This week I went to Alton Towers and I thought I’d review our trip. I won the trip in a competition (Alton Towers did not sponsor the competition).
What’s the set up? We had tickets for Alton Towers and the Water Park, plus we had Fastrack tickets for the rides. Our accommodation was at Splash Landings Hotel and we had our evening meal there too.
What we liked and what we did Henry and his friend (aged 5 and 7) were stunned by the hotel on their arrival: the central part of the hotel is the water park and looking into down into the water park from reception or the restaurant was very exciting. In fact, they were keener to go to the water park than the theme park. I liked the fact that we could leave our bags with the porter on arrival and they arranged to take them up to our room when the room was ready.
Splash Landings hotel is right next door to the monorail into the park, which is free. The trains are decorated with various themes: pirates, under the sea, daisies, etc. They come every few minutes and the journey is a similar length. It takes you right to the theme park entrance.
The park is very big so I recommend picking up one of the map leaflets at the entrance. Another good idea is to use the cable car (Sky Ride) as much as possible. This is free and we found that even if there was a queue, it moved quite quickly.
Alton Towers has a number of rides for little ones although it is better for older children and teens. Henry particularly liked the Driving School, Berry Bish Bash and Battle Galleons. A lot of the attractions for younger children are concentrated in Old MacDonalds Farmyard and both Henry and his 7-year-old friend spent a few hours of our first day in this area. Our 7-year-old reviewer enjoyed the Runaway Train Ride (Henry said this was his worst nightmare on his first day) and Sonic Spinball. They both hated Hex (this was Henry’s worst nightmare on day 2). I don’t think there was anything wrong with these rides, but they aren’t suitable for those who are either so young or quite cautious.
Both children could go on most of the rides that they wanted to go on. The only height restriction problem we ran into was on the log flume which Henry couldn’t go on. He was very disappointed about this as he is used to going on these at other theme parks. It caused several minutes of crying.
The water park was a huge hit. Both boys loved the Wacky Waterworks tree house with its interactive water activities. The slides were popular with adults and children alike as were the hot outside bubble pools. It was a bit difficult to keep up with the boys and keep them in sight on the tree house complex, and I don’t think us adults could have spent the day (or even much longer than an hour or two) there as it was a bit stressful trying to keep tabs on them. If Henry was older and a competent swimmer, it would be a great place to spend the day. There are some adult seating areas around the edge and I could happily have spent some time there with a book and a drink.
Service was great both in the park and in the hotel with friendly, efficient staff. Particular mention must go to Splash Landings reception staff and the carpark security team. When we came to leave we found the car battery was flat, but within a few minutes the security team arrived with their jump leads.
What we didn’t like? I didn’t like the way a lot of things cost extra money. In my opinion car parking at a theme park should be free, but at Alton Towers it is an eye watering £6 for a car. It’s not like you can park there and then walk anywhere else, so it’s not like they have to charge to stop shoppers using their car park. Whilst it’s on their website, it’s hidden away a little and I think it should be included in the cost of a ticket as that would be more transparent and up front. The lockers in the water park cost £2 but that is refundable.
Throughout the theme park there are kiosks and extra activities which involve paying more money. These include remote control cars, water zorbing and loads of fairground style games to win huge plush toys (including one enormous tiger that would have taken up the entire back seat of my car).
I didn’t like the fact that the hotel had an arcade – they aren’t my thing. There was also quite a lot of corridor noise. I heard kids (quite young by the sound of it) running down the corridors after I’d turned out the lights for the night. It might be better to have a room at the far end of the corridor.
We had dinner at Flambos Exotic Feast in the hotel. This was a hot buffet with a wide range of food and that was good as there was plenty of choice. The downside is that at nearly £20 for adults (3 courses) it felt a bit steep for food that tasted like it had been there for some time.
Overall I would certainly recommend Alton Towers for a family with children from around 7+. There are attractions for younger children, but as it’s quite expensive to go, it might be worth saving your cash until they are old enough to get more out of it. I think we’ll be going back, especially has H has already been asking about when we can go. I think the water park is great for younger children though and it’s certainly worth considering a trip there. If you can go mid-week in term time, it’s cheaper and quieter. Also, you could consider a weekend trip there off season (when the main park isn’t open). You can go to the waterpark, the SeaLife centre and sometimes there is themed entertainment too.