On Saturday 5th December, I took a trip to Chessington World of Adventures for their Winter’s Tail event. With the UK currently in a tier system, I was fortunate to be able to travel up and experience what was going to be my final theme park fix of 2020. Considering this year has turned into a real topsy turvy year, I’m glad I’ve managed to get my theme park fix throughout the final 6 months of the year. Very grateful for that!
I’ve visited Chessington’s winter event over the last few years and it’s been the perfect excuse to get into the festive spirit. The park itself is adorned with Christmas decorations and lights, it’s a truly magical experience for everyone. Arriving around 1.30pm, it was obvious that I wanted to have a little peek of the construction of both Blue Barnacle and ‘Croc Drop’. There’s been plenty of changes over the last 4 weeks or so since I was last at the park for their Halloween season. You can check out the latest updates on Chessington Buzz and Theme Park Guide.
As I was wandering around the park, I have noticed a number of photo spots this year including the giant Nutcracker prince located at the entrance to Wild Asia. Perfect for Instagrammers wanting to get that shot for the ‘gram! There are a number of rides open throughout Winter’s Tail including Vampire, The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure, SeaStorm, ‘Jingle’ Bus and so much more. There’s a lot to keep families and enthusiasts entertained. It was a given that I would get a ride on Vampire at night – well, two rides as it was freezing cold!
I took a stroll into the Magical Christmas Kitchen, located in Wild Asia (former spots for Halloween scare mazes Spyders, Curse of the Lost Tomb & The Krypt). This was a really cute interactive walkthrough with several decorations. So many photo opportunities can be had within here. With the current COVID restrictions, you are required to wear a mask when inside this attraction as well as using the hand sanitisers when you first enter. Also, children will be able to claim a free cookie at the end of this walkthrough. Fear not adults as you can collect a hot drink and snack from Vegan Street Dogs outlet in Mexicana. The hot chocolate was perfect for warming up my cold fingers!
You can also walk through the Father Christmas Grottos and meet the main man himself. You may even bump into an array of Elves too. Once you’ve met Father Christmas/Santa, you’ll then receive a golden ticket which gives children the chance to pick out a toy, a reindeer or polar bear, within the Toy Workshop. A truly exciting opportunity for the kids to get into the Christmas spirit.
I also couldn’t forget the new ‘The Wild Christmas Panto’. A pantomime with a twist when you’ve got the Gruffalo involved. Located on the Mane Stage, it’s a great way to split up your day whilst you take in all the Christmas goodness around the park. The pantomime itself may not have been made for me but I couldn’t help but join in with all the actions and saying ‘Oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is!’ Alongside this, there are several areas where festive singers are around the park singing your favourite Christmas songs. Perfect way to build up the atmosphere around the park plus the singers were fantastic, highly talented cast this year!
All in all, it was a truly wonderful, festive day at Chessington World of Adventures. If you’re looking for a festive day out in the Surrey, then Chessington is the perfect place to go to.
July was the month we were all waiting for. Lockdown restrictions easing meant the travel & leisure industry could start to pick things up again. The pro of that being us avid travellers could start making plans to fill our weekends – within reason and following the Government guidelines. This led to me wanting to return to a place I haven’t been to since 2011. Beaulieu National Motor Museum.
If you are based down South, especially within the Hampshire/Dorset area, you may be aware of Beaulieu. Known for being the home of the Montagu family and houses a very impressive collection of cars, both old and new. Some people may not feel like Beaulieu is on their list of places to visit because they have a lack of interest in cars. I concur as it’s more than just the motor museum.
Note: You don’t need to wear a mask when visiting Beaulieu. All staff had face coverings and kept their distance from guests. Honestly, with the capped capacity, it almost felt a bit like normal despite the social distancing measures in place.
So what else is there to see and do?
Beaulieu Palace House
One of the standout attractions at Beaulieu is the beautiful Beaulieu Palace House, home to the Montague family. Anybody who loves stately homes will adore this. The building itself has some stunning gothic architecture, overlooking the Beaulieu river millpond and vast Garden area. With the new Government guidelines, they have implemented a new one-way system which worked really well. Certain rooms with public access were restricted to one household (due to entry and exit being via the same door).
The staff were happy to help answer questions about the home and provide some interesting facts. Most of the artwork, paintings and needlework on display in the house has been created by Lord Montagu’s mother, Belinda. I do enjoy walking around a stately home and seeing history unfold as you walk through the different rooms. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to live in such a grand place as your home.
Beaulieu Abbey Ruins
Am I the only person that loves wandering around some ruins? Not only is it the perfect way to take some creative photographs but discovering the history surrounding them makes it more fascinating. The 800-year-old Abbey has an interesting history behind it including being the home to monks, a falconry, destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538 and so much more.
Not only do you have the Abbey ruins, there is a working Parish Church (closed during our visit) and one of the buildings decked out as an entertainment venue for weddings etc. I can see why many people would want to get married here – the setting is just too perfect! So make sure to walk down towards the Abbey ruins and explore this area.
