Summer days out: Theme Parks

30 highs, lows - and lost breakfasts. These pleasuredomes are perennial favourites. David Randall offers a survivor's guide

Of all days out with children, a theme park is the most treacherous. This has nothing to do with the perils of roller-coasters, or the likelihood of little Jeremy and Jemima regurgitating their sandwiches while riding in the Jolly Giant Teacups, but everything to do with you.

For most parents, a theme park visit is only marginally less traumatic than moving house. These places are not only expensive and full of people not all of us would describe as soul-mates, but few parents adequately prepare for what will be one of the most testing days of their adult life. The result is likely to be hours of tantrums, foot-stamping, bottom-lip pouting, and even tears. And that's just mum or dad.

Hence, our Intelligent Grown-Up's Guide to Theme Park Survival:

* Be aware of the likely cost before setting out. Nothing so wrecks the ambience of that longed-for day out than the words: "Why, you ungrateful little ... !" as you refuse the purchase of £1.80 toffee apples all round. Consider: family ticket, £40-£78; cost of transport, say £20; lunch for four, £32; ice creams and drinks, £8 if you're lucky; toys and "cheap" souvenirs, £16; cost of cigarettes (because you both took up smoking again mid-way through the queue for the flumes), £10. So, £126-£164, with maybe a £20 saving if you bring a packed lunch. Minimum.

* Sometimes, the only exit from attractions is via a shop selling tawdry novelties. Not knowing this, you buy toys all the way round. Your children are then subject to temptation on umpteen other occasions that day. The collision between their wants and your limited cash means trouble. So, as you park the car, address them thus: "Today, children, you will see many sparkly, temporarily desirable things. I cannot buy them all. Each of you have £5, £8, or whatever spending money." (Hand out cash). "I advise you to shop around before you buy. There will be no further funds distributed. Have a nice day." As a tantrum-stopper, it works. Mostly.

* Board the stomach-churning Megalops Cosmic Headbuster Ride before lunch.

* Pack a towel or two - and maybe a change or two of little ones' clothing. The White-Water Super-Soaker Log Ride is not called that for nothing.

* Arrive early, head for what will be the most popular ride, and do it before the "45 minutes from here" signs go up.

* On arrival, agree an "if lost" meeting point. Dress the younger ones in violent-coloured tops that can be seen from afar.

* Take a packed lunch. This will save money, time otherwise spent queuing, and stomach upsets later. It will also allow you to creep away to the furthermost recesses of the park to eat it, thus giving some respite from the noise and crowds.

* If of a fastidious nature, stifle your disgust at the place. Your kids will inevitably love it, and the day will be more successful if you let your intellectual and social standards slip for a day.

1. Alton Towers, Staffordshire

Five hundred acres of noise and rides, including new Rita - Queen of Speed doing 0-100kph in 2.5 seconds.

Open: daily, 9.30am. £29; child 4-11, £21; senior, £14.50; family (two plus two), £78. (08705 204060).

2. Blackgang Chine, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Rides, maze, water garden, shows, water mill, quay side and a roller-coaster which climbs to 120m above the sea.

Open: daily, 10am. £8.50; family (two plus two), £31. (01983 730330).

3. Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

More than 145 rides and attractions, including Pepsi Max Big One, Valhalla rides and six-acre children's area.

Open: daily, 11am. Free and pay for rides, or £30 for unlimited rides. (01253 341033).

4. Brocklands Adventure Park, Bude, Cornwall

Steam railway, paddle boats, racing cars, pony rides, archery, skittle alley, assault course, wildlife walk and more.

Open: Tues-Sun, 10.30am. £7.95; child 2-7, £6.50; senior, £5.95; family (two plus two), £28. (01288 321920).

5. Butlins, Bognor Regis, West Sussex

Rides, especially for younger children, boating, outdoor pool, indoor fun pool.

Open: Tues-Sun, 10am. £15; child 2-14 or senior, £7.50; family (two plus two), £35. (01243 822445).

6. Chessington World Of Adventure, Surrey

Claims 90 per cent of rides are suitable for under-12s. Also visit the zoo that was the original attraction here.

Open: daily, 10am. £28; child, £18.50 (one child under 12 free when accompanied by an adult); senior, £18. (0870-444 7777).

7. Dinosaur Adventure Park, nr Norwich

Prehistoric theme, with life-sized dinosaur models, education centre, fossil dig, animal garden, adventure playground, maze, crazy golf etc.

Open: daily, 10am. £7.25; child 3-16 or senior, £6.50. (01603 870245).

8. Drayton Manor Park, Tamworth, Staffordshire

One hundred attractions, including a roller-coaster suspending you at 16m - by your shoulder restraints.

Open: 9am, first ride 10.30am. £19; child, 4-11 years, £15; senior, £9.50; family, £47-£78. (01827 287979).

9. Flambards Village, Helston, Cornwall

Rides, laser shows, plus aeropark, Victorian Village and Britain in Blitz. Open: 10am, later for firework evenings. £11.50; child 5-14, £9.25; senior, £6.25; family, £29.55-£56.40. (01326 573404).

10. Gulliver's Kingdom, Matlock, Derbyshire

One of three parks of rides and attractions for younger children - others are at Warrington and Milton Keynes.

Open: daily, 10.30am. £8.50, senior, £7.50. (01925 444888).

