Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
As I mentioned in one of my TPA comments a few times I'm sure, I'm planning to head to Thorpe Park Wikipedia Page here
Given that most of you have probably been unable, and may be unlikely to visit, and that I've never written a trip report before, what would you like me to cover - is there any element of the part that particularly intrigues you that I should spend extra time covering?
Of particular note to old Cypress Gardens fans, a certain spiralling raft ride found its way to Thorpe Park last year....
Let me know what you want to see, and presuming I dont sleep in too much, I'll make it happen.
Seriously. I don't see much about the European parks I'll likely never get to, so I'm an addict for TR's about them.
And, Karly..."this guy?"
I HAVE A NAME, DARN IT!! I'm A HUMAN BEING!!..well, close, anyway.
A: The almighty dollar. I mean pound. I mean Euro. I mean...I don't know what I mean.
Because it was designed for children! I live in Portsmouth and when I was younger I hated trudging around the old ships, after all, as a kid, history is boring (obviously this has mellowed with time). Action Stations (which is it's real title) was a fun day out and mildly educational. Also you never mentioned the Number 6 Cinema which is the dockyard's hidden gem. :)
I grew up going to Thorpe Park but haven't yet ridden The Swarm so a review of that would be great. That said, I'd love to read an outsider's view of the whole park. It sure has a variety of rides; from the awesome to the laughably bad (you'll know which ones). Hope you have a good time!
And yes we have the pound, why would you want the Euro considering how worthless it is at the moment.
I can report the visit did go as intended, if later than anticated, and plan a comprehensive review tomorrow.
I can get the simulators bit, as a science centre Action Stations is good. But Laser tag should be somewhere like a leasure centres- a destination in its own right, not a sideshow...
That's a good point, I haven't been there in a long time so my memory is patchy at best but still, it keeps the kids occupied, I guess.
Because I know the audience of Theme Park Insider tend to be from Americaland, I’ll be covering a whole lot of the basics that those familiar with the UK already can skip straight to the Ticketing section, and even then that’s probably mostly stuff you already know. The first post here is about getting there, and the ticket prices… If you're not interested in that, skip to the next post.
Thorpe Park is one of the 3 major theme parks in the London Basin (The other two being Chessington World of Adventures, and Legoland Windsor), conveniently all 3 are owned by the same owner – Merlin Entertainment – along with a whole host of other tourist attractions within the UK (Alton Towers, Maddame Taussards, the Dungeons, Sea life, and more).
Thorpe is the “Thrill” park, Chessignton is the “kiddy” park with many of its pre-merlin theme rides moving to Thorpe Park, and Legoland is what it says on the tin.
Thorpe Park is located outside of London, in the unfortunately named “Staines”, best known for fictional Character Ali G. For those of you who have forgotten, that was the character that the guy who did Borat and The Dictatior did first to get famous.
If you can get to London, half the struggle is over. From Waterloo Station (just one of London’s major railway termini) Staines is about an hour train ride away. Selected services offer first class accommodation if you want to stretch out (or simply take advantage of the at-seat power socket). From there it’s just a short shuttle bus ride to the park. Tickets can be bought from any staffed UK railway station, or via local train operator websites (some stations have vending machines that will print tickets purchased online). At least north of the River (I’ve never really ventured south) everything in London seems close due to the famed fast and frequent Underground.
Once you've managed to get to Staines, it's another £3.50 and 15-25 mins bus ride to Thorpe Park, This is quite reasonable by UK standards, I pay more to travel to work each day… Staines station is a but basic, but there is a few fast food places just outside if you want to avoid theme park prices.
Car Parking is a flat £4, so whether you park in staines or drive all the way it ends up being about the same (please nobody tell Merlin about the silly prices they charge over in Americaland for parking...). However if you're intending on travelling by train back, the peak hour traffic back into Staines is painful - either have an anytime ticket or off peak (if park closing is in the train off peak period) ticket you can use those on different trains than you planned - I was 2 trains behind my intended ride.
The 1 day Park Gate rates for Thorpe Park are as follows.
Adult/12+ £43.20 (Disabled may include a free carer)
Children under 12, seniors – £33.60
Children less than 1m high - Free
2 Adults + 2 Children -- £138
Of course, gate prices are for suckers.
