PortAventura, Catalonia, A Screamingly Good Weekend Away
We started this October half term with a great big scream and when I say scream, I mean SCREAM. We ventured to pastures new, delving, head first at times, into the depths of what Catalonia's PortAventura theme park has to offer.
Just an hour outside of Barcelona and on the outskirts of Salou, this theme park is a great location for any thrill seeking family, for a full holiday or just a long weekend away. There are so many rides and attractions waiting for you at the other end you will never hear the dreaded half term B word (bored). This theme park can only be described by us as EPIC but then, we do love a good roller-coaster and these are pretty wild. Plus with a great range of hotels on site and off, with various themes and amenities, you'd be really pushed to get closer to the action or a better theme park weekend in Europe (well outside of the uk obviously, see my reviews of Thorpe park here).
With just a ninety minute flight there and an extra thirty minutes on return, this is actually quicker to get to than driving to other destinations in the UK. Ok, ok, so that's not adding in airport times and transfers but you get my point, if theme parks are your families thing then this is the short break you're looking for.
Hotel Gold River, PortAventura, Catalonia
After a little mix up with our hotels, a break down from Kyd, a tour of Hotel PortAventura, then checking into Hotel ElPaso and finally making it to our original hotel, the beautiful Hotel Gold River, which is where we stayed for the 2 nights, we were finally there. (Mix up promptly sorted after speaking to the correct person and apparently is due to it not being booked by the routine booking process, out of our hands and there's, so don't hold it against them).
This hotel is probably one of the coolest places we've stayed at. Themed on the Wild West with cowboys throughout, you get taken back in time to a place you have only seen in the movies. With ** separate buildings each themed to a different type of old fashioned, cowboy style movie store and centred around an elegantly decorated Town Hall building, full of homely western style rooms, you couldn't get a more exciting atmosphere to start and end your day at a theme park. The best part is it is actually attached to the park with its own entrance, making life pretty easy for us families with medical needs.
PortAventura, Theme Park, Catalonia
What can I say about the actual park... it is very well thought out and has everything a family may wish on a day out/holiday. There are rides for everyone, with an area specifically designed for the younger members of the family, which does get pretty busy, so be aware of that. The thrill rides are exactly how they are described on the tin... thrilling. They also hold something for everyone, from slow and spiny to tall and petrifying, whether you like rides or not, there is something for you. We never got to a show as Rocky isn't the easiest toddler to get seated for shows in general but I have heard amazing things and if we go back I am definitely getting involved in that side of the park too. You are never too far away from a toilet either, making life really easy for Kyd and his medical needs. The facilities were clean and safe and I was never too aware of any escapism issues for either Kyd or Rocky. It can get very busy, I do suggest investing in an Express Pass for the main rides, even at the end of the season, October, the queues were 60mins long on the larger rides, but 12mins on the smaller, so swings and roundabouts with that.
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This weekend wasn't without it's special needs mishaps, we had issues from the beginning but the staff were more than helpful to accommodate Kyd's needs. People with speech issues may wish to have a carer with them at all times, the Spanish staff find it hard to understand most clear English so those with speech issues can get completely lost in translation. The staff were all pretty good, but I did find that a lot of the other guests stared a lot, different culture it seems. The good news though, I saw several school trips of Special Needs children and teachers throughout the day, meaning this is a tried and tested park for such needs and that showed throughout the parks staff.
Ride Access Passes - You can get free express passes/exit passes for the rides by taking proof of disability to customer services on arrival. Your DLA letter or letter from your GP (must be stamped and dated).
Accessibility - The park is quite large and very spread out, so could be difficult for those who have difficulties walking. However, there are plenty of places to sit and relax, so don't let that put you off.
Special dietary needs - I suggest you learn the Spanish for does this contain Nuts/Dairy/whatever you aren't allowed... the serving staff don't often understand the English version of it. If you aren't sure... don't risk it.
Accommodation - Staying on site is definitely advisable. With unrestricted access to the park with your room key, it makes life easier if you need to make quick trips for medication, clothes changes, naps and so on. On that note, if you are staying at the park may I suggest picking the Hotel Gold River rather than the Hotel PortAventura, after seeing them both, the Hotel Gold River Town Hall, is more accessible for accessibility issues, less steps. Avoid the ElPaso, the distance is further to the park and although there is a fun little train, which you'd need to fold your chair up for, it makes emergency trips to your room a nightmare and take much longer out of the fun part of your day.