17/02/2015 15:40 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Best UK Theme Parks 2015


UK theme parks aren't exactly the cheapest child-friendly outing, but with a bit of forward planning – book early and online and bring your own lunch, for example – you can save a fair chunk of money. Plus, you win a huge number of parent points with your kids.

Not sure which one to choose? Our guide gives you the low-down of the 10 best, including what each one stands out for, as well as top tips and warnings and, of course, starting prices.

If it's still too pricey, why not look into a family ticket - and don't forget there are often vouchers, offering deals such as two-for-one or bring a child free.

Too far to travel? Fear not as we've got that covered too, with hotel and even camping options for overnight stays.


1. Legoland, Berkshire

Best for: Younger to mid-aged children. Most rides are relatively tame and there are plenty without height restrictions.

If they get hot and bothered, simply head for the DUPLO Splash Safari, a pre-school area where children can safely plash around among a menagerie of DUPLO animal friends, or DUPLO Drench Towers, the largest water play structure in the UK.

LEGO fans won't be disappointed – LEGO characters can usually be seen wandering around and there's the famous Miniland too, where famous landmarks from across the globe are all made out of LEGO.

The new Hero Factory allows little ones to build their own LEGO characters, while the Star Wars Miniland Experience allows children to see intricate LEGO models of their favourite characters from the hit films.

Top tip: If you can afford it, the qbot system is exceptionally effective in avoiding long queues. There are three types, starting from the basic type at £15. Find out more here.

Be warned: Good news for younger kids is that the rides are quite close together, but this means it can be tricky finding a space to spread out over a picnic on crowded days.

Need to stay over? LEGOLAND's hotel, built in 2012, is awesome. Practically everything is LEGO themed (even the soap) and there are loads of cool areas for kids to have fun while you relax. Themed rooms for two adults and two children cost from £247.

Theme park prices: Online from £36.00 for adults; £32.85 for children. Under threes go free.


2. Alton Towers, Staffordshire

Best for: Adrenaline junkies. The Smiler is the latest white knuckle ride to watch out for. The £18m ride is the world's first 14 looping rollercoaster, with added psychological effects including optical illusions, blinding lights and jabbing needles. Other stand-out big-thrill rides include Nemesis, Rita, Air and Oblivion.

Not that little ones aren't catered for, particularly with the all-new CBeebies Land. We love the fact that there's so much space here. Thanks to the Sky Ride, that doesn't need to mean too much walking, and there are even beautiful gardens to get away from the madding crowds and have a quiet picnic.

Top tip: Arrive early. You could go to Alton Towers every day for a week and still find things you hadn't done.

Be warned: On busy days, it can be difficult to get out at closing time. There can be major queues for the monorail, then you queue in the car to exit the resort. But it's worth it.

Need to stay over? There are two on-site hotels. Our favourite is the Alton Towers Hotel, which features a huge pirate ship downstairs, around which the bar and restaurants are located. Then again, Splash Landings has an amazing water park on site. Prices start from £33.75 per person per night, based on four sharing.

Prices: Online from £36.90 for adults; £32.40 for children. Under fours go free.


3. Drayton Park, Staffordshire

Best for: Thomas fans. Thomas Land is the only attraction of its kind in Europe, which is a dream come true for boys (and many girls) aged around five and under.

For slightly older kids, rides like the Ben 10 themed one are well thought out and there's a handful of rides for thrill seekers too, including Air Race, which opened last month, and Apocalypse, which has been voted the UK's scariest ride.

If it all sounds too overwhelming, simply hop on Winston's Whistle-Stop Tour, where Winston takes passengers on a guided monorail tour around a themed track and giving a birds-eye view of the multi-million pound Thomas Land attraction. There's also a zoo.

Top tip: Bring the grandparents. This place really does cater for all ages and everything is close together, so there isn't too much walking.

Be warned: The entire attraction is outdoors, so bring lots of sun cream and water on hot days.

Need to stay over? The four star hotel opened in August 2011 and is within very short walking space of the theme park gate. There are an impressive 150 rooms, 15 of which are Thomas themed.

