While Merlin Entertainments is a huge player in the UK’s theme parks industry, overseeing top attractions such as Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Legoland Windsor and Chessington, there are also several family-run favourites in our list. For instance, Flamingo Land, Paultons Park and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. These continue to attract visitors with a mixture of thrilling coasters and family rides.
Keep reading for blooloop’s selection of the best theme parks in the UK, in no particular order.
1 Alton Towers Resort
Part of the Merlin Entertainments family, Alton Towers opened as a theme park back in 1980 with Britain’s first double loop roller coaster, the Corkscrew.
Located in the Staffordshire countryside, Alton Towers Resort is home to three themed hotels, as well as Stargazing Pods and an Enchanted Village. Alton Towers is the largest theme park in the UK, with 10 themed areas across 910 acres. The attraction boasts more than 40 rides and attractions, including 10 record-breaking coasters and 20 family-friendly offerings.
Alton Towers opened Gangsta Granny: The Ride, which is part of the World of David Walliams, in May 2021. The dark ride features state-of-the-art special effects and cutting-edge animation inspired by the artwork of Tony Ross.
As well as Gangsta Granny: The Ride, the David Walliams land includes Raj’s Shop, the Royal Carousel and Raj’s Bouncy Bottom Burp. “What I really wanted was the ride to be truthful to the book and the characters,” Walliams said. “I’m thrilled there’s going to be a Gangsta Granny ride at Alton Towers.
Three new attractions inspired by Hey Duggee,Andy’s AdventuresandJoJo & Gran Gran arrived at CBeebies Land in March 2022.
2 Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach first opened to the public in 1896 in Lancashire. The theme park is home to 10 roller coasters including ICON, the park’s newest and fastest.
Additional thrill rides include Valhalla, The Big One, Revolution, Ice Blast and The Big Dipper. As well as the UK’s only Nickelodeon Land, family-friendly offerings at Blackpool Pleasure Beach comprise Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic, an Alice in Wonderland-themed ride and the Flying Machines.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s second hotel opened in July 2019. BLVD sits to the left of the Big Blue Hotel, which launched at the UK amusement park in 2003.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach features a new app to enhance the visitor experience with planning details including queue times. It can be used to store and access e-tickets, book rides on ENSŌ, and purchase ‘Speedy Ones’ fast passes.
3 Chessington World of Adventures Resort
Chessington World of Adventures Resort, also part of Merlin Entertainments, opened in Surrey as Chessington Zoo in 1931 before launching as a theme park and zoo in 1987.
The venue in Greater London boasts more than 40 rides and attractions, more than 1,000 animals, and a SEA LIFE attraction. It is also home to two themed hotels, a glamping site and Go Ape.
In spring 2021, Chessington launched a multi-million-pound drop tower ride known as Croc Drop – the park’s first new ride since 2013. Croc Drop plunges riders 25m into the jaws of a giant crocodile named Sobek.
Tim Harrison-Jones, divisional director at Chessington, previously said Croc Drop will be “a great addition to our theme park”. “The one-of-a-kind drop tower has been over two years in the making and is nearing final construction in our land, Forbidden Kingdom – just at the sight of it, let alone the thrilling ride itself, guests’ jaws will drop,” he said.
In July 2022, Chessington opened a new land called Shipwreck Coast, described as a “disaster-ridden harbour town” with two new rides – ‘Barrel Bail Out’ and ‘Trawler Trouble’. It replaced the park’s former Pirates’ Cove land. Based on coastal harbour towns, the “wild, wet and windy” land features nautical theming.
4 Drayton Manor Theme Park
Drayton Manor is a theme park and zoo, located on the grounds of the former Drayton Manor in Staffordshire, UK. The attraction covers 180 acres and hosts approximately 1.5 million visitors annually.
Drayton Manor is owned by the Looping Group. The Bryan family, who had owned and run Drayton Manor Park since it opened in 1950, went into administration before selling the destination. The Looping Group also operates West Midlands Safari Park and Pleasurewood Hills in the UK.
