Our kids had been sending my wife and me on a guilt trip for several months, ever since they heard about a family reunion scheduled in Southern California.

"You and Mom have been to Disneyland twice," our 12-year-old daughter, Lena, complained. "And you haven't taken us yet.""Yeah," piped up Jared, our 8-year-old. "You've promised us for a million years you'd take us."

Our 5-year-old, Nathan, stared at his mother and me with a look of confusion.

"Come on, Dad," chided our teenager, Heather. "We're going to the reunion, aren't we?"

The only one not clamoring for the vacation was Jason, 10. He went the rounds of the resorts (Disneyland, Sea World, Universal Studios, Magic Mountain) last fall with his uncle - a special dispensation.

"OK, team," I told the mob, "we'll go (interrupted by cheers and yelling) if we can come up with the money (interrupted by groans) and if you'll raise a portion of it (interrupted by even more groans)."

Typical questions for anyone planning a vacation: How much will it cost? What resorts can we afford to visit? How long should we plan to stay at each resort?

Less-than-typical questions for me, because my left leg was amputated above the knee and I walk with crutches: Which resorts have parking stalls for the handicapped? Which attractions can I ride? And - speaking of money - do any of the resorts offer discounts to those with disabilities?

I don't usually worry about being handicapped, but at times I do face obstacles like getting on and off some park rides and the challenge of being told I can't do something.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to Disneyland, Universal Studios and Sea World. We enjoyed the trip in spite of my crutches. We did waste a lot of time in lines, sometimes because I eventually wasn't allowed on the ride and sometimes because the hostesses said we should have come directly to them so we could board through another entrance. If we had been prepared with a resort policy guide on handicap accessibility, we could have saved a lot of time and probably some money on entry fees.

This year's trip is going to be different - we're going by the Scout motto: Be Prepared.

As I started to do some checking, I realized thousands of others in Utah with handicaps - many with greater disabilities than mine - also dream of vacationing in Southern California and would love the same information. With that in mind, I went to work.

We spoke to five Southern California theme parks and found that despite a few limitations, people with handicaps can expect loads of fun and thrills. Besides special drinking fountains, telephone stands, rest-rooms and designated parking, all five vacation destinations offer myriad rides and activities accessible to the handicapped.

When rides have restrictions, the parks are similar in their approach: On rides that don't accommodate wheelchairs, guests in wheelchairs should have someone there to help them out of their wheelchairs and onto the ride. A guest on crutches or with other mobility problems must be able to board the rides, with or without assistance, and all must be able to hold themselves in position to prevent injury. Crutches must be left at the boarding area.

Of the nearly 60 rides and activities at Disneyland, only six are inaccessible to people with severe mobility problems.

The 82-acre theme park, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1990 and is considered the most popular of all Southern California amusement parks, has nearly 60 shops and 40 restaurants or refreshment stands, most of which are accessible to the handicapped.

Sea World in San Diego and Universal Studios in Los Angeles pride themselves on being 100 percent accessible to the handicapped.

Courtesy hosts at the 150-acre Sea World are trained to watch for anyone with a disability and offer assistance, says spokesman Daniel Le-Blanc. "We're there to assist. Most of our facilities offer special seating for the disabled with an up-close and unobstructed view of the shows.

"Guests not only have the opportunity to see but to touch and feed many of the animals," LeBlanc says.

Sea World's two rides accommodate people in wheelchairs. Two seats have been removed to accommodate wheelchairs on the Southwest Airlines Skytower, and the Skyride over Mission Bay shuts down to get those in wheelchairs on and off.

The tram excursion at Universal Studios, streamlined this year, includes wheelchair accommodations. "If a person can't be removed from the wheelchair for the tram ride," says Universal spokeswoman Cathy Mouton, "we have the equipment to place the whole wheelchair on the tram." Also, "the physically challenged are pre-boarded."

The 420-acre complex, the No. 1 tourist attraction in Los Angeles and the third-largest in the United States, offers a 45-minute backlot adventure behind the scenes of some of Hollywood's and television's most popular productions, including "King Kong," "Jaws" and "Earthquake." Other attractions are "Back to the Future Special Effects Show," "E.T. Adventure" ride, three-dimensional participatory "Star Trek Adventure" and "An American Tail."

