What's new

Whats your favorite Merlin Park?

Whats your favorite Merlin Park?

  • Alton Towers

    Votes: 52 64.2%
  • Heide Park Resort

    Votes: 10 12.3%
  • Gardaland

    Votes: 8 9.9%
  • Thorpe Park Resort

    Votes: 8 9.9%
  • Chessington World of Adventures

    Votes: 2 2.5%
  • Legoland (state which location)

    Votes: 1 1.2%

  • Total voters

Chris Brown

Mr CoasterForce 2016
Staff member
Social Media Team
Also, I'd argue Thorpe have regressed immeasurably since the brief ray of hope that was 2012 - likewise Chessington in 2010.
See, I'd say from an investment POV that Merlin have improved Thorpe since the 2007 take over. They've installed 2 decent coasters (i know that can be debated with SAW but from a GP perspective its good) and well actually thats about it. But I'd argue that thats still an overall improvement since the take over, granted its not a substantial improvement but Thorpe was in a good position before Merlin took over, it had all the fundamentals for a good park with 4 good coasters, log flume, rapids, a shoot the chute and a great selection of flats. When you have a good all round park what do you do to improve it? It took them a little too long to realise they needed a dark ride and they didn't execute in the best of ways but its still got the fundimentals. I think Merlin have got away with poor installations like Storm Surge, Angry Birds land, Im a celeb and the dodgems because there's nothing that old in the park. For me Alton Towers is at a different stage in its life compared to Thorpe, I'd say Thorpe is younger overall whereas Alton feels older and a little more tired.

IMO parks need to consistently add quality investments to keep the ball rolling and to keep the park feeling fresh, Thorpe's ball has slowed but hasn't stopped rolling yet because of solid foundations laid by Tussaud's in the early 2000's. Alton's foundations were laid excellently in the 90's but the solid investments have stopped (bar Smiler) and its caught up with them now. Years of plodding along riding on the wave of success that came from the installations of the 90's has left the park feeling tired and dated. Rides have been removed and not replaced efficiently and the best rides are nearly as old as me. There comes a time when serious regeneration has to occur. New lands and changes to the existing landscapes have to be made to keep the park feeling fresh. Look at Phantasialand keeping that momentum going with the demolition of a whole area to make room for an entirely new land. I'd lump Chessie in the same bracket as Alton unfortunately, they had their solid foundations laid in the late 1980's with the opening of the park and then the addition of Transylvania. They need an overhaul.

Blackpool are an example of how the ball stopped rolling a long time ago. But they embraced it, they embraced the history of the place and focused on conserving their old rides for years to come, they've understood the importance of investment from the beginning but for them its always been a cashflow problem. It doesn't come as a coincidence that they announce quite possibly the best coaster in the UK after a few years of profit. That to me says that it's always been in their intentions. The embrace of their history hasn't always been plain sailing though as their social media is littered with people stating the rides are too old, unsafe or just in need of being replaced. Will this be happening to Nemesis when it gets older? Just consider that theres never a queue for it now. See, Merlin aren't going down the preserve your history route that Blackpool have taken, they've removed two of the most iconic themepark rides in their parks, the log flumes. They just kind of sit in the middle, not quite preserving but also not quite investing enough. They aren't preserving their history but they aren't making significant improvement of the parks either. Its just that middle ground of mediocrity.

I think my theory is sort of supported by average queue patterns throughout Themeparks. Lets take the Towers as an example, I'm gonna group the big six in new and old categories. The old (Air, Oblivion and Nemesis) all have substantially shorter queues than the new 3 (Thirteen, Rita and Smiler) but I'd argue that the old 3 are more superior rides. Granted capacity, layout of the park and advertising will have an effect but that still says to me that the GP like new things regardless of the overall ride experience. This supports my theory for the need for constant investment and the idea of maintaining momentum rather than plodding along and relying on existing things. People get bored and thats a fact.

Heide and Gardaland are different because their old rides are **** anyway. Id argue that they were purchased as up and coming parks that needed investment to get them to were they are now as opposed to the already established UK parks.

I'd like to think that if the competition in the UK was on the same scale as what you see in Germany then Merlin would either seriously buck their ideas up or just simply get left behind. Wishful thinking...


