By Poon Yun Xuan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Hello again! It’s been almost 2 months since lessons started, and Reading Week has come and gone. Honestly, where did all the time go?? A few weeks ago, my friends and I decided to make the responsible decision to ignore our growing pile of work and visit Alton Towers Resort over the weekend. I’m such a sucker for amusement parks, so this day trip was right up my alley. In this post I’ll be taking you guys along with me on my day to the theme park!
How To Get There (And Back):
Alton Towers is a theme park located in Staffordshire, which is about 45 miles away from Manchester. That’s slightly less then an hour and a half’s drive away (according to Google Maps), but since none of us own a car, we decided to go by public transport. There are a couple of ways to get there and the website gives rather clear instructions. Basically, there are a few train stations you can travel to, but you’ll need to take a bus service from the all of these stations to reach the theme park. Most of these bus services only run once daily, however, so we opted to Uber from the train station instead.
It took us almost an hour to get from Manchester Piccadilly to Stoke-on-Trent station. After grabbing some Subway sandwiches for lunch (we didn’t really want to spend on pricey theme park food), we got on an Uber. It was another 45 minutes’ journey to Alton Towers, so it took us a total of an hour and 45 minutes to travel to Alton Towers from Manchester.
The return tickets to Stoke-on-Trent cost us almost 6 pounds after applying the 16-25 railcard discount and the Uber ride there was about 8 pounds for each person. We also chose to take a taxi from the theme park to Stoke-on-Trent station at the end of the day, and that was 40 pounds for a 7-seater. In total, we spent around 20 pounds for transport to and from Alton Towers, which I think is well worth it considering how much fun I had.
Food and Drinks:
We didn’t have a problem bringing our own food and drinks in (my Subway sandwich passed the bag test at the entrance). There are, however, lots of food outlets in the theme park and the prices are rather reasonable, as far as theme park prices tend to go. The most expensive food I saw was a restaurant called Pizza Pasta Buffet (a meal was 12-13 pounds), and you can get a decent fast food meal at 7-8 pounds. The biggest thing that was lacking in the theme park was water fountains, though you could of course just refill your bottle from the tap. If you’re looking for something other than just water, there are plenty of “Hydration Stations” around. These are pop-up stalls selling snacks and drinks, which are also great if you’re feeling peckish between rides.
We chose to bring food for lunch in an attempt to save some money and time. We did have dinner in the park in a fast food restaurant called The Burger Kitchen. The food was not too shabby, with a decent selection of burgers, sides and drinks to choose from.
We went in mid-October, so Scarefest (Alton Tower’s take on Halloween celebrations) was thick in action. There were mazes and haunted houses, but we didn’t go for them since we had to pay extra to enter. Pumpkins and other spooky decorations were everywhere in the courtyard near the entrance, and there was a clown scare zone in a small area of the park after sundown. The park was so big that the atmosphere was a bit diluted, but having to trudge around the sprawling park in the rain definitely added to the Halloween atmosphere.
We did happen to see a flash mob right when we entered the theme park. There was a group of dancers dressed up in ghoulish costumes dancing to Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do. It was pretty great.
We went on a Saturday, which meant that the crowd was probably more intense than usual. It was also raining for almost the whole of the day, so rides were sometimes stopped when the rain got particularly heavy.
Runaway Mine Train
This was our first ride (the photo was taken later in the day) – it was perfect for kids and as a warm-up ride. This is the kids’ roller coaster that every theme park has. Nothing out of this world, but it definitely put a smile on our faces!
This ride was made out to be The Scariest Ride You Will Ever Take, and while I don’t think it was the scariest ride in the theme park (more on that later), it did give me a headache with its four successive inversions. If you like rides with inversions, this is a great one.
I didn’t take this one, since my stomach didn’t feel up for it at all after Nemesis, but I thought this was a really unique coaster! You have the option of wearing a VR headset during the ride so you really get the experience of flying through the air. One of the more original rides out there.
My absolute favourite coaster! This one doesn’t have any inversions, it’s just speed with some drops along the way. I love that there’s a traffic light right before the ride sets off, and everyone on the carriage just stares in utter trepidation while waiting for the lights to change to green. Once the green light goes on, the coaster shoots off with eye-watering, cheek-numbing speed (0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds). The queue for this ride took the longest time, but it was well worth it.
I didn’t know much about this ride; all I knew was that it had a haunted theme going on. The online reviews I’d read about the park didn’t say much about this ride either, so I had no idea what the roller coaster would be like. I asked one of the park staff about the ride, and she was really vague about it: “oh, just ups and downs, twists and turns, things like that”. And I have to say, I’m glad no one spoiled the ride for me. I think this is one of the most well-designed roller coasters I’ve taken. I wont spoil it for you here – trust me, it’s much better when you don’t know what’s coming 😉
Hex – The Legend of the Towers
This ride explains the story of the Alton Towers. We took this ride after we ate as we needed a break before we went on the actual roller coasters again. We were led through several rooms with a lot of special effects before we ended up in the final room, which had benches lining its sides. I already had a bad feeling when I saw the setup of the room, and sure enough, the room started spinning. Honestly not my kind of ride, but if you’re not prone to motion-sickness and enjoy effects that will mess with your mind, you’ll like this one.
Rides that I didn’t manage to take
Oblivion really stood out to me amongst the rides in this park. It’s a vertical drop into a pit in the ground and it is every bit as scary as it sounds. Another insane ride was The Smiler, which has 14 inversions (I wish I was kidding). The roller coaster has a pretty cool (read: psychotic) backstory too, its different types of inversions are supposed to propel its riders into such a crazed state that they’re forced to smile through the pain. Sadistic, but cool. The ride I was the most disappointed about missing was the Congo River Rapids, which was a water raft ride. I’ve heard many good things about this ride, but unfortunately, the ride was closed for the day due to technical issues.
The whole theme park experience was pretty invigorating, and we enjoyed ourselves despite the persistent rain. The park was way too big to finish in one day and we barely covered all of the rides, but it was a good trip nonetheless. Alton Towers Theme Park is a great day trip destination from Manchester, and I’m glad we managed to squeeze it in amidst the workload. But for now, it’s back to the books.