As you make your way towards the bottom end of the grounds, there are some beautifully stunning gardens to enjoy. Photographers will enjoy spending time taking photos here – especially when playing around with manual mode like myself. A nice feature in the gardens which I haven’t seen before was a topiary set-up to Alice in Wonderland, based off the original book by Lewis Carroll. It’s a nice way to break up the day as you take in the flowers, fauna and see the monorail going past above you.
Lots of Vroom from the past and present…
Most people will know Beaulieu for its extensive collection of classic cars, motorbikes and more – there’s at least 280 different models. Most cars within the motor museum are part of the main Montagu collection however there have been many donations over the years. Once again there was a one-way system in place so guests can maintain social distancing. The museum is fairly sizeable therefore you won’t feel concerned about getting close to other households. Before you enter the museum, you are also given the option to use the hand sanitizer provided.
Once inside, you can follow the whole museum round, exploring the many different types of cars on show. My main focus and fascination here has always been with F1, Le Mans etc. since my brother and dad are into their motorsports! There were some new additions for this year including The Bear motorbike that’s been ridden around the world. A great way to spend a couple of hours seeing the different cars throughout history – it’s amazing how much cars have changed.
World of Top Gear
Top Gear is well known amongst motor enthusiasts. At Beaulieu, you have the opportunity to see some of the most notable creations from the show from both the old series with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May and the new series with Matt LeBlanc, Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris etc. I may not be a die hard fan of the show but it’s actually cool seeing the cars featured here – some are the actual cars from the TV series. You’ll also have the chance to see The Stig too. As per the new rules and regulations at the moment, select ‘selfie spots’ are closed off to the public.
On Screen Cars
Famous cars from some of your favourite movies and TV shows are also featured here at Beaulieu. This include Mr. Beans, Only Fools & Horses Van, the Ford Anglia from Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets plus many more. It’s nice to have this feature here as it provides a nice bit of nostalgia. Whilst this is only a small area next to the World of Top Gear, it’s worth having a little wander inside. Again, as per Government guidelines, this is also a one-way system.
Other attractions that I haven’t mentioned above include:
The monorail that takes you from the entrance area near World of Top Gear down towards the Gardens/Palace House. There are normally 2 monorail stations so you have the opportunity to get off at each stop however due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, they’ve closed off one station therefore you take one lap around the grounds. A quick 10 minute journey that is perfect for the whole family.
New for 2020, this play area has been created for the whole family to let off steam. What is great is that the architecture has been inspired by the real history of the Beaulieu area, including a nod to the Palace House and Beaulieu Abbey. The whole area looks great and features a perfect sitting area for adults to keep an eye on their little ones. Unfortunately the site was closed during our visit but Beaulieu are making plans to get the area ready to re-open under the new Government guidelines. Keep updated on the Beaulieu website.
On Monday 10th June 2019, Jared and I started off our German road trip with a visit to Bayern Park. Whilst trip planning, we wanted to tackle the southern German parks with the help of Coast2Coaster. I didn’t do much research into the park itself and to be honest, I’m glad I didn’t. Bayern Park has a lot of German beauty that makes this a quiant place to visit when in the Bavaria area.
As we drove towards the park from our hotel in Munich, the entrance is very understated. First impressions for me were: ‘Hmmm, I’m not sure I’m going to like this park.’ Little did I know that there was a lot more beauty to the park once you set foot inside. Sometimes the phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover runs very true. A park with a understated entrance doesn’t mean this is going to be a ‘disappointing’ park.
As you walk inside, the entrance area has your typical shops – perfect for nabbing guests to spend more money on gifts and merchandise before they leave or enter the park. Great sales ploy. Anyway, onwards to the park.
The park overall in terms of beauty & landscaping, it’s up there as one of the most beautiful parks that uses the natural landscape so well. It looks understated but honestly, the rides work so well within the trees/fauna. It’s nice to step away from a park that uses themed buildings to create a more closed in atmosphere. And let’s not forget about how beautiful German architecture is.
First stop for us was to grab the creds. The park is currently home to 5 creds – depending on what you class as a cred. There are 2 Butterfly creds, 2 Zierer Tivoli coasters and a Maurer Launch coaster. Since I was going to be getting my 350th coaster here in the park, I wanted this to be Freischütz. Okay, sometimes it’s fun to let your key ‘milestones’ be random but not for me. Besides, 350 isn’t a big milestone but I’ll still shout about it.
Butterfly coasters are renowned in European theme parks. I don’t really see the appeal other than to tick them off as a +1 for my count. These are self operated by simply closing the gates, sitting inside the ride, pulling down the bar & pressing the start button on the ride itself. You go back and forth until the ride comes to a stop. Simple & easy creds to grab without queuing too long. Yes, Jared and I did get some strange looks from the locals but we didn’t care.
Why the park needed two Butterfly coasters? I’ll never know. One is big model & the other is your traditional small model that you’ll see in other parks around Europe. The big model was located inside a building, ‘themed’ to space so I guess it had that going for it. And aptly named ‘Star-Shuttle’. Otherwise, it was two creds to easily grab within the first 30 mins. You’ll also be pleased to know that these are located towards the front end of the park.
