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Alton Towers – A Dad review

Alton Towers is one of the biggest theme parks in the UK and part of the Merlin group, where you could also use your Merlin Annual Pass to enter. Its located between Stoke and Derby, via some country roads and near the village Alton. 

We have visited this a few times now and utilised our merlin passes to enter, to buy this for the 5 of us, would cost a significant amount of money. The journey for us is long but for many quite central to the country. However, the final few miles are not a great drive! For the size of the park and the visitors it has, it baffles me there isn’t a better route. Its up hills, windy roads, through narrow villages and not a pleasant final drive. Once you are through the main entrance it’s a fairly long slow drive to multiple car parks, the coach point and drops off is right next to you when you begin this journey, as is the entrance. This means all those carparks are a long stretch down the side of the theme park. 

With this being said you could be parked 15 minutes walk away, give or take depending on how you are at walking. But Alton towers does provide a Monorail, this take you too and from the entrance to the further reaches of the car park, also near the adventure golf, water park, enchanted village (an area to sleep), Alton towers Hotel, CBeebies Hotel, splash landings Hotel. These are not part of the main park and are an additional cost. The monorail is a short journey, as it cuts through a little bit of the park as its a direct route. However! This is busy, to the theme park in the morning and then nearer the end of the day from the park. Please bare this in mind, you could take 30 minutes to queue and get in as its not exactly the fastest on and off in the world. If you are disabled or have to use the pushchair or young children, then this is the best option, the walk is a sizeable one for these people. But again, however!, Unfortunately, some people are lazy and could easily walk, but choose not to, thus the busyness of the monorail. 

The entry is relatively smooth, same as normal merlin parks, big turnstiles which are digital, pushchair section, bag search, and separate ticket place. As you get through you are bombarded with photos and drinks from the staff, due to the first level, it’s all a bit cramp, I appreciate what merlin are doing, and the offers on the day drinks and photos are good, in comparison to buying this separately. But being literally bombarded is a bit much. 
Alton towers are on a very big plot, thus to walk from one end to the other is very far, using the sky ride might be the best option for some, the park is like a triangle. As you enter you have the entrance and views of the estate, which is very pretty. Though Odd as you are in such a main theme park, and in reality there’s a lot of wasted space. However CBeebies is on your right, a very clever place as it’s not far for the kids, straight on goes towards to back of the park, cloud cuckoo land, x sector, dark forest. Left is forbidden valley, gloomy wood Katanga Kanyon. Mutiny Bay flanks on the left like CBeebies does on the right. 

Mutiny Bay has the sea life centre, it’s a mini one and can be done in 15 minutes If you want. It’s a nice change and looks pretty good, the condition of the tanks are really sharp and nice. The rides are a little old school, heave-ho is a good kiddies one, marauders mayhem is a spinner one. Battle galleons are slightly outside towards the castle, on the lake, but still close enough. There are lots of food places and shops here also. 

Between here and gloomy wood lays the latest ride, wicker man! It’s a wooden roller coaster with fire and special effects. It’s actually good and surprisingly fast. But be warned the queue is very long! It’s even designed to incorporate the length as the queue spans the whole plot of the ride. Expect at least 60 minutes most of the time, once you get there you then go to a holding area and wait again, but this has special effects and voices etc.. It’s fine, all part of the atmosphere. 

Past this you head to the Katanga Kanyon and gloomy wood,  the runaway train is a soft roller-coaster, but often busy. The Congo river rapids is a welcome water ride in the park. Duel a laser ride, is central in the gloomy woods. The walk at this point has been very long, there is a sky ride that goes to the forbidden valley, and there is a short walk if you wanted to miss out these areas on your way to that corner via the haunted hollow. 

In forbidden Valley has some of the bigger rides, Nemesis is a must for all roller coaster lovers, Roo loves to ride this and due to the number of people that can ride it in one go, it’s queue’s are not that bad. Galactica is also a big roller-coaster, there is a VR  version as an optional bonus in there, however when we visited recently it seemingly been removed. Which was odd as VR on roller-coasters is becoming far more popular in the world. The roller-coaster restaurant is a unique food place. It sells the normal burgers type place but sent in a roller-coaster fashion. Worth doing once, but not cheap, so bare this in mind. The Blade is a big pirate ship, still suitable for most kids, Tigger likes this ride and is normally a must on our day out. 

In the next point of the triangle is located either through the gardens, and near mutiny bay, or via the opposite side of the park near CBeebies land and entrance. The Towers holds Hex, a more mature ride and behind it is cloud cuckoo land. This holds cuckoo cars a learner driving school, for young kids. Along with the frog hopper and gallopers carousel, personally this is such a large area and incredibly wasted, once upon a time this would be more of the kiddies place. But with CBeebies now, not many people seem to visit here, buildings are all empty and the area looks a bit tired and wasted, Alton Towers has tried to decorate the fronts of these buildings with weird colours and shapes. But this whole area looks poor, especially compared to the rest of the park. The only saving grace is that I saw a sign that “under new management”, a tongue in cheek way of saying they are doing things. Which I hope they are and they restart this whole area. 

In the Dark forest next to here lies the new Alton towers Dungeons, similar to other locations around the county in which this more mature style interaction focuses on local history. The two major rides here though are Rita, an extremely fast ride, and thirteen a slightly scary and unusual roller-coaster, this is great the first time as the whole track and coaster drop. 

The other side of the towers sees the last of the big ride areas in X sector. This has the enterprise, which has been around for years and at different theme parks. Oblivion is a drop style roller-coaster, again a bit different from the rest. Lastly The Smiler obviously has had some press recently, it’s a good coaster, very busy, but still enjoyable when you eventually get on. There is also a Spinball wizard ride between CBeebies and x sector. This seems always busy and takes ages, I don’t know if it’s popular or just simply slow to get on, personally I think it’s the latter, as it has taken ages to get on there before as only 4 people in often just two cabs are on the track. In a busy theme park that’s not great. 

Lastly back to the entrance area to CBeebies land, you can literally spend the day just here. It has a variety of kids rides and play areas that would keep a variety of kids busy. There is an age limit, to be honest, an 8-year-old would really be at its peak here, arguably this is for a 6-year-old or less, but ultimately that’s down to the child. This whole area has been built from scratch, so every part of it has something, or scenery or visual effect, even music from the popular programs playing constantly. Which for a child is fantastic, all the major characters are here with there rides. The only negative is its extremely busy, as you would expect, being the main younger kid area of the whole park, people flock here. 

Overall…

Overall Alton towers is a big park and designed more for mid to older children, however with the added CBeebies a couple of years ago the whole family can enjoy it. If it was quiet you could easily do the whole park in a day, if not half-day (it would need to be really quiet lol). But it’s generally always busy, and this has to be factored in your day, queue times are long. I would recommend the app as it can give you a map, and fairly accurate queue times. There are plenty of food and drink places around in each part of the park. The monorail is frustrating as is the car park,  at least it can help with the walk for those that may struggle. I have no idea why there isn’t a secondary entrance based on the size of the park. This could be improved, much like some of the wasted area, it feels some areas are crammed and big distances to get to them though. The gardens and lake area are pretty, and perhaps some people like to walk this while others are on the rides. Not my choice but perhaps some appreciate it. But in general it’s a great day out, for all of the family, it might be busy but something you will have to live with, it’s very much a special occasion type theme park. 

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