Home » UK Theme Park Round-Up – February Review and March Preview 2014

    UK Theme Park Round-Up – February Review and March Preview 2014

    Your essential news update for UK theme parks for the February and March 2014 period.


    February and March, the first two months of the UK theme park season. Even though most parks stay closed until March, we got a small glimpse of the upcoming season this February, with Alton Towers opening select rides in the 3rd week of February as part of their Moshi Monsters event week. Needless to say, it really all kicks off this March in the UK parks. Also, more information on arguably the most exciting themed attraction announced this year which strangely, isn’t actually in a theme park. Oh yes. Read on.

    Alton Towers

    The first UK theme park to open its gates and run rollercoasters in 2014, Alton Towers played host to a Moshi Monster takeover this February Half Term, drawing in hundreds of families from all over the country.

    Guests and “Moshlings” were offered a chance to take 2 trails around the park, which when followed, allowed plenty of interactive activities and meeting with the stars of Moshi Monsters for the show’s biggest fans.

    Sadly, Alton Towers received a high volume of complaints from guests who came to the park, expecting, as it is their newest ride, to be able to ride The Smiler during the February Half Term events; despite the fact the park never claimed their headline coaster would be open at this time.

    Scaffolding was spotted around the top of The Smiler’s first lift hill whilst the February Half Term events were taking place, making it clear that the rollercoaster was undergoing the much needed maintenance and refurbishment work it needed after its faulty first season. As previously announced by Alton Towers, the whole of X-Sector remained closed throughout February.


    The Smiler

    The Smiler, which holds the world record for most track inversions on a rollercoaster, was plagued with downtime throughout the course of 2013. One thing is for certain – Alton Towers are doing everything they can over the closed season to improve and repair The Smiler where needed, to ensure it has a much more reliable and healthy second year of operation.

    The Smiler is currently scheduled to open on the 22nd March, with the rest of Alton Towers, on the first day of their 2014 season.

    Despite Alton Towers full attention being on The Smiler recently, it is nice to see that the birthday of their arguably most iconic ride of all time, Nemesis, has not gone unannounced. Merchandise celebrating Nemesis’ 20th anniversary this year, has popped up in selected shops across the resort. Coaster enthusiasts and fans of Nemesis, which debuted in 1994, can now celebrate the legacy this ride holds, by getting their hands on a limited edition t-shirt and other collectables.


    It is worth briefly mentioning that Nemesis operated on one train this February, meaning that possibly the ride and its trains could be undergoing light maintenance off site as a 20th birthday treat.

    Alton Towers have also confirmed their Extra Ride Time hours for 2014. Exclusive to Resort Hotel Guests, Annual Pass holders, and Guests booking online at altontowers.com, this allows entry into the theme park from 9am-10am during the 2014 season. Ride availability is a limited selection however; Nemesis, The Blade, Oblivion and Duel are open, to name a few. The Smiler does not form part of the Extra Ride Time line-up, most likely in a bid by Alton Towers to reduce as much pressure on the ride operations as possible.

    Finally, Alton Towers has resubmitted plans for a third on-site hotel – and you can read all about it here.

    Thorpe Park

    The Nation’s Thrill Capital has announced the return of their extremely popular summer event – Summer Nights. Beginning on Friday the 11th of July, and running every Friday and Saturday until the end of August from 7:30 to 10:30pm each night, the they have increased the number of Summer Nights weekends quite drastically from 2013.

    Thorpe Park also state on their website that the 2014 Summer Nights events include a “party atmosphere on the beach”, which did not form part of the line-up of Summer Nights in 2013. Again, standard entry is £15 per person and entry for annual pass-holders is £5 per person (including Merlin Premium Passholders).

     The RideSaw: The RideFancy taking on your greatest fears on Saw: The Ride at Thorpe Park’s Summer Nights events?

    Finally, continuing with the stream of 2014 events being announced in the last month before the start of the season, Thorpe Park have confirmed that they will be open, from 10am to 5pm, on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th of March, for Annual Pass Holders and Merlin Members exclusively. This is their first Annual Pass Holders Event since 2011, and is open to everyone with a Thorpe Park Resort Annual Pass, Merlin Annual Pass, or Merlin Membership.  The theme park is then to open its gates to everyone for the 2014 season on Thursday the 20th of March.

