Chessington World of Adventures
Chessington, United Kingdom
“Combined theme park and zoo with stunning theming”
How hard will it get to travel to the United Kingdom, once Brexit is a reality? No idea. That is why I planned a last-minute pre-Brexit trip to famous amusement parks near London. The first one was Thorpe Park, a place that provided some great thrill machines and sensational roller coasters. Today, things are getting more relaxed: I’m visiting Chessington World of Adventures, which is almost entirely focused on families with younger children. Chessington has been on my wish list for quite a long time now, so I’m very happy to be here.
Two of the park’s four coasters are located in the Mexicana area. Unfortunately, these are two standard experiences. We’re talking about Rattlesnake and Scorpion Express, a wild mouse and a powered coaster, respectively. The rides aren’t breathtaking to say the least, but Chessington provided great theming nevertheless. Rattlesnake’s queue and station are beautiful, while Scorpion Express was nicely decorated with an impressive steel scorpion and a series of western facades.
The Wild Woods area is the home of Chessington’s famous suspended coaster Vampire. My first impressions of this ride are great. The queue winds through a creepy forest, the station is stunning and those modern Vekoma trains are comfortable. The actual ride is wonderful as well. Thanks to its intense curves, Vampire creates a very authentic suspended coaster feeling. It’s not entirely smooth, but that doesn’t bother me at all. Vampire actually feels like it belongs at Alton Towers: the ride makes perfect use of the hilly terrain and the dense forest definitely adds some excitement. Very nice family roller coaster, if you ask me.
And last but not least, there’s Dragon’s Fury. This is a spinning coaster built by Maurer Rides and these rides are always fun. Dragon’s Fury is one of the largest coasters of its kind and that’s noticeable during the ride. The layout is long (they actually added a second lift hill), the ride is surprisingly fast and the intensity is above average. I’ve already praised Tarántula‘s power, but Dragon’s Fury isn’t any less awesome. Even the theming is good: Dragon’s Fury winds through the elaborate Land of the Dragons area. The only negative thing I can imagine, is that horribly loud lift hill.
The roller coasters are pretty decent, but Tomb Blaster is my favourite Chessington attraction. This interactive dark ride has a beautiful entrance and the cleverly themed queue creates high expectations. High expectations often lead to disappointment, but that’s not the case here. This dark ride is surprisingly long and most scenes are themed in a surprising way. The first scene is even based on Indiana Jones Adventure, one of my favourite rides ever. Thanks to Walibi Belgium, I already knew that Egyptian themed dark rides are great, but Tomb Blaster once again confirmed this today. Don’t miss it!
Another popular dark ride is The Gruffalo River Ride. This is the successor to Bubbleworks, a dark ride that had a legendary status among British amusement park enthusiasts. While watching an on-ride video on YouTube, I started to understand why. Bubbleworks had an original theme in which water, a colourful factory and rubber ducks played important roles. Besides, the rapid river-like boats and the smashing final scene were very recognisable. That last scene remained largely intact, but the rest of The Gruffalo River Ride seems a little less captivating than its predecessor. The sets are mainly static and I don’t like the frequent use of video screens. It may be due to the fact that I don’t know the Gruffalo character, but this dark ride doesn’t amaze me at all. Bubbleworks seemed a lot cooler.
World of Adventures isn’t just a theme park; it’s also a zoo. The nicest way to spot some animals is a ride on Zufari – Ride into Africa. This off-road safari is reminiscent of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it’s considerably smaller here. I take a seat in an off-road vehicle, we drive through the savanna and we make some obligatory photos of giraffes, zebras and rhinos. The final scene is a dark cave with some water effects, but unfortunately it’s everything but spectacular. It’s not the most action-packed attraction, but Zufari is a great addition for a zoo anyway. My fellow passengers actually seem very impressed.
Zufari isn’t the only ride that emphasizes on Chessington’s zoo character. Tiger Rock also belongs in this list. This log flume opened in 1987, but it recently underwent a major refurbishment. The result is a brand-new area called Land of the Tiger. It’s stunning: the Asian pagodas look nice and the tiger habitat is huge. The most unique feature is a network of bridges that allows the tigers to walk through their land. Those tigers can also be admired while riding the log flume. The track passes the animal enclosure several times, creating a rather special experience. Tiger Rock is a fine log flume, by the way. Decoration is beautiful, both drops are pleasant and it’s not too wet.
In order to complete the Chessington experience (and in order to avoid the ridiculously high hotel rates in London-city) I booked an overnight stay at the Chessington Safari Hotel. This 4-star hotel is located near the entrance of the park and it was built in a colonial style. The hotel’s most unique feature is the savanna in its back yard. This actually is Chessington’s own version of Walt Disney World’s famous Animal Kingdom Lodge. Just like that’s the case in Orlando, it’s perfectly possible to spot giraffes from your hotel room or while having breakfast at the restaurant. That’s very cool and besides, the Safari Hotel’s rooms are surprisingly spacious and comfortably furnished. I’m very happy that I paid 80 euros for this room and didn’t spend more than 300 euros on an old-fashioned hotel in the centre of London. And there’s even more good news: hotel guests get one hour of early access to the park.
WORTH A VISIT?
I thoroughly enjoyed Chessington World of Adventures. I didn’t spend much time in the zoo section, but the ride area was wonderful. The location is beautiful, theming was considerably better than I expected and most attractions delivered high-quality experiences. I may not be a part of Chessington’s targeted audience and I managed to see the park in just a few hours, but I enjoyed every second. This is a feel-good park that’s especially appealing to families with young children.
Do you prefer Chessington over Thorpe Park? Is Vampire the most elaborate suspended coaster? Have you been able to ride Bubbleworks before it was transformed into The Gruffalo? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.