Blackpool Pleasure Beach was voted the best amusement park in the UK in TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice awards. Words: PA
The Lancashire amusement park was also voted the ninth best amusement park in Europe in the list compiled by TripAdvisor from millions of reviews.
Blackpool's Sandcastle Waterpark also proved a favourite with travellers - being placed eighth in a list of best European water parks.
Paultons Park, home of Peppa Pig World, at Romsey in Hampshire, was 10th in the top European amusement park table, while Alton Towers in Staffordshire was 12th.
Four other UK attractions made it into the European amusement park top 25. Drayton Manor in Tamworth in Staffordshire was 13th, Thorpe Park in Chertsey in Surrey 14th, Brighton Pier in Sussex 18th and Fishers Farm in Wisborough Green in Sussex 21st.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Paultons Park were first and second in the best UK amusement park list, with Alton Towers third, Drayton Manor fourth and Thorpe Park fifth.
The world's top amusement park was Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, while the leading water park was Siam Park in Tenerife, which also topped the European water park table.
Europe's best amusement park was Europe-Park in Rust, Germany.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach managing director Amanda Thompson said: "We are thrilled to be named the UK's best amusement park.
"We pride ourself on offering the best experience for a great day out."
TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay said: "Blackpool Pleasure Beach is not just the country's best-rated amusement park, it is also one of the cheapest for a family day out among the UK top 10, proving that great value often trumps bigger rides in the eyes of consumers.
Top 10 UK amusement parks:
1. Blackpool Pleasure Beach
2. Paultons Park, home of Peppa Pig World, Romsey, Hampshire
3. Alton Towers, Farley, Staffordshire
4. Drayton Manor, Tamworth, Staffordshire
5. Thorpe Park, Chertsey, Surrey
6. Brighton Pier, Brighton
7. Fishers Farm Park, Wisborough Green, West Sussex
8. Sundown Adventureland, Retford, Nottinghamshire
9. GreenWood Forest Park, Y Felinheli, Gwynedd, Wales
10. Adventure Island, Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Top 10 water parks in Europe:
1. Siam Park, Adeje, Spain
2. Lago Martianez, Puerto de la Cruz, Spain
3. WaterWorld Waterpark, Ayia Napa, Cyprus
4. The Water Park, Faliraki, Greece
5. Costa Caribe Aquatic Park, Salou, Spain
6. Fasouri Watermania Water Park, Limassol, Cyprus
7. Aqualandia, Benidorm, Spain
8. Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool, United Kingdom
9. Aqua Fantasy Aquapark, Kusadasi, Turkey
10. Action Aquapark, Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
World's weirdest amusement parks
Blackpool named best day out in Europe
The main theme here is the Passion of Christ, which is re-enacted daily in pretty graphic detail. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's linked to an evangelist TV station. The can experience the atmosphere of the day when you wander through a re-created Jerusalem street market and, if theology's your thing, there's a 30-minute interpretation of Jesus' crucifixion at Calvary's Garden Tomb.
Dolly Parton is no dumb blonde - in fact, she's the biggest employer in Tennessee on account of her Dollywood theme park. Like Dolly herself, it's bold and brash and features spectaculars based entirely around her own songs. There's a Dolly museum and a Dollywood Express steam train as well as white-knuckle rides. And if you happen to be proportioned like the busty warbler, there's a chance to buy her clothes in Dolly’s Closet shop.
If you find yourself in Beijing, don't miss the opportunity to see the world's largest chocolate replica of the Great Wall of China. If that's not enough to set your tastebuds tingling, check out the life-size replica army of chocolate terracotta warriors, chocolate flowers and a chocolate car.
You could be forgiven for thinking you'd walked into a surreal dream when you enter Dwarf Empire. Techno music blasts out across the attraction as dozens of dwarves dressed as medieval soldiers, butterflies, cooks and hiphoppers parade around. The Empire has its 'king', too, who emerges to rapturous applause from the spectators. It doesn't get much more bizarre than this!
If you like your amusement parks oppressive and heavyweight, don't miss Grutas Park (unofficially known as Stalin's World) in Lithuania - a sculpture garden of statues representing the Communist Soviet era. Grey stone representations of Stalin, Marx, and Lenin are amongst the featured 'attractions'. It may be far from fun, but it has a certain historical interest.
Keen on Hello Kitty? You'd better be if you're planning to visit this somewhat bizarre tribute to the much-loved cat character. There are spinning teacups, a ferris wheel, numerous parades and stage shows, all dedicated to Japan's favourite feline. Maybe Kittyland would have been a more appropriate name for this attraction...?
If you're looking for a new thrill, how about dangling yourself in the tank of a man-eater-size croc? This crocodile park is right in the middle of Darwin's main bar and restaurant strip. You can hold and feed the babies or, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous, enter the Cage of Death, where you're lowered into a real croc's enclosure in an acrylic, see-through box.
