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16 Mar 2017THEME PARK EXTRAVANGANZA

As a kid, there's nothing that can make or break a holiday like a trip to a theme park. Pick the right one, and you won't remember the queues, the expensive food or the nightmare of attempting to locate the car. Get it wrong, and everything will be considered awful for the entire day, and possibly the ones that follow. So it's no wonder that theme parks are big business, and getting bigger every year. And with a new wave of investment, there are new theme parks starting to appear all over the world. So here's our round-up of some of the bigger, bolder attractions coming our way soon.

We start in the United Arab Emirates, which is the largest growing market for theme parks (with spending expected to increase six-fold by 2020) in the world. Together with this and the region's reputation for not exactly being shy to splash the cash, it's little surprise that the one of the world's biggest new theme parks is set to open there in August. As well as offering 1.5 million square feet of space, divided into four zones for an expected 300,000 visitors per day, one of the key attractions of this attraction is that it's entirely indoors. With big-name brands such as Marvel and Cartoon Network on board, there's sure to be something for everyone. With this and two other huge theme parks – Legoland and Ferrari World already open, you'd think that this might dampen the UAE's enthusiasm for more attractions. But this is not the case – Fox Studios and Warner Bros are both working on huge parks, and there are several others also under construction.

Film studios are apparently a great source of inspiration for theme parks. So much so that Paramount are prepared to spend £3.5 billion on a new theme park in Essex, England. Scheduled to open in 2020, this will feature the usual rides and attractions, as well as a West End theatre, nightclub and one of the largest indoor water parks in Europe. Meanwhile, across the pond, established sites are getting a movie-related makeover – and how. The Star Wars expansions planned for both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida measure 40 acres each will both open in 2019. If you can't hold on that long, then there's another huge movie franchise to experience. James Cameron may still be working on the sequels to Avatar at the moment (three of them, to be precise, all being filmed simultaneously), but Pandora: World Of Avatar opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida this May.

Over in mainland Europe, things are a little less frantic. In Switzerland, amidst the admittedly stunning Alpine surroundings, they're planning on opening a Heidi-themed park. Based on the 19th Century novel of the same name, Heidi Alperlebnis (as it will be known) will be full of pastoral activities, such as goat-milking and stool-making. If you're wondering whether this resort (opening in 2020) will be popular enough to survive, then you should know that there is already a Heidi theme park 15 miles away. If you'd prefer something a little more rough and ready, then you should head on up to Norway, to Thor's Rike (Thor's Kingdom), a Viking-themed park that is currently under construction.

Of course, for the most technologically advanced – and the weirdest – theme parks in the world, you have to go to Japan. The Huis Ten Bosch Theme Park opened in 1992 and has a decidedly Dutch theme (can you imagine how crazy they'd go for a Heidi park over there?). Based on the official residence of the Dutch Royal Family that shares the same name, this park has many of the standard features that you'd expect to see in most theme parks, but there are also a couple of surprises. Located on the island of Hario, guests normally have to take a ferry to get there. But now there are plans to let you float at a leisurely pace toward the island in a luxury floating pod. No one is quite sure how these things will safely navigate the journey, nor how they will be powered, but it's a lovely idea nonetheless. The other feature of Huis Ten Bosch is something that we may well end up seeing a lot more of in the future – a hotel that, wherever possible, is staffed by robots. Here you can choose to be guided through the check-in process either by a very lifelike android, or by a robotic velociraptor in a jaunty hat – it's entirely up to you.

The maddest new theme park on the block seems to have come about as some sort of challenge on social media. The town of Beppu in Kyushu is renowned for its hot springs and spas, but no one can have expected the mayor, Yasuhiro Nagano, to take to Facebook with this video. If the video got 1 million ‘likes', he explained, the theme park – sorry, SPAmusement Park -  would become a reality. Well, it did, and so it is. Probably. Just as soon as they figure out the health and safety implications of combining rollercoasters and soapy water.