Alton Towers and Th13teen opening 2010- The best day ever!

March 21, 2010

I don’t write those words at the top lightly. I have been to Alton Towers several time (some would say far too any) and I’ve had loads of excellent days there. But yesterday’s opening for the new 2010 season may well be the best one yet… here’s why!

Firstly, Th13teen. This was the reason I was visiting the park, to be one of the first people to ride this brand-new attraction. Alton Towers have been hyping this ride up for a couple of years now and have mentioned that the ride would be extremely scary and a ‘psycoaster’.

Now it’s important to say right now, that that was a load of marketing rubbish. Towers I do think have shot themselves in the foot slightly by saying ti would be terrifying, because quite simply it is not. It’s not even up to the standard’s of Nemesis or Oblivion, the parks two flagship thrill rides.

It is however extremely fun! I really urge people who are visiting Th13teen, to go with an open mind and expect a ride that is very fun, but not a massive thrill ride. The ride has been very well made and has the best attention to detail I have seen at the Towers in a long long time. The whole experience is very atmospheric from start to finish and also doesn’t let up the whole way through.

I would say that the ride is a very valuable addition to the park. It doesn’t beat Nemesis or Oblivion, but is on a par with Air and in my opinion tops Rita.

Having just said that, Rita now looks amazing. The whole Th13teen construction has caused ‘The Queen of Speed’ to be taken over by the forest and the retheme is absolutely excellent. It’s almost unrecognisable as the eyesore of a ride that stuck out in the middle of Ug Land. So a round of applause to AT for the whole ‘Dark Forest’ area, it truly was a great place to visit.

The rest of the park was also looking very nice and fresh. Oblivion’s cars had had a repaint, Sonic Spinball looked like a brand new ride and nearly all the effects were working on Duel and Hex! As always, the runaway mine-train team were great, making an average ride an absolutely hilarious experience! Nemesis and Air also dispatched fairly quickly throughout the day and of course provided some fantastic thrills!

But why was this day so great for me? Yes the park was great fun, but there was something more. After my second go on Th13teen, someone was pointed out to me hiding in the shadows. It was none-other than John Wardley, the designer of Nemesis, Oblivion, Air, Haunted House, Runaway Mine Train, Nemesis Inferno, Vampire, Bubbleworks and most recently Th13teen! I consider the man a true living legend and to finally meet him was an amazing experience. And I must say, he really is the nicest, most down to earth guy you could ever meet. Quite simply a great moment for me.

Also worthy of mention at the park yesterday was the re-introduction of The Corkscrew. The previous ride has been immortalised at the entrance to the park as a giant archway and once again it looks spectacular, much better than I had ever expected. It really is great to see Towers putting effort into the small things again, after all, they are what make the big difference to my day.

But that still wasn’t quite all. At the end of the day whist queueing for the monorail, a member of our group spotted none other than Bill Bailey in the queue behind us! We waited and got to meet the man which really was the icing on the cake. And just like with John, the man was a really nice guy and had lots of time for us despite being with his family!

Not me, but my friend Monie with Bill Bailey!

So that brings me to the end of the best day I’ve ever spent at Alton Towers. I’m struggling to find criticisms with the day, it was almost magical again for the first time in many years. So thanks to the people who came with me, you made the day, thank you to John and Bill, was awesome to meet you and thank you everyone who worked at the park yesterday, you all did an astounding job!

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Harry Potter’s World Is Coming To Life

September 16, 2009

As a massive theme park fan and an avid reader of the Harry Potter books, I’m really lookingpotterworld1forward to ‘The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter’ at Universal Orlando. Yesterday, chiefs finally revealed what’s going to be in the new area.

But first, a bit of background. ‘The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter’ was announced a couple of years ago. It’s to be a new ‘land’ as part of Universal’s ‘Islands of Adventure’ themepark in Florida. It’ll be taking up part of the existing ‘Lost Continent’ part of the park. The new area is due to be open by Spring next year.

So what’s going to be in it? Well, loads! They’ve created the whole area of Hogsmeade, including a Hog’s Head restaurant. There’s going to be various locations from the films including Ollivander’s (an interactive attraction) and an Owlery. There’s to be two rollercoaster’s, one based around Dragon’s and one based on Hippogriffs. And the highlight of it all, a massive Hogwarts castle with an all new interactve ride inside called ‘Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’.

