Best to be upfront about this: we’re not your born ‘big riders’ when it comes to theme parks. Waving from a steam train going at 2 MPH we can do. Anything nippier or higher and we’re holding the ice creams and on photo duty (both important roles, and the latter a cheaper option than the official, post-ride fridge magnet option). So, with the half-term break and Bank Holiday weekend on the horizon, nonstopmama enlisted the help of some more adventurous park reviewers (big and small). All three of our recommendations make fantastic days out – even for those who get nauseous on the teacups - with something for everyone.
* First up, Chessington World Of Adventures in Surrey, with its invitation to ‘take on the KOBRA’, the just-unveiled, spinning disc-come-rollercoaster ride. Our reviewers jumped at the chance to give it a tummy-churning whirl, declaring it “really cool”, “so much fun!” and ‘”surprisingly smooth”. We took their word for it, but did go for a spin in the Tuk Tuk Turmoil Dodgems – great fun, if solid proof of why we’ve failed our driving test (twice). The great thing about Chessington is that, along with the rides, there’s the Zoo and indoor SEA LIFE Centre to explore (helpful when a sudden shower comes out of nowhere). But a big highlight was an overnight stay at the on-site, safari-themed Holiday Inn at Chessington (pictured above). Fresh, modern and totally family-friendly, it has an indoor swimming pool and, at specific times, there is a bit of ‘character’ action, too. Being greeted by a pair of giant meerkats as we came out of the lift for breakfast was a new one, but it went down a treat. Meanwhile, from 29 May, hotel guests will be able to look out onto the new Wanyama Village & Reserve, with grazing (real!) zebras, antelopes and more. More info and to book online here.
* ThomasLand at Drayton Manor, near Tamworth, Staffordshire, is just one of the many attractions at this ever-popular, family-owned theme park. But we didn’t get around to them. We left the numerous rides for veteran thrill-seekers for another day and remained in world of the No 1 Engine and his famous friends. It didn’t disappoint. Along with the must-do train ride on Thomas (or, rather, his trusty carriages, Annie and Clarabel), Rosie or Percy from Knapford Station to Tidmouth Sheds (Spencer’s playground is strategically located at the end of the ride), there are lots of other Sodor-themed adventures to make a Thomas fan’s day. From Diesel’s Location Mayhem (think teacups, but with engines) to up-up-and-away rides with Harold the Helicopter and Jeremy The Jet, and the (organised) chaos of Terence’s Driving School motorised tractor ride-ons. We passed on Cranky The Crane’s Drop Tower and felt faintly sick watching our reviewers sail on Rocking Bulstrode (they loved it) and riding the surprisingly nippy-and-dippy Troublesome Trucks Coaster. One little reviewer has been asking to go back ever since. For more info on half-term activities and to book tickets, visit the Drayton Manor site.
* An enormous hit from the moment we passed through the turnstiles, LEGOLAND Windsor has more than enough to capture little imaginations and fill a day with fun for all ages. The rides, attractions and events sprawl over 150 acres of landscaped grounds (if in doubt, definitely take the buggy). Along with the famous and super-impressive Miniland world made entirely of Lego bricks (over 40 million to be precise, or rather more than you’re probably willing to purchase at the fab, pick ‘n’ mix-style Pick-A-Brick counter in the world’s largest Lego shop, also on-site), our highlights included the Fire Academy and Digger Challenge (where would-be little firemen, with some game grown-up help, get to race to put out a fire and operate a life-size digger, respectively). We also loved the worth-queuing-for Vikings’ River Splash, a bumpy boat ride down a winding flume as you get squirted with water along the way, and an all-action, live pirate show, featuring lots of thigh-slapping, songs and acrobatic water stunts. If you’ve got younger children and toddlers, consider taking swimsuits so they can enjoy the Waterworks play area in DUPLO® Land. Must-dos we didn’t get around to include the Boating School, Driving School and The Dragon rollercoaster, for ‘bigger kids’, as it’s billed. Us, we’re still working on our Pick-A-Brick-meets-Grand Designs masterpiece. For more info and to book tickets, visit the LEGOLAND Windsor site.