12 April 2009
This is a review of Wicksteed Park, a children's playground and theme park near Kettering in Northamptonshire. An alternative is Gulliver's Theme Park (Gulliver's Land, Gulliver's Kingdom or Gulliver's World) or Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Park.
The difference between this park and similar theme parks is in the charging model. Other parks such as Gulliver's Theme Parks and Thomasland charge an admission fee on all visitors (above a minimum age or height), which can work out expensive especially if you are taking a grandparent along as we did on this occasion.
Wicksteed Park charges a car parking fee (£6) but otherwise allows free access into the park. Tokens or a wristband are required to go on any rides. Tokens cost about £1 each (discount for bulk purchase) or wristbands costing about £15 with unlimited rides. Most of the rides require 1 or 2 tokens per person, some require 3 tokens.
Depending on who is attending then it may be cheaper to go to the other theme parks, but the chances are this works out cheaper particularly with young children.
In our case we bought a wristband for our older child (between 1 and 1.1m tall), but then a sheet of 12 tickets for the rest of us (3 adults) to accompany her on the rides. This was just about the ride number, half of which went on the train ride around the park, and the rest were used by adults accompanying her on the rides where it was mandatory (and the Aeroslide). The wristband turned out to be a worthwhile purchase.
Note if the weather is bad then some of the rides will be closed (eg. roller-coasters). In that case it may not be worth paying for a wristband, on the other hand if the rain stops then the rides can open later during the day. This is what happened when we visited and we were fortunate with the sun coming out and all the rides opening up later in the day.
Children under 0.9m are free, but the rides require an adult to be with them requiring tokens.
A further bonus is that the impressive playgrounds and the open air shows (featuring Wicky Bear) are free. Although it's unlikely you'll walk past the rides without a child wanting to go on a few.
The rides and attractions are split into 3 different areas with a train that circles the park. The train has only one station so if you want to go between the areas then it's by foot. The distance between the areas isn't too bad, but for those with pushchairs the paths aren't always direct which means a large detour or taking the buggy over the grass.
There is a good selection of rides for younger visitors, with some bigger rides for those aged about 14 to adult. For children aged 3 to 10 then there are lots of rides available likely to keep the most demanding child happy.
Food at the park is mainly fast food with healthier options available. Due to the weather and having a baby with us we opted to go into the restaurant. The meals were reasonable and price was good. It is not a particularly large restaurant and was very busy when we visited.
There are toilet facilities and baby changing in the restaurant toilets, but it is in the ladies only. There are shared baby changing areas elsewhere around the park.
Well worth a visit. See Wicksteed Park website.
Also see: More days out with young Children and Babies.