When I think about theme parks in the United Kingdom, Alton Towers is the first thing that comes to my mind. In the past, this legendary theme park spoiled its fans with some of the greatest rollercoasters ever created. In 1994, they presented Nemesis, a one-of-kind B&M inverted coaster that was built into a ravine. This was mainly due to the park’s strict height regulations: Alton Towers isn’t allowed to build above the treeline, so they dig deep into the Earth’s surface instead. Another great example is Oblivion, which was the world’s first vertical drop coaster when it opened in 1998. The ride features a 55-metre descent, but two thirds of it is located in an underground tunnel. My favourite ride at Alton Towers, however, is Galactica. This coaster, which originally opened as Air in 2002, was B&M’s first flying coaster and it’s still one of the most unique coaster experiences to date. Nowadays, you’re able to opt for a virtual reality ride on Galactica, but I would recommend riding it without VR-goggles. The ride itself is so awesome that it really doesn’t need this technological nonsense.
Alton Towers has always tried to deliver groundbreaking coasters. Thanks to this philosophy, they even managed to obtain a world record. The Smiler opened in 2013 and it features the most inversions on any coaster in the world: you’re flipped upside down 14 times during a ride. Unfortunately, a serious accident happened with The Smiler in 2015 and the park received tons of negative publicity afterwards. Park attendance dropped dramatically and Alton Towers then decided to do some serious budget cuts. Some of these measures can still be felt today. For example, opening times are very limited. During low season, Alton Towers is only open from 10 AM to 4 PM. For making matters worse, most of the big rides only open at 11 AM, which leaves only five hours to experience the park’s offerings. I really regret this; a sizable theme park like Alton Towers should be open until at least 6 o’clock if you ask me.
Although this is my third visit to Alton Towers, it’s the first time I stay at one of the park’s official hotels. That’s the best way to stay close to the action (Alton Towers lies in the middle of nowhere, so there are very few accommodations close to the park) and to enjoy an extra perk that’s called Early Entry. This means that some of the rides open earlier, just for hotel guests and Merlin Annual Pass holders. Early Entry rides include Oblivion, The Smiler and the brand-new GCI woodie Wicker Man. This rollercoaster’s theming is very original and the ride itself is pretty good as well. Although you shouldn’t expect the most intense ride of your life, Wicker Man is a very decent family coaster.
Overall, Alton Towers is a fine theme park. We’ve ridden a few excellent coasters (Nemesis, Galactica and Thirteen are my favourites), landscaping is beautiful and Alton Towers is also home to the world’s greatest Vekoma mad house. However, the park has its flaws and it seems as if Alton Towers’ golden age is over. Recent additions aren’t on par with the park’s classic rollercoasters and those short opening times are simply ridiculous. I’d definitely recommend visiting Alton Towers, but just don’t think about it as the world’s best theme park.