Lifestyle & Culture

Saving the summer! Dispatches’ list of theme parks and water parks reopening in Europe … and their new rules

(Editor’s note: Our list of theme parks and water parks reopening with COVID-19 rules will be updated as more information becomes available.)

Expat kids often get dragged along to new countries without getting a vote in the decision. (Ours did.) But moving to Europe means moving closer to some of the best theme parks and water parks in the world.

Best of all, in this pandemic year, Europe – unlike the United States – is back from its various lockdowns and ready for some fun in the sun. So we decided to review which water parks and theme parks are open for what remains of the summer. Most of the parks are trying to make lemonade out of lemons, stressing the changes they’ve made for safety and by playing to our desire to return to normal times. Check out the vid below.

Disneyland Paris

This most popular of all European theme parks won’t reopen until 15 July, and even then on a limited basis in order to keep attendance and crowd densities at safe levels for social distancing.

And that’s true at parks all across Europe.

From the Disney website:

This reopening will be accompanied by reinforced health and safety measures for all visitors and our employees. The capacity of our theme parks will be limited in accordance with the standards recommended by the competent public authorities, and a new reservation system, available at the beginning of July and subject to availability, will make it possible to regulate the attendance within the Theme Parks.

Disneyland Paris consists of two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios. You can visit both parks in one day, but you might want to book a room at an on-site hotel for convenience, though non-Disney hotels in the region are far less expensive. Trust us … we took our kids in the 2000s and were shocked at how expensive that place is.

Tickets: The Disneyland Paris website is down as we post this. So, we’ll update this with 2020 ticket prices and discounts as it gets closer to the opening date.

Dispatches tip: If you’re used to, say, Legoland in Germany, the food prices at Disneyland Paris are at least double. Take a picnic. Disneyland Paris is cool with that. Also, if your kids are into dress-up, there are multiple stores where they can buy pirate and/or princess garb. There are often sales, and the quality is high enough they can play dress-up for years … stress-tested by our kids!

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Denmark shut down early with officials planning their pandemic work and working their plan. As a result, Denmark was the first country in Europe to emerge from the pandemic into the “New Normal.”

Tivoli Gardens, the oldest theme park in Europe, is open (though not if you’re Swedish), but daily attendance has been cut to 8,000 from 34,000 people to prevent overcrowding.

This is a pretty sedate theme park, with no extreme rides. (Though the Golden Tower will get thrill-seekers’ attention.) But this 176-year-old destination has instituted some 21st-century tech, including apps for virtual queuing. You’re notified on your smartphone when it’s your turn on a ride.

Where to stay: This is Copenhagen, so don’t expect Netherlands hotel prices (which are much lower.) That said, Tivoli has – surprise! – its own hotel. You can get an all-inclusive package for 695 Krone (about 94 euros) per person that includes:

  • An overnight stay in a Tivoli standard family room with a sofabed for the kids
  • Breakfast buffet including freshly baked bread, eggs, and fruit
  • Admission to Tivoli
  • Multi-ride ticket
  • Admission to the Tivoli Aquarium
  • Ride photo or Balloon
  • Meal in participating Tivoli restaurants

Tickets: Tivoli Gardens, as do most amusement/theme parks, wants to make you a 2-day deal, and theirs will run you 200 krone, or about 30 euros. A rare bargain in this, the most expensive country in Europe. This is partly to optimize revenue, but partly because Tivoli has way more than you can see in a day. You can get tickets here.

Dispatches tip: Kids under 8 years old get in free! Oh, and Tivoli has concerts, typically with music for the entire family.

PortAdventura World/Ferrari Land, Spain

PortAdventura World/Ferrari Land in Xalets de Salon, Spain, an hour from Barcelona. is scheduled to reopen 8 July. PortAventura has a huge variety of rides, especially water rides, for all ages including seven mega-rollercoasters.

Ferrari Land, as you might expect, has pulse-quickening rides and games inspired by the Italian exotic cars with the prancing horse logo.

This historic summer, they’re offering a 10-percent across-the-board discount to get you back if you book before 31 July. Be sure to read the park’s new coronavirus measures before you book, because they include rules for buying tickets … and face masks are mandatory.

In addition to the highest and fastest ride, PortAventura has Shambhala Europe’s second-highest rollercoaster, which has the eighth-highest drop of any rollercoaster in the world – 256 feet from its highest point – and speeds of up to 70 mph. So, you astronauts and Formula One drivers in training … this is the park for you.

The park also has convention facilities and 25-percent of its revenue comes from hosting corporate outings and meetings. So you know this has been a very painful pandemic year, revenue-wise. And what do you know? There’s an option to add days for 6 euros.

Go for it ….

Tickets: Ticket prices are all over the place, ranging from 49 euros for junior/seniors to 56 euros for adults, and those are good for both parks.

Check out all the discounts and special deals here.

Where to stay. PortAventura has seven hotels including the 25 million euro Colorado Creek, the first zero-emissions hotel at the park.

Check out the website, which is a bit of a jumbled mess, for all the deals.

