The second week of June dawned warm and sunny, providing the perfect opportunity for a road trip visiting several theme parks around the UK, starting at
Legoland Windsor and ending up at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Monday 7th June 2021
It was an early start but there was just time to admire the two yellow lilies that had bloomed overnight in my garden, before working my way through the surprisingly busy morning traffic to pick up Ben who would be my travelling companion for the trip.
The first day's park was Legoland Windsor, where we were meeting up with another friend Margaret.
In fact, rather than meeting in the park, we met her car on the roundabout outside Legoland and followed her up the hill!
The Big Shop has expanded into the old Hill Top Cafe, and imaginatively renamed "The Lego Store" ... Merlin's creative naming strategy at its best there.
There was time for a coffee and a cake in the new coffee shop in Duplo Valley, which Merlin's imaginative naming team have chosen to call "Legoland Coffee Co.".
The coffee is better than the name, the inside is airy and nicely decorated, and the cakes are tasty!
Despite half term having been the previous week, Legoland was fully booked and, even while supposedly limiting numbers of visitors, was very crowded.
Social distancing is everyone's responsibility
Legoland has a brand new land for 2021: Mythica
The land features some nice models of large mythical creatures
It was proving wildly popular, with a queue snaking out of the entrance
The queue time board was claiming a 120 minute wait
There was a long and winding indoor queueline
Even Lego minifigs have to social distance
The preshow video is cute, but essentially boils down to teaching kids how to sit on a chair
Unfortunately Flight of the Sky Lion was slightly disappointing, with the immersion broken by the top of the screen being clearly visible throughout the ride.
Other flying theatres like Soarin' and
Krrish don't have this problem, so it looks like although Merlin bought great ride hardware they cheaped out on the screen, which sadly ruins an otherwise very cool experience.
Covid-19 precautions mean no duplo bricks to play with in the queuelines at the moment
A busy park meant a bit of a queue outside Pirate's Burger Kitchen to get some lunch
The need for social distancing caused the queue to look a lot longer than it actually was
As always, the food was not particularly high quality but certainly not the worst theme park burger
Making sure to keep that 2 metre distance
One of the creatures from Mythica seems to have got lost and found itself stuck on the castle roof
The Dragon was on form as usual, with some new chocolate cake smells in the banqueting hall
No visit to Legoland would be complete without a trip aboard the Legoland Express
We were invited to a party
I love the music inside Haunted House Monster Party, but today for some reason the volume had been turned down so the party wasn't quite so lively as normal
The front row on each side was out of use due to Coronavirus, which halved the capacity of the ride
One moment we're at a party, the next we're on a Deep Sea Adventure (which surprisingly was walk on!)
Is that made of Lego? It looks a bit fishy to me.
Temporary purple fences have been installed around the Heartlake City lake to prevent crowds gathering during the shows
Closing time had been moved from 5pm to 7pm thanks to the surprisingly busy day, but even with the extra couple of hours in the park the time still finally came to haul ourselves back to the top of the hill on the Hill Train
There was a long queue of people eagerly waiting to buy a souvenir from the new improved Lego Store
As well as expanding in size, the shop has been given a facelift and is now much brighter than before
The range of exclusive Legoland sets continues to grow
And with that, we checked out of Legoland and the first day of our Great British Theme Park Adventure was complete. We said goodbye to Margaret and then headed north to Premier Inn Thetford for the night, via a quick stop off for a Waitrose sandwich at South Mimms services, ready for the adventure to continue...
Tuesday 8th June 2021
Pettitts Animal Adventure Park
Day two of our Great British Theme Park Adventure was a perfect summer's day, with blue skies and glorious warm sunshine
The car park is a short walk down the road from Pettitts' main entrance
We were greeted by a very friendly monkey
Pettitts Animal Adventure Park is a small family park and zoo. It was very nicely presented, clean and tidy with a friendly atmosphere.
The park had implemented various changes due to Coronavirus, and there was plenty of hand sanitiser on offer
The Pettitts Chicken Show was a real highlight
Who couldn't love a room full of animatronic singing farmyard animals?!
Disappointingly, the meerkats didn't sing too
Safari Adventure is a children's self-driving car ride past some nicely made animal models
The park's other rollercoaster is the Rocky Roller Coaster, a mine train themed kiddie coaster
The train takes visitors on a large loop around the rides area
The Pettitts staff were all really friendly
Sadly Covid-19 has meant the petting area has had to temporarily close
Luckily the animals can still be seen over the fence
Keep off children, this play fort is for kids only
Take a bath? You're having a laugh!
