Best theme parks in UK
As a person who hates rides, I have (nor surprisingly!) been blessed with adventurers who are adrenaline junkies and adore visiting theme parks. Maya is totally crazy and will go on any ride that she is tall enough for and I am left standing on the ground with my heart literally in my throat watching her whizzing to and fro! We started taking the children to theme parks from when they were a year old (in Zayn’s case he was 3 months!) and I often have parents ask me if children are too young, so below are the best theme parks in UK for children of all ages.
Best theme Parks in UK
Best theme park for toddlers
Paultons Park featuring Peppa Pig World (Hampshire, New Forest)
Everyone’s favourite (highly annoying!) Pig can be found at Paultons theme Park in Hampshire. The theme park was added to the exiting Paultons theme park and is perfect for preschool children and those in Primary school. Fans of the TV show and children under 5 will love the Peppa pig side of the park and as it is still quite new, it looks great. There are lots of rides perfect for this age range and a good number of character meet and greets. I also loved that there is a soft play area in the area which is perfect for escaping the great British weather and is a nice touch if the park is busy and the children have become a little bored with the queues.
The rest of the theme park is ideal for younger theme park goers with lots of rides for primary school aged children. We vsisited when the little adventurers were 4,2 years old and 6 months and the older two loved all the rides and there was lots of choices for them. If we visited now at 1.2m, Maya would be able to go on most of the rides and there is a nice mix of rides from rollercoasters, to trampolines to water rides!
The theme park (theres also an area in Peppa Pig world) has wet play area which would be perfect for cooling the children down in summer and I would recommend that you take the children’s swimming outfits even if it doesn’t look that warm by the end of the day you may end up with totally different weather like we did!
Where to stay Peppa Pig World
We stayed in SandyBalls holiday park in a lovely caravan and its an ideal base for exploring the New Forest and including a day trip to Peppa Pig World. I find self catering a great option for travelling with children. If however, you prefer a hotel, there is a Premier Inn literally at the theme parks entrance, or you can book a stay and visit package directly with Peppa Pig world offering a selection of 3/4 star hotels located in around the New Forest area and often have offers, giving 2 day tickets for the price of 1.
Best for: all ages, something for everyone
Alton Towers including CBeebies Land (Staffodshire, Midlands)
I loved taking the little adventurers to Alton Towers (before CBeebies was opened) as lots of families with younger children would avoid the theme park as the focus is always on the big roller-coasters. As a result the rides catering for preschoolers were almost always queue free and you could go on them several times. In 2014, this changed with the opening of CBeebies Land. The rides in this area have all been changed to link with the TV shows and despite the busier queues times my little adventurers loved all the character based rides. There are several rides within CBeebies land that any fan of the shows would love. Be aware though there is often long (in toddler time) queue times and some of them do have height limits so you wont be able to go on them all.
Alton Towers offers a great mix for families of all ages as there was a number of rides in both cBeebies Land and Cuckoo land for younger children (inluding a bounch castle area) and then for the older children you have some of the worlds best rollercoasters to really get the adrenaline and G Forces pumping. From Rita, Nemisis, Air to thirteen there are some of the best rollercoasters in one theme park.
I love that Alton towers has so much greenery, theres ample spaces for a picnic and with young children its really easy to break up the day with a little bit of a play and run around. Flipside of this, is that the park is one of the biggest from all the theme parks, so pushchairs, carriers etc would be really recommended. In addition to the the normal theme park, there is also the Splash Landings Water park next door which is another great day out.
For Muslim visitors, there is a halal eatery with lots of options from kebabs to chicken dishes in case you wanted to buy something onsite!
Where to stay for Alton Towers
You can book a stay at one of the the two onsite hotels or the new lodge village which also has the added bonus of early entry into the theme parks. Given the location in Staffordshire there are plentiful options within an easy drive and I know lots of people have stayed in the Premier Inns and Travelodge in the nearby areas.
Blackpool Pleasure including Nickelodeon Land (Blackpool, North West)
Everyone’s favourite beach resort is home to the UK’s favourite theme park in 2014 and I can see why. We used to visit Blackpool Pleasure Beach all the time when we were growing up but we didn’t visit for several years until we went last August and we weren’t disappointed.
Blackpool has a fantastic mix of rides for all ages from preschool children to teens (Blackpool is my 20 year old niece and 14 year old nephews second favourite theme park). I love that the size of the theme park really lends itself to combining lots of different rides very easily and they have a good mix of rides for all ages together. This is ideal for families with mixed aged children who want to do different things without these being on either end of the parks! In Nickelodeon land there is lots of meets and greets with all the characters from the channel and lots of interactiveness for younger children. My boy adventurers were having a whale of a time partying with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Compared to wait times on the bigger theme parks, Blackpool is much more manageable in one day and the children will manage several rides without much issue. One aspect that I really love is that the theme park only charges £6 for a person who doesn’t wish to ride. I often see grandparents at theme parks who are attending to have a day with their grandchildren without much desire to go on the rides and it seems ludicrous that they all still need to pay the same amount. For this reason alone, Blackpool is one of my best choices for a theme park day out with the extended family.
Where to stay near Blackpool Pleasure Beach
There are lots of B&Bs located very close to the theme park entrance on the promenade. In addition, there are also a number of travelodges located in Blackpool which are a short driving distance to the park entrance. It should be noted that Blackpool is probably the easiest theme park to access via public transport and is walking distance fro the train stations so perfect for families without a car.
