When the girls found out that one of their favourite books had been brought to life at Chessington, we were all so excited to be able to experience the world’s first Gruffalo ride during our visit over the Easter holidays.
Chessington is a theme park, zoo and hotel complex within close proximity to London, and with 10 themed lands and over 40 rides to explore and enjoy, it’s a great family day out.
I would recommend downloading the free Chessington World of Adventures app to your smartphone before you arrive at the park. The app provides details of wait times, show times and more importantly an interactive park map.
As we were staying on site at the Chessington Safari Hotel we were given a special wrist band to wear allowing 1 hour early access to the park. To make the trip special for the girls we had booked a stay in one of their brand new Gruffalo themed rooms (you can read our review here), so we also had VIP Explorer Fastrack tickets that are included with all Gruffalo rooms.
This Fastrack benefit especially during peak periods such as Easter when we visited is so worthwhile allowing you to spend more time enjoying the rides rather than waiting in line.
We began our day led by the girls, bursting with excitement and with our map in hand we set off to find the brand new Gruffalo River Ride Adventure ride.
This was such a magical and immersive ride, as we floated along in our circular boat into the deep, dark woods to the tale of the Gruffalo. As we were introduced to mouse and meeting the characters along the way including a giant Gruffalo it really did feel that we had been transported into the pages of the book. (you can read our review of the new Gruffalo River Ride Adventure ride here)
We have been lucky enough to experience rides from theme parks all across the world but the girls said that this new Gruffalo ride was one of their favourite rides that they have been on.
Next up was Vampire, a thrill seeking rollercoaster which was also available in the early ride time benefit for hotel guests . As my youngest watched the riders fly over our heads with their feet dangling, she decided to take another ride on the Gruffalo instead, leaving my husband take our eldest daughter to ride on the Vampire.
After zooming over the buildings of the park and through dark tunnels, with sudden turns and drops, they emerged with the biggest grins on their faces. My daughter did manage to persuade me to go back on with her for review purposes, and I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed!
As well as the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure and Vampire, Hocus Pocus Hall and Amazu Treetop are also open during the early ride time. On our first evening we had access to the Amazu Treetop Adventure, which opens after the park closes from 5.30pm until dusk for hotel guests. This treetop adventure trail was so much fun consisting of slides, climbing nets and rope walkways that gave excellent views of the monkey enclosures below.
What’s great about this park is that there is something for all ages and all levels of thrill seekers including rides such as Rattlesnake and Dragon’s Fury which are more for older children and adults.
For younger children and families there was the brand new Adventure Tree carousel and classics such as Treetop Hoppers, Tiny Truckers, Jungle Bus Tours, Sea Dragons and Griffins Galleon, all of which are perfect for younger children.
One of our favourite family rides was the Scorpion Express, it looked scarier than it was with fast moving carts and roaring fire but it was really great family fun especially for our 6 year old.
The appeal of Chessington is the amount of rides on offer , and using our Explorer Fastrack we managed to ride the Monkey Swinger, Seastorm, Kobra, Toadies Crazy Cars and the Flying Jumbos which brought back great memories of the Dumbo ride at Disney.
Tomb Blaster in the Forbidden Kingdom is a fantastic shooting game and very similar to the Toy Story Mania ride in Florida. As we travelled around the adventure we had to use our laser gun to shoot mummies and scarab beetles, boosting our score each time we hit the target. This brought out all of our competitive sides as we tried to out shoot each other to get the highest score.
With the opening of the new Gruffalo ride the main stage in Chessington has also taken on a Gruffalo theme. Several times a day the Gruffalo film is shown along with the opportunity to meet the actual Gruffalo himself.
This area was great to have a sit down and take a break as we watched the Gruffalo on the big screen whilst eating delicious Gruffalo cakes.
Outside of your typical theme park rides a must visit is the Zufari – Ride into Africa attraction. We have never been on safari, the closest we have come is on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
We were boarded onto one of the six Zufari trucks which can hold up to thirty people in six rows of five. We had the front row so the girls had great views and after a brief safety tour we were off, driven around the 22 acre site on our on a safari style tour where we got to see white rhino, flamingos and Zebra.
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see the Giraffes who decided to stay in their enclosure, but having the opportunity to get so close to such other exotic animals was a great family experience.
The Zufari experience ends after leaving the rhino enclosure, as the attraction takes you into a dangerous cave because of a “fallen tree” on the Savannah. When we sat on the truck the seats were wet in places, and we found out why because the cave pretends to flood. This finale was so much fun and the girls thought it was hilarious that it was their daddy who got wet as the truck passed under the waterfall.
Before we left Chessington we couldn’t resist having one more go on our favourite rides of the day, The Gruffalo ride and Vampire using our Explorer Fastrack.
Food and Drink
Food and drink options are pretty good at Chessington with a good selection of eateries and places to get drinks but at peak times can get busy so packed lunches or snacks can be a good idea.
On our way to the Wild Asia section of the park the blue Nitrogenie ice cream outlet caught our attention, one of only three in the UK. However ice cream from this cool new Australian company, is unlike no other as it uses only natural products plus the magic of liquid nitrogen, like all the great chefs use in their restaurants when making their ice cream.
We had the triple chocolate brownie ice creams which were fantastic!
Next to the Gruffalo Arena were delicious chocolate Gruffalo cupcakes and traditional cakes such as Victoria Sandwich at The Coffee Hut.
Later in the day, once the bigger thrill rides were over and the girls were getting hungry we tried out the Fried Chicken Co quick counter service restaurant. This was a little chaotic and although the food quality of our meals wouldn’t win any awards it helped fill empty tummies.
Zoo and SEALIFE
What’s great about Chessington is that it offers so much more than a theme park, it’s also a fantastic zoo complete with its own SEALIFE centre plus a family friendly petting zoo.
We were impressed and surprised just how good the zoo was at Chessington. The enclosures were spacious with lots of glass areas providing multiple viewing points to observe the tigers, gorillas, lions, ocelots, penguins, sea lions and many other animals.
The SEALIFE centre was absolutely amazing. We saw lots of sea creatures including sea horses, sting ray, jelly fish and many brightly coloured fish.
My daughter loved the touch pool in the SEALIFE centre and was thrilled to have a prawn climb up her hand. The views inside the underwater ocean tunnel are always one of our favourite parts and the SEALIFE centre did not disappoint, giving a full panoramic experience as we looked for sharks.
The children’s petting zoo was great fun. The girls could walk amongst, smooth and feed some of the animals such as goats, sheep and Kuneknue pigs. It was a lovely experience and perfect for our youngest who loves animals.
Was it really busy?
Rides can get busy so do expect some long queues in high season and special events, but even if you are not staying in a Gruffalo themed room and don’t have an Explorer Fastrack there are options to bypass the queues.
Dotted around Chessington are FastTrack kiosks to upgrade your ticket for individual rides or to purchase a VIP Fast Track ticket on the day. Although it can be expensive if you are visiting with children during peak periods I do think it’s worth paying the extra to spend more time enjoying the park rather than waiting in long lines.
With so much to see and do you could easily fill two days at Chessington, it really is an excellent place for families to visit as there is something for all ages.
If your children love the Gruffalo then the new ride is worth the entry ticket alone, it’s a brilliant ride that your family will never forget. The girls are already asking when they can go back as it’s one of the favourite theme parks.
We would recommend Chessington for your next family adventure and a perfect way to enjoy the experience is by staying at either of the on-site Chessington Safari or Azteca Hotels.
For the latest ticket prices, special offers and more information please visit the Chessington World of Adventures website