I am a complete adrenaline junkie when it comes to rides and theme parks. I absolutely love the butterflies and fast heart rate as you queue up to go on something that looks like it could possibly kill you, always have, hopefully always will.
Unfortunately, I live with two people who are terrified of rides, and one who is as crazy as I am, but sadly too small for most of the big rides. So I sometimes have to forgo the goodies because, well, they’re not as much fun on your own!
In the summer holidays we were lucky enough to be invited to Alton Towers, one of the only places we hadn’t been, as it’s quite a trek from Surrey and we just hadn’t got round to ticking it off our list.
Merlin attraction (I have got to get Merlin passes for next year) Alton Towers, in Stoke on Trent opened in the early 80’s and has been one of the biggest UK theme parks for a long time, if not the biggest? The adverts and their theme tune always remind me of being a kid and desperate to go! Tickets aren’t cheap though, I think around £50 per adult, or over 12, and around £40 for kids, which, if you factor in travel and accommodation, adds up for a family day out. But I suppose they always do! You can do the cereal boxes 2for1 deals, and if you book online they’re cheaper than at the gate, so there are ways around it.
We booked into a cheap hotel nearby (well, we thought it was nearby, but that’s a whole other story) and made our way down early afternoon for a visit to the Water Park. Now, I am not a fan of water, or swimming, so I wasn’t overly looking forward to this, but my water babies were, and the husband was more excited about the water slides than the official rides, so I thought I’d suck it up and enjoy it. We had a 3pm slot, which meant there wasn’t much queuing and we could just go straight in, once we were changed and whatnot. As we had driven miles (can’t be specific, didn’t pay that much attention) we were starving on arrival, so, being early we thought we’d grab some food at the park. We walked for ages in one direction to be told that as we hadn’t booked, we couldn’t eat in the restaurant, but there was plenty of places to eat in the water park itself. We headed back, found one place, shut. For lunch. They told us to go downstairs, also shut. The people there told us to go upstairs. You get the idea. No one knew where was open, or where we could get something to eat. In the end, we had to get into our swimming stuff, go into the actual water park and get a hotdog from the side of the water. 4 hotdogs and2 chips cost almost 30. Yup.
The water park was packed, as we expected. So one of us grabbed the smallest child, the other one stayed with the teenager. The queues for the rubber ring slide were an hour long (I was never going to queue for that) and it was just INSANE in there. We had a slot 3-7pm but I think we left at around 5.30. I think, for those who live reasonably close to the park, it would be a great afternoon day out, spend a couple of hours in the water (there’s no room to swim) but for us, it wasn’t great. But, we had the next day to look forward to so no complaints!
Ok, for those of you who have never been to Alton Towers, once you arrive it’s not what you expect. We drove down little country roads, fields and trees everywhere and wondered where on earth the rides were hiding. We had no idea how well hidden it was! You park up, and then make your way to the Sky Ride, where you get in a carriage and head over to the actual park, in the midst of the trees. C felt it was very Jurassic Park, and I’ve got to agree! Once there, we got our tickets, walked straight in and we were ready to go. Not one single queue!? (Apart from the one to get on the sky ride, but we were constantly moving so that doesn’t count)
We had a list of rides we had to do, one definite each and then the rest would be bonuses. Sadly, C was too small by about 2″ for his choices, Galactica was crossed off the list straight away, so we headed to 13, where we were front of the queue for when it opened.
So, the problem with going on a ride first, that you’ve never seen in action, is you have NO IDEA WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Needless to say there was a LOT of screaming from all four of us, but we went on it twice in a row. I still can’t get over the lack of queues!
A few rides really stuck out to me, Oblivon was AMAZING. Couldn’t drag the husband on for love nor money, so the poor teenager came with me. She hardly spoke in the line, and once we were strapped in, she actually swore. Uh huh. I was laughing too much to mind. If you’ve not been on it, I can’t even begin to describe it, but I think this video (and that is actually me going “OH MY GOD”) will help……
There are plenty of rides for the smaller kiddies, including CBeebies land, and it’s so well spread out you never feel like you’re surrounded by people, even though it’s clearly packed to the rafters every single day!
The food, as always in any place like this, is ridiculously expensive. We laughed at the family who had three shopping trolleys (the old lady kind, not the Sainsbury’s kind) full of picnics stuff, but they probably saved themselves a fortune. One tip, get a refillable drink at the start of the day, then you can top it up as much as you want at various places throughout the park. We ate in The Woodcutters Bar and Grill which was packed. Sadly that meant our table got slightly forgotten and our food took over an hour, and wasn’t quite hot when it arrived…….
The castle was out of bounds as it was being rebuilt so we weren’t able to visit that, and a few of the rides were closed due to faults, some were closed all day, some on and off throughout, which was a bit gutting, but the ones that were open more than made up for it. I think, had we driven all the way from Surrey and paid a lot to get in, I would have felt differently, but there probably wasn’t much they could do about it, these things happen eh!?
The gardens are amazing, every trip on the Sky Ride felt like we were seeing a new part of the park and it’s SO big that you probably need two full days to see everything. On our way out we found a whole new area! One of the great things is you can buy tickets for a second day for a ridiculously cheap price, I’m sure it was 10 per person, but I may be wrong. So, if the rides you wanted were closed, or it rained, or you missed stuff, you could go the next day for next to nothing. Sadly we were headed home so it wasn’t an option for us, but next time maybe!
We will definitely be going back, even if it’s just so my little thrill seeker can go on all the rides he was too small for this time. The fact that you never feel like you’re spending the whole time in a queue really sold it to me, I don’t know if we were extra lucky or if that’s the norm, but we were there mid August on a boiling hot day, so if it’s going to be bad, that would be prime time surely?
Tickets for Alton Towers can be purchased online, or, if you have vouchers to use, at the gate. Get there early so you’re ready to go, and maybe, if you have a few people who like to bag watch, take a picnic. But go, you must go, especially if you like feeling your heart in your mouth as you drop straight down into a pitch black hole……
We received complimentary tickets for the water park and theme park but all views are my own…