World of Adventures
recently, Chessington completely lost all focus offering an unfulfilling
day whether family or thrill seeker. This season, with new and more
encompassing rides, offering more universal appeal, Chessington has once
again found it’s footing and is now a good, going-on great day out.
starts off well with the car park receiving far more attention last year
with a veritable legion of staff doing their best to ensure that you at
least end up in a car park with spaces remaining. The free-for-all scrum
in the morning as people head to their favourite spaces is gone, and
drivers are routinely forced (and rightfully so) in an Alton Towers
style to fill up all spaces.
entrance remains one of the worst park gates I have visited. Cluttered
queuing is somewhat eased by the park opening up the over-flow car park
before the main one so that the original entrance can be used by people
who travel by bus and train. You buy tickets from wheeled sheds before
the hundreds of people pass though just a few turnstiles.
is no secret that Chessington is becoming a family park. Whilst I have
no problem with the park adopting a new family mentality, it simply
could not rely on rides like Berry Bouncers and Toadies Crazy Cars.
These are not family rides – they’re childrens rides, and not poorly
presented ones at that. To offer a complete day out for the family,
Chessington need family rides.
is moving in the right direction with rides like Tomb Blaster, rides
that a vast breadth of generations can genuinely enjoy. More like this,
please, and Chessington will continue to rise in my expectations.
course, it would be wrong to think that Chessington was all rides.
Chessington has strong roots as a zoo, and these still show. Attractions
like Trail of the Kings have recently been upgraded from the point of
view of the
visitor, whereby you follow a winding path through such
animal enclosures as gorillas (which are highly recommended), tigers and
the enclosures have been upgraded, they are still sub-standard housing
three-or-four lions in an enclosure smaller than a football pitch. The
park has a lot more land around the back, so I sincerely hope that these
animals can be presented in far better enclosures, as at the moment they
are virtually spoon fed lumps of meat, hardly exercising them to their
at Chessington is fundamentally great, although in places patchy. There
is a marked difference in older areas like Mystic East and Forbidden
Kingdom which have been themed with wholehearted care and attention,
where areas like Beanoland seem to have been done with the best of
intentions, just on the cheap.
is a clear distinction between themed areas, something that in an older
park is surprising. Areas do not peter out, nor do they have
hundreds-of-yards of pathway between each. From area to area, the
difference is crisp, often marked with an archway, always marked with
Chessington’s unique marker signs.
around the park is not far short of blissful. Gate maps are fairly
clear, but it is signposting that the park excels on, complimented by a
good overall design. Each area has the aforementioned marker signs,
featuring a map of the themed land and a list of facilities, rides and
a near-consistent level of theming, and a complex plethora of pathways
meaning minimal dead ends, Chessington appears a modern park. On the
whole, the park is clean and graffiti rarely escalates beyond the limits
park is clearly attracting more families than teenagers this season,
with new attractions like the Vampire and Tomb Blaster having a strong
family leaning and rides like Colossus and Vortex down the road at
Thorpe keeping the teenage generation away. This simple fact should see
a marked change in the level of vandalism and queue line horrors that
until recently we regarded as normal.
facilities are spread throughout the park and seem well situated.
They’re well kept, although can become dirty as the day progresses.
has a fair amount of good rides well presented, although of late their
originality has been compromised for the sake of budgets. For example,
in it’s original form, the Vampire was a first for Europe and
incredibly pioneering, and whilst Chessington are stuck between a rock
and a hard place with regards to planning permission, rides like Samurai
and the Rattlesnake although good
and average respectively, don’t jump
forth and have the stand-out factor that the old Chessington used to
most recent rides have been low-capacity fair rides with minimal theming
(Samurai for example) or mere re-vamps of existing rides (Tomb Blaster
this decline in quality, Chessington have a great selection of family
rides such as the better-than-average log flume, Dragon Falls, and two
fantastic dark rides.
seekers may feel somewhat thwarted, however, as until the park finds
it’s clear focus, rides like Rameses Revenge and Samurai are
essentially support rides for the major coaster that doesn’t exist.
these rides, thrill seekers have a reason to re-visit, but alone these
rides fail to offer a full days entertainment. Ironically, rides like
Tomb Blaster have - although family rides - universal appeal, and should
mean that whilst their quota in high-adrenaline thrills exceeds that of
what Chessington can offer, entertainment can be found elsewhere.
