Earlier this week we hopped in the car and took the Beans for a family day out a good three hours away to Chessington World of Adventures. When we became Sea Life Annual Pass holders last year we were also given a Theme Park admission ticket each so we made a note in our diary to use them this week at Chessington World of Adventures because as a family with children ranging from 4 years to 15 years, we felt that Chessington would offer enough diversity to keep everyone happy.
Why did we choose Chessington World of Adventure?
Chessington has a few big and fast rides which will keep Curly happy, a few middle range rides to keep Little Bean and Beanie Boy entertained and then the smaller rides geared towards Jelly Bean, in particular the new Gruffalo ride. Then of course there is the Zoo and the Sea Life Centre which we all love. The last time we visited was a couple of years ago and we had a great time, we even visited twice in the space of one Summer.
Our recent experience
When we arrived we were pleased to see that bag searches were in place and happily handed our bags over for inspection. As we walked away from the table towards the queues to the ticket kiosks we (and everyone around us) was disappointed to see that there were only two clerks serving. After 15 minutes in the queue a further clerk arrived and began serving. As we approached the desk with our Sea Life Theme Park Tickets which clearly stated that they could be used at Chessington World of Adventures along with the expiry date and our Sea Life Annual Pass cards the clerk responded with a blank look and said “I don’t know what to do with these”. She was alone in the booth so had to hang out of the back door and wait for someone to notice her so that she could ask for help. Thankfully when help did eventually arrive they were able to process the tickets and we could finally get into the park to begin our day.
Queue, queue and the odd ride
Ok, so we’re not daft. We completely understand that if you visit a theme park during a school holiday it’s highly likely that it will be busy and there will be lots of queues but seriously, it was ridiculous how much we had to queue. Whilst waiting in the queue for approximately 25 minutes to get on Peeking Heights we were chatting to a lady who is a regular visitor. She said that she lives in London so they buy the Merlin Annual Pass which means they get to visit all of the Merlin attractions throughout the year and visit for a whole day or just a few hours to enjoy a few of the rides and shows. She told us about the Mobile App and so we downloaded it and tried to use it to help us plan our day around the queue and show times. Peeking Heights was a little disappointing as you only had one full revolution of the ride but that included the loading and unloading of passengers whilst you were stationary at the top.
This was perhaps the only ride that we didn’t need to queue for throughout the day but once everyone was seated on the bus, the ride attendant disappeared into his hut for 10 minutes without explanation leaving the riders looking bewildered.
After checking the App we decided that our next stop would be the Flying Jumbos which promised a wait of 25 minutes, but this was vastly under-estimated. We were easily in the queue for 40 minutes with whining families all around. I have a mega issue with the Ride Attendants in theme parks, you do get the odd one with a personality who seems happy in their job and even a little bit dynamic but this wasn’t the case on the Flying Jumbos. Our attendant opened the gate and would let 2-4 people through and then stop the queue without explanation and then seemingly stare into space. Throughout the queue people were looking from one to another as it to say “what is he doing?” and this happened each time he had to re-load the ride.
Zufari: Ride into Africa!
The Zufari queue said the waiting time was 45 minutes, again this was under-estimated and was a tiresome wait. There was a short respite during the queue whilst we were able to stop and pose for a photograph and then join the queue once more. We finally made it to the front of the queue where Jelly Bean was measured to make sure that he was over the 1m compulsory height rule. Thankfully he was. Hooray, we thought as we entered a big dusty barn only to re-emerge from the other side to find yet another queue. The disappointment was evident on everyone’s faces and this was made worse when we got seated on the truck, only to be asked to get off again so that they could re-check Jelly Bean’s height as they didn’t believe he was over 1m tall.
The ride itself was good, it was great to see the animals in a ‘safari’ style environment. Unfortunately Little Bean freaked out massively when a White Rhino was stood next to her side of the truck and again when the thunder and lightning struck in the cave. The fact that we were all held into our seats by the safety bar didn’t help (we completely understand why it is there) but we couldn’t pull her into our arms to comfort her (she had chosen to sit next to her big brother Curly).
Curly LOVES rollercoasters so had pegged his choice to ride Vampire early on during our visit. We made the decision that whilst Hubby and Curly went to Vampire, I would take the young Beans to the Gruffalo River ride. The Vampire said 85mins queue time and the Gruffalo said 70mins so we said our goodbyes and planned to text after the ride about where we would meet.
Hubby and Curly ended up queuing for 1hr 40mins for the Vampire. He said that when they finally did reach the front of the queue the ride attendant allowed a very large group through from the FastTrack queue which meant that Hubby and Curly had to wait for the next ride before they got on. This happened to us on a couple of the rides and throughout the queues we heard other rides complaining about the FastTrack system. Nothing will change this but it is definitely a case of those who can’t afford it are penalised.
The Gruffalo River Ride
I have mixed feelings about the Gruffalo Ride. On the one hand, it was the only ride where we queued for less time than the app anticipated but for a ride which appears to be directed at young children, it was a little on the creepy side. My children all love the story of the Gruffalo but it was very dark and eery. Jelly Bean was frightened from the moment we encountered the Fox and as the ride progressed I gained a child on my lap until all three were clung to me like limpets and in tears?!?!??!
When we finally made it off the ride I decided that I’d had enough of the ridiculous queues and wanted to make a little more of our day out so we set off for the Chessington Zoo with hopes of Hubby and Curly catching up with us soon. The Beans loved seeing the Gorillas, Lions, Tigers, Spider monkeys, Sea Lions and Penguins. Sadly we didn’t get to see anything else as they were hiding in the heat.
Sea Life Centre
The Sea Life Centre is quite a small one but they pack a lot into the small space they have and we loved the calming environment after the hustle and bustle of the theme park. The staff on hand were super helpful and happy to answer the million questions the Beans had to ask.
Whilst Little Bean, Jelly Bean and I finished off looking around the Sea Life Centre, Hubby collected Beanie Boy who was desperate to ride on Dragon Falls so they ran back to the ride with 20 minutes to spare before the queue was closed. Sadly, Beanie Boy was about 2cm short of the height requirement so was turned away but they found the Scorpion Express instead and had a blast. Beanie Boy is really starting to love the rollercoasters but also loved the fact that he got a bit wet.
Curly had spotted Dragon’s Fury the moment that we arrived at the Park so he grabbed his chance to ride it when Hubby and Beanie Boy went on the Scorpion. We asked Curly what he thought of Dragon’s Fury and his response was “I feel like I have been kicked in the head by a Donkey”. Apparently he had enjoyed the ride but was thrown this way and that and hit his had a couple of times so wasn’t feeling great.
Time to leave
When the time came to leave we joined yet another queue back at the kiosks where we came in so that we could pay £3 for the car parking. This seemed a bit of a cheek on top of the entry fee and it wasn’t even a proper car park, just a series of large fields.
The Final Queue
The last queue of the day was the one to leave the car park. Everyone knows that it’s best to leave earlier if you want to avoid the exit queue but if you want to make the most of your day then you need to stay to the very end. Hubby and I both commented on how awful it must be to leave near there as the queues held up the local roads too. It took us over an hour to get out of the car park.