A day-trip to Northamptonshire’s Wicksteed Park was a much-loved feature of my Leicestershire childhood, so it was with much nostalgia and interest that I set out with my boys to discover if, and how, it has reinvented itself for the 21st century.
The first surprise was that Wicksteed Park is free to access and open all the time. You’re able to just go in and walk your dog around the lovely lake with its boardwalks, bamboos and shingle beach, or use the fantastic play equipment. Otherwise, there are rides and attractions both classic and modern to keep all ages entertained, for which you buy individual or sheets of tickets (useable on return trips if you don’t end up needing all of them) or day-long wristbands (purchasable online at a tempting 15% discount).
While the rolling lawns, lake and some of the heritage buildings, play areas and rides were familiar to me, Wicksteed has indeed evolved almost beyond recognition. We recommend starting your visit with a ride on the charming Wicksteed Railway, which takes you on a jaunt around most of the park, allowing you an overview of many of the rides and attractions including boating on the lake and the resident alpacas in their enclosure.
With my kids being 15, 14 and 10, our next port of call was the Thrill zone. While it doesn’t have the kind of extreme rollercoasters that you’ll find at the UK’s most famous theme parks, the zone does have the Pinfari coaster – exciting enough to elicit a few roars and whoops and screams from me and my crew. The Wicksteed Racers, meanwhile (which you have to be 1.6m tall to drive), seemed faster than they looked once you were buckled in and racing one another around the track. A classic log flume, dodgems and the Paratrooper ride went down well with my boys, too.
Also worth pointing out for older kids is the Adrenaline zone with its giant zip-wire, climbing wall and bag jump, with a minimum height of 1.2m for all. That said, one of my boys’ favourites was Meerkat Burrows, where you can walk or crawl through tunnels taking you to plastic bubbles from which you can espy the cute, strangely watchful creatures at work and play around you. They also enjoyed the Tree Top Walk, which has different levels depending on how brave you’re feeling. A reason to come back soon is the new Clip 'n' Climb indoor climbing attraction, due to launch in late October. Indeed, October half-term is another great time to come to Wicksteed Park, with activities including a Little Monsters' Ball and lantern-making for the Bonfire Night procession.
Several good-value pit-stops dotted around the park make it easy to refuel without wasting too much ride time, whether you want paninis and ice cream or hot food. And these days, I discovered, you can even stay on site at Wicksteed Park, in the campsite if you bring your own tent or in a lodge for up to six. Do so, and you get wristbands for a second day for half price.
Read more about Wicksteed Park and book your discounted wristbands.