Chessington World of Adventure (London)
This was my personal favourite theme park. I think the park has it right in lots of ways, children over 1.1m pretty much got to go on everything (which is refreshing to see and there is a really mix of rides. It may not be the newest of the theme parks but for family focused day, there is lots for everyone. The rides for smaller children are really good and I liked that they had a mixture with outdoor climbing areas etc, going to see some whilst they still had a few good rollercoasters for the older children with the likes of Dragon Fury and the awesome (to watch) Ramses!
For me this theme park won as even though we visited in the school holidays the queue times, the park, queues for food and snacks were always at a really manageable level. The height restrictions meant that even smaller children got to try rides that in other theme parks they ay have been unable to do so. I also loved that there is a zoo and animals onsite and makes for a really nice break from rides and is great to help balance things if you have a child who doesn’t necessarily like rides.
Places to stay near Chessington
There is a couple of onsite hotels and they sound fantastic especially where you can see all the animals as you have breakfast. In addition, to the onsite hotels there is a number of nearby chain hotels from Holiday Inn to Premier Inn. We often stay in between the London theme parks near Cobham, Chertsey and you can easily get a hotel room at the Travelodge even in summer for £35 a night for a family of 4.
Best for preschool – Primary School Aged Children
Legoland Windsor (Windsor, London)
Lego is the coolest things to do these days and Legoland Windsor does not disappoint. There are lots of ride choices intertwined with lots of great Lego creations which will really wow everyone (regardless of how old the children are). There is no real rollercoasters, so those interested in these rides would be disappointed, and rides such as Atalntis which was my children’s favourite maybe (and was on the day) received with lots of eye rolling from the older kids. The theme park has lots of rides which for me are more aimed at children under the age of 12 years old. I loved the water rides that the park has which were really different to the other water rides in other theme parks. We have most recently visited at Halloween and arrived early and hardly had any queues for any of the major rides. The fireworks at Legoland were amazing and if you get the chance to, I would really recommend visiting around Bonfire night, with the special touch of the 3D fireworks glasses which were a treat with my kids.
The park is split into various areas and there is lots for young children to enjoy from the Duplo area, to a few playgrounds to fairy tale shows. There is a great water play area so if your visiting on a warm day, I would recommend coming prepared with swimming costumes as your children will want to get wet and give these a try!
One highlight for any visit to Legoland would be miniland. The amount of detail and intricate nature of the lego structures are amazing and even the older children will enjoy this. I loved when we went with my niece in 2013, she loved all the structures. In addition, the theme park continually update the area with little touches making it more current i.e. Prince Georges’ first birthday so a party table and characters out celebrating the party outside of Buckingham Palace.
We visited in August and the theme park was heaving. The queue times were ridiculous and the park felt so full, with lines for ice creams taking nearly an hour. Anyone visiting around this time of the year I would suggest arriving at the park opening time and planning to stay until closing to make most of the quieter times in the park.
Places to stay for Legoland
Windsor is very expensive and the hotels can set you back quite a bit especially during the busy periods. There is often some really great stay & play breaks directly at the Legoland website, which include day tickets and a stay over from one of the various hotels in the area. I have checked these often and even during school holidays such as May half term there is some really good deals to be had for a family of 4. In addition, Slough is about 12 miles to the theme park and offers some great, cheaper alternatives for a night stay.
Best for Teenagers
Thorpe Park (London)
Now this is the choice of my older adrenaline mad nieces and nephews. It is not that these rollercoasters are much wilder then those at Alton Towers but there is just more of them in a smaller area and all the rides are on a scale with a little adrenaline and speed built in. For example, the traditional log flume has been changed to Tidal wave which is totally crazy and the splash at the bottom does literally causes a wave, beware where you stand if you are making videos!! We have visited the theme park on two occasions and would say that there is very little for younger children to go on. There is only a handful of rides that they could actually sit on and that included Maya at 1.15m last year, the year before Raihan was to small to sit on the teacups, which should indicate that the height restrictions are much more higher then they are for similar rides in other of the theme parks. In summer there is a big beach theme and the children are able to play there but otherwise there’s are only about 5-6 rides they can go on.
The rollercoaster choices are fantastic and the queue times even in the height of summer were still really good, which meant we got to try a very good range of rides. The 4D angry bird show was one of the best that I have seen and was great for the whole family. For children over the age of 10 years old this is definitely the theme park which they will love. However, if you are going with a wide range of children I would recommend one of the other theme parks in London!
Places to stay near Thorpe Park
Similar to Chessington there is lots of hotels in the nearby area which are a short drive to the theme park. We have stayed in Woking and it was 30 minute drive to the park in the morning so its perfect for a cheap stay. Given the closeness to Heathrow, this may be another option if there cheap hotels in the area.
Best for someone wanting a slightly different theme park experience
Diggerland (multiple location in UK)
We visited Diggerland in Yorkshire a few years ago and were really impressed. I love places that are a little different from the others and Diggerland is definitely that. For any fans of diggers, its perfect. Each ride has a different type of digger theme and link from operating your own diggers to riding in the actual hand of the digger. There was a range of rides for all ages and even for older children you can operate your own digger across an area which my older nephew would have loved. However, it should be noted that there was very little for toddlers up to the age of 90cm that they can go on. When we visited Zayn was a robust 22 month old and was disappointed when I kept having to say no to him. For primary school children this would be perfect and they would love the challenge of how well they can operate the rides.
So there you have it. We have been to lots more theme parks across the country (Light Water Valley, Gullivers World, Twin Lakes) and each has its own appeal and advantages, the ones listed above are definitely my pick from those in the UK and the ones which I would class as being world class attractions.
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