Prices: Online from £20 for 60+ year-olds; £25 for 12-59 year-olds; £20 4-11 year-olds. Under fours go free.


4. Thorpe Park, Surrey

Best for: High and fast rides. Indeed, there's no shortage of fodder for thrill seekers here, with some of the highest and fastest rides in Europe, which makes it a particularly winning day out for teenagers.

Besides the legendary Stealth, SAW and Colossus, there's THE SWARM, a rollercoaster where riders are dragged into a blind 127ft drop and which is definitely not for the fainthearted. With around 30 rides and attractions altogether, there's plenty to keep you busy for a whole day.

Top tip: There are five water rides, so prepare to get wet.

Be warned: Parking is an extra £5 OR If you get scared in the bumper cars or spinning teacups at the local fair, Thorpe Park isn't for you.

Need to stay over? The THORPE SHARK Hotel, which opened in 2014, is is located close to the rides and includes Priority Ride Access for the first hour of opening. Prices from £39.99 per person per night.

Prices: Online from £24.99 for all ages.


5. Paultons Park, Hampshire

Best for: Shorter queues. We can't guarantee them, but we have consistently found them to be shorter than the other big theme parks.

With over 60 rides and attractions, it means you can pack more in your day, including Peppa Pig World, which alone has seven rides. There's a new hand-crafted Victorian carousel, with other stand-out points including the new welcome building, which includes a restaurant and child's toy land adventure.

Top tip: The Big Toy Shop, situated in the new welcome building, is so good and undeniably well-priced that it's well worth picking up a few birthday or Christmas presents if you can.

Be warned: Restaurant food has historically been a bit on the greasy side, but Paultons new Wildwoods Restaurant has attempted to deal with that and sports a healthy child-friendly menu.

Need to stay over? For all official short break bookings made via the Paultons website, families receive tickets to the Park, overnight accommodation at a local family-friendly hotel, breakfast, plus a second day free to the Hampshire-based attraction. The Park has partnered with a range of three and four-star hotels for this, including the Mortimer Arms, Beaulieu Hotel, The Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton, and the Holiday Inn, Winchester. Prices from £26 per person per night.

Prices: Online adult or child (over 1 metre) tickets from £24.25. Children under 1 metre go free.


6. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

Best for: Seaside fun. There are a staggering 125 rides and attractions across 42 acres, at the end of Blackpool's promenade.

Although there's no shortage of new ones, including InFusion, Big One and Valhalla, there are also many well preserved ones from many years ago too, including the rockets, Big Dipper, Grand National, Steeple Chase and best ghost train you're ever likely to experience. There's even an adventure golf course, Ripleys Believe It Or Not Museum and ice skating ARENA.

Top tip: Don't miss the Wallace & Gromit ride, Thrill-O-Matic, which opened last year. Built with its creators, Aardman, it follows the adventures of the dynamic duo from A Grand Day Out to A Matter of Loaf and Death.

Be warned: There's a different payment system to most theme parks. Either, you can get an unlimited ride wristband from £15.99 per person. Alternatively, you can get a Pleasure Beach Pass for £6 which includes several attractions and a show.

Need to stay over? There's a four star hotel, the Big Blue, a winner of the TripAdviser Family Hotel of the Year 2013, with prices starting from £70 for a double and £90 for a family room (inc. breakfast).

Prices: Online adult wristbands from £18; Junior wristbands from £16 when booked online at least 10 days in advance. Under twos go free. Or get a Pleasure Beach Pass for £6, which includes several attractions and a show.


7. Chessington World of Adventures & Zoo, Surrey

Best for: Animal lovers. Not only are there 40 rides and attractions suitable from tiny tots upwards, but there's an impressive zoo and Sea Life centre, with over 1,000 animals, including an eclectic mix of animals from across the globe.

You can even combine both with Zufari: Ride into Africa, a ride which involves a journey on an off-road truck which features encounters with flamingos, giraffes, antelope and rhino. There's also AMAZU Treetop Adventure, where you can play in an enclosure amongst real monkeys.

