From Peppa Pig To Thomas The Tank Engine: The Best UK Theme Parks For Young Children

Theme parks are a great day out for all ages and the UK has some brilliant options, but is it worth taking young children? Some theme parks have very little for toddlers and preschoolers to do so, but there are lots of great options too. Which of the British theme parks are best to visit with children under five? These are the tried and tested top theme parks my children have loved visiting best.

Which Are The Best UK Theme Parks To Visit With Toddlers And Preschoolers?

A family on a red tractor going round a track with plants around at a theme park
Choose the best theme park for your family to visit

Alton Towers Resort

Alton, Staffordshire, ST10 4DB

Alton Towers is the biggest theme park in the UK, but thanks to the design you wont have to walk all over to find rides for young children. CBeebies Land is just inside the main entrance to Alton Towers and has most of the theme parks rides which are suitable for young children as well as an entertainment space. 

The rides and attractions in CBeebies Land are themed around popular CBeebies programmes and they change these every so often so if your children watch CBeebies regularly they will find characters they love. The whole area is very child friendly, but if your toddler is under 90cm they wont be able to go on all the rides. On most of the rides in CBeebies Land preschoolers will need to ride with an adult (over 16).

When we went my daughter was borderline height and we were given a wristband saying she was over 90cm so we didn't have to go through getting her to stand straight and be measured on each ride. Apparently they still measure you each time now even with the wristbands, but they might still be worth getting. Ask at the rides or guest services if you want one. 

We found the queues in CBeebies Land were really long in the morning, but it got quieter later in the day as some families with younger children head home. You can break up the time queuing by going to the “Big Fun Showtime” area for entertainment or going to the play area. It’s also worth checking out what is happening at the Events Stage which is just outside CBeebies Land.

Outside of CBeebies Land it’s worth a visit to the World of David Walliams area where they can go on the carousel (with an adult) and a few other rides if over 90cm. There is also no minimum age for the Skyride cable cars.

Other than rides Alton Towers has Sharkbait Reef by SEA LIFE which is an aquarium children will enjoy visiting. In the middle of the park is a garden which can be a quieter area to walk around if you are pushing a pushchair and attempting to get your toddler to nap.

Next to Alton Towers Theme Park is the (mostly) inside Water Park. This is a fun place to visit and has an area for younger children, but this it is separate payment and entry so not worth taking time out if only visiting Alton Towers for the day.

As a Merlin Attraction Alton Towers have Parent & Toddler tickets available for off peak weekdays. These currently cost £29 which is cheaper than the lowest price prebought adult ticket. The Parent & Toddler tickets must be bought in advance and they have limited numbers available for each day. Under 3s get free every day. 


Young children are bound to be familiar with the CBeebies characters so they will love CBeebies Land. If your child is under 90cm (with shoes) check which rides in CBeebies Land they can't go on in advance (eg Octonauts and Go Jetters are 90cm plus) so you can manage their expectations.

It is great that the preschooler friendly activities (other than Sharkbait Reef) are close together so little legs won’t have to walk so far in this huge theme park. You can effectively ignore half the theme park if visiting with just small ones. 

The entrance sign to Cbeebies Land at Alton Towers
CBeebies Land is inside Alton Towers Theme Park

Rides at Cbeebies Land including the Postman Pat ride
CBeebies Land has lots of rides and attractions based on CBeebie shows

Chessington World Of Adventures Resort

Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey, KT9 2NE

On the face of it Chessington can seem less appealing to visit with young children as it doesn't have the big themed areas that the other theme parks on this list have, but I think it is a great place to visit with preschoolers. There are still familiar characters as they have a couple of Julia Donaldson/ Axel Scheffler themed rides and this summer they have entertainment from JJ and Cody from CoComelon. 

There are a reasonable number of rides with no height limit including a couple of rides where you sit in a car that goes around a track, a flying elephant ride, a carousel, the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure and A Room of The Broom walkthrough. Children over 90cm have a lot more they can go on including: bumper cars, a small pirate ship and Barrel Bail Out where you have a wind up water pistol you can soak other riders (and those watching).

The rides suitable for younger children are spread out throughout the park and there is lots for little ones to see other than rides too. There is an indoor soft play area and outdoor play areas (although they are raised off the ground and an adult will need to accompany them). There are also a lot of animals to see throughout the park. 

Animal areas include: the Trail of The Kings with lions and gorillas, a SEA LIFE centre, Lorikeet Lagoon (a walk through where you can feed Lorikeet and see other birds), the Wanyama Village & Reserve (including zebras, giraffe, rhino and more), Youhoo & friends children’s zoo (goats, pigs etc), penguins, sea lions and tigers. I have been to zoos with far less animals than Chessington. They also have animal displays by the keepers through out the day in the area outside the house (where Room on the Broom is).

Throughout the day there are shows which will appeal to children, including preschooler targeted shows during term time (they currently have various CoComelon and Gruffalo shows and meet and greets). We visited during their Mardi Graaa festival which takes place late Spring/ Early Summer and there is Wilderfest over the Summer holidays which is lots of fun too. My preschooler loved these performances.

