Review of Futuroscope interactive theme park, Poitiers, France
Written by: Kim Jones
Date published: 02/06/2012
5 / 5 stars
Futuroscope Arthur, the 4D Adventure
I hate theme parks. I abhor them. They are my idea of holiday hell and I would avoid them at all costs if I didn't have children.
My boys, though, love them. They find irresistible that feeling of defying death as they career headlong on a ride that at any moment will come flying off its hinges.
I've spent many an hour fending off requests to visit these god-forsaken places and I've also spent many an hour queuing up in them, my heart thudding at over 100 bpm as I prepare to put my own – and my children's lives - at mortal risk.
Call me old-fashioned (or maybe just old) but I fail to see the attraction of spending a whole day (and a stackload of cash) in utter terror.
So why, this year, on our holiday to France, did I drive almost a hundred kilometres from our Loire Valley base - to take the family to the Futuroscope theme park near Poitiers?
Surprisingly, I wasn't cursing my decision as I found myself on the first ride, being dragged bumpily upwards on a rollercoaster, the wind in my hair and a palpable excitement all around me.
Normally, as we teeter to the precipice before the plunge to hell below, I'm clutching the safety bar with one hand and gripping my younger son with the other, for fear he'll be ejected when aforementioned safety bar somehow fails.
But in Futuroscope?
My eyes were wide open, there was a smile on my face as I glanced over at my grinning son and I even managed to do that hands-in-the-air trick that fearless people do when we nose-dived downwards at speed.
Why the sudden bravado?
Well I hadn't thrown caution to the wind after indulging in 'beaucoup du vin' if that's what you're thinking. Neither had I attended some kind of psychological 'conquer your fear of theme-park fear' type course.
Basically, I was cheating.
You see Futuroscope - France's second largest leisure park – is a theme park of the future.
Rides are interactive. You wear binoculars, 3D glasses, and sensor bracelets. You travel virtually, in simulators. As you're tipped, plunged and bumped around in flying spaceships or about to collide head-on with a lorry at speed, you still get a thrill, but all the while you know that you, your blood pressure – and your kids - can't come to any real harm.
Futuroscope Sea Monsters
As well as the rides, there are IMAX cinemas, plunging you into worlds of ancient Sea Monsters and 'collisions in space'. They're fun but (hush!) they're educational too.
The downside? The knowledge that I was actively encouraging my children to indulge in hours of 'screen-time'. And this, from a mother who gets fed up of hearing her own voice telling her boys to switch off the TV/computer/game console and to take a look at the real world around them instead.
A little, I suppose, but even a simulated computer shoot-out ride at Futuroscope (the 8th Continent) is all about 'taking out' the litter that pollutes our seas. An ethical, educational shooting game. Genius!
Top of the visitor polls at Futuroscope (and my eight-year-old son's favourite too) was 'Arthur, the 4D Adventure' an attraction created by the French director of the Arthur and the Invisibles films – Luc Besson.
In it, you board a ladybuggy flying simulator in the shape of a giant ladybird, pop on some polarizing glasses and with a combination of IMAX dome screen and the shaking, diving and accelerating simulator you're transported on a head-spinning, zig-zagging fly-ride with 4D effects. (I won't spoil it for you but giant rats and bees are involved.)
My 12-year old son's favourite ride was 'Dancing with Robots' where one of ten 23 feet-high robots (they're those robots you see making cars in the ads) takes you on a dizzying dance with twists, shakes and accelerations of up to 3G (that's as fast as a Formula One Car can go). But the best bit? You can choose which 'level' you want to ride at. From level one (soft and gentle) to level three (fast and furious). How civilized..
Futuroscope The 8th Continent
The boys had a great time at the park and didn't once complain about not being able to defy death properly. We watched a live magic show, a laser show, got drenched on a boat ride and scrabbled around in a 'Hamster Waterball' – so there were plenty of opportunities for 'screen breaks' too.
Now, if UK theme parks could come up with a rollercoaster ride you can slow down manually, I may be persuaded to spend quality family time there....
Fun without the fear? If that's the future of theme parks then you can count this coward in!
HOW TO GET THERE:
We travelled with Brittany Ferries from Portsmouth to Caen.
Futuroscope is based near Poitiers.
For ticket pricing and opening times, log on to Futuroscope.com.
There are plenty of hotels located just five minutes from the park (and there's a shuttle bus service that regularly picks up and drops off at the park). We stayed at the Novotel Futuroscope – a family room costs from 106 Euros per night, not including breakfast.
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