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UK's top ten theme parks

UK's top 10 theme parks

Alton Towers, Staffordshire

The UK's answer to Disneyland (complete with costumed characters and two hotels) has eleven separate 'lands'.

Ride guide
Rollercoasters include Nemesis, where your legs hang down, and AIR, where you lie horizontally beneath the track, as if you are flying. If you don't mind getting wet, ride The Flume and the Congo River Rapids.

Other stuff
There's a large spa and some beautiful 18th-century gardens for the oldies to stroll in. You can relax at Cariba Creek water park in fine weather, though its Master Blaster water rollercoaster is ready and waiting if you crave more thrills.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.altontowers.com

Legoland Windsor, Berkshire

You'll find few white-knuckle rides at this gentle park, designed mainly for pre-teens. There are some amazing Lego models, though.

Ride guide
Jungle Coaster is the fastest ride in the park, hitting 60kmph in parts. Pirate Falls is for the splash-happy, with animated pirates warning you of your impending doom, and the Dragon is a twisty ride, taking you inside past Lego models and outside through the trees.

Other stuff
In Miniland, 35 million bricks have been used to create scenes from European cities. There are Lego-building workshops, 3D movies in the Imagination Theatre, and slightly surreal-looking Lego characters to meet.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.legoland.co.uk

Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey

One of the southeast's top amusement parks, its ten lands include a zoo, Beanoland (based on the comic) and Pirates Cove.

Ride guide
Rameses' Revenge, in the Egyptian-themed Forbidden Kingdom, turns you upside down, spins you round ¢ and gets you very wet. There are lots of gentle rides, such as Sea Dragons, that are suitable for the littl'uns.

Other stuff
New this year is the Sea Life Centre, its highlight a glass tunnel full of sharks, rays and other fish. There are new tiger cubs at the zoo, too.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.chessington.co.uk

Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Lancashire

The old favourite opened in 1896, and is still family-owned. It has everything from traditional wooden rides to some of the world's best high-tech rollercoasters.

Ride guide
Newest coaster is the terrifying Infusion, which opened last year. This 'dangler' loops the loop ¢ and races through cascading water. When it opened in 1994, The Big One was the tallest, steepest, fastest roller coaster in the world, and it still isn't to be sniffed at. The indoor Space Invader 2 zooms through darkness.

Other stuff
Family fun includes the Alice Ride, which takes you through Wonderland. Hot Ice is an ice-dance spectacular.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com

Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire

As well as the 40 or so rides and attractions, this 175-acre park in Ripon has a peaceful lake and a centre for birds of prey.

Ride guide
Every park needs a claim to fame, and Lightwater has Europe's longest rollercoaster, The Ultimate. New last year was Hornets' Nest, which spins you manically in every direction. For great views, ride the new Lightwater Wheel.

Other stuff
If thrill rides aren't your thing, have a walk around the lake. There are daily flights at the Bird of Prey Centre, and there's retail therapy at the shopping village.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.lightwatervalley.co.uk

Barry's Amusements, Northern Ireland

There's a pleasingly old-fashioned air to this small, much-loved park on the coast in Portrush. Apparently, the actor James Nesbitt worked here as a youth.

Ride guide
There are great views of the Causeway coast from the Looping Star rollercoaster â if you can concentrate on them. You hang upside down on The Experience, there are good old dodgems, and mini-dodgems for the tots. There's a lovely, old-fashioned carousel ride, too.

Other stuff

Barry's has up-to-date stuff as well as the classics â if the weather fails, there's always the Sega video games arcade.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.barrysamusements.com

Paultons, Hampshire

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, this new Forest resort is advertising '1983 prices' for kids - bargain! It's mainly a place for younger children.

Ride guide
The Cobra is the biggest of the park's three coasters, and has plenty of drops and spirals. The new Sky Swinger is exhilarating, and on the Raging River Ride you splash down the drops at up to 60kmph.

Other stuff
Paultons was originally a country park, and still has lots of animals, including crowd-pleasing meerkats. There are mini-go karts, lots of gentle rides, and 10 acres of gardens for strolling.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.paultonspark.co.uk

Drayton Manor Theme Park, Staffordshire

What with this place and Alton Towers, Staffordshire is the UK's theme park capital. There's all kinds of stuff within Drayton Manor's 280 acres.

Ride guide
Expect big queues at super-popular Stormforce 10, which recreates a lifeboat rescue. Scream your lungs off in Apocalypse, a freefall tower ride, and hang from your hips on the speed-freak favourite, G Force.

Other stuff
Younger children can meet their favourite tank engine at Thomas Land, which opened this year. Drayton also has a 15-acre zoo, housing more than 100 species, and there are plans for a hotel and water park.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.draytonmanor.co.uk

Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Oakwood lies in a pretty valley, and has developed since the Eighties from a small family park to a major attraction.

Ride guide
There are five big thrill rides - Speed is the newest, with the steepest drop of any UK coaster. Megafobia, a rattly wooden rollercoaster, is highly rated among enthusiasts. You'll get a good soaking at Snake River Falls.

Other stuff
Lost Kingdom is an adventure playground for younger kids, who can also pan for gold at the New Orleans Mint Panning Company. There's a twist on the ghost train - you wear 3D glasses for an in-your-face experience.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.oakwoodthemepark.co.uk

M&D's, Strathclyde, Scotland

Set within Strathclyde Country Park, southeast of Glasgow, 'Scotland's theme park', as it is branded, is a bit wee, but it packs in some good rides.

Ride guide
Tsunami is Scotland's only inverted rollercoaster, and Tornado is the biggest and fastest ride, reaching 80kmph. Bungee sends you flying into the air, covering 50 metres in 1.2 seconds, and new for 2008 is The Captain's Curse, a white-knuckle pirate ship ride.

Other stuff
There's crazy golf, glow-in-the-dark bowling, and an indoor rainforest environment, Amazonia. The Pailis Theatre opened this year, and features Rocky Rooster strutting his stuff with songs and dancing.

More info
Find a local Haven Holiday Park
www.scotlandsthemepark.com

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