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Theme Parks and Amusement Parks in the UK | Our Best Of Guide
Located close to the popular beaches of North Cornwall in Tredinnick, Wadebridge, Crealy’s attractions and rides are divided into Realms, each one with its own theme. Billed as the Cornish Tourist Board’s ‘Top Tourist Attraction’, it isn’t packed with high-cotane showstoppers, but there is heaps of fun to be had for families with younger children. The bigger, faster rides tend to be in the Adventure and Action Realms.
Just south of Helston, Flambards has a combination of live entertainment and exhibitions, including the award-winning Victorian Village and Britain in the Blitz, as well as staple theme-park goodies, such as the Hornet Rollercoaster, Skyraker 001 and the Canyon River Log Flume.
Set in a large stretch of parkland in Clyst St Mary, near Exeter, this is the sister park to Crealy Adventure Park in Cornwall. Its attractions are also divided into Realms with loads of appeal for families with younger children. The Adventure and Action Realms contain the stuff that older children will gravitate towards.
In Blackawton, Totnes (South Devon), Woodlands is a great family theme park with indoor, as well as outdoor attractions, making it a good bet for a rainy day. It has 16 family rides plus lots of other features and attractions, including the Zoo-in-a-Farm.
Located by Southend-on-sea’s famous pier, the park has a great range of thrills and spills with more than 40 rides and attractions. There is a choice of roller-coasters, including the scary Rage with its vertical-and-bit-more drop. Alongside the high-adrenaline Big Adventure Rides the park also has a range of Junior Rides and Mini Rides to cater for all ages.
Just off the A12 between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, this is 50-acres of award-winning family fun in a woodland setting. Rides like the awesome Wipeout rollercoaster will get hearts racing and there is also more sedate family fun with entertainment and shows like the Circus Show, the performing parrots and the sea lions.
The crowning glory of Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile, Pleasure Beach has 20 pulsating rides over nine acres, with the thrilling SkyDrop an imposing seafront landmark. The traditional wooden roller-coaster, opened in 1933, is still going strong and remains as popular as ever. There are also water attractions, a new 4D cinema and plenty of rides for younger children.
In Ingoldmells, just a couple of miles up the coast from Skegness, there is plenty of variety for families, from gentle entertainment for younger children to stomach-swooping thrills on rides like the Jubilee Odyssey, which will whirl you round a giant knot of loops, drops and corkscrews at over 60mph.
Families will have plenty of fun on rides like the Fantasy Flume and Rhombus Rocket, and there are the Mini-Dodgems and Jungle Ride, amongst a host of others, to delight smaller children, along with resident Fantasy Island characters and other live entertainment.
By the seaside in Cleethorpes, Pleasure Island lines up no less than 7 major heart-fluttering rides with such inviting names as the Obliterator and Terror Rack, as well as a host of family rides and entertainment. There are up to 6 family shows on offer in the peak season, including Basil Brush, the African Acrobats and the brilliant Sea Lion Show.
Starting from humble beginnings, Flamingo Land is now one of the UK’s most popular theme parks and is also home to the UK’s largest privately-owned zoo with lions, giraffes, hippos, tigers and many more, not forgetting, of course, the eponymous flamingos.
The theme park has over 100 rides, ranging from Velocity – the only bike-launch rollercoaster in the UK – to thrill the adrenaline monkeys, to more gentle family rides like Lost River Ride and Junior Driving School. There’s also Muddy Duck Farm with a more domestic selection of animals and a tractor ride for tired little (and big) legs.
Located next to Sandhaven Beach in South Shields, Ocean Beach Pleasure Park is the largest Amusement Park in the North East, ideal for a fun filled family day out. With over 50 rides and attractions, amusement arcades, game stalls, Boating Lake and Quasar Elite, there really is something for everyone.
Dominating Blackpool’s seafront, Pleasure Beach is the big one – the UK’s top theme park, drawing more than 5 million visitors each year. And the big one actually has a Big One – Europe’s tallest roller coaster, rising up to 235ft. There are 125 rides to choose from with white-knuckle rides, water rides, ranging from the Pepsi Max Big One and Revolution, through to more gentle, family-oriented fun like the Alice Ride and Lunar Carousel. The park also offers amusements and shows.
