Address: Leatherhead Road, Chessington, KT9 2NE
Price Band: £££
Last Christmas we decided we wanted to make the most of the festive spirit and so having done some research we decided to book a Santa Sleepover weekend at Chessington World Of Adventure. The price included 2 day access to the on-site sea life centre, zoo and a few selected rides (the main theme park area was shut for the winter). It also included overnight accommodation in a themed bedroom, surprise gift in the room for each child, evening entertainment, access to the themed hotel swimming pool, breakfast in the Temple Restaurant with a visit from Santa’s elves and of course a visit to see the big man himself – Santa Claus.
The planning started back in August when I first booked the date and then had to keep it secret from the kids all the way up until the day! I had the suitcase packed and hidden in the boot of the car before they finished school the day before so they literally had no idea we were going anywhere. On the morning we woke up I told them we were going out for the day for a treat. We arrived at Chessington very excited and spent a lovely day on the rides and enjoying the zoo and sea life centre.
The sea life centre has a fantastic selection of creatures to marvel at and is very well set out with a supervised area for handling as well. The staff were very clued up on the animals they cared for and answered lots of questions from inquisitive kids in a way that they could understand.
The animal areas included a petting zoo with everything from pigs to rabbits, all of which were able to wander around freely among the visitors. There is also a wildcat walk, minibeasts cave, gorillas, sealions, penguins, etc. The rides and attractions that were open during our stay were Hocus Pocus Hall, the Carousel, Seastorm, plus a couple of others. There were never really any queues as there was so much to do everyone was well spread out and so it never felt busy.
After a hectic day we told the kids it was time to go home and headed back through the hotel to leave. In the movie area there was a film playing which caught the kids attention so I was able to slip away unnoticed to pick up our key from reception and get our bags from the car. When they turned round to see me standing there holding our bags and a key they screamed in excitement! Definitely a moment well worth the wait and one I really wish I’d got on film. It certainly brought a lot of smiles to fellow visitors who overheard the commotion!lol
The fully-themed Azteca Hotel at Chessington is completely out of this world. It really is incredible the way they have decorated it. From temple ruins in the foyer with jungle sound effects, to monkeys on the walls in the lifts and forest maps on the floors of the corridors, they really have thought of everything. The bedroom itself was beautiful. There are 3 different styles available and for this stay we opted for the Temple Treasure room. It is designed to feel like you are staying within a temple ruin in the middle of the rainforest yet is so comfortable and luxurious feeling. The main room area has a king size bed with dressing table, TV and armchair overlooking the Wanyama reserve (believe me there is nothing better than looking out the window to see giraffe and zebra grazing outside!). A mini corridor with built in shelving, clothes hanging rails and a kettle (with all manner of hot drinks and biscuits to help yourself to) leads to a lovely en-suit bathroom with bath and built in electric shower. Complimentary towels, hand soap and shower wash are provided. The children’s room has bunk beds with a trundle bed underneath meaning it can sleep up to 3 children. They get their own TV with kids channels which is great for a little rest time before heading down to dinner. The rooms all have air conditioning so you can set the temperature to whatever you like and there are extra pillows if you want them. The beds were incredibly comfortable and we loved the fact that there was a puzzle for the kids to solve which revealed the room safe code and a hidden prize!
For our evening meal I had booked us a table at the Temple Restaurant. For those of you who have been to the Rainforest Cafe this place is very similar. It is such an amazing experience to eat in this place and there is so much going on. As you walk in there is a huge floor to ceiling tank of real life piranha fish to greet you along with a member of staff who will show you to your table and take your drink order. The TV screens around the restaurant change every few minutes to show different rainforest wildlife in the trees and the place is filled with rainforest sound effects. There is a large temple ruin in the middle of the restaurant with water fountains and lights which is beautiful. Around the edge of the restaurant, set into the wall are long glass tanks which lead to bigger tanks dotted around the restaurant. Inside are thousands and thousands of ants carrying food back and forth which are absolutely fascinating to watch. At regular intervals there is a ‘storm’ in the restaurant and the lights go down and flash dramatically as thunder and lightening takes over then clears away to the calm rainforest sound effects again. It is so exciting! Food wise the restaurant caters for everyone. It is a buffet style eat all you like place so you literally go up to the counters and help yourself to whatever you like. From carvery to curry to spaghetti meatballs, chips, etc there is something for everyone. This is followed by another huge selection of desserts to help yourself to. In my opinion it is well worth the money not just for the food but for the atmosphere and entertainment of the place. We loved it!
After dinner there was evening entertainment provided in the conference suite of the adjoining Safari Hotel. This included Xmas themed games, carol singing and kiddies disco with a bar open and free popcorn on the tables. Again the room was beautifully themed like a snow covered forest and in the entrance was a gorgeous ice throne surrounded by snow covered fir trees, ideal for photo opportunities.
The following morning we went back to the Temple Restaurant for the buffet style breakfast. It literally had everything you could want from cooked breakfast to cereals to yoghurts, fruit, muffins, pastries, etc. I love places like this as it makes it so much easier to feed everyone, although thankfully I am lucky enough that our 3 aren’t too fussy with their food. We were joined at breakfast by 3 of Santa’s elves who took the time to go round and speak to every child in the restaurant personally and have photos taken. They were very authentic, didn’t rush at all and got to know all the kids, asking lots of questions about their visit and what they would like for Christmas. Later on when we went to visit Santa’s Grotto the same elves recognised our kids and even remembered their names which left us feeling very impressed!
When our time came to head to see Santa it was everything we could have hoped for. We were met at the entrance to the woods by his elves who took us through the trees to his log cabin. Santa knew each child’s name, asked them questions and posed for photos, before handing each child a gift. When we left his cabin we were led by another elf to the candy cane trees where the kids were able to chose a candy cane to keep, then we met the real life reindeer which were beautiful. The children received a craft set or puzzle each, all of which were lovely gifts and they were over the moon.
All in all if you are considering a trip to Chessington for a Santa sleepover weekend I would highly recommend it for any age child. There was so much to do we never had time to get bored and for the amount included we felt the price for 5 of us was very good. Of course the nearer Xmas you leave it, the higher the price goes up. I would recommend checking the website from as early as Easter to book as that’s when the prices are lowest (lets face it – nobody is thinking about Xmas at Easter!). Don’t forget to take your swimming gear as well as the pool in the hotel is fab and well worth a visit (its free of charge too!). You can hire pool towels so don’t need to take your own. What are you waiting for? Get booking!
Disclaimer: Merlin/Chessington have no involvement in this review and any photos, words and opinions are that of my own. 🙂