Thorpe Park, set on an island surrounded by man-made lakes, is one of the major theme parks in the UK with one of the largest collections of unique rollercoasters and other rides.
|Season||March to early November|
|Nearby||Legoland Windsor (7 miles)|
Chessington World of Adventures (9 miles)
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (17 miles)
Brighton Palace Pier (44 miles)
Gulliver's Land (46 miles)
Thorpe Park is among the largest theme parks in the South East of England, and is predominantly aimed at teenagers, 20s-30s and the older end of the family market. It is currently home to six large rollercoasters and a collection of thrill rides.
The park began life as an educational tourist attraction when Ready Mix Concrete (RMC), owner of the gravel pit on the site at the time, decided to flood the pit to create a series of artificial lakes toward the end of the Seventies. This opened in July 1979 as Thorpe Park, where guests could experience attractions such as the World War 1 airfield, Model World and the Invaders of Britain exhibition. All that remains from the period is the Dome (aka Port Atlantis) – known as the Mountbatten Pavilion at the time – which connects to the park’s entrance gate via a footbridge and acts as the gateway to the park.
Since it opened, the park has undergone a transformation into a major theme park through a series of notable events. The journey started for real in 1996 when RMC opened X:\No Way Out as the world’s first backwards in the dark rollercoaster. In 1998, Thorpe Park was acquired by the Tussauds Group who also owned nearby Chessington World of Adventures. This was a major turning point for the park, with Tussauds investing heavily in new rides over the next few years.
Probably the most pivotal event in Thorpe Park’s history occurred on Friday 21st July 2000 when a major fire broke out on the Mr Rabbit’s Tropical Travels boat ride. This spread to nearby buildings and the Wicked Witches Haunt dark ride which was completely destroyed. The area affected by the fire was subsequently redeveloped, with Nemesis Inferno, a large inverted rollercoaster similar to the original Nemesis at Alton Towers (also owned by Tussauds) built on the site and opened for the 2003 season. This was only a year after Colossus, the world’s first 10-inversion rollercoaster, had debuted in 2002. The growing legion of Thorpe Park fans only had to wait another three years for the next major rollercoaster, Stealth, a 200ft tall accelerator coaster, which was added in 2006.
Merlin Entertainments bought the Tussauds Group in 2007 and have continued to invest in the park. Key openings have included Saw: The Ride in 2009, The Swarm wing coaster in 2012, and Derren Brown’s Ghost Train in 2016.
Other rides of note include Rumba Rapids, a rapids ride which was originally called Thunder River when it was added in 1987; Tidal Wave, a shoot-the-chutes style water ride which produces a massive wave that can be seen across the park; together with the park’s impressive collection of flat rides. Most of these are collated in the Lost City area of the park, which features Samurai, a top scan originally installed at Chessington but moved to Thorpe as part of the former park’s transition into a theme park more targeted toward young families; Vortex, a KMG Afterburner swing and spin ride; and Rush, a large S&S Screaming Swing. Zodiac, the park’s enterprise wheel, is actually the second incarnation of the ride. The original was quickly brought in following the 2000 fire, but was replaced a few years later by the old Cyclone from Drayton Manor when they decided to remove the ride to make way for Drunken Barrels.
On selected nights, Thorpe Park opens after hours for Ministry of Sound club night events. The largest event of the year is Fright Nights, the park’s Halloween event which usually takes place from early October until the park closes for the season at the start of November. Fright Nights features a number of horror mazes, together with actors roaming the park.
Guests can stay overnight in the Thorpe Shark hotel, a temporary-ish structure which sits on land beside the Dome and entrance footbridge. Thorpe Park originally planned to open a permanent hotel, spa and conference centre, although these plans are on hold after Thorpe Shark hotel opened in 2014 with a plan for it to remain open for at least ten years.