Making The Most Of A Visit To Alton Towers

The Alton Towers Resort is one of Britain’s most popular tourist destinations boasting two hotels, a water park and a theme park with a host of rides and attractions for the whole family. Great fun for all is on offer but if you visit during peak times you will not be alone and a trip to the resort can be damaging to your bank balance! If you want to make the most of your trip and your money then some careful planning is in order. Here are some hot tips for a successful visit.

When to Go

The park is at its quietest from March to May, except during School holidays, and in September after the schools go back. If you can make your trip during these times you will have a much easier time of it and the cost of the hotels will be much lower. The opening hours are shorter than in peak season but afford plenty of time to experience the park. If you are tied to the school holidays and wish to stay overnight book early whether you are staying at the resort or in a local hotel, as rooms can sell out leaving you having to set up base some distance away. There are special events around the Halloween season and bonfire night when the park does get very busy but there are additional attractions to enjoy and longer opening hours.

Accommodation

The resort offers two hotels with rooms accommodating up to 4 people. The prices can be quite high, especially in peak season but discounts are available to annual pass holders and special offers appear periodically throughout the season. Both the Alton Towers Hotel and Splash Landings Hotel are walking distance from the theme park and offer a free shuttle bus to and from the entrance throughout the day. If you opt to stay in a local hotel, factor in the cost of parking when you arrive at the park each day. Wherever you are based you can spend part of your visit in the water park at the Splash Landings hotel so bring your Bikini! The water park is great fun for the whole family and includes slides, pools, Jacuzzis and a café. Most of the park is inside but there is an outdoor area for extra fun which is open even in cold weather.

How Long Should You Stay?

One of the beauties of Alton Towers is that it lends itself to any length of visit. You can opt to just spend a day in the theme park or stay longer for extra days in the park, a spell in the water park or time to visit the local area. In busy periods I would strongly consider at least two days in the main park to enable you to experience all of the attractions. The resort has an excellent mini-golf centre for an additional diversion if you have some spare time.

The Theme Park

If you visit the park on a busy day you definitely need a plan of attack. The queues can be painfully long and ride breakdowns are quite common so it is important that you tackle the park in a sensible order. Your exact itinerary will depend on whether or not you wish to include the thrill rides but for the purpose of this guide I am presuming you do! They are all totally safe and should not be missed. If you have small children with you who cannot ride there is a parent swap system to enable one of you to mind the children whilst the others ride and then take a spin without queuing.

The Thrill rides are the most popular attractions and therefore have the longest queues. As the rides don’t get that busy in the first hour after opening this is the best time to try to get a couple of them out of the way. Remember that if you are staying at one of the resort hotels or have an annual pass you will be allowed to ride for a period of time before the rest of the public so get to the park early to take advantage of this. Always arrive at the entrance ahead of opening time to get access to the park before the crowds build up. The best place to head for first is the Dark Forest which hosts Rita and Thirteen. Rita tends to have a slow moving queue so this is a good one to ride first and it will also clear your head as you get launched from 0 to 60 mph in 2 seconds! Once you are over the shock proceed to Thirteen which has a relatively high capacity but to avoid the queue try the single riders option. This does mean your party will all ride separately but you won’t wait very long for the privilege. Thirteen is not too severe but does include a surprise drop and a backwards section in the dark so be careful if you suffer from motion sickness.

You will now need take on the lengthy walk over to the Forbidden Valley or grab a ride on the Skyride cable car. One of the drawbacks of Alton Towers is that the principle attractions are in rather far flung areas! At the Forbidden Valley take a ride on Air, a coaster which will sweep you over hilly terrain as if you are really flying, turn you upside down and then return you safely to the station. This ride can have slow moving queues and so avoid the temptation to wait for the front row, you will be there for some time! After Air pop across to Nemesis, which is quite possibly the best roller coaster in Britain. Nemesis is an inverted coaster that will send you on an all action thrill ride down hills, round a loop the loop and over corkscrew twists. Happily the queues tend to move quickly here but if they are really long try the single riders option again. This is a ride where the front row is well worth waiting for so if you have the time, then get in line! After the thrills of Air and Nemesis you can try out Ripsaw if you don’t mind getting wet and suspended upside down and then visit the latest attraction – Nemesis sub Terra. Sub Terra introduces you to the back story of Nemesis but be warned, this attraction does include some human interaction and a drop in the dark. You should now head away from the valley towards the central area of the park. En route take in laser shooting at Duel (rarely a long queue here) and a crazy ride on the Congo River Rapids before you arrive at the log flume where you can get wet all over again! One tip here – the rider at the front gets really, really wet so if there is anyone you wish to victimise then that is where you make them sit!

It is now a good idea to take a little time out from the thrills and try out some of the other attractions at the park. The Sharkbait Reef is an excellent aquarium and a walk around the Towers themselves affords excellent views of the park. You could also take in Ice Age 4D which is great fun for the whole family. Once you are rested and up for more thrills head for X-Sector and test your metal on Oblivion, a 200ft vertical drop into a tunnel! This area also features Submission and Enterprise for more upside down adventures and in 2013 a new coaster will be opening for even more thrills. If you have any energy left you can complete your excitement on Sonic Spinball which you will find between X-Sector and the main entrance. This ride has a really slow moving queue due to a low capacity so the single riders queue is a really good idea to avoid an eternity waiting in the main line.

There are numerous other minor rides in the park which you can experience if your time allows as you move around the park. On really busy days you might want to consider buying Fastrack tickets which allow you greatly reduced queuing times at the major rides. These are available as individual tickets or in themed bundles and if you are feeling extravagant there is Ultimate Fastrack which gets you unlimited rides via the fastrack lines all day. If you only have one day in the park I would highly recommend some investment in these tickets otherwise you may leave without managing to fit everything in.

What Should You Wear?

The Theme Park covers a large area and it is hard to avoid a lot of walking and so comfortable shoes are a must. Hiking sandals are really useful for the water rides as your feet can get really wet which is unpleasant if you have socks on. Quick drying shorts or trousers will also help you on these rides. Dress comfortably and take a water proof jacket with you in case of wet weather. Do not wear high heels, especially narrow ones as you may be refused access to the rides because the evacuation paths of many rides are formed of metal grid in which heels get easily stuck! Take note that you must be wearing a shirt or some kind of top on all of the rides even in hot weather so don’t just wear your bikini top and make sure the men have shirts with them.

Peace and Quiet

If all the fast paced action gets too much for you then Alton Towers has some beautiful grounds and wonderful gardens to explore. If you have the time it is well worth taking a walk around and if you don’t like the rides some first class entertainment can be had just watching other people have a go! Alton Towers has something for everybody and if you go prepared the only shock you should get is that first launch on Rita!

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Sally S is an ex-employee of Merlin, owners of Alton Towers and is a type one theme park ride operator, having been trained on Europe’s tallest and fastest roller coaster ‘Stealth’ at Thorpe park. You can find out more about Sally Stacey via her Google+ profile.