Also known as Haw Par Villa, Tiger Balm Garden depicts the myths and legends of China in the most gory, bloodthirsty ways. It's certainly not for the fainthearted, especially the Ten Courts of Hell, featuring graphic 3D dioramas of punishments for misdemeanours, with money-lenders being thrown on to a hill of knives, tenants who default on the rent being pounded with a mallet and exam cheats having their intestines pulled out. Pass the sick bag, please.
Looking for a little titillation? This explicitly adult-only exhibition is dedicated to love, relationships and sexual wellbeing. There are nine different 'zones' to explore, with interactive animatronics. We'll let you discover more for yourselves.
There are over 60 activities on offer here, some of them with slightly questionable themes: the dog fart switchback, for example - and this in addition to vomiting rats, lactating cows, and urinating ants! You can ride 'the prawn' and the 'wild boar'; try the gull-pat bikes, visit cowboy town and witness the spectacle of the indoor sealion show. There's a special circus during school summer holidays, too.
The Shijingshan Amusement Park in Beijing uses the slogan 'Disneyland is too far' to attract visitors to the quirky theme park. Here you'll find a replica of Cinderella's Castle, staff dressed like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 2007, Shijingshan's deputy general manager Yin Zhiqiang told the AP: 'We do not have any agreements with Disney. The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs.'
Located in Kent, Devon, Durham and Yorkshire, Diggerland is a where adults and children have the chance to ride and drive real construction machinery. No driving licence is required and you'll find some kid-friendly rides made from dump trucks, cranes and diggers owned by JCB. One of the coolest attractions is the Dancing Diggers, where you can see machines dancing!
If you've ever wanted to know what plague-ridden, sewage-filled 19th century London was like, visit Dickens World in Chatham, Kent. It was designed to highlight the life and times of Charles Dickens and the theme park features one of Europe's largest dark boat rides, a Victorian school room and the Haunted House of Ebenezer Scrooge. A visit here is sure to make the kids appreciate everything they've got!
Vietnam's Suoi Tien Amusement Park is a Buddhist-themed water park, which was created to simulate Buddhist heaven. It's filled with god-like statues, including a one-acre round giant frog and a huge dragon head, an aquarium with 1,500 crocodiles (symbols of victory) and a Secrets of the Sorcerers Jungle with evil ogres, monsters and scorpions.
The sex-themed Love Land in South Korea opened in 2004 as a way to teach Korean newlyweds about conjugal love. Located on Cheju Island, which has been a longtime hotspot for honeymooners, the theme park attracts curious couples who come to browse the 140 amorous sculptures, watch sex-ed films and see exlicit exhibitions. There's even an interactive self-pleasuring bicycle with feathers on its wheel! Definitely not a place to bring the kids.
Families visiting London's ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 24 July and 31 August will be able to engage in a range of daily activities curated by visual artist and art educator Natalie Ryde (previously artist in residence at Kensington Palace and art educator at Hampton Court). Using the ArcelorMittal Orbit as inspiration, kids of all ages will be shown how to use their imagination with a variety of methods from cutting out, sketching, painting and building - whether it’s sketching the London skyline or making their very own ArcelorMittal Orbit. Activities will take place from 2-4pm each day of the school summer holidays and will be included in the entry price.
No need to wait until 5 November to enjoy firework displays as this summer you can enjoy watching amazing pyrotechnics without your woollies at the British Firework Championships on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 August in Plymouth. The event is believed to be Britain’s most spectacular fireworks display and features six top pyrotechnics companies who set off four tonnes of fireworks over Plymouth Sound as they battle it out to become the British Fireworks champion. Plymouth’s Hoe offers the perfect viewing platform for this truly incredible competition.
The Hat Fair in Winchester is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the UK’s longest-running street arts festival. The festival will be taking place from 4 to 6 July, with all performances free for all to watch. During the fantastic day out for families, there will be a range of performers from acrobatic feats to theatre acts and music, with the best 'hatters' from around the world. The only money festival-goers are asked to part with is money for the performers' hats, hence where the Fair got its name!
Fancy taking to the water and watching dolphins, seals and birds? A Bay to Remember offers wildlife watching boat trips in Ceredigion, which are a safe and an exhilarating experience for all ages. Trips depart all year round and last one to two hours, making them child-friendly. You can regularly see bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise, grey seals and a wide variety of birds as you explore the amazing coastline of Cardigan Bay.
Blenheim Palace has an action-packed summer, with events and activities for families from 26 July to 31 August. The Palace, grounds and parkland will be taken over by knights on horseback, living history characters, Punch and Judy shows, circus skills workshops, petting zoos and a myriad of arts and crafts. The permanent attractions include the giant Marlborough Maze, Adventure Play Area and newly renovated Butterfly House and are wonderful to explore and rediscover.
