Not just for thrill seeking teens, Alton Towers offers rides for all ages. We show you how to make the best of your day depending on the age of your children
High-energy entertainment for families with different age children from toddlers to teens
Toddlers to teenagers (and daredevil parents). It’s predominantly aimed at an older age group, but there’s still plenty for little ones.
We could hear Alton Towers before we saw it - shrieks of delighted horror met us as we clambered onto the free Monorail that takes you from the car parks to the Park itself. The 5-minute Monorail is a great introduction, giving you a glimpse (but not too much through its stencil-covered windows) of what thrills lie instore.
Alton Towers was once one of the grandest country houses in Britain (and the family seat of the Earls of Shrewsbury) and the gardens were a popular tourist attraction in the 1920s. By the 60s, there was a fairground, miniature railway, small zoo, adventure playground, cable car and donkey rides. By the 70s it started being developed as an amusement park, and with the introduction of the infamous Corkscrew (the UK’s first double loop rollercoaster) in the early 80s, Alton Towers transformed itself into a premier-league Theme Park.
Like all major Parks it offers themed areas, which tend to be age-related. For toddlers and pre-schoolers there’s Adventure Land, Storybook Land, Old MacDonald’s Farmyard and Cloud Cuckoo Land, for the primary schoolers there’s Mutiny Bay, Katanga Canyon, Gloomy Wood and the Towers Mansion House, while for the hard core pre-teens and upwards there’s Dark Forest, Forbidden Valley and X-Sector.
There's also a neighbouring Water Park (you'll need to buy separate tickets), packed with slides, squirts and inflatable fun, which makes a refreshing change after several hours of rides.
If you’re doing a full tour of the park, there’s a fair bit of walking, so one great way to have a gentle ride while actually covering some ground is to take the Skyride, which gives you a bird’s eye view. It does go quite high, but you feel safe as you’re completely sealed in a cable car, however when we went it did stop mid-air a few times.
Old MacDonald’s Farmyard has lots of rides for little ones plus some live animals and a petting area for more hands-on fun. The Doodle Doo Derby ride offers noisy animal sounds, Riverbank Eye Spy is a fun little boat trip, toddlers can ‘drive’ round Old MacDonald’s Tractor Ride and there’s a gentle first coaster – the Squirrel Nutty Ride. Plus in Cloud Cuckoo Land there’s a big indoor softplay and bouncy castle area called Wobble World, and a Sea Life pirate-themed aquarium with sharks, rays and spider crabs in the Mutiny Bay area.
Highlights for us included the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride in Cloud Cuckoo Land with its unexpected ending, Peugeot Driving School (for 4yr+) which comes with its own drive-in carwash, foam ball mayhem in Berry Bish Bash, farm fun in Old MacDonald’s Farmyard, the Go!Go!Go! live show in the Cloud Cuckoo Land theatre, the Heave Ho swinging boat ride in Mutiny Bay and the Tower building itself, which has turrets to climb and explore.
For early primary schoolers
The good news is that there’s lots for 5-8 year olds in a variety of different areas around the Park (not just the younger areas), which makes it easier if you have older children as well. For brave adventurers, don’t miss The Flume splash ride in Mutiny Bay (take a plastic mac if you or your little ones don’t like getting wet!) and the rattling Runaway Mine. You can all get seriously soaked on Battle Galleons and slowly dry off watching the live action show Pirates! Quest for the Golden Parrot in the Mutiny Bay Courtyard. Our spooky highlight was Duel, a mix of laser gun-toting and ghost train ride in Gloomy Wood (I defy you not to get competitive) while for Roald Dahl fans, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride is unmissable.
If it’s a sunny day or you don’t mind getting wet (or you’ve brought sensible waterproofs), head for splash fun on The Flume followed by the hilarious Congo River Rapids (the degree of drenching seems to depend on your position in the dinghy boat – check to see the wettest area when you climb in and if you’re like me, avoid).
If your pre-teens find the Runaway Mine Train too soft, silence them with the dizzy-making Sonic Spinball, the high-swinging Blade and the newest ride Th13teen (with its surprise ending – we won’t spoil it here). One ride not to miss is Hex. Starting off with a ghostly tale, you walk through the old house to a seriously head-spinning ride. Not best on a full stomach!
Once your pre-teen is taller than 1.4m, no rides are out of bounds (if your child is only just taller than 1.4m, he’ll be given a ‘I’m over 1.4m’ wristband on the first ride to avoid height-checking on each ride). But some are the rides are seriously scary, so watch out for bravado that might suddenly evaporate just as the ride’s about to start. Certainly Rita, Th13rteen and Air were all thrilling (and fun!) without being too terrifying.
Teens will no doubt know to head for three areas: X-Sector with the heart-stopping (for liver-lillied adults like us anyway) Oblivion drop, the vertical hang of Submission and plummeting joy of Enterprise; Forbidden Valley with the infamous G-force-straining Nemesis, flying experience of Air (which I can only describe as being strapped in like an intoxicated beetle) and suspended fear of Ripsaw; and Dark Forest with the ThI3teen and breath-squeezing Rita.
Don’t take height restrictions to mean age suitability. Some ferocious rides, such as the Sonic Spinball (which bizarrely is in the young Adventure Land area) only requires children to be 1.2m to ride but it’s a real thriller with fast turns and a vertical loop. The height restriction on Enterprise is only 0.9m but the fact that it’s in the older X-Sector gives a better indication of its serious thrill factor.
While the rides are all included in the entry price, it’s easy to spend money once you’re inside on the mass of child-tempting stalls and ride shops. Giant soft toys seemed to be everywhere, and were clearly winnable, judging by the amount of people lugging them around – but let’s face it, do you really want a 2ft high toy in your home?
Unusually for a UK theme park, there’s a £6 car parking fee.
The Pizza and Pasta Buffet in Katanga Canyon is an eat as much as you can outlet - good value if you're hungry and your children have big appetites, but probably not a great deal if your little ones have small tummies.
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