11. Legoland, nr Windsor, Berkshire

More than 50 rides and attractions, including famous buildings in Lego, driving school, assault course, stunt shows etc.

Open: daily, 10am. £24; child 3-15 or senior, £22. (08705 040404).

12. Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire

Rides, including The Sewer Rat. Magic show, pedal boats etc.

Open: daily, 10am. Over 1.2m tall, £15.50; between 1m-1.2m tall, £13.95; under 1m, free; senior, £7.95. Family tickets £55.80-£83.70, depending on size of party. (0870-458 0040).

13. Paulton Park, Romsey, Hampshire

More than 50 attractions on the edge of the New Forest. Rides, shows, museums, dinosaurs, exotic birds etc. Open: daily, 10am. £14.50; children under 14 and seniors, £13.50; family, £40-£52. (02380 814442).

14. Thorpe Park, Chertsey, Surrey

Good rides, including a roller-coaster which reaches 100kph. All set round a large lake, which means escape from crowds is possible.

Open: daily, 9.30am. £27; child, £20. (0870-444 4466).

15. Pleasurewood Hills, Great Yarmouth

Friendly park for younger children. Rides and shows, including circus. Open: daily, 10am. £14; children between 1m-1.4m, £11.75; seniors and concessions, £9.50; family (two plus two), £47. (01502 586000).

16. Adventure Island, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

London's own Coney Island, with tons of rides and kiss-me-quick atmosphere. Open: daily, 11am. Free, pay for rides. (01702 443400).

17. Camelot Theme Park, Chorley, Lancashire

Rides and attractions with medieval theme. Jousting tournament.

Open: daily 10am. £16; child under 1m, free; family (two plus two), £55. (01257 452100).

18. Cadbury World, Birmingham

History lesson and calorie overdose in one. Museum and demonstrations. Open: 9am most of August. £10.50; child 4-15, £7.90; senior, £8.30; family (two plus two), £32; family with third child, £38.50. (0121-451 4180).

19. Crealy Adventure Park, nr Exeter, Devon

Tidal Wave log flume, Prairie Train, farm, pirate ship, playgrounds in and out. Similar park at Newquay in Cornwall.

Open: daily, 10am. £9.95; child under 92cm, free; seniors, £7.20. (01395 233200).

20. Fantasy Island, Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire

Britain's first themed indoor family resort. Has roller-coasters, water rides.

Open: daily, 10am. Tokens for rides from 60p to £4. (01754 874668).

21. Flamingo Land, nr Scarborough, N Yorks

Eight roller-coasters, including Magnum Force, Europe's only triple looper. Zoo of 1,000 animals, including tigers, white rhinos, and meerkats. Open: daily, 10am. Adult, child over 12, £17.50; child 4-11, £16.50; seniors, people with disabilities, £8.75; family of four, £64. (0870-752 8000).

22. Kinderland, nr Scarborough

Imaginative play park with water chute, cycle track, boat lake, indoor two-tier play centre.

Open: daily, 10am. Adult/child over 16, £3; child 3-15, £5; family (two plus two), £13; with extra child £16. Half-day tickets, £2, child £3. (01723 354555).

23. Milky Way Adventure Park, nr Clovelly, Devon

Live shows, assault course, petting farm and rides, plus world's only flying ferret.

Open: daily, 10.30am. £8; child, £7; senior, £5.50; family (two plus two), £26.50. (01237 431255).

24. Oakwood, nr Haverfordwest, South Wales

Rides include Megafobia, voted world's best wooden rollercoaster. Mini-golf etc.

Open: daily, 10am. £13.75; child 3-9, £12.75; senior, £8.75; family (two plus two), £46; family of six, £70. (01834 861889).

25. Quaywest, Paignton, Devon

Water fun-park that has pools, slides, and Devil's Drop with 65ft freefall. Water heated to 27C (80F).

Open: daily, 10am. £8.95; child, £7.95; child under 42in, £3.50; family (two plus two), £31. Two-hour tickets also available. (01803 550034).

26. Wonderland, Telford, Shropshire

Set in 450-acre Telford Town Park, with rides, soft-play area, maze, crazy golf.

Open: daily, 10.30am. £4.75; child, £4.75; senior, £4.25; family of five, £22.

(01952 591633).

27. Woodlands, nr Dartmouth, Devon

Rides on 60 acres, including three water-coasters and new 50kph Avalanche ride. Plus bumper boats, pedal karts, animals and displays.

Open: daily, 9.30am. £8.25; senior, £5.20; family (two plus two), £31.20.

(01803 712598).

28. Barry Island Pleasure Park, Barry, South Wales

More than 50 rides and attractions, including Log Flume, Viper Rollercoaster, and Twister.

Open: daily, 2pm. Free, pay for rides. (01446 732844).

29. Brean Leisure Park, nr Burnham, Somerset

Largest in South-west with 40 rides, including roller-coasters, children's riverboat rides, pony rides and dodgems, plus shows and amusement arcade.

Open: daily, 11am. Free, pay for rides. (01278 751595).

30. Loudoun Castle Family Theme Park, Galson, Ayrshire

Set around ruins of Loudoun Castle are rides (including UK's biggest portable rollercoaster), live shows and more.

Open: daily, 10am. From age 4, £10.95; under-4s, free. (01563 822296).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
film
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried