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The best UK theme parks and when to visit

From exhilarating rollercoasters to dinosaurs and Lego, Britain offers myriad options for a high-octane day out

Chris Wilson
Friday 14 June 2024 14:20 BST
Chasing a thrill: Visitors at Alton Towers
Chasing a thrill: Visitors at Alton Towers (PA)

With summer around the corner – with longer days and better weather – Brits begin to have more options for an enjoyable day out – including exploring one of the nation’s many theme parks.

Most UK parks have something for everyone, from 205ft high-speed rollercoasters to interactive learning areas for kids. Whether going on a thrill-seeking trip to Thorpe Park or taking the kids to the Peppa Pig World during the holidays, there’s a big enough choice of attractions to cater to different tastes and ages.

We’ve rounded up the best theme parks in the UK, from the big names you’ll likely have heard of to lesser-known ones that nevertheless offer a fun-packed excursion.

See below for all the latest information on attractions, ticket prices and opening times too, so that you can plan the ideal day out to experience some thrills and spills.

Thorpe Park, Surrey

People riding Stealth
People riding Stealth (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

One of the UK’s most famous theme parks, Thorpe Park recently re-opened in March after the winter closing period.

The Chertsey park welcomed 1.7 million visitors in 2021 and is opening two new rides in the near future, hoping to keep visitor numbers steady after the pandemic.

The next generation Ghost Train opening in late 2023, while Hyperia – an £18m investment that will be the park’s tallest ride – welcomed its first riders in May 2024 (though it did close just days later).

Another top attraction is Stealth. Standing at over 200ft tall and reaching maximum speeds of 80mph, this is one for the thrill-seekers.

Opening Hours

Open from 10am to 5pm on weekdays and 10am to 6pm on weekends. Watch out for extended opening hours on special dates, as well as closure dates on Wednesdays in May and Tuesdays and Wednesdays in September.

Ticket Prices

Prices start at £29 for advanced tickets bought online. Under-threes go free.

Alton Towers, Staffordshire

Crowned Theme Park of the Year at the 2022 annual UK Theme Park Awards, Alton Towers opened a new ride, The Curse at Alton Manor, in 2023.

The Curse takes riders on “a hair-raising journey” and joined long-time favourites such as Nemesis and Oblivion.

Alton Towers Hotel
Alton Towers Hotel (Alton Towers Resort)

The park also contains several child-friendly attractions, such as Heave Ho and Postman Pat’s Parcel Post. These contributed to the park also winning the award for Best Large Theme Park for Families.

Opening Hours

Open from 10am to 4pm until mid-May, when times change from 10am to 5pm. Open for an hour later on weekends, and from 10am until 6pm on every day in July and August.

Ticket Prices

Prices start at £29 for online bookings made in advance. Kids under three are admitted for free.

Drayton Manor, Staffordshire

Another Staffordshire offering, Drayton Manor is more child-friendly than other UK parks but still contains enough adrenaline-inducing rides to keep adults entertained.

Head to Adventure Cove at Drayton Manor for a ride on The Wave
Head to Adventure Cove at Drayton Manor for a ride on The Wave (Drayton Manor)

Home to Thomas Land – the only one in Europe – as well as Vikings Land and the new Wild West-themed Frontier Falls, Drayton Manor also offers several rollercoasters and its own zoo containing monkeys, snakes, birds and plenty more.

Opening Hours

Drayton Manor is open from 10.30am until 4.30pm on weekdays, and from 10.30am until 5pm on the weekend.

Ticket Prices

Prices start at £24.90 for over-threes, with tickets for two and three-year-olds costing from £15. Under-twos go free.

Legoland, Berkshire

The entrance to Legoland Windsor Resort
The entrance to Legoland Windsor Resort (Getty Images)

The second Legoland park in the world (after the original was opened in Denmark in 1968), Legoland Windsor celebrates its 28th year in operation in 2023. Recent additions include Lego Ferrari Build and Race Experience, along with the Lego Duplo Build Zone for kids.

Featuring several interactive zones and allowing visitors to “create your own Ferrari race car and fine-tune it while you test drive it”, the experience is sure to be a hit for racing fans of all ages. It joins several new openings at the park over the last few years, such as the Magical Forest last year and the Lego Mythica area in 2021.

Opening Hours

Open 10am until 5pm between Sunday and Friday. Open from 10am to 6pm on Saturdays. Plan in advance to avoid closure days and to take advantage of later opening times in June, July and August.

