I would say it was a shame, but with so many other Merlin attractions in easy reach we decided to head to one of our favourites - Chessington World of Adventures, where we could try out the new and exciting Gruffalo River Ride.
We decided to go on Friday when Matt had the day off work and got there soon after opening. Parking wasn't a problem and we were quite close to the entrance of the park. There was no waiting as we went straight in with our passes after a quick security check and headed straight to the new ride.
It seemed like most people had the same idea as us and so there was a small queue of very excited children. We waited for about 20 minutes but the line was moving steadily and there were little features to keep the children entertained. Ollie isn't a big fan of the dark and got upset once we were inside but we all stuck it out.
For me and Lily, I thought the ride was fabulous. You could see the effort that had gone in to making it magical and realistic. The amazing Axel Scheffler illustrations, lighting and soundtrack were wonderful - The Gruffalo is one of our favourite books and we enjoyed pointing out the birds and squirrels as well as the bigger characters. Unfortunately, the creatures were a tad too scary for Ollie who just clung to Daddy the whole way round! If he'd enjoyed it then we would have gone on again as Lily loved it.
By the time we'd finished it up it had just passed 11:00 and so we took the opportunity to have a lovely early lunch at the Vampire Burger Kitchen. This worked well for the children and meant that we could eat before the lunchtime rush (we usually eat between 11:30-12:00 for lunch anyway). We haven't eaten at the Burger Kitchen before so it was a nice change to the Pizza and Pasta Buffet which was disappointing on our last visit. The food was decent quality with reasonable portions but were slightly on the expensive side - it is definitely worth buying a meal deal from the website in advance!
After lunch there was plenty of time for rides. It was a quiet day in the park and we found that there was no wait at all for the majority of rides we wanted to try. The children liked the Sea Dragons and Flying Jumbos rides the best although Lily really enjoyed the Tomb Blaster ride and wanted to try it again. She's turning into a little adventurer now she's older and was even brave enough to try out the Scorpion Express train and Hocus Pocus Hall (which scared the life out of her a year ago).
Matt and I have been wanting to go on Zufari for ages now but Lily has always been too small to ride. This time, Ollie took a well timed nap and because there was no queue at all Lily was able to go round twice - once with each of us.
It is certainly worth going in the week. I don't usually mind a small wait and queues are to be expected at theme parks but this time we were able to do so much more than we normally get to. I still can't believe how much we packed in.
We had a nice walk round the Zoo area and the Sea Life Centre. The Zoo is what set's Chessington apart for me and makes it so good for smaller children - even if they aren't keen on rides, there is still so much to see and do! We saw far too much to list but I particularly liked the tigers and the lion cubs. If I had to guess then I'd say that Ollie's favourites were the gorillas, judging on the noises and chest thumping he made when he saw them...
Matt is more of a thrill-seeker than I am when it comes to rides so I'm always happy to let him go off on a couple if there's enough time. On this visit he went on the Rattlesnake - I wish I'd got a photo of him going down the big drop, his hair was flying all over the place it made me laugh.
We had a short wait for our last ride - Tiny Truckers. Easily Ollie's favourite part of the day! You'd think he was driving a real truck the way he way he acted.
If you're able to visit during the week then I would highly recommend it. However, do check the website to see what rides are open as some were closed on our visit. For us it wasn't a problem as there was plenty to do but if you have a little one who's heart is set on something then you might want to check to avoid disappointment.
We'll definitely be going back to Chessington again before our Merlin Annual Passes expire at the beginning of the summer. We're making the most of having them so expect to be completely Chessington-ed out soon!
And of course we'll be heading to Alton Towers at some point soon - I can't wait to see how excited Ollie gets when he visits CBeebies Land.