Billed as Britain’s Wildest Adventure , Chessington is a theme park and zoo combined! It has millions of visitor each year and is one of the famous parks owned by Merlin There are many good things about the park so explaining why it’s so popular is not difficult. But first, a quick guide to the park for those who haven’t taken the trip yet.
Situated in a town in south west London, Chessington aims to provide a fun day out for the family, with several themed sections (or lands) of the park that combine rides with animal enclosures and even special performances throughout the year! The park was opened as a home for exotic animals in the 1930s, and was a zoo up until the first ride opened in 1991. Now it is home to some twenty rides, some quite fast whereas others are for smaller children and less exciting.
Over the years as the rides have increased but the animals have continued to provide interest for all visitors. The safari ride, Journey into Africa is still a big draw. There is now a four star hotel for guests who want to make a longer break in the park.
Arriving at the park, most visitors will come to the large carparks that bring them to the Adventure point. The park is divided into themed areas, all of which have their own distinctive look and feel. Although the park has a lot of branding, it feels slightly less co-ordinated than when it was a different place in the nineties. the arrival of the room in the broom tie-in experience shows that the park has been able to make a deal with the publishers for the characters of the story.
What used to be the Bubbleworks is now a Gruffalo Ride, which is very much aimed at younger children. The park’s famous Vampire ride still takes pride of place, although seems to have less in terms of fear than it used to as the ride has seen more scary rides eclipse it.
Now we come to one of the best areas of the park. Taking a cue from the Wild West, the area has some cool stylings in the buildings that look like colourful storehouses and cantinas. There are two good rides here. The Rattlesnakes (a cart style ride that has a rickety looking track) and a runaway Train ride ‘Scorpion Express’. The area of the park manages to incorporate food offerings in a more subtle way; Tortilla restuarant sits in the centre of the area, giving you a view of the rides whether you sit in or out. There are even some jars of animal skeletons, and some animatronic figures by rattlesnakes that add to the carnivalesque atmosphere.
The Forbidden Kingdom
Just as you leave Mexicana, you will see the new Croc Ride. The jaws of the crocodile open to allow the vertical ride to drop the riders down to the depths. This was previously Rameses Revenge. Some would say that the new ride is not in the same league. True, it doesn’t have the same fear factor, it simply drops from the same position. however, the ride gives a great 360 view of the entire park, and uses some Egyptian curse ideas to give it some stylistic grounding in the area. Another ride that some love is Tomb Blaster! It’s a more immersive ride that takes place entirely indoors. Riders are given laser style GUNS and must ‘blast’ various targets. As a dark ride it could have been more scary but it’s a little too family friendly for that. Overall, the forbidden kingdom has some nice touches but it’s not the most enjoyable section of the park.
Wild Asia/land of the tigers.
Here we come to my favourite section of the park! The area was once known as ‘Beanoland’ but it has been completely revamped to look like jungle India and Thailand. It looks particularly fitting when you visit on a hot day – the grey concrete buildings reflect the sunlight – helping to create a sense of the exotic. The three big rides are all worth visiting. First, head to Monkey Swingers, the carousel style swing seat ride has some vertigo inducing moments as the seats ride into the air – and you can feel the wind blow towards you when you kick out your seat. Kobra is a nice ride that is very smooth – taking you back and forth on a rotating disc in the shape of a giant snakes head. But nothing can beat the Land of the tigers and Tiger Rock. The most spacious area is home to the superb log ride which goes through the tiger’s enclosure, hence the name! you can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet here as you walk past the streams and Chinese style bridge. My only complaint is that the area doesn’t offer any Chinese food. Some noodles, dumplings or fried rice would tie in nicely with the oriental theme, and offer something far more varied than the current food offerings.
Is it worth a visit?
Yes, we feel that, given the amount of activities in the park, it is worth going to at least once. Chessington is not a cheap day out, and it’s very commercial. It can seem as though every part of the park is designed to take money out of your pocket. You can save money by doing the following: arrive by public transport, saving petrol and car park fees. Bring your own food and drink. There is nothing to stop you from taking a packed lunch, and Chessington has a picnic area near the car parks. If you do visit a restaurant, Tortilla would be my pick. The food is good quality, and you get a good serving, as well as a nice seating area.
We love Chessington. but we have noticed that it tends to attract a somewhat downmarket clientele. Some may think that you need to wear a tracksuit and have tattoos covering your face and neck to fit in. That’s true for many, but not everyone here is like that. If you feel that it’s going to be a problem by all means you can avoid the park. But you will be missing a lot of the innocent fun of the theme park. https://www.chessington.com/