Asterix and his chubby, super-strong companion Obelix have never truly penetrated Irish culture, but in France, the little and large, wittily violent gauls and their ongoing battle against the pesky Romans is part of the national psyche; a feature of childhood. So much so, they have their own theme park North East of Paris, complete with inept Romans, smiling stone gates, clunky mountains and frankly incredible rollercoasters.
Theme parks, you might say, are not usually for everyone. Long queues, pricey extras and overcrowding are significant offputting factors for many, in holiday spots that can feel like they’re solely “for the kids.” Not so at Parc Asterix. Paris’ ‘other’ big amusement stop off is one that offers big draws, but also gets the little details right.
Located in the middle of the wooded Oise national park, the sizeable park dedicated to the daft pair is widely noted as the stand out favourite amongst locals, and with seven major rollercoasters, several themed zones, quirky buildings and something for every age group, it’s easy to see why.
At the mild end of the excitement there are gentle floating river rides, train tracks and carousels suitable for two year olds, accessible with no notable queue at all. At the other extreme are the collection of rapid rides that have thrill-seekers flocking, served up amid a carefully constructed series of ancient realms taking in Greece, Rome, Gaul and Egypt.
These include Goudurix, a rollercoaster that feels like an extreme product of the old ‘Theme Park’ video games series, made up of a quickfire spin through five loop the loops and two barrel rolls in manic succession. Then there’s Oziris, a feet-hanging Egyptian themed monster that dips underground and delivers intense G Force; and Tonnerre 2 Zeus, which feels a little like a supersized, special-effects-filled version of Cu Chulainn in our own Emerald Park. A more laidback ride in theory, La Trace du Hourra imitates a bobsled, minus the snow, in that more than a rollercoaster, it’s a massive, high-speed slide without any track to guide it, something that feels intimidating in itself.
Elsewhere, the water thrills are a massive asset, too. Grand Splatch manages to be serene for most of its route, despite the occasional unexpected soaking before that big drop is delivered at the end, while a more traditional log flume and a couple of large, manic spinning water rides can be found elsewhere in the park.
Alongside that bobsled rollercoaster, other more unique attractions include DiscObelix, a large spinning disk that spins wildly out over the central lake, Main basse sur la Jaconde, a kind of wild car and bike event, and Caeser’s Challenge, a dynamic experience that is more of training exercise for entry into Caeser’s infamously hapless comicbook army.
In short, thrillseekers will not be disappointed (or, even on the best day, dry), but – for the adults at least – it’s the little touches that make Asterix stand out. Some thoughtful set ups include parents with young children only having to queue once for the major rides (the second parent, left with the kid, can queue jump immediately after the first returns), witty re-entry stamps allowing for trips out to the surrounding national park, an app that gives regularly updated queue times for every single ride (meaning you can fit much more in if you’re organised), and lots of great places to slow down.
That, and we’re treated like adults. Beer and wine are readily available, for example, and eating fast food is easy but not the only option. There are quiet spots to bed down for an inexpensive picnic, and nice little touches like splash guards for close up photos of the water rides, and a number of air drying machines to extend the day after you emerge soaked from head to toe.
Those quieter spots include a series of performances, which range from the daft and cheesy (a messy, comically-acted pirate battle on the lakefront) to the genuinely spellbinding (the gauls battling the Romans in a makeshift colosseum, magic shows, or divers leaping from tiny platforms soaring over the park).
The new addition for 2023, vertical rollercoaster Toutatis and its far tamer accompanying park, which comes with a golden boar some of the best small kids play areas we’ve come across, show the ambition the park has to expand.
There are a series of restaurants, from Caeser-themed pizza to wild boar served in a fruit-themed restaurant overlooking the lake, and our personal favourite, strong coffee slurped next to a knight in armour in sofas draped in Middle Eastern blankets.
Those staying in the park’s hotels directly outside the back door get 10% off everything (which means the restaurants and shops – the rides are included in entry), but the main bonus of booking into the nearby hotels is the options it gives to enjoy the park late and stress free.
Having tucked the toddler in bed, the ten year old and I return for a two hour blast around every rollercoaster, all of which have next to no queue during late evening opening, followed by a closing fireworks display to music that offers a finale after 10 at night. The proximity – less than 100 metres from the special hotel gate – is a huge asset.
As for our accommodation itself, Les Trois Hiboux features lots of delicate nods to Asterix and co, in the soaring wood-beamed roofs, the feast-like layout of the breakfast buffet and the organic-feeling but comfortable rooms opening straight out onto little balconies overlooking the forest.
Should you have the time, there’s pool, table tennis and meetings with Asterix characters for the little ones to soak up away from the park itself, while the neat family rooms have bunks tucked one side of the bathroom and a big double the other, ideal for decompressing after all those thrills.
All in, for a theme park, Parc Asterix totally lacks the frantic stresses of many of its contemporaries. Instead, we’re given a customer-friendly, thrill-heavy experience with lots of memorable asides. Above all, it feels like a place built for holiday ease, and the sense of calm that creates is priceless.
2 nights at Hotel Les 3 Hiboux start from €892 per room for a family of four with two children under 12. The price includes accommodation, breakfasts and tickets for 2 days at the park. Other options under the same conditions include Les Quais de Lutece at €993, and La Cite Suspendue at €921.
Parc Asterix hotels residents’ privileges include access to certain attractions 30 minutes before the Park opens, and a 10% reduction in the shops of the Park and on the Aerolaf.
To book, visit parcasterix.fr/en
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