Day Trips From Disneyland
Taking a day trip from Anaheim is a great way to extend a Disneyland vacation. Whether you are a regular visitor to Disneyland or this is your first trip, you might enjoy venturing beyond the immediate Disneyland Resort area and exploring Southern California. From beaches and museums to other California theme parks, MouseSavers has information on many of our favorite places “beyond the mouse.” Best of all, many of them are FREE! This page is not intended to be a complete list, but is a guide to some of the major attractions and the discounts they offer.
All offers are subject to change without notice. Always call ahead and confirm before driving out of your way to take advantage of a particular offer!
- Southern California Theme Parks
- Balboa Park
- Beaches in Southern California
- Discovery Cube Orange County
- Griffith Observatory
- J. Paul Getty Museum
- La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- San Diego Zoo & Safari Park
- Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park
- Walt Disney (the man) in Southern California
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
- Transportation Options
The are several theme parks within a 1-2 hour drive of Disneyland. Use the links below to see water park and theme park ticket discounts, coupon codes, membership deals and other offers that can save you money!
Universal Studio Hollywood – Universal Studios Hollywood is both a film studio and a theme park. The signature ride is the Studio Tour, a tram ride that includes back lots where many TV shows and movies have been filmed. The theme park area has a variety of rides and attractions as well as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios Hollywood also has shows related to the moviemaking industry including the Special Effect Show and Universal’s Animal Actors. It is located just north of Hollywood.
Legoland California -Legoland California has a theme park, an aquarium and a water park. The rides are fairly tame, compared to Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, but that can make it a great place to go with younger kids, especially those who have never been to a theme park before. And Lego fans of all ages can enjoy the Lego-themed décor and Miniland USA, which features US landmarks created entirely with Legos. Legoland California is in Carlsbad, about an hour south of Anaheim.
SeaWorld San Diego – SeaWorld San Diego has theme park rides, shows and marine animal exhibits. They have a number of well-regarded roller coasters, including Manta. Their animal exhibits feature penguins, beluga whales, otters and fish of all kinds. SeaWorld San Diego is located in San Diego’s Mission Bay Park.
Knott’s Berry Farm & Knott’s Soak City – Knott’s Berry Farm began as an actual farmstand that eventually became a unique theme park with all kinds of rides and attractions including rollercoasters and a log flume. Knott’s Soak City (open seasonally) is right next door and has a full slate of water rides and activities. Knott’s Berry Farm and Soak City are located just outside Anaheim, in Buena Park.
Six Flags Magic Mountain & Hurricane Harbor – Six Flags Magic Mountain is known for its roller coasters – they have 19, as well as other rides and attractions geared toward all ages. Hurricane Harbor is their water park, open seasonally. Both parks are in Valencia, about 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Sesame Place San Diego – Sesame Place San Diego is a Sesame Street-themed theme park and water park. It has an interactive Sesame Street Neighborhood, family-friendly special events and shows, whirling and splashing rides and a wave pool. It is located near San Diego, close to SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo and other attractions.
Balboa Park is a public park in San Diego and home to a variety of museums, playgrounds, tours, trails and more! There are over 15 different gardens, most of which are FREE to enter. Museums include the San Diego Air & Space Museum, Fleet Science Center, San Diego Model Railroad Museum and several art museums. The San Diego Zoo is also in Balboa Park. If you need a quick bite, some caffeine or want a sit-down meal, there are a number of restaurants in the park.
Admission to Balboa Park and parking for Balboa Park are FREE. Each museum or organization is independently run and may charge admission – you can check the Balboa Park website or contact the Balboa Park Visitor Center for more information or help planning your visit.
- If you plan to visit Balboa Park in addition to other theme parks and museums, consider the Go City San Diego All-Inclusive Pass. This pass includes admission to several Balboa Park museums, plus the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park, Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego on 3+ day cards, Knott’s Berry Farm, plus multiple other attractions in the San Diego area. You pay one discount price for the number of days you choose. These work well if you are visiting at least two major attractions plus some less expensive attractions. Plus, MouseSavers readers get an extra 10% off total pass purchases!
Southern California is known for its wide sandy beaches and fantastic surfing waves, so you may want to add a beach visit to your Disneyland trip. Huntington Beach is one of our favorites. We might be a little biased because some of us (Don and his sister, MouseSavers.com founder Mary Waring) spent a lot of our childhood there, but it really is a fun beach, and it’s located an easy drive from Disneyland. Like almost any beach, there are lots of FREE activities such as volleyball courts and bonfire rings, along with access to the beach. You can walk along the Huntington Beach Pier, or go fishing from the pier (no license required). There are a variety of pay parking options.