During most of the year, there seem to be at least half a dozen retailers nationwide offering 2 for 1 entry to any Merlin owned attraction. These will range from Supermarkets, Fast Food outlets, Discount Department stores, and today I saw even Staples (Yes, that staples) offering it - perhaps in irony a popular brand of Flavoured Milk sold in the park were also giving away 2 for 1 passes. This 2 for 1 is based off the full park gate price though, so other discounts dot apply, however they’re not just good at Thorpe park, but at any UK Merlin property, so keep your eyes out.
If you’re coming alone, or with an odd number of people, the Thorpe Park Website will offer you 40% off park gate rate if you book more than a week in advance, and 20% off for shorter periods (even the day before). You can collect at the park too and prepay for Fasttrack access whilst you’re at it, so there really is no excuse to pay gate prices.
Thorpe Park does not have a hotel complex (yet at least) but does partner with local hotels to offer integrated packages. Although the Website claims hotels from £8.50 a night, I couldn’t spot anything that looked like a particularly good deal when I looked, but there may be something there that suit your needs.
Lastly, there is also a Merlin-Wide annual pass, which may be worthwhile if you’re going to be visiting Merlin’s other Theme Parks, or tourist staples like Maddame Taussards, or the Dungeons (present in many tourist based cities) during your visit. If you buy one apparently you'll save money after your third visit.
You can also get a return next day ticket in the park for £6, and there’s a rainy Day Guarantee… If it rains continuously for more than an hour, your next visit (this year) is half price…
I mentioned Fasttrack. Basically Fasttrack at Thorpe can be summed up as "Rich kids get everything". £70 will get you unlimited access to Fasttrack. You can get Oneshots for between £2 and £6 per ride, and there are a few combined tickets to save a little on the oneshot tickets.
Parents will be happy to learn there is a parent swap feature, but bear in mind what remains of the parks Kid-focused rides seems to be a bit of a rump service… This park is intended for teens and above.
Okay, thats the background… On to the visit.
Over the bridge and into "port Atlantis", a dome filled with game slot machines, shops and a couple of resturants, and our first task is finding a locker for my small case. The Lockers are generously sized, but the pricing is IMO no good. It's £1 every time you want to lock the door. If you only want to drop, ride, pickup and leave thn this is ideal, but those planning to save cash by bringing their own food can forget it. This also meant I wasnt able to take any pictures, my phone was low on juice, and coming back to grab the iPad to photo rides (riding with it seemed a bad idea) later had just gotten too inconvenient.
But anyway, it's time to ride. We're off to Amity Cove for the first ride at the frontish area of the park, themed around a small American town that's just been inundated with a tidal wave... As I'd discover as I walked around the park, this seems to be the only area that Merlin seem to be keeping with its name and distinct identity. The map doesnt incldue "world areas" anymore, and the in park naming for the other areas is in an out of the way place in most cases (in one case, the area doesnt seem to be named at all).
Our first ride is the eponymous tidal wave.
Nor really a lot to say about it. Get in boat (5 rows, 4 across, lap bar), boat goes up conveyor, down slide, get more drenched than you would in the shower. Its gimmick is obviouly the height and drench factor and it doesn't try to be anything else. Queue rather short, and seemed a good omen for the day.
Next up is a ride TPI readers are more familiar with than I am, Storm Surge is a recent addition from Cypress Gardens . After an alleged 45 min wait (it can't have been half that) Large survival style rafts head down a twisty waterslide... What's not to like? Thought the our of control feeling was awesome, and can only conclude Legoland Florida is only weaker from its absence... We have a real challenger for Collossus (explain later) for new favourite ride at the park.
At this point I had a look at the queue for Stealth (I'll come back with an explanation later) but advertised queue times of 60 mins put me right off and I decided to come back later and get some lunch...
Thorpe Parks website and App note a wide variety of food choices, many marked as a "healthier option", this ranges from Chinese to mexican, to fish and chips and a hot roast roll. However the food outlet list online isn't complete. For those of you a little apprehensions about trusting your meal to a restaurant you've never heard of, you'll also find Burger King, KFC, and a a Pizza Hut buffet - not advertised on the website though. The first two from what I could gather offer their usual menu range, at prices a little higher than outside. Pizza Hutt were offering an all you can eat Pizza/Pasta/Salad/Pepsi buffet for £9. Given meals elsewhere seemed about £7-8 anyway, his looked like the pick of the park. Last time I ate at the same place and was amused when they ran out of food... This time the holdup rather than being the kitchen seemed to be the in Restaurant itself - more demand for seating than there was supply, and pizzas spending ages at the pass before they were moved into the serving area.
