When you need the exciting thrill of an adrenaline rush, or to scream the loudest scream you can possibly muster, you should spend some time at an amusement park. You will find a huge assortment of rides from Ferris wheels to spinning-twirling-upside-down-sideways contraptions. If that’s not enough for you, entertain your imagination with theatre, magic acts and puppet shows.
The first amusement park opened in Denmark in 1583, evolving from the traveling fairs that used to traverse the European countryside. It must have been a hit because many more have followed. One thing is certain, if you are a kid or a big kid at heart, you will find something to enjoy at one of these parks.
1 – Gardaland in Italy
This 148-acre park is located in northern Italy on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It’s open seasonally from April through September, and on holidays in October, December and early January.
With over 56 rides, including six roller coasters, there is something for every age. Visit the different sections of the park including the Fantasy area, which appeals to the younger visitor with train rides, a tree house, an animal farm, kiddie rides, a merry-go-round and video games. The Adventure area has activities like Jungle Rapids, Time Voyagers and Tunga (a safari in an African forest.) In Adrenaline, you will get your rush from one of the many wild thrill rides.
Gardaland also offers dance and cinema events like the Hollywood Dream show, music concerts, acrobatic basketball players and Dolphin shows. If you have the little ones with you, don’t miss the fun games and music geared to their age, the magic show at Merlin’s Castle and the puppet shows.
>> Book a flight to Italy
2 – Alton Towers in the United Kingdom
This seasonal theme park is located in the middle of England in the Staffordshire Peak District. Not only will you find an incredible theme park, there is also a water park and resort hotel on site.
Alton Towers has plenty of mind-blowing thrill rides. There are also rides that will make you laugh hysterically, or some that will scare you and make your heart pound in your chest. For the little ones, you’ll find cute rides like the Green Beastie and Wobble World.
If you need to take a break from rides (to settle your stomach?) visit Old McDonald’s Farm, the Gardens (yes, amazing beautiful gardens), or play a round of wacky Extraordinary Golf. There is really something for everyone here.
3 – Walibi World in the Netherlands
This park is located in the province of Flevoland, east of Amsterdam and open from mid-April through October. It has over 40 fun attractions for all ages to enjoy.
Take a ride on Europe’s first hyper coaster – the Goliath, get wet on Splash Battle, El Rio Grande or Crazy River, or take a spin on the Ferris wheel. You will find many different rides to thrill you, and there are plenty of smaller rides for the kids to enjoy. Shows are also offered throughout the season.
If you are going to be in the area for a few days you can reserve one of the 142 bungalows. When you are tired of the Walibi World, head back to your accommodations and enjoy the heated pool or relax with a game of tennis or miniature golf.
>> Search airfare to Amsterdam
4 – Tivoli Gardens in Denmark
This fun park in the center of Copenhagen is open from early April through late September. Tivoli Gardens offers an incredible selection of rides and other entertainment, and the city itself is right there waiting for you to explore.
You can purchase a multi-ride ticket that allows you access to rides all day long. Don’t miss the newest one that opens this summer. It’s the wildest and fastest interactive ride in northern Europe, where you pilot your own plane achieving speeds of up to 62 mph and navigate through 360 degree turns. You’ll also find Ferris wheels, bumper cars and roller coasters, wild rides, fun rides and rides for small children.
If you grow weary of the rides take a break to enjoy the Aquarium, watch and listen to the music of the Tivoli Boys Guard, or take in a rock or classical concert at the Concert Hall.
>> Read our Denmark travel guide
5 – Knott’s Berry Farm in the United States
This was America’s first theme park and I remember visiting it as a kid and having a blast. It is located in Buena Park, California about 10 minutes from Disneyland.
For rides, Knott’s has several different sections. On the Boardwalk, you will find rides like the Boomerang, Supreme Scream, and the Perilous Plunge (you will get nice and wet on that one.) In Fiesta Village, you can ride Montezooma’s Revenge and some milder family rides. The Ghost Town has GhostRider, the Calico Railroad, the Timber Mountain Log ride and more. Cool off by riding Bigfoot Rapids in Wild Water Wilderness and of course, there is beloved Camp Snoopy.