Next up was to tick off the two Zierer Tivoli coasters. Again, the park seems to like having a ‘big’ version & ‘small’ version of the same manufacturer. The small version, called ‘Froschbarn’, is a standard layout that’s perfect for young kids. If you’ve been to Paultons Park, the ‘Dino Chase’ coaster is the exact same layout. Short but sweet little cred that’s hidden in the trees. Must admit, the natural vibes of this park were very welcome.
One thing to note about Bayern Park, it’s hilly in places. As you travel downwards, you’ll find the second Zierer Tivoli coaster. Again, the ride blends in well with the natural landscape. I don’t know if it’s just me but I love being surrounded by trees & natural fauna when visiting a theme park. Don’t get me wrong, buildings can work well to disguise open spaces but I love a natural landscape. You can guess that I was the player of RCT that liked planting bushes and trees wherever I could.
The imaginative name of ‘Achterbahn’, the ride layout is a fun layout winding through the trees. The perfect next step up for young kids/thrillseekers. Zierer Tivoli coaster may not be my most favourite coasters but I have a small soft spot for them. I grew up with riding The Stinger/Cat-O-Pillar coaster at Paultons Park so Zierer Tivoli’s were a huge part of my young coaster enthusiasm.
Last but not least, my 350th coaster cred was… Freischütz. Surprisingly, this Maurer X-Car Flying Launch coaster was very enjoyable. The launch packs quite a punch, especially when sat in the back row. Not gonna lie, I don’t like the actual cars/seats themselves as they are ridiculously big and the restraints are super heavy to pull down yourself. I saw many people struggle to pull down their restraint so don’t feel embarrassed. The ride staff will help you out.
The music in the station was funky as hell. If there was one thing I could take away from the ride, it would be the music choice in the station. Random, I know. This park is very pretty yet it doesn’t have any true ‘stand out’ coasters in the park. Freischütz is fun with a great launch but nothing to shout about. Before I forget, the ride entrance is very well hidden. More so if you are located at the bottom end of the park near Achterbahn.
The park is almost split into 3 sections. Upper, Mid & Lower sections. The upper section houses the 2 Butterfly creds and a couple of flat rides including a beautifully decorated chairswing. The mid-section houses Freischütz (this is where the ride entrance is) & Froschbarn. Finally, the lower section houses several rides and attractions including Achterbahn, a Wiegand powered coaster (something we missed entirely!), log flume, rapids and more.
Considering we weren’t planning to spend all day at Bayern Park, I’m glad we did. Despite the humidity being ridiculous, we had a great day with some funny moments. One particular moment was riding the log flume. This was your standard travelling log flume layout that takes on the same style as Raging River Ride at Paultons Park or what you may commonly find at funfairs. The ride was not overly wet but as we plunged down the final drop of the ride, we almost capsized!
And with this, both Jared & I got more than we bargained for. More so for Jared who ended up getting soaked on his left side. Yes, I was wetting myself laughing. It happened so quickly that we didn’t know why it happened. Either we put too much weight on one side of the boat or the run off from the final drop was shorter than anticipated. Who knows? It was hilarious.
Next up was the Rapids ride. Again, another travelling style water ride that picks up a fair amount of speed as you travel along the trough. Fun with a few splashes here and there. Not a soaker even though on this particular day, we’d love a splash of water to cool down. Plus, in the station area, your bags are put onto a conveyor belt so as you exit the ride on the other side of the station, your bags will be there ready for you. I think this is a genius idea and more parks should use this for bag storage.
Granted we didn’t really explore the park to its whole extent. The lower part of Bayern Park doesn’t just have rides. There are animals too. From lynx, deer, pygmy goats & so much more. Gutted would be an understatement but this proves that some research may have helped. This would’ve helped us to understand more of the layout of the park too. Planned out what rides we wanted to do etc. Obviously our original intention was to grab the coaster creds, who can blame us right?
Aside from missing out a fair chunk of the park, we had a lovely day out at Bayern Park. Would we visit again? Probably not unless they build another coaster to a similar scale of Freischütz. The park may not be large in size but it’s a great park to include as part of a large road trip within the Bavaria area of Germany. This is how we did it and we don’t have any regrets going. Overall the park is beautiful and has some fun rides within.
Have you visited Bayern Park?
What are your favourite rides/coasters at the park?
When Chessington World of Adventures announced their brand new VIP Photography experience, I couldn’t resist buying this for myself and my partner. Last Sunday (1st March), we thoroughly enjoyed the whole day and are now even more keen to get out there and take photos using our SLR cameras.
After 3 sessions so far, we were in the trial phase. The whole experience is still being firmed down and finalised before an official release later on this year. Due to half the theme park being shut, we weren’t able to go down to Land of the Tigers to see the Amur Tigers or head into Lorikeet Lagoon. Whilst this was disappointing for us, it’s clear that this will be included later on this year when the park is fully open.
SO, WHAT DID YOU DO?
