We visited on a warm spring Sunday a week before the May half-term with my three children aged 6, 9 and 12 years old.
We decided to treat our children to a day at the park with the promise that the older two could experience some of the best rides in the country (there was a lot of hype in our house around Stealth and Colossus).
Having been to places like Chessington and Legoland in the past, we were keen to try something different and go with no pre-conceptions about the theme park island and arranged to meet up with some friends (they came with two 13-year-old children) who were also keen to try a different day out.
What age is Thorpe Park best for?
Best for: Children age 8 years and older
Still good fun for: 6-7 year olds who are above 1.2m tall and can ride with adults on some of the less intense rides
Avoid if: You have a young family as there are only a handful of rides for toddler to enjoy
How much does it cost in 2022?
It’s a lot cheaper to buy your ticket online in advance, with advance online prices starting at £37 (£59 on the day) per person, so around £156 for a family of 4. Under 3s are free but for very good reason as there isn’t a lot for them to do.
Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Thorpe Park?
- Look out for special offers for Thorpe Park tickets on Picniq
- Kelloggs are running a buy one get one free ticket when you buy one ‘on the day’ priced adult ticket. You still have to buy these tickets with the deal online but can find information on the Kelloggs packets themselves.
- Cadbury’s run the same scheme if you buy certain Cadbury products, see the website for more information.
- Tesco Clubcard vouchers allow you to turn 50p of points into £1.50 vouchers to use for admission tickets that again must be bought in advance.
- If you’re considering making a mini break of your visit, look for accommodation and ticket deals at Holiday Extras.
Are there any extra charges once I’m there?
- Lockers are available to use (£1 coins non-refundable)
- There is a large arcade situated in the Dome as you walk through the entrance and exit of the park which is a little frustrating for little ones not to be distracted and want to play on the arcade games.
- There are face painting stalls around the park that cost extra money and lots of fairground attractions with huge soft toys that are tempting for younger children handing around waiting for older siblings to finish on their rides (it’s hard to say no when there isn’t much else to do for them. You have been warned.)
- For a family of 5, the admission tickets are expensive so it falls into the ‘special treat/occasion’ category but we saved money on bringing our own food, snacks and drinks and took our own photos and videos rather than spend extra on the official ride photos.
How long will we spend at Thorpe Park?
To make the most of the rides on offer and allow queuing time, spending the whole day at the park is exhausting but necessary to feel you have had value for your money.
We arrived just after the park opened at 10am and had to queue for 15 minutes to enter the park. So if you want to take your time, it’s definitely worth thinking about an overnight package with 2-day park entry included.
What shouldn’t be missed?
Highlights for 5-10 year olds:
- The Rumba Rapids were a big hit for our 6-year-old and 9-year-old because the ride was different each time depending where you sat on the boat and who was in your boat with you!
- My 6-year-old enjoyed being slightly splashed but not drenched wet (which would have shocked him) while my 9 year-old enjoyed the slightly faster Storm Surge for a more exhilarating water ride.
- The Flying Fish rollercoaster is also the perfect amount of speed and excitement for this age group although height restrictions do apply which means you might have to ride with them if they are under a certain height.
Highlights for 11 year olds+:
- Older children will be buzzing after a ride on Stealth, the UK’s fastest rollercoaster. The ride lasts no more than 30 seconds but the buzz is something that you’ll be hard-pressed to equal. It also gave my 12 year-old serious kudos points with her mates.
- 13 year olds and over will probably find Derren Brown’s Ghost Train a unique experience (you have to be 13 to go on this ride) and one that is both terrifying but exhilarating all in one go. My 12 year old wants to come back next year to the park to take part in this, she has no fear (unlike her mother!)
Highlights for 2-5 year olds:
- There is very little for this age group apart from Amity beach which offers a place to paddle and play in the sand.
- There are lots of fun-fair games that cost extra money as you walk through the park – large stuffed toys catch the eye of lots of eagle-eyed toddlers so beware!
