A Tale Of Two London Theme Parks!

A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to visit 2 of the UK’s best parks, Thorpe Park and Chessington World Of Adventures. But how are the two parks doing and what are their new additions like?

Thorpe Park

My first day was spent at Europe’s “Thrill Capital”. Thorpe Park in Surrey. I’ve been a regular visitor to the park in the past and so had some expectations. Thorpe Park since 2002 has always been a place to find new and cutting edge thrill rides. However, that comes at a cost, reliability. Unlike many other parks I visit around the world, Thorpe ALWAYS seem to have at least one ride down all day and multiple breakdowns throughout the day. Sadly, this day wasn’t much different. Saw – The Ride (the new attraction for 2009) was down practically all day, but more on that later.

With the lack of Saw, I headed to Stealth first which I was surprised to see  had a minimal queue (about 10 minutes). Stealth is always a great ride (even if its just a copy of many other Intamin accelerators around the world.) I was able to do the ride 3 times throughout the day, 2 at the front and one right at the back. I’d never really got the chance to feel the two extremes before (normally ending up slap bang in the middle), but if you get the cance, they are worth checking out. The front is the best due to the pure speed you experience on the launch, but the back gives you a truly unique experience, with great airtime over the peak.

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I managed to experience a few rides during the day including Rush (an excellent screaming swing), Colossus (which surprisingly still had the longest queue on park all day at just shy of an hour) and Nemesis Inferno (brilliant B and M, but not a patch on Nemesis at Alton Towers).

Some of my ride time was taken up in pointless escapades to Saw island. The ride did briefly open for around 20 minutes (causing a mass rush into the queue) only to have an evacuation after an emergency stop.

The day was getting late and any hope of riding Saw this year seemed to be fading. But then at 5.40 (20 minutes until ride close) something miraculous happened. The ride opened. I have to applaud Thorpe Park for this decision. By opening now it meant that Saw wasn’t going to close until at least 7 due to the sheer amount of people rushing to the queue line. It was a decision they didn’t have to make, but one that made my and several other people’s day.

The lateness of opening did cause the queue to be rather manic with several queuejumpers  seemingly thinking they were above anyone else and deserved their ride first. But luckily Thorpe were on the ball there and a few minutes later informed everyone who had jumped over the queue fences that they had been caught on CCTV, were to be taken out of the queue and ejected from the park. It was great to see that Thorpe are on top of this rather big problem and are dealing with it, I can think of several parks that need to take note.

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So onto the ride itself. In a word, fantastic. It;s easily the best themed ride in the UK with the station and part of the queue being jigsaws lair. It really helps to build up the tension before you sit down on those all new Eurofighter cars.

As you enter the actual ride you are greeted by Jigsaw’s puppet. He utters some rather indistinguishable words about how we’re all going to die before you set off and are nearly hit by swinging blades and shot at by guns. After this you head outside and have another brief encounter with Jigsaw on TV screens. He simply says ‘GAME OVER’ before you climb the vertical lift hill.

The outdoor track, to me, as an enthusiast, looked rather average. It’s not. It was a really good mix of sensations with three more inversions and an excellent airtime hill. This really took me by surprise. I was also impressed by the smoothness of the ride, it just glided around the track.

So to sum up, Saw is a success. Is it the best on park? Not quite, I think Stealth still owns that crown, but a very close second and one of the best in the UK.

And how did Thorpe do as a park. Not bad. There are still reliability problems with Saw suffering all day and Tidal Wave giving up in the afternoon, but that was all and for Thorpe, that’s pretty good reliability. Looking at ThorpePark.com right now, I can also see that all rides are currently available, so hopefully they’ve turned a corner.

The staff all day were very nice and polite (even happy!) and were very good at their jobs, which again is the first time I’ve seen this at Thorpe Park. It still has a way to go with customer service, but I feel that TP is finally getting there and could soon turn out to be the premier tourist attraction that it aspires to be.

Chessington World Of Adventures

The day after Thorpe I headed off early to the sister park, Chessington World Of Adventures. It’s quite a different park to Thorpe with it’s target audience being young families rather than thrill seekers. I was still very much looking forward to the visit as I hadn’t been since 2003, quite a long time for me!

Despite this, the only major new attraction added in those six years is Dragon’s Fury, a spinning coaster similar to Spinball Whizzer at Alton Towers. This was a great new add and was actually a lot better than it’s smaller cousin at the Towers. It had great airtime, a fantastic drop and many tight and twisty sections. I was suitably impressed by Fury. It’s not a major thrill ride but still packs a punch whilst at the same time being suitable for younger adventurers.

Dragons-Fury

Transylvania is still my favourite part of the park, mostly because of The Vampire, a suspended coaster which was one of the first I ever rode. Even in it’s old age it’s not a bad ride and the parts where it’s become rickedy are surprisingly very fun! The station is also still one of the best themed in the country.

Transylvania is also home to the Bubbleworks (formerly professor burps home). It’s now got full sponsorship from Imperial Leather. Luckily this didn’t ruin the ride as much as I thought it may, there’s just too many rubber ducks now.

Other great rides at the park include Rattlesnake (which although uncomfortable is hillarious fun!), Dragon Falls (one of the better log flumes in the country) and Tomb Balster (which is basically Duel at Alton Towers!!).

I also got my first ever ride on Rameses Revenge. Having been on Ripsaw at Alton Towers many times, I was looking forward to seeing why this top-spin always gets more credit. It didn’t take long to find out. Unlike Ripsaw, the ride ops on Rameses are allowed to completely soak you, and they really do. the fountains also seem more intense. The team on Rameses also seemed to be having a lot of fun, shouting things out on the PA system and giving all riders a second ride once we’d finished!

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Time was pressing on us, so I was unfortunatley unable to visit Beanoland (which I loved as a kid) or the zoo, but I can remember that they are both very good additions to the park and well worth a look.

So how did Chessie fair? Very well. In my opinion, they’ve got the mix just right for their audience (which incidentally is huge, the park was far busier than Thorpe). Not long ago I went to Legoland and was a little disappointed as I didn’t enjoy it as much. I didn’t get this feeling with Chessington, I was actually very impressed with the entire operation and guess what, not a ride broke down all day!

I think the thing to take away from these visits is that both parks are getting closer and closer to the UK’s best park, Alton Towers and that is an encouraging thought!

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