Monday 31 August 2015

Family Fun at Alton Towers

Alton Towers is one of those iconic places that practically everyone in the UK has heard of. Being a born and bread Southerner it is not somewhere that I have visited much, in fact I've only been there just once about twenty years ago when I was the bravest I have ever been and I rode Nemesis and for someone who hates thrill rides, it was a big deal!

The memory of my husbands and my day out at Alton Towers in the 1990's was a positive one so when we realised we would be holidaying in the Midlands Alton Towers was one of the first places I contacted to see if our family could review the theme park. I often work with Legoland and have also worked with Thorpe Park, Shrek's Adventure and other Merlin attractions so I know they are a company that provides amazing days out and I can I trust them to provide a great experience.

I was shocked to see how much Alton Towers has grown in the last twenty years, of course there is still the world-renowned theme park but there are now also two hotels, a water splashlands, spa, extraordinary golf, treetop adventure and and enchanted village with lodges and luxurious treehouses to stay in. Our visit was to be just to the theme park which includes CBeebies Land.

I'll be up-front, if you just turn up at Alton Towers on the day with your family and pay the advertised prices it is going to cost you quite a bit. Our family of 2 adults and 3 children would cost £219 for one days entry, you save about £21 if you book in advance but a little bit of planning can save you a lot. We have loads of Kellogg's Grown-ups go free vouchers that you can cut off a cereal or fruit winders packet and these could literally save you as much as £100 for a family of 5 like ours. Or search online (especially out of school holidays) and see what deals are available on the voucher codes websites.

You can also buy second day tickets for just a small amount more, £7.50 extra when you book online or we saw it available for £10 when you buy it at the park on your first day. I would say that Alton Towers is so big and there is so much to do there that two days on park is a really good idea and if you stay over in one of the hotels you get early ride entry too, which is a big bonus.

We had just one day on the park and after some traffic we arrived there about 10.30am and parked easily. I was so pleased there was no major congestion to get into the park but it is worth noting that some of the car parks are quite a way from the entrance to the theme park, about a 25 minute walk. There is a monorail available so you do not have to walk it but when we used this on the way back to the car there was long queues and it was hot and stuffy. Although this was offset by a very easy exit from the carpark. You do pay £6 for parking for the day or you can upgrade and park closer for £16.

Ticket entry to the park was very easy and there were not any queues, it really is very pretty and welcoming when you walk through and see the sight of the towers and lake in front of you. There is so much to take in and if you are new to the park it would be easy to just go in the first area you come across, which was CBeebies Land but luckily we looked at the electronic queue signs and saw that the biggest queues on the park at that time were for two of the CBeebies rides, so we decided to come back to that area later and explore elsewhere. We headed for the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride as it showed a 0 minute wait but we soon found out it had obviously not been updated on the sign as it was was running under capacity and we waited 50 minutes in that queue (the longest one of the day).

The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride is a nice easy one for the kids to enjoy - a boat ride followed by more of the story on a big screen and then the highlight is the glass elevator at the end, I won't tell you about it as you need to experience it, but we loved this part. After the kids spent time in the queue (we made the most of it and ate our lunch early to give us more ride time later) we were really pleased to get on all the other attractions in Cloud Cucko Land without any queues at all. They all really enjoyed the Ice Age 4D experience, Gallopers Carousel, Twirling Toadstool and Frog Hopper.

After an exciting hour in ths area we were keen to explore more and JJ led us over to the Sky Ride which is the cable car system that goes across the park, meaning you don't have to walk too far if you don't want to. The grounds and gardens in Alton Towers are beautiful and if we had more time I would definitely have explored but for us it was a day of fun and rides rather than beauty. I loved the Sky Ride as you could see so much of the park and we took it two stops along to go back to near the beginning of the park at Towers Street.

At this point we headed down to Mutiny Bay and the kids went on their favourite ride of the day, the Battle Galleons. Again there was no queue and this delighted my children, who got absolutely soaked and had a ball. To dry off we headed into the Courtyard BBQ for a live pirate show and some delicious lattice fries. At this point we were sorry we had eaten earlier as the burgers were huge and looked fabulous. 

We had a bit of a look around Mutiny Bay and headed into the Sharkbait Reef which is a very cool mini-aquarium with a walk through glass tunnel where you can see sharks, rays and many other exotic fish and sea creatures. We also had a go on the Marauder's Mayhem and again there was no queue at all.  You may notice that as a family we often avoid the really big headline rides and head for the smaller ones as we would rather go on lots of things than queue. We also love photo opportunities and there are plenty of props around for fun family pictures.

At this point we couldn't hold off any longer and despite our girls being 8 years old we had to head off to CBeebies land as they were desperate to look around that area. I am very glad we did as they loved it, they were quite happy in the 20 minute queue for the Octonauts mini roller coaster and we all had a blast in Justin's House Pie-o-Matic Factory where we shot soft foam balls around a big arena for a happy 10 minutes.

The whole of CBeebies land is so clean and beautifully themed and there are rides for all ages, as well a nice exploratory area in Nina's Science Lab and big fun showtime central area for photo opportunities and shows. There were also characters walking all around the area and lots of opportunities for the kids to have their pictures taken and I love it when this happens and you can get priceless pictures without any cost.

There is so much more than we got to see, I'm sad we didn't get to go on the Runaway Mine Train, the Congo River Rapids, Duel haunted House and Hex which are all family rides and of course this time we didn't go on any of the big thrill rides either, as they are not what our family seeks but I know they are the reason so many people come to Alton Towers and with there being in excess of ten big thrill rides I can understand why.

We found Alton Towers a super place to have a special family day out, there were plenty of places to eat, loads of clean and replenished toilets and stunning grounds, perfect for a picnic. You can hire colourful buggies to make it easy to get round the park if you have little ones and there are lockers available to hire too for the essential spare clothes and towels. If you are visiting with young children but you like to ride the thrill rides then don't forget to investigate about the Parent Queue Pass scheme and also the single rider queues.

I am sure we will head back to Alton Towers again as it is a really good day out for the family, be you a thrill seeker or someone who just enjoys old-fashioned family fun.

Disclosure: We received complimentary entrance tickets for Alton Towers in exchange for a review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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