As a Merlin attraction Parent & Toddler tickets can be bought in advanced for off peak weekdays for £29 and like Alton Towers under 3s get free entry every day.   


Children under 90cm are limited on the number of rides they can go on, but there is a good range for those over this height. If your children love animals there are a lot to see all over the site which means you can easily fill your day. The shows are worth catching too. Full information about the rides young children can go on at Chessington available here.

The mini stage at Chessington with JJ and Cody CoComelon characters on
Dance and play with JJ and Cody from CoComelon at Chessington

some giraffes at Chessington world of adventures
Chessington World of Adventures Resort has more animals than many zoos

LEGOLAND Windsor Resort

Winkfield Road, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 4AY

The big appeal of LEGOLAND theme parks is obviously LEGO, but you can spend the day there and pay little attention to the bricks (although the theming is throughout the park). It is a great family theme park that is designed with young children in mind.

DUPLO Valley is the main area for toddlers and preschoolers. It has quite a few rides, shows and a playground, but there are other rides across the site that young children will enjoy. 

Children under 90cm go free to LEGOLAND, in recognition that there are less rides suitable for them, but there are actually quite a lot that they can go on. They may not enjoy all the rides they are theoretically allowed on eg my toddler found Ninjago where you are in a vehicle going round 3D screens and firing lasers, scary. This does make it a great theme park for younger children who love thrill rides though. 

The favourite rides suitable for younger children include a submarine ride where you can see out into an aquarium, Coastguard HQ where you get to drive a boat (although younger children won’t be able to reach so the adult controls the boat) and a train ride. If they are over 90cm there are only 9 rides they can’t go on and over 1 metre they can go on pretty much everything. This makes it great for families and does spread the crowds around a bit more. 

LEGOLAND has 2 splash parks (next to each other) which are open in warmer weather with the smaller one aimed at younger children. 

Other than rides there is plenty of entertainment on throughout the day, the pirate show on the lake is particularly worth taking time to see. There is also a good selection of quieter activities if you need some down time including a sensory space in Heartlake City. 

Miniland is a world made from LEGO with moving trains etc which children enjoy watching, but this is worth saving until the end as it is on the way out and you can enjoy it after the rides have closed. There are also locations throughout the park where you can spend time playing with LEGO as well as playgrounds and The Magical Forest walkthrough.

As you have to pay for children over 90cm you may have to pay for entry at a younger age than Chessington or Alton Towers. Find out more about the rides for toddlers and preschoolers at LEGOLAND here.


There is lots of ride choice for younger children and some great entertainment shows. Other than these the main activity is making LEGO or looking at LEGO so this theme park is best suited to either young children who you know enjoy rides or who enjoy LEGO/  DUPLO. 

A girl in a red car driving round a track at LEGOLAND
There are lots of rides for toddlers and preschoolers at LEGOLAND Windsor

Children looking at English landmarks made from LEGO at LEGOLANDS miniland
Enjoy calm moments in a world made from LEGO

Paultons Park - Home of Peppa Pig World

Ower, Romsey, The New Forest, Hampshire SO51 6AL

For many Paultons Park is thought of as Peppa Pig World, but it’s actually a good theme park with plenty more to explore for all ages. Yes Peppa Pig fans will love the Peppa Pig World area which has a number of gentle rides, familiar characters, endless music and a nice splash park area but if you find the queues are getting a bit much then explore the rest of the park. There are rides throughout the park suitable for younger ones, a dinosaur area, several playgrounds, quiet garden areas and animals to see.

In Peppa Pig World only one ride has a minimum height (George’s Dinosaur Adventure) and that’s only 85cm. In the other areas of the park there are over 10 rides with no height restrictions and lots more from 90cm.

If visiting in summer there is a splash park (Muddy Puddles) in Peppa Pig World and a large splash park (Water Kingdom) in another area of the park which is good for little ones too as there is no deep water

Parking is free (the only one of the theme parks on this list that has free parking). Children under 1 metre are free and don’t need a ticket. The cheapest advance tickets are slightly more than the Merlin parks, but the on the day price is slightly cheaper.


Peppa Pig fans will absolutely love visiting Paultons Park, but don’t forget to explore the rest of the park as there is lots to see and do. Away from the Peppa Pig World area the queues tend to be shorter too. 

A wooden climbing frame that looks like a dinosaurs skeleton
There is a lot to explore at Paulton's Park

A toddler on a Peppa Pig World boat ride withe Peppa Pig characters visible
but it is best known for the area known as Peppa Pig World

Drayton Manor Resort

Drayton Manor Drive, Near Tamworth, Staffordshire, B78 3TW

I think Drayton Manor can get over looked due to it's relative proximity to Alton Towers, but it is well worth visiting. It is home to Thomas Land which has rides for young children with a Thomas The Tank Engine (or Thomas and Friends) theming. Most of the rides suitable for younger guests are in this area, but some of the rides have minimum height restrictions so they aren't all suitable for toddlers. 

There is a really good range of rides for little ones and they don’t usually have crazy queues (like you can experience at Peppa Pig World). Don’t worry if your child doesn’t really know or show an interest in Thomas The Tank Engine, the rides are a lot of fun anyway (and it might save you money in the shop!)

