A couple of weeks ago I saw an advert for Gulliver’s World and thought what most people do, lets go to Alton Towers! Lets face it, they don’t need to advertise as every other Theme Park does it for them.
Come September our day trips will be consigned to the horrors of the school holidays, and with our eleven year old nephew visiting thanks to the early release policy of the Scottish education system it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Us and half the country it seems. Was anybody working last Monday?
I should probably start by saying we all had a fabulous day. Yep, that does mean there’s a grumpy old man’s rant to follow, but it was a lot of fun.
Given my history of putting toddlers on inappropriate rides (see here) I let Ben and Janet skip off to the Sonic roller coaster whilst I took the boys on a more sedate journey through the treetops, sat inside a squirrel. We raised our hands with each 1% incline and screamed as it descended at the breakneck speed of a slug.
Then a strange thing happened. I had my first flashback of the day. Through the plastic branches and over-sized acorns I heard an ear-piercing scream that took me right back to Trafford General, 2009. You see, it turns out Janet’s reaction to roller coasters is exactly the same as how she reacts to childbirth. Even from 300 yards away there was no disputing the source of the wailing. Now I’m not for one minute suggesting the experience was in any way similar, but I’m pretty sure Ben was also wishing she’d cut her nails before sinking them into his arm. Oh, and Sonny did ‘pop out’ at a similar velocity to the Nemesis, but that’s where the similarity ends. House of Horrors … nope, I’m not even going there.
After a ride in a tractor, and with the boys trust in my choice of rides restored after all those years of hurt, I decided to up the ante by suggesting we all go on the Battle Galleons. And by we I meant they. Well, someone needed to take photos.
Cue another flashback. This time the screams were from the mouths of two toddlers adamant they didn’t want their hair washed. It was unmistakable, and as their ship turned a corner and headed towards me I saw Luca clutched to Janet’s chest and Sonny cowering in the corner of the boat, both screaming, both soaked to the bone. In hindsight what I’d actually done was put them on a slow flotilla which was being attacked by water cannons from every conceivable angle.
It’s fair to say their confidence in rides and more accurately in me had reverted back to one of general mistrust. But fear not, a Carousel restored their faith once again, and off we went to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride. Now what’s not to like about Charlie and chocolate? Turns out quite a lot.
For a start it meant climbing aboard another boat. Then darkness, thunder and lightning, creepy music, and even creepier models that were more akin to a Stephen King novel. Cue further screaming, a reassurance that the experience was over, before being cooped up in a lift which rattled and shook as screens around us suggested we were climbing at breakneck speed through an acid flashback before breaking through the glass roof and into the sky.
The whole experience can be summed up by Sonny’s response when we finally walked away from this latest nightmare,
“No Charlie, no chocolate, no factories, and no boats … EVER AGAIN!”
Did I mention we all had fun? Ships and factories aside we really did!
Now here cometh the rant …
The prices are extortionate. I can understand any Theme Park wanting to maximise their profits but Alton Towers take it to a whole new level. I’d go as far as to say they’ve invented a new verb. You can maximise profits or you can Alton Towers them!
For a start the entrance fee of £46 per adult and £39 per child is steep. Then there’s the £6 for parking? Seriously, how else are you meant to get to the middle of nowhere?
We took a picnic to avoid the food prices and £5 bought us a bottle that came with free Coke refills for the entire day.
The price for any of the fairground style stalls was £4 a go. To hook a duck?
Want to dry off after a water ride? £2 to stand in a heated coffin.
Then there’s my personal bugbear, the fast track system. Granted this is up to you but £12 per person to jump 3 queues or £8 just for the new Smiler ride?
Here’s my issue. The fact you can pay to jump a queue only makes everyone else’s wait longer. Everyone who has already paid close on £50 to be there.
I’m clearly a Communist at heart because this really riled me. We were there on a supposedly quiet day and yet most queues were over an hour. For a 30 second ride?
With Ben desperate to try some of the signature rides and with two toddlers in tow I parked my principles in the buggy corner and bought two fast track tickets. I genuinely felt guilty walking past the hundreds in the queue to jump to the front. Guilty, and mugged for another £24.
If Karl Marx were alive he’d be shaking his head whilst muttering,
“I told you this would happen.”
Or maybe not.
We did have a really good day. Everyone enjoyed themselves, even the boys. An expensive day but fun all the same.
Would we go back again? Never in school holidays, and definitely not without a discount voucher, but yes, no doubt we will.
We left as the gates were closing and within minutes of leaving the car park everyone was asleep.
If CBeebies are looking for some new characters may I suggest Snot, Dribble, and Snore? And that was just Janet!