When it comes to theme parks, Brisbane travel manager Amber Bosely knows them all. Disneyland, Universal Studios, Legoland, you name it, she’s either been there or organised a holiday there.
We asked Amber to pick her top five theme parks for family travel. And she surprised us with her answers. If you haven’t been to any of these and your family is theme park mad – give her a call.
1. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, Japan
Of all the Disney theme parks, Amber says this Tokyo double is the best for families. It’s easy to get to, affordable and incredibly good fun.
Disneyland is better for younger age groups, and “people who really love their classic Disney stories”, Amber says. While DisneySea will thrill older teens and tweens.
“They’ve got a Tower of Terror which is a big drop ride with an exciting story line, they’ve got rides complete with immersive stories, but I’ve never ridden something that is as amazing as the Winnie-the-Pooh ride, Pooh’s Hunny Hunt,” Amber says.
The fun, flat ride has no age or height restrictions and Amber promises it will delight every age group. Riders sit in “hunny” pots and journey through Winnie-the-Pooh’s search for honey.
“You’ll have a slightly different experience every time because one time your Hunny pot is facing one way, and the next time your Hunny pot is facing something completely different that you didn’t even know was there last time.”
“It’s probably the coolest ride I’ve ever been on.”
2. Dollywood Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA
Set at the base of the Smoky Mountains, this Dolly Parton theme park is ranked at number two on Amber’s list thanks to it’s entertainment and food.
“They do full 40 minutes to an hour-long shows that people don’t move during them, because they’re just that amazing,” Amber says. “This park frequently wins awards based on the quality of it’s shows”
The food you have to try at this resort is the cinnamon bread. Baked fresh all day, Amber says it’s something she would go back to this resort for again and again.
In between the shows and the food, families will love the thrill rides and the waterpark. Dollywood, surprisingly, set the standard for rollercoasters. It was the first theme park in North America to operate a Bolliger & Mabillard wing coaster – called the Wild Eagle.
“It’s proven to be quite a popular ride with 8 more of them opening up around the world,” Amber says, “and another 6 currently under construction.”
The surrounding towns of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg offer plenty for families and “they’re dirt cheap as there’s so much local competition and so much on offer”, Amber says.
3. Alton Towers, England
If you have teens, Alton Towers is one theme park you must visit. A highlight of the theme park is the new wooden rollercoaster The Wicker Man.
“Alton Towers is known for having some pretty wicked stuff, but this new roller coaster has flames coming out of it – it’s really, really, really cool,” Amber says. The resort in is a Staffordshire, England also has a waterpark, mini golf and hotel complex.
4. Schlitterbahn, Texas, USA
Never heard of it? You should check this one out. Not only is Schlitterbahn one of the best waterparks in the world – it’s also easily accessible. “There are a few different Schlitterbahn parks throughout the states, but in particular, I’m referring to one that is not far out of San Antonio, in a town called New Braunfels,” Amber says..
The park has everything you would expect from a waterpark- tower slides, pipe slides and kids play areas with tipping buckets. But Amber says this resort makes it into the top five because of it’s old, “not so lazy” river.“ It’s actually been molded through concrete, and uses the water of the river alongside the water park.”
Tweens will also love the water coasters – waterslides that actually blast you uphill.
5. Nagashima Spa Land, Japan
Amber says this is “where her nerd comes out”. Nagashima Spa Land is the theme park that theme park enthusiasts love. “The Steel Dragon 2000 rollercoaster, which was opened in the year 2000, has a track that is nearly two-and-a-half kilometers long,” Amber says. “And it is the most wicked ride.”
Nagashima Spa Land also has a flying coaster. Yes, it’s as weird and fun as it sounds. “If you were like Superman flying through the sky, that’s how you feel when you’re on these rides,” Amber says.
“When you get in it, they harness you up, and then they actually tilt coaster cars so you’re flying on your belly.”
If that all sounds too scary, Nagashima also has a 90 metre ferris wheel and a beautiful Flower Garden nearby called Nabana no Sato with LED light displays in winter.