Hogwarts In The Snow 2019 | Review

Hogwarts In The Snow 2019 | Review

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It’s been about 4 years since I was last at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I must say, there’s been a lot of changes since my last visit! Every year I’ve always said to myself I will go during to the Hogwarts in the Snow event. And each time, I’ve either left it too late or just never found a suitable time to go. Until now…

Winter does tend to mean hibernating inside the warmth of my own house with a hot cuppa, wearing cosy clothes because it is too cold to travel anywhere outside. This year I’ve been more proactive in visiting some different winter/Christmas events. I’ve learnt not to let the cold bother me, just layer up and be on my merry way. So it was finally time to go to Hogwarts in the Snow.

I was in awe of the new areas (for me) including the Forbidden Forest & Gringotts. That’s the thing I love about this place. It takes your breath away at how grand all the sets are for the films. Not only that but everything is covered in Winter/Christmas decorations including The Great Hall being dressed up for the Yule ball in Goblet of Fire. Plus we were taught by the team on how Harry’s footprints were made in the snow when he’s wearing the invisibility cloak in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Of course, the main event is seeing the model of Hogwarts Castle covered in a dusting of snow – all done by hand from members of the crew! Did you know it takes 4 DAYS for them to transform the castle into a snowy masterpiece? It looks absolutely stunning in person, even if I’ve seen so many photos of it online. A true highlight and a perfect end to the tour in my opinion – except maybe the gift shop with too many gifts I want to buy.

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I had a great time at the Studio Tour on Saturday. And with it being James’ first time visiting, it was also great to see his reaction to everything. I can’t explain how incredible the tour is. From all the animatronics to the photo opportunities around every corner. You need to allocate at least 3 hours to really explore the tour in depth. Especially if you want to take part in the interactive elements like flying a broomstick through London! Hogwarts in the Snow runs till January 26th 2020 – tickets are selling fast so get in quick. You can find out more info and book tickets online on the official website.

That’s all for now!

Lottie xoxo

Festival of Light Review | Longleat Safari Park

Festival of Light Review | Longleat Safari Park

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.

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Highlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…

Beautiful Lanterns

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!

Projection Mapping

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!

Pizza Piazza

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.

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Lowlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…

Too busy

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.

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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.

That’s all for now!Lottie xoxo

 

Feed the Flames at Alton Towers

Feed the Flames at Alton Towers

IMG_2315Guys, I did it!

I went on the Wicker Man, after admiring the ride in a blizzard two weekends ago. And boy, I am impressed.

Alton Towers have done themselves proud to make this ride a great addition to the line-up. I would even put it up there with Nemesis, and that is saying something! It’s definitely been a long time coming since we got a woodie in this country. GCI (Great Coasters International) do make some impressive wooden coasters: Troy and Wodan, I am looking at you. I was very much looking forward to experiencing this for the first time.

 

“FIRST IMPRESSIONS – WOW!”

Obviously, I have already admired the coaster in it’s ‘glory’ whilst the snow fell very hard during ‘opening’ weekend. But when you have the audio in the area as well as the effects of the theming element, you start to feel immersed in the experience. The theming of the fences in the area and the Wicker Man entrance sign – LOVE IT! Also worth noting that the area does get very smokey.

The theming details inside the building was fantastic, the walls are made of actual wicker! It is just like being transported into another realm – and as a theme park enthusiast, we like this sort of immersion and detail. The flame effects of the fire torches are a nice touch too. Once you get into the pre-show area, I enjoyed it. I’m not going to post any spoilers but seeing the reactions from the General Public, it really adds to the anticipation and enjoyment of the experience.

Now don’t get my started on THAT station. In a good way I might add! Honestly, it was on par with some European parks in my opinion. Seriously, Merlin has done a great job with this ride and really making it as detailed as possible. The lighting within the station, I do like me some good lighting at a theme park.

 

“GREAT JOB TO THE RIDE TEAM!”

One thing I did notice that affected throughputs is the number of guests that are perhaps a little ‘large’ for the ride. Not too sure why this is a significant problem – certainly didn’t see this as a problem at European parks with the likes of Troy at Toverland and Wodan at Europa Park. Unless I am very much mistaken, please do correct me if I am wrong.

Hopefully with the addition of the test seat, this may help to avoid this issue becoming a significant. I must praise the ride team for doing their utmost best to get every guest on the ride but sometimes, safety does come first. Fab job guys, despite the breakdowns that the ride experienced during the course of the weekend, you were amazing!

