If you’re planning a big family day out for October half term and can’t decide between heading to a zoo or a theme park – don’t panic.
Flamingo Land – just crowned Yorkshire’s Most Magnificent Attraction for 2014 – manages to do both well, offering something for everyone.
Nestled in the North Yorkshire countryside near Malton, Flamingo Land has been delighting children since 1959, making it a firmly established spot on the tourist map.
However, things have changed a lot over the years and I was pleasantly surprised by the range of things to do and the quality of the animal enclosures.
Flamingo Land has plenty of rides for little ones with a good selection of carousels, roundabouts and child-friendly coasters.
However, as well as the kind of rides you’d expect at a funfair or theme park, there is an interactive water play area – great if the weather is warm and you remember to pack towels and a change of clothes – called Splish Splosh and HMS Bouncy, a soft play area based on a pirate ship, as well as Children’s Planet, an attractive outdoor adventure playground where children can get up close to meerkats while they play.
The zoo has had some exciting arrivals this year including Sumatran tiger triplets and a zebra foal.
Youngsters can check out farm animals on a tractor ride, before coming face to face with more exotic animals ranging from penguins and lions to baboons and, of course, the flamingos which gave the park its name.
And children who prefer dinosaurs to present-day animals are well catered for with a the collection of animatronic prehistoric beasts positioned around Dino Stone Park.
And the day is rounded off with a special show featuring party dances and performances from a pair of giant meerkats – much to the delight of little ones still with energy to burn after an action-packed day.
For those who want to get their pulse racing, there are a number of large rollercoasters, including Kumali, in which visitors dangle their legs as they travel upside down, and Mumbo Jumbo, with some extreme drops.
One thing which surprised me is Flamingo Land allows guests to bring their dogs with them. They are not allowed in the zoo, but elsewhere families can be seen taking their pet for a walk while enjoying the park.
In recent years, the park has been following the lead set by some of its competitors and establishing itself as a holiday destination in its own right.
People can stay at the resort in their own tents or caravans for a low-budget option and there are also log cabins and holiday homes to rent.
To tie in with the accommodation, there is a range of places to eat and a leisure complex complete with pool, sauna and gym.
There is so much more to Flamingo Land than meets the eye – and you’re bound to find something to keep every member of the family, young and old, amused.