"Generally the physically challenged guests are ushered into the shows about 15 minutes before the performances," says Mouton. "We're very judicious about the seating, which includes ramp access and seating in the front."

The 150-acre Knott's Berry Farm is the nation's oldest and most popular independently owned theme amusement park. Walter Knott, the man credited with developing the boysenberry, began building the first phase, the Ghost Town, in 1940. The park now includes five theme areas.

Though all 35 rides at the park are accessible to the handicapped, 22 have some restrictions. Also, expectant mothers are restricted from 17 rides.

At Six Flags Magic Mountain, all of the more than 100 rides are accessible to the handicapped, though many require negotiating hills and stairs.

The 260-acre amusement park, which is celebrating its 20th year, also includes an 1800s crafts village, several live-entertainment theaters and an animal farm and petting zoo.

All the theaters provide reserved seating for people in wheelchairs. Magic Mountain spokeswoman Bonnie Rabjohn advises the handicapped to arrive a few minutes before show time to have a theater usher direct them to the area.

However, Rabjohn says, "be forewarned, the park is literally built on a mountain - it's very hilly and there are a lot of stairs."

The handicapped, like all vacationers, will enjoy their vacation in the sun if they properly prepare: Outline your trip, obtain policy guides from the parks you plan to visit, make reservations and, if possible, purchase tickets in advance.

For further information or pamphlets on park policies related to the handicapped, write or call:

Disneyland Guest Relations, P.O. Box 3232, Anaheim, CA 92803 (714-999-4565)

Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, CA 90620 (714-827-1776)

Magic Mountain, P.O. Box 5500 Valencia, CA 91385 (805-255-4111)

Sea World, 1720 South Shores Road, San Diego, CA 92109 (619-226-3845)

Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608 (818-508-9600)

(Additional Story)

Discounts available for the impaired

Disneyland is offering a special rate to the handicapped during its Happy Hearts Day promotions.

Scheduled Sunday, April 21, through Friday, April 26, and Monday Nov. 25, through Saturday, Nov. 30, the promotions offer the handicapped and all those in their party a one-day pass at 15.25 if ordered in advance. If purchased during the promotion at the gate, the price is $17.35. The offer is extended to anyone with a disability, including emotional disability.

For further information about Happy Hearts Day or to be included on the Happy Hearts Day mailing list, write:

Lorie Mendoza, Group Sales, Disneyland, 1313 Harbor Blvd. Anaheim, CA 92803.

(Additional Story)

Wet, wild rides are most popular

What follows is a list of the most popular attractions at Southern California theme parks as well as their newest additions.

DISNEYLAND: Splash Mountain (wild, wet roller-coaster ride), Star Tours (George Lucas' space travel simulator) and Space Mountain (roller-coaster ride through the "universe").

New attraction: Fantasyland's Afternoon Avenue (includes live-entertainment show of characters from Disney's afternoon TV shows, "DuckTales," "Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers," "Tale Spin," "Disney's Gummi Bears." Also opportunities to meet the characters).

KNOTT'S BERRY FARM: Calico Mountain Logride (2-minute flume ride through a mining town that ends in 40-foot drop. Bigfoot Rapids (raft trip down California's longest man-made white water river), Boomerang (high-speed roller coaster that turns riders upside-down six times, three forward and three backward). Parachute Sky Jump (20-story fall in parachute).

Newest attraction: Snoopy's Great American Celebration of 100 years of American Music (parkwide entertainment, including high-wire acts, original stage musical, more than two dozen live musical acts).

MAGIC MOUNTAIN: Viper (world's largest, tallest looping steel roller coaster that hits speeds of 70 mph. Opened in 1990, built by Arrow Dynamics Inc. of Clearfield, Utah), Ninja and Gold Rush roller coasters, Bugs Bunny Magic World of Kids show.

New attraction: Psyclone, a classic wooden roller coaster modeled after the Coney Island Cyclone built in 1927. The Psyclone has 11 hills, hits speeds of 50 mph, a height of 95 feet and includes 183-foot dark tunnel at beginning of ride up first lift.

