Where to get your thrills this summer
Bundle your family into the car for the ride of their lives at one of these five European theme parks
Duinrell: The Mad Hill attraction
Duinrell Amusement Park and Tiki Waterpark
Where: near The Hague in Holland
Why: It may be in the heart of lush forest and near to a sleepy, wide beach but you'll get white knuckle rides and thrilling water slides at this amusement/water park combo. Older kids can ride the Mad Hill or Scary Toboggan Runs while younger children can enjoy the more gentle Fairytale Wonderland. The Tiki Park next door is the largest covered waterslide park in Europe and has 1,000 metres of slides and shoots including the tremendous speed of the Tyfoon and a gentle ride on the Lazy River. The Superroetsj has eight parallel slides, so you can make a race of it. Open to October 26.
Entry: From €21
Where: Paris, France
Plopsaland themed rollercoaster
Why: Disney is probably the world's favourite and most famous theme park. This one in Paris has all the landmarks of pink castles, pink spires, turrets and all the Disney favourites milling around, so the kids will feel at home and the adults will feel like kids. Thrilling themed rides include a Small World, Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Space Mountain Knuckle Ride that takes you on a fast journey, some of it upside down. The whole day is wrapped up beautifully with the Disneyland Park parade at 7pm and, if you stay till the end, there's a spectacular firework and laser show around 9.30pm. Incidentally, if you stay in the Disneyland Hotel, though it is expensive, its location above the park gates means you can get into the park early and could have a two-hour window where you can enjoy the best rides without queuing before everyone else arrives.
Entry: Various packages from €58/£49
Where: Cologne, Germany
Why: This is one of Germany's largest theme parks, located in a lovely large leafy park. It first opened in 1967 and since then has been adding attractions regularly making this worth the trip. There are six adventure areas including the water based rush through canyons and being sent into space to distant galaxies. Probably the most thrilling of their rides is the Black Mamba roller- coaster and the newly added Talocan. The latter is the first ever European suspended top spin ride. When you are ready for more there's the Geister Rickcha. Demons and evil spirits are among the terrors that lie in wait on Europe's only underground ghost train.
Entry: from €45
Plopsaland de Panne
Why: This park sits on the Belgium-France border and is owned by a Belgian TV company, Studio 100. The rides are themed around characters from their programms - like Plop the gnome. You are greeted by many of them when you walk into the park but even if you do not recognise them you still get a fun, festive atmosphere. There are various themed roller coasters with twists and turns, a pirates' zone where a fall of 30 feet ends in water at a speed of 60 miles per hour - it's quite a splash. Nearby there's a rotating disk that twists from left to right as it rises. The most thrilling ride in the park is the Anubis rollercoaster which lifts to 111 feet and with a launch of 0 to 59.9 miles in less than two seconds, is the fastest ride in Belgium.
Entry: From €30
Where: near Poitiers in France
Why: Ok, this is not exactly a theme park, but it is an interesting attraction using multimedia, cinematography and audio-visual techniques. The raison d'etre of this attraction is to predict what the world may be like in millions of years and the notion of sustainability. The "Future is Wild" attraction encourages you to interact with imaginary animals that may one day, say in a million years, live in the world. There are animated 3D films and a house called "Building the Future" that can be entered to explore ideas for the way we may live in the future without damaging the earth. This may sound a bit too earnest but to lighten the load they have added a musical fairytale called "The Blue Note Mystery". The story is told through images projected onto screens of water and other special effects.
Entry: from €32 (child)/€42 (adult)