Generally if someone asked me the best theme park to take a small person to, I’d suggest Chessington, LEGOLAND Windsor, or CBeebies Land at Alton Towers – Thorpe Park has its eyes firmly set on bigger people, in pursuit of faster, wilder rides.
I was wrong.
My kids get to go to theme parks a lot, generally because I love going and we mostly visit either Chessington and LEGOLAND Windsor as they are squarely for younger thrill-seekers, but I wanted to see what Thorpe Park would offer J, who is 4 years old, and 108cm tall. There used to be a myriad of small rides there when G was his age, all concentrated in the ‘Octopus’ Garden’, this has long since been redeveloped, and the rides removed, but it turns out there is PLENTY to keep a preschooler and the rest of the family happy too.
I’d say the only caveat is your preschooler really needs to be over 1m tall, as that’s the minimum on lots of the rides. Because Thorpe Park’s audience is largely older children, teens and adults even on a busy day in the holidays, or weekends you’ll find the smaller rides have very small queues – everyone else is at the bigger rides! With the exception of ‘X’ and ‘Depth Charge’, we didn’t queue for more than 10 mins for each ride. A Saturday in Half Term at any other UK theme park, you’d be queuing for a LOT longer – and we all know small people don’t like waiting around!
I thought I’d go through some of the rides we tried on Saturday and a few tips on each.
This, is a pretty tame ‘starter’ roller-coaster – it has faster sections, but nothing prolonged to terrify a small person. It’s enough to get their first burst of adrenaline, but not enough to put them off rides! Also, each rider has their own lap restraint, so even when sat next to a large adult, they are held securely. The staff on the ride are very interactive with the children, and will always wave as the train goes around! It has a height restriction of 1m. We walked on to our first ride of this, and it never had longer than a 10 minute queue, the queue spans around the ride so children can see exactly how the ride progresses.
Essentially, the Depth Charge is a massive four lane water slide that you ride down in a rubber dingy. It’s pretty tall and imposing, but the gradient of the slide is just about right. The queue on this on hot days can get quite long, we had two rides and waited about 15 mins – you get some fantastic views from the queue line. Smaller people (less than 1.3m) have to ride with an adult, and there are four boats that go down at once – it’s fun to have a family race to the bottom. Despite being a water ride, you don’t really get wet, aside from the odd splash. This was one of J’s favourites!
Mr Monkey’s Banana Boat.
This is essentially a scaled down Pirate Ship for those 1m and above. It doesn’t go very high, but enough to give J ‘tickles’ in his tummy. They can make it go a tiny bit higher if the riders ‘shout’ enough – brilliant fun! This can get longer queues at times, but we only waited 5 minutes.
Ooooh this is why it gets a bit more interesting – X is a roller-coaster, inside and in the dark, there’s lots of lights and lasers with dance music. This is where a big of parental discretion is required – if your child dislikes the Flying Fish, they’ll hate this. J was a bit quiet on the way round, and I was a little concerned he wasn’t enjoying it, but he wanted to go on again immediately after – so, he did! It’s not particularly intense as roller-coasters go, but the darkness can make it a little disorienting and more scary than it is. This is a popular ride for all ages, and the queues can get long on busy days, so try getting on first thing!
This is a simple, and fast train ride that goes around and around in a circle, moving up and down – I don’t really like this ride, it makes me dizzy as hell, but J really likes it – he had his hands up as he flew around. It was nice because he was able to sit next to Georgia for this ride as she was tall enough. It’s a bit tucked away and it’s easy to forget that it’s there, but there’s never really a queue so you can have plenty of rides. There’s lots of picnic benches in the vicinity too, so it’s a good place to stop and have a drink.
Exactly what it says on the tin, a rapids ride! For those 90cm and taller, this is a great little foray into the world of water rides, it’s nothing overly fast or violent – but there is a likelihood of getting wet! Unfortunately J bore the brunt of a particularly large splash, and he took it quite well – but if your child dislikes getting wet, make sure they’ve got a poncho, or coat! It’s hard to see most of the ride from the queue, but there’s nothing scary or frightening lurking in the ride circuit! It’s also worth noting children aren’t allowed to ride on laps for safety reasons.
Angry Birds 4D
Not ACTUALLY a ride, but a 4D cinema show – this doesn’t have a height restriction, but each child needs to be sat on their own seat as they move occasionally. This is a 10 minute or so Angry Birds cartoon with some fun 4D effects. My only gripe is the cardboard glasses aren’t so great for tiny faces, so if you have any 3D Kids Glasses from the cinema knocking around at home, take these, they fit better and work too! 🙂
Don’t forget, Thorpe Park also has its own beach and flumes, which are very popular in the summer months, so, if the weather is good, pack some swimming gear and towels, and spend a few hours in the sunshine!
On the surface Thorpe Park seems to be a place best suited for bigger kids, there’s plenty of fun and short queues for those with little legs!