Beyond the magic of Disney, the world is filled with theme parks, big and small. There are parks that are dedicated to death-defying roller coasters and ones that celebrate the local culture.
Here is what some of the most famous theme parks look like around the world.
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is the most popular park in the world.
Located in Orlando, Florida, this expansion of the humble Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has become the biggest park in the world. Every year, about 20 million people visit Magic Kingdom alone, to see Cinderella’s castle, “it’s a small world,” Space Mountain, and of course, Mickey Mouse and the gang. Even if you’ve been a hundred times, there’s always something new to discover at the happiest place on Earth.
Tivoli Gardens is a lush, flowery park that inspired Walt Disney.
An inspiration for Disneyland, this central Copenhagen, Denmark, landmark is celebrated for its fairy-tale aesthetic. The park has retained its 1843 charm with multiple carousels, bumper cars, ferris wheels, thousands of flowers, and boat rides, but has been updated with new roller coasters like The Demon, which has three loops and a virtual-reality element. Michael Jackson fell so in love with the park he attempted to buy it, according to park lore.
The Vienna Prater’s ferris wheel is open year-round.
Although the park is closed in colder months, the city’s iconic ferris wheel, the Weiner Riesengrad, is open to the public year-round. If you’re not a huge fan of amusement parks, the Prater will have something to offer. The “Wurstelprater,” or Clown’s Pater, boasts 250 attractions including “Punch and Judy” shows, cafes, and roller coasters, while the second half of the park, the “Green Pater,” is a forest area that has been turned into a park oasis for runners, cyclists, and even horseback riders.
Efteling Park in the Netherlands is a fairy tale come to life.
Based on ancient legends and designed by Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck, this theme park has attractions that will stun and spook all ages. Plopped in the middle of nature, the Fairytale Forest contains Marerijk, the magic tree, and tales like Rumpelstiltskin as well as the Droomvlucht, a dark ride full of unicorns and forest animals that’s fun for the whole family, but maybe not for young ones. The older ones will line up for Baron 1898, a scream-inducing coaster that free falls down a mine shaft before circling the park.
Beto Carrero World is a brightly coloured icon of Brazil.
The largest theme park in Latin America, Beto Carrero World is a rainbow medieval-inspired experience that opens with the brilliantly colourful Castle of Nations. There are classics like carousels and a looping roller coaster called the Firewhip, but a partnership with DreamWorks also brings “Madagascar”-themed shows and rides, and characters like Shrek and Kung-fu Panda.
Europa Park has 13 roller coasters and globally-themed park districts.
Like Epcot, Germany’s Europa Park is segmented into 15 cultural areas, featuring a replica of the Moulin Rouge in France, a double decker bus in “Merry Old England,” and a giant windmill in their Dutch village. Roller coasters are indoor and outdoor, built for the water and out of wood, and feature virtual reality elements. With over 5 million visitors every year, it’s the largest seasonal theme park in the world.
Gardaland Park is Italy’s “best kept secret.”
According to TripAdvisor, fans of the park love it for its themed rides and permission to drink in your own food and drink. There are trains, carousels, interactive 3D rides, and appearances by character favourites like Peppa Pig and Peter Pan.
Cedar Point is roller coaster central.
Sandusky, Ohio is home to the capital of thrills with 18 different coasters. Get in line early for the record-breaking Millenium Force steel coaster that races you at 93 miles per hour on the fastest and highest track (the first over 300 feet tall) in the world in 2000. Their newest coaster, the Steel Vengeance, breaks 10 different records for hybrid roller coasters. There are also 70+ different attractions for thrill seekers and avoiders.
Ocean Park in Hong Kong is a waterland oasis.
This destination is a marine life themed park with an aquarium, zoo, and tons of rides. You can see shows starring pandas, alligators, sharks, penguins, and jellyfish and then take a ride on the Hair Raiser, a steel coaster that dangles and inverts you over the South China Sea.
Hello Kitty fans need to add Sanrio Puroland to their bucket list.
In this Japanese theme park, meet Hello Kitty and friends alongside the most Instagrammable pastel backdrops. Fans often make the trip to stock up on exclusive Hello Kitty merchandise and once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities.
Portaventura World has unique attractions.
Catalonia’s PortAventura is worth the hour-and-20-minute drive south from Barcelona for Hurakan Condor alone, one of the world’s tallest drop rides. Test your limits on the jaw-clenching 330-foot drop, offering riders the choice to sit in a regular seat, a tilting seat, or-craziest of all-a standing seat.
The park wows with eight inversions on its steel coaster, Dragon Kahn, and the continent’s tallest and fastest hyper-coaster, Shambhala: Expedición al Himalaya. Finishing touches are underway for a 2017unveiling of the new Ferrari Land, the Italian car company’s second theme park project after its Abu Dhabi triumph.
Dollywood should have a spot on any road trip itinerary.
Even Americans may not know that Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is home to Dollywood, theme park of all things Dolly Parton. This loveable Southern icon has her own theme park with over 40 rides and plenty of Southern comfort foods.
It’s got all the makings of an amusement park with roller coasters and adventure rides, but also with a Southern gospel hall of fame, a classic car photo opportunity, and lots of pink sparkly merchandise.
Lotte World in South Korea is a picturesque park of grand proportions.
This South Korean wonder contains an outdoor park as well as the world’s largest indoor theme park, Adventure, a four-floor monstrosity that contains coasters, 4D experiences, and shops. There’s a mirror maze, a climbing gym, a haunted house, and a fantasy train ride where you begin by entering a clown’s giant mouth. Its mascots are a pair of raccoons, Lotty & Lorry.
Dubai’s Aquaventure is an upscale water park that includes private beach areas.
With an Atlantis theme,Europe and the Middle East’s number one water park features aquatic attractions as well as private sandy beaches. The Leap of Faith ride is unique in that you’re plunged down through a nearly vertical clear tube that is surrounded by marine life including sharks and stingrays. You can also go tubing while looking at sea creatures and even feed and swim with them.
Fuji-Q Highland in Fujiyoshida, Japan is set at the base of Mount Fuji.
Fuji-Q Highland opened in 1968 to satisfy thrill-seekers. They classify their roller coasters as “screamers” and actively attempt to break Guinness World Records. There’s a Thomas The Tank Engine themed area for kids as well as a horror ride in the dark where riders wear headphones, a raft ride with the world’s two largest waving golden cats, an AI fortress, and other attractions that have the active volcano visibly in the distance.
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