The park’s rides include family favourites such as Flying Dutchman and Accelerator, thrill rides such as Maelstrom and Apocalypse, and coasters including Shockwave and Stormforce 10. The 15-acre zoo is home to many animals, from meerkats to Sumatran tigers. In addition, Thomas Land boasts more than 25 rides and attractions following an expansion in 2015.
Drayton Manor debuted a new nautical-themed area called Adventure Cove in 2021. Brimming with barrels, boats and steering wheels, it also boasts the new seafaring-style River Rapids ride. Adventure Cove is the first investment phase from the park’s new owners.
In May 2022, Drayton Manor unveiled a new look as part of its future development plans following the appointment of new managing directorVictoria Lynn. The rebrand “frames the future direction of the resort perfectly”, Lynn said.
Soon after, the park’s new ‘Vikings’ land opened. Highlights include ‘Thor’ and ‘Loki’ thrill rides, as well as the ‘Walhalla’ restaurant, and Viking-themed hotel rooms.
5 Fantasy Island
Fantasy Island is located in Ingoldmells in Lincolnshire, close to Skegness. Following the purchase by Mellors Group in March 2016, Fantasy Island has made substantial investment in new attractions.
The venue boasts a wealth of rides, from coasters such as the Odyssey and Millennium to family-friendly offerings including Glowworm and Firebowl. It also offers Europe’s largest seven-day market, as well as various F&B outlets.
“Since acquiring Fantasy Island in 2016, we have introduced a whole range of attractions from children’s rides to family and extreme, as well as enhancing our all-weather indoor family entertainment centre, uplifting our market and introducing new accommodation services back in 2019,” said James Mellors, director of Mellors Group.
“Our aim as owners is to continually improve our customer offering and revitalise Fantasy Island, putting lngoldmells firmly back on the map.”
In 2021, Mellors Group purchased Skegness Pier for £3m. “It is a very exciting time for our family,” said James Mellors Snr, managing director of the Mellors Group. “We pride ourselves on delivering the highest standard of attractions and we have some fantastic investment plans to elevate Skegness Pier and propel it to the next level, immediately.
“Since the purchase of Fantasy Island, Skegness has become a second home to my family, and we look forward to delivering new experiences to residents and visitors of Lincolnshire alike,” he added.
Skegness Pier went on the open market in September 2020. It has an entertainment centre, bowling, Laser Quest, escape rooms and soft play.
6 Flamingo Land Resort
Flamingo Land Resort is a theme park, zoo, and resort located in the small village of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire. CEO Gordon Gibb’s late father Robert Gibb bought the 375-acre property in 1978, four years after it expanded from a zoo.
Flamingo Land’s thrill rides include Flip Flop and Cliff Hanger, while family-friendly rides on offer include Twistosaurus and Rotataur. The park has attractions for children such as Dino Roller and Vortex, while coasters include Mumbo Jumbo and Kumali.
In 2022, Flamingo Land launched a new £18 million roller coaster named Sik, after local clothing brand Sik Silk. Gibb said the ride’s name “is on trend and resonates well with the target age group”. “It’s also a play on words; people get sick on rollercoasters. We just want to have a bit of fun with it,” he added.
Flamingo Land also has a zoo that attracts more visitors than ZSL London Zoo. After enjoying the park, guests can spend the night in resort accommodation, from farmhouses to lodges and cottages.
Flamingo Land is “one of the last of the dinosaurs”, Gibb told blooloop back in 2018. “Privately-owned parks used to be the bedrock of the industry in the UK. But we have to face facts. We are now competing for the small share of the market after Merlin have had their slice. However, through hard work and making the right decisions at the right time, we’ve been able to outmanoeuvre a battleship.”
The family-run business has now abandoned plans to create an indoor theme park in Scarborough. However, it recently submitted a second planning application for a £40 million Loch Lomond development.
7 Legoland Windsor Resort
Another attraction operated by Merlin Entertainments is Legoland Windsor Resort in Berkshire. Offering more than 55 rides and attractions, Legoland Windsor also has accommodation – the Legoland Resort Hotel and Legoland Castle Hotel.
