TowersStreet News

Merlin UK Attractions: What’s new for 2013?

Monday 10 December 2012 18:16
Updated 4th July 2013


Although we’ll never step away from covering Alton Towers, we know a lot of our readers hold Merlin Annual passes. With an aim to battling those closed season blues, we take a look at what Merlin attractions across the UK have in store for us in the new year.

SEA LIFE Manchester – All new aquarium for The Trafford Centre

Opening: Spring 2013

Merlin already has a presence at The Trafford Centre with their only LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in the UK. The attraction opened in 2010, with one of its aims being to encourage footfall to Barton Square retail area, which had been running at a loss since opening in 2008.

In early 2012, it was confirmed Trafford Centre owners CSC had agreed terms with an operator for a new aquarium. As the only place thought to have the space needed, Barton Square was instantly touted as a likely location. With LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in the same area, it also seemed extremely likely that they would be confirmed as operators.

Sure enough, later in the year Merlin were announced as operators of the new aquarium, with a vacant unit a little further up from the Discovery Centre being earmarked for the development. A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Wednesday 5th December, along with a few facts and figures for the new attraction:

  • The attraction will cost a total of £6.5 million
  • Around 5000 creatures will be on display across 30 displays
  • Over a million litres of water will be used
  • SEA LIFE trademark features such as interactive touch pools and an underwater tunnel

‘Midway’ attractions such as SEA LIFE, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and Madame Tussauds have been used as a vehicle for expansion in recent years, due to their relatively low initial cost in comparison to larger projects such as theme parks. With this new addition in Manchester, it seems like this is a strategy that shows no signs of changing just yet.

SEA LIFE Manchester is further evidence of Merlin expanding their portfolio in the north west, with the nearby Blackpool cluster of attractions such as Madame Tussauds and Blackpool Tower. You can follow our forum discussion for SEA LIFE Manchester and also check out the official website for updates.

LEGOLAND Windsor Resort – DUPLO Valley

Opening: 2013

SEA LIFE Manchester isn’t the only Merlin Entertainments attraction which will be making a splash next year. DUPLO Valley at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort is a replacement of the DUPLO Land area and will include three new attractions.

Brickville is a brand new village to meet lots of different characters, from clowns to princesses and maybe even dinosaurs!

In DUPLO Splash Safari little rangers will discover their favourite supersized DUPLO animals.

Finally, Drench Towers will be the largest outdoor water play structure in the UK, will you be able to survive the surge from a giant DUPLO brick?

Opening dates are yet to be finalised, but you can find updates at

London Dungeon – Out with the old…..

Opening: 1st March 2013

With the regeneration of London Bridge Station gathering pace, Merlin have long since known that their flagship Dungeon attraction would likely need to move from it’s current location in Tooley Street, a building it has occupied since opening in the 70’s. In the first half of 2012, speculation was rife that a move was imminent. The new location was County Hall, a building along the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament which already houses SEA LIFE London Aquarium and the ticket offices for The EDF Energy London Eye.

Speculation mounted in the first half of 2012 that a move was imminent when a planning application was discovered detailing plans to create a new London Dungeon at County Hall, the current riverside home of SEALIFE London Aquarium and the EDF London Eye.

Finally, in November this year it was confirmed that the London Dungeon would be moving to County Hall. The move, representing an investment of around £20million will include:

  • 18 show sections complete with new scripts
  • A total of 20 actors
  • New characters – Guy Fawkes and Henry VIII, played by Brian Blessed.
  • A new boat ride
  • A new top loading drop ride, similar to Nemesis: Sub Terra at Alton Towers

There is also thought to be a re themed ‘Labyrinth of the Lost’, a mirror maze which has been the staple of Dungeon attractions for some time. Recent addition “Vengeance 5D”, a ride which was poorly received by most in the enthusiast community since opening is a notable omission from the new attraction.

Although the move takes the Dungeon away from the historical arches at the London Bridge site, the new attraction will be purpose built from scratch, allowing more consideration to be given to the layout of the attraction. With two other Merlin attractions in the vicinity, there are also obvious benefits for increasing the sale of combo tickets for visitors and centralising staff to enable them to work between attractions if necessary.

You’ll need to hurry if you want to experience one final run of the Dungeon at Tooley Street, it’ll be closing on 31st January 2013, with the new attraction set for opening on 1st March 2013.

The cheeky humour of The Dungeons attractions have always been a huge favourite of our members, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve been following progress on our dedicated London Dungeon topic.

York Dungeon – Water, water everywhere!

Opening: Easter 2013

York Dungeon LogoFollowing some of the worst floods seen in York in living memory, York Dungeon was forced to close after around 2/3 of the attraction were damaged by water. The attraction sits around 50 metres from the River Ouse, which flooded to around 5 metres above its normal level back in September.

The attraction had no choice but to close its doors whilst repairs were made, and 7 people were subsequently made redundant. Parent company Merlin Entertainments announced an investment of £2million to refurbish the building in time for a projected opening date of around Easter in 2013. The refurbishment promises new sets, scripts and styling throughout the attraction. To coincide with the refurbishment, York Dungeon also announced an updated logo, which has also been used by York’s counterpart London Dungeon in preparation for their move to County Hall.

Another less serious flooding event caused some issues in November after refurbishment had started. Staff were fortunately prepared and made plans beforehand to get theming and equipment out of the way. Work appears to be on track for the newly refreshed attraction opening around Easter 2013.

You can follow our York Dungeon forum topic on TowersStreet Talk and also keep an eye on York Dungeon’s official site for updates.


Chessington World of Adventures – Get up close with Zufari

Opening: 16th March 2013

ZufariVisitors to Chessington in 2013 will be able to join the African Conservation, Research & Exploration team (ACRE) on an expedition to an undiscovered land they’ve called “Zufari”.

Boarding an off-road vehicle, visitors will head out on an expedition accompanied by a guide who also acts as the vehicle’s driver. The ride, similar to those found in American parks such as Rhino Rally in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will take guests on an adventure involving splash zones, close up encounters with wild animals and a ‘cave and water finale’.

Access to the attraction will be adjacent to Ramesees Revenge, with the attraction being in the plot of land next to the Wanyama Reserve which is situated to the rear of Chessington’s Holiday Inn hotel. The new attraction opens on 16th March 2013, on the same day Alton Towers opens it’s 2013 addition – SW7.

Check out Chessington’s mini site and our Merlin Attractions forum for updates as opening day approaches.


It’s not just Merlin attractions preparing new attractions for the 2013 season. There’s a wealth of updates, rumours and discussion on our forums regarding new attractions for Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Flamingo Land, TowersStreet favourite Europa Park in Germany and many more!