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Review: Alton Towers - Day 1 - Theme Park or Nature?

Alton Towers is one of the most well known theme parks in the UK. And with their rollercoaster line-up they deserve a place on your to-do list! Take a stroll through the castle gardens and get ready to conquer the Wickerman and The Smiler! This theme park is much more than just a theme park. Let me explain you why.

Twice a year we plan a trip abroad to visit a new Theme Park. This time we planned to hit the UK for Alton Towers. Neither of us knew a lot about the Towers, except for "It's the biggest theme park in the UK" and "It has many cool rollercoasters". Honestly, I didn't even know where it was located exactly! Well, we found out really quick when looking for a hotel to stay. Alton Towers is in the middle of fucking nowhere.. Literally. After a good research on we decided that Stoke-on-Trent was the place to be, price-wise and location-wise. From our hotel it was a 30 minute drive through rural England (the scenery was awesome!) to Alton Towers. Perfect for us.

The entrance to Alton Towers Resort
Alton Towers entrance

Arriving at Alton Towers is really cool, it's such a big place! We reserved Express parking for both days, which is right across the entrance. Most Theme Parks have a big stunning entrance (for example: de Efteling). Alton Towers does not... It's purple tents and a purple tower. And a piece of the old Corkscrew coaster track. Also purple. Did I mention purple yet? Everything is purple. Anyway, after entering the park you'll find yourself on the 'Mainstreet'. Fountains, shops, toilets, anything general related. Nothing special. They did not have physical park maps, which is a pity because I love having a physical copy of a map. Instead you can use the app, which works absolutely perfect btw.

Our day started rainy, as expected in the UK. We came prepared with outdoor clothing. The weather made for less busy crowds, but ofcourse we planned our trip right after holidays. The combination of both is perfect, no crazy queues. I do recommend monitoring the queue times throughout the day. Even on less busy days, some rides might get long queues. Especially when bigger rides are down, which happens a lot here.

The Smiler is the rollercoaster with the world record of 14 inversions
The Smiler

The first ride we did was The Smiler, their world record Gerstlauer rollercoaster with 14 inversions. This one was high on my to-do list and I was really excited to ride this! You'll never forget the creepy music in that queue line and station. It will live on in your head rent free. The ride itself was phenomenal, it did not feel as 14 inversions at all! And it was smooth too, except for maybe two parts towards the end of the ride. Right next to The Smiler is Oblivion, the shortest dive-coaster you'll ever experience. I thought Baron 1898 was short, but this one takes the crown. It's literally a dive and a turn left into the brake-run. Done. Over. It's good fun, you get amazing views from the top and the dive right into the ground is pretty good. I'd say this ride is not worth more than a 15 minute wait. After our ride on Oblivion, we found out Alton Towers offers an 'unlimited on-ride photos' option for only £20 which covers your whole group for the day. With 6 of us, that was an easy choice. It's really easy to get your photos and adds extra fun to your park experience!

On our way to the next rides, we passed the castle. It's so strange to see something like this in a theme park! For a moment you'll forget that you are in a theme park, you don't even hear rides or people scream from certain areas. There were moments I asked myself "Are we still in Alton Towers or did we secretly exit the park into some random castle gardens?". And suddenly a new ride appears around the corner. It sure is funny!

The next coasters that are right next to each other are Rita and TH13TEEN. A week before we went, Rita was closed for unexpected maintenance. Luckily they reopend it the day before! This was an interesting ride, with a launch right from the station. To me, this adds up to the experience, as you see the people in front of you getting launched to 80 mph! First thing I noticed on Rita was the smell of the restraints. I am not kidding, they need to clean that stuff! The restraints smell like anxiety sweat! Or stinky feet, whatever you wanna call it. For the first time in years I experienced a short grey-out, around halfway through the ride. It's quite a forceful ride. Next on our list was TH13TEEN and this was my absolute favorite ride in the whole park! I love the whole entrance and theming in the queue line! I don't want to spoil anything, but one particular part in this ride caught me off guard. Laughing and screaming guaranteed!

Around noon we decided to get some food. I've heard reviews that food was very expensive and the quality was shit, so we went in with low expectations. Although I agree that the prices were on the high side, I do not agree on the bad quality. The food was absolutely fine. Only downside was the wasps trying to enjoy your food too, 0/10, would not recommend. After our food stop, we saw there was a Sealife you could visit. The perfect way to let your food settle before you conquer those rollercoasters again.

Some people love a good water ride. Well, Alton Towers is not the place to be. The only water ride they had, was the Congo River Rapids. Or should I say Congo Lazy River? It has some good features with the waterfalls and some bigger waves, but overall it's a shit ride. Don't expect to get soaking wet, a light sprinkle is all you get. Maybe a little more than a sprinkle if you are lucky. So onto the next rollercoaster, the Runaway Mine Train. This is a powered coaster and their punch line is literally just 'Choo choo!'. It's actually quite funny! The ride itself has nothing to it, no power, no airtime, no forces. It's a two lap special, but the second lap isn't particularly faster.

If you are more into forcefull rollercoasters, then Galactica might be your choice of coaster. This B&M Flying coaster is a really cool experience. It's not at all comparable to FLY in Phantasialand though. The best part of Galactica is the fly-to-lie element, where you are turned on your back. This element pulls a lot of Gs actually! It's also a really comfortable ride. When it operates on multiple trains, you'll have to wait on the brake-run in fly position. I'd expected this the be awfully uncomfortable, but it was fine really.

At this point we did a lot of rollercoasters and we were ready for something else. And that something else was The Curse at Alton Manor, newly opened in 2023 (after refurbishment). The queue line for this ride is so cool! Even though it didn't have any queue, we took our time in the line to see all the elements and get into the storyline. It's quite a long ride and absolutely beautiful, with some surprising and confusing elements. Certainly one of the better dark rides I have done in a theme park. And the ride shop is really cool! It has amazing merchandise.

Finally we decided to walk back and ride The Wickerman, that famous wooden coaster with the big statue on 'fire'. I was not expecting a preshow for a wooden rollercoaster after that insanely long queue line walk. It definitely adds to the experience!! The preshow really completes the storyline for the Wickerman. It was not the airtime machine I was hoping for, but still one of the better rides at Alton Towers!

Last but not least, we conquered Nemesis Sub Terra. I was really hesitant to do this, as I am NOT a fan of horror or scare mazes at all (spoiler alert I guess?). The theming is really well done and the ride operators acting is on point. It was quite scary at some parts, but not as scary as I expected.

To summarize our first day: Alton Towers is amazing and beautiful at the same time. The operations were really good, all coasters were running on multiple trains (even with the low crowds) and staff was very friendly. A lot of walking in this park, even the queue lines are extremely long to walk through. I felt like I walked a marathon of just queue lines. We didn't even do all the rides in this first day, to describe how big this park really is. Imagine doing this in summer with busy crowds and long queue lines. I really recommend going in september, right after the summer holidays!

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