Chessington World of Adventures Resort opened their gates this weekend for their Annual Passholder Preview Days, offering the first opportunity to take a look at the changes which has taken place across the theme park. Attraction Source was there to take a look at all the developments.

With the imminent arrival of the Gruffalo, a number of changes have taken in place in what was formerly known as Transylvania with the area having undergone a re-name to Wild Woods. Work was still ongoing on the exterior of what will be The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure, with construction of the exterior queueline and covering still in progress. Many of the building exteriors above the new Gruffalo Ride have received a re-paint and are now bright blues and greens with artificial vegetation to add to the exterior theming. Several of the retail and food and beverage outlets have also received new names with the area’s snack outlet now called ‘Gruffalo Bites’ and the Vampire Shop now ‘The Gruffalo Gift Shop’. Although open for the Passholder Preview Weekend, The Gruffalo Gift Shop clearly still had some work left to do in preparation for the opening of the Gruffalo Ride next weekend with several display areas still empty and awaiting the final touches to be completed. As guests head towards Vampire, the exterior wall of Vampire Burger Kitchen has received a Wild Woods inspired re-paint. Vampire has also received some new features during the closed season, the most noticeable being the addition of new, exit air gates in the station which have been added to prevent people entering the ride area from the far side of the ride. The air gates on the embarkation side of the station have also received new metal mesh work to prevent people from ducking underneath the bars into the ride area. Sadly the chandeliers have not made a return to the station. In the main queueline a number of new theming elements have been added.

Another area to have received The Gruffalo treatment is the Africa stage which has now become The Gruffalo Arena. Expected to open at the same time as The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure, the Arena will host a range of Gruffalo activities including meet and greets, photo opportunities, and screenings of The Gruffalo Film. Of course, this also means that The Penguins of Madagascar have departed from the Resort, therefore the ride next to the Arena has reverted to its former name, Treetop Hoppers. Whilst the exact programme of activities taking place in the Arena is yet to be announced, it would seem to be that there will no longer be a live show in that area, a move which will disappoint many guests. With Pandamonium also being reduced to shows in the summer holidays only, it is disappointing to see another Merlin attraction reduce their live entertainment offering.

At the heart of the Resort, Market Square has been re-named to Adventure Point. One of the most striking changes to this area is the addition of the Chessington Adventure Tree, the Resort’s new carousel. As the ride is still under construction, most of it is surrounded by construction walls which are decorated with the animals which will feature as the carousel vehicles once complete. Towering above the construction walls, the decorative tree theming feature dominates the area. What is impressive is the incredible level of detail in this feature with it including several of the Resort’s most popular animals, including rhino and giraffe, and what would appear to be the elements for a water feature including a water wheel and channels. This detail continues down to the central barrel of the carousel and suggests that the finished attraction will be a great addition to the Resort. Elsewhere in Adventure Point, the former hot dog unit has been changed to Donut Express, although the bright purple colour scheme of the unit doesn’t quite fit in with the overall area.

With the construction of the Chessington Adventure Tree in Adventure Point, this has meant the old carousel has now been removed. In its place is a large tarmacked area with an inflatable HB Leisure Wipeout game. It is perhaps disappointing to see what would appear to be a rather hasty and not so well thought through replacement in that area considering the amount of detail which has been included in the Chessington Adventure Tree. The entrance to the former Safari Skyway has now had a hydration station placed in front of it, although its position may cause some issues at busier times with any lengthy queue potentially blocking the pathway.

Following its addition to Alton Towers Resort and Thorpe Park Resort, Nitrogenie has arrived at Chessington World of Adventures Resort for 2017. Located in The Land of the Dragons, next to the entrance to Wild Asia, the bright purple outlet offers the same range of flavours as its sister outlets. Whilst it is a welcome addition to the Resort’s food and beverage offering, the bright purple colour, pop music soundtrack, and use of smoke effects from underneath the unit somewhat jars with the surrounding area and spoils the general ambiance of The Land of the Dragons.

Black Buccaneer has received a repaint and a range of other work during the closed season. The far side of the boat has had metal barriers installed meaning that boarding and exiting the ride now takes place on the same side of the boat. The addition of the metal barriers also means that the previous rule of having an adult on either end of each row is able to be relaxed. The new system did appear to cause some confusion during the weekend, especially with the old signs asking guests to disembark on the opposite side still in place.

Lorikeet Lagoon re-opened for the first time in 12 months over the weekend making a welcome return to the line-up of animal attractions. However, in a somewhat unexpected move, Creepy Caves appears to have been permanently closed with the reptile area having had its signage removed, and the attraction no longer featuring on the Resort map.

Throughout the weekend various attractions sadly suffered a number of reliability issues with Dragon’s Fury not opening at all on Saturday, Dragon Falls experiencing a number of break downs, and Rameses Revenge also experiencing several technical difficulties. This meant that queuetimes across the Resort were pushed up, with Vampire hitting 80 minutes at its peak on Saturday.

Did you visit Chessington World of Adventures Resort over the weekend? What are your thoughts on the changes for 2017? Have your say on this and more over on the Attraction Source Forum. As the 2017 season gets into full swing, Attraction Source will be sure to bring you all the latest news and developments.
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