There’s the thrill of hair-raising rollercoasters, the indulgence in sugary snacks, and the inevitable butterflies in your stomach as you queue for the park’s scariest ride that everyone’s talking about. Now, while North America is home to some of the world’s most epic amusement parks, the UK has its fair share of pretty incredible theme parks as well. So, how do you decide on which one is the right choice for you and your family?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best theme parks in the UK, and how to get there:
Thorpe Park, Surrey
Let’s kick off with what is widely recognised as being the most thrilling theme park in the UK. More geared towards an older audience, Thorpe Park offers a mix of thrilling rides that should satisfy even the most demanding adrenaline junkies. Yes, there is a section for smaller children. But tiny tots aren’t the main focus here.
Highlights: Stealth, one of the fastest rollercoasters in the whole of Europe. Derren Brown’s Ghost Train is a great spooky addition.
Best for: Thrill seekers and big kids. It’s not for the faint-hearted!
- Adults and children - from £33
- Under 3’s - free
Trains to Thorpe Park
Staines is the nearest train station to Thorpe Park. From here, you can take a shuttle bus directly to the park. The 950 Express Bus services run every 15-20 minutes from the station to the park.
Find out more about train times and prices for Thorpe Park.
Alton Towers, Staffordshire
A favourite with thrill-seekers everywhere thanks to classic rides such as Oblivion and Nemesis, Alton Towers is packed with ample ride selection. The diversity of their offering makes this park a great choice for pretty much all ages. Whether you’re a daredevil teenager or just along for the snacks, this enormous park has something for everyone. And then there’s the famously exhilarating Oblivion, four hotels, and a very lively waterpark.
Highlights: CBeebies land for all the little ones, and the waterpark for everyone else. Alton Towers is also the proud home of the UK’s very first rollercoaster restaurant.
Best for: Families with kids of all ages.
- Adults: from £33
- Children: from £27.50
- Under 3’s: free
Trains to Alton Towers
There are three train stations close to Alton Towers: Stoke-on-Trent, Uttoxeter and Derby, with Uttoxeter being the closest. You’ll need to get a bus service or a taxi from the train stations to the park.
Find out more about Alton Towers train times and prices.
Chessington World of Adventures, Greater London
Want to visit one of the best theme parks in the UK without venturing too far from London? Chessington World of Adventures is just under 20 miles away from the big city, so it’s perfect for a day trip from London. Sure, it’s often overshadowed by the more thrilling two parks mentioned above, and there may be more extreme choices for adrenaline seekers. But there’s certainly some fun areas to explore within its sprawling grounds, including a zoo, a pirate cove, and a Sea Life centre. Chessington park is a destination designed to serve all members of the family and all age groups.
Highlights: The Gruffalo riverboat. Only parents of tiny tots will know just how much joy this can bring.
Best for: Animal lovers and families with both big kids and little kids.
- Adults and children: from £29.50
- Under 3’s: free
Trains to Chessington World of Adventures
The closest train station to Chessington World of Adventures is Chessington South Station. You can catch regular train services here from London and other major cities. From the train station, it’s a 10-minute walk. You can also take a short bus or catch a quick taxi.
Find out more about Chessington World of Adventures train times and prices.
Drayton Manor, Staffordshire
For Thomas the Tank Engine fans everywhere, this one’s a must-visit. Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land, an area packed with tons of rides and attractions based on the much-loved tank engine.
There’s also a number of non-Thomas related rides for all ages, an impressive zoo, and a dinosaur park on site. Drayton Manor theme park is a compact enough size for you to stroll through it all without tiring out little legs.
Highlights: The Thomas & Friends themed hotel room, and Shockwave - the stand-up rollercoaster.
Best for: Little ones or lovers of Thomas of any age.
- Adults and children 12+ - from £28
- Children aged 4 - 11 - from £24
- Children aged 2-3 - from £8
- Under 2’s - free
Trains to Drayton Manor
Tamworth is the closest train station to Drayton Manor, just 3 miles away from the park. You can take a taxi or hop onto a direct bus from outside the station.
Find out more about Drayton Manor train times and prices.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire
If you like your theme parks with a touch of nostalgia, visit the rustic and charming Blackpool Pleasure Beach. This historic park has been serving Blackpool’s locals and visitors since the 1890s. It is now the proud home of more than 120 rides and attractions, with six wooden rollercoasters including the much loved Big Dipper. The little ones will love exploring the massive Nickelodeon World with all the most popular characters such as Sponge Bob and Dora the Explorer wandering about.
Highlights: The Big One (Europe’s tallest rollercoaster) and brand new ride ICON.
Best for: those with an appreciation for old-school amusement parks and the seaside.
- Adults and children 12+: from £23
- Children aged 11 and under: from £21
Trains to Blackpool Pleasure Beach
This iconic UK theme park has its own train station called Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with regular services from Blackpool North, Preston and Colne. Simply get out of the station and stroll straight into the park.
Gulliver's Kingdom, Warrington
If your family is on the younger side, Gulliver’s Kingdom could be the perfect choice of theme park for you. This family-friendly park in Derbyshire has been designed for kids between the ages of 2 and 13, with over 80 rides catering to this age group.
Highlights: The Pirates Play Area and the Log Flume.
Best for: Little ones and anyone who chooses to accompany them!
Opening times and tickets
- Adults and children: from £15
- Concessions: from £11
- Under 90cm: free
Trains to Gulliver’s Kingdom
Despite what you’re thinking, it’s possible to have an incredibly fun time at Legoland even if you’re not a huge fan of the famous plastic bricks. Sure, they don’t have any particularly exhilarating rollercoasters, but there are more than 50 rides on offer.
Highlights: The Legoland driving school for your kid’s very first ‘driving licence’.
Best for: children between 3 and 13 and theme park first-timers.
- Adults and children: from £29
- Under 3’s: free
Trains to Legoland
Get to Legoland by taking the train to Windsor & Eton Central station. You can get a shuttle bus service directly to the park from outside the station.
Scotland has more than just fairytale-esque castles (link to castle blog piece) on offer. M&Ds is the biggest theme park in Scotland, with some pretty hairy rollercoasters interspersed amongst tons of beautiful scenery.
Highlights: The indoor Tropical Rainforest. Oh, and the Giant Condor for incredible views.
Best for: Anyone with an appreciation for nature and all the classic theme park rides.
- Adults and children: from £9.95
- Under 3’s: free
Trains to M&Ds
M&Ds theme park is about 4 miles away from Motherwell train station, which runs regular services to and from Glasgow Central station.