The great staycation vs vacation debate, whether to stay at home or go abroad, has puzzled every parent in the run up to the school holidays; but are things really greener on the other side? We’ve compared some of the best family-friendly attractions at home and abroad to help you make the all-important decision.
1. Legoland Windsor vs Plopsaland, De Panne, Belgium
Legoland Windsor Resort is one of the most visited theme parks in the UK which comes as no surprise as everyone loves Lego don’t they? A winning combination of rides and attractions as well as Lego models mean there is something for everyone to enjoy. 40 million Lego bricks were used to create Miniland, depicting towns and cities from around the world. There are also zones themed around Vikings, pirates and knights which are sure to excite young imaginations!
Despite having a name you’ll never stop chuckling about, Plopsaland is a great family amusement park with plenty of rides and attractions suitable for all ages, there is even an on-site hotel and a water park (who says Belgium is boring!) It’s located in the pretty seaside town of De Panne close to the French border meaning it’s easily accessible from Lille, Bruges and Ostend. De Panne railway station is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the gate and you can buy combined rail and park tickets, perfect for travelling on a budget.
The Verdict: Legoland is great but Plopsaland is called Plopsaland so wins this round!
2. Chester Zoo vs Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany
With 1.6 million visitors every year, Chester Zoo is the UK’s number one zoo and one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Ideally located in the north west of England close to Liverpool and Manchester, the zoo features all the animals you could possibly wish to see including lions, tigers, elephants, chimpanzees, giraffes, bears and even Komodo dragons. Check the website for fascinating daily animal talks, most of which are aimed towards kids.
Berlin Zoological Garden, or Zoologischer Garten Berlin as it is known to the locals is situated right in heart of the German capital and easily accessed from anywhere in the city via the U-Bahn and S-Bahn train network. It is one of the biggest and most popular zoos anywhere in Europe and probably best known for the uplifting but ultimately tragic story of Knut the polar bear. Highlights among the zoo’s collection of over 18,000 animals are lions, giraffes, penguins, Asian elephants, brown bears and Arctic wolves.
The Verdict: Chester Zoo is the winner thanks to its wide range of animals and child-friendly events.
3. Manchester Utd Museum & Tour vs Camp Nou Tour, Barcelona, Spain
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Manchester United have a fabled history and a bulging trophy cabinet which contains (among others) 13 Premier League trophies, 12 FA Cups and 3 European Cups. A trip round the museum and the iconic “Theatre of Dreams” is a must for any football fan (except Liverpool fans…and Man City fans….and Leeds fans…and Arsenal fans…well you get the idea!) However, put your loyalties aside for a moment for the sake of the kids as they’ll love walking out onto the Old Trafford pitch to the roar of the crowd and spending your money in the club shop!
The Camp Nou, the legendary home of FC Barcelona, is one of the true cathedrals of European football as well as being one of the largest stadia in the world. FC Barcelona players like Iniesta, Neymar, Suarez and of course Lionel Messi are household names all over the world. A tour of the stadium takes in the stands, the dressing rooms, the tunnel and the commentary boxes but the highlight is surely stepping out onto pitch level and taking a seat in the home team dugout. There is also the glittering trophy room, an interactive audio-visual area and multimedia installations to really make the experience complete.
The Verdict: Both are massive clubs but the romance of the Camp Nou wins hands down.
4. Alton Towers, near Stoke on Trent vs Disneyland Paris, France
Alton Towers is the place to go for thrill seekers in the UK. With major rides such as Nemesis, Oblivion and Galactica, white knuckle thrills are guaranteed for those who are brave enough. Younger visitors are also well catered for with Cbeebies land which features favourite characters like Mr Tumble, The Octonauts, Go Jetters and a brand new Furchester Hotel live show. There really is something for all the family at Alton Towers including plenty of shops and places to eat, rides to suit all ages and an on-site waterpark.
Disneyland Paris is the most visited theme park in Europe, welcoming millions of excited guests through its gates every year. The resort is marking its 25th anniversary this year and celebrating with a series of events including a new illuminations show, The Starlit Princess Waltz and some fanciful new dishes in the resort restaurants. With plenty of rides, shows and attractions to keep the whole family occupied for days, a visit to the Magic Kingdom will put a great big smile on everyone’s face.
The Verdict: Alton Towers gets the nod for its great combo of huge roller coasters and fun family attractions.
5. Tower of London vs Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
The Tower of London has dominated the City of London since the Norman conquest and over time has acted as a royal residence, a prison and a place of torture and execution. Today, the Tower is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions with the highlight being guided tours led by The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary (they’re Beefeaters to you and me!) You’ll hear stories from the Tower’s bloody history including the execution of Anne Boleyn, the murder of King Henry VI and the disappearance of Edward V and his brother the, Duke of York, better known as The Princes in The Tower. There’s a great collection of medieval arms and armour inside the White Tower and of course, the world famous Crown Jewels on display. Nowhere else in the country has so much history in such a small place and being right in the centre of London, the Tower is the perfect place to fill a day during your short break in the capital.
Neuschwanstein is the famous “fairy tale castle” built in the 19th century by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a personal retreat. Today, with over a million visitors a year Neuschwanstein is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Its towering spires and dramatic mountain top setting inspired the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland and also featured in family-favourite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The castle interior is luxuriously decorated, as befits a royal residence, with intricate mosaics and decorated wall hangings. The Hall of the Singers and the Throne Hall celebrate the knightly culture of the Middle Ages and the operas of Wagner such as Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and Parsifal (Ludwig was a big fan!) The castle’s isolated location in the mountainous Allgäu region means it’s a bit of a trek to get to though. From Munich you’ll need to catch a train to Füssen then a bus to Hohenschwangau followed by an uphill walk to the castle from the ticket office.
The Verdict: The Tower of London wins every time thanks to its bloody history and fascinating exhibitions.
6. Science Museum, London vs Museum of Technology, Berlin Germany
A perfect place to visit for enquiring minds, London’s Science Museum in South Kensington holds a collection of over 300,000 items. Highlights of the collection include Stephenson’s Rocket, the Apollo 10 Command Module and the Vickers Vimy aircraft which made the first ever flight across the Atlantic. There are several floors to explore with exhibitions on agriculture, energy, flight, steam power, medicine and space exploration. It’s just a short walk from South Kensington tube to the museum and the Natural History Museum and V&A Museum are right next door. Best of all, entry to the museums is free, great for a budget day out during your break in London!
The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin focuses on industrial technology and showcases aircraft, vehicles and trains across several sites that are all close together. The main hall is filled with historic aircraft including the iconic Junkers Ju 52 and a V-1 “Doodlebug” flying bomb. On the site of the former goods yard of the Anhalter Bahnhof is a huge collection of steam trains and other locomotives as well as historic road vehicles including more than 200 cars and trucks, 250 motorcycles and over 300 bicycles. There’s enough to keep everyone occupied for hours, make sure this is on your itinerary during your break in Berlin.
The Verdict: London’s Science Museum gets the thumbs up from us but it was a close call!
We make that a 4-2 win for the UK! Would you agree? Let us know in the comments section below…