The summer holidays are now in full swing, and with them the chance to spin, soar, and splash at theme parks and water parks all over Europe. We’ve curated 30 indoor and outdoor entertainment venues sure to up the ante when it comes to family fun, together with towns that make them worth visiting and nearby holiday rentals perfect for you and your family—the ideal way to personalize your theme park holiday.
Trip the light fantastic at Phantasialand in Brühl, Germany
Close to the city of Cologne, this is one of the country’s most established and best-loved theme parks. A new-for-2016 themed zone, Klugheim, features two epic roller coasters that between them hold six world records. But in addition to thrill rides, there are plenty of gentle attractions for young kids and those of a more delicate disposition. Don’t miss the Geister Rikscha, a ghostly underground ride based on a Chinese myth, or the eye-opening shows, one of them an energetic mix of stilt-jumpers, trampoliners, BMX riders, and breakdancers.
Photo credits: Phantasialand/Schmidt-Löffelhardt GmbH & Co. KG
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Take a tour of world history at Parc Astérix Plailly, Picardie, France
Just 45 km north of central Paris, this quirky site provides a Gallic counterpoint to the more famous Disneyland Paris less than an hour’s drive away—many of its roller coasters, family rides, and shows are based on the classic Astérix stories by Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny. But other historic cultures—the Romans, ancient Greeks, Vikings, and Egyptians—get a look in too. Don’t miss the hilarious dance-off between the Gauls and Romans during their “match” in the Arena, then refuel on wild boar brochettes and Julius Caesar salad in the Restaurant du Lac with its outrageous fruit-and-vegetable bedecked exterior.
Photo credits: © Parc Astérix
Find 4 more French theme parks for the family
Fall under the spell of the Isla Mágica, Seville, Spain
Themed on the discovery of America, this park also has an historic setting in its own right—it took over the site and facilities of the Seville World Expo '92. Seven lands invite you to explore 16th-century Seville, venture into the Amazon rainforest, and invoke the wrath of the gods at Quetzal, among other experiences. A water-park area, Agua Mágica, has also opened in the past couple of years. Among the big-hitter rides and attractions is the five-inversion roller coaster El Jaguar, plus the world’s biggest virtual-reality cinema, complete with moving seats.
Photo credits: Isla Magica
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Italia in Miniatura, Rimini, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Speed-tour your way through Italy and Europe as a whole at this gentle amusement park with its 300-or-so scale models of famous buildings, including the Colosseum of Rome, St Peter’s Basilica, and Verona’s Arena, criss-crossed by miniature trains. Other rides and attractions are aimed mainly at younger kids—think the likes of Pinocchio-themed mini-cars and pony-rides. Older kids will be happy on the log flume or in the science funfair area with its interactive physics experiments. There are also gardens to roam and parrots from around the world on view.
Photo credits: Italia in Miniatura park archives
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Aquatic wonders at Alton Towers Waterpark, Staffordshire, UK
Previously known as Cariba Creek, this indoor aqua park offers tropical-themed fun year-round, even when the adjoining theme park (Britain’s largest) is closed for the season. Expect watery thrills and spills for all ages, from the Master Blaster Water Coaster slide to the Wacky Waterworks Tree House with its 70+ interactive water features, including cannons and pull ropes. Free buoyancy aids are available poolside, and there’s on-site dining at the Adventurers Cave, or sundaes, hot waffles, and floats at the ice-cream parlour.
Photo credits: Alton Towers Resort
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Other European destinations:
Go back in time at the Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
One of the world’s oldest amusement parks, this 1843 pleasure garden with its plum position in the heart of the Danish capital has something for all the family, from a three-inversion modern rollercoaster to 1920s bumper cars. Other old-school attractions include a pantomime theatre and a classic carousel. Keep the kids up late to marvel at the enchanting nighttime shows on the lake, using lasers, fire, smoke, and water, and refuel from any number of restaurants and stalls serving up everything from noodles and shawarma to hot dogs and churros.
Photo credits : Tivoli Gardens