So James and I took a stroll up to Alton Towers for two days of scary fun.
We arrived on the Sunday at around midday and took the monorail to the park. On arriving we realised it was the same Sunday that the travelling community chose to visit. At first this made me worried that queue times would sky rocket but it didn’t make much of a difference. The only difference from other visits was that plenty of people gathered around the front of the towers which made it difficult to manoeuvre around.
Unlike our visit to Thorpe Park this was a regular Scare Fest day. We had our scare maze times booked for 7:30pm so we didn’t consider anything Halloween until later and headed to the rides. The real pain of this day though was the weather. Heavy downpours were expected. This caused a 45 minute queue for Sonic as they ran it only three people per car. We then headed to Nemesis which had a short queue. As we stood in the loading area watching the car before us load up we saw the rain outside come down extremely heavy. The Alton Towers team quickly ushered everyone back, sent out an empty car and the crowds applauded the soaked riders as they returned to the loading area locked into their nemesis seats.
After a slightly wet ride on nemesis we headed to nearby Air. The rains poured again and we stood soaked and slightly miserable in the queue line with our heads down to avoid rain to the face. The queue for this was about 30-40 minutes but I love Air so much. It feels like what wearing a jet pack must be like.
We took to The Smiler at this point, we knew the queue would be long all day but the morning is the worst so we were glad we waited. Our first queue for this was about 35 minutes. The queue line for this ride gets flooded, like Thirteen you literally have to stand in puddle for 30 minutes as you wait to ride. I believe at some points of the day they stop the queue line to reduce the amount of people standing in it.
The Smiler is a fabulous ride. I don’t know if it is because it is new but this sort of ride is great to just look at. It had giant rotating screens with messages about joining the Smiler and tickler duster things spinning around the ride. It has this really grand feel to it. As you wait to ride you are literally underneath the roller coaster which gives some great views. Once inside you have to put up with 5 minutes of the insane music and crazy lights displays. We noticed once at the loading bay that the staff wear ear plugs so the music clearly gets to them.
This will be biased as we were lucky to have the best seats but we really liked the fact there is no ride at the front queue. Over the weekend we went on the Smiler three times and each time we were seated at the front. There are four rows so it is just a one in four chance, and we got that three times. (This led to us trying to figure out if this is a 1 in 12 win or a 1 in 64 win, we still don’t know). Therefore I can only review from the front row. But it is awesome. Unlike 10 loop colossus which cheats 5 of them with the same loop over and over, The Smiler has a variety of loops, and 14 in total. It is a long ride too. After the seventh loop you stop before a lift with signs saying ‘Half way corrected’, this is great because you know you’ve still got just as long to go again. This is then followed by a random vertical lift identical to Saw at Thorpe Park but without the sharp drop afterwards. In fact the seats are also identical to Saw but 4 rows instead of 2. I really came off of this ride smiling, you then leave through a vintage X No Way Out style walkway with more light displays. This ride is worth the wait (but if you want a shorter wait, do not head for this ride first).
Oblivion also seems to be a walk on ride these days, which I don’t mind! However this is another uncomfortable in the rain ride (not the drop but the tunnel). This is also a ride you have to have to do arms up, stop being a wimp!
Right, the scarefest part. I’ll explain the mazes. Unfortunately we do not have a map to point out these mazes, after two days in James’ raincoat pocket in the heavy downpours the map did not survive.
The Terror of the Towers: What Lies Within – pay for maze
This is located, as expected in the towers. Entrance is through the tunnel alongside Hex. The queue was minimal for this at our allocated time. We joined on the end of another group, for which James was very grateful. If you read our Thorpe Park review you would see that James is constantly at the front! So we headed inside, up the stairs and were briefed about the actors. I was stood on the end and a loud noise made me jump, so I moved around James so he would be on the end. We were then ready to enter, and the man told us to turn around and head through the curtain. Turn around! We weren’t at the back we were at the front! I laughed hard as James led us into the darkness.
This maze starts with a video, probably the scariest part and that really isn’t saying much. We then headed in and something didn’t seem right. We were looked around all the corners to find an actor but nothing happened. Then a man came from the end of the path looking a little shocked to see us! Something must have happened to the previous group which slowed them down. Half way through we joined the group ahead of us, one actor even whispered to James ‘hands on shoulders’. She must’ve had a shock at the amount of people in this group.
I don’t really remember anything about this maze. There were some actors with pale faces and dot contacts. I think the theme was vampires but I didn’t get it. This was the weakest maze by far.
The Sanctuary – pay for maze
This is located next to Terror of the Towers and the queue was much longer for this. This maze was linked to the Smiler and is themed on a crazy doctor. (Why the papers haven’t picked up on this alongside Thorpe Park’s The Asylum I don’t know). As we approached the front we were grouped with three girls in front, a couple behind and then a family with two young girls at the end. The girls in front asked us if we wanted to lead and James was quick to say no! We decided between us that I would be in front of James as it is usually the other way around. We were briefed by a ‘nurse’ and then taken to meet the head doctor. He told us about his work and that people thought he was mad. We were lined up in front of the door with a red light above it. He then told us, ‘when that goes green you cannot turn back’. At which point one of the three girls ahead of us ran away, then the second girl fled leaving the one who had taken the led. Then she ran too, and there I was facing the maze at the front!
James and I agreed this was the best maze. There was a lot of variety and big scares. I watched as a giant flame shot up in the corner of the room, I covered most of my face with my hands, as I pulled my hands down a woman was stood right up in my face! One of the biggest scares for me. Another woman caught James out and he fell into the wall. On leaving James said the woman behind him was shaking so hard. This maze was a lot of fun.
The Carnival of Screams – free maze
We did this in the afternoon on Monday to avoid the queues and were called to the front as a pair. We joined a group consisting of a woman and 6 kids aged 8-12. I was already very dubious about this. The first room was the iconic scare from the previous time we entered the Carnival or Scream a couple of years ago, the living dummy. But Alton Towers had managed to make it less scary by making him the focus of the room. Last time you saw this box out of the corner of your eye and it coming to life was a shock, in this room it was obvious what was going to happen. Clearly not a scare as the kids were okay with this.
Next was a fat clown who said some rhymes that made the kids laugh, but wasn’t exactly scary. At this point the kids asked the woman to go first. Then it all went down. A clown policemen freaked the kids out so much, then told James and I to push one of them! A little shocked by this actor. Luckily there was a member of staff waiting here before the next room and as the kids pleaded to leave the woman and the kids were led away by the staff member. Then James and I ran in to do this maze alone!
We headed through the beanbags and to start with I was in front of James, then we held hands and went through everything together. I love this scare maze, again a lot of variety. A highlight was Find Mr. Dot. In a room filled with fluorescent dots a man in costume hides on the floor. On finding him he stood up and asked in a husky fast voice ‘Where is the rest of your group?’ at which point we had a chat with him about the kids and that they had left. He then led us to the next clown who he quickly spoke to. (Thinking about this later, I think Mr. Dot may have thought the kids were running around still inside the maze! Oh well).
There are a lot of scares in this maze, this one is more worth paying for than Terror or the Towers!
Finally, both evenings we spent running between Thirteen and Rita. The lines for these were non existent after 7pm and Thirteen especially is great in the dark. We enjoyed our two days at Alton Towers, but to compare the scare mazes to Thorpe Park? Alton Towers has nothing on Thorpe Park – Fright Nights wins hands down.