Staying at a theme park was once strictly a Disney thing. These days, however, a whole array of parks around the UK, Europe and the world encourage visitors to stay overnight and make the most of their visit. Benefits of doing so often include early entry to the park, so you can get on the best rides without queuing, special activities or experiences exclusive overnight guests, and live entertainment in the evenings.
Packages often comprise a night’s accommodation (sometimes in themed rooms designed for families) and two days’ park entry, meaning you can enjoy all the rides/attractions at a more leisurely pace – with the bonus that the second day generally works out free. Though there's always the opportunity to stay longer – some of the below hotels are resorts in their own right.
This brilliant theme park, zoo and aquarium a short hop from central London has an African-themed hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) and a newer jungle-themed option, with the two sharing an indoor fun pool (alternatively you can come glamping here in summer). Get the flavour by reading our review of a short break at Chessington World of Adventures, including a giraffe-feeding experience exclusive to hotel guests.
Brimming with LEGO models, including in its themed Pirate, Adventure, Kingdom and Friends rooms, this jolly option also offers an indoor pool and pirate-themed waterpark, an indoor play area (handily located beside the bar and restaurant) and live entertainment galore. Read our review of the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort. There's also the newer LEGOLAND® Castle Hotel.
This funky shark-themed property at the thrill-seekers’ paradise has cute capsule-style rooms with a double bed and two bunks, perfect for families here to frighten themselves daft on the likes of Saw: the Ride and Swarm Backwards. Overnighters get exclusive 'first to ride' access before the gates open in the morning.
As well as early access to the theme park itself, overnight guests at these or one of the two hotels (one Caribbean-themed and the other explorer-themed) get free use of the excellent waterpark. See our reviews of the Alton Towers Hotel and the Splash Landings Hotel. There are treehouses and cute woodland lodges, perfect for little Hobbits, and the newer CBeebies Land Hotel.
REST OF EUROPE
A very French theme park and a quirky alternative to the big players, Parc Astérix also offers its own refreshingly different accommodation – the charming, rustically styled ‘Three Owls’, complete with character breakfasts, balconies with woodland views, a games room and a play area. There are two further themed hotels on-site.
Of countless official Disneyland and other family-friendly hotels and apartments around France’s second most popular attraction, these three score most highly in TripAdvisor ratings for their leisure facilities and optional extras, which include indoor pools, character breakfasts and fast-track tickets and/or early access to the theme parks for those who abhor queues.
Of five on-site hotels at Spain’s most exciting themepark – home to Europe’s tallest fastest rollercoaster, as well a great Sesame Street themed area for younger kids – these two stand out. PortAventura has a Mediterranean village feel, while Gold River brings together tacky but fun Wild West theming, including cacti-dotted ‘streets’, with surprisingly stylish rooms. Both have swimming pools, and both include tickets to PortAventura and discounts for its fantastic waterpark, Costa Caribe. See our review of a stay at the Hotel PortAventura.
Cute igloo-themed kids’ rooms are among the options at this latest hotel offering at the Gardaland Resort. As an alternative to the Arctic accommodation, you can also choose from Wild West, jungle and Arabian themed rooms, all sleeping up to five. In addition to themepark access, guests get use of a pool complex and access to three restaurants – one Tutankhamun-themed.
REST OF THE WORLD
This luxury Polynesian-themed option sits in the heart of Dubai's vast new theme-park and leisure complex, with views towards the rollercoasters and other rides and attractions from its swanky rooftop terrace. When you're not out thrill-seeking, there's a lazy river, a kids' pool, and kids' clubs allowing you to slink off to the spa or get in a fitness class.
Guests at this colourful hotel get great views of the Disneyland Park Fireworks Show from the rooftop with its pool and slide, and some rooms also enjoy themepark views. Other treats include a seaside-themed cinema with deckchairs, and character meet-and-greets at mealtimes. Guests use a private entrance to Disney California Adventure® Park and enjoy early admission to the various Disney attractions.
Hard Rock Hotel and Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal Studios Florida®
Of the official Universal Hotels, these stand out. The music-themed, surprisingly stylish Hard Rock Hotel is in the heart of the action and includes the likes of character meet-and-greets and ‘dive-in’ pool movies. The Cabana Bay is one for lovers of retro Americana, with bright and quirky rooms and an iconic dive-tower waterslide. Both have sandy beach areas with cabana hire.
Right next to the theme park, this stylish option takes the sea, dinosaurs and movies as its theme, with decor including a 15m-long fish tank behind the front desk, a giant dino-egg and even dinosaur skeletons hanging from the restaurant ceiling. Regular events include the likes of Minion invasions.
See also our guide to family holidays in Orlando, the world's theme-park capital.