With new rides and attractions opening each season at theme parks across Europe, there’s no need to send your clients all the way to Orlando for their adrenaline fix.
There’s a fantastic array of park choices just across the channel that should get even the most reluctant of dads keen to get packing, from lasering mysterious alien forces within an Egyptian temple to hanging out with Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crew.
With three million visitors a year, Gardaland is the third most popular attraction in Italy, after the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. Highlights include the Mammoth roller coaster and the shows held across the park.
Ramses: The Awakening premieres this year at Gardaland. The ride is billed as an interactive challenge set in the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt. Visitors are taken on an adventure amid Egyptian sculptures and futuristic buildings and are given missions to use their special laser weapons to put a stop to a mysterious alien force.
Time travel is also the theme of the new show, Viaggio nel Tempo. It is situated at the Palaghiaccio ice rink, which has been redecorated with a large star-lit panel, special effects and mobile sets.
There will also be new shows at the Teatro delle Marionette puppet theatre and at the Castello di Mago Merlino – the wizard Merlin’s castle – including a parade with more than 30 characters.
Efteling, The Netherlands
Great for little ones (its hotel has been voted the most-child friendly in the Netherlands), Efteling is known for the water ride the Flying Dutchman, Dream Flight, where youngsters meet a world of elves and fairies, and Pandavision, which guides you around the globe on a nature quest.
Young girls are going to find it hard to resist Efteling’s latest new attraction – a collection of new fairytale characters including Cinderella, the Little Match Girl, Sleeping Beauty and the Frog Prince.
Visitors can see Cinders’ new home in the enchanted forest where she lives with her wicked stepmother and two ugly sisters.
As it’s Efteling mascot Big Mouth’s 50th birthday this year, the park has also organised a special exhibition in the Efteling Museum.
Disneyland Resort Paris
Disney’s European outpost celebrates all the Disney movies’ most famous characters, with stacks of rides and attractions.
A major new attraction is Mickey’s Magical Party, with Mickey Mouse, Donald, Pluto and Goofy playing party games with anyone who wants to join in.
Over in Main Street USA, you can meet Minnie’s party train with some VIPs (Very Important Partiers) face to face. There’s dancing in Discoveryland, and wild thing DJ Stitch does the honours on the decks to keep the party jumping.
Playhouse Disney Live on Stage! is new for 2009 at the Walt Disney Studios Park and brings the Disney Channel hit TV show Playhouse Disney to life. Kids will share a stage with Disney Channel characters, including Handy Manny, Little Einstein, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crew and more.
Also new is Cars Race Rally, which races guests along Route 66, and the new show High School Musical Party.
And currently, until November 8, one child under seven travels free on Eurostar (with each paying adult on the direct service to the park), free hotel accommodation and free entry to both Disney parks.
Gothenburg’s famous amusement park Liseberg has a lovely olde worlde feel to its amusements and has a very loyal following – its Swedish fans like the summer evening singalongs with park favourite Lotta.
New rides this year are the Hanghai and Rabalder. Hanghai is a super-fast roller coaster at the southern end of the park with an Asian theme. Younger visitors will enjoy the Rabalder, a special rollercoaster just for children. It has a moderate speed and height to suit its clientele
The 18th century Wardshuset restaurant has been refurbished for 2009 and will reopen on June 9 with a new concept and an organic focus.
For families heading to the continent this summer for some theme park action, Tenerife’s Siam Park will be high on the agenda as it opened in September 2008, just missing the summer season last year.
The park is in Costa Adeje within walking distance of some of the most popular resorts in southern Tenerife.
Facilities include a waterpark, a floating market, a tea house, a beach bar and a Thai Restaurant. And while the wave pool provides fun for older kids and teens, the dedicated play area will keep the smaller ones occupied.
Thrill seekers should make for the Tower of Power with its 28-metre drop and shocking finale, or Volcano, which wraps you in a cloak of darkness as you career round the track. For those not enamoured by speed, it is also home to the largest sandy beach in Tenerife.
Other water attractions at the park include The Dragon (a raft for four people shoots down a tube and is jettisoned in the air before spinning around a cone), The Giant, Jungle Snakes (slides) and the Mekong Rapids. The Lost City, with towers, bridges, nets, waterfalls and slides, is also popular with young families for its Baby Zone.
Keith Prowse Attraction Tickets is featuring Phantasialand in Germany for the first time in its brochure this year. Admission for adults is from £31, children’s tickets cost from £27. (keithprowse.com/agents,02890 232425)
Attraction World is offering a new Twin Ticket option that will give free entry to two new theme parks in Tenerfie: Siam Park and Loro Parque, in the north of the island at Avenida Loro Parque, Puerto de la Cruz. Price is £41 per adult and £27 per child (six to 11 years old). (attractionworld.com, 0871 700 8888)
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