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Trip Report: Alton Towers *Updated!*

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On Friday, I had the great fortune to visit Alton Towers, without doubt one of the best theme parks in the United Kingdom. The landscaping was out of this world. In a word it was beautiful. It was so nice, that I dare say that Alton Towers would be popular if you took out all the rides and attractions. Sadly, on the day of my visit, Nemesis was closed, but I still regard Alton Towers as of one of the best operated, beautiful, cleanest, most professional parks I've visited. As well as that is also has the best rides that I've been on (and less then a month ago I was at Disneyland). The whole park has a great atmosphere. Food prices were cheap, as Alton Towers has taken the unusual method of allowing the big fast food chains (KFC, McDonald's Pizza Hut) to set up within park, and since there is competition within the park, prices are no more expensive then you'll find elsewhere. I started the day (at about 12.30 thanks to the traffic) in X-sector, home to Oblivion, the world's first 89'5* drop Roller Coaster. Being the biggest attraction in this area of the park, it was the obvious first stop off: Well, if you've seen photos of Oblivion's drop, you've pretty much seen the entire ride. It really is; lift hill, turnaround, drop, turnaround, and brakes. The whole time I was in queue I must have watched the cars go down that drop 20 odd times. Even so, when your up the top, looking straight down, its is a huge rush. No matter how many times you watch it, the first time on it will give you a huge buzz. Many people say that the ride isn't long enough; I side with the people who say that that’s the whole point of the ride. That one drop makes this ride what it is, and if you were to add more track to the ride, you'd get a similar effect that you used to get on Thunderbolt; after the two loops it was all over. Yes, Oblivion is a short ride, but I don't think I could improve it. 9/10 Black Hole was X-sectors next challenge, and it also provided the longest queue of the day: 40 mins in total. After waiting in line that long, I've come to a very important conclusion: Dark queues where the crowd bunches up together provide a great way to meet people. What of the ride itself? Well, since like indoor rides, I thought it was good. Although it was very short, which does put me off. I'll probably go on it again someday, but I'm not ganna queue up 40 mins for the privilege. 6/10 Next we went right across the park, first to UG Land, where we found Vekoma's Corkscrew. Sadly, the line for this looked to be around the 30/40-min mark, and I was worried about missing the bigger rides. Instead of Corkscrew, we took the Chairlift to Forbidden Valley. The Skyway was a good in itself, even though it does need a bit of a facelift. The view from the ride is the best I've seen from one of these sorts of rides, and the fact it was walk on, makes it a winner too me. Obviously though, no one cares about that, so I'll move on to AIR, Alton Towers third B&M creation: The whole area is very open; the trains fly right over the paths, through tunnels, and back over another path. The whole queue offered great views of the ride in motion, and the queue flew past. I decided to wait for a front row seat, which took an extra 20 mins, however, it wasn't that bad, the reaction of every train load of people when the cars lifted into the prone position was quite a experience. Finally, we reached the front of the queue, and boarded our front row seats on AIR's sleek looking trains. Whatever people have told you about this ride being uncomfortable, forget it, the ride is comfortable even when in the prone position. Also despite what people tell you, you can put your arms out in front of you, and you can look up at the track in front of you. Also, despite what people tell you, the ride is pure fun! Every swooping turn generates fun forces, without being so powerful all you can do is brace yourself for each turn. I'll give it 9.5/10. I'd give it a 10, but I never give out tens :D After AIR, I unwound on the relative calm of Ripsaw, HUSS Topspin. The sequence of this ride is tame, and nothing compared to Wipeout. However, the water features are insane, unpredictable, and most importantly, fun. I must say, its an unusual sensation to be suspended upside, 40 feet in the air, inches above the tops of a water fountain, being lowed slowly into it. Great fun, although I think they could've done a better program 7/10 Next was Duel: the Haunted House strikes back. It was ok, would've been terrible without the guns to shoot stuff with. Probably better for little kids then my age group. 6/10 Runaway Mine Train provided a walk on ride, which was another ok ride. Probably its best feature was the fact it was walk on 6/10 The rapids ride was next. Well, I say rapids ride, it was more of a raft ride. It has barely one rapid on it. The person I visited the park with made a bet that the person who got the least wet had to buy a round of drinks that night. Neither of us got wet. Not one drop. Even the water cannons (not timed, but rather turned on for 10 secs, and off for 20) failed to place any water in the boat. 3/10 After a couple of Re-rides on Oblivion, we found ourselves in X-sector, where I got a ride on Submission - Hang in there. Not a bad ride, definitely better then the standard inverter you get in fair grounds, and being Alton Towers it was themed very well. 8/10 Overall, I'd say I'd recommend Alton Towers to a friend. Even if you don't like Roller Coasters, you'll love the scenery, and the 17th century castle and gardens in the middle of the park. If you like Roller Coasters and thrill rides, you'll also like this park. If your like me, and enjoy good scenery, and thrill rides you'll love this park. I'm so taken with the place, I'm going back to Alton to enjoy the atmosphere (and hopefully go on Nemesis :D )

