I bloody LOVE The London Dungeons – I’ve been there pretty much every year as an adult and I find it an excellent bit of escapism for a few hours.
I’ve been itching to take Georgia for a while now, and it’s been one of those things that I’ve tried to time correctly – I didn’t want to take her when she was too young and upset her forever but I didn’t want to put it off because some of the elements are a little childish and silly and I know she’d LOVE them.
After some discussion on Friday when I collected her from school we decided that it would be this half term that we make the pilgrimage to London’s Southbank and visit one of my favourite tourist attractions. Having gone a few months ago, I knew that preparation was the key – it’s a VERY busy attraction, and especially on Weekends and School Holidays it’s not just as easy as rocking up and going in. You need a ticket and with that a ‘show time’, occasionally there can be several hours difference between buying your ticket and your show time happening (when we arrived at 12.30 the earliest show time available was at 14.45).
Thankfully you can go on-line before the day and buy your tickets and book a showtime – this works out a LOT cheaper than buying on the day and if you print your tickets at home (more on that in a moment) you can walk in at your time with little delay. Also if you buy them via Quidco you can get 10% cashback on all purchases! If you DON’T choose to print your tickets at home then it’s worth noting that you have to queue at the Box Office to collect them, I’ve queued twice now and the waiting time can be between 20-30 mins to get served – so get there well before your time slot! Merlin Annual Pass Holders can walk up on the day and get a show time (although you are subject to getting the next available one like Joe Public), again you can book a slot online before your visit for £1 per person (which I think is a bit cheeky!)
Yesterday, our trip to The Dungeons didn’t start very well, Georgia had saved her money and bought a Merlin Annual Pass, you can now do these online and even upload a photo and collect them from the attraction. I left plenty of time before our allotted showtime to join the Box Office Queue and collect the pass – on getting to the front I was told I had to go to a certain till (it would seem they only have ONE Annual Pass printer), and ahead of us there was a family of five all wanting passes and everyone had to have their details manually entered and a photo taken.
The problem was, the member of staff didn’t seem to be in any hurry, and then the printer decided to break – it was looked at by two people, the first just poked it, open and shut the covers and generally looked baffled, the second decided to Ctrl+Alt+Del the computer in the hope it would work. G and I had queued for 25 mins, only to stand there for another 20 mins while they were desperately trying to get the lone printer to work. Then G decided she REALLY needed the toilet. Perfect! Thankfully Mr Ctrl+Alt+Del was happy to oblige and led us off to find the toilets while the IT Crisis was being sorted out. Our show time had now passed and we still didn’t have G’s tickets. I explained this to Mr Ctrl+Alt+Del and he promised to sort it out, we returned to the Printer to find the family of five had just had their passes printed and G was next. We were then taken off swiftly behind the scenes and lead to the start of the attraction.
You start by having the obligatory (and optional) photo taken which is fairly common now at Merlin attractions – it’s all done on Green Screen now, which I think loses the charm of the old ones – the picture below is from a lifetime ago (2002) in the Tooley Street London Dungeons.
And this is the green-screen version from yesterday..
Our tour around the Dungeon began – you’re split into groups of around 25-30 people, and let through different periods of history and each room has an actor that gives you a very animated and charged performance about what happens in that time. Being the Dungeons it focusses on the darker elements of history, but thankfully it’s not TOO dark for little ears, and given a cheeky edge by the acting talent. Audience participation is very much called upon and whilst nothing bad every happens to those dragged out of the crowd, the foreign tourists can often look baffled when someone with a faux cockney accent is shouting at them in a language they don’t completely understand.
Georgia was definitely a bit scared, there are lots of dark places and a few little things to make you jump on your journey through, mostly animatronic stuff and sound effects, the actors also have a tendency to shout randomly if the audience isn’t 100% focussed. Thankfully she wasn’t too scared and was giggling away at the silly bits and shouting back at the actors in the participation sections.
Within The Dungeons, there are two ‘rides’ the first is a log flume esque water ride (although you don’t actually get wet) called ‘The Tyrant’ and the second is a smallish drop tower ride ‘Drop Dead’. Sadly the boat ride was broken yesterday, which was very disappointing. You can opt out of the rides, I didn’t take G on Drop Dead, because I was pretty sure she probably wouldn’t like it. I might try next time.
Just to give you some idea, the general layout of The London Dungeons is this –
Descent : Descend into the heart of the Dungeon for the ultimate journey.
The Tyrant – Boat Ride : Henry VIII sent traitors to the tower. Don’t lose your head on his boat ride…
Guy Fawkes : Remember, remember; this will bring the house down.
The Torturer : It’s back-breaking work. Did I hit a nerve?
The Plague Doctor : Just stay alive! There’s something in the air. Seen the Doctor’s leeches?
Sweeney Todd : Who’s next? Have a short back and sides with Sweeney.
Whitechapel Labyrinth : He’s behind you… Jack’s out and about in the old streets of Whitechapel.
Jack the Ripper : Fancy an evening stroll? It’s what’s on the inside that counts…
The Judge : Frantically funny. Thief? Villain? Rogue? Clear conscience?
Drop Dead: Drop Ride to Doom : Drop ride to doom….hold on tight.
This can change occasionally as they have ‘seasonal’ elements occasionally, but that’s largely how it was yesterday. I won’t describe each area in detail as it will spoil a lot of the surprises, but there are a few shocks and jumps in each area.
After skipping the Drop Ride we were plunged into the gift shop, which is actually pretty reasonable considering it’s a central London tourist attraction, and you can pick up all manner of stuff to remember your day. Georgia was disappointed it was all over and immediately wanted to go back in – so it can’t be all that scary! The London Dungeons is recommended for children 8 years and over – I would agree with that, although it really depends on the child, I probably wouldn’t have taken an 8 year old Georgia, but then I know she wouldn’t have enjoyed it, but it seemed like I picked the right age for her first trip.
So ticketing and queuing aside – The London Dungeons is a fantastic place to kill a few hours in London, just remember don’t expect to walk up and go in during busy periods, there really needs a bit of planning involved!
Any questions – pop them in the comments!