By Bram Makonda

Many people come to Southern California for a little bit of the glitz, the glamour, the movie stars and a little bit (or a lot) of shopping.

But once the awestruck feeling ends and visitors realize that Rodeo Driveis much too expensive and celebrities don’t shop there regularly,sightseers are left with a sinking feeling. They look at each other in dismay and ask, “What else is there to do?”

Within 50 miles of one another in Southern California, historical theme parks have been created purely to entertain the whole family.

Sure,Florida’s Disneyworld and Universal Studios are bigger. They feature more attractions but both pale in comparison to the originals which reside in Southern California.

Disneyland is the original park wherein creator Walt Disney branded his own personal dream world.As guests enter and leave the park, a room above Main Street USA’sfire station showcases a lamp burning by the window to memorialize Disney’s personal fully-furnished apartment which is not open to the public.

Inside, park-goers can ride in the original attractions that inspired motion pictures such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, both as exciting as when they were first opened to the public over 50 years ago.

During Halloween and the winter holiday season, the characters from Nightmare before Christmas takes over the Haunted Mansion from October and wellinto January. Locals and out-of-towners flock to the Haunted Mansion to ogle at the artwork and sets inspired by famed grotesque film director Tim Burton.

Across town at Universal Studios Hollywood, visitors get the best chance to run into a Hollywood celebrity.

The famed Studio Back Lot Tour, which takes 45 minutes, allows park-goers apeek at areas where the movie and TV stars work and play. Television shows from Desperate Housewives to Crossing Jordan are shot on location there. Occasionally, these stars can be seen greeting the guests.Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds disaster scene has recently been added in the past year and is kept intact for visitors to experience the carnage.

These two parks are just the tip of theiceberg. For extreme-ride fanatics, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm provide just the perfect adrenaline rush.

Both attractions feature rides preferred by Southern California’s local residents, especially those who have grown up in the area. The popularity stems from the rides themselves. For instance, Six Flags has its hypercoaster Goliath, notorious for its hair-raising,gravity-defying 255-foot drop at a 61-degree angle. Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, which features traditional chicken dinners,is notably the best fried chicken eatery in the county, according togourmet purists. Be sure to pick up some funnel cakes on your way outof Six Flags. The taste, texture, and toppings make this remarkable dessert an epicurean delight.

What distinguishes Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain is the admission prices. They are approximately 50 dollars cheaper than Disneyland.

Many opinion-makers refer to Disneyland’s mystique as the sole reason localfolks come back weekend after weekend to eat dinner or catch alate-night movie at Downtown Disney.

Just like its counterpart, Universal Studios City Walk, Downtown Disney is a hang-outspot located outside the theme park, attracting locals and visitors toeat or shop without any admission fees. Theme park developers succeedin creating these hip entertainment hubs that are suitable for theolder crowd.

Downtown Disney also features the House of Blues of Anaheim, home to premier acts in popular music trends. The venue features artists such as Kanye West to punk-rockers Social Distortion. What concert-goers attest to about House of Blues’popularity is its intimate setting and superior customer service.

Legoland and San Diego’s SeaWorld are also a day’s drive away from the Los Angeles area and can make a fun road trip.

Visiting any of these destinations will be worth your time and will keep you entertained for days on end. For those of us who live and work here,these theme parks have kept us busy for years.

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