We know it is a big call to make. But we wanted to take the plunge.
And make that a plunge off all nine storeys of the Leap of Faith (in Dubai’s Aquaventure). Or the world’s tallest duelling rollercoasters (in Universal Studios Singapore). Or the world’s tallest carousel (in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens). Because we’ve done it. We’ve compiled a top 10 list of the world’s best theme parks for families.
Maybe you’re a thrill seeker. Or maybe you’re a water baby. A wheelchair user. An animal lover. A Disney fan. Choose your own adventure from the world’s best theme parks, with something to suit all families.
Take the plunge with us, all across the globe. The world’s best theme parks for families, in no particular order:
1. The Bucket List – Magic Kingdom, Florida
Does theme park magic really get any bigger or better than Orlando’s Walt Disney World? Magic Kingdom is one theme park inside the happiest place on earth, alongside Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Its beating heart is undoubtedly the unmistakeable Cinderella Castle. The perfect place to encounter Disney classics like it’s a small world and Space Mountain, the park also boasts unrivalled firework displays, parades and shows.
Must-do: The Disney Classics, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight and Space Mountain.
Stay: There are more than 30 Disney resorts and hotels affiliated with Walt Disney World, as you can explore on their website. One of these is a favourite of Alison, from our editorial team. Read her review of Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge here.
2. The Water Park – Aquaventure, Dubai
Counter the heat and humidity of Dubai at Aquaventure, our pick for world’s best theme park for getting wet. With 30 slides and attractions, record-breaking waterslides, 500 metres of private beach and an aquarium containing 65,000 marine creatures, Aquaventure delivers thrill after thrill. Brave all nine storeys of the near-vertical Leap of Faith waterslide, or the world’s largest tube waterslide, the Aquaconda. Lower the stakes and play at Splashers Island instead, feed stingrays, paddleboard at Aquaventure Beach or check out Dolphin Bay. Pop on your oxygen helmet to take a Shark Safari walk on the ocean floor of Shark Lagoon. Quick note: you do not have to be a guest of Atlantis, the Palm to enjoy Aquaventure. Day passes are available.
Must-do: The Lost Chambers Aquarium, Rapid River, Surf’s Up Wave Rider, The Leap of Faith, Aquaconda.
Stay: Although you don’t have to stay to visit the water park, Aquaventure is in fact part of Atlantis, The Palm. Read our review of this Dubai resort icon here.
Read more: the Ultimate Guide to a Dubai for families
3. The Accessible Adventure – Morgan’s Wonderland, Texas
The world’s “first ultra-accessible theme park” really and truly includes something for everyone. Morgan’s Wonderland is all about having a blast regardless of your needs. Guests with special needs enter the park for free. It is open from March to December and offers 25 accessible attractions across 25 acres. This includes the wheelchair-friendly Ferris Wheel, wheelchair swings and the Wonderland Express, an old-style train ride around the lake. Follow the Wonder Squad – a team of four superheroes – through the attractions. From May to September, these include water park activities at Morgan’s Inspiration Island.
Must-do: Whirling Wonder Ferris Wheel, Butterfly Playground, Sensory Village, Carousel, Sand Circle and Music Garden.
Stay: Morgan’s Wonderland has several partner hotels, all of which offer accessible accommodation options and discounts to Morgan’s Wonderland guests. These include Hilton Garden Inn – Live Oak, La Quinta Alamo City, Crowne Plaza San Antonio Airport.
Read more: Hear from inclusive travel expert and mum Nicole Thibault about another accessible theme park, LEGOLAND Florida. Click here.
4. The Aussie All-Rounder – Dreamworld, Gold Coast
Australia’s biggest theme park covers all bases. Animals? Yep – you can pat kangaroos, greet crocs and watch a tiger demonstration at Dreamworld’s Tiger Island. Splash fun? Head to Whitewater World to relax and float in the Cave of Waves or turn up the wow-factor on the Fully 6 body slides. You can also immerse in movie magic and meet your favourite characters thanks to the Dreamworks Experience. Learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and tradition at Dreamworld Corroboree.
Must-do: Tiger Island, Madagascar Madness rollercoaster, Pandamonium thrill ride in Kung Fu Panda: Land of Awesomeness
Stay: By car, Dreamworld is about 20 to 30 minutes from Surfer’s Paradise and the Gold Coast, and 50 minutes from Brisbane city. This makes finding suitable accommodation as easy as pie. Start with the offerings from holiday park hero Big4, including Big4 Gold Coast Holiday Park and NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort.
5. The Fairy Tale – Disneyland, Paris
Prince, princess or talking tea cup – the magic dial is turned all the way up for anyone who visits Disneyland Paris. There are effectively two parts to the theme park; Walt Disney Studios Park and Park Disneyland. You can count on experiencing the usual Disney favourites, but you can also expect an added sprinkle of fairy dust. Big Thunder Mountain circuit is longer, it’s a small world has some unique additions, Maleficent awaits in the dungeons of Sleeping Beauty Castle and the entertainment village is packed with restaurants, cinemas and shopping. It is easy to access Disneyland from Paris city itself. The RER/TGV train takes you directly to the entrance.
