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How to be a Spring Break hero in Southern California

SeaWorld's penguins
SeaWorld's penguins
Photo by Handout/Getty Images

Is this the year you’ll do something truly memorable as a family? Thinking back to my youth, few excursions sparked a level of anticipation as high as when my mother and nana took my brother and me to Disneyland. I still recall the dizzying array of characters and costumes, the rides and, frankly, how CLEAN everything was. It was a huge upgrade from the sketchy carnival barkers and rickety rides at the transient, parking lot fair back home. It was a true, family adventure.

If you're going to take the big theme park trip to Southern California, do get CityPASS ticket booklets, you can save some bucks on entry fees. Next, here are five easy steps to becoming a hero this spring.

1. Bounce between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park like a pingpong ball. With CityPASS, you can enjoy back-and-forth admission to both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park for any three days during the 14 consecutive day period CityPASS is valid. Remember how I referenced long lines? Well, the CityPASS ticket scoots you in for one Magic Morning admission, which allows you to get a jump on the attractions by entering Disneyland Park one hour before regular opening time on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.

Disney California Adventure offers eight different lands where Disney and Pixar characters come to life. You’ll want to drive the Radiator Springs Racers through the desert landscape of Cars Land, inspired by the movie Cars. And thrill seekers will be jumping to ride California Screamin’, the longest and fastest roller coaster at the Disneyland Resort.

At Disneyland Park, you’ll want to strap the family in for Star Wars – The Adventure Continues, which is a 3-D, motion-simulated space flight, and the classic coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Personally, I don’t think I can handle another slow boat ride through the “it’s a small world” exhibit. I saw the original at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 (yes, I’m serious) and I still can’t get that blasted song out of my head.

2. See where movie magic happens at Universal Studios Hollywood. The best bet is to get to the thrill rides early. Start with the Revenge of the Mummy coaster and the recently opened Transformers™: The Ride—3D, which gives guests a front row seat to the thrilling battle between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. No, I have no idea who they are. In April, the new 3-D ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem will have the kids wiggling too. There’s also a new host of the famous Studio Tour. Not only is Jimmy Fallon the new Tonight Show host, he’s also the new video tour director of the popular, historic back-lot tour.

3. Celebrate SeaWorld San Diego’s 50th anniversary. On March 21, SeaWorld will celebrate its birthday by unveiling Explorer’s Reef™, which brings guests into the park beneath a 30-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide wave sculpture. Visitors then get to enjoy 3 acres of tropical touch pools featuring 5,000 fish, including shark pups, rays, skates and cleaner fish. For some pulse-quickening fun, take a ride on the Manta roller coaster and then get splashed by Shamu in the new killer whale show. Don’t forget to commune with the sea turtles while you’re there.

4. Take the Tiger Trail. This Memorial Day, San Diego Safari Park opens its expansive new, Sumatra-themed environment for tigers. It includes a log walk, educational presentations, and a chance to see these incomparable cats swim underwater and laze around a waterfall. If you go before the end of May, you’ll find plenty of thrills by taking a guided tour of the 1,800-acre animal park. Watch the elephants, ring-tailed lemurs, and the blindingly fast cheetahs. There are plenty of other adventures, such as zip lines, that require an extra fee. Those who also want to see the San Diego Zoo can just show their CityPASS card and get 10 percent off of admission.

5. Visit LEGOLAND by the sea. Located in coastal community of Carlsbad, between Anaheim and San Diego, this 128-acre family theme park has everything a LEGO enthusiast could want. With more than 60 interactive attractions and 22,000 LEGO sculptures (some giant), parents are definitely going to want to keep their shoes on. Kids will enjoy firing laser blasters in the Lost Kingdom Adventure and riding the junior Coastersaurus, when they’re not using LEGOS to create something colorful and wonderful.

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