Face filled, it's time for a Coaster. Nemesis Inferno is up first 4x7 train, Inverted, over shoulder harness, the wait claims to be 45 mins, but even after moving into the Front Seat queue I'd be surprised if it were 30 mins. Staff seem to be efficient about filling space in the other seats but far too often the front ran with 2 or 3 people - makes me wonder why they got rid of the single rider queue, leaving me with an obvious answer - to make me buy fast track. Nemesis as always fails to disappoint in it's twist-loopy fashion, and I again fall in love with Roller coasters.
Stumbling out of Nemesis, I see Mr Monkey's banana boat ride, a non inverting swinging ship, I'm a bit of a sucker for these... Seemed a bit of a waste to use generic calypso music instead of a parody of Marley's Bannanaboat song, but not a bad little ride for a flat ride with no queue, and good to see it as not just another generic priate ship
It's now about 2pm and I'm thinking it might be a good idea to invest in the fast pass things cos even at half of the expected queue length times getting on all the coasters will be tight. I grab an extreme and accelerator pass. The scene seems poorly implemented, although the system generates times/windows to ride, I'm told to ignore these and use them when I like - good thing too as some rides are in the past and I left my Tardis in next week.
I head on over to Saw and only realise outside that neither Saw, nor Swarm, the two newest coasters in the park, are covered by the tickets I bought (they have their own), d'oh. Never mind Colossus is nearby... This is supposed to be the "lost world" area based around the whole new mystic thing like astrology, mythology, etc, but tbh other than ride paint jobs and names, there's not much of an attempt to really use the name and theme.
Colossus is for me at least the best coaster in the park. A typical steel coaster with conventional train (2across, I forget how many rows), and 10 inversions starting with loops, into corkscrew and then on to barrel rolls... I'm uncontrollably laughing at around inversion 5 or 6, it's just that good. However old' colossus is displaying something that will appear more evident with some later rides we'll ride - age. The paint on the tracks is now so faded and discoloured you can't be sure what the original colour was supposed to be. The fast pass doesn't get me straight on - but I'm saved waiting for a second cycle by an alert staff member who spots me as a single rider.
Noticing there's loggers revenge, a log flume ride on my ticket I head over. The log flume ticket can be used on either loggers revenge or Tidal. Wave. Loggers Revenge is in what is supposed to be the "Canada Creek" area, which was an area more focused at kids, but with the areas once popular train ride long gone (even though the track teasingly remains), there's not much here for kids anymore.
As the sign says 5min wait, I decide to go the long way and save the fast track for a repeat on TW. This Time the estimate is wrong, and I'm waiting about 10 mins, but hey, it's only 10 mins.
Loggers revenge is easily the best Log Flume I have been on, a dark drop, and then a fast double drop, around 600ft total ride length. Again however you see the signs of old ride neglect. A complicated theming element /water feature seems left to rot in its inactive ness, and half of the screens in the photo shop were off, presumably broken.
A quick glance of my map and there seems to be a cluster of rides I have Fastpasses for, Rush, vortex, and x:/nowayout with Tidal wave and Stealth not so far away.
Rush I have a hard time enjoying, its bascially a pnumatic swing on steroids. However what kills it for me is the restraint - its similar to a lap bar, but operating like a lever from one side. Although I know I would not be allowed to ride this were it not safe, I cannot convince myself that it is. With nothing to hold on to i find myself just too terrified at 90' around to enjoy it... Had I a shoulder harness, I'm sure I'd love it.
Vortex is a swinging spinning claw themed like a sextant - figure that out of you can. Now I'm in a proper harness I can face looking at he ground straight on, the rotations just gravy.