Must-do: Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disney Classics such as it’s a small world, Disney Village
Stay: There are six Disneyland Paris hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Hotel New York, Disney’s Newport Bay Club, Disney’s Sequoia Lodge, Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne, Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe). There are two resorts (Les Villages Nature Paris, Disney’s Davy Crockett). There also is a great array of partner hotels.
Read more: Free activities for kids in Paris.
6. The Movie Madness – Universal Studios, Singapore
The 24 rides, shows and attractions of this Sentosa Island film haven are divided into 7 themed zones: New York, Hollywood, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, the Lost World, Far Far Away and Madagascar. Keep your eyes peeled for Universal Singapore’s upcoming expansions including a Minion Park and Super Nintendo World. The park is located inside Resorts World Sentosa, which is also home to SEA Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark and other awesome theme park options. You should note that, unlike its Japanese or American cousins, Universal Studios Singapore doesn’t contain a Harry Potter World. Lots of families say it is the ideal intro to Universal for younger kids.
Must-do: Battlestar Gallactica: Human vs. Cylon (world’s tallest duelling rollercoasters), Transformers Ride, Jurassic Park Rapid Adventure. To discover the best Universal Singapore rides in detail, click here.
Read more: Need to cool down? Discover the best water parks in Singapore.
7. The Disney with a Difference – Tokyo DisneySea, Japan
The only one of its kind anywhere in the world, Tokyo DisneySea adds a whole new dimension to the Disney experience. Adjacent to its Disneyland counterpart, the park contains different regions such as the Arabian Coast, Lost River Delta and Mermaid Lagoon. At DisneySea, you can meet the unique teddy bear characters Duffy and Shellie May, found at no other Disney location in the world. Mickey and Minnie also get a DisneySea makeover. With high-octane rides, alcohol sold onsite and an unparalleled after-dark fireworks celebration, DisneySea is awesome for older families.
Must-do: Fantastic Flight, Venetian gondola, Tower of Terror, Aquatopia, Indiana Jones Adventure, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
8. The Interactive – LEGOLAND Resort, Malaysia
Think colour, hands-on and more tiny bricks than you could every imagine. LEGOLAND Malaysia is all about getting in on the action and building your own fun – literally! The resort contains three parks. LEGOLAND Theme Park, LEGOLAND Water Park and SEA LIFE Malaysia can all be accessed if you purchase the triple park pass. The latter is the newest addition, containing more than 120 species of marine creatures, LEGO submarines and a 180-degree shark tunnel.
Must-do: Miniland, Drive School, LEGO Theatre, Build & Test Centre, Observation Tower. To discover more detail about rides and attractions at LEGOLAND Malaysia, click here.
Stay: Choose between Pirate Kingdom, Adventure or NINJAGO rooms at the neighbouring LEGOLAND Hotel, which also has two huge LEGO pits, disco party elevators and puzzles to be solved.
Read more: Want to hear more about LEGO experiences around the world? Read our review of LEGOLAND Castle Hotel, California.
9. The European – Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
A theme park where you can watch classical ballet and pantomimes with costumes designed by the Queen of Denmark? One of the oldest operating theme parks in the world, the Tivoli Gardens amusement park glitters with European charm and a traditional fairground vibe. There is a carousel (the world’s tallest, in fact), gazebos in the middle of gardens, dragon boats on the lake and an open-air theatre. But make no mistake. As soon as you hop off the centuries-old wooden roller coaster, you can climb aboard its virtual reality equivalent as well as other brand new thrill rides. The gardens are open daily from April to September, and then again for special Halloween and Christmas seasons.
Must-do: see a show at the Ballet Theatre or Tivoli Concert Hall (including Mamma Mia!, Robin Hood, Cinderella, the Nutcracker ballet), Star Flyer carousel, dragon boat cruise, Orangery garden, scenic railway, night lights
Stay: The Tivoli Hotel has a pool, sauna, meal deals, an indoor and outdoor playground and specials for families in school holidays. The gardens are right near the central station, so access is easy regardless of where you stay.
Read more: The 5 best cities in Europe for families
10. The Old-School – Knott’s Berry Farm, California
What started as a 1920s roadside berry stand and chicken diner is now one of the world’s best theme park for young families. Knott’s Berry Farm welcomes a whopping 5 million visitors each year, but its cosy, old-school allure prevails. Move through the different park regions, including Old West Ghost Town, Camp Snoopy, Fiesta Village, Boardwalk and Knott’s Soak City. Visit in time to catch one of the theme park’s much-loved seasonal events, especially the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival in spring. At Halloween, the park turns into Knott’s Spooky Farm, and at Christmas it becomes Knott’s Merry Farm.
Must-do: Timber Mountain Log Ride, Calico Mine Ride in Old West Ghost Town, Linus Launcher and Sierra Sidewinder in Camp Snoopy.
Stay: The Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel has 320 rooms, including an entire wing dedicated to a Snoopy theme. Pick a package that includes admission to the theme park.
Read more: why you need to try Knott’s Berry Farm