Not many people can say they have a large theme park right on their doorstep. I used to frequent Chessington World of Adventures on a regular basis, particularly during my teenage years. But since having Monkey, I’ve not been back – the main reason being that he’s too small to go on a lot of the rides.
Chessington World of Adventures at Christmas
So when we were invited to go on their Winter’s Trail in celebration of Christmas, I was keen to see what else the popular attraction has to offer, considering the main park is now closed for the season.
It had slipped my mind that Chessington World of Adventures actually has a zoo – back in the old days, it used to be referred to one before its rapid expansion into a major theme park. I was much too busy screaming my head off on all the roller coasters to consider going to see the animal enclosures. So much to my surprise, there was plenty for Monkey and I to keep us occupied.
Chessington World of Adventure’s Winter’s Trail is a seasonal event. Visitors are able to meet Father Christmas and his elves, take part in activities as well as watch shows, explore the zoo and the Sea Life aquarium.
When we first arrived, a friendly steward bent down and asked Monkey what he would like to do first, before suggesting a trip to see Father Christmas. My boy took him up on his offer without hesitation and we were led to the super-perky elves outside the grotto – each one with their names adorned on their outfits.
The area was filled with fir trees and even though it was a crisp, sunny day, it certainly felt festive – particularly with elf Whoopsie’s infectious enthusiasm. We were led to one of several huts to meet the man himself and, as Father Christmases go, he was pleasant enough. I did feel the session was rather rushed, and before we even had the chance to converse, we were already being ushered into a pose for the obligatory photograph. Monkey didn’t mind, however, and his eyes lit up when he received a present. It wasn’t busy, and our visit only lasted around three minutes…
We also went to the Elve’s Kitchen to decorate a complimentary cookie. Again, while Monkey enjoyed the task – and nearly broke his teeth on the rock-hard biscuit, I was a little disappointed with the setup. Just a group of tables in what is essentially a make-shift tent. There was very little sparkle, or pomp and ceremony – just plain tables lined up in rows. I will say again, though, that the men and women playing the elves were superb. If it wasn’t for them, the whole ‘magical’ experience would have been a damp squib.
What was the highlight of our trip at Chessington, however, was getting to explore the zoo and watch several presentations, as well as join in with animal feeds, which are all spread out throughout the day – including a penguin show, otter and sea lion talk and a farm animal meet and greet.
Monkey particularly loved the insects, lizards and snakes in the Creepy Caves:
We also enjoyed the Trail of the Kings – getting up close to wild beasts including lions, tigers and gorillas… Monkey delighted in this section and we spent some time, pretty much by ourselves, trying to spot them all.
Monkey was keen to go to our next stop – The Sea Life Centre. I was impressed with Chessington’s aquarium, considering it wasn’t a huge space, the layout, displays and tanks really allowed us to marvel at a variety of marine life, including sting rays, sharks, jellyfish and sea horses. We loved the interactive rock pools and the ocean tunnel – trying to spot all the exotic fishes.
By this time we were both feeling a little peckish. And, while there were a few restaurants serving fayre such as fish and chips and a pizza buffet available, we opted to grab a hot dog from one of the food stalls. Although a little chilly having to sit outside and eat it, we wolfed them down in record time before making our way to the Trail’s new Christmas show, Pandamonium.
We managed to get front row seats and there was plenty of interaction with the young audience from the three actors. Monkey was spell-bound by the life-size animatronic pandas, which did look extremely life-like.
To my surprise, the time had really sped away during our fun activities at Chessington World of Adventures – and we had yet to venture to the Amazu and Wanyama Safari Village. Monkey was in his element in Amazu – a treetop adventure trail consisting of slides, walkways and climbing nets – all set amongst the Monkey enclosures. This was a real hit with him and all the other children happily clambering away.
Our final stop of the day was to the Safari Village. A great opportunity to spot African wildlife including meerkats, zebras, gazelles and lemurs. Monkey rushed to the Giraffe viewing platform which overlooks the Zufari – a vast expanse of terrain. He was a little disappointed not to see any, but he understood it was cold and that giraffes like warmer weather… Well, that’s what I assumed was the reason behind their absence…
Chessington World of Adventure’s Winter’s Trail definitely kept us busy for several hours. In fact, we were both knackered! We certainly weren’t bored – and being able to have lots of interaction with all different types of animals, creatures and wildlife was a great experience. Meanwhile, the presentations, shows and feeding times meant that there were plenty of activities to take part in, too.
The elves, Santa’s grotto, and music certainly added a touch of magic to our day and, even though I personally thought there could have been more festivities at Chessington Christmas – such as yuletide drinks and food, fake snow and more twinkly fairy lights, Monkey really enjoyed himself. I’m just a sucker for all those things!
* We were invited as guests of Chessington World of Adventures. All opinions are my own. Tickets for the Winter’s Trail are available online and cost from £23 per person for a full day pass, which includes the Santa’s Grotto and a hot drink and snack for an adult.