The Chessington VIP Photography experience was split into a fun & jam-packed itinerary. First up was an hour brief with Sally Beard, professional photographer at The Photography Boutique, teaching us about the basics of photography and how to take professional photos of animals. This was perfect for me since it’s been well over 10 years since I was taught how to use SLR cameras at college.
Afterwards, we headed into Amazu & Penguin Cove to get ourselves used to Manual mode. This was almost a good starting point to adjust the settings for ISO, aperture and shutter speed. We had front row seats to the Animal Antics show & enjoyed spending an hour on a Safari truck, taking photos of the Giraffes & Zebras in their paddock. Definitely worth adding to the bucket list!
You’re given an hour for lunch. Don’t worry about preparing any lunch as you’ll be given a VIP lunch voucher. This entitled us to a standard meal deal at any of the available food and drink outlets at Chessington. This is great for fussy eaters who can choose their favourite F&B outlet in the park – we opted for Captain’s Fish & Chips because it was quiet.
The afternoon session was pretty much flexible with the whole group. We enjoyed walking through the Trail of the Kings, front-row view of the Sea Lion Show & grabbing some cool shots of the Otters & Reindeer. This added flexibility was great as we could take as many photos as we wanted of the animals we cared the most about. Especially when feeding time came around for the Lions & Gorillas.
So what exactly did I learn from this VIP experience?
MANUAL MODE ISN’T SCARY TO USE
That’s right. Once you know the basics of ISO, aperture & shutter speed, the rest is pretty much simple to follow. It’s so easy to let the camera automatically adjust the settings for you. Sometimes that perfect shot can look overexposed or underexposed. With manual mode, you have complete control over how the photo looks. I’m now a changed woman and will opt for manual mode – it’s a lot easier to adjust than you think!
ANIMALS CAN BE FUNNY CHARACTERS
You’ll learn throughout this course that observing the animals can showcase their personalities. When I’ve visited the zoo at Chessington, I don’t really spend a lot of time observing the animals. Sometimes it’s a quick wander around and looking into the enclosures. Then it’s time to move on and see the next animal. Having my camera out made me think about the different angles and compositions of the photo I wanted to take. And you really see how funny the animals are, from headbutting each other to refusing to stay still!
NO PRESSURE TO TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS
When you’re in Auto mode, it’s easy to get trigger happy and take 1000s of photos. In manual mode, you don’t take nearly as many photos. Why? Because you’ll be spending more time focusing on getting the settings right for that perfect shot. After taking each photo, I was always checking over what I took to see if the exposure was correct, my depth of field was looking sharp etc. It might take a bit more work but the finished results were amazing!
PERFECT FOR BEGINNERS, AMATEURS & EXPERTS
This course is perfect for anyone with an interest in photography. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked with manual mode on an SLR or you’ve taken so many professional photos that you want to branch out into animal photography, this course is designed for everyone. I would say I’m a beginner with an interest and passion for photography. Yes, there were 3 other photographers with way more experience than me (my partner included) but that didn’t stop me from doing this course.
To conclude, I’d highly recommend doing this VIP Photography experience from Chessington. It was priced at £100 per person (during the trial period) which I feel was pretty reasonable. Considering you get at least 5 hours of photography, 1-hour editing workshop & lunch included. Of course, the price & course structure will be different when the course launches later this year. Would I do it again? Almost definitely. Even if just to get some fab close up shots of the Amur tigers!
Two weeks ago I took a trip to ZSL London Zoo and had a lovely time experiencing what the zoo had to offer. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house during January and enjoy the cool sunshine. Or maybe that’s just me? To be honest, most of the animals wanted to stay inside in their warm indoor enclosures. Likewise I don’t blame them one bit and can totally relate. January is that closed season lull for us theme park enthusiasts. All we want to do is hide away until the theme parks officially open again.
Anyway, a key goal of mine in 2020 is to visit more Zoos. My particular favourites in the past have included Kolmarden Zoo, Marwell Zoo and Chester Zoo. It’s always been on my list but I knew I needed to make a trip to ZSL London Zoo at some point. The zoo itself is located in Regent’s Park near Camden. Consequently it’s very easy to get to via the Tube. Don’t fret about the distance as it’s a simple 10-15 min walk from Camden Town tube station. We did have to use Google Maps to make sure we were walking in the right direction. Typical tourists ey! It wasn’t long till we arrived at Regent’s Park and saw the rather understated entrance to the Zoo.
So, how was ZSL London Zoo?
ZSL London Zoo isn’t a massive zoo. However after my visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in October 2018, I expected more. I shouldn’t have tried to make a direct comparison. Subsequently I ended up feeling a bit disappointed from my visit. Just to clarify there were plenty of animals to see including Tigers, Lions & African Wild Dogs. In case you weren’t aware, I’m a huge lover of big cats! Some of the ‘theming’ around the enclosures were beautiful to look at. Rainforest Life was a brilliant exhibit as it gave you a chance to see both the daytime & nocturnal Rainforest animals of Madagascar including bats!
