France do theme parks differently. Way differently. Here we’ve described the biggest and most popular across France.
Description Mix the London Science Museum with Thorpe Park and you’ve got Futuroscope.
Who’s it for? All the family, possibly older children over 8 will enjoy it more.
Rides This futuristic theme park celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2017. It has themed rides that appeal to the thrill seekers, such as the new Jules Verne inspired ride. The only flight motion platform in Europe, Futuroscope has created a ‘technology-leading attraction system that combines a 90° tilting platform and a 6K film showing a mix of real and computer-generated 3D images on a 6,450- ft2 surround screen to bring visitors the ultimate immersive experience of flying like a bird around the world.’
What’s so special? What the French do well is the evening show at most theme parks and every evening show is included in the price of admission.. For example the aquatic fairytale evening show from Cirque du Soleil is a big-bang blend of visual, aquatic and pyrotechnical effects. The constellation of fairytale scenes tells the story of a young real girl who meets a virtual giant with his feet on the ground and his head in the stars.
Does it cater for the UK guest? We can recommend this French attraction even if you don’t speak French. Some attractions are translated via headsets which you can borrow free of charge, just bring your own headphones or you can hire headphones, and other attractions don’t require translations.
Where is it? Futuroscope is located near the Atlantic coast, in the Poitou-Charentes region (newly renamed Nouvelle Aquitaine), between the Loire Valley and the Vendée. You’ll pass it when driving down the main roads in western France, heading down to the Vendee, Charente and Bordeaux etc.
Cost: Tickets start form 40 euros for adults and 36 euros for children. You can book in advance on line.
Name: Disneyland Paris
Description All singing, all dancing theme park featuring very well known Disney characters, rides, shows and shops. Lots of shops.
Who’s it for? Disney is probably aimed at the under 10’s, but I know couples who go, plus teenage children to mature couples. Disney is all encompassing! It has a great mix of everything – the rids are exciting for the teens, but toddlers and younger kids will love the gentle rides and meeting the characters in Fantasyland. But it’s not just the rides – it’s the whole experience, the sights and sounds, parades and light shows that create the place ‘where dreams come true’, as the publicity blurb says.
There are two theme parks – Disney Studios and Disney Park as well as the Disney Village that is accessible free of charge.
Rides: Disneyland Paris has 58 attractions (or rides), built to suit tots to teenagers. The top ride as voted for by their visitors are
1. It’s a Small World (Fantasyland)
2. Space Mountain (Discoveryland)
3. Big Thunder Mountain (Frontierland)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland)
5. Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast (Discoveryland)
If you have younger children they will be desperate to meet the characters. You’ll be able to come into close contact at Fantasyland where characters wander round and there is an extremely popular meet and greet a Disney princess. Head to Mickey’s Café in Disney Village and Buffalo Bill’s live Wild West show in Disney Village to see them perform and all the hotels in Disney Village have a daily slot for meeting the characters. Buffalo Bill’s show is highly recommended – a lively action show on horseback!
What’s so special? The couple of times I’ve visited I found the welcome and the customer service to be top-notch. Even from driving into the immaculate car park, to the hotel welcome to entering the park, the welcomes are warm and the organisation is outstanding.
Don’t get me wrong, the merchandise shops on every corner will drive you insane after a couple of days, but set the expectations of your children early and you’ll be ok! Plus the food on offer in the park is pretty dire – all expensive fast food. Eat a hearty breakfast and take snacks if you don’t want to be dependent on pizza and chips.
The whole Disney experience is sensory overload and towards the end of the day the park starts to resound with the whining of over-tired children, so pace yourself. On a day trip you can only see the highlights; in three or four days you could see pretty much everything and do your favourite rides more than once. Consider hiring a buggy even if your child is used to walking.
Does it cater for the UK guest? Very well, the best of all the theme parks. Being an American attraction in France, all customer service staff is bi-lingual to a very high standard.
Where is it? Located near Marne-la-Vallée to the east of Paris and reached from central Paris via the RER suburban train (line A).
Cost: Tickets start from £36 per adult and £30 for children in low season (2017 prices). . You can book in advance on line.
Name: Puy du Fou
Description A theme park like no other, Puy du Fou is made up of a series of spectacular live action shows which are steeped in the History of Man. Thousands of actors and animals recreate high drama, from Roman gladiators to King Arthur, with mind-blowing special effects.
Who’s it for? It will amaze and entertain all age groups.
Rides? Rides? Where you’re going you won’t need rides…
What’s so special? The title ‘theme park’ is misleading if you want rides and adrenaline rushes.
However, if you want to explore historic villages, towns, and cities with craftspeople working in recreated situations, be entertained by breathtaking shows and aerial bird shows then this is the place for you.
This fabuous park has been voted best theme park in the World! Most Brits have never heard of it, but it is France’s second most popular theme park after Disneyland Paris and it’s had phenominal success.
If you’re visiting then you must book the Cinéscenie, a spectacular performance by more than 1000 actors, which takes place on selected Friday and Sunday nights.
The key difference is the lack of commercialism compared to other parks. There aren’t shops on every corner trying to sell you tat. There are no stressful or boring ride queues. The woodland and gardens that make up the setting allow the luxury of a relaxing and fun day.
Mind you, the queues leaving at the end of the night may take a while to negotiate.
Does it cater for the UK guest? Because all the attractions are so visual, it becomes an easy attraction to enjoy and understand. The website is a bit limited in English and staff on park seem to speak enough to get by. Don’t let this put you off though – it’s a must-see attraction!
Where is it? In western France, the Vendee, address 85590 LES EPESSES
Cost: Grand Parc tickets start from 23 euros, Grand Parc and Cinescenie tickets start from 54 euros. . You can book in advance on line.
Name: Park Asterix
Description: Great French theme park with fun Asterix themed rides and a good alternative to Disneyland Paris.
Who’s it for? It feels more mature than Disney so suits teens and adults. INpsired by the Asterix comic books, the theme park has sparks of humour that appeal to adults, while managing to be thoroughly entertaining for young children too.
Rides: Expect water splashes everywhere! There’s plenty of Asterix themed rides from carousel where you get to sit in Obelix’s bottom, plus the dizzying Druidic cauldron and the Menhir Express, a flume ride in which you sit in a mock prehistoric standing stone (Obelix, of course, is a menhir delivery man). Other attractions have a Roman theme. Le Défi de César is wacky – and great fun.
What’s so special? Parc Asterix feels nicely quirky in a lovely French way. Meeting the roly-poly Obelix and the diminutive Asterix is a highlight – they hang out and pose for photos amid the thatched huts of their Gaulish village, alongside other splendidly costumed, life-size characters, such as Unhygienix the bellicose fishmonger and Vitalstatistix the obese chief. Decorative touches in the village include flowerpots made from Roman helmets.
Does it cater for the UK guest? In contrast with Disneyland Paris, it makes little or no linguistic concessions in its attractions and shows to non-French speakers. However the hosts are very friendly and they give good support.
Where is it? It is located an hour or so from Paris. 60128 Plailly, France
Cost Tickets start from 41 euros for an adult and 38 euros for a child (2017 pricing) . You can book in advance on line.