London is an ever-changing place. On the south bank of the Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament, you’ll find County Hall. In a previous life, the building used to belong to London County Council. Now it’s home to some family-friendly attractions: Shrek’s Adventure, the London Dungeon and SEA LIFE London Aquarium. They’re all within a stone’s throw of the London Eye. You could quite easily spend a couple of days within a hundred-metre radius – and then toddle down the riverbank to the Southbank Centre, to catch some of the best of London’s cultural offerings.
Shrek’s Adventure invited us to visit over February half-term. The place had been on our hit-list for a while. At eight and almost six, Austin and Gwen are a good age to appreciate film-based attractions. The weather was predicted to be miserable, so it seemed a wise choice.
On the way into Shrek’s Adventure
We arrived at 3.00pm, which was peak visiting time, with queues to match. It took half an hour from picking up our tickets to reaching the start of the Adventure. There was plenty to see and do along the way, though. A metal detector belched, squealed, honked, and told people to ‘take their clothes off and throw them in the bin’ as they walked through. Large mirrors turned us into stunted small people, or long-headed giants. And there were no less than three photo opportunities along the way. Like every London attraction, Shrek’s Adventure is much quieter just after it opens. If we didn’t already have plans, we’d have chosen to arrive at 10am, when I’m told the journey in is much quicker.
We made it through the preamble with excitement mostly intact. An American hostess greeted us, and prepped us for the Adventure. This involved coaxing us all into yelling ‘Shrektacular’ at the tops of our voices, and turning our mobile phones off. Photography and videoing isn’t allowed inside the show, so I borrowed the next couple of pictures from the kind people at Merlin.
Staying in the moment
I can see why the people behind Shrek’s Adventure want to keep it camera-free. It’s an immersive event, where you need to be fully present in the moment to properly enjoy the action. Each group of visitors moves from room to room, looking from Shrek, who’s fleeing a vengeful Rumplestiltskin. A different actor hosts each room. They play their roles with superhuman energy, considering the hordes of people that must troop through the attraction each day. We saw a cheeky fortune teller, who by some miracle knew D’s name (we’re still trying to figure out how she did that), and invited him on stage to dance a jig with her. A sultry, cross-dressing barmaid/man flirted with a couple of the larger men in our group, and introduced us to Puss in Boots. Like Donkey, and Shrek himself at one point, Shrek’s feline sidekick appeared as a convincing projection. And Sleeping Beauty rescued us from an impossible mirror maze, before promptly falling asleep – again, and again, and again.
An Adventure full of detail
The rooms were full of clever details, which would make Shrek’s Adventure worth a second visit, to take a closer look. A zebra crossing for mice, and an eyeball cupcake were just some of the gems I spotted on the way round. The big highlight, though, was the opening 4D ride. Our group clambered aboard a ‘bus’, wearing 3D spectacles. Then, the bus took off, flying into crowds of witches, past dragons and through waterfalls, with real water splashed onto us for effect. It was a thrill for us all. Gwen, in particular, was flabbergasted when we walked off the bus, and she realised that the convincing scenes were just 3D projections onto screens enveloping the bus.
Concluding the Adventure
Shrek’s Adventure was a jolly romp, and would be a nice bit of fun for anyone who loves the film – or even those who’ve never heard of it. We did find Shrek at the end, and were allowed to take pictures (although that cheeky ogre would not stand still!). As well as characters from Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda also popped up to greet us, in celebration of Chinese New Year.
Our Gwen is a sensitive soul, and she was a little nervous of the witches in the story. It didn’t spoil her enjoyment of the Adventure, though. Merlin reckon on Shrek’s Adventure being most suitable for 6-12 year olds. Six seems about right for the youngest age. Austin is eight, and he launched himself wholeheartedly into the spirit of the Adventure. I suspect that if your eleven and twelve-year olds had a precocious streak, they might feel themselves a bit too cool for the attraction. But I couldn’t say for sure, as I don’t have a child of that age. For our family, it made for a fun trip – and we’ll definitely pay Shrek’s Adventure another visit before the children outgrow it.
Shrek’s Adventure is on the south bank of the River Thames, next to the London Eye. It’s within easy walking distance from several London Underground stations: Waterloo, Embankment, Charing Cross and Westminster. Waterloo is the closest tube station, and is about five minutes away.
Ticket prices vary, and can be bought as part of a bundle with other attractions. For more information, see the Shrek’s Adventure website. We were guests of Merlin for the purpose of this post. All views are my own.Google+