Personally I felt a bit underwhelmed of the whole day. This wasn’t helped by the long arduous journey to get into London. Rail replacement bus services are a nightmare at times! What normally takes an hour to get to London Waterloo, took double that time. It was bad planning on our part so I’ll remember that for next time! Sadly this meant we only had about two hours to explore the Zoo fully. Not enough time in my opinion. Most reviews I have read said that this was one of the best Zoos to visit in the UK. I didn’t get that vibe! In conclusion I think a return visit is what we need for this Summer. We had a lovely time and would love to go back to see more of what the Zoo has to offer.
Find out more information about the Zoo through their official website here.
I’ve seen many photos and videos from my friends who have visited the Europa Park Magical Winter event. They’ve all told me their Europa Park Magical Winter favourite moments, and I’ve been very envious of them. In 2019, I finally made the trip over to Europa Park for their winter season – and in particular for New Year. Plus, it gave me a good rollercoaster fix during the closed season! Europa Park Magical Winter is open daily from 23rd November 2019 to 6th January 2020, with park hours open from 11am till at least 7pm (the park does extend their hours during busier periods – latest close we had was 8.30pm!)
I highly recommend everyone planning a trip to Europa Park during the winter months. It may be cold and selected rides are closed but with so many rides and attractions at the park, you will still be able to fill up your time – especially with Rulantica, the brand new, immersive water park next to Hotel Krønasår. As I am writing this, I’m already wanting to get myself back to the park as it was a wonderful way to end 2019. So, here are my Europa Park Magical Winter favourite moments.
Favourite Moment #1: Christmas Tree Lights Switch On Show
One of the best ways to end an incredibly cold day at Europa Park is the Christmas Tree Light On show. This ran from around 6.30pm each day and is located near Historama and Euro-Mir in Russia/Luxembourg. I loved watching this show and seeing all the park mascots in their winter outfits.
Favourite Moment #2: Bellevue Wheel
So, what do you do when the weather is freezing cold and incredibly misty/foggy? Why, you go on a Big Wheel right? There were blankets available which were very much needed as we travelled upwards towards the top. The views were… invisible however it was highly amusing hearing the sound of Wodan going round the track and you couldn’t see anything.
Favourite Moment #3: Batavia in Ice
I was stunned at the sheer beauty of the ice sculptures. They were all themed to the new Piraten in Batavia ride which will be opening this year. My favourite sculpture of the entire set was of the ride logo (as shown above). There are some incredibly talented people in this world who are able to make art from ice. It’s incredible how they have the ability to craft out the key details without any mistakes. I would love to have the creative talent to do that myself!
Favourite Moment #4: Rollercoasters in the Fog!
Am I the only one who enjoys the delights of rollercoasters in adverse weather? There’s always a strange new atmosphere in theme parks when the weather is not sunny. Whether it’s raining, snowing, misty, it can be a right laugh! One of my favourite rollercoaster moments on this trip was riding Silver Star in the fog. Baring in mind, we all decided to get a front row ride. There’s nothing more ‘scary’ than the coaster track disappearing over each airtime hill. By the end of the ride, my face was frozen, my bum was cold AF but I came off cry laughing.
Favourite Moment #5: Log Fires
Have you ever been to a visitor attraction, scare event or theme park, and they have open log fires burning away? Whilst you may be wandering around in the cold, nothing beats the feeling of walking up to an open fire to keep warm. It was particularly noticeable in Gardaland and Europa Park that you were able to add logs to the fire if they were dying out – something that you wouldn’t get here in the UK! It’s pretty much a staple part of the winter season.
Are you planning a trip to Europa Park in 2020 to experience Rulantica and Piraten in Batavia?
What are your favourite moments at Europa Park Magical Winter?
Have you ever visited Europa Park for their Magical Winter event?
During my NYE 2019 trip to Italy & Germany, I will admit I indulged on a lot of scrumptious food at Gardaland and Europa Park. There was a lot of choices available. It was almost a challenge in itself to pick what I wanted. I haven’t written about food as a blog post on here since it’s always been a bit of a trigger subject for me. However, I am going to make an exception this one time. Why? Because I wanted to give you an idea into some of the delicious dishes you can enjoy. So, let’s dive right into the highlights of my favourite foods:
Merlin Stube | Gardaland
There may not be a large choice of food here but what they do provide is made to order and very high-quality for theme park food. From chicken legs to schnitzel, there’s a good range in my opinion. You have the choice of sitting in a tiered style inside the building or enjoying the Italian sunshine outside. Due to it being busy, our group decided to sit outside on the park benches – yes, it was cold outside but with the sunshine, it still felt somewhat ‘warm’. Plus, it’s in a nice location to people watch. Prices at this restaurant are what you expect for theme park food, might be somewhat pricey to those on a smaller budget – some dishes ranged from €14 to €18 however you get a sizeable plate of food and one drink (soft drink or a pint of beer).
Okay, as someone who isn’t that well researched on Europa Park restaurants, I had no idea this existed yet have had pictures taken outside the building! I’d probably put this up there as one of the higher-end restaurants at the park but honestly, I was super impressed with the high-quality food – it was incredibly filling and delicious. Considering this was the second medieval-themed restaurant we went to, you know Europa Park takes the upper hand when it comes to theming. Alongside the ornate building, the plate setting on the table was incredibly fancy. Sometimes the little details make all the difference to the dining experience. Prices vary from €15 to €28, you can choose from Steaks to Salads. Plus I’d highly recommend the Kaiserschmarrn for dessert – yummy!
