Travel bloggers pick their worldwide favourites for family entertainment
Love them or hate them, theme parks can create the mecca of holiday memories for some families, and I’m guessing fall pretty high on most kids’ travel wish lists.
Although we have done our fair share of the “big ones” I was delighted to see the variety of new ideas come through this month when I asked our team or expert family travel bloggers to recommend the best of the best in theme parks. Yes, of course there’s gotta be some Disney Magic in there, but it was delightful to see some refreshingly different ideas, many of which include educational elements and drawing in nature too as part of the theme park experience – it’s not all thrill rides and getting wet!!!
Even if you’re not a theme park fan, its time to drop some pre-conceived notions. You’re bound to find something here that will suit interests for your little ones AND you! (‘Coz big kids wanna have fun sometimes too, right?)
Suggested by Sally Ann from Toddlers on Tour
The Bali Safari and Marine Park is not your typical theme park in the normal sense of the word, but definitely a fun and educational family day out.
We start our day by exploring the aquariums and seeing the frenzy of the Piranha fish feeding. Then we perch on rickety tiered seats as we hear the history of how humans have domesticated wildlife. We are enchanted watching the elephants bathing, white tigers striding along the river, and Komodo Dragons lazing in the sun.
Next, we are told the story of the struggle between the elephants and humans in the Indonesian jungles that eventually resulted in a more harmonious way of life. We are then amused to see how elephant poo is used to make paper. However the highlight is the 4WD safari tour to explore the biggest “zoo” I have seen; with animals from Africa, India and Indonesia freely walking through huge fields.
We finish our day with the more conventional theme park attractions; cooling off in the water park and riding on the sideshow attractions.
Suggested by Amy from Passports & Pigtails
The word ‘Disney’ evokes wonder and magic, a life size fairytale of winding pathways that lead to spinning teacups, heart racing rollercoasters, swashbuckling pirates and crown adorned princesses come to life. It’s a place that caters to all those passing through the gates, fulfilling the dreams of generations.
With Disney theme parks dotting the globe, each park offers up its own unique experience. Disneyland Paris is the perfect opportunity for traveling families to pair up days of magic with days wandering the streets in the city of light and love. At just 32 kilometres via a quick train ride, it means that families can easily switch up days of Mickey Mouse for days of culture, crepes and iconic towers. It is “Disney en Francais’.
Disneyland Paris is split into two theme parks, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Serviced by seven Disney hotels as well as plenty of surrounding accommodation options and a separate Disney Village, this is a park that has options for every budget.
Covering approximately 5000 acres, it is on a perfect scale for families looking to spend a few days immersed in moments of laughter and excitement. For children, it’s a dream come true as they embark upon adventurous rides and are left starry eyed by characters. For parents it’s nostalgia, family connection and learning that rides are not as easy on the body as they used to be. For us, it was seeing our girls eyes light up as they watched over the top parades, and snuggling in as a family to watch the most incredible fireworks and light show one can possibly witness.
Disney Parks are a bucket list destination for many families, and with it’s proximity to one of the world’s most amazing cities, it’s incredible daily celebrations and it’s perfect size, Disneyland Paris is a fantastic family destination.
Suggested byMark from Wyld Family Travel
Located in southern Poland, Dream Park features life size Dinosaurs, miniature wonders of the world, 4d cinema aquarium, ropes course, a playground and more. The dinosaurs are life-size and life-like motion activated, they move their heads and tales and even have sound effects. The ropes course is amazing with flying foxes, obstacles and ladders to challenge all members of the family. We really enjoyed this little theme park, the crowds were low and the prices were even lower. We spent an excellent 3-4 hours here and enjoyed every minute of it, highly recommended if you are in Poland.
Suggested by Keri from Our Globetrotters
Part of the Universal group and situated in the theme park capital Orlando, its easy see how Islands of Adventure can sometimes get overlooked. My initial perception was that our young children would probably not enjoy it, there were far too many “big thrill” rides and not enough to keep our Disney-character obsessed youngsters happy; I couldn’t have been more wrong. We have visited Orlando twice now with kids and on both occasions, we have certainly left feeling Islands of Adventure was the “winner”. Not only does it feel that little bit less crowded, that little bit less “how does everyone keep this insane smile on their face all day”, there’s a real air of excitement but also a more relaxed vibe than many other local parks.
For our littlies the big highlights include meeting Spider-Man, visiting the wacky Toon Lagoon and taking all the rides in Suess Landing – my oldest was delighted to finally fit the height restriction for all of the Suess rides last year, some she can now ride without a grown-up which was a thrilling experience for her!