SEA WORLD: Killer Whale Show (stars Baby Shamu, Shamu and Namu), Forbidden Reef (Bat Ray Shallows & Moray Eel Caverns - guests can touch and feed the bat rays in shallow interactive pool).

New attraction: "Beach Blanket Ski Party" (30-minute display of 1950s-themed water skiing skills in a 3-acre-plus water arena on Mission Bay. 4,500 stadium seating).

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS: "Earthquake, The Big One" (re-creates an 8.3 quake). "An American Tail" live show and 1/2-acre Tin Can Alley (includes 15-foot banana peel that's really a slide, a 12-foot brown boot that's actually a playhouse, and an 11-foot slice of Swiss cheese that's a maze of tunnels).

New attractions: Starway system (transports guests to the heart of studio's lower lot), "Lucy: A Tribute" (offers look at long and distinguished career of America's favorite redhead), "The World of Cinemagic" soundstage (includes "The Magic of Alfred Hitchcock," "Harry and the Henderson's Sound Effects Show," and "Back to the Future Special Effects Show"). All open in mid-March. The Studio Center's "E.T.'s Adventure" ride opens in late May.

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(Additional Story)

Disabled will sometimes need assistance

What can you expect at amusement park rides if you're disabled?

Here are the details.

MAGIC MOUNTAIN

All rides require boarding assistance:

(Main rides)

Viper: Easy wheelchair access

Colossus: Easy wheelchair access

Freefall: Must negotiate some steps

Log Jammer: Must negotiate many steps

Ninja: Easy wheelchair access

Revolution: Easy wheelchair access

Roaring Rapids: Must negotiate many steps

KNOTT'S BERRY FARM

Accommodate wheelchairs:

Bear's Playhouse (lower level)

Calico Railroad (wheelchair lift)

Sky Cabin (wheelchair ramp)Assistance needed to board:

Bumper Cars (another guest may need to ride to depress accelerator)

Auto Race (another guest may need to ride to depress accelerator)

Balloon Race

Bigfoot Rapids

Dragon Swing

Ferris Wheel

Grand Sierra

Scenic Railroad

Greased Lightning

Hat Dance

Huff 'N' Puff

Log Ride

Merry Go Round

Red Baron

Slingshot

Stagecoach

Timberline Twister

Tubs of Fun

Walter K Steamboat

Whirlpool

SEA WORLD

Accommodate wheelchairs:

(All shows and facilities)

Southwest Airlines Skytower

Skyride over Mission Bay

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Accommodate wheelchairs:

All shows and tramride excursion

through resort attractions

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(Additional Story)

Everything's accessible at Knott's Berry Farm

"All rides are accessible to the ambulatory handicapped. All crutches, walking devices and/or wheelchairs must be left on the loading/unloading docks so as to not interfere with guest or employee safety.

"We are sorry, but our hosts and hostesses are unable to assist in lifting guests; you must provide this assistance yourself. They will, however, provide direction to the extent that they are able."

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(Additional Story)

Bring someone along to help at Disneyland

"Selected attractions, restaurants and shows in the Magic Kingdom are accessible to wheelchairs. In some cases wheelchair guests have to be assisted from their chair into a boat or car. In these situations, Disneyland attractions personnel are not trained to assist; however, our hosts and hostesses will assist to the extent they are able. We recommend that disabled guests bring someone who can help them while they visit the park.

"Depending on the disability, some guests may not be allowed to ride certain attractions.

"If the disabled guest is accompanied by only one other person, they may enter the attraction through the exit or other specified entrance point. If the party is larger than three, the remaining guests are requested to wait in line and join the disabled guest and escort at the attraction's loading area."

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(Additional Information)

Safety's a concern at Magic Mountain

"While most of our attractions are wheelchair accessible, it should be noted that some guests may be denied the opportunity to board a certain ride in the interest of personal safety. Our criteria are based on any guest's ability to utilize all safety restraints and devices as designed and maintain a proper riding posture throughout the course of the ride. Safety restraints and ride forces vary from ride to ride."

Our hosts and hostesses are not permitted to lift or carry a guest into a unit.

