1/10. Paulton’s Park
Toddlers who love Peppa Pig have likely pestered their parents for a visit to Paultons Park, home to Peppa Pig World. The area was designed so that youngsters can’t see the outside world, making them truly believe they’re visiting Peppa’s home. Many of the attractions can be enjoyed by even the youngest visitors, and adults can share in the fun of all the rides.
Paultons Park focuses on the under-12s. A family-sized roller coaster called Cobra is as extreme as it gets, which makes for a calm but exciting atmosphere for youngsters. Toilets have baby-changing facilities, and stickers for children are handed out, on which you can write your mobile phone number – helpful should you get separated. It’s worth fitting in a visit to the colourful themed gardens, ideal for a family picnic.
Price: A one-day ticket for an adult/child over 1m costs £23.50; children under 1m free.
2/10. Universal Studios
Orlando, Florida, USA
Budding wizards will jump at the chance to visit Universal Studios this summer. The park is opening a new area dedicated to Harry Potter, complementing the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter in neighbouring park, Islands of Adventure. Featuring roller coasters and sets from the films, you can venture into Gringott’s Bank and run on to platform 9¾ to board the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts in the Islands of Adventure park.
Movie fans who aren’t enamoured with Harry will still be entertained by the other attractions on offer. Many adults will secretly get butterflies on the ET Adventure ride when ET says goodbye to them by name. Transformers: The Ride is a recently opened high-speed simulator that mixes real and virtual effects to get everyone’s hearts pounding.
Price: A 14-day Orlando Flex Ticket costs £197 for adults and £185 for children (three to nine). It includes entry to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World, Aquatica and Wet ’n Wild.
3/10. Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Kissimmee, Florida, USA
The champion of theme parks is Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Even the most cynical adult will be transported back to their childhood as they step onto Main Street in front of Cinderella’s Castle, and catch a first glimpse of Mickey Mouse. Last year, a bigger Fantasyland was revealed with new experiences, including a voyage under the sea with Ariel the mermaid and the chance to take part in the story of Beauty And The Beast.
This year, the The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride was unveiled – a roller coaster that ventures into a diamond mine and through a forest to encounter the characters of Snow White.
A visit to one of the park’s many meet-and-greet areas, where children can meet their favourite cartoon character, is a Disney tradition that all the family will love.
Price: A 14-day multipark ticket costs £279 for adults and £259 for children (three to 10). Book tickets in the UK at disneyinternational.com/tickets.
Home to Europe’s fastest roller coasters, PortAventura guarantees thrill seekers will leave with white knuckles. Each of the park’s six ‘lands’ is themed, and each one has a spectacular signature ride. At 250ft tall, the Shambhala rollercoaster creates an impressive backdrop to the land of China. In the Mexico area, the 375ft-tall drop tower, Hurakan Condor, creates a soundtrack of screams that can be heard throughout the park. Younger visitors haven’t been forgotten. SeasamoAventura is home to the characters of Sesame Street and features 11 rides and attractions to entertain those to small for the bigger thrill rides. Children can take a ride through Elmo’s Farm or explore Cookie Monster’s Enchanted Garden playground. Costa Caribe Aquatic Park is next door, and filled with slides, river rides and a Sesame Street-inspired water play area.
Price: Tickets cost £37 for adults, £33
for children (aged four to 10).
Tickets for the water park cost £23 for adults,
£20 for children (four to 10).
5/10. Europa Park
A visit to Europa-Park is an adventure tour of the colourful sights of Europe, with something to discover at every turn. Incredible theming, eye-catching shows and rides for the whole family make it one of the best theme parks in the world. Europa-Park has more roller coasters than anywhere else in Europe, guaranteeing that all but the very youngest member of the family will find one to enjoy. This year, the park will debut an indoor land, based on the Arthur And The Invisibles movie trilogy, featuring a number of attractions, including a state-of-the-art, child friendly interactive roller coaster.
In October 2014 the park is transformed into a Halloween wonderland with thousands of pumpkins. Older, more fearless family members should stay after dark and be terrified by braving the walk-through horror mazes.
Price: Tickets cost £34 for adults, £30 for children (four to 11). Save £1.70 per ticket if you buy online. Children get in free on their birthday.
