The best theme parks near London
Best for: Riding the UK’s fastest roller coaster
One of the leading theme parks in the world, Thorpe Park is a must-visit for adrenaline junkies. The world’s first horror-movie themed ride, ‘Saw’, throws you over a vertical drop of 100ft; Derren Brown’s Ghost Train makes you face the terrifying Demon; ‘The Walking Dead’ makes you scramble to safety; while Stealth – the fastest rollercoaster in the UK – propels people from 0-80mph in under two seconds.
Can’t bear to tear yourself away from these delights? Then stay on site at the Thorpe Shark Hotel (around £110 for a room plus a day pass), which comes with added bonuses like fasttrack (that means no queues for any rides) until 11am. Quick pre-work rollercoaster, anyone?
Anything else I should know? There’s a virtual queueing system for people who are unable to queue, and a full accessibility guide is available to download from the website.
Price: Online from £33, on the day from £55; children aged 2 and under: free
Get there: 32 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Staines, then bus; around 45 minutes by car from central London.
Best for: A fun-filled family-friendly day out
With more than 55 rides, daily shows and interactive experiences to explore, Legoland has more than enough to keep kids and grown-ups entertained. Go to a vampire’s house party, get behind the wheel at the Lego City Driving School, and ride the waves of the Pirate Falls Treasure Quest. Meanwhile, there’s some familiar sights at Miniland, including miniature London landmarks and Star Wars characters Yoda and Princess Leia.
This Lego theme park is an action-packed day out. But it is geared towards little people (mostly aged 3 to 12), so you probably won’t be bricking it (pun intended) on the majority of the rides.
Anything else I should know? Forward planning pays off here – booking online for parking and meal deals can save you up to 20%, compared with paying on the day.
Price: Online £29, on the day from £47; children aged 2 and under: free
Get there: 15 minutes by train from London Paddington to Slough, then 30-minute bus; around 45 minutes by car from central London.
Best for: A brilliant balance of kid and adult friendly vibes
With more than 40 rides across the whole park, soft play areas for younger tots, a zoo and Sea Life centre, you might find and one day isn’t enough to explore every corner of this theme park. The Vampire rollercoaster is one of the most popular, flinging thrillseekers through the treetops with their legs dangling below them. Rameses Revenge is a stomach-churning water plunge, and Kobra spins explorers through the air on a 90m track at a dizzying 43mph.
There’s options to stay on-site too, with hotels offering fun themed rooms (think Gruffalo and monkey temple-inspired) while the Explorer Glamping site offers luxury tent stays next to the Wild Asia zone.
Anything else I should know? Save money by booking a late entry ticket – it’s valid from 3pm till closing, which is 6pm on weekends.
Price: Online from £29.50, on the day from £50.50; children aged 2 and under: free
Get there: 34 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Chessington South; around 40 minutes by car from central London.
Best for: Chilling on Peppa Pig’s hot air balloon
Paultons Park is probably best known for Peppa Pig World, where nine rides and interactive characters bring the cartoon to life. But don’t let Peppa hog the limelight, there’s a whole lot more to this resort.
The Velociraptor sweeps through tight bends at 40mph, The Flight of the Pterosaur soars through the sky, and there are wonderful views from the Balloon Ride. Meanwhile, animal fans will enjoy the trip to Little Africa, where you can see African crested porcupines, meerkats and even giant train millipedes. There’s also one of the biggest rodents in Africa, the brilliantly named Gambian pouched rat, and the smallest, the African pygmy mouse. These ones are much sweeter than the ones living under your kitchen cupboards, promise.
Anything else I should know? Wheelchair or mobility-scooter-dependent visitors can enter free of charge. There’s also a Queue Assist Scheme for people who need to use it, and most of the areas are accessible, check out their website for more details.
Price: Online £30.50; on the day £35.75; children under 1 meter: free
Get there: one hour 30 minutes by train from London Waterloo to Totton, then bus; around one hour 30 minutes by car from central London.
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