In total I managed to get 7 rides on Wicker Man across Saturday and Easter Sunday, that just shows you how much I enjoyed it. I managed to get myself as close to the back as I could and front row – I think riding towards the back gives you the best chance of airtime however I did enjoy riding front row, just to experience all the elements coming right at you.

 

Just one more thing, that downwards S-bend after the second airtime hill… FAVOURITE ELEMENT OF THE WHOLE RIDE. 

I didn’t get a chance to go in the main queue line, and I know there are some good theming elements and photo opportunities of the ride but I hope to go through it at some point when I make a return trip. Yep, Alton Towers has given me more reason to make a return visit before Scarefest! I actually cannot wait to ride this in the dark – yes, I have seen some spoilers of the lighting within the area and WOW, October can’t come around soon enough.

That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS

 

 

My early memories of Chessington

My early memories of Chessington
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I’m going to get all nostalgic now for this blog post. I was thinking the other day about how theme parks have changed, most notably the ones that I visited as a child – and what I can still remember to this day, my memory isn’t that great ha!

I first visited the park in 1998 and have been a regular visitor since then – 20 years on! I still enjoy visiting and seeing how the park has expanded and grown over the years. Of course, I do miss the old attractions that are either no longer with us or have been changed, but it’s the perfect chance to reflect on these and how awesome the park was!

Note: I sadly don’t have many photos from back in the day for these relevant attractions featured in this blog post. *crying face*
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The Original Vampire

My earliest memory was walking through the big Vampire door entrance and feeling so nervous about the ride. As a kid, it was pretty terrifying as you look up and see the bat style trains flying over you in Transylvania. As you travelled towards the station, it was so dark you couldn’t see much, with the coffins separating each row, the massive chandeliers and of course, the organist ‘playing’ the haunting theme of the ride. Once I had my chance to ride Vampire, I loved it – and to this day I still do. I just wish I had more chance to experience the old-style trains more. Considering this ride is almost as old as me – not quite though.

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Professor Burp’s Bubbleworks

This ride was the bomb. From the pink building or should I say ‘factory’ to the sweet-smelling station and that fountain strobe finale. There is nothing about this ride that I won’t miss – it was so good. It was mad, it was crazy, it was great. The whole ride experience, as you follow Professor Burp through a tour of his factory, making all sorts of fizzy pop style drinks. It’s a ride I will not forget in a hurry.

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Terror Tomb

I managed to experience Terror Tomb before it changed its name to Forbidden Tomb and what is now known to us all as Tomb Blaster. This ride actually scared me when I first rode it. As a kid back then, I didn’t really understand the whole ‘story’ to the ride with Abdab. Then again, who does concentrate on the story when you’re a kid. Funnily enough, the only real vague memory I have is of the finale with the Singing/Dancing Mummies or ‘Jukebox Duel’. Looking back at the images some people have gathered up on the internet, it is all coming back to me.

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Samurai

Oh Samurai, you beauty! Well, back when you were at Chessington. I absolutely loved Samurai at Chessington, the black and red colour scheme, the lights, the ride cycles, everything! I remember back when the park shut at 9pm for the Summer season and seeing the lights on Samurai through the trees as we left the park for the day. And being one of the taller kids at school, I reached 1.4m relatively early so I could experience it before it moved to Thorpe Park.

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Park Map

You might be thinking, what the hell? Hear me out, I have loved park maps since I was little – that’s why I have so many at home! My favourite version of the park map at Chessington was around the 2000/2001 year mark with the coloured areas. The artwork was great and it just felt like a good visual map that had the right purpose for helping you navigate around the park. Now, obviously I don’t need a map these days cause, being a geek, you don’t need one for navigation – it’s more to add to my massive collection. 😉

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Beanoland

How could I not include Beanoland! It was pretty much like stepping into the Beano comic and everything had come to life. The Dodgems, Billy’s Whizzer, Bash Street Bus, Dennis’ Madhouse – it was a great collection of rides and attractions for kids. You also had the chance to meet the characters, I vaguely remember seeing Dennis and Gnasher. Let’s also not forget the fab Treehouse in the middle of the area which had a show where I also ‘vaguely’ remember Dennis throwing t-shirts at the crowd – if someone can confirm this, that would be great!

I don’t if it comes with age or something, but I do love being nostalgic and remembering the old times of our favourite theme parks. I’m sure there are more memories that I haven’t included in this post – like I said before, I don’t have the best memory and these are the ones that stick out the most for me. Kids these days won’t remember the classic Chessington and its array of ‘crazy’ attractions it had.

If you have any early memories of Chessington, feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if I have missed anything!

That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS