10 best theme parks to visit in the UK this summer
Rita is still one of the most popular rides at Alton Towers
High octane rides at Alton Towers and family fun in the Scottish highlands at Landmark Adventure Park
Spine-tingling vertical drops, powerful G forces and countless loop-de-loops, the UK can hold its own with the best of them when it comes to rollercoasters. For a small country we're blessed with some excellent theme parks; thrill seekers have big hitters like Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, there's some excellent family-friendly days out to be had on the south coast and in the Scottish Highlands, while the natural world and conservation is represented well too. Here's some ideas for a memorable trip, and don't forget to visit our friends at Superbreak for some excellent theme park deals.
Staffordshire's Alton Towers has long been a favourite of adrenaline junkies and it's status as one of the UK's most popular attractions is unlikely to change anytime soon. A height restriction on the park's rides means the headline attractions are often cunningly, innovatively built into its landscape. Old favourites like Nemesis and Oblivion still stand proudly well into their third decade and the park has continued to freshen things up in recent times. Rita takes riders to just under 100kph, while Galactica (which replaced Air, the world's first flying coaster) comes with a virtual reality headset that simulates a trip through the cosmos. The new kid on the block is The Wicker Man – the first wooden rollercoaster to be built in the UK for 20 years.
Tickets for Alton Towers start at around £33.
With some of the biggest, fastest rides in Europe, Thorpe Park is another winner for those looking for white knuckle thrills. The terrifying Saw – The Ride has a 'beyond vertical' 100 degree drop; the eye-poppingly fast Stealth is anything but, going from 0 to 130kph in 1.9 seconds; and The Swarm ominously suspends riders upside down before a dive drop that gives way to 90 seconds of frantic dodging. Derren Brown's Ghost Train and The Walking Dead provide indoor thrills, while the Tidal Wave is still loads of fun – but bringing a change of clothes might be a good idea.
Tickets for Thorpe Park start at around £30 for a day ticket.
Landmark Adventure Park
What Landmark doesn't have giant rollercoasters, it makes up for with its proximity to natural beauty and attractions that make the most of incredible surroundings. Situated in Carrbridge, near Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands, it's a family-friendly park with lots to please kids. The Tarzan and Timber Trails offer a picturesque tour of the ancient forest; the Fire Tower gives spectacular views for miles around; and for those of a more adventurous persuasion, there's the Runaway Timber Train, the 50ft Skydive simulator and an old favourite in the triple threat of the Otter, Falcon and Wildcat, the Wild Water Coaster.
Tickets for Landmark start at £20.70 for adults and £18.60 for children.
Lego is loved the world over by kids and parents alike, with the toys, video games and movies all contributing to it's enduring popularity. Still going strong is the theme park too, with Legoland Windsor attracting millions of visitors every year. It's split into twelve lands, with educational and entertaining attractions, restaurant and shops to peruse.
Tickets for Legoland Windsor start at around £32.
Scotland's Theme Park has loads to offer, from rollercoasters and thrill rides to exotic animals. Main rollercoaster The Tornado isn't what you'd call a smooth ride, but provides excellent views of Strathclyde Country Park and surrounding towns. In recent years they've added the spinning coaster Mad Mouse, with the child-friendly Big Apple and Runaway Mine Train just two of twenty plus attractions aimed at young people. There's glow in the dark indoor bowling, a massive soft play area and a game zone that features all the latest amusements and games. If that's not enough, the Amazonia is packed with fascinating creatures, birds and creepy crawlies.
All day wristbands for M&Ds cost £13.95 for those under 1.3m tall, and £18.45 for those over 1.3m tall.
Paultons Family Park
With over 70 rides and attractions including the world's first Peppa Pig World, Paultons Park is another favourite for a family day out. Just north of Southampton on the south coast, it's a must visit destination for anyone who loves dinosaurs! The immersive Lost Kingdom contains four acres of Jurassic landscape, with two family rollercoaster rides, an adventure playpark and a Jeep exhibition. Here's hoping they don't escape...
Tickets for Paultons start at around £29.25. Children under 1m tall go free.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
The summer's the perfect time to visit the seaside city of Blackpool, with the famous Pleasure Beach due to open a brand new ride on Fri 25 May. The UK's first double launch coaster ICON cost over £16m to build and once it's open to the public it'll be the fastest at the old park. Still standing is the iconic structure The Big One – the tallest in the UK – as well as The Big Dipper and the Grand National, wooden coasters that have stood since the 1930s. Kids will love Nickelodeon land and Wallace & Gromit: The Thrill-O-Matic.
Wristbands start at £39 for adults and £33 for under 11s. Save money with advance tickets.
'Wild animals, wilder rides' is the motto at Flamingo Land, located just outside the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton. The park has 'extreme rides', such as Mumbo Jumbo, Pterodactyl and and the white-knuckle Hero, but amongst all the chaos there's a range fun family attractions, with the spinning Twistosaurus and the wet and wild Splash Battle. What sets the park apart is its conservation element, which began with flamingos but now sees another 129 creatures calling it home.
Tickets for Flamingo Land start at £34.
Chessington World of Adventures
Covering all the bases, Chessington World of Adventures is a theme park, a zoo and a sea life centre, with a Go Ape too for good measure. There's 40 attractions over 10 lands, and while the rides are on the tamer end of the spectrum the Vampire and the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure are hugely popular with kids looking for big thrills on a small scale. You can get up close to over 1000 animals too, from lions and tigers to gorillas and monkeys.
Advance tickets for Chessington World of Adventures start at £29.
The Shockwave, Europe's only stand up coaster, and the five-sided 54-metre drop tower Apocalypse are the headline attractions at Drayton Manor, just east of Birmingham. There's far more to see at the park though, like the Tamarin Trail, which allows visitors to come face-to-face with mischievous marmosets. Fans of Thomas the Tank Engine are in luck too: Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land, with all your favourite fictional locomotive characters represented.
Advance tickets for Drayton Manor cost £25 for over 12s, and £20 for under 12s and over 60s.