Pettitts' crazy golf is free to play - no upcharge attractions here! We just had to help ourselves to a club and a ball and play a round. Let's not talk about who won though.
This little monkey was keen to show off
Pettitts was a real surprise for me - I wasn't expecting much, but it proved to be a charming little park being nicely run with a great range of family attractions
Just down the road from Pettitts, on the way back to the car park, is the Humpty Dumpty Brewery
The brewery's shop was open as we passed, so we popped in
I bought a bottle of local cider to take home
Joyland Childrens Fun Park
The next stop on our grand tour took us to the seaside for an afternoon at Great Yarmouth
Joyland is a small amusement park for children, just off the beach
Like everywhere else, Joyland has had to make several Coronavirus-related modifications, including implementing a one way system around the park
Our first ride was on the Snails, which has been at the park since it opened in 1949
Jet Cars is a ride from the 1970s, which zooms around inside Joyland's central mountain
Utilising another part of the mountain's innards, Neptune's Kingdom is a dark ride which takes riders on a journey through an undersea kingdom
Tyrolean Tubs is another of Joyland's historic rides, first opening in 1949 and now the only remaining Virginia Reel in operation anywhere in the world
More modern, but still fitting perfectly into the park, is Spook Express - a rollercoaster which encircles the central mountain
We opted to put our last tokens to good use, with a repeat ride on the tubs
With the sun shining, we decided to take a walk along the Pier
There was the promise of a Ghost Train ride ...
... but sadly everything was closed and the end of the pier had been taped off
We settled instead for a drink and a pot of tasty seafood
Suitably refreshed, we wandered down the front to the big wheel
If you can't get the staff, replace them with a machine
It was a beautiful afternoon, and there were some great views from the top of the wheel
Looking towards the Pleasure Beach, which was sadly closed that day
Leaving Great Yarmouth behind, we drove two hours northwest to Boston, positioning ourselves ready for the next day of theme park adventures
Wednesday 9th June 2021
Setting ourselves up for a full day of fun with a Premier Inn breakfast
That plan was quickly foiled when we found out the park didn't open until midday
Ben and I had last visited Fantasy Island six years ago in 2015 on a day which was too windy to allow Odyssey to operate, so we were very much hoping to rectify that today
Firstly though, we had to collect our wristbands from inside the Pyramid
As it was an off-peak day, many of the rides were being run on rotation (one hour open, the next hour closed), so we decided to catch Millennium while it was available.
In contrast to 2015, the entrance is now inside the Pyramid rather than up a flight of steps from the public street outside.
Covid-necessitated queueline modifications including plastic screens dividing the queue from the exit path
The new entrance and Coronavirus modifications weren't the only changes to Millennium:
Since our last visit Fantasy Island has been bought by Mellors Group who have made numerous investments and improvements to the park, including repainting Millennium in a smart new purple and green colour scheme.
The rollercoaster has aged well and has been nicely looked after, providing a pretty smooth ride (for a Vekoma looping coaster!) and is a huge amount of fun.
Next, I took a seat underneath the Starflyer (I'm not a massive fan - they scare the pants off me) while Ben took a higher seat on it, 70 metres above.
The ride is a temporary addition to Fantasy Island until they can open Turbulence, the former Bling
star shape ride from Blackpool Pleasure Beach, later in the year.
This particular Starflyer can usually be found at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
We tried a couple of times to ride Spinning Racer, Fantasy Island's new Maurer Spinning Coaster which previously travelled the German fair circuit, but it was having technical problems
Instead, since it was coming up to 12pm and it was just about to open on rotation, we decided to be first in the queue for Odyssey.
Whilst it looks nice, Odyssey is a terrible, rough and unpleasant ride ... as you might well expect with it being an oversized SLC
Next to Spinning Racer is Family Roller Coaster, another kiddie coaster from Guven Lunapark
Spinning Racer was finally back up and running, so we took a ride
We made a quick circuit of the market to get some nice photos of Odyssey in the sunshine
We had lunch at House of Coffee, a little cafe underneath the Millennium lift hill
We chose 'tea for two', which proved to be an excellent choice
After lunch we rode Rhombus Rocket
Ben tried out Magic ...
... while I took a look at the outside of one of Fantasy Island's halloween scare mazes
The door was open, offering a small peek inside
The new management has introduced a nice range of merchandise
Time was getting on and it was time to leave - we'll have to wait until our next visit to discover what this new attraction will be
Botton's Pleasure Beach
We had popped in to ride Queen Bee, a rollercoaster which was not running last time we had visited in 2015
It's a small children's inverted coaster which sits on top of one of the arcade buildings
Last time we were in the area, we also tried to visit the amusements on Cleethorpes beach, but they were closed...