It’s the biggest single themepark development that I’ve seen in a long long time. What they are planning to do looks amazing and I really cant wait to experience it.

However, this has all come at a cost. The ‘all new’, ‘Dragon’s Challenge’ coaster isn’t as new as Universal will claim. It’s been there since 2002 and is currently called Duelling Dragon’s. For me DD is one of the best themed rides in the world. Although the Harry Potter theme is similar, I do fear that the whole story of the ride will 6a00e54ee7b64288330120a55e4945970b-800wibe altered and will never be as good. I understand that this will mean little to some people, but to me it’s very important and I think it’s the shame the ride, as it was, will be leaving. They could’ve at least kept the name, ‘ Dragon’s Challenge’ is rubbish!

But apart from the sad decline of Lost Continent, I think this will be an absolutely phenomenal development and can’t wait to see the final results.

the construction is already well underway and you can see the latest update here. For more information as it’s revealed, visit the themepark’s official website.


A Tale Of Two London Theme Parks!

August 3, 2009

A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to visit 2 of the UK’s best parks, Thorpe Park and Chessington World Of Adventures. But how are the two parks doing and what are their new additions like?

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My first day was spent at Europe’s “Thrill Capital”. Thorpe Park in Surrey. I’ve been a regular visitor to the park in the past and so had some expectations. Thorpe Park since 2002 has always been a place to find new and cutting edge thrill rides. However, that comes at a cost, reliability. Unlike many other parks I visit around the world, Thorpe ALWAYS seem to have at least one ride down all day and multiple breakdowns throughout the day. Sadly, this day wasn’t much different. Saw – The Ride (the new attraction for 2009) was down practically all day, but more on that later.

With the lack of Saw, I headed to Stealth first which I was surprised to see  had a minimal queue (about 10 minutes). Stealth is always a great ride (even if its just a copy of many other Intamin accelerators around the world.) I was able to do the ride 3 times throughout the day, 2 at the front and one right at the back. I’d never really got the chance to feel the two extremes before (normally ending up slap bang in the middle), but if you get the cance, they are worth checking out. The front is the best due to the pure speed you experience on the launch, but the back gives you a truly unique experience, with great airtime over the peak.

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I managed to experience a few rides during the day including Rush (an excellent screaming swing), Colossus (which surprisingly still had the longest queue on park all day at just shy of an hour) and Nemesis Inferno (brilliant B and M, but not a patch on Nemesis at Alton Towers).

Some of my ride time was taken up in pointless escapades to Saw island. The ride did briefly open for around 20 minutes (causing a mass rush into the queue) only to have an evacuation after an emergency stop.

The day was getting late and any hope of riding Saw this year seemed to be fading. But then at 5.40 (20 minutes until ride close) something miraculous happened. The ride opened. I have to applaud Thorpe Park for this decision. By opening now it meant that Saw wasn’t going to close until at least 7 due to the sheer amount of people rushing to the queue line. It was a decision they didn’t have to make, but one that made my and several other people’s day.

The lateness of opening did cause the queue to be rather manic with several queuejumpers  seemingly thinking they were above anyone else and deserved their ride first. But luckily Thorpe were on the ball there and a few minutes later informed everyone who had jumped over the queue fences that they had been caught on CCTV, were to be taken out of the queue and ejected from the park. It was great to see that Thorpe are on top of this rather big problem and are dealing with it, I can think of several parks that need to take note.

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So onto the ride itself. In a word, fantastic. It;s easily the best themed ride in the UK with the station and part of the queue being jigsaws lair. It really helps to build up the tension before you sit down on those all new Eurofighter cars.

As you enter the actual ride you are greeted by Jigsaw’s puppet. He utters some rather indistinguishable words about how we’re all going to die before you set off and are nearly hit by swinging blades and shot at by guns. After this you head outside and have another brief encounter with Jigsaw on TV screens. He simply says ‘GAME OVER’ before you climb the vertical lift hill.

The outdoor track, to me, as an enthusiast, looked rather average. It’s not. It was a really good mix of sensations with three more inversions and an excellent airtime hill. This really took me by surprise. I was also impressed by the smoothness of the ride, it just glided around the track.

So to sum up, Saw is a success. Is it the best on park? Not quite, I think Stealth still owns that crown, but a very close second and one of the best in the UK.

