Six Flags vs Disneyland – Assessing the Best Theme Park

Six Flags Magic Mountain 268” by Jeremy Thompson licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you and your family are planning to spend money on a theme park, you really want to get your money’s worth.  And when it comes to amusement parks, two big names in California are Six Flags (Magic Mountain) and Disneyland.  So in this Six Flags vs Disneyland comparison, I’m going to lay out all of the similarities and differences these two vacation destinations have when it comes to price, rides, and entertainment options!

Six Flags vs Disneyland

Let begin by talking about what Six Flags Magic Mountain will offer you as a paying guest.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain 134” by Jeremy Thompson licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the 1960’s, Sea World Inc. founders and executives were on the hunt for the perfect plot of land to build a new theme park. They would eventually settle in the hills of Valencia, California, just one hour north of Anaheim. The park was easily accessible by bus from Los Angeles and Northern California, and bus and admission tickets could be purchased as a package. 

From the get-go, the park was known for it’s rides, opening up with 33 different attractions. Shortly after opening, they obtained the rights to Warner Bros. collection of Looney Toons characters, and had their first park mascots. Over the decades they built on their collection of impressive as well as diverse attractions, which they’ve come to be known for.

Let’s fast forward to today. You may not know that according to The Guinness Book of World Records, Six Flags Magic Mountain currently boasts the most roller coasters in one theme park. Keep that in mind if you have a few thrill seekers in your group, or even if you yourself are looking for a bit of excitement! 

Today the park is home to a wide variety of attractions, from coasters to water rides, with no shortage of cartoon characters brought to life, fun places to shop and never-ending options when it comes to grabbing a bite to eat.  


Sleeping Beauty Castle” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

I would be remised if I didn’t mention that Disneyland is perhaps one of the most notably recognizable theme parks in the world. It started from humble beginnings not long before Magic Mountain, breaking ground in 1955 with 18 rides and attractions, as opposed to Magic Mountain’s 33. 

At the time, The Walt Disney Company was already a thriving entertainment studio, looking to build a park for tourists who wanted to see behind the scenes. While Magic Mountain’s claim to fame was its intricately designed attractions, Disney made their mark by debuting incredibly detailed lands, such as New Orleans Square and Toontown and Fantasyland. 

This brings us to today. Disneyland has one of the largest audiences worldwide, drawing in millions of visitors a year. Home to a unique collection of attractions, recognizable characters come to life and a jam-packed agenda of colorful parades, stage shows and interactive guest experiences, Disney has something up its sleeve for guests of all ages. 

In 2001, Disney opened the gates to Disney California Adventure Park, a park dedicated solely to celebrating the historic and well-known landmarks of The Golden State. We’ll get more into that later, but know that Disneyland is not only packed with nostalgia, it’s has few (if any) competitors. Unlike Magic Mountain, according to the popular Disney travel blog, Disney Insider Tips, there are currently 12 Disney theme parks all around the world. 

Six Flags or Disneyland for Pricing

Six Flag Magic Mountain Prices

If price is your sole deciding factor on which park to choose, Six Flags parks will always come in at a lower price point than Disney, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon. Right now, single day tickets will run you about $55/per day. In addition, Six Flags offers a variety of different packages if you know you’ll be making multiple park visits throughout the year, many of which are less than a Disney park ticket.

You can upgrade to the Gold pass for an additional $90/per person, the Platinum pass for an additional $115/per person, or the Diamond pass for an additional $160/per person. All include free parking (which usually runs $30 for the day) and food & beverage discounts ranging from 5% – 15% off. Passes are valid for 1 year. 

Some upgrades such as the Platinum and Diamond pass include water park admission, and the Diamond pass grants you admission to all Six Flags parks in the United States. While it definitely doesn’t have the magic touch that Disney does, your dollar is going to go a lot further in a Six Flags park, and is still a great option if you’re looking for a fun time that’s a little more budget friendly.

Once you’re inside the park, while food and beverage options are a tad lower than what you can expect to find in Disney parks, I’ve found that the rates are quite comparable, and you can still expect to shell out for theme park prices on your favorite classics like burgers and ice cream cones. 

Disneyland Prices

Sleeping Beauty Castle” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you’ve ever been walking through a park, you’ve probably seen a dad sporting a t-shirt that reads “most expensive day ever” and I’ll be honest – he’s not wrong. Disney tickets have gradually increased in pricing over the years, so it really depends on how long you’re looking to visit. Tickets to Disneyland get cheaper per day, the more days you’re visiting.

For example, single day tickets start at $104/day, but drop to $83/per day for 5 days, $99/per day for 4 days, and so on. If you plan on purchasing a park hopper to visit both parks in the same day, expect to pay an additional $60/per ticket, per day.

Park tickets aside, parking at Disneyland will run you $30/per day. If you’re fortunate to be staying in a resort nearby or within reasonable walking distance, hotels (like the Disneyland Hotel) will usually include parking and quick access to both theme parks. Mind you that some hotels charge for parking on top of the nightly rate, and I’ve seen a few off brand hotels still ask for that $30, so it’s best to do your research beforehand.

In regards to meals, snacks and beverages, in my experience you can expect to pay between $200 a day for a family of 4. This is including a light breakfast, quick service lunch, decent dinner and a few Disneyland snacks in between. Can it be done for less? Of course! Within walking distance of both parks are low cost breakfast items and fast food, and remember you can bring your own snacks into the parks. 

