This is a partial review of Chessington World of Adventures and more my first impressions of going with a baby – my 16 month old, who wasn’t quite walking yet at that stage. We ended up leaving early because both my daughter and husband started feeling unwell (nothing to do with Chessington!) so didn’t get to experience a lot of it. But it was a useful learning experience for me to assess what to do when we go back again – and I hope this might be useful to some of you, especially those with very young children wondering is it worth going to Chessington with a toddler and is there much you can do?
It was my first time ever (at the age of 40) at Chessington or indeed any of the big UK theme parks but this review will focus on what it’s like with a baby and a toddler – we also went with my sister and her (at the time) two and a half year old.
Tickets – can you get discounts to Chessington?
Full price tickets are £50.50 on the day per adult or children over three which is really expensive especially for a family and £50 does seem a bit steep to pay for a four year old! However there are ways to get cheaper tickets
- 2 for 1 vouchers on boxes of Kelloggs’ cereal which is a promotion they run every so often for the Merlin group attractions. But from memory the 2 for 1 applies to buying tickets on the day – which still saves money versus buying online in advance albeit only a couple of quid, but you have the flexibility that you can decide on the spur of the moment to go
- Bookonline in advance. If you choose the day of your visit and book at least five days in advance you pay £29.50 per person over three.
- If you are visiting with a child under five, you can actually get free entry for them and your own adult ticket for only £22 – cheaper than the adult price even when booked online and usually only three and under are free. This ticket offer doesn’t seem to appear under the main ticket page of the Chessington website – instead I found it under the days out with toddlers section under ‘plan your visit’ . These are only available during term time on weekdays and need to be booked at least two days in advance but are a great way to save money.
- Tesco Clubcard vouchers. I had quite a lot of vouchers I hadn’t spent so was able to pay for two tickets – you get 1.5 times the value of your clubcard vouchers as well. But there’s something of a catch here – at least that’s what it seemed to me. You have to order clubcard vouchers (which come straight away by email) to the value of the Chessington tickets and once you have them, go onto the Chessington site and buy your tickets.
- So I ordered enough Clubcard vouchers for two of the £22 offers, then discovered I had to go to a dedicated Chessington Tesco Clubcard website, not the main Chessington site – where the £22 offer was not available. The only tickets I was able to purchase was the £29.50 ones, and it was too late to change the Clubcard vouchers, so I had to use some of my own money towards it as well, and buy the more expensive tickets. It still works out cheaper in the sense that you are paying with Clubcard vouchers not cash, but this is worth knowing as I found it quite annoying.
Car parking at Chessington
We drove to Chessington and following both our sat nav and road signs pulled into the main entrance and car park – only to be told by a man in a high vis jacket that this was now the entrance for the resort hotels only, and we needed to turn around and go back up the road and in a different entrance. There didn’t seem to be any signs to that effect and we saw the man turning around every car that came in after us as well.
We missed the turning for the new entrance – it didn’t seem very well sign posted – and ended up driving further away and having to turn back. The parking itself is in a series of fields with different names (eg Flamingo) where attendants were directing cars to park in rows on strips of grass with tracks in between for them to drive in and out. For some reason our row was double parked with cars behind us so when it came to exit we could only drive forwards, but the track we could exit on was so narrow and cars parked so close together that it was extremely difficult when we left. Given how bad the parking was, it seemed a bit cheeky that we were charged an extra £4 for the privilege!
The Chessington app
There is a free app which is well worth downloading: I found the map a little confusing but it tells you up to date queue times for the rides and which rides are nearest, as well as a whole host of other information.
Rides for toddlers at Chessington
I have to be upfront and say we didn’t actually go on any of the rides as we had to leave early! Chessington is definitely designed for older children and adults – it’s probably a teenager’s paradise – but there are a handful of rides suitable for toddlers.
Rather than age they are divided by height; in the ‘plan a trip’ section of the website there’s a page about visiting with toddlers.
For children of 0.9 metres or below there are ten rides – but a lot of these still wouldn’t have been suitable for my 16 month old, and they are not all rides – the list includes soft play. One was a treehouse with rope walkways and she wasn’t walking yet; another one in the toddler section (Temple of Mayhem) says under fours aren’t permitted and on both Toadie’s Crazy Cars and Tiny Truckers it looks as if the child needs to be able to sit by themselves in the seat which I didn’t think my 16 month old would do.
The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure says it is a dark ride with smoke and laser effects and is ‘not suitable for non-ambulant adventurers unless below 1.1 metres with signed consent from Guest Help and Information’ – I’m not entirely clear as we didn’t go on the ride but I assume it meant not suitable for disabled people who use wheelchairs but also young children who are not yet walking (which my daughter isn’t) need signed consent for. It makes me very curious about why but also seemed like a lot of hassle! Tomb Blaster is also in the toddler section but not suitable for children that aren’t walking yet so again that ruled us out.
One thing that we were able to do was the zoo. We enjoyed seeing the penguins and going through the monkey walk through (you have to leave buggies outside), gorillas and lions though we somehow completely missed the Zufari animals – described as ‘an expedition trail through extreme terrain’ with giraffes, rhinos, zebras and more. I found the layout of Chessington a little confusing but I’m still not sure how we missed it! There’s also a children’s zoo with goats and assorted farm animals wandering around and monkeys in a cage, which my daughter seemed to quite like.
There are various sessions where you can listen to talks or watch feeding at different times which you can check on the website before you go or download the app.
We didn’t go to the aquarium as by this point my husband was feeling ill and we had to leave but I did note that buggies can’t be taken inside so babies have to be carried.
Food at Chessington – where to eat?
We took a small picnic mainly for the children in case there was nowhere to buy suitable food or it was too busy, and found ourselves down by the Lawn as a birds of prey display was just ending. It was nice to sit on the grass and have a picnic; the Chessington website says there are various picnic areas throughout the park and you can hire a locker or return to your car if you don’t want to carry your lunch around with you all day.
After the children had eaten we decided that my husband might feel a bit better if he had a meal and we found ourselves near the Gruffalo ride and a large fast food restaurant called the Vampire Burger Kitchen. It serves burgers, basically, with some other options like chicken nuggets, and has a fair amount of seating but I expect it gets quite busy when it’s not a week day in term time. The website says disabled access is provided but I couldn’t see any way to get down the steps with a buggy; luckily there was some seating by the entrance that didn’t require going down steps so my husband looked after our daughter while I went to order from the touch screens, and had a relatively short wait to get our food. It cost less than I was expecting given we were at a theme park – a burger meal with fries and a drink was £8.75 if I remember correctly, and while the quality wasn’t amazing it was perfectly fine.
Overall, our day was spoiled by illness, and this can’t be considered a full review of everything Chessington had to offer as we didn’t get to try a lot of it. But hopefully this will be helpful nonetheless for first time visitors, particularly if you are considering going with very small children. I think we will wait a while before going again, as there wasn’t a lot that my daughter could go on, and we would definitely try to go again on a week day in term time as I can’t imagine how crowded it must get!