Wednesday gone, as a treat and because I’m moving away, I took my gorgeous nephew to Chessington World of Adventures. Just him and I, it felt like a wonderful way for us to spend some special time bonding and having lots of laughs. As with every big day out though, I always panic about spends and planning.
As a child from a family of five siblings, days out were a huge treat, and so lunch etc. was always packed up and taken with us. There is nothing wrong with this and I’m anything but flush, but as I don’t have my own children and this was a treat, I wanted to spoil him with lunch in the park too. Everything is always so much simpler and cheaper when you pre-book, so I got online a few days before to work out the cheapest way to get the most out of our visit.
I was shocked to see the walk up prices against the pre-booked prices. The difference was phenomenal. Standard day prices, if booked online, were £27.50. This included entry to the park only. If you were to wander up on the day, the price was £50.00. As mentioned, I wanted to spoil him as much as possible, and actually felt a sense of great relief when I saw, that for £10 more, I could also get us a refillable drinking vessel each and a standard meal deal on top of entry to the park. This is a good deal. A very good deal in fact. The price of a refillable drink on the day is £8.00. On top of this, the cost of a standard meal ranges from £7.00 to £10.00. Again, I was so shocked at the difference in pricing; should I have not booked in advance, the walk up price for this bundle was £61.50. This seems slightly ludicrous when the price of an annual park pass is £65.00.
We looked at booking another ticket whilst en route, and the cost on the day, even for the online saver, had skyrocketed to the price of £61.50 despite the booking having been online, so it is so important if you want to get a great deal to book in advance and allow at least two days before visiting.
Despite everything, I thought that access to a Zoo, Sealife Centre and a Theme Park with lunch and drinks included all day was an absolute bargain for £37.50 each. I know how I used to feel queuing for hours, and I remember being so grateful for my mum’s backpack full of snacks or leftover sandwiches, so I made sure to grab my own bag and stuff it with crisps and a few extra snacks to kill time whilst he was waiting and to cut down costs.
Arriving at the Park
The queues for the ticket booths were extremely long. I thought the rain and the fact that children are back to school next week would have put people off visiting; wishful thinking at its best. It was heaving. However, because we had pre-booked, we simply had to join the smaller queue to pick up our tickets and vouchers. We were given a voucher to collect our drinks vessel and a voucher for our lunches along with our park tickets.
We were in! Where to start? Well, we’d entered via the zoo so that seemed like the most obvious choice, but I wanted my nephew to choose. He chose the zoo! I was so impressed, when I was his age I would sprint for the rides, knowing that the queues would be growing and wanting to cram so much in. There again, Chessington have recently refurbished their zoo, and it is now home to 1000 animals, regularly putting on feeding shows and interactive meet and greats with the animals. For a fee, you can now book a behind the scenes V.I.P. experience whereby you can feed certain animals and get close-up with them. He loved running around looking at the tigers, gorillas and obviously the penguins!
It really was brilliant. There was so much for children to interact with and look at. We spent around an hour wandering around the zoo and looking at the animals. Due to the distraction of the rides, the zoo never really gets overly busy, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to look at all of the animals in your own time and without crowds of people surrounding you, or just an escape from the hustle and bustle of the park. A lot of the rides have height restrictions also, so this is a great place for younger children to be taken to and there is even a petting area for smaller farm animals. When I was younger, the zoo was far more low key, which is sad, an it was originally opened as a zoo, but due to declining visitor figures, they begun to develop the theme park alongside it. Recently the zoo has had a bit of an overhaul with a huge focus on conservation, so is well worth a visit; I was impressed with the update.
The Sealife Centre
We wandered across towards the theme park, but came across the Sealife Centre, so thought we’d pop in there next. I didn’t think it would be as impressive as other Centre’s across the U.K. due to its location, but it was brilliant! Only a little smaller, it basically offered all the same main attractions as others. We looked at all the different types of fish, my nephew was able to touch a starfish, and it even has the glass tunnel where you walk through surrounded by sharks, sting rays and other beautiful marine life. We only spent around half an hour in there, but that was enough. This was a little busier than the zoo due to its size, but we still got the time we needed to look at everything.
Now we were ready to hit the rides. You can download the Chessington World of Adventures App, which lets you track queue times in real time, but I would advise on just joining the queue. We queued for rides that advertised 60 minute waits, but in reality it took 15 minutes. It’s the Summer Holidays and it was going to be busy regardless, so I asked my nephew to tell me the rides he most wanted to go on, in order that we didn’t run out of time.
Free Emoji Competition
As we were making our plans, we bumped into some Chessington reps in a tent who were running an Emoji themed competition. My nephew was given a map, and had to track down emojis in the park, cross them off his list and answer a question about where he found them. This was great fun to do on the way round. At the end, he was given a orange lanyard clip with the poo emoji on and he was chuffed with it. I want to go back so he can collect the rest! It’s nice that they run things like that as theme parks can become such money-spinners – it was lovely for him to have a distraction from the paid-for games, although that didn’t work entirely as I’d hoped.
