A UK-wide institution and a homegrown answer to sprawling American theme parks, Alton Towers is less than 10 miles away from our Uttoxeter hotel and a 45 minute drive from our Derby West hotel. It's the second most popular entertainment destination in the country after Legoland. Capable of welcoming over 4 million visitors each year and up to 28,000 at any one time, the theme park actually opened in 1860 as a public garden. But equipped with seven major roller coasters across 12 distinct areas spread over a huge swathe of land, Alton Towers is now a super-charged theme park.
Open from mid March until November, the theme park naturally gets busiest during the school holidays and the summer, with Halloween traditionally marking the end of the season with a huge fireworks display.
Thrill seekers will love The Smiler, which currently holds the record for the most inversions on a roller coaster – a head-spinning 14 – or the Galactica, a ‘flying’ roller coaster that’s one of the first in the world to use virtual reality technology. One of the newer attractions, Rita was added to the theme park’s arsenal in 2005 and goes from a standing start to 62mph in just 2.5 seconds which is comparable to a Formula 1 car’s acceleration.
There are also plenty of rides for younger kids, such as the Runaway Mine Train and the Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure, open to children 0.9 metres and taller. Kids will love the newly opened CBeebies-themed hotel on the grounds, as well as dedicated rides in CBeebies Land including In The Night Garden Magical Boat Rides and the pie-flinging fun of Justin’s House. And, should you fancy some slippery thrills, the Waterpark opened in 2003 and is a covered dome full of slides, waterfalls and a treehouse loaded with water cannons.
There are dozens of restaurants and cafés dotted around the park serving up a wide range of fast food including pizza, pasta, burgers, doughnuts and more.
Buy your tickets in advance to get the best deals, with a season pass the best option if you’re planning on coming again that year. And if you sign up to an annual pass, you’ll get priority access to the park at 9.30am meaning you can get onto your favourite rides first and beat the queues