`What do you think of when you hear the words “amusement park?” Long lines and greasy food that you never have the chance to fully digest? Walking around with wet underwear after crashing down on one of the largest water rides in the world? Fearing for your life while a mechanical seatbelt locks menacingly across your chest?
If so, you’re thinking of all the reasons that amusement parks keep us coming back year after year. After all, what would an amusement park experience be without a tale of someone losing his or her lunch on an anti-gravitational spin ride, or a story of how you screamed so loud on the 500-foot drop, you nearly deafened your sister? Amusement parks are nothing without survival stories, and woe to those who come home without them.
However, there is also the sweet side of amusement parks. The carousels, the Dumbo rides, the shows, the bonding, the larger than life characters, and the photo ops. If amusement parks are your definition of fun here are some of the best in the world for those who believe life’s greatest adventures are found in life’s greatest adventure parks.
1) Disney World
If there simply isn’t enough time to explore all of Walt Disney World in one day, there is certainly not enough space to describe it in one article. A trip to Disneyland is sort of a rite of passage for most American children, and it may hold just as much weight as your son’s bar mitzvah, so if you’re an American parent, you may want to start putting aside funds now.
In addition to costing about as much as a college tuition, a trip to Disney World is no task to be taken lightly. There are websites devoted to navigating this place, so prepare for your trip to start before you get to the airport. There’s a lot more to Disney World than roller coasters.
However, when you’re done choosing whether to go to Epcot on Tuesday, or Astro Orbiter on Thursday, you are in for some memories that are sure to last a lifetime. The park is absolutely breathtaking, and that’s before you even get on Space Mountain. The shows are beautifully orchestrated, the accommodations are first class, and the special attractions are over the top, and there’s enough food choices to satisfy every diet plan. It really is a child’s paradise, and everyone’s a child at Disney World.
2) Europa Park Germany
If the idea of fried food followed by vertigo-inducing heights doesn’t sound like your idea of amusement, even the most reluctant of theme park visitors may find something intriguing in Europa Park.
The biggest amusement park in Germany, Europa Park features 100 rides, thirteen of which are roller coasters, but it may be the attention to detail you’ll find most endearing. Europa Park is a theme park spanning over 13 “lands,” with something to ooh and aah about in each one. You’ll find the cobbled street and green shutters of Rome, complete with washing hanging from the bedroom windows, the cloistered garden and vaulted ceiling of the Portuguese monasteries of Spain, and there’s even a Russian space station, in what some might say was a little too close in proximity to the English pub.
The Food Loop Restaurant is an attraction in itself, where the food gets to ride the rails. Meals here are ordered on touchscreen and delivered on a spiral track, and visitors get to zip between real craft workshops, interactive fairy tale houses, live shows, and rides to satisfy every thrill seeker in attendance. Be sure to end your day on the Old-timer Fahrt, it will probably be just the ride to finish you off (pun intended).
3) Efteling Denmark
It may be fair to say Denmark schooled America on fairytales. Efteling Park knew the Little Mermaid before she got her Hollywood credentials and Pinocchio before he needed to copyright his name, After all, this is the place where it all went down.
While the fairytale theme runs strong at Efteling, the layout is more organic than Disney’s. There’s no Mickey and Minnie waving you on at the gates here. Here, you’re not seeing the show, you’re in it. Efteling is more than the place that brought fairy tales to tourists, its the place that brought fairy tales to life. When you’re in the Fairy Tale Forest, you’re in the fairy tale, and the forest plays just as much of a role in the story as any character.
However, that’s not to say that the Efteling does not have its share of thrills. There’s the Python, the unthemed (and absolutely breathtaking) looping coaster, the Raveleijn live show, complete with fire eating stunt horses, the Vekoma Corkscrew, and even the Pimp Your Own Pancake stand, but if you want to recapture your childhood, the Donkey Lift Your Tail comes highly recommended.
4) Hello Kitty Theme Parks Japan
If you’re thinking about attending one of the Hello Kitty Theme Parks in Japan, make sure you have a high tolerance for cuteness! Hello Kitty and her friends are giving a new meaning to the word adorable.
You might be tempted to describe Harmonyland as a Hello Kitty cult following, beware of the pink lemonade. Everything here is Team Kitty, from the gingham-clad Kitty devotees who seat you on the Kitty themed carriages, to the top-hatted dancers who wave to you as your Kitty mobile goes round. Here, Kitty vending machines spew ice cream into Kitty cups, while Kitty sticker machines spit out rolls of Sanrio gang stickers, even directional signs are covered with the image of the feline queen, and the photo ops with the Sanrio gang are endless. But if you want to feast your eyes on the prize, you’ll have to go to Sanrio Purio.
Envision a Madonna concert, and you may have some idea of what its like to see Hello Kitty live. Kitty’s got more backup dancers line kicking, lifting her up, and whirling her around than Madge herself, and probably just as many costume changes, albeit slightly less risqué. However, there’s no doubt about it, when Kitty takes her place on the top of her illuminated carriage and waves goodnight, it is clear, there is a new star in the sky.
5) Nagashima Spa Land Japan
Japan! It’s the home of Godzilla! Robot waitresses, weird food dispensaries, little girls with big hair bows, and graphic violence. It must be the perfect place for an amusement park. When it comes to ideal places for an amusement park, Japan seems like a no-brainer. So how does Nagashima Spa Land stack up?
