Thorpe Park Resort and Chessington World of Adventures Resort opened their gates to Merlin Annual Pass Holders this weekend for their passholder Celebration weekend offering the first chance to take a look at all the developments which have taken place over the closed season. SouthParks took a look at all the changes at both Resorts.

Thorpe Park Resort

During the closed season there’s been a substantial amount of progress on the Resort’s newest attraction for 2016 – Derren Brown’s Ghost Train. The warehouse exterior is now fully themed creating an imposing impression at the centre of the park. The exterior features a number of nice features, including painted signage towards the roof of the building, and distressed and broken windows to help reinforce the abandoned warehouse theme. Much of the main queue-line is complete, at the entrance to which is a set of metal gates featuring the now familiar symbol of five people with linked arms, and above which stands a metal sign bearing the name of the ride. Within the queue-line is situated a small building which looks to be what could be a queue-line shop, however this is yet to be confirmed. Paving in the main entrance plaza for the ride has now been fully laid, although this only appears to be in a limited area with the rest of the floor being tarmacked which in places does take away slightly from the overall effect. There is no sign of the signal tower which appeared on the plans for the attraction which suggests that this has been scrapped.

Elsewhere across the Resort there have been a number of changes and refreshes. Tidal Wave has had many of the effects restored to full working order in its queue, plus the cascading water effect has been fixed on the Amity water tower in front of the ride. The entrance sign for the ride has also been refreshed. In Angry Birds Land a number of new planters have been installed adding some small additional theming elements to the area. Logger’s Leap has now been fenced off with its entrance sign removed and in its place a notice stating that the attraction is currently under development. I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Maze has received several changes for the new season with changes to some of the trials. Holey Moley now asks guests to work as a team instead of individuals to move a star along a rope, whilst new for this year is the Dingo Dollar Challenge where guests have to search for the letters to spell the word ‘jungle’ amongst a pile of laundry in just 60 seconds. The changes have ensured that the attraction remains fresh and also up to date with features introduced in the most recent series of the reality television show.

Changes are also being made to some of the food and beverage offerings at the Resort this season. The newest addition will be the opening of a Nitrogenie outlet opposite Derren Brown’s Ghost Train which will offer ice cream made from liquid nitrogen and follows on from the success of the outlet opened at Alton Towers Resort last year.

Chessington World of Adventures Resort

Chessington World of Adventures Resort has seen several changes during the theme park closed season, the most notable of which is the refurbishment of Tomb Blaster which has received a substantial amount of attention. The blasters, scoring system and targets have all been replaced with the ride now using a similar system to that seen on Laser Raiders at Legoland, however at times this new system did feel slightly unresponsive. All the rooms throughout the ride have received new coats of UV paint, however some elements of theming either weren’t working or had been removed with the most obvious effect missing being the rolling boulder.

Over in Mexicana several of the building fronts have received a re-fresh, plus a new Merlin Annual Pass Hub has been added providing a base for any queries and sales. Also based in this building is the Chessington VIP Experiences Team which is the new name for the Resort’s Extra Adventures packages. In Mystic East the Buddha has been repainted gold making it a much more prominent theming feature. In Wild Asia it would appear that Noodle Noodle will not be opening for 2016 as all publicity and menus have been removed from the unit.

One of the largest new additions for 2016 is BBQ Smokehouse, a new restaurant located in Market Square which replaces the former Chicken Shack. Offering a range of smoked and pulled meats the outlet is the premium food offering at the Resort. Food is served in a canteen buffet style with guests selecting their choice of meat, side, drink, salad, and dessert with each individual option being priced separately. One disadvantage to this style of serving is that there is no meal deal style option which means that the food on offer can add up to be fairly expensive compared to other options at the Resort. The food was well flavoured, although due to the way in which it was served did lose its warmth fairly quickly, however as this was one of the first sessions which the restaurant was open hopefully this will be something which will be resolved for the main season. Inside the restaurant is well themed with a number of nice theming features including lighted lettering above the bar and in the main eating area, and a wall including a number of stylised news articles and photos.