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On the way over, I went to DL & DCA in Cali. I'm still trying to get ride a ride on Nemesis. My plan is to go back Wedensday, the day the ride re-opens, but I might be going Tuesday instead. Either way I'm looking forward too it, it takes more then one closed ride to diminish the park

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Alton Towers - Day 2 Well, Idid the stupid thing, I went back to Alton Towers on Tuesday, knowing full well that Nemesis wasn't to be open until Wedensday. I was still hoping for the ride to be brought out of its re-hab early. Even on the monorail to the entrance, I was teased with the sight of an empty train going around the circut. However, with the clouds overhead, and a very light attendance, I wasn't particually hopefull. All hope was lost when a sign outside the park listed the ride as being closed for the day. Oh well I sighed, as I payed my £15 to enter the park. I was with another relative this time, this one was 63, and I thought he'd like the scenery (he'd already confirmed that he wouldn't be going on AIR or Oblivion). I figured we'd be spending most of the day checking out the parks smaller attractions (something which I had neglected to do a week earlier. We started the day with a ride on the parks chairlift. Not a bad ride it is, but its hard to trust cars which are designed to dis-engage with the cable when you are being suspended 200feet above the valley floor. With this thought in mind, we got off at the ride's first stop, Forbbidan Valley. On the distance, we could see AIR, and as we walked towards it, Ripsaw started a sequence on our left. We watched it for a couple of mins as the 3 or 4 riders were soaked through to the bone, on a day when the tempreture wouldn't get above 10 degrees. Something about watching it sparked a change in Alans opinion of the place. He stood there, with a huge smile on his face, and his promise of not going on any Roller Coasters went out the window, as we continued to walk towards AIR. Oh what a feeling to have a zero train wait for a B&M flyer. We walked through the queue to find the train waiting for us. Alan straped himself in, and over the speakers, came the voice, which sounded like it had been extracted from Loard of the Rings: "Prepare for AIR". I couldn't beleive what I was doing. I just made a 63 year old -soon to be grandfather- go on AIR, first thing in the morning. The whole way through the ride I was scared out of my mind for him, reading about the poor lady who had a heart attack on Hulk at IOA hadn't helped my feelings of impending doom either. We swooped through powerful turns, through tunnels, and high over the surrounding paths. At the end of the ride I asked for his reaction......... "Lets go again!" Bugger me, I think I've uncovered a coaster enthiuest. We went on AIR twice more, but then it started getting busy (by busy, I mean in excess of 3 min wait times). So we had some caffeine, as both of us had been up since 7, and were drinking the night before until 12.30. It was at this point that my day made an unexpected turn for the better. "Will the following people, please report to Nemesis:..." The announcement said a few names, and was followed by a recorded message. "Nemesis is expereancing a temporary delay, and at the moment, we are unable to advise on when it shal re-open. Thank you for your paitence". After a few mins, we'd walked to the entrance of the ride, to find the queue rails open, and allowing people in. I couldn't beleive my luck. The ride had opened a day early. Without consulting Alan, we'd walked into the queue area. The quality of the theming unbeliveable. The coaster, as everyone said, was tightly woven into the landscape, and the queue as wound tightly into the coaster. About halfway through the queue, the first train of the day took off from the station. We watched it hurtle at break neck speeds through a couple of corkscrews, and in and over the most beautiful vertical loops in existance, and then it was our turn. I had very high expectations from this ride. I was originally dissapointed when I found out the ride would be closed, but as soon as opened, the expectations were still sky high for this ride. It was this ride that I had looked forward to most. For years before hand I'd been longing to go on this coaster. The second B&M invert, and so I'm told, debatably the best, and non-debatably, the most intense. As if to add to the gloomy atmosphere, a light drizzle had engulfed the whole ride area just as we entered the station to board. Once on board, I had barley enough time to sit down before an attendant had come past and fastened the seatbelts. Mere seconds later, the floor lowered, and we were off. What can I say about this ride that hasn't been said before? "One word: WOW!!" has already been said in just about every trip report on the planet, and "NEMESIS ROCX!!1!" had also been taken. I'll just tell you that Nemesis, is exactly as your expectations would have you beleive, fast, intense and fun. You've read your Roller Coaster Tycoon manual, and John Wardley has spoiled the last corkscrew for you, but that doesn't take away from the experience. All the standards you expected from the ride are met, and in most cases exceeded. An instant 10 out of 10 ride. What did the 63 year old Alan have to say after going on a ride which is famous for being one of the most intense inverts ever built? "Bloody hell, where do we go to go on again?" To top off the fact the ride had opened at all, we were in re-ride heaven. Not once did I have to queue for the ride, and with its (very efficient) 2 train operation, quite often an empty train was cycled to allow the second train to enter the station. Next we headed off to X-sector, via that dodgey chairlift, and UG land. Home to Alton Towers Vekoma corkscrew. Now I know exactly what your thinking, after going on Nemesis, corkscrew a 23 year old vekoma sit down looper, may seem like a bit of an anti-climax. But alton towers has done something quite remarkable: what was once the signiture thrill attraction for England, is now aimed at kids. Want to know something, at Alton Towers, it is a kids ride. Its as if in 20 years from now, Dreamworld put the entrance of Tower of Terror back in Nick Central and painted it bright colours to appeal to childern. Corkscrew at Alton Towers has that sort of feel to it. So, after waiting one train, we boarded. I've come to a very, very important conclusion after riding corkscrew at Alton Towers: Most coaster enthusists are cry babies. True, the ride isn't as smooth as AIR or Nemesis (or indeed, even its Australian namesake), but that doesn't mean the ride was unformortably rough. Maybe riding Thunderbolt has made me judge such things diferently, but I didn't get any headbanging, and even got a tiny bit of air-time on the first bunny hill. Now, on the flip side, the ride is very slow (even by Australian standards) and after the two inversions, doesn't offer much more then a tour of the supports underneath the lift hil. Its not that bad, but I'm glad I didn't have to wait more then 2 mins for it. 5/10. UG land surprised me this day. I didn't find any rides of interest to me, but I was still kind of impressed with how it was done up. It had a very 'Flinstones theme park' feel to it, which was probably what they were going for. I didn't even notice that last week, as all I could think was "40 min queue for Corkscrew? Buggerd if I'm going on that!" Well, thats all the time we have for today. Join us next week to discover the rest of the park! :D