And how did Thorpe do as a park. Not bad. There are still reliability problems with Saw suffering all day and Tidal Wave giving up in the afternoon, but that was all and for Thorpe, that’s pretty good reliability. Looking at ThorpePark.com right now, I can also see that all rides are currently available, so hopefully they’ve turned a corner.

The staff all day were very nice and polite (even happy!) and were very good at their jobs, which again is the first time I’ve seen this at Thorpe Park. It still has a way to go with customer service, but I feel that TP is finally getting there and could soon turn out to be the premier tourist attraction that it aspires to be.

Chessington World Of Adventures

The day after Thorpe I headed off early to the sister park, Chessington World Of Adventures. It’s quite a different park to Thorpe with it’s target audience being young families rather than thrill seekers. I was still very much looking forward to the visit as I hadn’t been since 2003, quite a long time for me!

Despite this, the only major new attraction added in those six years is Dragon’s Fury, a spinning coaster similar to Spinball Whizzer at Alton Towers. This was a great new add and was actually a lot better than it’s smaller cousin at the Towers. It had great airtime, a fantastic drop and many tight and twisty sections. I was suitably impressed by Fury. It’s not a major thrill ride but still packs a punch whilst at the same time being suitable for younger adventurers.

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Transylvania is still my favourite part of the park, mostly because of The Vampire, a suspended coaster which was one of the first I ever rode. Even in it’s old age it’s not a bad ride and the parts where it’s become rickedy are surprisingly very fun! The station is also still one of the best themed in the country.

Transylvania is also home to the Bubbleworks (formerly professor burps home). It’s now got full sponsorship from Imperial Leather. Luckily this didn’t ruin the ride as much as I thought it may, there’s just too many rubber ducks now.

Other great rides at the park include Rattlesnake (which although uncomfortable is hillarious fun!), Dragon Falls (one of the better log flumes in the country) and Tomb Balster (which is basically Duel at Alton Towers!!).

I also got my first ever ride on Rameses Revenge. Having been on Ripsaw at Alton Towers many times, I was looking forward to seeing why this top-spin always gets more credit. It didn’t take long to find out. Unlike Ripsaw, the ride ops on Rameses are allowed to completely soak you, and they really do. the fountains also seem more intense. The team on Rameses also seemed to be having a lot of fun, shouting things out on the PA system and giving all riders a second ride once we’d finished!

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Time was pressing on us, so I was unfortunatley unable to visit Beanoland (which I loved as a kid) or the zoo, but I can remember that they are both very good additions to the park and well worth a look.

So how did Chessie fair? Very well. In my opinion, they’ve got the mix just right for their audience (which incidentally is huge, the park was far busier than Thorpe). Not long ago I went to Legoland and was a little disappointed as I didn’t enjoy it as much. I didn’t get this feeling with Chessington, I was actually very impressed with the entire operation and guess what, not a ride broke down all day!

I think the thing to take away from these visits is that both parks are getting closer and closer to the UK’s best park, Alton Towers and that is an encouraging thought!


Saw – The Ride Opens At Thorpe Park

March 14, 2009

It’s a very exciting day for UK theme park fans today. Thorpe Park officially re-opens for its 2009 season and with it, one of the most anticipated rides ever, Saw – The Ride.

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But why am I so excited? Well it could well be the best ride in the country.

On the outset it looks like a simple Eurofighter (vertical lift and drop). But what makes Saw so special is the theming. As it’s a movie franchise ride, Thorpe have injected millions into the atmosphere of the ride. There’s barbed wire, a run down shack (as jigsaw’s lair), sound effects, dead bodies, traps, cameras. It just looks like you’ve walked into a Saw movie.

This may not seem massively important to all of you out there, but for me, the atmosphere created by themeing, can make or break a ride. This one looks fantastic, up to the standard of Disney and Universal in the US.

The ride should hopefully pave the way for another massive coaster project at Alton Towers next year. They were granted permission for their ‘worlds first’ rollercoaster, SW6 yesterday. It should be a good year for coaster fans!

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Cariba Creek Review

February 15, 2009

As you may know, I’m a very big themepark fanatic and in particular I love Alton Towers. I’ve been going to the park since before I can remember and have enjoyed every visit. However I had never made it into the waterpark, until this weekend!