I heard a lot of good reviews of Captain’s Finest from my friends. They were not wrong about how incredible the dining experience was. I am not 100% into my fancy restaurants so I was a tad nervous about how I dressed and my overall table manners. Silly, I know but I always want to make a good impression. I didn’t need to worry as the staff were incredibly friendly and the food was exceptional quality. About 95% of the group went for the Steak, which was cooked to perfection. I opted for the cheaper option with the Cheeseburger – not my preferred dish but it was incredible. The meat was cooked exceptionally well, plus there were so many fries. That was a downside as I would’ve loved to have enjoyed one of their many desserts. Maybe next time! A superb meal was the perfect way to end our trip to Europa Park.
If I hadn’t gone on this trip, I don’t think I would have discovered the amazing selection of cakes on offer here in Seehaus Restaurant. I have a very sweet tooth so this was like heaven for me – fellow cake lovers, take note and make sure you visit here on your next trip to Europa Park. Cake prices varied from €4 to €7 so pretty affordable in my eyes. Again, Europa Park is showing us how amazing their food range is on park. This was the perfect place to sit down away from the cold and enjoy a sweet treat paired with a warming hot drink. We visited here on New Years Day where temperatures had dropped to around -4°C so VERY COLD!
Anyone looking for a sizeable Salad dish, Fjord Restaurant is the place to go! The food options here are very nautical based so plenty of fish dishes including your trusty Fish and Chips. I opted for the Chicken Salad and it did not disappoint. I wanted to stay away from ‘something and chips’ so this was the perfect choice for me – plus I wanted to feel slightly healthy. This is a self service restaurant so you can pick what you want at the food station on the ground floor. I also grabbed a small Blackberry crumble for my dessert which was delicious. They do have a separate bakery station so you can grab a slice of cake if you wanted to.
Who would have known that Gardaland has its own winter event, Magic Winter, that runs throughout December and early January? Gardaland is home to Raptor & Oblivion: The Black Hole & another theme park owned by Merlin Entertainments. Located next to the beautiful Lake Garda in Italy, I’ve wanted to travel to the Italian theme parks for a while. Gardaland has always been up there ever since they built Raptor back in 2011.
I was incredibly excited when this was planned in as part of New Year’s trip to Europa Park with my friends. Whilst there would have been a strong case of FOMO if I hadn’t gone on the trip, I was already in need of an escape from my daily life as well as the rollercoaster of a year in 2019. The best way to end a year is by going abroad and visiting some theme parks (well, the ones that are open that is!) Gardaland, in particular, was a big surprise for me! I already set my expectations low after a few people warned me of overselling fastracks & queue jumpers. My expectations were thoroughly met and I really enjoyed my visit!
I feel like Gardaland’s Magic Winter event was a truly magical experience. Given it was the end of December, the Italian sunshine still shone brightly during the trip. So here are some of my favourite Gardaland Magic Winter highlights…
Gardaland Magic Winter Song
If there’s one thing that will remain prevalent in my head from this trip, it is the incredibly catchy theme tune for the Magic Winter event. Go and give the YouTube link above a click. This was played across the whole park which did provide a rather magical and festive feel.
However, in the ‘themed’ areas which are more of a darker theme including Raptor, the original soundtrack was playing alongside the catchy Magic Winter song. This was slightly annoying in my eyes as I couldn’t really immerse myself in the area without casually singing along to the Magic Winter song. I spent 2 days at Gardaland and I think I could recite the entire song!
It has taken me 8 years but I finally rode Raptor – and it did not disappoint. I loved the transitions between each element of the ride, the first drop takes your breath away and the near misses towards the end of the ride makes for a fun and thrilling ride experience. Much prefer the back row to the front, especially with that pull off the lift hill into the first drop.
Gardaland is quite an odd layout so trying to make your way to Raptor was slightly confusing in my eyes. However, we found the entrance and I was eager to get myself on the ride. The queue line was a maze of conga line fences, and as we went when the park was relatively quiet, this wasn’t an issue for our group. You can get some pretty decent shots of the ride within the queue, and I think Wing coasters are very photogenic!
Despite it being late December, the Italian sunshine was a highlight of the trip. Yes, it was cold so you needed to wrap up warm however the sunshine has that warming effect where you can’t help but smile. When you are on holiday, there is no better feeling than enjoying a day out in the sunshine.
The main plus was being able to take photos, and enjoy the gorgeous views of the surrounding areas. The Lake Garda province of Italy is simply stunning to look at, and even better when you are heading up the lift hill on one of the main coasters. The horizon showing off the snow-topped mountains (Monte Baldo and Monte Pizzocolo) made the scenery even more beautiful.