Our kids were a little young to appreciate Harry Potter but undoubtedly their biggest and most acclaimed attraction is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which also connects to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios next door. Our kids also loved the jungle in Park Jurrasic and I was actually convinced (thanks to the Big Wimp challenge) to take on a thrill ride – conquering the stomach-churning Incredible Hulk Coaster. After you’re done for the day, Universal City Walk that connects the two Universal parks has excellent family dining options.
Suggested by Marianne from Mum on the Move
Ocean Park is Hong Kong’s oldest theme park, and is a favourite family day out for Hong Kong residents and bus-loads of tourists who arrive daily.
Ocean Park Hong Kong is not your average theme park, but rather part-zoo, part-aquarium, part-theme park. The Grand Aquarium has loads of sea creatures to fascinate children – from hammerhead sharks, to stingrays and manta rays, starfish and lionfish to jellyfish and turtles. Then there are penguins, walruses, sea lions and seals to admire, plus everyone’s favourites – the Giant Pandas.
The other main focus of Ocean Park is the roller coasters and thrill rides. There are rides for everyone – from the carousel and frog-hopper for the little ones, to the floorless Hair Raiser roller coaster that sends you looping and plunging at 88km/h for the really fearless.
But one of the biggest treats of Ocean Park for many visitors to Hong Kong is the cable car. Ocean Park is divided into two sections – the Summit, which is literally built on the top of a mountain, and the Waterfront. The most fun way to get between the two sections is to ride the Cable Car, which also has some of the best views of the south side of Hong Kong Island.
Learn more about visiting Ocean Park, and Hong Kong’s other main family attraction Hong Kong Disneyland in this episode of the City Travel with Kids Podcast.
Peppa Pig World, Hampshire, England
Suggested by Claire from Tin Box Traveller
If you’ve come across this cheeky TV piggy you’ll either love her or hate her. My three-year-old daughter is smitten. ‘The Pig’ seems to have that effect on toddlers, which means it’s no surprise that families travel the length and breadth of the UK to visit Peppa Pig World.
I have to admit I didn’t really get ‘the Pig’ until we visited this bite-sized theme park (it’s no Disney World), but having experienced it for myself I can highly recommend it.
For starters it’s great for families with babies and toddlers because they can go on every ride. No-one has to hang around with the buggy while the rest of the family queues up. Kids will recognise each ride or attraction from the shows they’ve watched and are able to meet Peppa and her friends in an organised meet and greet sessions throughout the day. Peppa Pig World is just one part of the Paultons Park theme park in Hampshire, UK. If you can drag your little people away from Peppa there are plenty of rides suitable for older children and grown-ups, as well-landscaped gardens and a tropical bird avery. Peppa Pig World is easily a full day out for young kids, so I’d recommend getting a season ticket if you want to take full advantage of what the Park has to offer over several days.
Suggested by Leah from Kid Bucket List
Throughout the park, women and men dressed in period costume wander the streets and direct visitors to the different attractions around the site. You can create candles with a candlestick maker, go to school and be taught by a 19th-century schoolmistress, or ride the Cobb & Co. Wagon which was used to deliver gold, mail and all other types of items around Australia. You can also pan for gold, shoot a musket and make a horseshoe or two.
If adventure and adrenaline is something you favour, you can take a mine tour which will spirit you deep below Sovereign Hill for a unique underground experience. Yes, you will be literally metres below the site in an underground mine!
Suggested by Elaine from Family Travel Escapades
Walt Disney World resort near Orlando, Florida is the world’s best theme park because it boasts both quality and quantity that are unsurpassed. Walt Disney World offers not one, but four amazing theme parks, two water parks, four golf courses, 34 resorts/hotels, and the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment area. The four parks are distinct with different themes, attractions, and focuses: Magic Kingdom (Classic Disney!), Epcot (science and culture), Hollywood Studios (classic TV and movies) and Animal Kingdom (nature, real and mythical).
Children will love meeting classic, Disney characters (Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Snow White, even Doc McStuffins, and more), parades, stage shows (Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo), child-friendly rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, and amazing fireworks. Adults will appreciate the same things, but will also enjoy thrill rides (Tower of Tower, Expedition Everest, Space Mountain) and culture (shopping and dining from thirteen countries in Epcot alone). Everything in Walt Disney World from restaurants to rides have a “story” that makes if feel more alive and real.
Walt Disney said, “The Magic is in the details.” No detail is too small at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World is the “most magical place on Earth.”
Read more about why you should visit Disney World During Spring Break
Will theme parks be on your family travel agenda this year?
Do you agree with our bloggers selections? I think there are plenty more we can add to this list and would love to see a Part 2 – so let me know your suggestions below!