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Dickens World

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by Karys McEwen (subscribe)
Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
Published April 27th 2011

Not to be confused with the Charles Dickens Museum in Camden, Dickens World is the adventure-filled and more children-friendly dedication to the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era. Located at Chatham Dockyard in the English county of Kent, it opened in 2007 and still boasts containing Europe's longest indoors dark ride. Sounds just a little bit wacky, but also quite a lot of fun.

Dickens World aims to take its visitors on an adventure through Dickens' lifetime and give them a chance to step back in time to become immersed in the streets, sounds and smells of England in the 19th century. You can take a ride on the Great Expectations boat, visit the Haunted House of 1859, see Dotheboy's Hall School Room with touch screen technology, play at Fagin's Den, watch a 4D cinema show in Peggotty's Boathouse, and see a show at the Britannia Theatre which introduces you to some of Dickens' characters.

The main courtyard is a real highlight, where interactive approaches are made by the 60-odd costumed Victorian characters that circuit the area, behaving in typically Dickensian fashion. You can spot rat-catcher, a schoolmaster and a policeman among many more.

I would say this place is certainly marketed towards children and families since it deals very much in generic notions of what we consider to be Dickens-esque (lovable orphans and pickpockets, impending authority figures and burly hooligans), and while children may find themselves learning a thing or two, the park lacks more detailed information about the era. However it must be noted that the Dickens Fellowship were used as consultants in the planning of the park to ensure that the time, characters and storylines were represented accurately.

You'll hear mixed reviews of this place, especially by families more accustomed to the potent impact of places such as Disneyland and Alton Towers, but I can safely say that if you're looking for something a little more down to earth that offers something more than just your standard theme park thrills and sugar-propelled folly then Dickens World might just be the place for you. It also tenders some pretty rich educational fun too. It's not overly expensive and I give credit to the staff for often taking the time to chat to the children and generally being enthusiastic and genuine about their job.

At the end of the day, Dickens World offers a magical and entertaining theme park in true Victorian style and gives visitors a new way to understand Dickens, his characters and the times and conditions of the early 19th century.
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Why? Because even Charles Dickens himself would be proud to be represented in this amusing and educational way.
When: Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4.30pm, Saturday, Sunday and School Holidays 10am to 5.30pm, closed on Christmas Day and selected days for routine maintenance
Where: Broadside, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4LL
Cost: Adult 13, Children 8, Children under 5 FREE, Concessions 11, Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children) 40
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