There are also some great, more budget friendly meal options at Downtown Disney, just outside of the park gates. It all depends on the experience you’re going for. At the end of the day, is Disneyland more expensive? Sure, but it’s worth it. 

Comparing Six Flags and Disneyland Attractions

Six Flags Magic Mountain Attractions

There’s no doubt about it – when it comes to thrill rides and meeting the expectations of adrenaline junkies, this park packs a punch. With rides like the X2, a 4D coaster with seats that spin while you ride, this park is always trying to one up itself and make sure they’re delivering an experience riders won’t soon forget. 

This is also home to Tatsu, previously the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, and the only one that features a zero-gravity roll. Let’s not forget The Riddler’s Revenge – a stand up roller coaster that will take you through gravity defying twists and turns and a total of 6 inversions before you safely make it back to the station.

If you’re looking for a day jam packed with excitement, this is your park. The coasters are fast, flashy and exciting, and each offers an experience you’re unlikely to find in other parks. Keep in mind that not as much attention is paid to the queues, or the themed experience as a whole.

But maybe that doesn’t matter to you, and that’s ok! There’s no doubt this park has the rides that’ll get your heart racing, while Disneyland focuses more on the overall atmosphere and experience.

For the little ones, there are a few kid friendly options like Daffy’s Adventure Tours and Elmer’s Weather Balloons. Keep in mind, these rides all have specific height restrictions without an adult, so if they’re under 36”, be prepared to ride along.

Disneyland Attractions

While Disneyland certainly hosts attractions that offer a thrill, they’re not as straight forward as a massive coaster with breathtaking drops and record breaking speeds. The park is home to their own coasters, including Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Matterhorn, but where Disney shines is in the experience as a whole. Each attraction has a home in its own authentically themed land. The Disney approach to attractions is far more interactional and immersive.

Take Galaxy’s Edge for example. This stunning, Star Wars themed land boasts an impressive, and dare to say even life size rendition of the Millennium Falcon. With almost every attraction at Disneyland, the ride starts as soon as you join the queue, as you make your way through a deliberately designed set to prepare you for the ride itself. It’s all about the show. 

Speaking of Galaxy’s Edge, Disney is continuously innovating and making way for new attractions, and isn’t afraid to redesign to keep up with the times. The park is also home to recognizable classics, like Indiana Jones, Jungle Cruise, and the Haunted Mansion. If you’re like me and you grew up with these rides, there’s not a thrill ride around that will replace the nostalgia of a Disney classic. 

The Disney parks are also very kid friendly, dedicating almost an entire land (Fantasyland) to the younger crowd. Most rides are very child friendly, and celebrate their favorite characters like Snow White, Peter Pan, and more. 

Let’s not forget about the many Disney characters you’ll, from the classics like Mickey Mouse and Minnie, various Winnie the Pooh characters, Disney princesses around every corner and parades and fireworks shows where kids can line up to see all their favorite characters. 

Comparing Entertainment at Six Flags and Disneyland

Six Flags Magic Mountain Entertainment

When you think of a Six Flags park, the entertainment probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. After all, their rides are really the star of the show. But if you have little ones and you’re wondering if there will be any decent entertainment throughout the day, the answer is yes, but it’s not a daily expectation. 

The park offers decent entertainment throughout the holidays and for special events, but keep an eye out as this often costs extra. You can still expect to see your favorite characters roaming the parks. Is it comparable to Disneyland? No.

Disneyland Entertainment

This is an easy one. It’s nearly impossible to compare any kind of theme park entertainment to Disneyland. From parades to firework shows to daily stage shows, Disney is the best in the business. 

Not only does their entertainment cater to kids, it also pulls on the heartstrings of adults – and let’s be honest, isn’t that a huge reason why we visit Disneyland in the first place?

Safety at Six Flags vs Disneyland

Six Flags Magic Mountain Safety

You can expect to go through security as you enter the park. And while safety appears to be solid here, overall, I feel you’re not going to get the same hospitality you can expect in a Disney park.

Disneyland Safety

Safety of guests is perhaps one of Disney’s biggest priorities, and you’ll go through thorough security checkpoints as you enter Downtown Disney and the parks themselves. Disney is crawling with security, some you see, and a lot that you don’t. They’re constantly watching, including on all attractions. This is for your own safety and security. 

Cast members are trained to assist lost children and it’s rare you’ll hear of a security incident happening at Disneyland. Don’t get me wrong, it happens. But these situations are usually handled swiftly and away from the crowds.

Is Six Flags or Disneyland Better?

Is Six Flags or Disneyland Better?

Now that we’ve explore how the parks differ, it’s hard to decide which is best because it really depends on the type of experience you’re looking to have, and how comfortable you are in regards to budget. Six Flags Magic Mountain will be a great time, especially for the thrill seekers. If you’re not a fan of rides, honestly you may be bored. There’s not much else to do. 

When it comes to whether you should visit Six Flags or Disneyland, it’s probably no secret that I’ll choose a Disney park any day.  So may now speculate that this is an indication that Six Flags is falling off, but that’s not truly the case.  My decision is based mostly on the fact that I’m a fan of the entire theme park experience as a whole—not just enjoying a few thrilling rides. 

So if I’m not in the mood to hop on rides, there are still plenty of places to shop, catch a show, or make my way through an interactive land on Disney property. I could spend a full day at Galaxy’s edge alone! But it’s your call, and both parks are worth a try at one point or another.

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