... We took a short detour on our route to have another look, but sadly they were all shut up again.
Three hours later, we arrived in Blackpool and checked-in to The Big Blue Hotel
The room was nice, although the mattresses were surprisingly hard!
We took a short stroll down the Promenade to stretch our legs before bedtime
Blackpool Tower and Central Pier lit up in the distance
There wasn't much life on South Pier
Waltz all night ... but not tonight
According to the security guard, the rides had closed about 20 minutes before we had arrived as it was so quiet
An unfortunate turn of phrase from Blackpool Council: apparently the town is best experienced from far away!
Returning to the hotel, it was almost time to call it a night after our long drive
Thursday 10th June 2021
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
What a way to start the day!
We walked down to Icon and were first in the queue outside the gates.
Icon opened in 2018 as the first new rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach in 24 years (not counting Infusion which had been moved from Southport)
This was my first time riding Icon, and I thought it was ... OK.
It's nice and smooth, but lacks any real stand-out moments of brilliance.
Next up was Steeplechase.
Ben wanted to ride all three tracks, so luckily it was pretty quiet!
By that time the Icon Gift Shop had opened, so we popped in for a browse and had a chat with the very friendly guy in charge.
There's some unique merchandise on offer, including Icon dog leads!
Gromit was lurking around outside Wallace & Gromit Thrill-O-Matic ... he didn't seem to like it when I called him Wallace.
The classic River Caves, first opened in 1905
First classic woodie of the day - Grand National
Despite what the sign says, it seemed (a bit!) less rough than when I last rode it
No, this isn't a workshop or a junkyard - they're trying to flog off used ride parts in the gift shop!
A wall of names made out of personalised "bricks" is being built to celebrate Blackpool Pleasure Beach's 125th Anniversary this year
We had lunch at the new, improved, shinier and more upmarket version of Coasters
We sat out on the restaurant's terrace, which overlooks The Big One, Big Dipper and Icon's brake run
The view was good, and the food was great
Blackpool's Ghost Train was built in 1930 and was the first in the world
A ride on Alice completed the classic dark ride set
Flying Machines: The closest most of us are likely to get to international air travel for a while
The ride gave us the opportunity to take an aerial view over the construction walls at the ongoing refurbishment of Valhalla, which was originally supposed to reopen this year but has been pushed back until 2022 due to delays associated with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Passing Mandy's fountains, we made our way over to the Big Dipper
Big Dipper used to be smoother than the Grand National, so the way the rollercoaster has deterioriated is very sad: very rough with lots of banging, shuffling and lateral shunts
Covid-19 precautions such as regularly stopping the rides for cleaning throughout the day means everything is currently a little slower than usual, so the Pleasure Beach is asking for everyone's patience and understanding
The Big One queue was down the ramp out of the station, but due to social distancing the cattlepen wasn't in use so it looked longer than it really was
There were two trains in service, so it didn't take long to reach the front of the queue
While The Big One is never going to be an airtime monster, the first drop plunging 205ft headfirst toward Blackpool Promenade is hard to beat
From the wildest rollercoaster to one of the tamest, but just as fun: Nickelodeon Streak
Pleasure Beach was only open 11am-5pm, so with our time in the park drawing to a close we decided to end the day where we began, with another ride on Icon
Whilst it might not be the best ride in the world, considering the deterioration of some of Blackpool's other rollercoasters, Icon was a very pleasurable way to end the day
Overall, we had a great day at the Pleasure Beach. The park wasn't too crowded, and most rides were up and running. It was just a pity it was open for such a short amount of time.
Seeing as it was just over the road, we decided to pop across to South Pier to see if we could get a ride on the spinning mouse - it certainly looked a bit more alive than the previous day
Sadly it was not to be - apparently the wind had picked up so they had had to close Crazy Coaster before we arrived.
I guess that'll just have to be a rollercoaster for next time we're in Blackpool.
With various restaurants and eateries looking rather busy, we decided to head back to The Big Blue to see if we could get dinner in the hotel
It proved to be a fantastic decision, with some wonderfully tasty food served up
After dinner we took a short stroll around the perimeter of the Pleasure Beach
We discovered some old Big One track in one of the car parks ... it's a wonder they're not for sale in the Pleasure Beach souvenir shop!
What better way to end the night, and the trip, than by watching a few episodes of the 1990s BBC TV documentary about the Pleasure Beach
"Get it off, and get it open!"
- Jim Rowland, former Operations Director, Blackpool Pleasure Beach
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