In 2021, the theme park opened the £20m Lego Mythica: World of Mythical Creatures, an immersive land with rides, attractions and experiences, including the UK’s first flying theatre ride – Flight of the Sky Lion.
Lego Mythica is the biggest investment in Legoland Windsor since it made its debut 25 years ago. The park added a new walk-through experience called ‘The Magical Forest’ to Lego Mythicain April 2022.
Merlin is proceeding with plans to build a holiday village at Legoland Windsor after the Supreme Court rejected a bid to overturn planning permission, which was issued in April 2019. The new accommodation will attract more visitors to the area, supporting the local economy.
8 Paultons Park
Opened in 1983, Paultons Park is located within 140 acres of parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, England. The theme park is home to more than 70 rides and attractions, including coasters, thrill rides, family rides, play areas, splash areas and entertainment.
It also features the UK’s only Peppa Pig World, which includes 9 Peppa-themed rides for children.The park has been owned and run by the Mancey family since it first opened.
In May 2021, Paultons Park launched its multi-million-pound themed world Tornado Springs, which is inspired by an American Midwest desert resort town in the 1950s.
Tornado Springs features 8 rides and experiences, including the Cyclonator, Windmill Towers, Buffalo Falls and the Trekking Tractors. Storm Chaser is the only free-spinning roller coaster of its kind in the UK, Al’s Auto Academy includes 30 themed cars based on the Hudson Hornet, and themed memorabilia is available at Al’s Shop and Service.
“Theme parks are all about creating different environments,” Richard Mancey, the park’s managing director, told blooloop. “We went through all the usual themes: pirates, castles, Vikings, the Wild West.
“But we wanted something that’s going to be unique to us. What else is there? So we took the iconic Route 66 with Tornado Alley and just built on this theme.”
9 Thorpe Park Resort
Thorpe Park Resort in Surrey is operated and owned by Merlin. Opened to the public in 1979, Thorpe Park is home to more than 30 exhilarating rides, including the UK’s fastest roller coaster, Stealth.
Major attractions at Thorpe Park include the UK’s first virtual reality (VR) dark ride, as well as coasters based on The Walking Dead and SAW. The park also hosts live events and recently launched the UK’s first live Black Mirror experience with Black Mirror Labyrinth.
Merlin is planning a new coaster for Thorpe Park, its first new coaster since The Swarm opened in 2012. The development site’s existing rides, Lumber Jump, The Rocky Express and Timber Tugboat, will be removed and replaced with the coaster. Thorpe Park described the ride as an “exhilarating experience”.
10 Oakwood Theme Park
Oakwood Theme Park is located in Canaston Bridge in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. The amusement park opened as a small family attraction in the late 1980s with a handful of attractions and is now the biggest theme park in Wales.
Highlights range from family-friendly attractions to thrill rides, exciting events and F&B. Megafobia was voted the UK’s top wooden roller coaster, while the Speed coaster is the fastest ride in Wales. Until 2008, Oakwood was owned and developed by the McNamara family. It is now owned by Aspro Parks.
11 Lightwater Valley Theme Park
Lightwater Valley is an amusement park covering 175 acres in Ripon, North Yorkshire. It features rides, crazy golf, indoor and outdoor play, retail and F&B. In 2021, the theme park opened new attractions including the Go Safari area, Hot Air Balloon ride and Treetop Trails.
Lightwater Valley, founded by Robert Staveley in 1969, is now owned and operated by the Brighton Pier Group. The company acquired the entire share capital of Lightwater Valley Attractions Limited in 2021 for a consideration of up to £5m in cash.
“I am delighted to welcome all the team at Lightwater Valley to the Brighton Pier Group,” said Anne Ackord, CEO of the Brighton Pier Group. “I believe that, together, we can develop Lightwater Valley into the premier amusement destination across Yorkshire and the surrounding areas.”