    Thorpe Park had teased about a Pass-Holder Day on their social media earlier in the year, with a weekend finally being confirmed. This comes as a surprise, as Thorpe Park’s last Pass-Holder Day; held on the 13th of March 2011, came under a little bit of criticism, when Annual Pass-Holders were allowed to bring two friends that weren’t pass-holders into the park with them. Since then, Thorpe Park have hosted the Friends and Family Day in 2012 and 2013, which allowed Merlin employees to bring friends and relatives into the park, usually the weekend before general admission began the following Thursday.

    Legoland Windsor

    Legoland made local news in the last week of February, after a controversial chain of events occurred. They were due to host a “Muslim-fun” day, (which Alton Towers attempted to do in September 2007), but made the difficult decision to cancel it last minute. This decision came after many threats were made towards the event, Legoland staff, and the private party organising it, as Legoland unfortunately couldn’t guarantee the full safety of guests and staff due to the nature of the threats made.

    The “Muslim-fun” day was due to take place on Sunday the 9th of March, with the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF), the private party supposed to hire out the theme park looking for a second event, after their Eid Fun Day at Chessington last November was described as “highly successful”. One thousand Muslim families were estimated to attend Legoland, with tickets costing around £19 per head.

    Legoland Windsor

    The Legoland Windsor Resort will officially open on March the 14th for the full 2014 season, hosting the Lego Movie Weekend. With several special events being held, Legoland Windsor can celebrate the recent success of the Lego Movie in cinemas on their first full weekend of opening, over the 15th and 16th of March.

    Chessington World of Adventures

    In February, Chessington confirmed more details of their newest hotel. The Azteca Hotel, which shares the same name as an exhibit in Chessington’s Sea Life Centre, is scheduled to open on the 3rd of August 2014 – surprisingly quite a way into the 2014 season.

    Chessington have now revealed several artists impressions of the rooms on offer at the Azteca Hotel, with budding explorers getting to choose between the Discovery Room, Temple Treasure Room or Temple Summit Room. The Azteca Hotel will sit alongside Chessington’s current Safari Hotel, and offers 69 rooms across 3 floors in a heavily themed environment for those wanting an overnight stay to compliment their time at the theme park.

    Guests are now able to book the Azteca Hotel online, so Chessington are clearly confident the hotel will open on time this August.

    Merlin Entertainments

    Finally, in other Merlin-related news; this February a new attraction in Central London was revealed by the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, adding to Merlin’s handful of themed attractions near City Hall.

    Based on the Shrek movie franchise, Merlin have promised a “landmark attraction” by the name of “Shrek’s Far Far Away Adventure”, which will be a “live interactive adventure” and the first of 6 attractions of its kind over the course of 9 years.

    It is worth noting that this is not Dreamworks’ first time dipping its toes into the themed entertainment/theme park industry. In the past, DreamWorks’ movies have been the focus of several theme park attractions, having struck previous deals with Universal and Ardent Leisure (the owners of Dreamworld, Australia). Many of us are familiar with the extremely popular Shrek 4D attraction at Universal Studios Florida, which went onto inspire an entire theme park land, Far Far Away, at Universal Studios Singapore. Universal Studios Singapore is also home to a water ride and theme park land based on DreamWorks’ 2005 movie, Madagascar. Dreamworld Australia is host to a vast theme park zone, with several rides and attractions based on Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.

    Shrek’s Far Far Away Adventure will debut in summer of 2015, and Merlin have promised us it will be “unlike anything that currently exists”. With Merlin’s recent dedication to more detailed and meaningful theming, this is certainly exciting and promising news, and it comes without a doubt that fans will be able to experience an enjoyable, in-depth and immersive environment next year. You can find out more about the attraction by reading our in-depth analysis of the plans.

    So, there we have it. The start of our 2014 season is a mere few weeks away, with another several months of thrills awaiting us. Will The Smiler have a much happier 2014? Will many of us grab the opportunity to scale a lift hill or go backstage at Thorpe Park for the first time? Only time will tell, but for now, it’s safe to say that most of us are happy the past 4 months of closed parks are now behind us, as gates open, turnstiles activate, and screams and laughs echo around bustling theme parks that have once again been brought out of winter hibernation – just like their guests.