Top tip: Eat after 3pm, when kids eat free at many of the resort's restaurants.

Be warned: Bubbleworks used to be the big favourite here and although it's still really popular, we think it could do with a lick of paint. Oh, and bring back the sweet smell and bubbles.

Need to stay over? Both onsite hotels overlook Chessington's amazing wildlife. Chessington Safari Hotel offers 64 rooms with complimentary WiFi, where prices start from £189. And new for this summer is the Chessington Azteca Hotel, with 69 themed rooms, where prices start from £199 per night for a family of five, with breakfast and park tickets included.

Prices: Online prices for adults and children from £30. Children under 0.9m go free.


8. Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire

Best for: The best ride ever. After all, Oakwood, which is the only theme park in Wales, is home to Megafobia, voted the best ride in the UK and third best ride in the world by the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain.

New for 2013 was Neverland, a £4m family-themed area with 10 attractions occupying more than three acres of new land within the park, while new for this year is Hook's House of Havoc, a giant new pirate-themed indoor soft play centre which, let's face it, you might need with Welsh weather.

Top tip: Take your own food as some of the food outlets are more expensive than even the large theme parks.

Be warned: This park gets overcrowded and queues can be extremely long, with some customers reporting three hour waits for Megafobia. Good news is that Fast pass tickets are good value.

Need to stay over? Hotel Plas Hyfryd in Narberth is a small, privately owned three star hotel, just a five minute drive from Oakwood and central to Pembrokeshire. A family room sleeps up to five people and costs from £120.00 per night.

Prices: Online £19.50 for over 13s; £13.50 for 3-12s. Under threes go free.


9. Flambards Experience, Cornwall

Best for: A free history lesson. Yes, really. And whilst that might not sound very tempting, the Victorian Town which you arrive into is fantastic and includes a fascinating audio tour. Next, you move into an atmospheric London Street in the Blitz, which is poignant and informative, then finally you reach an aeroplane exhibition – a must for plane enthusiasts.

Finally, you get to the theme park itself which, although lesser known, has some great rides for thrill seekers, ranging from the high clutches of The Shuttle space craft to the dizzying spin on The Thunderbolt Ride. But it doesn't ignore those who prefer a gentler pace and literally caters from babies through to the over-80s.

Top tip: Eat at the cafe, which is reasonably priced and where you're served quickly.

Be warned: If you've visited in the last few years, you'll have noticed some areas were looking a bit forlorn and uncared for, such as the Hands on Science and the children's water shooting games, but the new owners have taken note and you'll probably start to notice a real difference.

Need to stay over? The nearby Polurrian Bay Hotel has large rooms that can accommodate two adults and two children from £240 per room per night.

Prices: Online from £18.95 for adults; £13.95 for children over 111cm – 15 years; £9.95 for children 95cm-110cm. Children under 95cm go free. (All includes free 7 day return).


10. Flamingo Land, Yorkshire

Best for: Unparalleled improvement. In the nineties, this was more of a large funfair, but in 2002 a massive expansion began and since then, eight extreme rides have been added, including Hero, a rollercoaster that puts riders in a flying position before swooping them around a track.

There is also a great choice of junior and family rides and youngsters will love the Dino-Stone Park area, which has moving and roaring dinosaurs exhibited, as well as full-scale dinosaur skeletons and the Dino Dig sand pit.

Top tip: Don't miss the UK's most visited zoo, which includes the Sumatran tiger cub triplets, which are just a few months old. Younger kids, in particular, will love the seal show, watching the meerkats being fed, and the walk through park with the wallabies and flamingos.

Be warned: The toilets could do with more regular cleaning.

Need to stay over? There's a Holiday Village here, with a wide range of luxury lodge and hotel home accommodation. Or you can bring your own touring caravan, motorhome or tent, or even buy your own holiday home.

A 3 night break in a Gold Fleet Holiday Home for up to 6 people, including unlimited access to the theme park, zoo, leisure complex and Club is from £367.

Prices: Online £37 for aged four and over. Under fours go free.

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