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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I don't like to start with a negative but I don't see this as being one, I'm going to start with what this book isn't. It isn't a comprehensive guidebook to the UK, nor is it a complete guide of things you can do across the country. What it is however is an excellent guide to the top theme parks nationwide with a fair few other activities mentioned in brief in between. The attraction elements are of typical length but its the theme park parts that definitely require a special mention. Covering Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures, Alton Towers, Legoland and Blackpool Pleasure beach in meticulous detail this is where the book truly excels.

Whereas each of the other attractions barely get half a page, the theme parks in this book typically get 10-20 pages, covering each attraction and some key details on each. Every one has a brief description and then some key metrics, such as the estimated queue speed and ride capacity. Having worked at one of the parks discussed in detail I would take the throughput figures as slightly unreliable in places and found a couple of places where the number of trains were wrong leading me to question those rides I didn't have knowledge of. The suggested day plans for the parks however are excellent and I can personally vouch for the recommendations for the time of day to go on the rides - getting their early in the morning definitely pays of as the park I worked at often opened 15 minutes before the specified opening time at which point you could get 2-3 big rides in with no queues.

Overall this book is an excellent guide to theme parks but had a few things that didn't feel right- tips on how to manage your kids probably aren't that appreciated by parents and apart from a few brief pictures at the front each attraction or even ride could have used a picture in order to get a better idea. The guide to attractions was also lacking and with some areas such as the North East passing by in a few pages there was a feeling that the author did research that could have been more expansive. However, throughout I can't doubt the American authors opinion and chatty style which is definitely helpful - if your visiting the UK for its theme parks this is the best guide out there.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the sort of book that people who love to be prepared and to know exactly where they're going in advance (like me!) will absolutely love. Firstly though, I should make it clear that although it says that it covers theme parks and attractions, there is a lot more of a focus on theme parks than anything else. There are some aquariums covered, and a small amount of museums, and at the end of every area chapter there is a list of farm experiences available in the region, but the majority of the book does cover theme parks and there is no coverage at all of country houses or National Trust properties, London landmarks or tourist attractions (aside from London Dungeons) and only a couple of castles. The book also states in the introduction that they will not cover any waterparks, which seems odd for various reasons, such as the fact that there are not very many in England so it would be easy to do, and the fact that they are so similar in appeal to theme parks, and particularly the fact that the front cover clearly shows a water flume!! However, once you've accepted that this is a book mostly about theme parks, you are in for a treat.

After some introductory chapters covering how to get the most out of your theme park experiences, and how best to deal with taking children to them, the book then divides into chapters by region - for example, North East England, North West England, Wales, etc, and goes through the main attractions in each area. Each attraction includes information on opening times, directions to get there, and what is on offer at the place. Some smaller theme parks have only a couple of pages allocated, but the larger ones, such as Alton Towers or Legoland, have huge write ups that delighted me as a lover of detail, and are beyond helpful for anyone trying to plan an efficient day or wondering what rides are suitable for children. For the bigger parks, each ride and show is listed and described, along with ratings such as how fun they are, and how scary they are for young ones (or big ones!). The book even offers maps and suggested routes through the park from ride to ride in order to decrease queuing times to an absolute minimum.

This book is brilliantly researched and is not only useful, but also entertaining and easy to read. I would highly recommend it, and if you are holidaying in the UK, especially with kids, then I would say it is the number 1 book you should buy.
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on 3 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book arrived while I was in the office and everyone kept trying to have a read of it - shows there is a lot of interest in this type of guide!

It's a chunky book and well laid out and seems to cover most major attractions. Some did seem to be missing though - Flambards in Cornwall was absent as was pointed out to me by a colleague. The format of the book works well and lists attractions by region and some of the big attractions such as Alton Towers, Chessington, etc all get a section on their own. They have in depth maps, details on queues, etc. All very useful stuff.

I liked the style it was written in and the authors looked as if they had done their homework with it, but I wonder how quickly it could go out of date?

It's good value for the price and it's handy if you know where you want to go and can read up on it before, but not sure I'd take the book away with me as it's a little too big for a pocket or a bag.

