When planning for birthdays I much prefer to give the kids memorable experiences rather than something that they will ultimately forget about in a few months time.
Abbey turned 21 on Friday and Callan is due to turn 17 in a couple of weeks so I wanted something that would appeal to them both.
We are Merlin pass holders which means that we get free entry into all the Merlin owned theme parks such as Alton Towers, Legoland, Chessington and Thorpe Park and my teens adrenalin junkies. We looked into Alton Towers first, however the distance and cost of staying overnight put me off.
We reviewed Thorpe Park in May last year and the kids adored it, but as I was heavily pregnant the only ride I could go on was the Carousel. I emailed my contact to ask if there was anyway they could name a ride after Abbey or something similar in honour of her very special birthday and they suggested we look into their Thorpe Park VIP experience packages.
There are three VIP Packages to choose from; Bronze, Silver and Gold or you can choose to book a backstage tour which takes an inside look at a world-class rollercoaster workshop and see what goes into opening a ride and see what happens as a rollercoaster is launched, or a ride hill lift walk where you can choose to walk up to the top of either Swarm, Nemesis inferno or Colossus and enjoy 360º panoramic views of the park and beyond. Thorpe Park even do Angry Birds themed birthday parties for the kids from as little as £19 per head.
Thorpe Park also offer bespoke packages which are customised to your party, which is what we chose as we had both teens and small children with us.
Our itinerary for the day was a combination of the Bronze VIP package and a Ride Lift Hill Walk. We were to be met in the morning by your VIP Host and given a champagne reception in Bar 360. The VIP Host would then facilitate VIP ride access (meaning no queuing) until lunch, at which point we would be given Ultimate Fastrack Passes to access all rides through the Fastrack queues for the afternoon. At the end of the day, we would then meet your VIP Host at either of THE SWARM, Colossus or Nemesis Inferno for a Ride Lift Hill Walk and a chance to take photos from the top.
I printed out the itinerary and laminated it to present to Abbey on her birthday so she knew what we had planned. I told the boys what we were up beforehand and they proceeded to wind her up about needing a head for heights etc……..she thought we were going to make her jump out of a plane!
We arrived at Thorpe Park at 9.15am and were met by our host, Francine. We got a brief overview of the day, alongside park maps, information and wristbands before heading inside to an almost deserted park. We decided to have our Champagne reception in a secluded outdoor garden next to Stealth at 10am, so they teens could do a couple of rides first. Isaac and Eliza were measured and their heights recorded on another wristband so we knew which rides they were allowed on at a glance and then we headed to the first ride of the day – Swarm.
If you have been to a theme park before you will know the most frustrating bit about the day is queuing for the rides. This is where the VIP Package comes into its own……..we were literally walked onto the rides in the carriage position of our choice. As we had Eliza and Isaac with us, the teens went on first and then hubby and I went on when they came off, although whoever wasn’t looking after the kids did go for a second ride.
The teens adored Swarm and made hubby and I ride it backwards. Having not been on it before, it was a real baptism of fire as you have no idea what to expect………..it was an intense but amazing ride! The staging around the ride is second to none with perfectly timed pyrotechnics, burned our fire engines, ambulances and even a broken up plane.
We then headed off to our Champagne Reception. The secret garden was stunning and we relaxed and quaffed champagne as the children played, stopping to take a few “Stealthy’s” as the rollercoaster carriage thundered past.
Then it was time for Stealth………..I have to admit I chickened out of this one despite wanting to ride it since it opened. I LOVE rollercoasters but hate vertical drops – how hubby and Callan managed to keep their arms in the air the whole way around I will never know.
We had our VIP host, Francine, with us until around midday so we decided to do all the big rides in this time which would give us the chance to explore the rest of the park in the afternoon. We did do the Rapids and the Carousel with the littlies in this time too.
Nemesis and Colossus were as good as I remember but the vertical drop on Saw saw me hiding under the pretense that Sebastian needed some milk……….I would also like to point out that they’re all holding on for this one!
We said goodbye to Francine and headed off for some lunch before exploring the rest of the park.
Isaac and Eliza were desperate to explore Angry Bird Land and watch the new Angry Birds 4D film which saw the Angry Birds attempt to get their precious eggs back from the dastardly King Pig. With timed air gusts, water jets, leg ticklers, flashing lights, bubbles and smoke blasts the film was great fun although too much for Eliza and Sebastian, so I would recommend for ages 5 and up.
Angry Bird Land is fantastic, with characters painted on buildings and Angry Birds sat atop their blocks. With the exception of the 4D cinema none of the rides have changed, but Detonator and the Dodgems now have an Angry Bird theme.
Coming out of Angry Bird Land we spotted Tidal Wave. Callan didn’t want to get wet so we left him in charge of the kids and headed inside. I forgot how wet you get……….. it is not splashed wet, you are literally drenched in water!
As we were wet, it was decided we should do all the water rides in one go, so we headed to the Log Flume and then Depth Charge. Although Isaac was tall enough to join us he wanted to fire the water guns at the end to get us more wet!
The teens and hubby then headed off to sample all other adrenalin rides whilst I headed to the beach to dry off with Isaac, Eliza and Sebastian.
I have to admit that living close to the sea has also stopped me visiting this section of Thorpe Park, however the kids were in their element and the safe paddling pool with slides and real sand to build castles really won me over. We were there for a good hour and a half and Kian and Hubby eventually came in for a paddle too!
We finally managed to prise them out of the water with a promise of ice cream and donuts before heading off to do some of the big rides again. The gold priority passes meant we didn’t queue for a ride for longer than 10 minutes and my only disappointment was that when I finally picked up the courage to ride Stealth was that it was temporarily closed.
Swarm was our first and last ride of the day and this time we rode it forwards, which was a completely different experience as you can see where you are going and the pyrotechnics. I was convinced I was going to fly straight into a billboard!
We watched as the rides closed and the general public left the park………..it was time for the Ride Lift Hill Walk on Swarm as it is the highest of the three rides.
We went three at a time………Abbey, her boyfriend Paul and Callan on the first walk and then Kian, Hubby and I on the second shift.
We all had a safety briefing and were secured into a full-body harness, before heading up the steps to the top, accompanied by Francine and one of the park managers.
We were told to try not and look down, but it is hard when trying to guide your safety clip along the guide rope and grates for stairs. Thankfully all of us are quite good with heights but my legs did wobble a bit.
185 stairs later and we were at the top and 170ft high!
The 360º panoramic views across the park and as far as London are spectacular. It was a clear evening and we could see Wembley Stadium, The Shard and even the turrets of Windsor Castle clearly. If you do any part of the VIP experience it has to be this. Kian even found £1
If you are looking to make that special occasion even more memorable, then I can highly recommend the VIP packages. The staff are so enthusiastic about where they work and are more than happy to explain how a ride works or give you some insider information.
I am not sure what my favourite part of the day was. Being able to walk straight onto the rides and the fastrack passes mean’t that we got to do all of the rides at least once, with time to relax in between rides. The champagne reception was amazing and I cannot believe such a peaceful and beautiful garden is slap bang in the middle of Thorpe Park and how may people can say they have climbed to the top of a rollercoaster?
Disclaimer: We used our Merlin passes to gain entry to the park, but the VIP sample experience was provided by Thorpe Park for the purpose of a review. All views are my own.