The only 20th century pier in the UK, Southwold Pier is the perfect day out for all the family. With two cafes and restaurants the Pier has something for everyone from traditional fish and chips, homemade cakes and Suffolk ice-cream. Spend the day browsing through the Pier’s three boutique shops which includes an exclusive collection of accessories from designer Zandra Rhodes - especially for fashionable mums. Children can enjoy playing traditional arcade games or the weird and wonderful Under the Pier Show, a collection of homemade inventions exclusively designed for The Pier by master inventor Tim Hunkin. The arcade games and simulators such as the Booth of Truth and Rent a Dog are unique to The Pier. This summer, street artist Pure Evil is in residence at the pier on 3 and 4 July, and Jaques of London pops up for croquet-on-sea in August. It’s the perfect British day out – with a twist!
The London Dungeon is hosting a Summer Carnivale from 26 July to 31 August, with showmanship, spectacle and plenty of scary fun as the attraction presents its very own carnival starring a cast of colourful characters ready to amaze and astound. Roll up, roll up as the show begins with the Dungeon's Victorian 'Barkers' announcing the mesmerising entertainment inside - from the amazing 'knife throwing' torturer to the discombobulating Hall of Mirrors. Guests can test their strength lifting strong man dumb bells or on the High Striker - will they be as weak as a plague victim or as strong as an axe-wielding executioner? Then look into the future with a fortune card dealt out by the Dungeon's flea-infested fortune teller – and watch out for the resident cockroaches and rats in their colourful carnival-themed lairs. Once inside, there are 18 shows plus two riveting rides to enjoy as 1000 years of London's murky past is brought to life with a special carnival twist. Marvel at Mrs Lovett and her fabulous pies, escape the clutches of Sweeney Todd, meet an escapologist whose enthusiasm knows no bounds and attend the trial of the hirsute bearded lady.
Sherwood Forest comes alive with the spirit of Robin Hood from 4 to 10 August, when the annual Robin Hood Festival returns to the infamous forest in Nottinghamshire. Every year, visitors come to experience the ancient forest come alive with music, theatre and free fun for all the family. Try your hand at archery, see falconry displays and watch Robin Hood himself as he takes part in skirmishes and jousting displays around the forest. Don’t miss this special opportunity to see Robin Hood and his legend come to life in the heart of his homeland Sherwood Forest.
Spot kingfishers, herons and other wildlife and explore backwaters as you meander down the River Thames in a canoe this summer. Henley Canoe Hire offers Canadian canoes for hire and there is a selection of carefully designed routes for a day out, with drop offs at convenient places up and down the river. Stop for a pub lunch or enjoy a picnic while on your day out in a canoe that can hold up to three people.
Get down to the beach in the heart of Nottingham this summer, when the Nottingham Riviera returns to beautiful Old Market Square from 19 July to 2 September. Pull up a deckchair on the sand, enjoy popular seaside rides and entertainment, chill in the beach bar over a cocktail or splash about in the paddling pool area on site. There is also a live music line-up to keep the whole family entertained.
Thundering tropical storms, icy winds from the North Pole, a real iceberg and a bone-shaking earthquake bring the extremes of planet Earth and beyond to life at Edinburgh’s Our Dynamic Earth. Situated at the foot of Edinburgh’s spectacular Salisbury Crags,it is the only science centre dedicated to telling the story of planet Earth, taking visitors on a journey through life and extreme environments. Walk through captivating galleries, experience interactive exhibits and go an unforgettable tour to witness the creation of Earth. Don't miss the Showdome, a must-see cinematic experience, which gives the sensation of movement and 3D without actually moving or wearing 3D glasses.
It's game on for a summer kaleidoscope of fun and exciting activities at the Belfast Hills heritage festival running from July 28 to August 2. Hop on the landscapes and legends bus tour of the Belfast Hills or explore McArt's Fort on the Game of Thrones walk on Cave Hill, where Celtic kings were crowned in ancient times. Get the kids out for some puddle and pond dipping at Ligoniel Dams, enter an enchanted world making 'fairy doors' at Mossley Mill and forge your own junior Celtic collars - all the rage in the Bronze Age - at the Ulster Museum.
From 28 to 31 August 2014, the historic town of Falmouth in Cornwall is set to host renowned Tall Ships Regatta, welcoming over 47 ships, including 12 of the magnificent and mighty square-rigged Tall Ships, from a myriad of nationalities including Spain, Holland, Portugal and Russia. The event will make maritime history as for the first time ever the race will take place solely in English waters. For the first three days, the ships will open to the public for a unique opportunity to explore on deck and learn about life on board these giants of the sea where fortunes were won and lost. Expect a swathe of swash-buckling pirates marauding and seasoned sailors dancing the hornpipe in the streets.