Active Member
Alton Towers - even though it has had so much going against it lately, it's still my favourite.
Heide Park - A very close second. Great selection of rides, but they need a better log flume and Limit is absolutely vile.
Gardaland - Yes, it's got a ****ing **** SLC, a disgusting S&S Squirrel thing, but Raptor is really good, Oblivion: TBH looks ace and it's in Italy next to Lake Garda.
Thorpe - It's not in Italy and it's next to Fleet Lake, Manor Lake and Abbey Lake. Stealth, Swarm and Inferno are pretty good, but it has one dark ride, which while I'll stop short of calling it a PR disaster, hasn't been the runaway success it could have been.
Chessington - This place used to be fab. It's lost some of the magic it used to have, but they've going in the right direction with Gruffalo and some of the recent additions.
Legoland - They've gone from strength to strength as a brand in the last 20 years, but they don't really have any super stand out attractions at any of their parks.


Staff member
Social Media Team
Gonna list them then:

1. Alton Towers: I haven't been for a few years, and never overdid the visits even when I did used to get there, but I still used to feel like it was something special as you're taking the monorail over. It's the Merlin park I've visited most, but never had a bad day there. I haven't been since they've really started f**king with it though.

2. Heide: Only been once, and that was a bit of a rushed job, but I really liked the place. I'm probably going to head back in the summer, so we'll see if I change my mind.

3. Thorpe: I actually like Thorpe a lot, but I've only been about 4 or 5 times rather than the total overkill that a lot of UK enthusiasts go for.

4. Gardaland: I thought this place was great to be fair, and that was before the dive coaster was added.

5. Legoland Malaysia: Meh, but at least it was new and clean. The "big" coaster was actually alright as well.

6. Chessington: Hate it. HATE. IT. Dreadful dump for which most people allow too much slack due to nostalgia and remembering how they felt there as a kid. I never went as a kid, so see it for what it is: a s**thole. I'll never forget my first visit, when everyone had been auto-fellating over the "amazing theming" in the new Wild Asia area, only to be confronted with a concrete slab with a Disc'o and some flea-bitten parakeets. And £10 for a locker? TEN. POUNDS. Get to f**k.

7. Legoland Florida: An embarrassment. They have the audacity to price themselves in the same bracket as Disney and Universal for a run-down park full of s**ty inherited rides. They should be f**king ashamed.

Pink Cadillac

Active Member
Alton Towers. I think the ride lineup is definitely better than Thorpe and I often visit gardens/estates so Alton Towers is kind of perfect on paper for me. Lack of flats doesn't bother me because there wouldn't be enough hours in the day between walking everywhere and riding coasters to consider anything (bar Hex). I try and save a 1 hour slot in the day to walk round the towers and eat lunch in the gardens but I always feel like 'oh I should be in a queue rn'.


Active Member
So, just out of interest, how bad would Alton Towers actually have to get before you guys considered voting for something else?
I just can't get my head round, with everything that's going on lately, how Alton is still topping this poll?
I don't expect everyone to vote for Thorpe just because I did, but surely Heide is worthy of a few more votes?

If any of Alton Towers management happen to stumble upon this thread they'd be like "Hey guys, it's ok, we're still the favourite. Don't bother with Sub Terra, cut the theming budget for SW8 and scrap the monorail right away. We'll be fine. Look, these suckers love us no matter what we do."
Think about it...


Staff member
Yeah, but that's political thinking. I know what you're saying and agree with you to a degree. It's just that even bad, Alton is naturally still good. However, visitor numbers tell the story and the fact that (even though I don't think it's as good) is consider trips to both Thorpe and Chessy this season over Alton. Objectively though, if someone said "I can do one Merlin park in my life, which one should I do?" - it's got to be Alton.

But yeah, I do agree with what you're saying though.

Sent from my E6683 using Tapatalk


Active Member
I find it difficult to judge parks when you have more or less familiarity too. Alton used to be my home park, so I've been more than any other place. At one point, I was so familiar with Alton, that I preferred Thorpe because it felt more fresh and exciting. It was only slightly worse than Alton on paper, but being over-familiar can take the edge off the atmosphere*. When I went to Heide last year, I felt that new sense of adventure all over again because of the exploration.

But like Furie said, even with recent developments and Merlin's decisively corporate approach to park management, Alton is still a great park with some high class rides (#bringbackhex).

* Similarly, at uni, my walk to lectures involved walking past lots of gorgeous gothic architecture, but after a while they just become "those buildings I see in the morning."


Active Member
I'm fairly confident that Hex is re-opening for the 2017 season. From what I can gather, this is at the expense of Twirling Toadstool and Ice Age; neither of which I'll miss, but families won't be impressed.

