Written by Fiona Hilliard, a travel writer and blogger for Dublin- based car rental company ArgusCarHire.com.au.
Think Europe and theme parks and Disneyland Paris is what usually springs to mind for most people. But what happens when Minnie, Mickey and Co. is all a bit ‘been there, done that’? The following are five of Europe’s most exciting alternatives to polka dots and mouse ears.
1. Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
Located in the very heart of Copenhagen, the charming Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world.
Even if you’re not a thrill seeker, it is definitely worth checking out for its beautiful and ornate amusements and landscaped gardens. The star attraction, Rutsjebanen is recognised as one of the oldest roller coasters in the world.
The Gardens are also home to concert halls and overall, the park has the feel of a secret garden in a stately home. Most impressively, Tivoli is said to be the original inspiration for the Disney parks as Walt Disney himself loved to relax in the Gardens.
How to get to Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli is situated in the middle of central Copenhagen, next to the Town Hall Square and the Central Station. If travelling by public transport, take buses 10, 15, 26 30, 40, 66, 2A, 5A, 6A and 250S. If arriving by train, alight at Vesterport Station.
2. Gardaland, Italy
With a stunning location on the south-eastern banks of Lake Garda, it’s hardly surprising that Garda Land amusement park is Italy’s number one theme park. The park’s attractions are based around the themes of history, geography, space and fantasy.
Highlights include Magic Mountain, Blue Tornado and Sequoia Adventure. The park is also home to Italy’s first themed aquarium.
How to get to Gardaland
If travelling by car, you’ll find Garda Land Park is situated in Castelnuovo del Garda in Localitá Ronchi. When driving from Milan, exit at the paying toll of Peschiera del Garda and follow the signs. The park is located just a few kilometres from the motorway exit.
If driving on the A22, take the junction connecting to the A4 motorway in the direction of Milan and exit at Sommercalpagna or Peschiera del Garda and follow the signs. The park is situated just a few kilometres from the motorway exit. If you are arriving via the Brenner motorway, take the exit at the toll of Affi and follow the motorway in the direction of Peschiera del Garda.
3. Parc Astérix, France
Parc Astérix is an amusement park located around 35km to the north of Paris and 32km from the Disneyland Resort in Paris.
So why choose Parc Astérix over Disneyland? Well there are two reasons – number one: there are less queues. Number two: The park offers an authentic slice of French culture and is dedicated to French comic book hero, Astérix.
The park takes its theme from the Astérix comic books, designed by Goscinny and Uderzo – in the series, Astérix and Obelix are two brave Gauls resisting the Roman army.
How to get to Parc Astérix
Public transport services to Parc Astérix are quite limited, but the park is located just 1 hour from Beauvais Airport, 30km north of Paris on the A1 motorway close to Lille – take the direct exit to Parc Astérix between exits 7 and 8.
4. Legoland, UK
Legoland, Windsor, a British spin-off of the Danish brick people theme park opened in 1996 and is home to over 53 million Lego bricks, from the beautiful Miniland to the ancient Kingdom of the Pharoahs.
A new addition for this year is the Duplo Valley Splash & Play.
How to get to Legoland
Legoland Windsor is situated at Winkfield Road, in Windsor, Berkshire. If travelling by road, you will find it is easily accessed via the M25 (take Junction 13 from Egham and follow signs along the A308 towards Windsor). It is clearly signposted from the M3 (junction 3) M4 (Junction 6) and on all major approach roads.
When travelling by rail, it’s possible to take a shuttle bus service to the park from stops located close to both rail stations. Alternatively, you could rent a car in London with a broker site such as ArgusCarHire.com.au.
Eurostar offers services from Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Lille and Calais, with connections to Windsor via London St. Pancras.
5. Europa Park, Germany
Europa Park is Germany’s biggest theme park. As the name suggests, the park’s theme focuses on the countries in Europe.
For example, in the Greece –themed land, you can transport yourself between heaven and earth on the Poseidon, a mixture of high-speed rollercoasters and water rides.
Meanwhile, over in France, the Silver Star offers extreme thrills at speeds of up to 130km/h. When you’re all theme-parked out, you can enjoy a little R and R in the Mediterranean zone – the park’s 4-star themed hotels.
How to get to Europa Park
If travelling from motorway A5 (Karlsruhe – Basel) take exit 57b. Remain on the road which takes you directly to the Europa park hotels.
The closest train station to Europa Park is located in Ringsheim (4km).
If travelling from the north, take the train to reach Freiburg. Next, take the regional train to Ringsheim. When travelling from the south, take a train to Freiburg and then take a regional train to Ringsheim.
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Thanks to Sarah_Ackerman, spencer77, wrayckage, Dave Catchpole, fcstpauligab and mdalmuld for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.