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In depth

Merlin Entertainments Group

Merlin Entertainments is the owner/operator of theme parks and other attractions in Europe and the second largest theme park and attractions operator in the world after Disney. It owns and operates major theme parks and attractions in the UK, USA and across the world.

With headquarters in Poole, Dorset, England, Merlin Entertainments operates more than fifty theme parks and attractions in ten European countries together with theme parks and attractions in the USA, China and Hong Kong. It has worked successfully with both other theme park and attractions operators and public bodies . Merlin Entertainments is majority owned by private equity company Blackstone Group.

In March 2007, Merlin Entertainments agreed to buy The Tussauds Group for £1 billion. In 2006 Merlin Entertainments and Tussauds between them attracted over 30 million visitors and had over 13, 000 employees.

Since the merger with Tussauds was completed on 22 May 2007, The Tussauds Group no longer exists, with control of its theme parks and attractions, including Madame Tussauds, the British Airways London Eye, Alton Towers and Thorpe Park passing to Merlin Entertainments.

On 17 July 2007, Merlin entertainments sold the freeholds of a number of its theme parks and attractions, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle and Madame Tussauds to private investor Nick Leslau’s investment firm Prestbury. Although these theme parks and attractions are now owned by Leslau, they are still operated by Merlin Entertainments, under the terms of a 35-year renewable lease. The family theme park, Chessington World of Adventures (the fifth Tussaud’s attraction) was not included in the agreement.

Merlin Entertainments’ broad Portfolio of  Theme parks and Attractions includes:

Major Theme Parks

Thorpe Park – The UK’s second-biggest theme park, with over 40 rides and attractions Gardaland    Italy’s biggest theme park , a 60 acre site with 50 rides and attractions and a 247-room hotel
Heide Park – Germany’s second-largest theme park, with over 60 rides and attractions, a dolphin display and an on site hotel
 Alton Towers – the UK’s biggest theme park, with more than 50 rides and attractions, 2 hotels, a waterpark, conference centre and spa
Chessington World of Adventures – a major theme park outside London, boasts over 50 rides and attractions, a zoo, aquarium and the Holiday Inn Safari Lodge Hotel

Midway City Attractions

The London Eye – the world’s biggest observation wheel and London’s biggest visitor attraction
Dungeons – the London Dungeon and its sister attractions in Edinburgh, York, Hamburg and Amsterdam
 Madame Tussauds waxwork exhibitions – Famous family attraction, operates in The US, the UK, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, China, with further attractions opening in 2008 in Berlin and Hollywood
Sea Life Centres – 26 aquarium style attractions across the UK and Europe    * The
Seal Sanctuaries – operate from three centres: the National Seal Sanctuary, Cornwall; the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary; the Scottish Seal Sanctuary at Oban
Earth Explorer – a science based attraction, again, in Belgium
Warwick Castle – the UK’s most popular historical castle attraction in Warwickshire
 The Pepsi Globe – a stunning new attraction and the USA’s first observation wheel, located at Meadowlands Xanadu in New Jersey, USA


Legoland – bought in 2005 from the Lego Group group in Denmark, Lego continues to own 30% in the ongoing business. There are currently 4 Legoland theme parks:

•    Legoland Billund theme park in Denmark
•    Legoland Windsor, a theme park in Windsor, England;
•     Legoland California , a theme park based in Carlsbad, California, USA; and
•    Legoland Deutschland, a theme park based in Günzburg, Germany
Legoland Discovery Centre – Indoor Legoland theme parks in Berlin, Germany; Meadowlands Xanadu, New Jersey and Schaumburg, Illinois, containing amongst other attractions a ‘Dragon Coaster’ and 3D cinema.


Merlin Entertainments owns and operates 5 hotels in Europe:

    Alton Towers Hotel and  Splash Landings Hotel , both at Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire, England
    Hotel Legoland, at the Legoland theme park in Billund, Denmark
    Port Royal Hotel, Soltau, Germany

Furthermore, Merlin Entertainments also owns and operates the Alton Towers Conference Centre and Spa at the Alton Towers Resort and owns the freehold of the Holiday Inn Chessington, which, for operational reasons, is operated by Holiday Inn.

See also:
Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park : a Potted History

Amusement Parks: Disneyland – a Potted History
Amusement parks: Walt Disney World – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Six Flags- a Potted History
Cedar Point Amusement Park: a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Tokyo Disney Resort – a Potted History
Amusement Parks: Hong Kong Disney Resort – a Potted History

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