The geekdaughter, like every other three year old girl I know is, in love with Peppa Pig. She loves watching episodes on television, owns several items of branded clothing, and frequently gives me lectures on how Peppa Pig would do something. The geekdaddy took her to see Peppa’s Birthday Bash on stage a few months ago, which she adored. Earlier this year the Paultons Park theme park opened their Peppa Pig World section, and I initially thought it was too far away for us to ever visit. Then I looked on the map and spotted how close it was to my Dad’s house, and a plan hatched in my mind where we combined our next visit to him with a special trip out for the geekdaughter.
The first thing we discovered was that the Paultons Park entry charge was very expensive. It seemed strange that there was a senior citizen’s discount, but no child discount, so the geekdaughter, at taller then 1m, had to pay the full adult charge. We booked our tickets online in advance, and for a family of 5 the entry cost was £93.50. Booking online saved us £6.50 – the gate price would have been £100! I knew that you could use Tesco Clubcard vouchers for entry, which would have saved us some money, but I was a little wary of doing that as the vouchers do expire. I got stuck with some useless vouchers for a different theme park last year when our plans changed at the last minute, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen again.
I was impressed with the ease of access to Paultons Park – it’s not very far off the M27, and the signs are clear. There were staff guiding cars to parking spaces, so despite the constant stream of cars arriving we were parked and ready to go very quickly. Having printed our ticket at home we were able to skip the queue for buying tickets at the gate, and again the helpful staff were around to direct the arriving guests to the smallest queue for the turnstiles to enter the park. Once inside we headed straight over to the Peppa Pig area, as, it seemed, did all the other families. Initial positive reactions to the area were replaced with the dismay of realising that the queue for each of the 7 major rides were so long that they had escaped the bounds of the designated queuing areas and were spilling out into the pathways. There were people everywhere and it was difficult to manoeuvre the pushchair through the crowds. Not my idea of fun.
Thankfully we managed to find a tractor ride at the back of the Peppa Pig area which had a very small queue (presumably because it wasn’t a Peppa Pig themed ride), and the geekdaughter got to ride on something, which she enjoyed. Coming off that ride we spotted that Peppa and George Pig had appeared at the character meet area, and the geekdaughter was thrilled to go over and shake their hands. Despite the crowds everywhere else, there weren’t too many people around for the meet and greet and we managed to get the geekdaughter to the front very quickly, which was great. We then decided we’d brave a queue for one of the “big” rides to see how it went. The geekdaughter chose the helicopter ride, and then she and the rest of our party joined the queue whilst I took the geekson off for a little explore. There was no guidance as to how long the queue would take, so we had to keep popping back to check on how they were progressing. It was slow, but after an hour or so they reached the head of the queue and were rewarded with their ride.
By this time it was lunchtime, so we dived into the restaurant near to the Peppa Pig area. I know you’re usually limited in your food selection when you’re in a theme park, but even making allowances for that I was disappointed in the hot food selection – it was just chicken/veggie nuggets or a hot dog. If we’d gone all the way back to the entrance we could have had a burger instead, but there didn’t seem to be anything approaching a healthy option, which as far as I’m concerned was a bit of an oversight when your target market is families. On the positive side, when we got to front of the queue (again they seemed overwhelmed with the numbers) the service was quick, and despite it being busy we were able to find a table with sufficient chairs for all of us to sit down, and a high chair for the geekson.
After lunch we resolved to explore the rest of the park a bit, and check out some of the other attractions marked as “for families” or “for children” on the park map. We were pleased to discover that there were plenty of other rides dotted around the park that were suitable for the geekdaughter, with much much shorter queues – in general we only had to wait for one or two cycles of the ride before we got a turn. The Viking boat ride, the teacups, the little train circular tour around the Peppa Pig area, the flying saucer and the magic carpet were all enjoyed by all of us.
By now it was approaching 4pm, so after an ice cream (I was pleased to see local New Forest ice cream being served) we headed back to Peppa Pig World to see if the queues had died down a little with people going home. They were better, although the popular rides (windy castle, helicopters and balloons) still had what I considered too long a wait. We did manage to get on Grandpa Pig’s boat ride and Grandpa’s Little Train with barely any queuing at all, then I had some quality mummy/daughter time and took the geekdaughter on the dinosaurs and Daddy Pig’s Car ride whilst the rest of the family took the geekson into the indoor play zone as he was starting to object to having been in the pushchair all day. The queues were longer for these two rides, but manageable, and we enjoyed both of them. Sadly we never managed to get onto the windy castle and balloon rides.
Now it was approaching closing time, so there was just time to spend an arm and a leg in the Peppa Pig shop before heading home. I have never seen as large a selection of Peppa Pig merchandise anywhere, and of course the geekdaughter wanted all of it! We tried to maintain a reasonable balance, but still overdid it, and I was very disappointed to discover when we got home that the most expensive item we bought (£34.99) was available from Amazon for a full £10 less.
We left as the park was closing at 5.30pm, and again I was impressed with the Paultons Park traffic management. I’ve been to some theme parks where it has taken a long time to get out of the car park on a busy day, but there was no queuing at all for us, and we were out and on our way very quickly.
I am left with very mixed feelings about Peppa Pig World. I must confess to having a very negative reaction when we first arrived and it was so crowded, but after a chance to ride a few rides elsewhere in the park I calmed down a bit. I enjoyed my day out, and I think Peppa Pig World has potential, but I don’t think it offered value for money.
In summary, here are the things we liked:
- Car access and parking
- Theming of the Peppa Pig area
- Quantity of the Peppa Pig rides
- Quality of the Peppa Pig rides
And the things we didn’t like:
- The queues
- The food
- Cost of entry
There are a few things that I think Paultons Park could do to improve the experience of Peppa Pig World. First of all, have information at the entrance as to the approximate queue times for the key rides, especially the Peppa Pig ones. This would enable people to make informed choices as to which part of the park to head to first when they arrived. Also inside Peppa Pig World I would like to have seen signs at the entrances to each ride showing approximate queue times – I wonder how many parents would have joined those queues knowing that they’d be there for an hour or more. And finally I’d like the other rides within the Park that are suitable for the Peppa Pig target audience (mostly preschoolers) to be highlighted either on the Park map or a seperate leaflet, again to highlight to parents the other activities that they can do whilst waiting for the popular rides. And in an ideal world I’d like to see some kind of “fast track” entry system for the Peppa Pig rides to minimise wait times.
I will probably go back to Peppa Pig World. But I’ll use my Clubcard vouchers to get reduced admission prices, go outside of the school holidays and take a picnic!