This summer will be one like no other, so keep the kids and grandkids happy with a trip to one of these brilliant kids theme parks or zoos in the UK.
With theme parks and zoos reopening this month, both kids and adults alike are keen to get back on the rides and take a stroll through the animal kingdom. Ever since lockdown began at the end of March, these are two of the places that have been closed to the public as they were considered “non-essential” services.
So in the meantime, kids jumped on virtual tours of zoos and dreamed of the day when they could next jump on a water ride or a high-dive rollercoaster. But now these trips are becoming available again – coinciding perfectly with the school summer holidays – allowing us to eventually get back to the activities we love.
But while we can’t get enough of the old favourites, we’re always excited when there’s a new ride to try or new animal to see. So which activities do you need on your must-visit list? And what can we expect in terms of social distancing measures?
Here’s your guide to our favourite theme parks and zoos
LEGOLAND Windsor Resort
Kids of all ages are sure to absolutely love a trip to LEGOLAND! From the Dragon to Pirate Falls Treasure Quest, there’s plenty of rides of all shapes and sizes to suit everyone. With deep drops and low dives, you can be a rollercoaster enthusiast or apprehensive rider and find something to love at LEGOLAND.
Smaller visitors will adore a fun-packed trip to Duplo Valley, where you’ll take to the skies at Duplo Valley Airport, then experience the gentle boat ride Fairy Tale Brook, where you’ll be able to see a range of famous characters like Cinderella brought to life with a dose of LEGO magic. Thrill-seekers should make a beeline for The Dragon roller-coaster, while wannabe drivers can get behind the wheel at LEGO City Driving School.
Roarsome new adventures await little ones at Legoland® Windsor. The theme park has launched a brand new ride for younger fans, the Duplo Dino Coaster. A colourful, gentle roller coaster, it’s a must for first-time coaster fans. Budding explorers can hop aboard a brightly coloured dinosaur carriage, before soaring past super-sized Duplo brick dinosaur models, 18 times bigger than the real thing.
The Dino Coaster is just one of the new thrills for little ones to enjoy at Duplo Valley. Look out for four new giant Duplo characters, including a 3-metre-tall dinosaur, alongside Dexter the Dog, who’ll bring smiles to young faces as he welcomes them into the area. There’s also a new rocket play structure at outdoor play area Brickville, where young astronauts can enjoy the interactive play panels, slides and more. And do stop by the puppet theatre to see The Frog Prince, a brand new show about Princess Money-Plenty, who loses her golden ball in the depths of a murky pond, ruled by an Evil Toad.
As the weather warms up, there’s plenty of water play fun to be had at Duplo Valley too, with Splash Safari, Drench Towers and Raft Racers all opening, alongside a host of family rides designed with little ones in mind.
Don’t leave without making time to explore MINILAND – it has fantastic scenes from around the world, made from nearly 40 million LEGO bricks. There’s so much to see and do you’ll want to come back!
- Tickets for the whole park cost from £26pp. Under 3s go free.
- Children under 0.9 metres get free entry to the Legoland Windsor Resort, but little ones must be 0.9metres or over to ride the Duplo Dino Coaster.
Chessington World of Adventures Resort
For a day out with more of a bite to it – in many ways – get your tickets to Chessington World of Adventures. Take a thrilling trip on the Kobra ride and feel yourself spin through the air, moving backwards and forwards at over 40 mph. This is one of the thrill seekers and adventurers!
Family fun, however, can be found in great big doses elsewhere in the park. Take walk through the Land of Dragons and ride the waves of the Griffin’s Galleon rollercoaster, with all its twists and turns, or battle the curse of the mummy in the Forbidden Kingdom.
But make sure you don’t miss a visit to Chessington Zoo, where you can come face-to-face with more than 1,000 amazing exotic animals, including lions, giraffes, flamingos and monkeys.
- Tickets to Chessington World of Adventures Resort (which include entry to the theme park, zoo, SEA LIFE centre and daily shows) are from £30 per person, if booked online at least five days in advance. Under 3s go free.
Alton Towers Resort
For those who like to make a big SPLASH on their day out, Alton Towers is just a car ride away. Start with the Congo River Rapids and drift gently along the water ways, before bumping and spinning your way through the waterfalls. No one is coming out of this ride dry, that’s for sure.