- There are some street shows, dancing and entertainment through the year depending on when you go, we saw a Mardi Gras style parade, colourful characters on stilts and listened to some musical delights that, given the hot day, if you closed your eyes you might well imagine yourself on the streets of New Orleans.
Top tips for enjoying Thorpe Park as a family:
- Comfy trainers/shoes are a must as there is a lot of standing around and shoes that slip-off easily or flip-flops are a big no as they will fly off on some of the rides too easily.
- Theme parks like Thorpe Park are a lot about mindset – if you go with the attitude that you will probably only get to experience a few rides and queue a long time then you won’t be disappointed. If you want to go and try every ride and still be back home in time for an afternoon nap, you will be.
Does it cater well to children of all ages?
This is definitely one for older children, 7-8 years old and above is ideal. Our 6-year-old who is tall but not very adventurous could have happily spent the day on the Rumba Rapids but that’s about it. The Rapids were good because you were constantly moving in the queue, but other rides like The Storm In A Teacup, also suitable for his age, seem to take a long time loading, and unloading people onto the rides. Snacks are definitely key when you are queuing for the rides and will help pass the time but otherwise it depends on how patient/old your children are.
There’s plenty for primary school aged children and beyond to enjoy, especially children 8 years and older who can reach the height requirements on the rides and who don’t get scared easily.
However, this isn’t the place for families with very young children, as there are only a handful of rides for toddler to enjoy. The Amity beach is a nice area for younger children to paddle in under adult supervision, but realistically you wouldn’t spend money going to Thorpe Park if you just want a day on an artificial sandy beach.
We split up as a family which we found worked best for the age range of my children – my friend took my older children on the rollercoasters and more intense rides and my husband and I took our youngest for a wander around the other bits of the park.
What to bring:
- Reusable water bottles are perfect as there are lots of water stations you can refill around the park
- A towel for the water rides (waterproofs and spare layers ideally too)
- Sun-protection/lotion/hats as on a hot day in a long queue you will feel the burn quite quickly
- A sturdy rucksack – If you can pack everything into a rucksack that will save you using a locker but you will have to leave everything at the side of the ride or with someone not going on the rides
What are the queues like:
- Long queues (around an hour or more): Stealth, Colossus, Samurai, SAW – The Ride, The Swarm and Nemesis Inferno are the most popular rides in the park and therefore the ones with the longest wait times
- Shorter queues (20-40 minutes): Detonator, Tidal Wave, Storm Surge and Depth Charge are popular water rides but move fairly quickly so while some of the queues might still be quite long at times you are moving more quickly. Rumba Rapids queues move quickly because of the revolving boats on offer going all the time.
- No queues: Amity Beach is accessible all the time it’s open and the street shows and parades that run on and off through the day have set times to show up and watch.
- Don’t think to yourself ‘I’ll leave this ride and come back later’ if you walk past and there is only a short queue. Some of rides we thought we would leave to later in the day were then closed due to a malfunction and we regretted not getting on them when we walked past.
- When you go over the bridge to take you on to the island, the first ride you see is Depth Charge, an inflatable water slide that you can race down (there are four lanes in a row). We thought this would be a fun quick ride to get us going because the queue was minimal but for some reason the loading of the boats at the bottom back up to the top and getting riders on the rides took a ridiculously long time.
Is it worth buying a Fast Track package to avoid the queues?
There are lots of Fast Track packages on offer depending on what rides you want to go on so it might be worth visiting the website for a better idea of what package you want. You can also get a one-off pass (One Shot Fast Track) for £10 which gives you Fast Pass access to just one ride.
However, on our visit with we went with a friend who paid £35 for Fast Track tickets on an ‘Adrenaline’ package, which gave him the option of Mix and Match passes for any 5 roller coasters. This didn’t stop the rides being closed and therefore was frustrating not to be able to feel you had your money’s worth for the sake of saving a bit of extra time.
In theory FastTrack tickets are a good idea but there was still a bit of waiting time (still 30 minutes for Stealth) when really I’d expect FastTrack to get you in quicker than that.
