The days have long gone when going for an exciting day out with the family consisted of a visit to a steam fair, or a trip to South End for the amusements and paddling, or a stay at a holiday camp
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like Butlins, while the children dreamt of going to America to ride at one of the big Disney theme parks. Until the mid 1990s there were a few parks in the UK, and these were generally seen as poor imitations of their US counterparts. It was not until Disney opened EuroDisney (now Disney Resort Paris) in France, which could be easy accessed by a quick journey through the channel tunnel, that attractions in the UK realised changes were needed.
Many thought that the advent of Disney entering Europe would signal the end of the UK theme park industry and a slow decline in the UK family tourist industry, however this seems to have been exactly the spur that was needed to get the competition started between the already established centers - triggering a massive growth in interest and improvements within the industry.
In recent years the UK sites have succeeded in helping to develop the concept of the theme park and have managed to be at the forefront of technological advances, with such innovations as the first ever vertical-drop roller coaster in 1998 at Alton Towers, and the first “flying roller coaster” in 2002 at Thorpe Park. These days, thrill seeking enthusiasts from America travel to Britain to ride UK roller coasters like the record breaking ten inversion roller coaster, called Colossus, and Europe’s tallest and fastest launched roller coaster, ‘Stealth’ - both at Thorpe Park.
The improvements in the attractions, and growth of companies such as UK short break specialists Superbreak.com
- making it easier to book the themepark tickets and hotel rooms in advance, has also encouraged the rise in this sector of the UK entertainment industry.
An exciting family day out or weekend away no longer requires travelling abroad. Currently the four main parks are:
- Thorpe park. Open from the 15th of March until the 5th of November and with its current crop of rides such as ‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Slammer’ and ‘Rush’, ‘Collusus’, ‘Stealth’, ‘Slammer’, ‘Detonator’ and ‘Nemesis Inferno’ it has become probably the UK’s most thrilling theme park in the last few years.
- Alton Towers
. The UK’s most popular theme park and it is easy to see why, with the roller coasters, ‘Nemesis’, ‘Oblivion’, ‘Rita: Queen of speed’ ‘Corkscrew’ and ‘AIR’, as well as other rides like ‘Submission’, ‘Ripsaw’ and the interactive ‘Duel’. Open from the 19th of March through to the 29th of October, Alton towers is always a must for adrenalin junkies.
- For younger families, Chessington World Of Adventures is the ultimate theme park. Chessington is open from the 27th March until the 31st October, and most of its rides are suitable for children under the age of 12 years old, with the likes of ‘Dragon Falls’, ‘Runaway Mine Train’, ‘Tomb Blaster’ and ‘Hocus Pocus Hall’, but it can still provide high energy rides for older thrill seekers with ‘Rameses’s Revenge’, ‘Vampire’ ‘Dragon’s Fury’ and ‘Rattlesnake’.
- Drayton Manor is open from the 5th of March until the 29th of October and is now the UK’s largest family owned theme park. It offers rides such as ‘Shockwave’, ‘Stormforce 10’, ‘Maelstrom’, ‘Apocalypse’. ‘Pandemonium’ and ‘Cyclone’ which all provide extreme excitement, while the ‘Buffalo’ roller coaster and the ‘Excalibur’ boat rides, as well as the zoo, are great for the entire family.
- There are, however, many smaller sites around the country such as Fantasy Island in Skegness which offers roller coasters and other rides for thrill seekers as well as ones directed towards the whole family, or even some just for kids.
The future is looking extremely bright for the theme park industry across the UK and Europe as a whole. With continued development and investment in the rides and the growth of the parks in general, visitors are managing to find thrills and spills without the need for long distance travel. As long as the competition for customers remains fierce between the major parks – there looks to be an exciting future for adventurous fun seekers and families in the UK.