Theme parks are a mainstay of the family holiday options, especially in the summer. Something about amusement parks makes kids believe they are characters in their own favourite cartoons or on the set of their adventures movies exercising their right to one thrilling experience after the other.
Adults, we all know, are not much different. While we’re happy to claim to be at these hubs of boundless enjoyment purely for the sake of the kids, we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) enjoy the experience. If you have already visited a theme park with children you may have already experienced the transformation from strict and orderly parent to 21st century Peter Pan for a few weeks in these modern day Neverlands.
There are many theme parks to choose from in the UK (such as Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Legoland and Chessington World Adventures). Europe offers many more options, from the oldest theme park in Europe at the Tivoli Gardens (Copenhagen, Denmark) to the home of the biggest rollercoaster at Europa-Park (Rust, Germany). However, no theme park evokes as much excitement in children, or entices as many visits, as Disneyland in Paris, France. Over 12 million people visit the park annually, dwarfing second place Europa-Park’s 4 million annual visitors.
Opened in 1992 in Marne-la-Vallee in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France, Disneyland Paris is one of France’s and Europe’s most visited tourist attractions. Its unique appeal to families stems from the longevity of the brand and its characters. It is one of very few childhood crazes that can be said to be shared by the children of today, their parents and grandparents. Perhaps only sports share this privileged status.
With a combination of theme parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park), retail, dining, entertainment hubs, golf courses and seven hotels there is lots for every member of the family to enjoy, both on their own and together as a family. Impressive, but you would not expect anything less from an attraction that is one fifth the size of Paris.
The icing on the cake is that Paris - a cultural centre and one of Europe’s top tourist destinations – is only a few minutes away and can easily be added into the mix of your holiday plans. While the city may suit parents more than children, the whole family can enjoy the fruits of cooking classes that are becoming increasingly popular weekend holiday excuses in themselves. The Pompidou centre also offers a variety of weird and wonderful exhibitions, and several installations aimed directly at children and young adults.
Close by, outside of Paris, the Parc Des Felins in Lumigny-Nesles-Ormeaux is a theme park with more genuine animal entertainment than Mickey & Minnie Mouse. This park is home to 25 species of cats, plus Lemurs and Farm Animals. The cats are afforded a lot of space and the many tame and non-dangerous species are allowed to walk freely so you can observe them in their natural behaviour.
There are many Chateaux to enjoy, and the open spaces and beautiful gardens are well suited to kids with a lot of energy or walks with very young children pushchairs. The Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte in Maincy is perhaps the most beautiful of all, and every summer Saturday sees the exterior lit by 2,000 candles, while every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month features a firework display.