What to watch out for:
- Sometimes the rides stop while you are mid queue for no reason that is announced which is frustrating. Staff gave us fast track pass to use when we were told to leave the queue when the ride had closed after 30 minutes of waiting which was kind but unfortunately it was closed for the rest of the day so a bit of a waste of time and complimentary tickets.
- We were turned away from Nemesis Inferno and were told by a member of staff that someone had been sick on a ride and that there was a big clean-up in action. It’s particularly frustrating if you have been waiting in line for half an hour, and only catch snippets of a voice over a crackly loud-speaker that you can’t make sense of.
- If you go on any of the water rides or you want a paddle at Amity Beach, a change of clothes or a towel is a must. We took wet-weather gear for the water rides but they didn’t stop us getting completely drenched (Tidal Wave is one of the wettest water rides in the country for a very good reason) and although the sun helped dry us off fairly quickly, on colder or more overcast days, you would get cold. There are drying machines available at the end of most of these rides but they cost £3 to use and the queues for them can be as long as the ride itself.
- There are lots of rides that have on-ride photography which will include photo flash including:• SAW – The Ride
• The Swarm
• Nemesis Inferno
• Tidal Wave
• Flying Fish
• Rumba Rapids
• The Walking Dead: The Ride
- There are also a number of attractions that have theatrical/show/strobe lighting and/or flash photography like Angry Birds 4D Cinema so may not be suitable for everyone.
Is there a map or app to help you navigate the park?
Yes. Planning is key to this park and keeping up to date with the queue times on the app is a big help. There is an interactive map on there too but paper copies are available as you go through the entrance.
There is lots to see and look at as the park isn’t as spread out as other theme parks meaning you don’t feel you have to walk for miles to get anywhere which is good and you are never far away from a toilet or street entertainer.
What are the food and drink facilities like at Thorpe Park?
- There is a range of eateries around the park including a Burger King, Pizza outlet, Sombrero’s street food and Kebabs
- There is also the Veggie Box for vegan and vegetarian offerings plus a coffee stop that sold Costa coffee (ideal for a bit of a caffeine fix)
- When you arrive at the park, you walk through a Dome which is home to more restaurants as well as an arcade and gift shop
- Our children love an ice cream and if you are near Stealth there is a special Ben & Jerry’s shop was on site. We also found a small freezer of ice lollies in the Flock ‘N’ Shop sweet shop but then we were mesmerised by the pick’n’mix which was adorning the entire wall opposite
- There are lots of Slushy stalls around the park and depending on the weather and time of day, not all of the flavour choices are still icey!
- NB – we found that most of the food outlets only accepted card as payment too.
Can you take a picnic?
Yes, you are allowed to take in your own food and drinks and picnics and there are water fountains dotted around the park to allow you to refill your bottles. There were lots of picnic benches and seats around the park but there was no designated picnic area. We didn’t find any picnic bench that gave us much shade when we had our lunch which meant we sat on a grass verge and low wall to keep out of the midday sun.
What are the toilets like?
There are toilets as you enter and exit the park which was good if you had a long journey and needed the toilet before you began your day of adventure.
There are lots of toilets dotted about the park too and they are all very accessible and clean. We used them at the start and the end of our visit and there was no change in cleanliness or loo roll supplies and we didn’t have to queue. The areas around the toilets and the bins and the whole park itself was kept clean and tidy.
How well does it cater for disabled visitors?
- There is a Ride Access Pass that can be applied for online for guests who require extra assistance or are unable to queue due to a condition or disability. This allows them access to the rides via a virtual queuing system for themselves and up to three people (one of which must be age 14+)
- The Ride Access Pass means you don’t wait within the main ride queue lines, and enter by a dedicated entrance for Ride Access Pass users
- There are a limited amount of buggies to hire from The Island shop but require £10 deposit and then £10 for the day. These have to be left at the entrance to the ride queues however
- The park isn’t as spread out as other theme parks which means that everything feels closer and you don’t have to walk for miles to reach different rides
- For those in need of a short rest, you can easily locate meeting points and know that older teenagers who want to explore by themselves aren’t too far away
- During busier periods at the park this can mean that it feels like lots of people in a smaller area which might be overwhelming for some children
- There is a general ‘noise’ about the park which some children might find overwhelming – the noise of the ride mechanics and the screams from various riders all add to the general background audio
- There are first aiders who patrol the park and are on hand to offer advice.
