Octopus Garden at Thorpe Park

This week has seen the news that Thorpe Park will be shutting the Canada Creek Railway at the end of this year. It has fueled a concern that has been niggling away at me over the last couple of years regarding how well some theme parks are accommodating a range of age groups, particularly young children.

Many theme parks naturally include attractions for the full age spectrum. If you think of Disney your mind instantly creates images of laughing happy children which is basically exactly what you see when visiting any one of the company's parks. Disney markets itself on creating magic for kids and family fun and does this fantastically well. However, does it cater for teenagers in the same way?

Having visited Cedar Fair's Canada's Wonderland last year I was amazed at the diversity of rides ranging from the massive Planet Snoopy to the 15 rollercoasters for thrill-seekers. Likewise the UK's Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Alton Towers attempt to address the needs of visitors of all ages.

In the London area, Merlin Entertainments Group own all of the major theme parks including Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and LEGOLAND Windsor and it is at these three parks where a problem for some families may occur. Due to their close proximity located around the M25, Merlin has focused the attractions at each theme park for a different target age group.

LEGOLAND Windsor, as you would expect, is aimed at families with children aged 2-12. Chessington World of Adventures caters for slightly older children and teenagers, with Thorpe Park billed as "the Nation's Thrill Capital" and directing its rides at the teenage and young adult market. This strategy has been very successful, but which park do families that have both teenagers and young children choose?

Having visited Thorpe Park numerous times over the last couple of years it pains me to see young children wandering around unable to go on many attractions. With the closure of the Octopus Garden which consisted of a selection of (admittedly not very good) flat rides for 2-6 year olds at the end of the 2010 season, and now the closure of the Canada Creek Railway it leaves very little for kids to enjoy at Thorpe Park. Likewise, at LEGOLAND Windsor the faces of bored teenagers can often dampen the excitement for the rest of the family.

It inevitably leaves many families in a dilemma. You can argue the point that teenagers can perhaps be left at home when going on a trip to LEGOLAND Windsor, but what can you do when you want to treat your older children to an exciting day out to Thorpe Park? Probably prepare yourself for tears and tantrums.

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