But, this amusement park isn’t just about rides. There are dozens of other fun things to do including the Charles M. Schultz Theatre where you can see Snoopy ice-skating and Broadway-style shows. As you wander around you will hear Mariachi bands and Native American music and storytellers. Stop and watch Native American and country line dancing. You may stumble across blacksmiths at work, stunt shows, staged cowboy gunfights, and a place where you can pan for real gold. Take a moment to learn from a naturist at the Ranger Station, and more.
6 – La Ronde in Canada
This Six Flags theme park is located in Montreal and is the biggest park in eastern Canada. It’s open from the end of May until early September, and when you visit during those summer months you’re sure to have a great time.
La Ronde park offers over 40 rides and attractions. Some are thrilling like Vertigo, Boomerang, Cobra and Goliath which is one of North America’s highest and fastest roller coasters. Others are moderate like Condor and Pitoune, and some are completely mild like the Grand Carrousel. The nice thing is you can check them all out and see their thrill rating on the parks web site.
When you need a break from the rides, step over to Ribambelle’s Stage for some live entertainment. This summer the park is also offering a brand new diving show, which will feature acrobatic dives, evening fireworks and music hosted by a DJ.
>> Book a flight to Montreal
7 – Dreamworld in Australia
Located between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Dreamworld is open 364 days a year, only closed on Christmas (although it does open a little late on Anzac Day.)
This is Australia’s largest theme park, and it has rides for all ages – thrill rides including Australia’s first motorbike rollercoaster; family rides including several where you will get wet; and kid rides like SpongeBob Flypants.
When you tire of rides, take in a show at the IMAX theatre, take the kids to see the Wiggles in Wiggle World, laugh with SpongeBob SquarePants, be awed by the incredible Bengal and Sumatran Tiger Show, watch a sheep shearing demonstration, or visit the wildlife portion of the park.
>> Find flights to Brisbane
8 – Hopi Hari in Brazil
This park is located about 45 miles outside of Sao Paulo, and is open during the warm summer months. Hopi Hari is a newer park, built in 1999, and has several different sections for you to enjoy and explore.
The Mistieri section features Mayan and Aztec replicas of pyramids and temples, and one of the most fun rides in the park, a wooden roller coaster called Montezum. There is also a European and an Old West area.
If you like to collect souvenirs, there are plenty of small shops scattered through the park to satisfy your shopping needs. When hunger strikes, you can grab a burger or sandwich, but it may be more fun to visit one of the small country-theme restaurants.
>> Search flights to Sao Paulo
9 – Phantasialand in Germany
This seasonal park is located near Cologne and has six different themed areas that will appeal to everyone: Deep in Africa, Mexico, Mystery, Fantasy, China Town and Alt Berlin. As you wander through the different sections, you will have the opportunity to experience different parts of the world. For instance, in Africa, you will walk past earth colored buildings with reed roofs and see the Miji African Dancers, exotic aromas will fill the air, and you will hear the beat of drums and stories of the deserts and plains of the continent. In China Town, you might see the Chinese acrobats.
Each themed area in Phantasialand has its own assortment of rides for you to have fun on as well. Take a ride on the Black Mamba inverted roller coaster in Africa; get wet as you spin round and round on the Talocan in Mexico; get shaken about as you ride Feng Ju Palace; and ride the two newest rides, Bolles Flugschulle and Bolles Riesenrad in Alt Berlin.
>> Check out our Cologne travel guide
Read about author Deanna Hyland and check out her other BootsnAll articles.
Additional photo credits:
Gardaland by AcquaAlta on Flickr, Alton Towers by Tiger 2000 on Flickr, Walibi World and Phantasialand by delawega on Flickr, Knott’s Berry Farm by malingering on Flickr, La Ronde by Joe Rollerfan on Flickr, Dreamworld by Pulse3 on Flickr, Hopi Hari by [visual media] on Flickr