Does Thorpe Park run any seasonal or school-holiday activities for children?
There is a range of different themed events planned throughout the year which means it’s not just all about the rides at the park, there is lot to watch as you wander around too.
The app and website has lots of details on what is planned throughout the year so make sure you book your visit accordingly – for example, Fright Nights run throughout the Halloween month of October.
What to do before you go:
- Download the Thorpe Park App: this is a super helpful tool and you can book fast track tickets as well as book slots for Derren Brown’s Ghost Train. It also gives you a run-down of the queuing times for the different rides. And they were accurate – we tested it on the first ride we went on to make sure!
- Work out with older children what rides they want to prioritise and have an order in mind so that you don’t waste time ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ over what do to next.
- The website is good to give you an idea of the rides on offer as well as a height restrictions for each ride so you can measure up your children before you leave the house. This will save a lot of disappointment on the day!
Opening dates and times:
The park opens at 10am all year round but there are certain times of the year that it stays open later. It’s also worth remembering that the ride queues close at a certain time, not the park itself, so if you are clever you can join your favourite ride just before the queue closes. The park is shut in the winter months, normally from the end of October to the end of March. Visit www.thorpepark.com for more on opening times.
Is it worth a long car journey?
We travelled just over an hour to the park and that seemed reasonable for a day that could have gone either way – lots of rides that filled the day or just one or two rides that were enough to keep satisfied. Older children who have more stamina to queue than younger ones will be happy to have ridden on Europe’s tallest water ride for example.
Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Thorpe Park?
- You can find family-friendly hotel options near to the Resort on Booking.com
- For nearby self-catering cottages suitable for the whole family, check Holiday Cottages
- Other self-catering holiday home options can be found on Vrbo and Airbnb
- If you are looking for mini break options, look for accommodation and ticket deals at Holiday Extras
- You can also stay in one of the Thorpe Shark Cabins on site.
Nearby attractions for a longer day out:
It is likely that you will spend at least one full day at Thorpe Park, but if you are planning in staying in the area for longer, Thorpe Lakes Aqua Park is located just a 5 minute drive away from the Resort.
How to get there:
Thorpe Park is located in Surrey, just 20 miles from central London.
- Driving is the most popular form of transport to the park and there is a huge area designated for parking with attendants showing you where to go. The SatNav postcode is KT16 8PN
- Situated just off the M25, our SatNav took us directly to the entrance but there are lots of signs as you come off the motorway too.
- Tip: if your Satnav leads you to Norlands Lane, keep a lookout for the big coaster track over the park’s main entrance on Staines Road
- There were crossing stations for pedestrians who travelled by bus to the park with the buses also taking visitors to Staines, the nearest main railway station too
- There is quite a helpful segment on travelling to the park on the website so if you are taking public transport it gives you lots of information on the local bus routes.
Is there free parking?
You have to pay for parking and scan your pre-paid ticket by the barriers when you leave. It’s £1 cheaper if you buy your parking online and in advance (£7 rather that £8 on the day). If you leave the park at the end of the day when it closes be prepared to queue to get out for a long time (we waited for 30 minutes).
My older two children loved it and would go back tomorrow, whilst my 6 year-old was exhausted by the length of time queuing for rides and not actually doing much else. That said, we all enjoyed the buzz and thrill of doing something that wasn’t an everyday occurrence since just watching the rides in action was pretty jaw-dropping.
Once inside the park, we didn’t spend more than £10 the whole day which were on afternoon snacks (one medium slushy, one packet of five donuts – warm and delicious!) as we came prepared with food and other treats.
My older children were buzzing with what they had experienced (not many 9 year-olds can say they have travelled at 80mph in two seconds) and so collectively we were all happy they had made some memories.
If you can get a good deal on entrance tickets, you have older children that are full of stamina and have no fear, then it’s definitely a unique and memorable day out.