Theme Park Family Fun
Yes, you CAN survive a day at a theme park with your kids
It’s almost a rite of passage. If you’ve got kids, chances are at some point you’ll be making a trip to a theme park. Yes, they’re crowded. Yes, they can be kind of pricey. Yes, you’ll all be tired and cranky by the end of the day. But you will find pockets of pleasure along the way that are hard to beat.
These places are purpose-built family fun factories, and the good ones are experts at providing something for all ages to enjoy. Beloved characters from cartoons, movies and television dominate the themes and give an element of fame and enchantment for the kids. Thrilling rides, amazing attractions, hands-on activities, musical shows plus food, drink and shops are around every corner.
Your job as a parent is to reign in the kids so they don’t get over-excited and over-tired – easier said than done. Peruse the site map prior to arrival (many are available online) and plan your route, highlighting the areas you and yours most want to visit. Try to intersperse the more popular rides with other attractions, entertainment and snack breaks along the way. The top rides often entail excruciatingly long wait times (trust me, queueing 2 ½ hours for a 3-minute thrill will get old after a while). You can’t do it all in a day, so don’t even try.
The thrill of anticipation when you tell your kids of your intended theme park will be half the fun. If time is limited, you can create a lot of memories in a 1- to 3-day theme park getaway.
It ain’t cheap – parking, passes, food, drinks, souvenirs and other extras add up, and that’s not even including transportation and accommodation. Brace yourself for lots of long line-ups. If patience isn’t your kid’s strong suit, plan ahead and shortlist a few rides and attractions that are worth waiting for, rather than trying to squeeze in all the highlights.
Babies and toddlers won’t be able to partake in many rides or attractions and might be spooked by the live characters walking around, but they’re usually dazzled by all the excitement – just try to work in time for a tune-out or you risk triggering a tantrum (not an uncommon occurrence at these happiest places on earth). Preschoolers and big kids will have a ball, and tweens will be in their element. Even teenagers will be wowed by the more adventurous rides. Theme parks make a good choice for families with multi-aged kids – there’s something for everyone.
If possible, buy your tickets online to avoid another line up and maybe get a bit of a discount. Parents much get in touch with their inner child and go on a few fast and silly rides along with their children. Each theme park has it’s own personality and any “must dos” depend on the age and interests of you and your kid(s).
Bring your own snacks and drinks to save considerably on costs, not to mention the dreaded long line-ups when junior can’t wait a minute longer to nosh. Most parks have an official “no outside food/beverage” policy, but are pretty lenient if you’re low-key about it (ie: don’t cart a cooler and spread out a smorgasbord on Main Street). Some parks, like Disneyland, provide a picnic area just outside the gates.
The granddaddy (or is that grandmouse?) of all amusement parks, Disney mega-properties include Walt Disney World (near Orlando, Florida), Disneyland Resort (Anaheim, California), Tokyo Disney Resort (Japan), Disneyland Paris (France) and Hong Kong Disneyland (China). You gotta go at least once in a lifetime.
Located just north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s Wonderland features beloved Nickelodeon and Hanna-Barbera characters, along with some serious thrill rides, including North America’s largest variety of roller coasters.
Legoland, located in Carlsbad, California, Billund, Denmark, Windsor, UK and Berlin, Germany, offers interactive rides, building workshops, driving schools and live entertainment, mainly geared to the 2-to-12 set.
SeaWorld Adventure Parks are found in Orlando, San Diego, San Antonio and Australia’s Gold Coast. The dolphins, sharks, sea lions, penguins, manatees and Shamu the killer whale take center stage at these educational and entertaining theme parks, with a few rides thrown in for good measure.
Six Flags is the largest chain of theme parks, water parks and animal parks in the world, concentrated in Canada, Mexico and (mainly) the US.