Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo by NSL Photography

The summer vacation season has begun. Kids in the US are out of school, or will be by the end of the week. One of the most typical family vacations is a trip which includes significant time in an amusement park or parks, often somewhat close, but also often, hundreds or thousands of miles from home.

With more than 17 million visitors annually, the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, is the #1 amusement park destination in the world. In fact, Disney theme parks in the US, Japan, and France, are the eight most visited locations of this genre in the world.

My preference is a bit more “adult” than most of the Disney properties, and other similar amusement and theme parks.

While I’ve enjoyed Disney, and have had many happy visits to its various parks, and nearby non-Disney venues too, I think there are more interesting alternatives for older family members which can still satisfy the younger set.

The Demon, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo by NSL PhotographyI also think there are far more interesting destinations than Orlando, Florida, destinations with unforgettable sights and things to do for multi-generational families, which have rich histories, museums, parks, gardens, amazing shopping, colorful harbors, great restaurants, art, culture, and of course, a wonderful amusement park.

Copenhagen, Denmark tops my list, with its iconic amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, founded in 1843, and updated year after year.

Copenhagen is a fantastic city to visit even without Tivoli. Its major sites alone make a family visit to Copenhagen and the surrounding area extremely worthwhile.

Such wonderful locations as Nyhavan, the “New Harbor,” and its colorful buildings lining the canal are terrific, and have some great restaurants. With more than 5,000 objects and photos, the Danish Jewish Museum (Dansk Jodisk Museum) tells the story of Danish Jews, many who were saved from Nazi persecution. The National Museum of Denmark is the largest museum of the country’s rich cultural history. The Rosenborg Castle and Gardens is a great place to visit, and don’t miss the treasury, located below the main castle.

Star Flyer, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen Denmark, photo by NSL PhotographyThe Rundetårn, or Round Tower, is a 17th-century tower in central Copenhagen built by Christian IV, as an astronomical observatory. Today it gives visitors the best panorama views of Copenhagen. The Experimentarium is a science museum which can keep any family busy for hours on end.

One of my personal favorites in Copenhagen is to take one of the many canal rides in an open boat which go past the great water sites of the city, which often include the delightful “Little Mermaid” statue, born of the fairy tale by Denmark’s most famous author, Hans Christian Andersen.

Then, of course, Copenhagen has the amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, located in the heart of the city within walking distance of many of the best sites Copenhagen has to offer.

Along with great “daredevil” rides for teens and young adults like the Demon, (above at the left), the Star Flyer (right), and the Golden Tower, along with Vertigo, there are plenty of rides for younger members of the family, too. Youngsters will enjoy Tivoli’s classic roller coaster, the oldest running wooden roller coaster in the world. There’s also The Panda, the Odin Express and the Flying Trunk.

Nimb Hotel, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo by NSL PhotographyTivoli Gardens has, since its founding, another side to its entertainment, too. Stage shows, dance and concerts have always been part of its entertainment mix. This summer Tivoli will be presenting its “Illuminations” light show, Pierrot the Sorcerer, Jakob Bro, an Evening with Bournonville classic Danish ballet, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, perfomances by Tivoli’s own Ballet School, Veronica Mortensen, other terrific performers, and of course, Tivoli’s famous Fireworks Show.

Tivoli has a Friday Rock Concert (Fredagsrock) each week at the Plænen, its large open air stage.

Star Flyer at night, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark, photo by NSL PhotographyIn the midst of enjoying Tivoli’s entertainment and rides everyone gets hungry. Like any amusement park you can get all that sweet and sugary candy, burgers and fries popular everywhere, but at Tivoli you can also enjoy beef, béarnaise, sushi, saké, pitas and great European beers. You can enjoy a light meal and wine at the Bodega Tivoli Wine Bar; Danish cuisine at Brdr. Price; draught beer along with German food specialties at the Biergarten; Italian and pizza at La Vecchia Signora; and if you have to eat “American” there’s always the Hard Rock Cafe.

At night, the atmosphere of Tivoli completely changes. It’s almost completely transformed by the thousands of bright lights everywhere. Places like the Nimb Hotel (above left) are literally morphed at night, as if belonging in a Fantasyland. The Star Flyer at night (on the right), almost looks other worldly, and the Chinese Pagoda, next to the Demon, looks amazing at night.

To me, Copenhagen and its Tivoli Gardens amusement park is a great choice for family and even “adult only” vacations.

For more photographs of Tivoli Gardens go to NSL Photography’s Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens Gallery by columnist and professional photographer Ned Levi, who specializes in travel photography.