If you want to spend more than one day at the beach, we recommend a short stay at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach. The Hyatt Regency is a fabulous luxury hotel with a great kids’ program called Camp Hyatt, and it is right at the beach. In fact, Disney uses the Hyatt for its “Southern California Vacation Package” Beach Hotel option for Disneyland packages. (If you’re interested in booking that package, consult a Disney Specialist travel agent.)
Discovery Cube Orange County is a children’s science museum in Santa Ana, California, a little over 5 miles from Disneyland. It’s located in a distinctive building that looks like a cube turned onto one point; visible from I-5. There are lots of permanent hands-on exhibits, as well as special exhibits that come and go. Special events throughout the year include the Annual BubbleFest in April, Spooky Science in October and the Science of Gingerbread in December.
General admission is $19.95 per adult (age 15+), $14.95 per child (age 3-14) and $16.95 per senior (age 62+). Parking is $6 and can be purchased online in advance.
- Bank of America cardholders get one FREE ticket to Discovery Cube Orange County on Sunday of the first full weekend of any month through the Museums on Us program. You must show your Bank of America debit or credit card at the Ticket Office.
- If you are a member of a science center or museum, you may be eligible for FREE admission to the Discovery Cube Orange County, as well as other museums that are members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers Passport Program. Restrictions apply and you must have your membership card with you. Thanks to Maryanne M for info.
The Griffith Observatory is located in Griffith Park overlooking downtown Los Angeles. The Observatory has exhibits about all aspects of astronomy: the solar system, the history of the universe, the development of the telescope, to name a few, as well as a Foucault’s Pendulum. Their planetarium has a variety of shows offered daily, presented by a live narrator. The Griffith Observatory telescopes are open to the public any evening the Observatory is open and skies are clear.
Outside the Observatory you can also get a good view of the Hollywood sign or hike one of the many park trails.
Admission to the Griffith Observatory is FREE. There is a charge for parking during most hours, rates vary. (Please note: parking is limited and the pay stations only take credit cards.) Tickets to the planetarium are $10 per adult (age 13 and up), $8 per student or teacher (with ID) and seniors, and $6 per child (age 5-12). Children under 5 are admitted to the first show of the day only and must sit on an adult’s lap. Tickets can only be purchased at the Observatory on the day of the show.
There are lots of famous landmarks to visit in Hollywood, California: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Disney’s El Capitan Theatre, The Chinese Theatre, Madame Tussauds. The good news is, everything you will want to see is located within about three city blocks, with the center being Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave.
The Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards, has concerts, shows and other events that are open to the general public. Or, you can walk through the impressive multi-story portal from Hollywood Blvd. and wander along an Awards Walk of glass plaques featuring winners of the Best Picture Oscar.
The Hollywood Museum features four floors of Hollywood exhibits, including displays on Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West, as well as costumes and props from a few films including Moulin Rouge and Silence of the Lambs.
- Check out our Hollywood page for detailed advice about how to get there, what to see and discount information.
The J. Paul Getty Museum is actually two museums: The Getty Center (in Los Angeles) and the Getty Villa (in Malibu). Both locations offer special events and activities for families, in addition to their regular exhibits.
The Getty Center (in Los Angeles) is a small complex up on a hill with art exhibits, great views of Los Angeles, gardens, stunning architecture and several dining options. Once you have parked (or been dropped off) you ride a tram up to the Getty Center itself. Up there, you can enjoy the architecture, stroll around the gardens, have a snack and just generally enjoy the atmosphere – far above the noise and traffic of the city. And there’s art too! The Getty Museum features art from the Middle Ages to the present. In addition to the permanent collections and temporary exhibits, the Getty Museum has a Family Room with hands-on, art-related activities for kids. Admission to the museum at Getty Center is FREE – but currently requires a timed-entry reservation made in advance. Parking is $20 per car, or $15 per car after 3 pm.
The Getty Villa (in Malibu) is a recreation of an ancient Roman country house. There are gardens, a classical theater and a café. The Getty Villa features ancient art, from the end of the Stone Age through the fall of the Roman Empire. In addition to the permanent collections and temporary exhibits, the Getty Villa Family Forum has hands-on activities for kids. So there are plenty of things for kids to touch and do while they are learning. Admission to the museum at Getty Villa is FREE – however you must order a timed entry ticket online in advance. Parking is $20 per car, or $15 per car after 3 pm.