grown from a zoo in close to residential areas in the suburbs of London
town, planning permission is near impossible to get. Rides like the
Vampire are now frowned upon by residents, and it is safe to say that
the park will never get another major coaster.
this fact shouldn’t excuse the park from under-investing in rides as
it has been. Rapids, a Vekoma Mad House (like Hex), or even another dark
ride on a Cat in the Hat scale would perfectly establish themselves as
fantastic family rides, and that can be built with the level of passion
that Chessington used to embrace – just look at Phantasialand’s new
rapids ride, River Quest. Relatively
speaking when compared to rides
like Oblivion and Air (both of which have been added since the last
major ride at Chessington; Samurai) they don’t require the wealth of a
king, but are substantial, long term investments that will annoy
residents no more than anything there already.
are catered for by quantity, not quality. Rides like the Bash Street
Bus, Toadies Crazy Cars and the Berry Bouncers are adequate, but really
don’t go out of their way to be particularly attention grabbing.
rides in Toytown are duller than the architecture they’re built into,
and rides like the Flying Elephants are overly patronising, embarrassing
for the parents and unfulfilling even for the younger generation.
just about does the comic capers of Dennis the Menace justice, but is
essentially an Islands of Adventure Toon Lagoon rip-off done on the
cheap. The average family will not dislike Beanoland, but with Dodgems
and a Wave Swinger it is clear Chessington has opted for a tried and
tested theme and tried and tested rides – tried and tested to the
point of ad nausium.
in the traditional sense are few and far between. Animal shows are a
unique alternative to the tried and tested tedium of a de-rigour stunt
show. Check out the above mentioned marker signs at the entrances to the
two main animal areas to see when animals like the Sea Lions and (land)
Lions will be fed, and when Bird of Prey take flight on the grass in
front of Burnt Stub Mansion.
if it is clichés ad-nausium you want, Chessington can oblige. Beanoland
is home to Dennis the Menace, and there are frequent shows with Dennis
and chums at the fountain, his tree house and on top of the shops, the
former featuring quite a nice effect with the fountain, the others
featuring – well, not much. The kids should be entertained, but it
really is a cheap alternative to promote these as shows, when it is a
few costumed characters acting out pre-recorded dialogue in the street.
is something the park just about scrapes by on. Places like Pizza Hut
and KFC are the popular choices for the masses, so at peak times these
places are to be avoided as it is like dining on the London Underground.
Crazy Keg family pub is a good port of call, offering more wholesome
food and has a far less chaotic atmosphere. On warmer days, a BBQ around
the back of Burnt Stub Mansion in the garden also expands the menu
still under whelmed, a Beefeater just outside the park seems the best
option to get away from the chaos of the park and touch base before
diving in once again.
is within walking distance to a mainline station, so it was too easy for
groups of teenagers with the attention span of the average amoeba to
visit. Having moved away from thrill rides somewhat, Chessington has
adopted a new and unique charisma.
up for rides like the Vampire and even Rameses Revenge, the legions of
teenagers are just an unpleasant memory as couples, families and twenty-somethings
queue up making for a much nicer experience.
at Chessington can get bad, but with planning, can be avoided. What is
frustrating, however, is their failed attempt at Virtual Queuing,
where-by you avoid queuing by getting a timed ticket to return later in
‘operates’ on Dragon River, although I have never, ever seen it
work. It seems a shame to have a row of turnstiles standing there doing
nothing whilst the Vampire queue spirals out of control. Meanwhile,
Single Rider Queues operate on Rattlesnake and Samurai, although these
are hardly effectively advertised with dodgy laminated paper signs at
if you’re a ten-year-old is great with a fantastic collection of
colourful, yet tasteful Vampire clothing. Most other visitors will have
to choose between unbranded toys and cheap souvenirs such as translucent
plastic rucksacks or a scant range of Rameses Revenge clothing. Of note,
the largest store is the Chessington Shop in Market Square with other
ones of note being at the exit of the Bubbleworks/Vampire and near
the park is as much a fiasco as ever, although most certainly through no
fault of the park. Sitting in the queue of traffic waiting to pull out
onto the main road is a good time to reflect.
last year had lost all focus, but has since stood up, brushed itself
down and is once again on form. Where the park was last year a bitterly
frustrating day out, this year every visit has been thoroughly
Chessington is a great park and it is hard to have a bad day there.
However, it remains a shadow of it’s former self with the park being
too loathe to pioneer as it did a decade ago. Once the dust settles from
the changes to a family park, hopefully Chessington will once again move
higher in my estimations.