6/10. Moomin World
Moomin World occupies a small island accessed by a wooden footbridge. By crossing the bridge, children feel they are venturing into the real land of the Moomins. Fans of the Moomins will instantly recognise the locations: Snork’s Flying Machine, The Groke’s House and Moomin Pappa’s Boat. This isn’t a traditional theme park, as there are no rides, but Moomin World is a chance to escape everyday life for a fun-packed family adventure. Families can enjoy quality time on a nature walk or go swimming from the island’s beaches. For anyone who likes stories, a visit to Snufkin’s camp is a must as he reads tales about his travels.
Those who like to be creative should visit Snork’s Workshop for some arts and crafts. The most important part of the day is to visit the Moomin House where children and adults can get a cuddle from a Moomin. The area around the Moomin House is also the place to spot many of the characters.
Price: Tickets cost £21 per person, undertwos are free.
Sevenum, The Netherlands
A visit to Toverland is like stepping into a giant soft-play warehouse, made all the better by a whimsical collection of rides and roller coasters. With a theme of witches and trolls, the indoor halls are filled with colossal climbing frames, trampolines, log flumes, spinning rides, fun houses and even roller coasters. The outdoor area offers the largest rides and roller coasters that should more than satisfy youngsters and adults alike. You can escape the Trojan army on the Troy wooden roller coaster, take part in a high-speed motorbike race on Booster Bike or go spinning around the track on the newest roller coaster, Dwervelwind. Having whizzed around without fear, kids will no doubt be entertained watching their parents nervously follow on the high-rope obstacle course.
Upon arrival, head straight outside to the bigger rides. Most people start indoors, so by going to the furthest part of the park first you can enjoy the rides with little to no wait.
Price: Tickets cost £20 for adults, £13 for children between 90 and 120cm, children under 90cm are free.
8/10. Siam Park
Costa Adeje, Tenerife
Stepping into Siam Park water park, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d left Tenerife and found yourself in Thailand. An elaborate tropical landscape accented with Thai-inspired architecture, it’s home to a staggering array of water slides and attractions. The Tower of Power features a 92ft sheer drop into a clear tunnel that travels through a shark tank. The newest extreme slide, Kinnaree, sends up to four riders at a time down a 650ft course that includes a giant funnel and a near vertical wall, both of which create moments of weightlessness. The Mai Thai River offers some muchneeded relaxation after the thrill rides, providing time to unwind as you drift along in rubber rings.
Sawasdee and The Lost Kingdom provide endless splashing fun for children. The two areas are adventure playgrounds in water and have slides and shallow pools. Those who don’t want to get wet can enjoy strolling around the park’s winding paths, where they’ll discover sea lions and fish and find a floating Thai market.
Price: Tickets cost £28 for adults, £18 for children (three to 11).
9/10. Busch Gardens
Tampa, Florida, USA
Kids will feel like they’ve been on a roller-coaster safari when they visit the beautifully landscaped Busch Gardens, inspired by Africa and home to more than 2,000 animals, behind-the-scenes shows and truly exhilarating rides. New this month, Falcon’s Fury is the first drop-tower ride of its kind in the world and mimics the dive speeds of a falcon as it swoops down on its prey. It plunges riders straight down at 60mph. The area surrounding Falcon’s Fury is being redeveloped into Pantopia, a fantasy land of past travellers who arrived by hot air balloon and other forms of transport. Wow-factor kinetic sculptures have been created from tuk-tuks, trucks, planes, bikes and wagons, while Botanica features intricate botanical sculptures.
Price: A three-parks-for-two ticket costs from £88 for adults and £84 for children and offers 14 days’ unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens. Valid until 31 December 2014.
Having been wowed by the thatched castle that forms the park entrance, you know you’re about to escape into a fairytale world. Once inside, the beauty of the landscaping transports visitors into a world of enchanted childhood stories. Unlike many theme parks, there’s plenty of space to run around and explore at Efteling. It also has plenty of exciting rides, including a dualling wooden roller coaster based on the battle between George and the dragon. The ride that touches the heart of all ages is Dream Flight, which whisks passengers on a flight through wondrous forests filled with fairies and trolls.
Young children will love discovering the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, brought to life in the Fairytale Forest. Older visitors will be thrilled by the Flying Dutchman, a mix of a roller coaster and log flume.
Price: Tickets cost £29 per person, under-fours free.