*****

(Chart)

Wheelchair rentals

Resort daily fee deposit number available

Disneyland $4 $5 100

Knott's Berry Farm $10 $10 cash *62

Magic Mountain $6 driver's license 40

Sea World $3 driver's license 50

Universal Studios $2 driver's license **80

*Includes 11 battery-operated. Will add another five by June.

**Increasing from 35 in June.

(Chart)

Guidelines for Disneyland rides

Editor's note: "Handicapped Guest Guide" is available free at the Main Gate, City Hall and the wheelchair rental kiosk. If you rent a wheelchair at Disneyland you must pay a returnable deposit as well as the rental fee.

Main Street:

Accommodate wheelchairs:

Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln

Main Street Cinema

Penny Arcade

Assistance needed to board:

Disneyland Railroad

Adventureland:

Assistance needed to board:

Enchanted Tiki Room

Jungle Cruise

Inaccessible:

Swiss Family Treehouse

New Orleans Square:

Assistance needed to board:

Pirates of the Caribbean

Haunted Mansion

Disneyland Railroad

Critter Country:

Accommodate wheelchairs:

Country Bear Playhouse

Teddi Barra's Swingin' Arcade

Assistance needed to board:

Splash Mountain

Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes

Frontierland:

Accommodate wheelchairs:

Frontierland Shootin' Arcade

Big Thunder Ranch

Mark Twain Steamboat

Golden Horseshoe Jamboree

Assistance needed to board:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Mike Fink Keel Boats

Inaccessible:

Sailing Ship Columbia

Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island

Fantasyland:

Assistance needed to board:

(Mostly for young children)

Storybook Land Canal Boats

"It's a Small World"

Dumbo

Disneyland Railroad

Casey Jr.

Fantasyland Autopia

Matterhorn Bobsleds

Snow White's Scary Adventures

Pinocchio's Daring Journey

King Arthur Carousel

Motor Boat Cruise

Mad Tea Party

Alice in Wonderland

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Peter Pan's Flight

Inaccessible:

Skyway to Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland:

Accommodate wheelchairs:

Starcade

Captain EO

Mission to Mars

Circle-vision

Assistance needed to board:

Disneyland Railroad

Tomorrowland Autopia

Submarine Voyage

Disneyland Monorail

Star Tours

Space Mountain

Inaccessible

Rocket Jets

PeopleMover

Skyway to Fantasyland

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(Chart)

Parking for the handicapped

Resort Designated Stalls Parking Fee for Handicapped

DISNEYLAND 54 $4

"We can expand the handicapped parking up to 250 additional stalls in adjoining lot, says spokesman John McClintock. Average stay is 8 hours (winter), 10 hours (summer).

KNOTT'S BERRY FARM 46 free

"We have an overabundance of stalls," says spokesman Robert Deuel. "A lot of local residents frequent our restaurants and shops." Park guests spend an average of 8 hours.

MAGIC MOUNTAIN 36 $5

"Lot is hardly ever full," says spokeswoman Courtney Simmons. Guests spend an average of 8 hours.

SEA WORLD 100 free

"During the summer, the stalls fill up every day," says spokesman Daniel LeBlanc. "I recommend guests arrive before noon and plan to spend about 6 hours."

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS 90 $4, cars; $5 vans

Spokeswoman Kathy Mouton says elevator inside main gate takes guests with handicaps down to tram-boarding area. Average stay during peak season is 7 hours.

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(Chart)

Entrance fees

Resort general children senior citizens handicapped

Disneyland

$27.50 (3-11 years) no special rate $3 discount

$22.50,

(under 3) free

Knott's Berry Farm

$21.95 (3-11 years) (over 60) $14.95 (pregnant, handicapped)

$9.95, $14.95

(under 3 free

Magic Mountain

$22 (under 48")$11, (55 and older)$11 (confined to

(under 2) free wheelchair) free

*Sea World

$21.95 (3-11 years) **(55 and older) $18.95 ***no

$15.95,

(under 3) free speical rate

Universal Studios

$22 (3-11 years) (60 and older) $16.50 20 percent rate

$16.50,

(under 3)free

*Speical rides: 1 sride $1.50, 2 rides $2.50.

**Speical promotion for senior citizens through April 7, $13.75.

***Free admittance for the blind when accompanied by a paying guest.