X:/nowayout as its name suggests is in dire need of an update. Supposedly themed like a computer where you're chancing a virus, it's name gives it away as a relic of the DOS era... Noone knows what a C: prompt is anymore guys, time to rename to http://x.noway.out or something... The lack of attention is so evident that one of the dots in the colon is missing on the ride sign
I couldn't find the Fasttrack que and ended up in the regular queue by mistake. The queue is like a cheap laser tag place, no wait I take that back, laser tag places have blacklights Fluro paint, and actually try to have a theme, X has black walls, dim lights, and bright (but not Fluro) arrows pointing the way. Not sure what this is supposed to be other than cheap.
The ride system isn't much to write home about. Although it goes backwards, it's a kiddy coaster, 8x2 across I think with lap bars only. What makes X special is supposed to be the unpredictability from obscured vision and this backwards, but in its current state, it's just a kiddy coaster in a warehouse. If you're going to skip a coaster at thorpe park, this is the one to skip.
I'll skip my rerun of Tidal Wave except to say there was no one manning the Fasttrack queue to mark my ticket. Could have skipped lines all day due to this oversight. Of ourselves, I didn't as I'm too honest (plus unless you have gills, I don't think it's possible to do it twice in succession)
Now on to Stealth. The great mystery for me on this ride is why on earth it's called stealth. It's in the Amity section and is themed as Amity's Speedway. Stealth is something I'd expect for some military or conspiracy style ride. My Fastpass gets me straight on - no line. If you've ridden Top Thril Dragster at Cedar Park, you already know stealth. Speed + vert climb + top hat. You can pay a little extra to get a front seat Fastpass on this one.
One ride left on the Fastpass, Nemisis Inferno. Although the claimed regular queue is only 10 mins, it's use it or lose it, so I use it and straight on in the back seat.
It's about 4:30 now, I wanted to leave before opening but not before either Swarm or Saw. Swarm is a 60 min wait, Saw is claiming twice that. I bite he bullet and buy another fastback, this a swarm one-shot. I decide against the front seat option and rush over.
Swarm stands in its own section of the park themed as a disaster zone, no other rides in the area, but a few shops. Swarm was controversial in its development because of its theming - the Pilots association thought it was quite inappropriate that what appears to be a crashed plane is directly under one of the regular flight paths into heathrow.
Around the area there are TVs tuned to a faux news channel "News 16". This to me stood out as something that didn't fit - News 16 is a very American name for a TV station (UK channel names and numbers are allocated differently), but the station was a clear imitation of the BBC news channel in its presentation style and on screen graphics - better to have given it a different name I think (EBC? BBN?).
The ride itself , I don't know what its themed to be - is it this mysterious swarm, or is it one of the fighter jets dealing with he disaster, I'm confused, it's not really explained properly. But the surrounding theming is very nice and well integrated - the controll room an upturned van, the ride starts in a wrecked church and goes under the plane wing). Over all I wasn't that impressed with the Wing style, didn't feel that different to a standard inverted coaster to me.
And that pretty much ends the trip, except a stop off in the gift shop in the dome where I think I got my first smile from a TP CM. I appreciate that it's hard being happy or faux happy all day, and it's harder to get the right staff when you're closed half of the year, but this to me contrasted greatly with my last visit to Alton Towers, where most of the staff were quite happy and cheerful, some even making jokes through a ride PA system... It just seems wrong that almost everyone at TP seemed Robotic. I don't need to tell you all that any eye contact should be followed with a Smile, after all we're supposed to be in one of the happiest places in the Uk!
Well, that brings us to the conclusion of what is perhaps less trip report and more park review. Since its a review now I guess I need to offer a rating. Well I give it 75%. Thorpe park has the right infrastructure to make good on its claim to be Britain's thrill capital, but it now needs to get out the polish.
Adding new stuff is great, but you should over your bases first. Repaint those sad and tired rides, burn that current map and make a useable one, do something to make X good again, and get the staff to Smile!
Fasttrack seems unpopular. It may have just been the day with people choosing to chance it instead of paying extra, but with the exception of Colossus there was never more than 3 people in the Fastpass queue, and usually I was alone. Those passes I did see used were all one offs, people seeing a particular ride was busy and then buying just what they needed. That said, the £70 unlimited usage on all rides offer seems very compelling, and during peak time is probably essential - if you can afford it.
If you're in the London or south of England area, and you don't visit (And don't have a good excuse like small kids or seasonal opening) then you're only doing yourself a disservice by skipping it.
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