5 years, 6 months ago
Every parent dreads the ‘Holiday Slump’. It normally happens round about the tail end of week 1: beaches have been done, everyone’s a bit less pasty looking and everyone’s craving a bit of solo time. It’s perfectly natural – especially if teens are involved. But nothing to worry about, because that’s why the Great God of Successful Family Holidays gave us Theme Parks!
In deference to the most tricky to please travellers, I’ve gotten hold of my own ‘Teen Tester’ for the arduous task of reviewing some of the finest fun Europe has to offer this year.
At great personal sacrifice, Harper snacked and screamed round Theme Parks from Bruges to Barcelona. It was a tough job. Many Slushies were consumed. She even endured being hung upside down 14 times. But she finally made it to a top 7. So, here’s her true-teen take on the best European Theme Parks for the discontented, fearless, faint-hearted and even those who haven’t quite made the height limit yet.
Portaventura, Salou, Spain
We’ve been to this one 3 times, it’s super-fun and it’s the one everyone raves about. It’s the biggest in Spain and you get around the ‘Six Worlds’ by train or boat. There are loads of rides for wee kids (SésamoAventura is good) right up to insane monsters like Shambhala and Furius Baco. Shambhala’s the biggest and fastest rollercoaster in Europe (drops 78m at 135km/h in one place) and it’s terrifying – it’s actually even terrifying to watch people you know on it. And Furius Baco goes from 0 to 135km/h in three seconds, bit scary too. In the summer holidays PortAventura’s good because there’s an Aquapark as well. There are multiple restaurants and shops and tons of shows too so even if you get sick on just the ‘Teacup Ride’ (you know who you are mum) there’s lots to do.
Europa Park, Rust, Germany
credit: Wo Men
If you look at Europa’s website, the park doesn’t look very exciting, but don’t let that put you off. I went twice – one day after another – and it’s amazing. It’s like a miniature Europe so as well as the rides there’s lots of other interesting stuff too – I loved Scandanavia for the cute, little wooden houses. It’s a huge park, really immense, and it’s got 12 roller coasters, 2 aquatic roller coasters and lots of water rides with logs and floaties. Europa’s got 3 cinemas (a 4D one in ‘France’) and 8 theatres. You can travel around by train or hire a 4-seater bike – we did one of each. All the places to eat in the park are themed round different European countries. And if you climb up the Euro Tower you can see the whole park and the town of Rust. Best ride is Silver Star, it’s 1.6km long (or 3 full minutes of screaming till your lungs bleed if you’re me). www.europapark.de
Alton Towers, Staffordshire, England
This park’s a family tradition for us. It was the first park I ever visited and last year I rode ‘Smiler’ here just after it opened – it’s the roller coaster with the most inversions in the world, hanging upside down 14 times, oh yes. There are tons of other rides and the famous Nemesis is here – looks a bit pathetic compared to the terror-fests at PortaVentura. The Master Blaster roller coaster is great if you don’t mind the cold. And there’s a Lazy River for ride-cowards. But Alton Towers is like a real ‘Theme Park’ with lots of events (Scarefest at Halloween is actually frightening), cinemas, fireworks, live shows, exhibitions and even golf (had to mention it). Getting into the park on the Sky Ride cable car is fun. www.altontowers.com
Gardaland, Lake Garda, Italy
credit: Simone Ramella
I thought I might be disappointed by Gardaland because it doesn’t have much of a story (Tivoli Gardens is my favourite park in the world, just saying). I was very, very wrong. Gardaland is superb. There are 34 rides in total and 5 roller coasters including ‘Raptor’ which I can confirm is just as awful as it sounds – in a good way. There are carousels, mini-flumes and the Peter Pan ride for wee kids and 4D experiences are a big thing at Gardaland. ‘Energy’ is where all the biggest rides are and in 2015 they’re building a ‘Dive Rollercoaster’ here – I’ll be back for that!
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
This is my favourite theme park in the world. It doesn’t have the biggest rides (28m high is nothing) but it’s so pretty I used to want to live here when I was little. There are 38 rides (the world’s oldest wooden rollercoaster still runs in Tivoli today). Some are plenty exciting like ‘The Demon’. But it’s things like the Ferris Wheel and sweet little buildings and gardens and secret hiding places and the lovely Dragon Boats that are the best things here. It’s a great place to eat, ‘Copenhagen’s Best Dining Spot’ so they say. And they have theatre and concerts in Tivoli Gardens all the time too.
Best Theme Park Website www.tivoli.dk
Efteling, Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands
The minute you see the giant entrance to Efteling you know it’s going to be good. It’s 200 hectares, so, huge! The theme is fairy-tale and fantasy and even the rides and rollercoasters go along with it. Boats and train journeys actually let you travel through fairy tales and legends which isn’t anywhere near as sad as it sounds. One of the best bits of Efteling is after you’ve done all the rides and snacked yourself senseless you get to finish your day with Aquanura. It’s the biggest water show in Europe and I have never seen anything like it.
There’s a downloadable phone app for touring Efteling. www.efteling.com
Siam Park, Tenerife, Spain
This is really a WaterPark but if the theme was ‘brilliant’ it would be a Theme Park so it makes my list. It’s one of the biggest in Europe and it has everything you’d expect only in giant sizes. The Lazy River is the world’s longest. The artificial waves are the tallest (these are a bit much at first but when you get used to them ….). And the Tower of Power water slide has a vertical drop of 28m into a real aquarium. There’s a floating market for food and shopping and you can watch sea lions swimming around you while you’re eating.
So has Harper found where’s best for the mid-holiday boost? Once you’re back on a sun lounger for a soothing, guilt-free second week you can let me know!