A family took a drive to a well-known theme park;
They boarded a boat and headed into the dark.
What woodland creatures did they discover inside?
And what did they think of the Gruffalo ride?
What other adventures did they undergo
On their journey to seek out the Gruffalo?
My girls were very excited at getting an invite to visit Chessington World of Adventures, spend a night at the Azteca Hotel and try out the new Gruffalo River Ride Adventure before it opened to the public. We headed off after school on Friday, ready for an adventure – and we weren’t disappointed.
Dinner at the Smokehouse BBQ & Bar
Our evening started at the Smokehouse BBQ & Bar where we were greeted with Gruffalo-themed kids’ drinks and glasses of bubbly. Jessica will only drink water, but Sophie enjoyed her bright green Scrambled Snake drink. There were small jars of sweets on the table. These were a big hit with the girls. We enjoyed the live music entertainment over dinner. Sophie ate Chicken Tenders and chips; Jessica enjoyed a hot dog and chips and hubby and I went for a platter of pulled pork, beef brisket and giant rib which was delicious. We finished off our meal with some very yummy Gruffalo-themed cupcakes.
After dinner, the girls snuggled up on some big cushions to watch the Gruffalo film. There was a nearby craft table where they could colour some Gruffalo pictures. Sophie was more interested in practising her scissor skills though and Jessica was too engrossed in the film!
Needless to say, face-painting proved to be very popular! The girls loved having their faces painted as one of the characters from the book. Sophie went for the snake and Jessica chose to be a Gruffalo.
It was a fabulous evening with good food and plenty to keep the children amused. It was also lovely for me to catch up with some blogging friends – Mel from Le Coin de Mel, Abby from You Baby, Me Mummy and Donna from What The Redhead Said. I also bumped into the lovely Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whom we’ve met before. Our previous encounter was at the Downing Street children’s Christmas party when Sophie was six weeks old. She had a brief appearance and a mention in Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Strictly Come Dancing training video the following week. It was lovely to be able to say hello again.
Our wild sleepover at the Azteca Hotel
We loved the décor in our room at the Azteca hotel. There was so much to look at! The girls spotted parrots, chameleons, monkeys – and a big cuddly tiger on their bunk beds! Jessica immediately bagged the top bunk. Sophie was happy with the bottom one – as long as she got to try out the top one to before going to sleep!
There was also a trundle bed underneath the bottom bunk. We pulled it out just in case Jessica decided to make her own way down from the top bunk. She woke me in the early hours, calling to come down and snuggle in our bed. There was plenty of room for her there and we all had a good night’s sleep.
Our room was an accessible one and so our en-suite bathroom was a big wet-room with a nice low sink that the girls could use easily. The only downside was that the water from the shower didn’t drain away very well and we had quite a soggy bathroom floor for most of the night.
We enjoyed a buffet breakfast with a good selection of food. The choices included a cooked breakfast, fruit, cereal and various pastries. The children had a separate hot breakfast area with sausages, hash browns, beans and spaghetti hoops on offer. As well as the usual hot drinks and juice options, there were also two choices of smoothies. We had the mango smoothies which were delicious.
The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
After breakfast, it was time to head into the park and try out the new Gruffalo ride. Being able to go on to the ride without having to queue was blissful! We stopped for a green screen photo just before boarding our boat to head off on a Gruffalo River Ride Adventure.
The ride uses the same route as the old Professor Bubbleworks ride which I have happy memories of from trips to Chessington as a child. It has been completely redesigned and reimagined though to become a wonderful sensory journey through the book. There are moving models of scenes from the Gruffalo, telling the story of Mouse’s adventure through the deep, dark wood using projection, video, clever lighting and smells to help bring the story to life. The boat is fairly fast-moving and the ride is quite dark in places which possibly could be a little scary for little ones but my girls were both fine with it.
There is a little slope with a splash at the bottom which I remember from when it was the Bubbleworks ride. This is also the photo point for the ride. On our first trip, the girls had their backs to the slope and weren’t expecting it which unnerved them quite a lot. Sophie was not at all keen to try out the ride for a second time! Thankfully, the next time around, they were facing forward as we went down and were much happier.
Meeting Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler and some characters from the Gruffalo
After a couple of trips on the Gruffalo River Ride Adventure, it was time to meet the author and illustrator, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. We received a copy of The Gruffalo Nature Guide which they signed for us, and also had our own copy of Stick Man (the girls’ favourite book) signed. I particularly liked the drawing of the Mouse and the Stick Man that Axel Scheffler drew inside the books for us!
Outside the ride, we got to meet the Gruffalo himself and have our photos taken. The girls loved having cuddles with him. He was a very cuddly and friendly Gruffalo! We treated the girls to a small cuddly Gruffalo in the gift shop. Sophie couldn’t wait to show her new friend her cuddly version of him!
The girls also enjoyed seeing some owls and a snake outside the Gruffalo River Adventure Ride. They found them fascinating and loved being able to stroke them too.
We also got to try out some Gruffalo-themed frozen yogurt at Gruffalo Bites with a choice of different toppings. We went for Roasted Fox, Scrambled Snake and Gruffalo Crumble. They were all very yummy but I think Gruffalo Crumble was the favourite!
Exploring Chessington World of Adventures
After checking out of the hotel, we made our way back into the park. Jessica would have loved another go on the Gruffalo ride but now that the ride was about to open, the queues were immense. Given that we had already had a couple of trips on the ride, hubby and I were very reluctant to join the queue and persuaded the girls to try some of the other attractions that the park had to offer.
We started off on the Seastorm boat ride. The girls enjoyed their bumpy ride over the waves on a miniature galleon. There’s a minimum height restriction of 0.9m on this ride. Last time we visited a theme park, Sophie wasn’t tall enough. This time she just reached the required height. She was so happy to be able to go on a few more rides as a result.
Sophie and I also enjoyed the Jungle Bus ride, although I found the lap bar very snug and had to breathe in to fit on the ride!
Jessica was keen to try out Temple Mayhem – a fun house area where she could shoot foam balls out of cannons and guns. Sophie was too little for this one as there was a minimum age of 4. Last time I tried something like this out, I got hit in the face by one of the balls. I was only too happy to let hubby take Jessica in this time! She had a wonderful time until a ball hit her in the eye and then there were tears. It is a fun idea – but those balls certainly do sting if they hit you with force!
We loved the fabulous views across the park from the Peeking Heights observation wheel before returning to the Smokehouse BBQ & Bar for lunch.
After lunch, we focused on exploring the zoo part of the resort. We visited Sea Lion Bay and watched one of the sea lions perform some tricks. It was a fun show, but also very informative. I came away having learned the differences between sea lions and seals. We also learned about the problems of human rubbish in the oceans and why it is important to recycle our waste. It’s something I’ve been reading a lot about elsewhere at the moment. I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce my plastic consumption as a result.
We enjoyed our walk through Trail of the Kings where we got to see lions, tigers and gorillas. I loved seeing the lion cubs with their dad sitting nearby. The mummy lion looked like she was enjoying some peace and quiet at a distance!
We finished off with a visit to the penguins and the children’s zoo before it was time to head home. Jessica was quite sad that our lovely trip was over. She was looking forward to telling her friends all about it though! It was a wonderful adventure and one that we’ll remember for a very long time.
We were invited to stay at Chessington World of Adventures and try out the new Gruffalo ride although I wasn’t required to write a blog post in return. All thoughts and opinions are my own.