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Hi Joz, Thanks for the trip report! I'm glad you loved Nemesis, I know I certainly did. Nemesis is proof to me that coasters don't need to be 300ft tall to be intense and fun. Keep having a great time.

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Great reports there! I'll admit, once again, I've changed my opinions on the park. I remember during Oblivion's construction and all that hype, it was to me the ultimate park (the interest Chris Sawyer created for the park helped too I think). Even during AIR's construction I was still pretty hooked on what looked to be a magical place. Bad report after bad report from enthusiasts led me to change my regard for the park - numerous reports about being dirty, vandalised and way too over-crowded to me didn't do it. Well, it's great to get a positive report from someone who values much the same things in a park as myself. And of course, well done getting the "oldies" on the ride. I remember explaining Giant Drop and Tower of Terror to my 80+ year old grandmother (whose last coasters were the Scenic Railway and Big Dipper at Luna Park Melbourne in the 1930's as she was growing up) a few years ago. It's fair to say she's not going on any coasters any time soon, but she did sound genuinely interested and even excited by the description of the rides. :)

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I think Alton Towers is a victom of its own success. As some of you know, I do the Australian listings on Theme Park Insider, and some of the reviews of Alton Towers on that site simply boggle the mind. One of theme park insiders staff members, Ben Mills, is the worst offendor, with such comments as this one posted about the park's log flume:

Here's my advice to any potential visitors: LAUGH VERY, VERY HARD AT ANY STUPID IDIOTS WHO GO ON IT. LAUGH, VERY, VERY, VERY HARD. Still, this is Tussuards we are talking about. What do you expect?
Now, not only did I go on this ride and enjoy it, but he also makes the rare assumption that Tussuards make dull rides. He makes this uneducated guess quite often. When talking about Hex, he mentions that:
I have to say, I thought this was Alton Towers, even Tussauds most imaginative ride (not that it had much competetion).
Hex is a Vekoma Mad house. Interesting to mention this as Tussauds most imaginative ride when not far from Hex Nemesis and AIR. I will say one thing though, Alton Towers is set over a very large area, and within the park, there's an area roughly the size of Dreamworld which contains no rides, but just trees with winding paths. Sadly, in these most remote areas of the park, there are pockets of vandilisum (I saw only one, but I will presume there may be one or two more areas out there). But the day I went, the park was near spotlessly clean, and I can attest, even on busy days, most queues move pretty quickly. On the busiest of days, they have a system similar (I say similar, I of course mean directly stolen) to Disney's fastpass. The park has a lot of people dragging it down, which makes very little sense to me, as the park has easily the best thrill rides I've been on, as well as the best scenery, and compares quite well to the site of many ruins which I've visted. I'm quite frankly bewildered by the bad comments the park gets. Fair enough the park gets busy, and isn't a good place to visit when busy, but neither is Disneyland. I think Alton's only real problem is that it doesn't have a Hyper. That's not a problem to me, since the rides that are their are fantastic, but I think its a problem to all the cry babies out there. Trust me, go out to Alton Towers at this time of year and you'll have a ball.

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Alton Towers - Day 2 After experiencing Corkscrew (grand total of one ride), we made our way over to X-Sector, on a path which took us past the 17th century castle that gives the park its name. The towers its fair to say, weren't in the best state they've been in over the past 300 years. Really, they were no worse then most other places, and I was happy to see restoration work going on. After around a 5min walk, we came across X-Sector. Home to Oblivion, the world's first blah blah blah. We watched it a couple of times; each was greeted with a laugh, and the words "I think I'll sit this one out". I was having none of that, after little more then 10 secs of trying to persuade him (I can persuade people pretty quickly), we were queuing up. Two or three re-rides later, we were ready to move on to the parks Space Mountain rip off, Black Hole. Ok, Black Hole wasn't nearly as bad on the second day. The queue wasn't 40 min as it had been the day before, but was now only 2 or 3 min, which did allot for my enjoyment of the ride. Alan was quite shocked by the ride, which probably had something to do with the 'don't know what to expect' nature of the ride. Probably the best way to describe it, is thunderbolt like transitions taken with a lap bar in total darkness with someone between your legs. Having someone between your legs is not a bad thing if its your girl or boy friend (which ever is appropriate), but when its a friend, and someone you don't want to get to know in that sort of way, then its a near unbearable situation. It also leaves you walking funny. After Black Hole, we decided to grab a bite to eat around in the gardens. I filled myself with McDonald's. I'm dead against fast food chains in theme parks, but couldn’t resist the lure of a double quarter pounder, which priced the same as everywhere outside the park. After lunch, we tried out the parks more mundane rides, starting with HEX - The legend of the towers. A fun ride, which does its job of disorientating its riders very well. Its a bit of a cliché to say that you loose track of which ways up and which ways down, but its true, you really do feel like your going upside down. It’s definitely an experience I'd recommend, even if the ride is a bit weak. 7/10 We decided to try out the other end of the park, seeing what was there, and finding a rather nice, if not very old and decrypted, 3D Cinema. Ok, so there weren't any chairs, and only the smallest portion of the screen was used. Fair enough that the film was worse then Honey I shrunk the Audience (I didn't think such a thing was possible), and I would have been tempted to pay £5 for a re-run of Pirates instead. Through all the adversity though, Alan enjoyed it, so it must get a couple of extra points for that 3/10 Next was the parks Log Flume. Its very similar to most log rides of this era, in that it was old and just a wee bit tacky. I remember thinking as a 7-year-old that the whole ride felt as if it could collapse under its own weight. Still it does have a few redeeming features. One of them being that it is a fairly long ride (around 5 min I think). Another being that it makes a drop in pitch black darkness, something which I've been a fan of since going on Pirates of the Caribbean not long before. Even the final drop on the ride was relatively big. Granted it was an old ride, but I'll give it a 6. The rest of the day was made up with no-wait re-rides on Nemesis and AIR (nearly 2 hours worth). Probably the best day out I've had at a park, not too busy, basically fine weather, and the park gave me no reason to start nick picking and just allowed me to enjoy my day.

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