Everyone loves theme parks, whether you’re a young kid (obviously) or even if you’re aging, balding and running around kids of your own, worrying about a mortgage and your stock market portfolio.
In Europe, there are quite a few theme parks that don’t have a global appeal, but stand out in their uniqueness (each in its own speciality) making them worth a visit and be more than just a locals secret.
Area 47, Ötztal, Tirol, Austria
A mega park for extreme activities, Area 47 is one of those things you take a few days to digest, not just a morning + afternoon. It includes a 30 metre-high “mega swing”; a rope course suspended below a bridge, which is also fitted with a climbing wall; a water park and a diving tower; water-ski jumping slope and spectacular slides, and also rafting, canyoning and caving trips.
Bakken, Copenhagen, Denmark
The oldest amusement park in the world (1583) which mostly attracts locals to its gates doesn’t have thrilling rides, but the nostalgia, wood and scenery make it a very different experience, and one people shouldn’t miss if they’re in a dropping by distance.
Efteling, Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands
One of the best kept secrets in the Netherlands considering that 94% of the park’s visitors are local, Efteling is a huge fantasy theme park that opened in 1952, allegedly inspiring Walt Disney to open Disneyland. Its flagship rides are the grand double-track wooden rollercoaster Joris de Draak, or Joris the Dragon, in which two trains race each other around the track.
Gr?tas Park (Stalin’s World), Druskininkai, Lithuania
Unofficially known as ‘Stalin’s World’, Grutas Park is an attempt to preserve the history of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic era. It’s filled with huge statues, guard towers and concentration camps but also a kid’s playground and a small zoo. It’s not flashy, but it’s a unique experience, and a little tour down memory lane for those who remember living under communist rule.
Popeye Village in Malta
Remember the Live-Action Popeye film from the 1980’s with Robin Williams? Hardly anyone does. But the set built at Anchor Bay remains and became a lot more successful than the actual movie. It’s even free to enter!!!
Siam Park, Tenerife, Canary Islands
If Thailand is too far away for some of you, there’s a replica park in Tenerife (Spain), which is a huge water park which features Thai-inspired rides such as the Mekong Rapids, the Dragon and Tower of Power. It also has a calmer part, the Mai Thai river or Siam Beach.
Another oldie but goodie, Tripsdrill is Germany’s oldest theme park. Opened in 1929, it is still owned by the original owners (Fischer family) and blends new with old quite well. Besides the park rides, it also has a wildlife park with 130 different species, including wild horses, Arctic wolves and bears.
For a more futuristic take on the subject, check out the Robo-park in South Korea that will open in 2016, or read about how Disney could start using Drones in Theme Park shows.