Alton Towers Review
On Sunday Harrison and I ventured to Alton Towers for the day. It’s quite a drive for us and so we left at 7.30am to head up the M1 for some theme park fun.
We had an uneventful journey and we arrived at the car park dead on 10am (when it opens).
Although we were in car park A (nearest the entrance) we had a fair walk into the entrance itself. We have Merlin passes and therefore got straight through into the park (after a quick bag check!).
On entering the park my strategy (which I had tried to discuss with Harrison on the way) was to head to Cbeebies land first and ride the Octonauts rollercoaster first as on the previous day this had, had the longest queues (yes I do my research)!
Whilst on this point, I should mention that it is worth downloading the Alton Towers app if you have smartphone (and lets face it who doesn’t these days). Its ride times I found to be very accurate and it has lots of other useful features.
Of course Harrison didn’t quite understand my desperate need to start queuing for something before it got too busy (it was 10.30am by the time we had got in) and instead wanted to look at the giant lily pads and frogs for several minutes. Plus a funny duck that kept putting his head under the water.
As it turns out we didn’t make it on to the Octonauts rollercoaster as it broke down whilst we in the queue and we didn’t go back to it. I feel slightly bad for giving a review on something I didn’t ride, but it really didn’t look that impressive to me and is very short.
The Cbeebies land itself is pretty good for little ones. Harrison loved the Postman Pat ride as he always has. Many of the rides he has grown out of now (he is 4, nearly 5). On our previous 2 visits he had loved ‘In the Night Garden’ but this time he wasn’t overly impressed.
One think I did find quite sad was that several of the interactive elements of the queues were broken. Things had been broken off and some of them needed a good tidy up. Whilst this didn’t take away our enjoyment at all and I doubt many people really noticed I find it a bit sad that these details were not maintained. Interactive queues are literally a life saver for bored children (and more importantly their parents) and should be encouraged at all times!
Something slightly more scary
We also went on the runaway mine train (twice) and this was great fun. I love that I get to go on these type of rides again now Harrison is tall enough. He loved it. Although I have to admit to being slightly worried for the future, as Harrison is desperate to go on rides that go upside down and I have a bad feeling he is going to be a complete daredevil when it comes to rollercoasters and I am a complete wimp!
We also went on the river rapids ride twice (once in the morning and once in the afternoon). The first time we both came off pretty dry, however the 2nd time, Harrison got absolutely drenched! It’s a fairly gentle ride (as rapids go) and good fun though. The second time we rode, we had another couple with us, and Harrison thought it was hilarious when they got drenched. Luckily they too saw the funny side of him laughing hysterically at them.
I had bought a photo pass (digi pass) at the beginning of the year which means that I can get all ride photo’s added to my account and I don’t have to pay separately for them. This has been absolutely worth it for us. I think it was around £50.
The Rollercoaster Restaurant
For lunch we visited the Rollercoaster Restaurant. This was an experience like none other!
We were seated quite quickly and given a tablet to select out food on. The concept is that your food is delivered to you via rollercoaster! You collect your plates and cutlery from in front of you and then your food (and drink) arrives in containers, which you need to tip onto your plate.
In Harrison’s amazed words ‘it is really cool!’
I loved the concept and the food we had was excellent. I had a chicken burger and it was very good.
My only criticism was the slowness of the service. Our food took forever to arrive. We were told to order starters first, and then to order out main courses once they had come. I ignored this advice and ordered everything at once. I’m so glad I did! We might have still been sitting there waiting otherwise.
I chatted with the family next to us, who had, had a bit of a disaster. The Dad’s meal arrived and no-one else’s had. They complained and then eventually their children’s and Mum’s food arrived. However then they sent them a whole duplicate order.
Overall I loved the concept, the atmosphere, the staff were great and the food was very good, my only criticism was the very slow food delivery.
I’d definitely recommend giving it a go though and I would eat there again.
The Cuckoo Cars Driving School that was indeed completely Cuckoo!!!
After lunch we head across on the cable cars to the Cuckoo Cars Driving School. This was an ‘interesting’ experience. This was the longest queue we had experienced all day. Whilst waiting we witnessed an exceptionally rude and aggressive man shouting at a poor ride operator who was only doing his job. Each child had to be measured before going on and had to be between 1m and 1.4m to ride and this was strictly enforced. There were signs everywhere and you could see every child being measured.
The little girl was clearly too short. By about 2-3cm. The attendant tried adjusting how she was standing etc and measured her about 5 times but she was simply too short. Her father went nuts. He said he was going to report the guy, he was shouting and everyone was watching in a shocked silence. As the lady standing in front of us, correctly stated, if the attendant had broken the rules to let her ride and something had happened he would have been responsible. I understand that it is very disappointing when your child wants to ride something and they can’t, but surely your priority as a parent is their safety?!? Why would you want your child to go on something that they are too small for? Incidentally the little girl herself didn’t look upset at all!
After this ridiculous argument (which held up everyone else waiting to ride even further), it was Harrison’s turn to be measured and he headed through to the ‘waiting pen’ with the other ‘height-approved’ children.
Parents had to stand at the side. It should have been a simple system. An equal number of children need to be let through to the number of cars. How had can it be? It turns out very hard as the lady miscounted and had 1 too many children waiting to ride. The confused ride attendants re-counted about 5 times and concluded that indeed, they had too many children. I should stress here that the children were all behaving amazingly. Better than the parents!
The attendants asked the children who was let into the waiting area last. Silence. They asked again. Silence. They asked again. A girl stepped forward and said that she was and agreed to wait until the next ride. At this point, her Dad spoke up and said that her brother was waiting also, and so he should probably wait with her so they could ride together on the next turn. All fine. The children were fine and the parents were fine. Or they were ntil another unrelated father decided to intervene and said that the boy (the brother) wasn’t last in and it wasn’t fair on him. The children’s father wasn’t happy. Words were exchanged. The ride attendants all looked like rabbits caught in headlights and the patiently waiting children looked rather confused.
Eventually the children were allowed on their cars and Harrison had a blast driving around.
The ride must have sitting completely empty for about 20 -30 minutes while all this drama was going on. I’ve spent many hours in theme parks over the years and this was honestly one of the strangest experiences I’ve had.
We stayed in the parks until closing time. We obviously had to visit a shop and stock up with some goodies for the journey home. We then had no trouble getting back to the car and getting out of the car park.
Harrison did great walking. It’s a big park. We did 16000 steps by the end of the day. If your child isn’t great walking I would consider using a pushchair. It was a lovely autumn day when we went, however if it had very hot we might have struggled more. There are also several hills and my legs were feeling the effect of them the following day!
Queuing wise, I was very pleasantly surprised. The most we queued was 20 minutes. Most rides were walk-ons. This is very different from my first visit a few years ago, when I can recall waiting an hour for even ‘baby’ rides.
Overall – we had a great day. I don’t think we’ll be going back this year, but I’ll definitely add it to my to-do list for next year.