In order for them to be worse than Chessington, Lego or Thorpe - they'd have to do just that; be worse than Chessington, Thorpe or Lego. Short of bulldozing Nemesis and turning the gardens into a concrete wasteland, I don't think they could realistically manage that at the moment.


Active Member
That's exactly what I meant - it's something even Merlin are unlikely to be daft enough to do.
And for as long as Nemesis is operating, Alton will comfortably outrank Thorpe, Chessington and Legoland [except in the unlikely event of a truly world class coaster opening at either of those three].


Active Member
Whilst I haven't been to Heide yet, I'm gonna go out on a whim and say Gardaland. It's just the least 'Merlin' park if them all, which does speak volumes about Merlin :/

As a coaster enthusiast, of course I'd say Alton, but theme parks have always been about having good day out as well. Quite simply, GL's the only one which doesn't seem like a constant money grab, being focussed more on the experience. It has the best theming, the most well-rounded ride selection and overall, a much better atmosphere. Everything just seems to flow so organically, and the weather and beautiful scenery just make it even better. It stays open until after 12 as well, and the little extras like shows and proper restaurants really go far.

The coaster selection is certainly worse than Thorpe and Alton, but Raptor and to some extent, Magic Mountain, are definitely underrated. I haven't ridden Oblivio', but it looks like a really solid addition. It's actually improving as a park as well, unlike the others which seem to be going backwards, so in a few years time when it gets another coaster, the ride selection may well be par.

In all honestly though, Heide does look better.


I voted for Heide as its got a good selection of quality rides and is quite a nice park.

I think Legoland is by far the best at achieving its aims, but I'm not a 10 year old kid so they're not my personal favourite.


New Member
I went with Heide as echoing before it has a good selection and a nice setting. Alton I like to try and visit once a year if I can but only because of The Smiler and Nemesis, other rides are just average in general.
I've done all the UK Merlin Parks and Alton Towers is my favourite all the others feel like their at least a league below Alton Towers.

But here's my order
1) Alton Towers - I love this park so much, And it's my home park <3
2) Thorpe Park - This park surpassed my expectations (Especially in theming) but it doesn't feel as big as Alton Towers
3) Chessington World of Adventures - Feels like a smaller family friendly park with a decent zoo
4) Legoland Windsor - I despise this park everything feels run down

Matt N

Well-Known Member
I've only done UK Merlin parks, so here is how I would rank them:
1. Alton Towers - Such a great park. I love this place. It has some great theming and great rides for all audiences, and it has such a strange vibe about it that no other theme park has been able to pull off. It's the park I've visited most over the years and I still love it. Islands of Adventure came very close to beating it, but Alton Towers still remains my number 1 park.
2. Chessington World of Adventures - It was a perfectly nice place, but there aren't many rides for our audience. The atmosphere and theming are nicer than Thorpe's, but neither are a patch on Alton. I last visited in July 2014, mind, so my opinions might have changed since then.
3. Thorpe Park - It's a nice park with great rides, but the atmosphere isn't as nice as Alton Towers', with not as much nice theming. I've never had any problems with (or met any of, for that matter) these "Thorpe Park chavs" you all speak of, either. The only problem I've ever seen at Thorpe Park is when we were queueing for Rumba Rapids and two young-ish men barged through the queue saying that they'd lost a child. I believed them, but my Mum reckoned they were just queue jumping.
4. Legoland Windsor - Um... the Lego was nice, and Dragon was OK, I guess, but my lasting memory was the place being absolutely RAMMED! The park could not deal with crowds very well at all! The paths were way too small for the amount of people walking along them. I visited in August 2017, bear in mind. We only went on one ride during the whole day and explored Miniland for the rest because of how busy the park was.
As others have said I have only done the UK parks but for me at the moment I give the edge to Thorpe Park. Stealth and Swarm are my favourite 2 rides in the UK slightly ahead of Nemesis for top tier rides. I would say the second tier at Alton towers is better with Oblivion, Rita and Thirteen being decent against Nemesis Inferno ( worst B&M Invert I've ridden), Colossus ( just not into it and can barely fit my legs in) and Saw( great theming, not so good a ride)

Just don't like the Smiler at all and not a fan of air since it has had the VR added. Think Thorpe also has better flat rides and a far better water ride

Saying that its a tight balance and if Wicker Man is any good ( hopefully riding on tuesday) then that could swing it back