THIS sizzling summer, a plastic poncho probably wasn’t high on most people’s list of essential holiday items.
But it was crucial for me walking out of the new Chessington World Of Adventures’ latest ride with a shred of dignity.
Because the name of the game at Barrel Bail Out is to spray as many members of the public as possible with water — and, of course, get soaked in return.
For three minutes of fun, myself, a three-year-old, a six-year-old and a nine-year-old whizz around in a barrel while aiming our arm-powered water guns at neighbouring barrels and, even more enjoyable, a queue of hostage families waiting patiently for their turn.
If the standard for getting soaked on a ride is the log flume, this is easily as fun.
Barrel Bail Out and Trawler Trouble are two new rides in the park’s new Shipwreck Coast land that opened this summer, joining two nautical rides already on site — Seastorm, with its spinning miniature galleons, and the Blue Barnacle pirate ship ride.
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Trawler Trouble is the slightly more adrenaline-fuelled of the two newbies but still designed for kids of nearly all ages, where you are trapped on a fishing boat stuck in stormy waters.
The boat spins in place as it makes its way up and down a pipe-shaped track. Imagine a large, U-rated version of the waltzers at a funfair, without annoying music.
Shipwreck Coast takes inspiration from coastal harbour towns with nautical elements such as lighthouses, boats, sails, fishing nets and anchors.
As a Chessington veteran who last frequented the park as a teenager in the days of the now sadly departed Professor Burp’s Bubbleworks, I was astonished to see how much it had changed (RIP “chewing gum tree” in the Vampire ride queue).
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Although these days, with a three-year-old son in tow, I don’t get so much as a glimpse at that Vampire coaster, so it’s just as well that a lot of their recent focus has been on younger-years entertainment.
Also new this year and a hit with my son were the live events with superstars for the toddler crew — Cocomelon, who have their own sing-a-long experience, and Elmer The Patchwork Elephant, who has his own mini stage show, Elmer And The Bedtime Story.
Disney has long held the mantle for theme park entertainment outside of rides, knowing frazzled parents and children all need a breather in between the queues and excitement of a roller-coaster.
But Chessington has tapped into pre-school needs in recent years with enthusiasm, as demonstrated with its recent and extremely popular Julia Donaldson attractions, such as The Gruffalo River Ride and the Room On The Broom attraction.
But the park is set for an even bigger boost next year with the launch of World of Jumanji in spring 2023.
It will be the world’s first themed land for the blockbuster movie franchise and is set to cost around £17million, which is the largest single investment in the history of Chessington.
If the new Jumanji land is anything near as impressive as the Gruffalo-themed rooms in Chessington’s Azteca & Safari onsite hotel then we’re in for a great big treat.
I was totally blown away with the bedroom — which in case you weren’t already aware comes with a Gruffalo looming over the main double bed, a giant mouse in the bunk-bed kids’ room and a door that speaks with the Gruffalo’s voice as you enter and leave the room.
Imagine heading out to breakfast and hearing the words, “You go ahead and I’ll follow after,” as you close the door.
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Any theme park with that kind of imagination is going to have a field day with Jumanji’s car chase ostriches and baboon attacks.
So, you go ahead Chessington — and I’ll follow after.
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