The Brighton Pier Group plans to expand and develop the North Yorkshire attraction’s extensive space. “The booming ‘staycation’ market is going to significantly grow UK tourism over the coming months as international travel restrictions remain in place, this provides a great opportunity over the summer for all the group’s operations,” Ackord added.
12 Adventure Island
Adventure Island started life way back in 1918 as the Sunken Garden, a seaside haven in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. The Miller family purchased additional land in 1976 and transformed the family offering into an amusement park called Peter Pan’s Playground.
In 1995, it was expanded once again and became Adventure Island. Classic attractions at the amusement park include the Crooked House and Helter Skelter, while coasters include Rage and Green Scream. Adventure Island is part of the Stockvale Group, which also owns the Sealife Adventure Aquarium, and a host of local restaurants and radio stations.
13 Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts
Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts can be found across the UK. Gulliver’s Kingdom is the original and smallest Gulliver’s park, established in the Derbyshire tourist town of Matlock Bath in 1978. Gulliver’s World in Warrington is the UK’s largest Gulliver’s attraction, while Gulliver’s Land and Gulliver’s Dino & Farm Park can be found in Milton Keynes. Gulliver’s Valley launched in 2020 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Gulliver’s Kingdom includes the Explorers Retreat accommodation, while Gulliver’s World and Gulliver’s Land are home to Splash Zone indoor water parks. Gulliver’s Valley in Rotherham boasts a 15-acre theme park and themed accommodation including Lilliput Castle suites. Gulliver’s World got the green light for a £5.6m extension with themed accommodation and woodland lodges in 2020.
“Long term, Gulliver’s Valley Resort has the potential to be bigger than our Warrington site,” managing director Julie Dalton told blooloop.
“As well as Splash Zone, there’s another park scheduled. It will be a farm park with a gears driving experience and a museum. Then there will be an ecology centre by the lakes. The new accommodation will fit in between the two.”
Although a high number of attractions compete with theme parks, there are fewer than 20 major parks in the UK. However, those in the South East in particular face added competition from European parks; Disneyland Paris attracts more UK visitors than most domestic parks except Alton Towers.What is the #1 theme park in the world? ›
|1||Magic Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort||20,963,000|
|3||Universal Studios Japan||14,500,000|
|4||Chimelong Ocean Kingdom||11,736,000|
Chessington World Of Adventures, Greater London
See your favourite children's books come to life, experience a treetop adventure and take a ride on exhilarating roller coasters. There's plenty more where that came from too!
Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, with its famous Long Walk and deer park, tops the list as Britain's biggest. It measures 28.53 km² and dwarves the others in size by comparison. Greater London has the most parks in the top 100 with six, (6.Is there a Disneyland in the UK? ›
London's Giant Disneyland-Style Theme Park Has Been Scrapped (For Now) The future of the Disneyland-style London Resort just got a little murkier with the latest setback... A few years ago, it was announced that London—well, okay, north Kent—was getting its very own Hollywood-esque, Disneyland-style theme park.Which theme park is best for 6 year olds? ›
- Magic Kingdom Park. Orlando. ...
- Universal's Islands of Adventure. Orlando. ...
- Sesame Place. Langhorne, PA. ...
- Disney's Animal Kingdom. Orlando. ...
- Hersheypark. Hershey, PA. ...
- Cedar Point. Sandusky, OH. ...
- Story Land. Glen, NH. ...
- Six Flags Fiesta Texas. San Antonio.
From thrilling rides through history, to mythical beings, London's theme parks offer great entertainment for families and groups. Enjoy fun for all ages at central London spots, or head to amusement parks further afield, which can be easily reached via train, by coach or in the car.What is the biggest theme park in London? ›
Home to two of the country's most infamous roller coasters – Nemesis and Oblivion – Alton Towers is the UK's largest theme park. What makes it so successful is its perfect blend of terrifyingly fast rides and family-friendly attractions.What is the safest theme park? ›
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
It is the definition of safety and excitement all in one facility. Every child and most adults dream about visiting Disney amusement park at least once in their lives. Why wouldn't they? It's the place where magic comes to life.
|Rank||Amusement Park||Annual Attendance|
|1||Magic Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort||6,941,000|
|3||Universal Studios Japan||4,901,000|
|4||Chimelong Ocean Kingdom||4,797,000|
Magic Kingdom, United States
Magic Kingdom is the most-visited theme park in the world, and right now, it's celebrating 50 years since opening as the first Disney World theme park in Florida.
