Review: The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure and Top Tips for A Great Visit
Our boys, both love The Gruffalo, so we couldn’t wait to try out The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure. We bought a hotel and park bundle offer in the January sale. We later upgraded this to a Merlin Pass. The Merlin Pass has allowed us to visit Chessington World of Adventures multiple times through 2017/18.
Chessington World of Adventures is part theme park and part zoo. The combination is a good mix for children under 5. It is also great for families with a diverse age group.
We live in Milton Keynes, The Chessington World of Adventures is about 90 mins drive for us. The drive includes the M1 and M25 both notoriously unpredictable mid-week or at the weekend. IF you’re staying at the hotel your second day will include early park access. If you’re only enjoying one day at the park make the most of it and beat the queues.
Unlike other Merlin theme parks, the car park isn’t very far from the various entrances.
- If you’re early you will be nice and close which makes going back to your car for stuff super easy and gets you to the front of the queue for a day pass.
- Having a Merlin annual pass will enable you to jump to the front of the queue.
- Staying at the hotel in a Gruffalo themed room you will be given a private parking space.
Chessington World of Adventures: Park Experience
1. Download the Chessington World of Adventures app.
The app can start to help you even before you arrive. It provides opening times, shows, meet and greets, zoo feeding times and the all important height restrictions. If you don’t get the app there are plenty of info points throughout the park.
2. When to go through the year
Chessington World of Adventures is great for under 5’s. If you can plan your visit to avoid the school holidays and weekends you will have a much quieter experience. Queues will be shorter and more enjoyable. However if your visit coincides with a school holiday or the weekend.
- Get there early
- Plan some pit stops to break up the day
- Stay until close if you can
We have visited during the summer and experienced 35C, our last visit was a mild 10C with rain and a few varieties of weather inbetween. Both have their pluses and minuses. If it is warm there is a lot of shade, if it raining there is a lot of shelter. Weather won’t stop you from having FUN! Dress appropriately, remember your suncream/hat/waterproofs.
3. Get there early and make a dash for The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
Getting there early will give you plenty of time to dash to the rides you most want to experience. For us this was The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure. We’ve managed to do this a couple of times, we’ve been one of the first on and we’ve been able to stay on the ride without having to get off until the queue builds up.
Some of the meet and greets, animal start early too. If seeing the animals is high up on your agenda you might want to make the most of all the times slots.
4. Plan your route or NOT
The size of the park gives you a little more flexibility than Legoland or Alton Towers. It is quite easy to work round the park in a circle. I personally wouldn’t recommend this as a strategy, it doesn’t allow for you to make the most of the app where you will be able to see which rides have the shortest queue time.
This is how i’d plan my day:
- Get there early and head straight to your first choice ride
- Check the app and if still relatively quiet go to your second choice ride
- Spend the rest of the day picking off rides which are not as busy
Fill your bags with snacks so the kids can ride through lunch (12-2pm) take a late lunch. The picnic areas and restaurants will be quieter and the rides will be busy post lunch.
Refreshed and ready to go hit up the rides enjoying shorter queues in the afternoon. From 4pm onward the park will thin out, you can start making a play for the premium rides.
5. Check out the animals not just the rides
If you’re a big fan of animals there are lots to see at Chessington World of Adventures:
- For kids over 1m check out Zufari: Ride into Africa! You are taken on a 4×4 truck through an African adventure taking in Giraffe, Rhino, Blesbok, Flamingo, Zebra, Ostritch and Oryx
- Lions, Tigers and Gorillas are in abundance. Try and visit the Lions around 2:15pm when they are being fed
- The Sealion Show is fun
- The meet and greets are brilliant, you can get up and close and personal as well as learning something about the animals
- Meet some of the smaller animals in the children’s zoo, say hello to pigs, sheep and lots of rabbits
- Visit the Sealife enclosure where you can spot stingray, sharks and stroke a starfish.
6. Where to eat
If you have a Merlin Premium Annual Pass you enjoy 20% off food and beverages. We’ve enjoyed the pizza and pasta all you can eat and The Smokehouse BBQ Bar. Both were good value for money (as far as theme park food goes). What I will say is that all the staff are on point with service. Both restaurants were spotless and the services was speedy and efficient. For a hassle free visit i’d highly recommend. If you are on a budget there are no restrictions about eating food in Chessington World of Adventures and you can pick and mix with bought food or your own picnic. There are lots of picnic areas and undercover seating to enjoy your food.
7. Best and worst rides for under 5’s
Full disclosure we’ve only been with a 4 year old and 1 year old. Hubbie and I managed a few adult rides when we had our fast track passes from our hotel stay. For this reason we will focus on the rides we experienced.
The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure: this was by far our favourite. It lived up to the hype and was so magical we’ve ridden it over ten times now. Even on our last visit I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.
Scorpion Express: our eldest loves this ride, the explosion and squirting tail make it extra fun. The queue makes it my least favourite so it is good to plan your ride around the app.
Zufari: is a fun ride through Africa on a 4X4 jeep. You have to be over 1m to ride this one. It is pretty rough but worth it. Often this ride has up to 60mins queues so plan your visit carefully. One bonus is you can see the animals and the jeeps even if you’re not riding, through the viewing platform.
Dragon’s Playhouse: Soft play is always a winner with our kids. If you want them to let off steam 15mins in here will is just the ticket. TIP: In the summer remember to pack socks, we got caught out when our kids were wearing crocs on one visit so always have a spare pair in the changing bag.
Tiny Truckers: Don’t let the small queue fool you. Just a handful of people can make the queue in excess of 30mins. It is a slow and painful process of loading and unloading people onto the ride. NOT FUN – AVOID!
8. Be prepared to queue and be prepared in the queue
If it is busy you will have to queue. It is part and parcel of visiting a theme park. You can avoid the worst of the queues by using the app. You can buy your way out of queuing with Fast Track. But for the rest of us sometime you just got to suck it up.
You can use the queue to your advantage. It is a great point to offer snacks, play ispy, look at the Chessington World of Adventures map and/or app, plan your next ride. Our two managed the situation pretty well, there are some pretty cool puzzles and interactive games for the children to play with as they queue through some of the rides. We play games, ispy and talk about what we’ve enjoyed so far and what we’re looking forward to experiencing. Don’t let the queues put you off
If you want a fun day out, Chessington World of Adventures won’t disappoint. Right now you can get a great deal with online tickets, you can also upgrade to an annual pass just for Chessington World of Adventures, since this is our favourite Merlin theme park it is a very good deal.
Have you been? What did you think? Please use the comments to us ask any questions. And enjoy The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure.