Europe's top attraction, Disneyland Paris, features two theme parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park), as well as Disney Village, seven themed hotels, and Golf Disneyland. The first two theme parks opened in April 1992, with other major attractions like Space Mountain opening in the next few years. Today the park attracts 16 million visitors a year.
Disneyland Paris is 32 kilometers (20 miles) outside of Paris.
Where to Stay
- Disneyland Hotel, close to Disneyland Paris and the Val d'Europe Shopping Center.
- The Hotel Cheyenne is where you hang up your stetson before eating at Chuck Wagon Café (buy your Stetson at the cowboy accessories shop)
Futuroscope Near Poiters
On the outskirts of Poitiers, the modernist buildings of Futuroscope set the scene for a whole range of different shows, cinema, games and interactive attractions. Now 25 years old, there are over 25 different attractions like the European Park of the Moving Image showing different films each year. In 1986, cybernetics appeared symbolizing major changes in today’s world with video games (which you have to pay for), in the underground Cyber Avenue. 3-D Imagery, Under the World’s Seas, Travel by Air and Sea, Cosmic Collisions and more are all superb experiences, attracting 1.8 million visitors a year.
Futuroscope is in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou just outside Poitiers in western France.
Where to Stay
- The 3-Star Novotel Poitiers Futuroscope is close to the Park.
- The Grand Hotel de l’Europe is a former coaching inn close to the major attractions in Poitiers.
Nausicaa in Boulogne-sur-Mer
Nausicaá is a great sea life center in Boulogne, where you can easily spend half or a whole day. More than an aquarium with a distinct purpose to show you the oceans, their place in the universe and the importance of the seas, it's so well designed that you feel you are exploring the whole watery world. In a nutshell, Nausicaá has 4.5 million liters of water, 34,000 animals and reproduces all the seas on earth.
It’s easy to reach from the UK by ferry and makes a great day out or a good start to a holiday in France.
Nausicaa is just outside the center of Boulogne-sur-Mer in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
Where to stay
- La Matelotte is Boulogne's smartest hotel, just opposite Nausicaa. Ask for a room at the front overlooking the sea and eat in the Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Or try the upmarket bed and breakfast, Les Terrasses de l'Enclos in the walled old town.
Parc Asterix, Picardy
Parc Astérix in Picardy is great fun for families, whether you know your Obélix from your Astérix and the diverse cast of characters from the original comic books or not. There are six different worlds from Egypt to the Vikings and much in between. There are lots of rides and attractions for all ages. It has 1.5 million visitors each year.
Park Asterix is just 30 km (20 miles) north of Paris so easy to reach for a day out. There's a daily shuttle bus from Paris. It's also a good place to stop if you're going further and want to entertain the kids.
Where to Stay
- The Hotel des Trois Hiboux (Three Owls Hotel) is on site and included in a special ticket. You can buy a ticket with special rates at nearby hotels.
- Or stay at nearby Compiegne which has a Napoleonic Palace, a car museum, a museum of miniatures and more attractions.
Puy du Fou, Near Nantes
It’s surprising that so few foreign visitors have heard of Puy du Fou as it is a really spectacular theme park. With around 1.4 million visitors a year, it's unlike anything you’ve experienced -- short of starring in Spartacus or Ben Hur. It’s in the Vendée, western France between Nantes, Poitiers, and Bordeaux.
It’s a huge site, offering a swash-buckling interpretation of history and includes medieval cities and villages, forests, a fort, and 19th-century town. But that’s just the start. You’ll also see five shows. Try Le Signe du Triomphe (Triumph's Sign), which takes place in the magnificent Gallo-Roman Stadium, a replica of the Roman Coliseum and takes you into the 3rd century A.D. when Gallic France and Rome were at loggerheads. The action is about prisoners who have to win the circus games to save their lives. There's music and action galore -- gladiator fights, chariot races, wrestling with wildcats and parades of exotic animals. In the evening there are two sound and light shows which are absolutely gorgeous.
You can stay in the park at one of three hotels and keep the fantasy going. There are also workshops where you can watch the horses being trained and try out various skills yourself.
Le Puy du Fou is just outside the small town of Les Herbiers, south of Cholet off the D160 in the Vendée.
Where to Stay
Stay in the Park at some wonderfully themed hotels like the Field of the Cloth of Gold where you can choose either a French or an English pavilion.
- The 5-star Chateau du Boisniard, a couple of miles from Puy du Fou, has traditional rooms, plus tree houses, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. It's a partner hotel so there are special deals with tickets.
- The Arcantis Hotel Les Archers is more modest, and a little further from the theme park.
Terra Botanica, Angers
Terra Botanica is great fun, teaching you in the gentlest way about the plant world and how it interacts in different parts of the globe. Opened in 2010, the theme park offers interactive exhibits for all the family, as well as four different ‘worlds’, rides through the park, a cinema, games and more. It has pretty areas for picnics as well as its own restaurant and cafes.
Each section has its highlight. In the 'Mysterious' plants area, don't miss the 3D film Journey to the Centre of the Plant following the journey of a raindrop through the tree in a seat that moves you around and mirrors the journey. But there are also areas that will intrigue the serious gardener: greenhouses dripping with strange green plants enveloped in steam; lovely walks over bridges showing the differences between cultivated rice fields and landscapes untouched by Man, a vegetable garden and rare plants you won't see in your back garden.
Terra Botanica is in Epinard, just outside Angers in Anjou, western France.
Where to Stay
- Try the Best Western Hotel d’Anjou for a comfortable, traditional hotel in the center of Angers.
- The charming Hotel du Mail is a 3-star just outside the main streets with a little courtyard.
- The Mercure Angers Centre is not pretty from the outside, but it's located beside a park, is well decorated and has all the modern conveniences.
Vulcania in the Auvergne
Vulcania is located deep in the heart of the Auvergne in a strange cone-like building with most of the attractions hidden underground. The unusual theme park explores the local volcanoes that formed the spectacular landscape so long ago in a park that has features like geysers and artificial water activities. But Vulcania goes further than an entertaining day out, with interactive displays to help understand the planet with all its extraordinary forces, its beauty, and strangeness.
You can climb on board Magma Explorer to go, seemingly into the heart of molten lava; watch how the volcanoes in the Auvergne came alive, and go with Martin and Titania on a ‘Magical Odyssee’. It’s both exciting and educational and is a great hit with parents and children.
Vulcania is located in the small town of Saint-Ours-les Roches, just 25 miles west of Clermont-Ferrand.
Where to Stay
- The Chateau de Codignat just outside Clermont Ferrand to the east is a fairytale hotel.
- The Hotel de la Poste in Pontgibaud is a simple hotel with comfortable rooms in the peaceful town of Pontgibaud. It's about 10 minutes away from Vulcania.