My only concern is that it's quite easy to get all the info in the book from the internet (and know that the info would be current too). That said, it's good to have a one stop shop for ideas for each area so you can pick what takes your fancy.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2011
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I was disappointed in this book. I live in Bristol,an area awash with days out etc yet only 2 of them made it into this book. We holiday annually in Devon and Dorset and always find places to go...yet the book lists just 30 attractions in the South West (that's Somerset, Wiltshire, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall combined). It also doesn't list the average time spent at a site...which may be a better guide to value for money.

It would be better titled "The Unofficial Guide to Theme Parks and Attractions". The information it has about theme parks looks very helpful but can at times appear over prescriptive and condescending for younger families. If you have teenagers and young adults, are unfettered by small children, with plenty of energy and stamina to get the most out of a theme park, then this is the perfect book for you. Otherwise, I'm sure you'll enjoy finding your own things to do in the order that suit you.

We did use "The Unofficial Guide" to orientate ourselves in Disney, Florida when the children were very much smaller and it was quite helpful as a tool rather than a prescriptive routemap.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wouldn't bother buying this book if you are looking for a guide to "other attractions". This book is aimed squarely at those who want to visit Theme Parks. There are cursory mentions of some other types of attraction, but these are so brief they give you little insight, and can hardly be called a guide. So, is this book worth buying? Yes, if you have never spent time in theme parks before. There are some very useful tips here for novices, but to be honest, if you are regular visitors (like my family), its all a bit like teaching your grandma to suck eggs. Much of the advice and guidance is obvious to anybody with common sense, and if you intend to visit a specific theme park, there are many reviews for each one, along with advice and words of wisdom, by simply searching the internet. I would recommend this book to a young family who are just starting to explore UK theme parks. Others will already be aware of what to do, what not to do, and how to get the most out of their visits.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is geared toward larger theme parks even to the extent of starting off describing what a theme park is and the types of rides that you can experience. It provides an excellent and detailed guide to the top theme parks including, Chessington, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Legoland and Blackpool describing the layout and even rating the rides in the manner of the Florida guides in the same series. In between this there are other attractions such as museums and aquariums however many get less than a page so it is obvious where the focus is. There are plans for the parks and suggestions to avoid queuing although some are a bit obvious (arrive early and go for the big rides first!) along with some excellent information on the various "Fast Pass" systems.

So this book is a comprehensive guide to theme parks but with few pictures it is more useful as a reference rather than a cover to cover read but it is the best guide I have seen for the UK parks.
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on 17 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Firstly, this mainly covers theme parks with not many other attractions mentioned. As long as you don't mind this, I would certainly recommend this book to anyone wanting to visit UK theme parks. There is loads of information about each park, with rides rated and reviewed. There is also some pretty obvious advice, i.e. go to a theme park outside of school holidays (!), but on the whole it is very interesting and informative. It certainly helped us to decide which theme park to visit as we could see which park would be most suitable for our children's age groups. The only other slight gripe I had with the book was that the text size is quite small, which makes it sometimes difficult to read. Otherwise I would recommend this to families who want more information about these attractions before they actually get there.
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on 21 October 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A fantastic guide to great days out which will give you plenty of ideas for the summer holidays gives you opening hours, periods of closures, appeal by age, ideas about queues for theme parks, height requirements and the author's own rating.

Also has advice on where to eat,accomodation the best deals and also which websites to visit in order to secure the best deals.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A compact yet concise and comprehensive volume, if somewhat weighted to the Theme Park scene, however, this is quite obvious in the title. 'The Unofficial Guide' is presented along the lines of the many Anglo-American style of guide books I have read. Indeed, it came as no surprise to learn that the authors were some of our American Cousins (Dickens fans note, no plagiarism is intended).