Outside of Thomas Land there are a few rides suitable for preschoolers including Flying Dutchman (you sit in boats that fly round in a circle), Slipnir (a horse ride), a carousel and the 4D Cinema which shows short 4D Thomas themed films. There are also several play areas, a small dinosaur trail and a good size zoo. At the far end of the zoo there is a small toddler friendly play area and a model railway which is worth the walk. To help little legs I recommend getting the train to Tidmouth Hault Station and then walking back through the zoo (the queue at the station to do this in reverse is often longer).

There is no splash park at Drayton Manor, but there are a couple of water rides children over 90cm can cool off on if it is hot including a new mini log flume and Captain’s Sea Adventure.

Drayton Manor also do Parent and Toddler tickets for £29 like the Merlin attractions. These can be bought for weekdays in term time. Otherwise children under 2 are free, 2 and 3 year olds are £15 and adults are a varying rate depending on when you book for.


A lovely theme park with a good concentration of rides in Thomas Land for younger children as well as some playgrounds and a good size zoo. 

A young child on a Thomas The Tank Engine model
Drayton Manor Resort is a lovely theme park to visit with toddlers and preschoolers

A photo taken on a circular train ride at Thomas Land with a view across to other rides
There are lots of different style rides for young children in Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Resort

Conclusion - Which Theme Park is best for Toddlers and Preschoolers?

If your child is a big fan of LEGO, Peppa Pig, Thomas the Tank Engine or watches a lot of CBeebies then the appeal of the themed areas in the relevant theme park will probably outweigh what else is on offer. Theming aside all these theme parks offer a full days worth of activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Chessington and Alton Towers seem to have less rides for younger ones (especially those under 90cm), but they have plenty of other activities and entertainment. Chessington and Drayton Manor have a huge number of animals, although at Chessington these are spread out across the site and at Drayton Manor they have them in one zoo area.

Flamingo Land Resort in North Yorkshire is also worth checking out (read this review to find out more).

Thorpe Park, the other big London area theme park, is targeted more at older children and adults so there isn't much for children until they are over 1 metre other than a splash park and a playground.

If you don’t fancy a full day out at a theme park then lots of the British coastal resorts have really good “theme parks” where you can go enjoy either a few rides or buy passes and spend the day going on as many rides as you want. Examples include: Great Yarmouth with both the Pleasure Beach and Joyland (which has more rides for little ones), Southend’s Adventure Island, Clacton On Sea in Essex and Blackpool Pleasure Beach. 

UK Theme Park Breaks - Staying In Resort Hotels

We have stayed at the onsite resort hotels for all of the theme parks above (except Paultons Park because they don’t have one). They are expensive compared to a basic hotel, but a really nice treat if you can afford it.  Many of the Merlin hotel rooms sleep 5 people (we have a family of 5) so compared to 2 days theme park entry for us all outside of the school holidays it can work out quite competitive. 

You used to always get theme park entry included for the day before and after your stay, but the Merlin hotels now often include only 1 day entry (this year you got 2 days if you booked before July). You do get other perks from staying onsite though, normally including: early access, evening entertainment (you get evening access to the Wanyama reserve at Chessington too) and free parking. 

We have loved staying at the hotels, but one of the best things is that when you plan to spend 2 days at the theme parks it takes the pressure off and you don’t feel you need to cram in as much as possible into the one day. You can get this same bonus by staying at the considerably cheaper nearby hotels and booking for entry either side of your stay.

Tips For Visiting Theme Parks With Young Children

  • People apparently shrink during the day so if your child is only just tall enough for some rides make sure you go on those earlier in the day.
  • Break up queuing by watching the shows, going to the playgrounds or seeing animals between rides.
  • Bring snacks and entertainment for the queue.
  • Visiting on a weekday in term time will normally be much quieter, but not always. School inset days and school trips can make them busier than the weekend. Avoid Mondays and Fridays as they can often be busier than midweek due to families taking weekend breaks.
  • Ideally you need a 1 adult to 1 child ratio (especially when under 1.1m) as so many rides require an adult to accompany younger children and some of them only have 2 seats. 
  • A day at a theme park includes a lot of walking and standing around. It can be helpful to bring a pushchair with you, but you will normally have to leave it at the entrance of ride queues in unsupervised areas.
  • Theme parks have different opening hours through out the season so check in advance when it will close on the day you are visiting. The advertised time refers to when the ride queues close and as long as you are in a queue before that time you will get to go on the ride. 
  • At most theme parks you need to pay for parking. It is worth buying parking in advance with your tickets so you don't need to worry when leaving with tired kids.
I have written a few posts with tips for visiting LEGOLAND which will be helpful whichever theme park you are going to. Check out: 

I hope you find my suggestions for the best UK theme parks for toddlers and preschoolers helpful. Most of the best theme parks in the UK cater to all ages so they are great to visit with children, but if you have children age 2, 3 or 4 you can sometimes find the day needs a bit more planning to ensure everyone is happy. So which theme park will you be heading to this year?

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