Dispatches’ crowd-sourced tip: To avoid the crowds early in the day, go directly to the Dragon King and Shambala rides – both top-rated by dedicated amusement park websites (and there are LOTS) in the China section at the back of the park rather pack into the entrance with the rest of the crowds. In fact, this kind of works everywhere … a lesson we learned at Euro Disney all those years ago. And read this post in the Irish Independent before you go.

Europa-Park/Rulantica, Germany

This theme park/water park complex in Rust is Germany’s largest, and the second-most popular family fun destination Europe behind Paris Disney. This year, to comply with German coronavirus rules, they’re only offering day-dated tickets for the Europa-Park summer season 2020.

There are other pandemic measures including distancing radar. So this won’t be the same experience, but at least they’re making it a safe experience.

As the name suggests, Europa-Park is divided into several themed areas based on regions and countries in Europa. Take a tour around Europe and enjoy the many roller coasters of Germany’s largest theme park.

Tickets: High-season prices start at 47 euros and you can get them here. Ticket prices go down in the winter, of course.

Where to stay: In the Disney tradition, Europa-Park has six hotels and a campground on the property with different themes including the Hotel Bell Rock, billed as a “Superior New England Hotel.”

In the European tradition, rooms are priced by the number of adults and children. So two kids and two adults will run you about 150 euros per night.

Dispatches tip: Remember, you can’t just show up in 2020. The only way to get in to Euro-Park is to buy your ticket ahead of time online and reserve a day. This is going to be true just about everywhere.

Efteling, ‘s-Hertogenbosch the Netherlands

Because the Netherlands never really closed, Efteling is farther along for 2020 than a lot of other parks and with restrictions. The Dutch are still trying to encourage social-distancing – sort of – but Efteling will likely be one of the more normal theme park experiences in Europe – though crowds likely will be down a bit.

That said, you have to book your time of arrival this year and have reservations to enter.

With more than 5.2 million visitors in 2019, the Efteling is the Netherlands’ largest and most popular theme park … and one of the most popular in Europe. The fairytale-themed, family friendly park dates back to the 1930’s but always keeps innovating and adds new rides and shows to the park every few years.

Even in this pandemic, Eftling just debuted a new double rollercoaster, Max & Moritz, for families with smaller kids.

Tickets: Compared to Disney, Efteling is a way more affordable day out starting at 40 euros per day and “Moon Tickets” at 25 euros for evening entry. AND there are all sorts of discounts and promotions, especially if you live in the Netherlands. You can get tickets here.

Dispatches Tip: The Efteling is the only theme park in the Netherlands open year-round. Crowds are smaller in the fall and spring, and in winter, there are ice rinks and cross-country skiing circuits. Not all rides and roller coasters operate during the winter season.

Galaxy Erding, Munich area

After closing for three months, Galaxy Erding reopened 25 June, and Hotel Victory on the grounds opens 1 July. So they should be ready when you are.

Galaxy Erding is part of Therme Erding, a giant thermal spa. It has a lot more conventional features, including 26 water slides, several really big ones, and eight new summer slides in a newly designed outdoor area.

Entry prices: At Galaxy Erding, you pay according to time and feature. So, say you want to go to the slides and tropical spa area; you pay 19 euros and up. BUT, there are a million different deals and discounts according to when you want to go. And there are all-in tickets starting at 42 euros, up from 35 euros last year.

See the ticket and pricing pages of the website here.

Open: The spas and part of the water park are open all year.

TripAdvisor ratings: Galaxy Erding/Therme Erding gets great reviews on TripAdvisor, garnering a 4 out of 5 stars on 2,900 reviews, with lots of rave reviews. The only negatives included signage only in German.

Legoland Deutschland

When they were tots, Legoland outside Ulm, Germany, was our daughters’ favorite theme park because it was a fun and gentle place. It was our favorite because it was affordable. But before you go, know that there are no Pirates of the Caribbean rides, Ferrari themes, VR goggles or plunging thill coasters. This theme park is about as sedate as it gets and is geared toward younger children.

Unlike Disney, where food is crazy expensive and not great, you can feed your family here for about what you can in normal restaurants. Which is nice if your name’s not Zuckerberg or Bezos.

Legoland in Germany has been back open since the end of May so there should be no re-opening glitches. And after all, this is Germany. Which means there are coronavirus rules for 2020. You can see them here.

Tickets: Tickets are 39.50 euros per person and an overnight in the on-location hotel village is 283 euros per family. (This deal also applies at affiliate hotels in the area.)

You can book tickets here.

Dispatches tip: Legoland Deutschland is one of about 14 licensed Legoland parks around the world branded by the Danish building-blocks company but not run by the Danish company. They’re run by Merlin Entertainments in London. So the experiences can vary, with the original Legoland Billund Resort in central Denmark near the birthplace of Legos still the standard.

You can get tickets here for Denmark.

Closed for 2020 until further notice:

Aquapark Istralandia in Croatia has a note on its website that it will announce the 2020 opening date “soon.”

Siam Park, Tenerif

Carib Bay (formerly Acualandia) in Venice.

You can see our past lists of theme parks and water parks here.

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