When my friend asked a bunch of us to go to Thorpe Park for the day it’s fair to say I wasn’t elated by the idea. The UK only has a handful of theme parks and most of them are either depressing low budget affairs or aimed at young kids (e.g. Legoland). The biggest and ergo traditionally best is Alton Towers, which is unhelpfully (for UK visitors and natives alike) situated in Nottingham in the middle of the country. Thorpe Park, helpfully located 60/90mins from central London by car/public transport (train then shuttle bus), was a distant second.
I’ve visited it several times as a kid (my dad’s mate was somehow able to get free tickets) and had fond memories of it; especially the giant log flume. But, it had few descent rides and the contrast between it and the subsequent US parks I visited was stark; like the US vs. North Korean space programs.
Anyway, I’m pleased to say I was blow away when I visited this summer. They have around eight thrilling major rides, all big budget affairs, as well as some old favourites like my beloved log flume. (And there’s plenty of great stuff for kids too). Moreover, if you’re budget can stretch an extra ~£25 (so essentially double the ticket price) you can buy a onetime queue jump for each major ride. And unlike some other parks you really will jump the queue and get on within 2-3 mins.
We went on a themed night called ‘fright nights’, they run several throughout the year, and I’d definitely recommend doing one of these if you can. All the staff really go for it with scary costumes, they pump up the music and put on really elaborate scary mazes.
Now for the negatives. We had to queue for ages (40min) to get into the park, even although we had tickets. Some of the rides shut early (they’re clearly trying to cut costs) and the food is as bad as any other theme park. Although in fairness it’s less expensive as are the alcoholic drinks, of which there’s a wide selection.
In summary, if you’re in the UK and like theme parks it’s unmissable.