I totally love theme parks. However, I’d be the first to admit that to a degree, it can be true that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Some rollercoasters, a few gentle rides for the kids, over-sized cartoon characters and some indifferent food stands, and you’re pretty much there. But Futuroscope in Poitiers-Charentes is a bit different.Opened in 1987, Futuroscope is France’s second largest theme park but despite this, it doesn’t have a single rollercoaster. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no thrills or scream-inducing rides – we particularly enjoyed “Danse avec les Robots” in which you are basically strapped in pairs to the end of a robotic arm and thrown about in a “nightclub” to sounds mixed by a top DJ (according to Toby – I’d never heard of him.) The particularly brilliant thing about this ride is you can choose from three levels – easy (can just about do straight after lunch) to difficult (a lot of being turned upside down) and even quite small children are allowed to do the easy level.

The 4D Arthur and the Minimoys ride (directed by The Big Blue’s Luc Besson no less) – basically an IMAX screen coupled with a chair which chucks you around – is as scary as any rollercoaster. The added “spiders.”” water sprays and puffs of air which accompany what’s happening on the screen, it’s also a lot more fun.

The ride we (especially Livi) was most excited about, though, was the new Lapins Cretins (Raving Rabbids) ride, which is a toilet-humoured trip through time in the same vein as the Arthur ride, but funny rather than scary. Everyone comes off laughing – we did the ride three times.

As well as the rides – there are live shows (the magic show was particularly impressive) and 3D IMAX films about everything from the bottom of the sea to saving baby gorillas and elephants.

Despite visiting on a not-too-hot-but-not-raining-either day in the middle of the summer holidays, the park was uncrowded and even for the most popular rides, queues were rarely more than half an hour and dwindled to next to nothing by the time of well-worth-staying-for evening show. This, along with very helpful staff, good signposting and attractive buildings broken up by plenty of water features made it feel altogether less stressful than theme parks can sometimes be.

We stayed in the Futuroscope Hotel which offers simple but spacious and well-designed family rooms for up to five people and a walkway to the park at a very reasonable price. Plus, you get Lapins Cretins at breakfast. What more could anyone ask for?

Disclosure – our Futurocope entrance tickets and hotel were provided by the Poitou-Charentes Tourist Board.

About catherinecooper

Journalist and author specialising in travel with children. I write for several national publications and am author of Travelling with Children: A Parent's Guide. You can see some of my articles at www.catherinecooper.net
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