As soon as he saw Gruffallo prizes he wanted to go on grabber machines, and it was game over when he saw the over-sized Pokemon and doughnuts hanging above the ‘throw the ball in the bin’ game, or the ‘climb the ladder and ring the bell game’. I didn’t want him to spend his pocket money on these knowing full well how much of a rip off they can be when compared to buying the toys you win, but he was insistent and I caved. He won a tiny little doughnut plush, which cost me £5.00. It’s all part of the fun I suppose but I was annoyed because there seemed so many more stalls around then when I was a child. I don’t remember being more enthralled with those than going on the rides?
I have to mention the one game I was MOST annoyed at. It’s a game down by the Gruffalo ride. You pay to hang from a bar whilst a timer counts down from two minutes above you. I watched the strongest of men drop after 60 seconds, and tiny little girls after five. My nephew asked to have a go and I have to say that at this point I called them out and told him that those men couldn’t do it, and I wouldn’t want him to waste his money it was really that difficult. He understood this and decided to spend his money on another game which he might actually have a chance of winning – although he didn’t. I hate that they have so many! It’s a proper con and must be so stressful for parents with impressionable young children – what a pressure on top of the cost of the day. At least it gave us something to watch whilst queuing for the Gruffalo Ride.
Food and Drink
We’d collected our drinking vessels from the Gift Shop, and I can’t impress just how much of a good deal this was – the drinks were around £4.00 each on the day. We only had to drink two and I’d made it worthwhile cost-wise. He had a choice of what he wanted and this kept costs down hugely. Plus we felt super cool wandering around with our flasks – it just made it feel like more of a day out for us both and as the weather was so hot we were able to stay hydrated.
The standard meal voucher entitles you to just that at either the Fried Chicken Co., the Sandwich Shop or the Vampire’s Burger Bar. I hate to say but I felt entirely let down. He wanted the chicken so that’s where we went, but the queue was ridiculous, the portions were small and the service was a little slap dash. I gave my nephew my two piece chicken meal because his wrap had spicy mayo in it. This isn’t a problem, but you cannot differentiate between an adult and child ticket in this bundle (one price fits all) and so I think the food is more aimed at adults than children. Nevertheless he ate my chicken and had lots of chips so he was full up. But, in hindsight, I’d probably go to the Sandwich Shop or take some extra lunch bits so there is a choice.
When I used to go to Chessington it had franchises of McDonalds, KFC etc. so you always had some idea of pricing and menus – I think they should go back to that – their current restaurants seem overpriced and under-loved – call me a stickler but I prefer to know what I’m getting.
We came across Hocus Pocus Hall first, so jumped in as there was no one in the queue. This was a fun place for him to start, but when I visited 10 years ago it was in a much better condition, it felt very dated this time around. That’s not to say I didn’t feel entirely disorientated after coming out of the hall of mirrors – it is basically a fun house with UV lights and tunnels and mirrors – fun but my God was I dizzy going back out into the light of day.
Then, after playing a few of the games, we went to the Black Buccaneer; a swinging pirate ship. The queue for this is never too terrible, as it takes so many people on one ride, so we whizzed through this one.
Then we went to the Zufari Ride Into Africa! ride; I’d seen this on their website and so I was really excited to try it out as it wasn’t there when I was little or last visited. You jump in a safari vehicle and you get taken around the back of the park where Giraffes, Rhinos and other animals wander free. You get up close to them and the driver stops to allow you to take a look. There’s a fun surprise at the end of this ride too! If you go I highly recommend this ride.
I wanted to go on what I knew as the Runaway Train, so was so happy when my nephew agreed to join the queue for the Scorpion Express. He loved it. The queue was slightly longer than for other rides but it was worth it and we had so many laughs and screams going round.
We were beginning to run short of time and as mentioned I wanted to make sure my nephew got on his favourite rides, so next up we had to head to The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure. Housed in the old Bubble Works, I wasn’t too sure what to expect of this one as I’m not up to scratch with the story of the Gruffalo, but from my adult perspective I can honestly say that they need to bring back the Bubble Works! As sweet as it was, and it’s clearly a hugely popular story amongst children, it just lacked the magic, sparkle and whizz-bang that the old ride had. If you ever went on the old ride, you’ll know that around every corner were music, lights, water flying around, sounds and colours that took you into another world.
The Gruffalo Ride just seemed to be trying to play out the story, with TV screens and characters dotted around, but with no real flow to it. Sorry to reminisce, but I used to LOVE knowing I was coming around the corner to the room where everything had just exploded and the water fountains covered you with the strobe lighting. It just had SO much more atmosphere for a ride.
The last ride of the day had to be Tiger Rock. Formally Dragon Falls, it’s the log flume that takes you up and through the tiger’s mouth. The queue for this one was an hour as it is always popular with families, however due to the size of the boats you do feel like you are moving quickly. We bought the photo on this one as Auntie looked ridiculous.
Alongside the rides, games and other attractions, Chessington were putting on dance and sing-a-long shows in the Gruffalo Arena, also showing the film at various times. A great place to eat lunch, watch a show, get involved and meet the characters – or just kick back with a coffee whilst the kids are distracted!
All in all, we had a fantastic day, but I would have been disappointed for him had I not pre-planned and paid double the price for six rides. For what I paid, and what we got however, we received a great deal and didn’t have to scrimp much which was lovely. He had a wonderful time and I’d highly recommend booking the bundle if you can to allow you piece of mind.
I cannot wait for him to be a little older so we can head over to Thorpe Park.
See more of my Days Out