In Matlock Bath, on the doorstep of the Peak District and close to the M1, Gulliver’s Kingdom is specifically tailored for children between the ages of 2 and 13. The Park’s ethos is to encourage children to be themselves, to enjoy themselves and be excited without scares. The Park is divided into six zones, built into a steep, wooded hillside, which creates an illusion of height and mild peril.
Just outside Chorley, off the M6, Camelot takes visitors on a journey through a world of chivalrous knights and wizardry, with a combination of thrilling rides like Knightmare, and slightly less extreme rides, including the Rack and Excalibur 2. There are also rides aimed solidly at younger children, including the Junior Dragon Coaster and the Tea Cups, along with indoor and outdoor play areas. There’s also Squire Bumpkin’s Farm and Merlin’s twice-daily magic shows to enjoy.
In Canaston Bridge, near Narberth in Pembrokeshire, Oakwood Theme Park is one of the top-ten theme parks in the UK. At the adrenaline-rush end of the scale are rides like Speed - 2000 feet of plunging, twisting rollercoaster, flying along at up to 95kph, and the incredible water ride, Drenched. There are also family favourites like the Treetops coaster, The Waterfall and Snake River Falls. Younger children have plenty to pick from, including KidzWorld, Lost Kingdom and the Wacky Factory. There are also magic shows and circus-skills workshops.
Between Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare on the north coast of Somerset, Brean is a great day out for the family, whilst still providing thrills and spills for older children with high-octane rides like X-treme and Shockwave, the southwest’s largest rollercoaster. There are more than 30 rides and attractions and, amongst the rides for younger children, Canoe River is a particular favourite, and there is also a water complex with indoor and outdoor heated pools.
Just to the north of Bournemouth, this children’s theme park has grown up around the Alice in Wonderland Maze, one of the UK’s largest hedge mazes. Aimed at children aged from two to fourteen years, there are fun rides such as the Runaway Train rollercoaster and the Ghostly Galleon. In Cuddle Corner, children can pet the rabbits and guinea pigs, and ride ponies. There are indoor rides and attractions in the Wild Zone and daily magic shows in the Happydrome Theatre.
On the fringes of the New Forest, Paultons may not have the white-knuckle blockbusters, but it is a great family theme park with more than 50 rides and attractions, which pack plenty of thrills and fun. Edge and the Cobra are at the top end of the thrills scale, and there is a fun log flume and a giant water slide with rubber dinghies. For younger children there are treats like the Rabbit and the Flying Frog, alongside the dinosaur safari and lovely gardens featuring exotic birds and animals.
On the Heritage Coastline in Alum Bay, this is a beautiful setting for a family theme park. A chairlift to the beach runs down the incredible multi-coloured cliffs with views of the famous Needles. There is the Jurassic crazy-golf course, open-top bus rides, boat trips and a traditional family carousel to enjoy, plus the Alum Bay Glass and Sweet Factory.
Overlooking the Heritage Coast on the southwest of the Isle of Wight and established in 1843, Blackgang Chine is the UK’s oldest theme park. It has great views and a quaint mix of rides, incorporating goblins and fairies, dinosaurs, nursery-rhyme characters, giant bugs and cowboys and indians within its Victorian gardens.
A stone’s throw from Littlehampton’s harbour and sandy beaches, Harbour Park is great for combining a family entertainment day with some beach fun. There are traditional fairground rides like the Waltzer and Dodgems, and more theme-park oriented rides like the Caterpillar rollercoaster for smaller children, and the Logger’s Revenge Water Chute. There are also indoor rides and attractions, and the Farmyard Friends Chicken Show.
In Strood, this is the place, as the name suggests, for all things digger related. If your kids are into heavy machinery, you’re onto a winner. Children over the age of 5 can drive a truck or operate a full-size digger. Over-threes can also have a go if sitting on an adult’s lap. The Diggerland train will pull you around behind a dumper truck and the Landrover Safari will bump you along to the Sky Shuttle or the Spindizzy, a JCB that whizzes you up in the air.
In Motherwell’s Strathclyde Country Park, M & D’s has more than 40 rides and attractions, with something for every member of the family. There are no less than four roller-coasters with Tornado, Tsunami, Express and Bungee, and heaps of fun for younger children with Flying Jumbos and Big Apple. Amazonia is an amazing indoor rainforest experience with lots of exotic and dangerous-looking beasties hiding amongst the tropical fauna.