This summer is the perfect time to learn to ride a wave or two, and who better to teach you than Wales' two-time surf champion? Ingemar Cressey offers surf lessons all along the south Wales coast and runs the only surf school in Wales accredited by the Academy of Surfing Instructors, the Australian-based world standard in surf education. Families can learn to surf in a group session and beginners of all ages are welcome at Cressey's Surf Academy.
Get set for adventure and discover a lost world at Eden this summer at Eden Project. From 21 July to 16 September families will be turned into true explorers as they track down and discover amazing things about the giant beasts that used to rule the planet at Dinosaurs Unleashed. In the Crater of the Tyrant King, you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of an ancient exotic landscape (including a moving T-rex devouring its Triceratops prey). The Dig Pit is where you can dig deep into the past to uncover a dinosaur skeleton, and see how humans discovered and pieced together this world by finding fossils. And the Dinosaur exhibition has items that have never been on public display before, such as real dinosaur eggs, a fossilised brain, a whole skeleton and a real T-rex tooth. Find out why scientists think they were so BIG and why they believe they were wiped out 65 million years ago.
T-Party, a free family fun day in the heart of Telford Town Park, Shropshire will have an action-packed programme of activities with something for everyone on 2 August. Expect to find strolling players, puppets, story-telling, games, arts and crafts, musical workshops and market stalls, plus a variety of food and drink for all to enjoy. Family entertainers will include street theatre, with the hilarious Granny Turismo and the Lovely Bugs, who will perform an interactive and aerial dance display within a six-metre-high rig and giant spider’s web.
Fell Foot Park, nestling at the southern end of Windermere, offers the perfect family day out. You can canoe down river, skim stones, build a den, hunt for bugs, let the children loose on the adventure playground or simply enjoy the wide open spaces and relax with a picnic. Whether you like to take to the water or keep your feet on dry land, there are activities to fill a whole day at Fell Foot Park.
Head to Butterfly World in Chiswell Green, where the kids can get up close to 800 butterflies in the Tropical Butterfly House, checking out the colonies of leaf-cutter ants in Ant World as they go about their daily jobs to keep the ant city functioning. They'll get the chance to handle the insects in the Insect Study Centre, which includes stick insects, cockroaches, snails, locusts, mantis, caterpillars and chrysalises. In the Bee Hut, kids can learn all about the lifecycle of bees and watch them live in their hive on bee cam. There are also 19 designer gardens for kids to have great adventurs in running through willow tunnels, climbing on the huge, wooden climbing frame, and zooming down the giant slides. This summer, there will be daily arts and crafts sessions focused on nature, such as how to make a bug hotel or a miniature gardens, wildlife talks, summer jazz concerts (23 August) and photography courses (27 July, 31 July and 17 August).
This summer, the world's only underground trampoline arrives in Wales in the form of Bounce Below. Open from 4 July, the attraction is a massive network of bouncy nets in underground caverns twice the size of St Paul's Cathedral. Visitors at the trampoline, near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, are taken to the impressive 200x60 foot cavern by an old mining train and kitted out in special overalls and a helmet before being let loose to bounce, climb and slide in the unique setting. The walls are kitted out with technicoloured lights which illuminate the subterranean background with vibrant colours.
For a memorable full day out for all the family, there's no better place than Warwick Castle, celebrating its 1,100th anniversary this year. With live actor attractions, Horrible Histories Foul Fayres and, from 19 July, horseback jousting knights - as well as huge birds of prey, swordsmen and 30-feet high towers of flame - there's plenty for everyone at this historic attraction. There's even a Gaol deep underground and the spine chilling Castle Dungeon for the brave hearted.
What better to chill out than by watching a movie at the beach? Brighton’s Big Screen is a free outdoor beach cinema that is showcasing a mixture of movie classics and recent box office hits on the gigantic 40sqm screen this summer including: The Hunger Games Catching Fire, The Lego Movie, Dirty Dancing and Jaws, plus top live sporting events including the World Cup, Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix. There is a fully licenced cantina-style bar as well as frozen margarita machines, popcorn and a selection of great food.
Take the Red Funnel ferry to the Isle of Wight for a day and visit the island's original zoo, the Isle of Wight Zoo, which specialises in big cats. Set in the ruins of a Victorian fort built to protect the coast, the zoo now offers views across the sandy beaches of Sandown Bay – in days gone by, the zoo keepers even used to walk tiger cubs on the beach! Today, visitors can see tigers, lions, primates, lemurs, wallabies and even owls – with tours available to meet the keepers and their animals. Prices start from just £15pp, for a family of four (two adults and two children) including return vehicle crossings to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel, with a special discount on tickets when booked with Red Funnel ferry crossings.