Theme parks and attractions: Hot tickets

Theme parks and attractions: Hot tickets

Find out what new attractions have everyone talking with Katie McGonagle's guide to what's hot right now

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Staying ‘on-trend’ is a tricky business. No sooner have you caught up with the latest craze than another one comes along to take its place. Whether you’re talking fashion or fun attractions, it can be hard to keep up.

Here, we offer a helping hand with the lowdown on the latest openings around the world. From theatre shows garnering critical acclaim, to theme parks adding exciting new rides, these are the must-have tickets you need to know how to book.

ATTRACTIONS: LONDON LIFE


The most exciting attraction to open in the UK this year has to be The Shard, which at 310 metres is the tallest building in western Europe, with unbeatable views across London from its 72nd floor gallery. With so much media coverage around its opening on February 1, it’s bound to be top of the to-do list for any visitor to the capital, but availability is limited so offer to pre-book tickets. It’s featured by add-on providers including Attraction World, where tickets start at £30 per adult or £24 per child aged four-16.

From the new kid on the block to something with more history, the Chelsea Flower Show is celebrating its 100th birthday in May with even more beautiful blooms and elaborate creations. Superbreak offers a one-night stay at the three-star President Hotel plus show entry from £132, valid on May 24 and 25.

Another highlight for gardeners and royalists alike will be the Coronation Festival in July, in the exclusive gardens of Buckingham Palace. You’d be forgiven for thinking we did the Diamond Jubilee last year, but while that celebrated the Queen’s accession to the throne, this will be the 60th anniversary of the coronation ceremony. A ticket to the festival plus a night’s bed-and-breakfast at the four-star Cavendish Hotel costs from £145 on July 12, also with Superbreak.

Also in the capital, the London Dungeon has moved from London Bridge to County Hall, on the South Bank next to the London Eye. A £20 million installation leads guests through London’s history with help from a cast of historical characters, including Sweeney Todd, Jack the Ripper, Guy Fawkes and Henry VIII, plus two new rides.

VENUES: FROM SEA TO SPACE


No visit to Manchester will be complete without a trip to the new Sea Life – the 14th in the UK – opening at The Trafford Centre in June. It will feature an incredible one million litres of water, more than 5,000 sea creatures and an underwater tunnel.

Its London counterpart has also become the latest home to an enchanting display of starfish, while Blackpool Sea Life centre has introduced a giant Japanese spider crab with a 6ft-wide claw span, the biggest in Britain. A new batch of jellyfish will be centre of attention at Birmingham’s National Sea Life Centre, and in Oban, visitors can learn about the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary’s new breeding programme for Australian big-bellied seahorses.

Fellow Merlin Entertainments venue the Blackpool Tower is playing host to a record number of performances by its resident circus – 364 shows between March 29 and November 10 – which this year features acrobats from around the globe and an impressive water finale, plus the tower itself will be brighter than ever with 20,000 new lights.

A visit to the inspiration behind the British landmark, the Eiffel Tower, just got easier too, as Do Something Different released a new package combining the Parisian icon with dinner, a cruise along the River Seine, and a visit to Montmartre cabaret the Moulin Rouge. Prices start at £234 for adults and £198 for under-16s.

Across the pond, explore the final frontier at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, home to space shuttle Atlantis from this summer. A $100 million interactive exhibit will tell the history of the US space programme and the future of space exploration. There’s also a new Angry Birds Space Encounter for younger visitors, and extended behind-the-scenes tours that include the vehicle assembly building where Apollo rockets and space shuttles were built, the launch control centre and the launch pad.

If clients are less interested in the moon than in Middle Earth, suggest the new Waitomo & Hobbiton Experience in Auckland. The full-day tour visits New Zealand’s natural highlights such as the Waitomo Glowworm caves and Rotorua, before visiting the area near Matamata where The Hobbit was filmed, to find out how a 10-acre piece of farmland was transformed into The Shire (from £195 per adult and £99 for under-12s with Attraction World).