Alton Towers Resort is home to more than 40 rides and attractions, including world-class roller-coasters. Its latest, Wicker Man, brings together wood and fire, while the white-knuckle ride Oblivion has a colossal 180ft vertical drop!
Little ones will love CBeebies Land with the new Teletubbies Big Band Live Show as well as the Peter Rabbit Hippity Hop ride, and the whole family will adore Sharkbait Reef by SEA LIFE, which is brimming with blacktip sharks and spotted rays.
Why not catch the Runaway Mine Train or enjoy the Spinball Whizzer?
- Online tickets for Alton Towers Resort booked over five days in advance are from £34 for adults and £29 for children (3 – 11 years). Under 3s go free.
- Entry to The Alton Towers Dungeon is extra. Tickets cost from £5 per person.
- The Alton Towers Dungeon has a recommended age of 10 and over.
Prefer a walk on the wild side? Check out these zoos and animals experiences open now…
ZSL London Zoo
One of the most famous zoos in the UK, London Zoo is home to around 17,000 animals from over 750 species.
Their giraffes are some of the most famous faces at the zoo, having recently found fame through the light-up NHS panel in their enclosure – thanking the hardworking healthcare staff as the pandemic continues. But their newest exhibit is sure to take your breath away. Enter into the Land of the Lions and be transported over from England’s capital city to India, to explore the world of Asiatic lions.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
But the Zoological Society of London (that operates London Zoo) isn’t just set up in London.
Visitors outside the capital can still take advantage of the wildlife at Whipsnade Zoo, which is situated in Bedfordshire. Here you can get to know a herd of Asian elephants that wouldn’t be quite as free to wander around in the city, or monkey around next to the chimpanzee enclosure.
- Adult tickets come in 5 categories – Peak, Standard, Off-Peak, Saver, Super Saver – and range from £26 to £35 for a day ticket.
- You have to book an AM or PM slot, so be sure to get on the site early to make sure you can get a ticket for your chosen day as they tend to sell out quickly.
With so many choices to pick from, any one of these fun outings is sure to have something to suit the whole family! But be sure to book in advance, as many theme parks and zoos are only selling tickets online.
What will social distancing be like at theme parks and zoos?
Many are predicting a rocky return to business for theme parks after the lockdown restrictions are lifted, but the parks themselves have come forward with a plan to ensure that they can follow social distancing guidelines and reopen again in July.
New regulations at theme parks and zoos will include:
Pre-booked tickets only
Establishments like Thorpe Park and Alton Towers have already confirmed that only visitors with advanced bookings will be able to enter. As the statement from Alton Towers reads, this is to ensure there are ‘strict limits on the initial number of guests who can visit the Resort each day…This is so that we can best maintain social distancing in all areas of the Resort, whilst making sure that our guests can enjoy the same number of rides and attractions as they would normally expect to.’
London Zoo have also issued such guidelines, saying that only those with pre-booked tickets will be allowed entry – including Members, Fellows and Patrons – as they have ‘strictly limited the number of tickets on sale each day and split them into morning and afternoon time slots to spread visitors throughout the day’.
So make sure you pre-book your tickets to theme parks before heading out. For a whole range of deals, everything from cinemas to safari parks, you’d best check out Kids Pass for over 50 per cent off family days out.
Face masks or coverings
If required by the authorities, theme parks are ready to enforce face coverings or masks for all visitors to help reduce the chance of virus transmission between guests.
Merlin Entertainments, who operate theme parks in the UK including Thorpe Park, Legoland, Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures, have issued a statement saying that they will be using ‘non-contact thermometers to screen the temperature of each guest and employee before they enter’ the park.
Those who don’t agree to undergo the screening or who have a temperature over 38 degrees, along with their household, will not able to enter the park.
Social distancing in queues and in restaurants
Parks have advised their future customers that markings will be laid out to enforce social distancing, which according to guidelines issued by Thorpe Park includes areas such as, ‘at the park entrance, when queuing for rides, in toilets, in dining areas and more to help guests keep a safe distance from one another. Our employees will monitor the queues to ensure that social distancing is being maintained.’
Zoos have already released similar statements and those who have already visited can attest to the marked out areas, where queues might be to help visitors maintain appropriate social distancing.
These measures, along with increased hygiene standards and more hygiene stations and hand sanitisers across the park, will help to make visitors and employees at the parks feel safe enough to return. So with the health and safety element taken care of, these are the new attractions to look out for this year and how to book tickets so you can be sure you’re first in the door.