Combining sunshine and an adrenaline rush, Emily Shelley takes her family to Port Aventura World

HALF a million Brits fly to Barcelona every year and don’t see anything of the city and its famous architecture.

And no, they’re not on stag dos...they’re heading straight to the number one leisure destination in the Mediterranean – Port Aventura World. This collection of theme parks and hotels, with a water park, a beach club and new attractions every year, is second only to Disneyland Paris on the European visitor leader-board.

There are five themed hotels to choose from, each with pools and gardens. We’re staying in a US frontier town from the late 19th century called Sullivan City, home of Hotel Gold River. Here, visitors can sleep in the town’s ‘jail’ and eat in its ‘opera house’, while dodging sky-high cacti and jigging along to piped cowboy music.

Hotel guests get Express passes to the theme parks included in their ticket, so if you can tear yourself away from the beautiful ‘desert river’ swimming pools around the hotel, it’s a short walk to the main park. Express means just that – no queues for any rides. This is worth its weight in frontier gold if you’ve small children with you. It also opens up so many more rides than you’d ever usually have time for.

It strikes us how much has been done to make sure there is something to appeal to every member of the family – from grandparents who can enjoy theatre shows, beautiful gardens and gentle boat rides, to teens seeking the biggest thrills on the continent, and toddlers who are so often forgotten by these kinds of attractions. With that in mind, here are the things you must do in Port Aventura World:

SESAME STREET SHOOTER

New for the 2019 season is Street Mission. Put on 3D glasses and use a laser gun to shoot cookies for Cookie Monster as you zoom around a part real/part CGI Sesame Street, with enough twists, turns and fake falls to give everyone a surprise.

ACCELERATE TO 180MPH IN FIVE SECONDS

One of the theme parks on offer is Ferrari Land, which is a smart Italian-themed collection of driving and speed-based rides. You must experience the Red Force which has a minimum height requirement of 1.4m. This vertical accelerator ride can be seen from miles around as it rises to 112m high, and you know it’ll be fast when they hand you goggles as you climb in. Once you’ve been shot up this tower like a bullet from a gun, it’s up to gravity and the wind speed – you’ll go all the way over the top and back down or fall backwards to where you started.

DRIVE A FERRARI

Ok, not a real Ferrari. But on various simulators, you can drive a Ferrari around the world, an F1 version around Monte Carlo, and then with more competition than necessary a real-life go-cart Ferrari in a race against the kids. In Ferrari Land, there’s also a kids’ version of the Red Force accelerator and a large play area.

SLIDE DOWN THE HIMALAYAS

The Shambhala ride in the ‘China’ region of the main park is iconic among rollercoaster fans.

It’s the tallest in Europe at 76m high, has the longest descent with a drop of 78m and is still the fastest, reaching speeds of 134mph.

Crewe Guardian:

Like climbing Everest, this is not for everyone – including me.

Thankfully, there’s a mini-model of the Great Wall on which to stand and watch those much braver than yourself descend it.

RIDE A FLYING FISH

In the area of the park for younger families, Sesamo Aventura, which is all Sesame Street-themed, is this seemingly innocuous ride. It involves getting your own fish to steer through the water as you spin round, trying and failing to splash your siblings. In fact, much of this area designed for parents to ride with babies and toddlers appeals to our older kids.

We pull our way up a tower in swinging chairs, ride the child-friendly Tami Tami rollercoaster and run around the ‘magic tree’ at its centre.

FLY LIKE A CONDOR

To be more exact, you’ll fall like a condor – dropping 86m vertically at 100mph. Hurakan Condor is the main ride in the ‘Mexico’ area of the park, and not advisable after a taco lunch. You’ll get a good view of the whole resort on the way up, but don’t expect to see anything on the way down, as it takes just three seconds.

TEMPLO DEL FUEGO

This is one of the 40 shows you can catch across the parks, from Wild West shooting stunts, to Polynesian dancing. In the Templo, which is set inside a replica Mayan pyramid, you’ll follow an explorer through a series of challenges and dodge shooting flames and unexpected explosions.

Rooms at The Hotel Gold River at Port Aventura World start from £155.05 per night (room only), including one-day access per stay per person to Port Aventura Park, and Ferrari Land. A three-day ticket covering Port Aventura Park, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land without accommodation starts from E85/£73.50 per adult and E74/£64 per child, if purchased online. Visit portaventuraworld.com.