…Which is best for who?
Anyone who follows me on Instagram or knows me in real life will know that the Mini Adventurer and me LOVE a theme park! We’ve been Merlin Annual Pass holders for years and usually at least once a month can be found at one of their parks; Chessington, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park or Legoland. We have been going since Luka was a tiny little 3 year old, to the gigantic 8 year old he is now (just 4cm away from the biggest rides – argh!), and have visited the parks with friends and family of various ages and heights so have learnt what works best for who.
I think all the parks are amazing, there’s lots to do, great rides, fantastic theming and make for a really great day out. However as with all theme parks, they aren’t a cheap option so you may only be in a position to visit one rather than try them all out for size. So here’s my guide to which is the best park for your family.
TOP TIP: If you do want to visit regularly definitely look into buying a Merlin Pass as it will save you a lot of money and you can go back again and again.
The parks are arranged around heights so get your tape measures out, there’s no point in paying a LOT of money to go to a park where your child can only go on three rides.
RIDES/ATTRACTIONS BY MINIMUM HEIGHT
TOP TIP: Some of the minimum heights are only applicable with an adult riding with the child, some require the child to be taller to ride alone. Something to think about and check out if you’re going with children of different heights/ages as a single parent.
LEGOLAND – BEST FOR LITTLE ONES
I adore Legoland, I couldn’t even count the amount of times we have been and we still love going back, there’s plenty to see and do, and it has more rides and attractions than any other Merlin Theme Park. I’m quite certain the Mini Adventurer would happily wander around Miniland all day looking at the Lego buildings and statues and the creation of the new world, Lego Mythica, has been a great addition to the park as the rides and theming are spectacular.
There are plenty of rides that have no minimum ride height and plenty of others which are just 90 or 100cm, with the average child reaching 90cm by 2.5 years old it means even the park’s youngest visitors can join in the fun. Add in the fact that most of the rides are very gentle, it is an ideal starter park for kids to enjoy their first coasters.
However with no big coasters or rides, older children are probably going to find the park a little tame. Even their biggest coaster, the one they say is their biggest thrill ride, The Dragon, is very gentle (you only have to be 1m to ride) so won’t keep teens entertained. Luka’s now almost 9 and still loves a visit to Legoland but I think within a few years he will be preferring to head to the other parks over Legoland. The general consensus amongst friends and people from theme park groups I belong to, 11/12 is the age they start to lose interest (particularly for regular visitors) so get your visits in while the kids are small.
TOP TIP: Don’t forget to consider thrill seeker levels as well as heigh requirements while picking a park. If they’re a nervous nine year old, a trip to a park with smaller rides or one with a variety, may be a good way to get their confidence up, or for kids with no fear, jumping into a park with bigger thrill rides maybe good as long as they hit height requirements.
CHESSINGTON – BEST FOR TWEENS
It’s a hard choice but I think Chessington is my favourite park of them all. I love visiting as there’s a big variety of rides, attractions such as the zoo, and things to do. There’s plenty to do for all the family no matter the age, with 100cm tall children able to do a whopping 21 rides and attractions, and they have some gorgeous theming for little ones with the Gruffalo ride and Room on the Broom walk through.
But where I think Chessington really comes into it’s own is for the 6+ to tweens category. Vampire is a fast thrill coaster that goes quite high as it flies through and over the park and you only have to be 1.1m tall to ride. And at 1.2m kids can enjoy some other real thrill rides that are fun for adults too, such as Kobra, Croc Drop and Dragons Fury. I love a coaster and these are all exciting enough that I enjoy going on them as much as Luka. We return repeatedly year or year and never get bored at Chessington.
With only one ride at Chessington with a 1.4m minimum height and other parks having more thrill coasters I think there will be a time where Luka will prefer to visit elsewhere but I can see it being a good few years away yet and in the meantime will remain a great park to visit especially with groups of mixed height and age kids.
ALTON TOWERS – BEST FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
If you have a family of mixed ages Alton Towers is a fantastic option for you. With CBeebies Land for the very smallest visitors and big thrill coasters for your brave adventurers and teens there really is something for everyone. There’s also a really good mix of rides, with coasters, spooky rides and water rides, so it’s not a case of just riding one type of coaster all day.
We’ve visited a few times with different groups and it’s perfect as the toddlers have a great time in CBeebies meeting their favourite characters and trying out the kiddie coasters, the tweens love the thrills of rides like Wickerman, the teens and adults love the biggest coasters and the grandparents like wandering around the beautiful grounds.
There are fewer rollercoasters that preeteens/children under 140cm tall can ride (only 3 you can go on at 1.2m tall) and then it’s a wait until you hit the big 1.4m but there are plenty of other types of ride to entertain and thrill in the meantime.
With so much to do for all ages I don’t think there will ever be an time where children don’t want to go to AT, I’m in my late 30’s and still haven’t grown out of it! So whatever the age of your kids, or mixed ages, Alton Towers is a fantastic option.
THORPE PARK – BEST FOR TEENS
With thrill rides aplenty if your kids like a coaster this is the park for them, well once they hit 140cm at least! With their largest proportion of rides being the big (and I meant big when it comes to Stealth) thrill rollercoasters it’s somewhere adventurous teenagers will love.
However funnily enough it’s also a really great place for little ones to go. In fact in some ways it’s one of the best for the mini adventurers, as most of the rides are aimed at older children it means the small rides have the shortest queues of any park usually. So if you have a big gap between the children you are taking (think 4 and 14) it may be a great option for you.
Where the park probably falls down most is the tweens age group. While it’s still a fab day out I’ve found there’s less to do between 7/8 and 11-12 years old. The kiddy rides are too small to keep them truly entertained and they’re too small or nervous for the 140cm big thrill rides. I’d say with that age range you’d be better off heading to Chessington or Alton Towers if you’re in a position to only visit once.