I have a small secret to disclose. In my younger years, I was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Ok... I was a big adrenaline junkie. I used to love going to Theme Parks and riding on the biggest roller coasters I could find. However, I always felt that UK Theme Parks didn't hold a candle to American Theme Parks, as their rollercoasters always paled in comparison. Having a father who lives in California helped, as I was able to visit theme parks like Knottsberry Farm and Magic Mountain, and experience serious thrills I had not found on rides in the UK.
Fast forward a few years, and seven years of being pregnant and having small children have meant that I have not really visited a Theme Park in a while (apart from a jaunt to Magic Mountain in 2007). Yes, since having kids, we have resigned ourselves to getting our thrills on the merry-go-round at the local farm as we didn't really think our kids were old enough yet at six and three to visit a theme park and get anything out of it. Well. I have to say, we were wrong!
Recently, we were invited to review Thorpe Park. As eldest is now aged six, we decided to go along and see what it was like. Armed with sunscreen and rain macs (ah, the good old British weather), we were eager to experience all of what Thorpe park has to offer. Now acknowledged as the nation's "Thrill Capital", there are plenty of rides which are suitable for the whole family including Quantum and the newly refurbished "X" - an illuminated ride through dynamic coloured lighting
Although most popular in the summer, I think Spring is a really good time to visit Thorpe Park as it is not as crowded as visiting in the summer weekends and school holidays. We were able to park really easily, and we were soon into the park as none of the lines to pay or collect tickets were very long.
Once in the park, we headed for the Guest Services located under the dome as you enter. Here, we were able to collect a parent swap pass and get the kids measured and given wristbands to confirm their height.
Then it was off to brave the rides. The rides are divided into two different categories - "Extreme Thrills" and "Thrilling and Fun". The Extreme Thrills are aimed at riders over 1.2 - 1.4 metres. Thrilling and Fun rides are the less extreme rides, suitable for kids over 0.9m. We were happy at the low restriction as it meant that youngest, at one metre tall could also join in the fun.
First we braved "Depth Charge", a super slide which takes you down a forty foot drop in a small inflatable. Armed with a child each, we whizzed down the depth charge at an actually terrifying rate, so much so that I swear at one point we were flying. When we reached the bottom I think hubby and I had our hearts in our mouth, although the kids loved it.
Next we headed for the "Flying Fish" - a kid-sized adrenaline filled rollercoaster suitable for the little ones. Again I was hesitant with the three year old, but this ride turned out to be a huge winner. It was without a doubt one of the favourite rides of the day. I think we rode it six times in total and the girls screamed with laughter the whole way through - a great family fun filled ride. A little giddy, we left the flying fish and headed over to look at the Tidal Wave - a rather impressive looking tall log flume. We decided to leave that for later in the day as you do get rather wet.
At this point, hubby and I decided that we would go for the Nemesis Inferno. Before we left, hubby and I had decided that we would use a parent swap to go on the rides which were not suitable for the girls, so that one of us could be with them, but we could still enjoy the rides at the same time. I queued up, and hubby stayed with the girls whilst I did. Meanwhile, they were able to go on the giant Carousel which is located close to the exit of the Nemesis Inferno.
We were impressed that the larger and smaller rides were interspersed, meaning that adults and older kids could go on the bigger rides, whilst the smaller ones went on another ride close by at the same time. Having ridden the Nemesis Inferno a number of years ago, this ride was as good as I had remembered it - it's probably my favourite coaster at the park as it just has such a classic feel with the 360 degree turn and corkscrew turns too. When I exited the ride, I switched with hubby and he went up the exit and rode Nemesis, whilst I took another turn on the Carousel with the kids.
After a quick lunch, we went on to the Rocky Express - a very fast train ride for the younger ones, whilst hubby attempted to ride Colossus. The girls loved the Rocky Express and it was another favourite as it went so fast and they felt as if they were riding a real 'grown-up' ride. Unfortunately, hubby was not doing so well. As he has a very broad chest, after queueing, he found he was unable to fit into the seat for Colossus, and he was treated rather rudely by the staff member there - a bit of a low to the day. Meanwhile, we were whizzing round and round on the Rocky Express, and having lots of fun. After the Rocky Express, we decided to brave the Loggers Leap. A modified boat for smaller kids meant that we were all able to ride. The girls enjoyed this ride so much that we went on twice - although we were very wet after two turns!
From here, we moved over to one of the newer rides "Saw". I decided to go on this ride. This ride probably had the longest waiting time on the day of about fifteen minutes. I wasn't crazy about the set up as I walked through the queue, but I loved the ride. An extreme thrill, you go through a one hundred foot drop, and then go through sharp rotating blades. After Colossus, Hubby decided not to go on this ride as it also has a chest restriction.
From here, we also visited Mr Monkeys Banana Ride, Storm in a Teacup and Rumba Rapids, as well as another visit to Nemesis Inferno for Hubby and I, and the Flying Fish for the kids. By this time, it was starting to rain and the girls were starting to get tired, and so to end the day, we visited Swarm - the UK's first winged rollercoaster.
As you approach, it feels a bit like you are walking through a very impressive movie set as you find lots of abandoned vehicles including a full sized jet plane. Since having kids, my bravery seems to have reduced as I wasn't brave enough to "brave it backwards" on Swarm, although I did brave it forwards, and I have to say, I was very impressed with the five inversions and high speeds with up to 4.5GS. This is a great ride, and a great addition to Thorpe Park.
We decided to parent swap on Swarm and so hubby went through the exit to go on the ride. Unfortunately, despite having the parent swap pass all signed, he was told he was unable to ride as the pass had already been used (which it hadn't), and was again treated rudely by a member of staff. This was a disappointing end to the day and so to drown his sorrows, we took one more ride on the Flying Fish to cheer him up., It worked, and the kids weren't complaining!.
We had a fantastic day at Thorpe Park. Here is a summary of what we liked, and what needs work:
Things We Liked
- We loved that there were rides which were suitable for the whole family - from little ones right through to the grownups.
- We loved how the small rides were interspersed between the big ones, so that one of us could go off to a big ride, and the other could take the kids on a small ride whilst we waited.
- Waiting time for the rides was really reasonable. The wait ranged from no wait at all, up to about just fifteen minutes. That's why Spring is a great time to visit as the park is not so busy. We also liked how there was a digitalised board with the waiting times written on, so you knew which rides were busy and which were quiet.
- The staff on the kids rides. It seemed that the staff on the smaller rides were all extremely friendly and helpful.
Things which need work.
- I have to say it - the Vegetarian food. Apart from the usual veggie burger found in Burger King, we didn't find anywhere else to get a vegetarian meal. The BBQ shack and the noodle bar didn't have any vegetarian options. I would have liked some choice for a Vegetarian meal.
- Some of the staff. Unfortunately, some of the staff on the busier rides were a little rude and could have benefited from customer service training.
- Parent Swap. For whatever reason, we found that the parent swap didn't work for us. It only worked on Nemesis, but on all of the other rides we both tried to ride, we had problems using it as the staff did not really understand how it worked.
- Lack of Single Rider Queues. Related to the parent swap: All of the theme parks we have visited in the States operate a single rider queue where if you are on our own, you can go up the exit, or into separate queue and get on the rides when there is space for a single rider. I think that this would work much better than a parent swap, as then it would avoid having to get the pass signed and staff doubting whether you were genuine or not. It would also prevent rides going away half empty. I saw many rides going away half empty, as people wanted to be in groups with their friends. This isn't such an issue when the waiting time is small, but it could be an issue when the waiting time is long, and so a single rider queue reduces the wait for everyone. It also makes it easier for those riding alone to get on rides as most of the time, single riders are either parents, or those travelling with younger kids who can't go on the ride, or friends who don't go on the ride. I think that introducing a single rider queue would be a big benefit for guests at Thorpe Park as although open to abuse, at Magic Mountain, we didn't find that it was over used.
Although once predominantly aimed at older teens and adults, Thorpe Park is now definitely a great day out for the whole family. They cater fabulously for those seeking fantastic, thrill-seeking rides, and fantastically for younger children with equally exciting rides.
Here's what the kids had to say:
Eldest (aged 6)
"I loved Thorpe Park. It was fab-u-lous. My favourite rides were the rocky express and the flying fish roller coaster. I can't wait until I am old enough to go on the bigger rides too. I can't wait to come back again another day "
"My favourite ride was the Loggers Leap. It was really fun. Daddy and my sister got really wet but I didn't and neither did mummy. I also loved the Flying Fish - it went really fast and I caught the rain with my tongue! I love Thorpe Park.
I would really recommend a visit to Thorpe Park. I think it would be a great place to take the kids over half term. You can even stay over in their new accommodation. My view of Thorpe Park has definitely changed as I thought it held up to it's American counterparts really well and could impress the biggest thrill seekers in the family, whilst also winning over the small adrenaline seekers too.
Even better, Thorpe Park also have some fantastic deals running at the moment to bring the cost of the visit down.
Thorpe Park Deals!!
- If you buy a bottle of Frijj, you can benefit from 2-for-1 entry at the park! Head over to Frijj on Facebook to find out more.
- Book tickets 7 days or more in advance to save 30% - adults from £30.24, children from £23.52 (under 12)
- If travelling by train, head to South West Trains to get online discounts on entry:
Other tips would be:
- Sun Screen and Rain Macs.
- A change of clothes for the water rides.
- The smallest wait times were soon after opening and close to closing time.
- A fold-up buggy might be useful for smaller ones as both girls were tired after a while.
- If there is no wait, try and stay on a ride more than once if you can to get the most out of it.
- Look up restrictions on the website before you go.
Disclosure: we were offered tickets in consideration for review.