Ticket Prices

Tickets from £29 if booked in advance. Children under 0.9m tall get free entry.

Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey

Originally a zoo, Chessington opened as a theme park in 1987 and has been a popular UK attraction ever since. With several areas based on different parts of the world, Chessington is more family-oriented than Thorpe Park and Alton Towers and has recently refurbished the Shipwreck Coast area, opening two new rides – Trawler Trouble and Barrel Bail Out – in 2022.

Croc Drop, a ride that opened in 2021
Croc Drop, a ride that opened in 2021 (Joanna Teasdale)

New last year was the ‘World of Jumanji’. This large themed area contains three new rides, including the world’s only Jumanji rollercoaster (Mandrill Mayhem), as well as six new Jumanji-themed rooms at the Chessington Safari Hotel.

Opening Hours

Open from 10am until 5pm during the week and 10am until 6pm on weekends.

Ticket Prices

Under-threes go for free. Tickets start at £29 if booked in advance.

Read more on UK travel:

Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

A rollercoaster viewed from Blackpool’s promenade
A rollercoaster viewed from Blackpool’s promenade (Getty Images)

With several new openings since the end of Covid, Blackpool Pleasure Beach remains the main attraction in a town that received almost 19 million visitors in 2021.

Valhalla, the park’s major dark ride in which riders board a ‘longboat’ and are taken on a journey to the realm of Norse mythology, reopened last year – and there’s plenty more for adrenaline seekers.

Opening Hours

Open from 11am until 5pm on weekdays and Sundays. Open until 6pm on Saturdays.

Ticket Prices

Online tickets start at £33 for adults and over-12s. Tickets for under-12s are £28, while kids under three go free.

M&D’s, Lanarkshire

Branded as ‘Scotland’s Theme Park’ on its website, M&D’s is located near Motherwell and is Scotland’s biggest theme park. Although there are no new attractions opening this year, M&D’s still boasts several popular rides and attractions.

The Giant Wheel at M&D’s
The Giant Wheel at M&D’s (M and Ds)

Along with a zoo containing 60 different animal species, M&D’s has 23 rollercoasters, thrill rides and water rides, including Twister and White Water.

Opening Hours

Rides are closed throughout a large portion of May and June, although are open every weekend from 11am until 6pm. From July, rides are open every day from 11am until 6pm.

Ticket Prices

Entry to the park is free. Wristbands – for access to the rides – start at £19.95 and can be bought in adult and toddler packages for £25.

Paulton’s Park, Hampshire

Designed mainly for families and children, Paulton’s Park contains a plethora of kid-friendly attractions. Visitors will find everything from Peppa Pig World to several animal areas, showcasing 80 different species.

Rides such as Cobra and Grampy Rabbit’s Sailing Club ensure there’s enough to keep the whole family entertained.

Part of Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park
Part of Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park (Getty Images)

Opening Hours

Attractions are open from 10am until 5pm during the week and until 5.30pm on weekends.

Ticket Prices

Day tickets start at £43.50 for anyone over 1m tall.

Gulliver’s World, Cheshire

Designed for kids up to 13 years old, Gulliver’s World opened in 1989 and was the second Gulliver’s theme park to be opened in the UK. Main rides include the Antelope (a figure of eight rollercoaster) and Apache Falls (a river rapids ride).

Part of a new car-themed area, the Grand Prix Racer rollercoaster takes drivers through a journey filled with twists and turns, while Overdrive gives riders a 360-degree thrill.

Opening Hours

Park is closed through a lot of weekdays in May and June. Open from 10.30am until 5pm every weekend and 10.30am until 4pm on some weekdays.

Ticket Prices

Prices start at £24 if booked online in advance, while entry for children under 90cm tall is free.

Flamingo Land, Yorkshire

Containing an award-winning zoo and several attractions suitable for both children and adults, Flamingo Land sits on 375 acres of Yorkshire’s famous countryside.

The park boasts impressive rides such as Mumbo Jumbo, a steel rollercoaster with a 112-degree vertical drop that once saw it hold the record for ‘world’s steepest rollercoaster made from steel’.

Opening Hours

Park is open between 10am and 5pm every day.

Ticket Prices

Tickets start at £44.50 if booked in advance. Children under three receive free entry.

Read more of our reviews of the best UK hotels

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