emerald Hills Golfland, 976 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose, (408)-225-1533

As mentioned earlier, all of these facilities are freeway accessible and can be reached within an hour (or two) of driving.

The Northern California area is also home to a couple of alternative attractions that are worth visiting. Not amusement parks per se, they are nonetheless interesting one-of-a-kind destinations that can add extra value to your vacation. 

One of these attractions is the Bay Model Visitor Center. More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a functional, hydraulic 1.5-acre model of the San Francisco and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta system. A valuable research tool at the time, it exists today as an amazing installation that is guaranteed to capture the imagination of the entire family.

Bay Model Visitor Center, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito, (415) 332-3870

And finally, one of Northern California’s spookiest attractions is just 90 minutes away from San Rafael. The old Winchester Mystery House is arguably the most famous haunted mansions in the entire country. For a bit of Old West history and a twist of lingering mystery, the Winchester homestead is a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Without question, San Rafael’s natural beauty and moderate weather can’t be beat. For locals, it’s a great place for quick weekend getaways. And for others, it’s the perfect place for an extended visit. Either way, San Rafael has plenty of things to offer… rollercoaster’s and waterslides included.

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