Our Resort regulations state: No child or children under the age of 12 will be admitted to the Attraction unless they are accompanied by an adult aged 18 years or over and such child or children whilst on site must remain under the control or supervision of an adult at all times.Which theme park is best for 3 year olds? ›
- Walt Disney World (Orlando, FL)
- Disneyland (Anaheim, CA)
- Universal Orlando Resort (Orlando, FL)
- Edaville Family Theme Park (Carver, MA)
- Sesame Place (Langhorne, PA)
- Story Land (Glen, NH)
- LEGOLAND Parks.
To make things even better, kids under the age of two get in for free – and its only around 1 and half hours away from London by train – making it ideal for guests at the Montcalm Royal London House.
|#1||Cairngorms National Park||1,118,720|
|#2||Lake District National Park||566,124|
|#3||Yorkshire Dales National Park||538,213|
|#4||Snowdonia National Park||529,074|
St James's Park is the oldest Royal Park in London and is surrounded by three palaces. The most ancient is Westminster, which has now become the Houses of Parliament, St James's Palace and of course, the best known, Buckingham Palace.What are the 15 national parks in the UK called? ›
There are 10 National Parks in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland, they are: England – Broads, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, New Forest, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs and Yorkshire Dales. Wales – Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Snowdonia.Is there a Universal Studios in the UK? ›
|San Francisco||Themed after 20th-century San Francisco. Features replicas of San Francisco landmarks.|
That absolutely will not happen. Even if Disney wanted to build a new theme park and announced one today, there is a 0.000% chance the company could have it open by Summer 2025.Is there going to be a Disney in London? ›
London will soon be home to a massive new theme park, which has been dubbed UK Disney World. The London Resort is a 3.5 billion project expected to open in Swanscombe, Kent in 2024.
Disney is magical for kids of all ages, but can be especially fun for preschoolers! We have taken our kids to Disney 3 times before my oldest was five because we found the memories and experiences of seeing the magic through their eyes more priceless than getting them more “things.”What age can kids ride roller coasters? ›
All of our rides have minimum height requirements that range from 36 in. to 48 in. This difference of a foot can take a few years to get through, but most kids are able to start riding around the age of 4, and most should be tall enough to ride all rides by 8 or 9.What age is best for Disney World? ›
We recommend taking kids to Disney World when they're between ages 3 and 12. That's a broad range, and each year has benefits and downsides. Let's look at three different age groups and what makes Walt Disney World so great for kids who are in them, as well as potential pitfalls to avoid.Is Chessington better than Thorpe Park? ›
The verdict seems clear cut. Chessington wins hands-down if you're planning a family day out with smaller children. Thorpe Park, meanwhile, is the clear winner if you have older kids who want to test their nerves and stomachs on some of the world's best roller coasters.How much is Thorpe Park worth? ›
Alton Towers sold in £5.9bn deal that includes Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds. Alton Towers has been sold in a £5.9bn takeover deal that includes Thorpe Park and Madame Tussauds. The current owners Merlin Entertainments have agreed the sale to family owners of Lego and private equity firm Blackstone.How many theme parks are in London? ›
There are 18 London theme parks and funfairs to pick from. Find the perfect places to go with your kids and get out on your next adventure!What is the biggest funfair in UK? ›
Hull Fair is Europe's largest travelling funfair, which comes to Kingston upon Hull, England for one week from 4 pm on Friday to 11 pm of the Saturday eight days later, encompassing 11 October each year. The fair is open every day between these days except Sunday.Which UK theme park has the best rides? ›
- 1) THORPE PARK.