If there is one tip I can give you, don’t read up or watch any POVs of this dark ride. It is better to experience this ride without knowing exactly what happens! For a Merlin owned theme park, I was incredibly surprised that this ride exists here in Gardaland. I would have placed this in another European park. Even if purely for the theming as soon as you start walking through the queue line.
I know the pirate theme is seen a lot at theme parks and can become very saturated. However, this is now to become one of my favourite dark rides alongside the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes, it is not to the same standards and I didn’t have a clue about the storyline. The ride itself was enjoyable and offered some pretty impressive set pieces that created an immersive experience. Whatever you do, do not miss out on this ride if you are visiting Gardaland in the near future.
Possibly my favourite restaurant at Gardaland. This wasn’t due to 4 members of our group enjoying the delights of the refillable beer lanyards they purchased! Whilst I simply forgot to photograph my food (eating was a priority at this point), the standard of food here was exquisite. Freshly made to order, the food quality was good and prices were reasonable, depending on your budget. If you are ever in need of a good place to stop off for food, come here to Merlin Stube.
I ordered a ‘Sir Paul’, aptly named since we were dining in a medieval-style restaurant, which consisted of 3 chicken legs & a portion of chips. It was delicious however we also saw the mouth-watering desserts. We had to buy one. The Tiramisu caught my eye, and rightly so since I was in Italy. You’d think the portion size would be small… oh no. The dessert sizes were sizeable and perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. I can feel myself drooling over it now as I write this.
I had a great time exploring Gardaland and seeing what it has to offer. I’m already thinking about returning in the future during Summertime. Mainly to grab the next 3 creds shut during my trip. Plus it’ll be great to compare both the park in summer & winter – is it really as bad as some people say? Plus, there are other Italian theme parks on my hit-list including Mirabilandia and MagicLand.
Have you visited the Gardaland Magic Winter event?
What are your favourite Italian theme parks?
Do you prefer the Summer season or the Winter season at theme parks?
There’s nothing better than getting into the Christmas Spirit this December with a festive trip to Chessington World of Adventures for their Winter’s Tail event. I had a great time visiting the event last year. It was only right that I return this year. Even if just to get my Vampire fix and enjoy the delights of Chessington dressed up in Christmas theming. So let’s crack on with my Chessington Winters Tail review.
There’s a lot to see and do, even if the majority of the theme park is shut for the winter. The main highlight of this event is for kids to meet up with Father Christmas in his Grotto. And if they’re really good, they might receive an early Christmas present! The way Chessington does this is through winding around the many Grottos with Santa’s elves guiding you along the way is both magical and fun for all the family. Beware that this can get extremely popular with families! It’s going to be very busy throughout the day, even if you arrive at your allocated time slot.
Another special feature of Winter’s Tail is to visit The Gruffalo Kitchen for some cookie decorating. I do have a small soft spot for baking – even though I don’t bake as much as I would like! Having this opportunity to be creative and decorate cookies is one of the best ways to get into the festive spirit. Regardless of how old you are, it’s certainly adds that extra special treat to your day. Located to the left of Pizza Pasta Buffet in Adventure Point, this will also get very busy so ensure you allocate enough time during your visit to do this.
At 1pm, 2pm, 5pm and 6pm, you can get your dancing shoes on and join in with the Gruffalo and Stick Man Christmas Groove. Located in the Gruffalo Arena, I find Chessington do a fantastic job with their shows throughout the year. This was no exception. With a host of familiar and catchy Christmas songs to get you in the mood, it’s one to watch during your visit to Chessington Winter’s Tail. Plus, I thought it was even better compared to last year, the storyline was easy to follow and the interaction with the kids was perfect. Fab job by Chessington’s Entertainments team.
Did I forget to mention that there are a selection of rides open too? Last year, they announced Vampire would open throughout November & December for the first time during winter. I secretly fangirled and knew I had to visit. And of course, Vampire is back open this year – a perfect way to get those final nighttime rides in before 2019 ends. The area of Vampire was perfectly lit up to get those perfect shots – Chessington does a great job with nighttime lighting so fellow photographers, get your cameras at the ready.
Other rides open during Winter’s Tail include:
The Gruffalo River Ride,
Room on the Broom – a Magical Journey,
Adventure Tree Carousel,
AMAZU Treetop Adventure
Plus you have the Zoo & SeaLife open to explore!
I hope my Chessington Winters Tail review has given you a good insight into the event. So why not get yourself over to Chessington and have some festive fun at Winter’s Tail. It’s advised to pre-book your tickets, prices are from £18.50 for non Annual Passholders, and from £18 for Annual Passholders. Granted paying extra for a seasonal event can put people off but honestly, it’s worth it to get into the Christmas spirit. And I’m sure your kids will love you for it too, parents! You can find out more information & book tickets on Chessington’s website.
On Saturday 16th November, I finally visited Longleat’s Festival of Light event. After many years of wanting to go, I planned ahead this year & tickets were booked for my birthday weekend. I couldn’t wait. If you’re a theme park geek like myself, this is a perfect closed season trip to undertake. Longleat Safari Park is located just outside Warminster in Wiltshire. Right opposite Longleat Centre Parcs in Longleat Forest. There’s a lot to see and do at the park. And with the Festival of Light event, it’s clear to see why it’s so popular among guests. Of course any event has its high and low points. So let’s crack on with my full review of Longleat Festival of Light.
Highlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…
I was in awe at the number of lanterns they had. Considering there were probably around 100 different lanterns in total! I thought they had a dedicated area for all the lanterns. Nope, they were dotted everywhere. This actually made it into an all-encompassing event where you truly felt immersed in the park. Nothing impacted the areas near any animal enclosures which was great. You can tell they’ve worked hard to ensure this event flowed as well as it could. From 4.30pm, the lanterns were turned on and it truly felt like a winter’s event. The theme for 2019 was Myths and Legends. Regardless of whether a theme is your favourite or not, you will still have a fantastic time regardless.
Safari Park & Animal Encounters
The Safari Park is an expansive area with a wide range of animals to see from the comfort of your car (or from a VIP truck – there is an extra charge for this). It’s best to allocate at least 3 hours for the Safari. Not only does it cover a vast area of land, but there’s also a stop-off point in the African Village featuring a shop, toilets, cafe and Lemur walkthrough. Not only that but once you’ve exited the Safari Park, your day doesn’t end there. There’s plenty more animals to encounter including Crocodiles, Bats, Koalas, Lorikeets and many more. Plus, there’s a Jungle Cruise located towards the back end of the park. Sadly we didn’t get to go on this during our visit as the queue was horrifically busy. Fingers crossed we can go on this on our next visit!
The projection mapping on Longleat House is new for 2019, and boy, I’ve seen projection mapping done really well along my travels. This is up there as one of my favourites. The facade of Longleat House is beautiful enough on its own but the projection mapping at night really adds to the atmosphere. It can be easy to miss if guests aren’t heading towards the front of the house once the lanterns have been turned on. Projections on the house included star constellations, mythical creatures and legends. It was beautifully portrayed and I couldn’t stop watching (and taking photos). If you are heading to Longleat Festival of Light this year, do not miss this!
There’s plenty of eateries around the park which is very important when it comes to feeding the family. One place that delivered high-quality food, fantastic customer service and an all-round great experience was Pizza Piazza. This place was quite hidden without the help of the park map. Serving a fab range of Pizzas & meal deals. It’s perfect for families on a budget. The average price was around £10 for a Margherita Pizza, £14 for a Texas BBQ/Meat Feast Pizza and £2.50 for either a soft drink or hot beverage. Meal Deals were also available from £15 to £25 depending on your group size. The food was high quality and incredibly filling, highly recommend. If you’re on the move, you can have a takeaway which I think is fantastic for families/groups on the move or if you can’t find a table to sit at during busy periods.
Lowlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…
Okay, I understand that this event has grown in popularity over the years. Saturday’s visit was incredibly busy. It was very difficult to enjoy the experience without getting in people’s way or trying to manoeuvre the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds anyway and can get very overwhelmed in these situations. However, there was a distinct lack of crowd control. Having more marshalls in different places to help ease congestion. A lot of people were standing in the way or stopping in awkward spots. Consequently, this meant us photographers couldn’t get the shot we wanted. If you are a family with young children, please keep in mind how busy certain areas get. If you can, please keep your children close at all times or try to wait until a quieter period.
A lot to cover in one day
Take it from me, you’ll need a plan to make the most of your day at Longleat. We arrived at Longleat around 12pm so didn’t get a full day at the park. Longleat opens at 10am, Safari Park opens from 9.30am. There is a LOT to cover if you really want to make the most of your visit. Aside from the Jungle Cruise and Longleat House, we still covered at least 85% of the park. Something to keep in mind if you’re looking to attend in the future. The main Festival of Light event gives you around 3 hours to walk the park and see the lanterns. The lanterns are switched on around 4.30pm. I believe this is ample time to take photos and see them all. With plenty of planning before your visit, you’ll be able to enjoy everything that Longleat has to offer.
Lack of signposts
For an event that becomes incredibly busy at this time of year, the signposts around this park are either too small to see or lacking in different areas. Whilst you have a park map to guide you, it’s still tricky to find what you are looking for. The layout of Longleat Adventure Park isn’t very logical in my opinion. There’s a lot of different walkways that steer off the main path. Some places seem hidden away so make sure you have that park map handy! Some temporary event signage to guide people around the park would help massively. This would help with the crowd control as there were a lot of people stopping in the middle of pathways looking lost. Given the number of guests on park, this caused a lot of congestion and didn’t help with the flow for people who were looking for shops, toilets and food places.
Despite the lowlights, I had a great time and would definitely recommend this event for anyone who’s looking for a weekend day trip with family & friends. Travelling from afar? There’s plenty of places to stay in the nearby area including Warminster, Salisbury and more. If this is your first time, enjoy it and make sure to allocate at least 3 hours for the Safari Park – it’s big!
Longleat Festival of Light runs on selected dates from 9th November to 5th January 2020. Hurry, tickets are selling fast and you don’t want to miss out on this amazing event – buy tickets on their website or find out more about the Festival of Light here.