Winning tip: Naturlandia, Andorra
This mountain park is home to Tobotronc, a really exhilarating 5km toboggan run – the world’s longest alpine slide – which runs through evergreen forest. There’s also a large skytrail, mazes, buggies, tubing, ziplining and a rather intimidating four-metre inflatable jump. What makes these activities even more sensational is that you are at between 1,600 and 2,000 metres, with a grandiose backdrop of the Pyrenees all around you, including below. Suddenly that four-metre jump feels like a 2,004-metre jump, and your head is saying the toboggan cannot possibly stop before the valley town of Sant Julia 10km below! It can be surprisingly mild in spring/autumn: bring a picnic of the local embotis sausage and goats cheese. Good packages are available online.
• Day tickets from €14pp, under-three free, naturlandia.ad
Visiting this park in the south of the country near the German border is like stepping into a giant soft-play warehouse dotted with amazing rides. The indoor halls are filled with giant climbing frames, trampolines, log flumes and spinners. Outdoors are the larger rides and rollercoasters ranging from Troy, a classic wooden coaster, to the newest, Fenix, a sleek “wing coaster” that soars high above the park. There are no licensed characters; instead, areas are themed around magic and trolls, but the small touches and attention to detail are fantastic. Most people start indoors, so avoid the queues and go to the furthest outdoor part of the park first.
• Adult €31, child €23, under 90cm free, toverland.com
Folly Farm, Pembrokeshire
While there are no thrill rides at this family park (nearby Oakwood takes care of this nicely), the beautiful vintage fairground rides allow for a more relaxed, slow-paced day, with occasional accompaniment from a Wurlitzer organ.The rides are only a small part of an outstanding attraction which also includes farm animals, multiple indoor and outdoor play areas, and a growing zoo.There is the option to return within a week for half price, with is most definitely worthit.
• Adult from £16.50, child £14.50, toddler £10.50, under-two free, folly-farm.co.uk
Paulton’s Park, Hampshire
We used to go to this amusement park with our parents and grandparents, and now go with our own families. It’s home to two new rides this year as part of Peppa Pig World, and there are loads of other attractions and rides, plus lots of animals and birds to meet. It’s set in acres of parkland on the edge of the New Forest, so a day out can easily include a trip to see the New Forest ponies.
• From £30.50pp, family of four £118, under a metre free, paultonspark.co.uk
This park is on a small island in western Finland, accessed by a wooden footbridge. The moment you step off the bridge it feels like a fairytale as you see the Groke’s House, Moominpappa’s boat and many more locations from the books. If it’s rollercoasters you’re after, this isn’t the place for you, as the focus is on escape and imagination, with guided arts and crafts, theatre performances, a barefoot trail through sand and cobblestone, trying your luck on the games on the promenade or just napping in a hammock in Whileaway Park. Our children had no idea who the Moomins were, which made visiting it even more magical.
• Child and adult day ticket €29 online, family ticket for four €112 (under-two free), moominworld.fi
Up the coast from The Hague, this is a family-friendly and fun amusement park, waterpark, and holiday village all rolled into one. Set in a picturesque forest, it has something for all ages and tastes, from the thrill of the 70kph Falcon rollercoaster to a soaking on the Splash ride. The waterpark has excellent pools and slides, including the brand new outdoor area. Accommodation is plentiful with chalets and camping areas, and a stay includes unlimited amusement park access, giving extra value for money.
• Camping pitches from €40 a night, day ticket for park and pools from €31.50pp, duinrell.com
Fårup Sommerland, Denmark,
North Jutland is home to the most amazing theme park, set in acres of beautiful forest. There are many exciting rides, a water park, fantastic playgrounds, 4D cinema, and Icelandic ponies to ride. Bring your lunch and join the Danes in cooking up a storm on one of the many gas BBQs. It is common to see multi-generational families eating together at one of the long covered tables. There is something for all ages. A recent edition has been an on-site hotel. The park is a short trip from the seaside town of Blokhus.
• Adult £29, child over 140cm £47, under 140cm £41, faarupsommerland.dk
Park Pinocchio, Tuscany
I’m not normally one for theme parks, but this one in Italy absolutely stole my heart! In the hills above Lucca, in Collodi, home of the Pinocchio creator Carlo Lorenzini (pen name Carlo Collodi) it celebrates the famous story with quaint and charming rides, activities and a maze in a peaceful woodland setting. It makes an idyllic and good-value day out or road-trip stopover with younger children.
• Adult €13, child €11, toddler €7, pinocchio.it
Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight
There has been a theme park here since the 1840s, and though it is not a hi-tech park, the attraction is in its cliff-top setting and ability to spark imagination. Nursery rhymes, pirates, cowboys, fairytales, dinosaurs, underwater scenes, ghosts and ghouls all connect with childhood fantasies. There has been some modernisation, including moving dinosaurs and waterslides. The Cliffhanger rollercoaster makes the most of its location, with views of the sea 120 metres below. The park closes at 9pm, and it’s a great place to see the sunset.
• Advance off-peak entry £20pp, under-fours free, tickets give unlimited access for seven days, blackgangchine.com
Europa Park, Rust, Germany
This is the cheaper, yet arguably more beautiful Europe-themed version of Disneyland. It has high-quality restaurants, healthy food stops and plenty of flowers to please the eye. If you’re a fan of big thrills, it holds some wicked rollercoasters, but also has its share of baby rides. If you’ve been to Disneyland there are some hilarious copy-cat rides, such as Italy’s Ghost Castle (a Haunted Mansion me-too) or the Netherlands’ Koffiekopjes (Teacups), though it has some fantastic original rides too.
• Day ticket adult €52, child (4-11) €44.50, europapark.de
PortAventura World, near Tarragona, Spain
Here, each of six themed “lands” has a spectacular signature ride that guarantees white knuckles. My favourite was Mexican-themed, a 100-metre-tall drop tower called Hurakan Condor that you’ll find by following the screams. Our younger children were catered for too; SesamoAventura is home to the characters of Sesame Street and has rides and attractions for those too small for the main park. Skid along the water on magic fish or explore an enchanted garden playground. Costa Caribe Aquatic Park is next door, filled with slides, river rides and a Sesame Street-inspired water play area.
• €55 adult, €48 child (4-10), portaventuraworld.com
Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips
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