Your news update on UK theme parks for July and August 2014.
School’s out, sun’s out, and so are the crowds. Longer wait times for everything from rides to lunch to parking; hotter days, and busier parks can almost make us doubt why we waited all year for summer to come back. But there is much to be looked forward to this summer. Fancy a stay in Chessington’s brand new on-site hotel, opening in August? Head online now to check out the Azteca. Looking to ride The Swarm as many times as you can in one evening? Head to Summer Nights at Thorpe Park.
Reserve ‘n’ Ride, the virtual queuing system recently introduced by Thorpe Park, now appears to be in full operation at the Resort. Still only mentioned as a "trial" system by the park, yet now with no specific dates outlined on their website, it appears Reserve ‘n’ Ride is proving to be quite popular with guests. Despite this, it is safe to say Reserve ‘n’ Ride is most likely going to run through the peak summer season, and a return for 2015 with a further trial introduction on other rides like flat ridess or water rides seems to be almost a guarantee. On another note, it would be good to see Reserve ‘n’ Ride cutting the wait times at Fright Nights, Thorpe Park’s busiest few weeks of the year, at its most popular annual event.
And now we come to Summer Nights, arguably the biggest summer event held in the British parks. On the 1st of July, Thorpe Park announced that a Summer Nights Preview Event would be held for all Passholders, boasting free entry for the evening, taking place on Friday the 11th of July. Free tickets were strictly limited to the first 750 Passholders, with additional tickets being available for the £5 fee usually charged for Passholders to get into Thorpe’s Summer Nights. It is worth noting that the 11th of July was already supposed to be the first day of Summer Nights and the preview day. Due to the fact that Summer Nights now run all the way through July and August, as opposed to a few limited dates in 2013, the preview event may have been to generate interest in Summer Nights for 2014. After all, Thorpe Park are definitely pushing the sales of their multi-visit passes in 2014, focusing more on visits from Passholders - recently even offering the chance to upgrade to a season pass for free with the purchase of a full price 1 day 2014 adult ticket. When a season pass costs as much as a 1 day ticket, it is clear the park wants the Passholder market.
Continuing on with talk about tickets, Thorpe Park have launched new afternoon tickets - with entry after 2pm for £15. These are exclusively available on Saturdays, and have been introduced in an attempt to boost popularity of Thorpe Park Live, their live music event, featuring "up and coming" artists and performances in the Dome. If guests don’t fancy music and just want to hit the rides, a £15 ticket will buy them around 4 hours of coaster time. Afternoon tickets are a rarity in the theme park industry and it’s likely this will be for limited time only, but definitely something that would benefit guests, and from the park’s perspective, boost numbers later on in the day.
Finally, the introduction of a brand new summer attraction finishes the Thorpe Park segment for July and August 2014. In keeping with Thorpe’s recent refurbishment of Neptune’s Beach, they have added Flow Rider, a surfing simulator, onto the beach. Want to give it a try? There is an additional charge of £15 per person (£12.50 if you are in a group of 4), but you’ll get full training by a dedicated instructor, a wetsuit (bring your own swimwear too!) and of course, the chance to fall off a surfboard in front of family and friends. Flow Rider is an hour long experience, and slots start at 10am each day. These surf simulator attractions can already be found dotted around the world in other theme and amusement parks, and it is great to see Thorpe Park adding one and joining in on the summer fun.
Chessington World of Adventures
The biggest summer news comes from "Britain’s Wildest Adventure", where Chessington will be opening its long-awaited Azteca Hotel. The Azteca Hotel will be their second onsite accommodation option, located next door to its predecessor, the Safari Hotel. Named after an exhibition in Chessington’s Sea Life Centre, the Azteca boasts an immersive adventure and exploration theme, with 69 guest rooms available across 3 floors. A brand new restaurant, The Temple Restaurant and Bar, will be located inside, as well as Savannah Splash, a pool and gym inspired by an oasis in the African Savannah, and perfect for families.
A little piece of news from the Towers this summer. A mid-season change of ERT (Early Ride Time) rides was announced this July, from the Forbidden Valley and Mutiny Bay areas of the park to CBeebies Land and X-Sector. Interestingly, this is the first time The Smiler is included in Alton Tower’s ERT line-up. It's possible this is in response to customer feedback and in acknowledgement of the huge popularity of Alton Towers’s latest and greatest attractions. The 14-looping Smiler, which opened in 2013 and is located in X-Sector, has remained the park’s biggest draw well into 2014, and the recently opened CBeebies Land has graced the Towers with its presence since May this year, and proven to be a hit with younger guests and their families.
Alton Towers has confirmed on its website this will remain the line-up exclusively for August. After August, it will likely go back to the classic ERT choice rides in Forbidden Valley, Mutiny Bay, Gloomy Wood and the like. As popular as The Smiler is, it is unfortunately not known for being the most reliable ride at the Towers. It is safe to say Nemesis and Air are probably going to be a better fit for early morning start-ups, longer operating days, and colder autumn air - all factors which play a part in affecting our favourite coaster’s reliability.
It’s just worth noting that most of the ERT guests are staying at one of Alton Towers’ hotels, despite the fact that anyone with an Annual Pass, or even ticket bought on the official Alton Towers website, can take advantage of ERT. Previously, the ERT rides were located on the left side of the park, very close to the hotels. Hotel guests could even use a shortcut through the grounds to Forbidden Valley and be on Nemesis in 15 minutes. But X-Sector and CBeebies Land are on the right side of the park. This is a long walk for hotel guests but not too far from the main entrance for other ERT ticket holders, which again makes this change sound temporary.
July and August represent the busiest few months in our theme parks, but with the right spirit we can use longer opening hours, warmer weather, ERT on thrilling coasters, and balmy summer evenings, to make it one of the best times to grab a ticket and head through those turnstiles.