Isobel Finbow discovers what's new in the world of theme parks and attractions
From Doctor Who and Thomas the Tank Engine to the cast of Evil Dead, Transformers and Arthur and the Invisibles, characters from the big and small screens are coming to life in theme parks across the globe.
And if that doesn’t inspire clients to book, how about getting their holidays off to a splashing start with water park developments and features in the UK and further afield?
IN THE UK
With the announcement that Peter Capaldi will be the next Time Lord, there’s never been a better time to discover the history of Doctor Who, and visitors to the Welsh capital can do just that on a new, hour-long walking tour through Cardiff. Created by Doctor Who novelist Gary Russell, it visits more than 30 sites where the show was filmed. Adult tickets cost £5 and children under 16 go free.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of Thomas and friends-themed Thomas Land, Drayton Manor Theme Park has a new ride, Winston’s Whistle Stop Tour, on top of the 20 existing Thomas attractions.
If clients are concerned by the unreliability of the British summer, comfort them with Drayton Manor’s rainy day guarantee – if it rains continuously for two hours, holders of pre-booked tickets get a free return trip. The guarantee runs for the summer holidays, and return visits must happen between September 2 and 30.
A range of new attractions at Legoland Windsor Resort opened in May, including Duplo Valley, a land for pre-schoolers featuring Duplo’s characters, animals and vehicles among a mix of toddler-friendly rides, water features and wet play areas.
Little ones can splash among the animals at Splash Safari, while parents watch from a dry distance, and older kids will love Drench Towers, where a tipping brick suspended 10 metres high regularly dispenses 1,200 litres of water.
Kids can climb around Duplo buildings in Brickville, and visit the puppet theatre. Outside Duplo Valley, the park has restored and improved the Fairy Tale Brook ride.
Weekend visitors to Thorpe Park (pictured below) who visit by September 1 will benefit from a range of free extras, including basketball, Frisbee, beat-boxing, BMX stunts, silent discos and a sand sculpture on Neptune’s Beach – all part of the park’s Sun Scream weekends.
The Oakwood Theme Park in Narberth, Pembrokeshire, has opened its £4 million Neverland attraction. Named after Peter Pan’s magical world, visitors can splash down a pirate log flume, ride in a mini galleon and fly with Tinkerbell. Entry costs £21 for over-13s, £15 for those between three and 12 and under threes go free.
Superbreak has added three nautical attractions to its UK portfolio. The £27 million Mary Rose Museum is now open at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, so visitors can see the only 16th-century warship on display anywhere in the world for £15 per adult and £12.50 per child.
In Belfast, book clients a visit to Titanic’s Dock & Pump-House – unchanged since 1912 – from £6 per adult and £3.50 per child. From £8.50 per adult and £5 per child they can also visit Nomadic, a vessel with a varied history that included service in both World Wars, as a tender for the Titanic and as a party venue moored beside the Eiffel Tower.
Living out fairytales just became more convenient for clients in the Midlands, with a new route to Paris via East Midlands from Jet2.com. From April 2014, Jet2holidays will have Disneyland Paris packages available with flights from East Midlands and also Leeds Bradford and Manchester, with a range of deals on exclusive Disney hotels including free nights, free child places and free park tickets.
Attraction World’s exclusive offer should keep clients visiting Tenerife happy. Purchase any multi-park ticket for Siam Park and Loro Parque, and they’ll get €10 per person to spend in park, and even a one-day single park ticket will garner them €5. Prices have been slashed at PortAventura, with seven days for the price of four, and four days for the price of three on single park tickets and tickets including entry to both PortAventura and Costa Caribe Aquatic Park.
A €10 million extension to the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park was unveiled in May, jam-packed with pools, slides and rapids. The signature attraction is King Khajuna, which at 31 metres is the highest freefall slide in Europe, but there’s also a new children’s swimming pool with a pirate ship crewed by Sesame Street characters and a six-lane multi-bump rapid slide for those who don’t fancy King Khajuna’s six metres-per-second-drop.
In 2014, kids will be able to shrink to the size of an ant at Europa-Park’s Kingdom of the Invisibles. Based on the hit movie trilogy Arthur and the Invisibles, the attraction will include mammoth ladybirds, gigantic spiders and blades of grass the size of sky-scrapers.
This month sees the expansion of Aquaventure, the water park in Dubai resort Atlantis The Palm. In keeping with the emirate’s trend for super-sizing, new features include three world records: the world’s largest diameter slide, the world’s first family vertical ride and the first double slide within a slide. Visitors will also find the longest zipline circuit and the longest river ride in the Middle East, plus the thrilling 40 metre-high Tower of Poisedon.
Fancy fighting for your life against killer zombies? Horror fans heading Stateside this autumn will love Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. Running from September 20 until October 31 at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort, this year’s scares are inspired by the films Evil Dead and The Cabin in the Woods, and award-winning TV series The Walking Dead.
Movie-quality production values will be met in the creation of hordes of flesh-eating zombies, a haunted house and a chamber of horrors controlled by an ancient demon, so even the bravest will be quaking in their boots. Multi-day Frequent Fear passes and two-park tickets with a Halloween Horror Night Combo are already on sale.
Less frightening developments this year at Universal include the opening of the new Springfield area at Universal Studios Florida. As well as enjoying The Simpsons Ride, guests can walk down Fast Food Boulevard and tuck into a Krusty Burger or a slice of Luigi’s Pizza. Transformers: The Ride – 3D opened in Orlando, and in Hollywood, robotic voice technology now allows Megatron and Optimus Prime to converse with guests.
Next year will bring even more excitement as Universal Orlando Resort will open an expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Diagon Alley will bring to life experiences and places found in and around London in the books and films. The Hogwarts Express will transport guests between the new area in Universal Studios and the existing park in Universal Islands of Adventure.
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