Well, if you’re looking for something with a little Japanese flavor, the Steel Dragon 2000, and the White Mountain the Acrobat and the Arashi are definite face melters. The Steel Dragon is the longest roller coaster in the world, the Arashi looks like something out of a futuristic sci-fi horror movie, and the Acrobat might be some kind of Japanese torture device, but that’s all for the better here, and if you have the yen to save some yen, the Nagashima is reportedly on the low end when it comes to admission prices.
For those who want to get a taste of Japan, the ramen is on point, and the beer is flowing. The Dream Outlet Shopping Mall is open to bargaining, if you want to take home some cool Japanese fashion, and if you were thinking the name “Spa Land” is the result of a bad translation, think again. Nagashima is known for its natural hot springs. You can visit yuami to take advantage of its jacuzzi/massage bath, and they even provide the towels.
6) Beto Carrera World Brazil
“Not knowing that it was impossible, he went there and did.” That is the Brazilian phrase, roughly translated that test describes the story of John Baptist Sergio Murad, a.k.a Beto Carrera. His story starts like many of the stories of the heroes of this world. Poor boy with big dreams, travels to Disneyland and comes back with a vision of creating one of the most incredible theme parks on the Santa Catarina coast. Years later, Beto Carrera stands, as the legacy of this man and culmination of his dream.
With visions of Zorro in his head, Beto Carrera’s world is based largely on the cowboy theme, and fittingly, the attractions at Beto Carrera World cater to pretty some tough caballeros. The Firewhip the first inverted roller coaster in Brazil, Star Mountain is one of the largest roller coasters in Latin America,. and the Big Tower drops its passengers the equivalent of more than 30 floors at a speed of 120 km. However, there is also a gentler side to Carrera World.
The Madagascar Crazy River Adventure is fun for the whole family and the Madagascar Circus show is perfect for fans of all ages. The two-storey Venetian Carousel is the most fun gondola ride you can take on dry land, and if your heart is not warmed by Jahare and Requena, the giraffe couple in the Casa Das Girafas, it will surely be stolen by puppies Gigrande and Maria Eugena.
Despite the many endearing attractions at Beto Carrera’s World, perhaps what sets it apart most is the fact that it is so authentically Brazilian. It captures Brazilian culture in its music, its “Dream of A Cowboy,” homage to its founder, and appreciation of the Indigenous culture. Proudly Brazilian, and proudly entertaining. Carrera World adds a little Latin Flavor to the amusement park culture, and we could all use a little more of that kind of spice in our lives.
7) Tivoli Gardens Denmark, Copenhagen
If Efteling is the park that celebrates the genius of past Danish storytellers, Tivoli Gardens is the amusement park that proves Denmark has still got it. Everything done at Tivoli Park is done well, from its extreme attention to aesthetics from its extreme thrill rides, and if there’s any doubt that Denmark was the place where fairy tales were born, Tivoli Gardens is proof positive.
From its very beginning, Tivoli Gardens featured a variety of scenic attractions: flower gardens, building built in the Oriental style, a primitive railway, and fireworks shows were a common nightly spectacle. The Chinese style Pantomimeteatret, the Pantomime Theater featured a mechanical peacock tail which functions as the theater’s curtain. Even Walt Disney himself was in awe of Tivoli Gardens, saying, “It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
However, if your imagination centers around the more thrilling exploits, Tivoli Gardens will not disappoint. It is best known for its Rutschebanan wooden roller coaster, which is one of the oldest roller coasters still operating today. The Demon rollercoaster sends you through an Immelmann loop, a vertical loop and a zero-G roll all in the space of one minute and forty-six seconds, and the turbo drop Golden Tower drops you down 207 feet at a staggering speed. Of course, there are some tamer rides, The Flying Trunk is a seven-minute dark ride inspired by Hans Christian Anderson and the Ballongynen is a ferris wheel dating back to World War 2, so don’t be surprised if some of the cars creak a bit when they hit the top.
8) Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
If you’ve already taken the initial risk of visiting the Middle East these days, it may be safe to say that a visit to Ferrari World is a given for you. If the idea of driving in a Ferrari was waving at your friends and picking up members of the opposite sex, you’re in for quite a surprise here.
When it comes to rides, the ultimate attraction in Ferrari World is definitely the Ferrari Challenge. In this ride, you get to race your friends on a twisting parallel track above the ground in a Ferrari F430 Spider at speeds up to 95 km/hr. It’s all about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and the defeat on this ride might be especially agonizing.
If you exit the Ferrari Challenge with your life, you might want to try your luck on the Flying Aces. The highest roller coaster in the world, Flying Aces is a military biplane styled thrill ride that sales 63 meters at a 51 degree incline at speeds of 120 km/hr. Aces high may be the biggest understatement yet when it comes to this ride.
Of course there’s something for the little guys here too. There are go-kart Ferraris and driving experiences that let you drive the whole family around Yas Island after a lesson from one of the trained instructor. You didn’t think they’d just let you drive a Ferrari around without a little hands-on experience first, did you?
If your tour of the world is a quest for amusement parks, we’d love to hear about all of your great adventures. Let us know where we should go to get our thrills. We’re shaking with anticipation!