What to expect on a visit to the world’s longest, tallest, fastest slide: the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide at the Olympic Park in east London.
It’s a year since the tallest, longest, fastest tunnel slide in the world opened to the public. Snaking around the ArcelorMittal Orbit on the London 2012 Olympic Park, the Slide sends visitors down the 178m slide in 40 seconds.
The Orbit is the UK’s tallest structure and was built for the Olympics, but originally the only way up or down from the viewing platform at the top was the lift or the stairs. In 2016 a long, winding silver tube was added to the sculpture, ready for visitors to launch themselves down for a significantly faster route to the bottom.
Getting to the Orbit Slide
The Orbit is near the Westfield entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, site of the London 2012 Olympics. Getting to Stratford station is an easy journey from central London on the Tube. From there, walk through the Westfield shopping centre, following the signs for the Park and Olympic Stadium. You can’t miss the Orbit – it’s the enormous red, swirly structure near the main stadium.
Getting your tickets for the Orbit Slide
You’ll need to book tickets well in advance to ride the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide – at least a week before your visit and earlier if you want to ride at popular times, especially at weekends. Tickets are sold in half-hour blocks and you won’t be allowed in except at the time you’ve booked.
When booking your tickets, make sure you select the option which includes the Slide, as some tickets only allow you to take the lift up to the viewing platform. Combined tickets for the Orbit and the Slide cost £16.50 and can be booked on the website.
To ride the slide you have to be at least 1.3m and aged 8 years old. The weight limit is 22 stone (308 lb).
Riding the Slide
You’ll enter through the visitor centre which has a small exhibition about the building of the Orbit. At the base of the Orbit itself, you’ll need to leave any bags or coats in a locker, so make sure you take some change.
The next step is to get a lift to the viewing platform at the top of the Orbit. Because visitors arrive in 30-minute windows, it never feels busy or crowded, and the queue for the Slide itself is short.
The staff at the top of the Slide will kit you out in a protective soft helmet and knee and elbow guards if necessary. When it’s your turn, you lie back on a mat, hold on to the straps keeping your feet inside and wait for the green buzzer that signals that it’s time to go.
Sliding down the Orbit is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. The ride takes less than a minute but felt like much longer. It’s not a simple swirl around the tower but constantly changes direction, with some sections completely in the dark and others where you catch a glimpse of the London skyline through clear panels. I screamed all the way down and when I emerged at the bottom I wasn’t sure whether I was vertical, horizontal or upside down. It’s truly an exhilarating ride and something I’ll never forget.
Other things to do at the London Olympic Park
Once you’ve ridden the Orbit Slide, it’s worth taking some time to explore the Olympic Park, especially if the weather is good. The weekend we were there was the first time city bikes (popularly known as Boris Bikes after the Mayor of London who introduced them) were available in the park, and they’re the perfect way to get around.
We rode past the Olympic Stadium, now home to West Ham Football Club. It also hosts concerts and other events. We also saw Zaha Hadid’s wave-shaped Aquatics Centre, the Copper Box Arena and the Olympic Rings themselves, on a small hill near the velodrome. The beautiful wooden velodrome was open for a practice session so we got to go inside for a look. You can still feel the atmosphere and how exciting it must’ve been to witness the Olympic races in 2012.
With the afternoon turning to evening, we joined some locals under the Olympic Rings for an ice lolly, the perfect chilled out end to an exhilarating afternoon.