The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is an active dig site and museum located in urban Los Angeles. The grounds of La Brea Tar Pits & Museum have a number of tar pits you can see, in addition to the famous Lake Pit – which is still bubbling and has life-size statues of mastodons. You watch actual excavators at work at Pit 23 and explore the plants of the Pleistocene Garden. The museum itself has over 2 million fossils of all kinds of ice age animals excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits just outside and a glass-encased Fossil Lab where you can watch paleontologists at work.
Admission is $15 per adult, $12 per student (age 13-17), $7 per child (age 3-12) and $12 per senior. General admission includes the Excavator Tour, a 45 minute tour of the Fossil Lab, Lake Pit, Observation Pit and Project 23. For an additional $6 per ticket you can see Titans of the Ice Age 3D or Ice Age Encounters. Buying tickets in advance is highly recommended, you will have to pick a specific date. Parking is $15.
- L.A. County Residents get FREE museum admission from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm daily. Tickets are available at the Museum ticketing desk or kiosks.
- Museum admission for active or retired military with I.D. is always FREE.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), in downtown Los Angeles (near the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum), has art and objects from antiquity to the present and from all over the world, but is particularly well known for its collections of Asian, Latin American and Islamic art.
Admission for people who live outside L.A. County is $25 per adult, $10 for children and teens (ages 3-17) and $21 per senior (age 65+) or student with valid ID. Walk-up tickets are available, but purchasing a timed-entry ticket in advance is highly recommended.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art offers FREE admission on a variety of days and to a variety of groups. For complete details, check the museum’s Free Admission section. Please note: admission to specially ticketed exhibits is generally not included in FREE general admission.
- General admission is FREE to everyone the second Tuesday of every month.
- LA County residents receive FREE general admission after 3 pm every weekday with valid ID. (Please note: the museum is closed on Wednesdays.) They receive discounted admission otherwise.
- General admission is FREE to all active-duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Armed Forces Day through Labor Day. Read more about the Blue Star Museums program and the list of participating museums.
- Bank of America account holders get one FREE general admission ticket the first full weekend of every month through the Museums on Us program. You must show your Bank of America debit or credit card at the Ticket Office.
- Members of art museums that participate in the Reciprocal Museum Program get FREE general admission – check the list of participating museums.
San Diego Zoo – The San Diego Zoo has over 3,700 animals, more than 700,000 plants and was one of the first zoos to house their animals in exhibits that recreate their natural habitats. In addition to walking around the exhibits, there is a guided bus tour, a mini train and a Skyfari. The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park just outside downtown San Diego.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park – The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is known for their Asian Savanna and African Plains Safari exhibits, which have animals and plants from those habitats in the same open-range exhibit, best viewed from a tram. There are a variety of other exhibits and animals that can be seen from walkways, such as the Tiger Trail and the Gorilla Forest. The Safari Park is run by the same organization that runs the San Diego Zoo, but is located about 35 miles away from the San Diego Zoo, north of San Diego.
- Check out our complete information about discounts for the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park is the actual workshop from Walt’s home where he and his friends would relax and putter. Arguably Walt’s Barn was the birthplace of Imagineering, because many of Walt’s buddies became the first Imagineers. The barn is small, but has information about Disneyland history, railroads and Walt himself. It’s located in a pretty area with picnic tables nearby.
Walt Disney lived and worked in Southern California for much of his adult life. So there are all kinds of places in Southern California that have a Disney connection – from his first studio to his favorite restaurant (the Tam O’Shanter), as well as his beloved miniature railroad from his home on Carolwood Drive (now housed in Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park). Many Disney films had their premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now the TCL Chinese Theatre) in Hollywood.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour offers you an up close and personal visit to the sets and sound stages where major motion pictures and television series have been produced. It’s an excellent in-depth tour for anyone interested in how television and movie production happens. There are several tours to choose from including the Studio Tour, Classics Tour and Deluxe Tour. Check their website for details about each tour, as well as the length and cost. Parking is $15 per vehicle.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is located at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank (near the northwest area of Griffith Park, a relatively short drive from Hollywood). Dress in comfortable shoes as there can be some walking.
Please note: tours are open to ages 5 and up only; everyone age 18 and up must show valid ID to enter. You must pass through a metal detector and bags will be screened.
- aRes Travel offers tickets to Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood at a slight discount.
If you’re looking for an upscale, private ride to/from Disneyland to one of the activities on this page, or elsewhere, try ExecuCar private sedan service.