World Travel

Best Amusement Parks around the World

Efteling Park - Germany

Efteling Theme Park – Holland

“The caretaker of fairytales.”

This national attraction has been welcoming visitors for 60 years. Today it is recognised as one of the oldest theme parks in the world. Efteling is a fantasy theme park built in the natural surroundings of a Dutch forest, about an hour south of Amsterdam. It offers more of an old-fashioned, less commercial experience with life-size fairytale dioramas and vintage carousels.

From drops that will leave you dizzy to fantasy worlds designed for visitors of all ages, amusement parks keep pushing the limits of speed, height and imagination!

Its attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairytales, fables and folklore. Artist Anton Pieck’s remarkable, nostalgic style combined with inventor Peter Reijnders’ ingenuity and the use of “real” materials sets the park apart.

Go see Sleeping Beauty in a stone castle the size of a two-story house, covered in ferns and climbing vines, up the stairs past a life-sized mechanical guard and you’ll find the princess dreaming in her bed. There’s also Snow White, a magic clock and the dwarf village, a talking fairytale tree and Hansel and Gretel’s cottage, where a scary witch opens a window and threatens onlookers.

Efteling is famous for its great attention to detail and surrounding green atmosphere. It certainly maintains its role as caretaker of fairytales. The park is open 365 days a year. 

Europa Park – Germany

“Europe in miniature.”

This park welcomes nearly five million thrill-seekers every year! As the name suggests, Europa Park is Europe in miniature, themed around the concept of 12 different European countries, with rides (and cuisine) that reflect the continent’s varied cultural heritage.

Rollercoaster aficionados will be in heaven, finding no less than eleven white-knuckle rides, varying in degrees of stomach-lurching vertigo. Some not-to-be-missed ones include Silver Star; a strapped-in-by-the-belly, high and fast rollercoaster that’ll no doubt blow your hair back. Euro-Mir is a Russian space station-themed rollercoaster that simulates a trip into outer space with re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The Swiss Bobsled Run is a classic of Europa Park, made great by its well designed Switzerland setting. And then there’s Cassandra’s Curse, a dark ride made so by its bewitched spinning room, themed in Greek mythology.

Once you’re all roller-coastered out, don’t head home because there are also ongoing programmes of music, dance and performance as well as four wonderfully themed hotels, three spa complexes, a golfing centre, a 4D theatre, conference facilities, and the Europa Park Dome. You’ll need more than one day to explore it all.

Six Flags – USA

“The fastest rollercoaster on the planet.”

They always do it bigger and better in America, and the Six Flags Theme Park in New Jersey certainly has! It features the tallest and fastest rollercoaster on the planet. If you’ve got the guts, Kingda Ka is a $25-million Swiss designed "rocket-coaster" that uses hydraulic motors to launch the trains along a horizontal section of track from zero to 200km/h in an impressive 3.5 seconds! The train then begins a vertical ascent up a steel tower that peaks at 456 feet (or 45 stories). This is one ride that offers plenty of negative Gs, also fondly known as “airtime”.

Six Flags also boasts the world’s first floorless rollercoaster featuring on-board audio, fire and other special effects. And if that’s not enough, the park complex contains Hurricane Harbor Water Park and the largest drive-through safari outside Africa. Go figure! 

Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise – Japan

“Home to a giant three-story aquarium.”

This little island of entertainment, aptly referred to as “a new generation style amusement park’ is a leisure land surrounded by nature. Home to a giant three-story aquarium, rated top in Japan, it’s complete with undersea viewing tunnel and over 500 varieties of fish and sea creatures.

One of the main attractions is Japan’s first surfcoaster, a hair-raising ride that takes you up an exhilarating 107 metres high and then swings out over the ocean with a vertical free fall that will get your heart racing. The complex also offers an enclosed area to ride boats on the water. Stroll along the promenades to find beautiful picnic spots and a world famous merry-go-round with thousands of lights that illuminate the night sky. And, with an entire restaurant complex of food choices, there’s enough here to fill your day as well as your stomach!

Our Very Own

Ratanga Junction – South Africa

Our local park in Cape Town has over 26 rides, from nausea-inducing sheer drops to more mellow offerings for children and scaredy-cats (or those who just had lunch). Its rides are classified as “Kids”, “Family”, “Thrill”, and “Superthrill”, and the closer you get to the latter end of the list, the more unforgettable the experience is.

The Cobra requires the disclosure of any medical conditions and the pre-requisite iron stomach and nerves of steel. Riders are suspended with their feet dangling in mid-air, where they loop, lift, drop and come back around for more. Other rides with names like Monkey Falls (a direct drop down a waterslide on a makeshift log), Congo Queen (the giant boat swing), Diamond Devil Run (described as a runaway train with your family in it), and Bushwacker – provide a more than adequate introduction into the airborne world.

Interesting to note that this theme park is environment-conscious with recycling bags and colour coded bins dotted around the park to make it easy for guests to separate their waste. In addition, Ratanga has also implemented a ride alternating programme (during off peak periods), in conjunction with Eskom, to reduce its electrical consumption.