The guide is virtually idiot proof, although there are some amongst my colleagues who would be non-plussed by some of the words within, and is aimed at a far wider audience than just Brits. Parts One to Three are designed to assist the average family group to prepare for their assault on the Parks in order to maximise their time, it also outlines accomodation, and park types. The general information at the start of each section e.g. Routes to the locations, appear to be accurate although the prices outlined may well change at some not too distant point in the future. The guide even includes such handy hints as how to use a ducted warm air hand dryer (pp 47). Sub-sections which deal with individual attractions supply a multiplicity of tips and need-to-know information such as wait times, and duration of each experience. One thing which I feel may cause raised eyebrows is deploying the recommended cloth nappy to clean or dry seats after inclement weather, or to dry other requisites e.g. 3D glasses after their washing (pp 87). Moreover, I was amazed how many Theme Parks offer such prosaic attractions as 'Dodgems', curious when one may experience the same thing driving through Bradford any day of the week, although there is less chance of collision on the aforementioned attractions - enough said then.

As usual I have a few minor quibbles ( Heavy sigh time readers). The authors on page 185 mention the climb down to the orlop in 'HMS Victory' to visit the scene of Lord Nelson's death. It may have been helpful for lubbers amongst the readers to have been told that the orlop is the lowest deck, just above the bilges. I believe this only applies, however, to ships with three decks or more, still, a hell of a place to die. As the authors remind you it is possible to get one almighty headache should you forget the lack of headroom, however, this is after all an important historical artefact so don't expect bump pads and arc lights. Perhaps the type of twit that moves to the country side and expects it all to be sanitised should keep well away from this, and any other, exquisite site.
In the 'Imperial War Museum Duxford' entry the Short Sunderland (pp 241) is described as having a 14 machine gun defensive armament, this may be the case with that particular aircraft. However, whilst some variants had as many as 16 machine guns some had as few as 8 still enough to earn it the respect and cautious regard of those Luftwaffe crews pitted against the 'Flying Porcupine'. Also, the T6 Harvard (pp 242) was a basic trainer, although it could be equipped with light bombs, in no way could it be described as a dive bomber, sturdy as it was I think that dive-bombing may have led to it shedding a few vital parts as a consequence. These, of course are merely minor niggles and an opportunity for personal pedantry which in no way detract from the guide's general usefulness.

A highly recommended guide which should help relieve much family tension. Also, if you're as tight as I am, you could experience all the fun of these attractions without leaving your armchair, Have fun.

For those less inclined to follow the Theme Park road I recommend the following:

Hudson's Historic Houses & Gardens Castles and Heritage Sites 2011
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Okay I like the "Unofficial Guides" series, and have recently purchased my third copy of their guide to Disney World. However I wasn't totally enamoured with this guide.
First it was obviously decided there wasn't enough to say about British Theme parks for a whole guide. Which is a pity as I am sure if they went into more detail about accommodation and food for example they could have produced a more coherent guide, without most of my next few criticisms.
Second and in some ways the most obvious; why is there a picture of a water slide on the cover. They specifically say they do not cover any water parks in the UK (the closest is a brief reference to the one at Alton Towers resort). This makes the guide somewhat misleading from the front cover.
Third, what the guide does include. Each section has a short list of farm parks, it doesn't go into much detail as it states in the introduction these are all fairly similar. I don't know why the list is there, as it doesn't give much info, and only includes the biggest and most commercial ones (the small more farm like ones are not mentioned). It also includes some Zoos, but misses out others eg. Marwell which I would consider vastly superior to others which are included. It mentions no Science exploration centres, but does include the National Space Centre and the Lawnmower museum. It includes one model village in Bourton in the Water, but not the far more excellent one at Beckonscot. And so on.
Fourthly the regions it uses are confusing and arbitrary. Chessington, Thorpe Park and Legoland, Windsor are in three different regions despite being only a few miles apart. The Southern region also includes the Cotswold Wildlife Park, which is probably at least 100 miles from the nearest other attraction in this area, but close to some other attractions which have been placed in the midlands.
Fianlly, I'm not sure who this guide is aimed at; is it overseas visitors? Who may get very confused trying to find their local attractions. Is it UK residents?
The information is good, although I have no idea why they insist on including Dinner in their touring plans, when most theme parks shut about 7 pm, and the time would be better spent eating after visiting the attractions. I think they guide book writers need to rethink who the book is aimed at and what to include. However what is included is interesting and informative.
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