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Cariba Creek (which is in the process of being renamed ‘Alton Towers Waterpark’, but I prefer Cariba Creek so I’ll uses that) is on the outset, nothing that special. I remember seeing pictures of it and hearing details of the place and being a little disappointed. It has many different attractions, but in my opinion, nothing other places around the world and even the UK had done before.

But I was wrong.

Cariba is a pure and simple case of having to see it to believe it. The area the waterpark takes up is quite small, but they’ve fitted a lot into that area. And the scenery is just brilliant. It’s probably the first thing that will hit you when you walk out into the park. You see a treehouse full of waterguns in the background, master blaster working it’s way around you, palm trees everywhere and a massive fountain in the middle of it all. It really is quite an awe-inspiring sight, the kind of site only Alton Towers manage.

So, on to the actual attraction in Cariba Creek. The main slide is The ‘Master Blaster’. This is a ‘watercoaster’ ride and launches you up ramps as well as sliding down. It really does look quite special. ‘And it had better be’ I thought as I waited in line for almost 1/2 hour to get a go. I really was wondering how the essence of Alton Towers would be conveyed in this park and it seemed the queueing was it!

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Eventually I got my rubber ring and made it onto the ride. It is quite an experience. I’ve been on a watercoaster ride before, but this one easily beat it. Master Blaster sends you sliding down a fairly big drop (whilst spraying you with water from above) before launching you straight back up and into a long winding tube. After this you go up and down another 2 times as you make your way around the waterpark. After this the pace really picks up as you slide down the final few drops in total darkness. When you splash in the water at the end you really are traveling at quite a speed.

‘Master Blaster’ is quite a ride and even has a ride photo point. However I was unable to locate where you pick these up from (answers on a postcard please!). Despite the wait, it was well worth it.

So what about the other attractions? Well there are two more indoor slides called Rush and Rampage. These are just basic tube slides, quite fun but nothing special. Rush does have an interesting gimmick though. On the way down you meet many road signs, weird! 

Also hidden behind the main pool is the lazy river which was pretty fun. As well as floating along with the stream, Cariba has mini tipping buckets and showers to randomly spray you along the way, great fun! The indoor section of the park also has a mini toddlers area with some spraying showers and a mini slide for the little ones.

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As well as fun under the glass roof indoors, Cariba creek also has an outdoor area. I was surprised this was open when I visited (February) but also pleased. Outside there is another slide called Flash Floods. This slide starts off as two and then divides into three half way down. Once again , it was a good slide but nothing too special, probably more fun in the summer! Outdoors also has the ‘Bubbly Wubbly’ pool which is a giant jacuzzi. This was lovely and warm (and a bit surreal in the winter) but there was a bit of a lack of bubbles. Don’t know if it was broken, but I think there should have been more.

Moving back indoors we come to what I think is the crowning achievement of Cariba Creek, something which I have never seen in the UK or abroad before. The Wacky Waterworks. This area consists of a treehouse filled with waterguns, showers, leaks, buckets and anything else you could think of to dow with water. I’m a big fan of the ride ‘Battle Galleons’ in the Alton Towers park and this was a similar idea. A massive water fight. What impressed me were the varieties of ways you could soak people., it wasn’t all just guns. You could drop water on unsuspecting people below, spray them with a constantly running tube of water or just pull a leaver which caused a big leak!

And how could I mention the waterworks without mentioning the tipping bucket. This is something I have experienced before at many different waterparks. But the one at Cariba seemed to be bigger, last longer and was just set up better. The bucket tips in the middle of a walkway meaning some people don’t realise it’s there, which is always funny! It’s also great to see the lifeguards dart out of the way every time they hear the bell to say it’s coming.

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The best thing about this area was that everyone was having a great time. Kids and adults alike ran into the treehouse and spent ages trying to chuck water at one another. It was a genuinely great atmosphere and this is due to the fact Alton Towers have really put the effort into the place.

There were some negatives to Cariba, firstly, I do still think it needs more. It is great at the moment, but a new slide or two would really help make this world class. Secondly, it does get busy. Towers can’t really help this, but it is annoying having to wait themepark lengths for a waterslide. And thirdly, I do think the price is a bit much for what you actually get.

I really had a great time at Cariba Creek and urge anyone who can to get to it. It is a bit pricey at £14.00 for an adult ticket, but it is just so much fun. Another successful attraction for the Towers!

  1. All Images From TowersTimes