The World's Best Theme Parks
Fun-loving punters around the world make hundreds of millions of visits to theme parks every year. While Disney dominates in the US, Europe and Asia, there are many thrilling and rip-roaring alternatives. Check out our list of 10 of the world's best theme parks- start packing your comfy shoes, macs and nerves of steel.
Efteling, The Netherlands
Opened in 1952, Efteling is one of the world's oldest theme parks and still one of the best. There's a magical fairytale theme, and highlights include traditional roller coasters, water and light shows, the Flying Dutchman ghost ship ride, a park museum, and PandaVision 3D cinema experience.
Disneyland Park, California, USA
Image: Jeffrey Zeldman under Creative Commons licence.
Disneyland in Anaheim, California was the only theme park designed and built under the discerning eyes of Walt Disney himself, and has been open since 1955. It's hard to know where to start when it comes to things to do here. Classic attractions include Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, while shows like Fantasmic! and Remember...Dreams Come True! are as big, bold and magical as you'd expect. Disney California Adventure park is next door if you're in search of Pixar-themed fun.
Universal Studios, Florida, USA
Dedicated to films and television, visitors to Universal Studios in Florida can immerse themselves in their favourite scenes from both the big and small screens. The latest experiences include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Escape from Gringotts. You can also become part of the Transformers, Simpsons and Despicable Me action if it tickles your fancy. Popular rides include The Revenge of the Mummy and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.
Disney's Epcot, Florida, USA
Image: Corey Balazowich under Creative Commons licence.
Education Disney-style, Epcot is one of four mega theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. Future World features popular attractions like Soarin', Test Track and Turtle Talk with Crush while World Showcase focuses on the culture and history of different nations. Every day ends with IllumiNations, a firework and light spectacular.
Europa Park, Germany
Image: Jeremy Thompson under Creative Commons licence.
Believe it or not, there is room for more than one talking mouse in Europe. Euromouse has been giving Mickey a run for his money at Europa Park near the Black Forest for 40 years. Popular attractions include the Alpine Coaster "Enzian", Pegasus roller coaster, Andersen's Fairy Tale Tower, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Jungle Rafts and the intriguingly named Crazy Taxis located in an English garage. Fans rave about the shorter queues and superior food compared to Mickey's place in France.
Tokyo DisneySea, Japan
Image: nagi usano under Creative Commons licence.
This 176-acre theme park within Tokyo's Disney Resort is inspired by the myths and legends of the sea. At Tokyo DisneySea, you could be hanging onto your hats and your hearts on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Tower of Terror or Raging Spirits, a high-speed 'wrath of the gods' themed roller coaster. You'll also find the usual Disney menu of shows and fireworks.
Legoland Windsor Resort, England
Image: Draco2008 under Creative Commons licence.
The Windsor resort is the largest of all the Lego theme parks spread across the globe. Lego-themed rides, models and building workshops aimed at younger children celebrate the various worlds of our happy yellow friends, from Miniland, Duplo Valley and Knights' Kingdom to the latest movie-based attractions such as the Lego Star Wars Gallery. Plus new for this year is Mythica the UK's first Flying Theatre Ride.
Magic Kingdom, Florida
Image: Katie Harbath under Creative Commons licence.
Magic Kingdom was the first of four parks built at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, and shares many of its attractions and layout with the California Disneyland Park. You can expect the usual Disneyfied characters and fairytales plus hair-raising rides to the max. The park has been the most visited theme park in the world for five consecutive years, with more than 18 million thrill-seekers passing through its gates in 2013.
Beto Carrero World, Brazil
Latin America's largest theme park consists of nine themed areas such as the Avenue of Nations, Animal World, Old West, and Extreme Adventure. There are rides to suit all ages, animals and theme park shows - plus thanks to a partnership with Dreamworks you'll find family favourites such as Shrek, the animals from Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. Where do we sign up for one of those Jeep go karts!?
PortAventura Park, Spain
Image: thecrypt under Creative Commons licence.
At PortAventura on Spain's Costa Dorada near Barcelona, you'll find a sun-soaked theme and water park. The six areas of the theme park (based on world regions) feature top attractions including Europe's highest roller coaster, Shambhala, and Hurakan Condor, a 100-metre vertical free fall, plus up to 40 exclusive daily shows. Within the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park you and your gang can throw yourself down numerous slides, hop on rafts, ride the waves and relax on Bahama Beach.
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