THEATRE: STAR TURNS


Sell-out shows, must-see musicals and celebrities taking to the stage – the West End and Broadway are hotbeds of activity so don’t even think of booking a city break without offering to reserve tickets to some of the most popular shows around.

On the home front, newly-opened The Audience has gone down well with theatre-goers and critics alike, reuniting Helen Mirren with her Oscar-winning role as Elizabeth II in a play imagining the weekly audiences between the monarch and a succession of prime ministers. It was scripted by Peter Morgan, who wrote 2006 film The Queen. A top-price ticket and a night’s B&B at a three-star hotel starts at £135 until the end of April, with Superbreak.

The operator also offers top-price tickets to The Book of Mormon, a hilarious satire by the makers of South Park, which has seen impressive advance bookings thanks to its phenomenal success on Broadway, where it won the prestigious Tony award for Best Musical in 2011 (from £159 with a night’s accommodation).

Family favourite Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also selling fast, with Attraction World already reporting strong interest despite the musical not opening until June 25. Tickets start at £23.

New York is the place to be for star-spotting this season, if the number of A-listers treading the Broadway boards is anything to go by. Tom Hanks will make his Broadway debut as a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist in Lucky Guy by Nora Ephron – famed for her witty dialogue in When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle – and the last project she worked on before her death in 2012. Book with Attraction World from £116 per ticket.

Other highlights to look out for include Matilda the Musical with its original London cast from April 11, the Broadway premiere of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and a one-woman play featuring Bette Midler, opening at the Booth Theatre on April 24.

THEME PARKS: THRILLS AND SPILLS


The long-awaited Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin opens on May 24 at SeaWorld Orlando, promising an escape into the icy world of the South Pole. Adventurers will be able to choose different ‘thrill’ levels on the trackless ride, making it suitable for children of all ages, and see king, gentoo, adelie and rockhopper penguins on their travels. A two-park ticket, offering unlimited admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica for 14 days, starts at £94 per adult and £88 per child aged three-nine with Attraction World.

Sticking with the sunshine state, Transformers: The Ride 3D, which was pioneered at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Singapore last year, is coming to Universal Orlando Resort this summer. Riders will dodge explosions and attacks, while fighting to save mankind alongside Optimus Prime.

The 3D movie simulator Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (pictured below) was so popular when launched in Orlando last year that it is opening in Universal Studios Hollywood in 2014.

Legoland is proving it’s the place to be as it continues expanding across the globe, with two Discovery Centres in Toronto and Westchester, New York, and a new hotel at Legoland California. Parent company Merlin is also opening a new Dungeon in Berlin and two Madame Tussauds in Tokyo and Prague.

Despicable Me

EXCURSIONS: LIGHTS, NIGHTS AND FLIGHTS


Sightseeing add-ons are a great way to boost commission, so make sure you’re up to speed with the latest pre-bookable excursions.

It’s set to be another spectacular year for the northern lights, so tag a trip onto any city break in Reykjavik. Attraction World has introduced Northern Lights Mystery, a five-hour excursion with free pick-ups from hotels in the Icelandic capital, from £32 per adult or £16 for under-11s.

Do Something Different has also boosted its portfolio with a host of new attractions in key destinations. Travellers to Turkish resort Alanya can take a break from the sun with a Jeep safari through the countryside (from £28 per adult, £14 per child); visitors to Side can go river rafting along the Koprucay River to see canyons and gorges (from £21/£10); while city-breakers in Marrakech can venture into the Atlas Mountains on a private four-wheel-drive adventure (from £101 based on two travelling).

Take a balloon flight over Melbourne with a champagne breakfast (from £228 or £176); enjoy a cruise along Sydney’s iconic harbour with a Captain Cook Top Deck Lunch (from £50 for two courses); or in the US, try newly-added trolley tours of Washington DC and San Diego, or see the US capital’s monuments by moonlight (from £25/£18).

Head up the east coast to New York for Attraction World’s latest American addition The Ride, a bus tour with attention-grabbing theatrics performed before a backdrop of iconic landmarks such as Times Square, Grand Central Station and the Empire State Building (from £49).

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