- 2) ALTON TOWERS.
- 3) BLACKPOOL PLEASURE BEACH.
- 4) FANTASY ISLAND.
- 5) FLAMINGO LAND.
- 6) OAKWOOD THEME PARK.
- 7) HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND.
- 8) DRAYTON MANOR.
Home to thrilling rides, attractions, live events & a themed hotel, THORPE PARK Resort is the ultimate destination for thrill seekers featuring some of the UK's most popular roller coasters and amusement park rides.Is Thorpe Park better than Alton Towers? ›
While Thorpe Park is rather consistent with the intensity and scale of its rides, Alton Towers is actually the better option for those looking for a more varied coaster option.
In terms of height, Thorpe Park is slightly taller of the two amusement parks: in other words, more extended drops. Alton Towers, which opened in 1980, has a maximum elevation of 116 metres (381 feet). The rides at each park are similar in design and include roller coasters, swings, and family-friendly attractions.Is Chessington better than Thorpe Park? ›
The verdict seems clear cut. Chessington wins hands-down if you're planning a family day out with smaller children. Thorpe Park, meanwhile, is the clear winner if you have older kids who want to test their nerves and stomachs on some of the world's best roller coasters.Which UK theme park has the best rides? ›
- 1) THORPE PARK.
- 2) ALTON TOWERS.
- 3) BLACKPOOL PLEASURE BEACH.
- 4) FANTASY ISLAND.
- 5) FLAMINGO LAND.
- 6) OAKWOOD THEME PARK.
- 7) HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND.
- 8) DRAYTON MANOR.
No child or children under the age of 12 will be admitted to the Attraction unless they are accompanied by an adult aged 18 years or over and such child or children whilst on site must remain under the control or supervision of an adult at all times.What is the oldest ride at Thorpe Park? ›
Space Station Zero. Space Station Zero opened at Thorpe Park Resort in 1984 and was the park's very first roller coaster attraction.Is Alton towers bigger than Magic Kingdom? ›
|17 Jul 09, 02:49 PM|
|Kim VIP Dibber Join Date: Jul 03||Alton Towers = 500 acres it's a lot bigger than the Magic Kingdom = 107 acres Kim|
Hull Fair is Europe's largest travelling funfair, which comes to Kingston upon Hull, England for one week from 4 pm on Friday to 11 pm of the Saturday eight days later, encompassing 11 October each year. The fair is open every day between these days except Sunday.Which is bigger Chessington or Legoland? ›
Chessington is much bigger though. Legoland has all these Lego sculptures in it. Both Parks are very popular, so I don't think one is quieter than the other. My children love both!Is Thorpe Park the best in UK? ›
Thorpe Park has earned its spot on the list of England's best theme parks with some of the highest and fastest rides in Europe. Thorpe Resort Park is the best choice for thrill seekers in England!Is Thorpe Park OK for 5 year olds? ›
Our Resort regulations state: No child or children under the age of 12 will be admitted to the Attraction unless they are accompanied by an adult aged 18 years or over and such child or children whilst on site must remain under the control or supervision of an adult at all times.
The park is suitable for all ages, including families with young children. Most rides and attractions are only restricted by height. Smaller children usually have to be accompanied by an adult over 16 years old.Is Chessington OK for teenagers? ›
Its great for toddlers and younger children with its good variety of rides (including many Julia Donaldson inspired ones) as well as the zoo and aquarium but is ok-ish for older children/ teenagers as the rides don't have the thrills that come in Thorpe Park or Alton Towers.What is the scariest theme park UK? ›
5. Thorpe Park, Surrey. Thorpe Park is probably Britain's scariest theme park. Built on an island in an artificial lake it offers a bunch of aquatic-themed rides including Tidal Wave, Colossus and Nemesis Inferno.What is the scariest theme park ride in the UK? ›
SAW Alive Horror Maze at Thorpe Park. Velocity at Flamingo Land. The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Oblivion at Alton Towers.What is the craziest roller coaster in England? ›
Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
|The Big One|